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Army, judiciary and economic growth

The criticism of the powerful institutions of Pakistan, such as the army and the judiciary, is quite common in the media reports in the recent past. Many arguments against the powerful institutions are drawn on the basis of inter-institutional power comparisons sometimes indicating a sense of deprivation among weaker institutions. In this context, it is pivotal to understand whether institutional inequality is good or bad for achieving long term development and economic growth in a developing country like Pakistan. Economic development is a complex process requiring multiple economic, political, social, institutional and policy interventions. Back in 1949, E. Hoover and J. Fisher identified five stages in the economic development process.
The first stage witnesses little investment and trade while population is located as per the natural resources distribution. At the second stage, improvements in transport take place resulting in better trade and local specialisation. At the third stage, agricultural modernisation takes place. The fourth stage experiences diminishing returns to agriculture forcing regions to industrialise. At the fifth stage, a region specialises and increases exports to less developed regions. As the process moves on, the associated power relations among stakeholders and policymakers keep changing mainly because of rising economic and institutional inequality.
In the literature, much has already been said about economic inequality that generally rises with the rise in economic growth. However, the unbalanced power relations among institutions, causing institutional inequality, appear to be under investigated and less discussed. Power among state institutions is like energy that, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy, can neither be created nor destroyed. However, it can be transformed from one form to another. The concentration and division of power among state institutions appears to be like the transformation of energy from one form to another. For example, the indigenous manufacturing of aircrafts, submarines and other relevant arsenal involve extensive research and rigorous efforts resulting in unique innovations by the armed forces. The applications of such innovations are not just confined to the manufacturing of the military equipment. They can, indeed, be replicated in the other allied industry and trade thus devolving a culture of research and innovation in other institutions. Similarly, a just and fair judicial activism strengthens the institutions, particularly dealing with property rights, thus improving the ease of doing business indicators pivotal for economic growth. This suggests that strong institutions naturally leave a trickledown effect on other state institutions with gradual passage of time. Institutional inequality is, therefore, not bad for achieving long term economic growth. Based on this argument, it is understandable that unnecessarily targeting and criticising strong institutions of the state, such as the army and the judiciary, is detrimental for achieving long term economic growth and prosperity.
It is because the very concept of power is slippery in nature. Power is like water. Water makes its own course and so does power. No single institution, or group of institutions, can afford to keep it for long time, else it will create political and policy fissures. Therefore, the comparability of power among state institutions needs a wider understanding of the concept of power, and its relationship with economic growth, beyond its mere exercise by the powerful state institutions. The people criticising the army and the judiciary, therefore, do not have a wider understanding how these strong institutions indeed strengthen the weaker institutions, through trickledown impact of power in the long run, ultimately increasing economic growth and prosperity for the nation.



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