The 2018 General Elections are done, and Pakistan’s moment of truth has arrived. Can the country change its trajectory, and finally become a state that delivers good governance, eradicates corruption and enhances the human development level of its citizens? Or will Pakistan degenerate further, going from a fragile to failing state?
Western welfare states are often quoted examples when human and social development are discussed. Traditions of providing an efficient, affordable public transport system, healthcare and educational facilities are quite old and strong in Western welfare states.
Human development means a system primarily crafted by the state to invest tax payer’s money on the people. When there is accountability, rule of law and strong work ethics ensured through all the pillars of governance like bureaucracy and the justice system, the outcome is the empowerment of common people. By providing better healthcare, housing, transport, employment and educational facilities to people one can expect the country to excel.
The models of human development in today’s world are primarily based on the West, but countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore present interesting cases, where state formulated policies aimed at eradicating poverty, social and economic backwardness of the people have been successful.
The speech made by the Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan on July 26 was centred on his resolve to ensure human development and good governance in the country. But how easy will turning Pakistan into a welfare state based on Medina be? While it is an advantage that the country’s Prime Minister has the will and determination to ensure this change is brought about, he will still face serious challenges
In the speech, Imran Khan clearly mentioned how Pakistan has degenerated in terms of governance, human development and rule of law. He promised to run the country in such a manner that has not been witnessed in its 72 year history. Yet, he will have to deal with some ground realities. A culture of corruption, nepotism and greed has permeated the fabric of our state and society. Various mafias have destroyed Quaid’s Pakistan and relegated its position on the Human Development Index to 147 as mentioned in a 2017 report released by the United Nations. A country of 220 million which could have been a role model of human development is now unable to provide clean and safe drinking water to the majority of its people. It is equally unable to provide quality education, health facilities, housing and public transport. The economy of the country is in shambles with total foreign and domestic debt of $160 billion, amounting to around 75 percent of its GDP; a trade deficit of $37 billion; depleting foreign exchange reserves held by State Bank of meagre $9 billion and sharp erosion of rupee versus major global currencies.
There is more. Pakistan is facing serious environmental threats causing severe water shortages because of deforestation, failure to control the use of fossil fuel and intra-provincial conflicts over the distribution of water. Violence, terrorism, militancy and radicalisation of the youth also pose serious threats. Relations with most of our neighbours are not normal and external threats to national security cannot be ruled out.
Even so, the new government in Pakistan can still bring change for the better provided it does not take unnecessary U-turns and focuses on promoting a responsible culture in Parliament and public institutions. If the PTI has created a critical mass primarily composed of the youth who can work side by side with the government to bring positive change, Imran Khan could be successful.
We currently face a do or die situation. Anybody who attempts to rock the boat as the PTI forms its government will be doing the country a great disservice. It is not only Pakistan’s moment of truth, but it is also an opportunity for all parties and other stakeholders to think about the interests of the country rather than their own. Pakistan cannot afford another phase of political confrontation and if some political parties have their grievances against the election results they should use the correct mechanisms to address them.
Four major policies which the new government in Pakistan needs to adopt and implement without compromise are generation of adequate resources which can pay off huge foreign debt. Secondly, controlling corruption including tax evasion and preventing money laundering of ill-gotten money. Third, substantially reducing imports, increasing exports, eradicating VVIP culture and curtailing governmental expenditures by austere measures. Fourth, investing on people by providing affordable and respectable public transport, housing, health, educational facilities, and employment opportunities based on merit along with protecting environment from further degeneration. Conserving water and energy resources will go a long way in saving the 220 million citizens of Pakistan from possible catastrophe.