Why is Pakistan Going Off-Course?

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Nawazish Ali

Pakistan inherited, by default, one of the best agriculture, irrigation, railway, and civil services, including police, education, military human resource, and judicial systems of the world after the patrician. Pakistan was created to provide an open and free environment for its people to pursue their social, economic, political, and religious activities at liberty. In 1950, Pakistan’s per capita GDP was US$1268, which was almost 50 per cent greater than India’s that year. In 1970, Pakistan’s per capita was $ 226 versus India’s $ 112. In 2022, Pakistan stands at $1400 versus $2490 India. The Pakistani economy is currently trapped in low growth, high inflation and unemployment, falling investment, excessive fiscal deficits, and a deteriorating external balance position. The global Failed State Index 2022 ranks Pakistan and India as 30th and 69th from the bottom respectively. When we go down the history we find nothing but deterioration increasing woes of governance, interrupted democratic systems, repeated martial law/supervision of governance by GHQ, lack of accountability, and financial corruption largely at the top level. The question is “What is wrong with Pakistan”.
Pakistan took nine long years to draft its 1st Constitution which was abrogated just after two years in 1958 by Sikandar Mirza with the imposition of martial law. Later, the 1973 Constitution has been foul-played repeatedly to date. Perhaps the root causes of this may be found in the fact that both civil and military regimes since independence, have curtailed the civil, political, and cultural rights of the masses, leading to and badly affecting the process of governance in Pakistan. Unfortunately, poor governance exists in form of constitutional disasters, institutional crashes, financial corruption, absence of accountability, and a proper system of checks and balances.
Ayub Khan the first military dictator laid the foundation of a capitalist economy under military rule governed by an alliance of a pre-dominant army and bureaucracy as well as the inclusion of industrialists and landlords, often known as ‘Pakistan’s Golden Years’ of ‘Socially Liberal Military Dictatorship’. This resulted in numerous economic and social contradictions, which played themselves out, not just in the 1960s, but beyond when Ayub Khan’s rule created the social and economic conditions leading to the separation of East Pakistan, and the rise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Awami inqilab.
The era of Zia ul Haq (1977-1988) somewhat surged the economy superficially owing to Afghan Jihad but at the cost of spreading religious extremism across the board. The next ten years or so had see-saw governments by PPP and PMLN respectively, until another martial-law regime by Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. However, after the 2008 Elections, it looked like governance may start improving in Pakistan, and this phenomenon would lead to various economic and social relief for the people of Pakistan. Nothing good happened to to-date.
Rule of law is an indispensable characteristic of good governance that ensures equal opportunity and prospects in a democratic country. But the rule of law interpreted and applied in Pakistan misses the basic elements such as transparency and accountability. The political culture has not developed on such a basis where the commonality and underprivileged are referred to as they should be. There exist numerous accountability agencies: The Federal Investigation Agency, The National Accountability Bureau, the Auditor General of Pakistan, and Anti-Corruption Agencies to hold accountable the corrupt persons in society. The inefficiency of some key institutions like the Federal Public Service Commission, and the Provincial Public Service Commission has failed to recruit the best of the best talent in the country. They have failed to realize that Pakistan can only become a reliable and strong state if it educates its citizens, equips its workers with skills, expands its tax net, and enhances its trade with its neighbouring countries.
There must be better coordination among all three organs (Legislative – Executive -Judiciary) of government to dispense good governance. This is a dire need of time to take serious and stern measures to build the capacity to enhance human and financial capital to deliver public goods with excellence.
The role of media is always very crucial in educating the common people; it must be made responsible to spread awareness of the rights and duties among the masses. Media and civil society should launch awareness campaigns, especially regarding democratic responsibility and accountability. However, media-bashing and blackmailing must be controlled by relevant state organs and stopped forthwith.
I would argue that Pakistan’s history teaches at least three lessons. The first is: Elections alone do not produce democracy. The second: Financial corruption from top to bottom is the main cause of the worsening economy. Third: A state committed to the pursuit of religious “purity” will always find some of its subjects in need of “ablution.”
In a nutshell, it is not only the successive Governments, but all the institutions of the state and the people of Pakistan who are responsible for administratively, legally, and morally deteriorating Pakistan. The answer lies in an uninterrupted and unsupervised democratic process with zero jiggery-pokery. Financial corruption is not an individual’s problem in Pakistan; it is the nation’s dilemma from top-to-bottom across-the-board. Silence breeds corruption; no action only leads to deprivation. Financial corruption at the top must be eradicated first.