If Pakistan is to move forward…


Marc-André Franche, the outgoing director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Pakistan has said in an interview that the only way a critical change could happen in the country was when the elite would sacrifice short term, individual and family interests for the benefit of the nation. In a detailed interview, Franche highlighted the major problems damaging the growth of Pakistan. He highlighted the governance issues, poverty, education, political crisis and other problems stunting the growth of economy.
The former director, who spent four years in Pakistan, has been particularly critical of the landowners. He said that he had personally visited some very large landowners who have exploited their position for centuries, and had paid no money for water or agriculture taxes. He also highlighted that it is quite embarrassing when the same people come to foreign donor agencies, and ask to invest in water, sanitation, education and health for the people of their districts. The initiatives and development programmes undertaken by the leaders and parliamentarians are politically motivated on most of the occasions. Franche cited the examples of many cities, and how some trivial problems had grown into a monster.
He was especially critical of the situation in Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan. The public institutions are in a state of despair.
Local governments are essential for strengthening the democracy. But unfortunately,
except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, no other province had delegated financial powers to the local bodies. There is no use of the local government if they are not allowed to do their essential functions. Media has not played much role in strengthening the democratic process either. Media should operate as a pillar of democracy, and should strengthen it by educating the masses, but unfortunately, the current condition of Pakistani media is not very positive.
Moreover, the issue of poverty is still haunting the country even after 68 years of independence. The poverty rate has grown over 38 percent. Conditions in FATA, and most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are pathetic. Franche is correct in pointing out that people of those areas are living centuries behind the rest of the country without even basic facilities.
Other than the weak civil-military relations over the years, the inaction on the part of MPs for the development of their regions has severely harmed the growth. Instead of focusing on short-term goals aligned with elections, MPs should work for the betterment of their districts. It should not have taken a foreigner to highlight the problems in the country. Furthermore, the political turmoil witnessed by democratic governments over the years has also made them apprehensive. This has resulted in governments focussing on short-term goals and cosmetic projects to flaunt for the next elections. Unless the underlying problems of poverty, health and education are not addressed throughout the country, it would not be possible for the country to move forward. There is a need on the part of the elite to come out of their comfort zones, and work for the betterment of Pakistan by urging the government to focus on the core needs of the people. The increasing divide between the wealthy and poor is deepening the problems of Pakistan. Pakistan cannot grow by merely addressing the needs of the elite. There is a need for a holistic approach to tackling all the issues if Pakistan is to move forward. *