Reinvigorating Economic Spirit


Man is essentially born free and alone. This is evident from the unique individuality of each human in bodily attributes to mental bent, habits, prejudices and priorities etc. However, man also possesses a gift endowed by nature of nurturing associations, and influencing and dominating others individually or in groups. The human conduct which gets affected by his current circumstances, also bears a host of factors that are related to his past. Therefore, history plays a dominant role in the lives of individuals, groups and nations. Usually, culture is defined by the ways people live, including what they wear and eat. But culture is a very complex phenomenon that includes various overlapping layers of history, religion, ideology, geography and climate among others. As we live in an age which champions individuality, thus nothing can be imposed in the personal domain for reaping collective outcomes. However, cultural ethos remains a powerful agent to influence the lives of individuals and groups at the very basic level. Thus, subtle but with a certain craft, efforts can be made to affect the behaviour of individuals and groups through repeatedly emphasized cultural ethos.

Pakistan is home to various ethnicities that bear a separate and distinct culture based on geography, local history, language, customs and traditions. However, being adherents of the same religion, irrespective of political boundaries, these distinct ethnic cultural expressions do bear a similarity and confluence towards oneness. Since Pakistan came on the world map as an independent country, these ethno-cultural crisscrosses have thickened and tilted towards the centre. Whereas the local or provincial cultures add to the diverse beauty of Pakistan, our national cultural expressions drawing strength from one religion, language and history — often on display on important occasions — does bring a sense of unity in the nation, despite that we are committed to preserving the distinctiveness of ethnic cultural expressions. A host of new cultural ethos can be nurtured at the national level for the collective good of the society.

It is time that we move towards a new national cultural dimension, which can strengthen and reinvigorate the economic spirit for the collective good of our nation.

Our Distinct Historical Legacy

Muslims have lived for centuries in the areas which today comprise Pakistan. However, it was during the Pakistan Movement that the people of these areas were connected towards a single cause to win a free country. The core idea of struggle for Pakistan was the ‘Two Nations Theory,’ which was essentially linked to religion as it stood for separateness of Hindus and Muslims on the basis of their beliefs. In the political and economic sense, the leaders of the Pakistan Movement wanted to liberate the common Muslims from the ills of the authoritarian majority of Hindus in a democratic, free but united India after the British leave, and from the economic dominance of Hindus, who dominated commerce, trade, industry and other modes of economic activities. However, during the struggle for winning the freedom, Muslims rallied on the ‘Two Nations Theory,’ which had a scope that did not restrict to the winning of a separate country for the Muslims only but also shaping it according to the teachings of religion once Independence had been achieved. This is the reason that after 1947, for a very long period, faith-related issues dominated the national debate. Whether it was the Objective Resolution, joint electorates demanded by minorities in Pakistan and opposed by many on religious grounds, subsequent efforts to formulate the constitutions, or national thought and narrative where emphasis remained focused on religious primacy.

Despite that the 1973 Constitution which was adopted after a national consensus and gives central point to Islam as a religion of the country, the national debate somehow is still dominated by faith-related issues. This is obvious from various recent political happenings and steps taken by the consecutive governments to win political mileage in the past. This all has come at a tradeoff in time and effort to deliberate on issues like politics and economy on pure rational cost benefit basis, as these are also very essential for the functioning and survival of the country.

Economy is one such field which has not been given a sufficient share in the national debate based on pure economic logic, and thus today has become an Achilles’ heel and a great vulnerability for not only a prosperous future but also for our honourable survival. Though of late, there is a hue and cry on poverty-related issues and burgeoning foreign loans, but these are mere howls and moans, and nothing substantial is done to address the core economic issues; first in the minds and lives of peoples, and then implemented through national economic policy. The very economic idea is hostage to a phenomenon which usually sanctifies it on the basis of faith rather than economic logic. The word ‘economy’ is missing from our national culture which is more a manifestation of ostentation, waste and apathy. Here, it is important to notice that once an idea is given great importance at a cultural level, it does not remain an idea but also impacts the life and progress of a nation.

Now in 2022, once it is an established fact that Pakistan is an independent Islamic country, and its constitution guarantees primacy to religion in all political, legal and social sense, it becomes important that we give a new focus to economic affairs of Pakistan to guarantee survival and a prosperous future for the coming generations. ‘Work and Economy’ should supersede all other debates and need to be entrenched so deeply in the soul of the society that it gets manifested in every aspect of our nation.

In this regard, one can also draw a lot of strength from our religion, which allows individual property, abhors concentration of wealth, sanctifies honest and fair contractual business deals, glorifies work, and assures that one will surely get what he will strive for. It also clearly enunciates that God never changes the condition of a people who do not strive to change it themselves. So far we have invested in other aspects of faith, but have neglected such injunctions which give primacy to action and follow a simple rationality of output equaling the input. We live in this physical world which may have a soul but surely is composed of matter, and till the time we do not descend from metaphysics to ground level of physics, nothing will get invented to ease and comfort our lives. The euphoric pleasures of final destination notwithstanding, but our lives will remain dependent on ‘others’ for all the inventions and discoveries that have added comfort, beauty and stability to the life on this planet. The realm of action is in want of men, who steer the life themselves and not look for others to accumulate and share the wealth.   

In some way, our thoughts, ideas and debate must transcend from abstract issues of faith, and focus more on the power of action, which gets translated into productive work by each adult individual of the nation that relieves us from the economic burdens of today and tomorrow. For any strong man and nation, the words like ‘default’ on foreign loans, beseeching for more loans to run the affairs of state and nation, and celebrating the grants by other countries should remain a place at abyss and deep dissatisfaction. 

Economy & Its Linkages to Capitalist Thought

Irrespective of absence of the government control in regulating the market which is a hallmark of capitalist economy, or state control of the market and capital as claimed by communism, modern world economy is driven by the capitalist thought, which accepts the primacy of machine and factory, fierce competition and resultant innovation, a consumer driven market and, working on capital investment, profit and reinvestment principles.

 Today’s world is highly connected and called a global village where it has become difficult to sustain the redundant technology and inefficient industrial units. The surest path to richness is by adopting the export-led policies and practices which purely depend on efficient, reliable and cost effective products. When facing the economic crunch, as a short-term measure one can adopt strategies like banning imports, fixing quota or resorting to import substitution industrialization, notwithstanding their immediate efficacy, it is finally the efficient domestic market which has the potential to capture foreign markets and is the surest path to extract some share from the foreign riches. The capitalist thought working behind this growth-and-export-led economy is the insatiable hunger for profit, and further investment for more profit. This is a cruel, greedy but self-sustaining system which works on survival of the fittest principle. We may like or dislike it, this is the world where today’s Pakistan has to survive, and move toward prosperity on the pure basis of investment, efficiency, and profit.

Essay 02 edited | Essay, Featured from Narratives Magazine
Pakistan needs a progressive new work culture.

When confronting a world market which is working on above mentioned principles, a society like Pakistan which is still quasi-agrarian, tribal, and religious, concepts like profit, market competition, investment and riches can be viewed with distrust and negativity. However, these remain the primary tools of the modern economy, and we will have to adjust to the world market rather than expecting it to restructure itself for our peace or pleasure. An agrarian society is usually slow to change and labour intensive, a tribal society caters for affinity and affiliation rather than following the ruthless merit, and a religious society mostly preaches for a frugal life, promotes charity, and abhors profit and riches. It will not be easy to change these ethos, and most likely these will stay there in a quasi-conservative and quasi-modern society. However, the ethos that our religious thought and culture can and must be applied to promote are: work, efficiency and investment.

It is important for the survival and prosperous future of our nation that our national idea, debate and policy should be driven by economic thought. Pakistan and Islam are a living realities, and now through our economic strength we have to prove the enemies of Pakistan wrong which doubted its economic viability at its inception, and continuously grade us a near failing state. It is time that we relegate any other thought or idea in favour of industry, modern agriculture, trade and economy. We cannot afford as a society to relegate our competition in this world, and remain dependent on foreign countries for not only daily provisions, but also for loans, grants and material support to manage national sustenance and survival. Our national debate, culture, education curriculum, media and politics must focus on using all our time, effort and resources to economic nationalism for the good of Pakistan.

Our words must get translated into action, and action must be exhibited through work, and work through efficiency assures us a better economy.

When one talks of work, it should mean only productive work. A productive work should range from small to large scale industry including agricultural industry that produces goods which meet the demands of both domestic and foreign markets. Pakistan needs to have a skilled national manpower comprising both adult men and women who can work and produce the most efficient goods whether working in small cottage industries or the large scale industrial units. The efficiency will depend on less time spent, labour employed, durability and convenience, and cost effectiveness. Until the time our products do not penetrate foreign markets, there will be no scope for us as an exporting nation.

The nation must be put to work, and the government can generate healthy competition by resorting to a fair regulatory system and merit-based economic policy.

New Work Culture

While living in the first quarter of the 21st century, it should remain quite obvious that no culture can be imposed at the cost of personal freedom, individuality and choice. However, nothing stops prudent and consistent persuasion. It remains the job of nationalist elite in the field of academia, media and other fields to spread a new economic thought through social activism that both government and society are made to respond to the economic callings of the time.

The glorification of work through religious teachings and traditions should fill the space of religious debate. The work is a power, and an honest work which results in the economic power of the nation deserves all sanctifications from a religion which asks its followers to make ready the strength to the utmost of the power to deter the enemy. In today’s world it is economy and self-sustenance that serves as the core foundation of all other forms of power. There is so much emphasis in our religious teachings and traditions on honesty, fair dealings, condemning bribery, forbidding hoarding, truthfulness, and sanctity of work by one’s own hands, modesty in spending which can help promote savings and investment, and strongly forbidding from adulteration etc.

The productive work should become a new article of faith for all of us to save this country which our forefathers achieved for us after a long struggle of strife and blood.

In addition to earlier mentioned religious values, the core national ideal should be that all male and female population of Pakistan must perform productive work from homes, and, under small cottage industry to advance industrial units to supply the market from small household items to highly-sophisticated manufactured goods. This will one day save us a big chunk of national exchequer spent on imports and, gradually by supplying the same to the foreign markets will earn us foreign exchange.

A casual glance at various expressions of our national life like eating habits, lack of care for health, waste of time in gossips and aimless debates particularly political, luxurious bent and ostentation in social functions/rites, sluggishness at work place, lack of book reading, encouraging petty charity thus encouraging begging, and so on. There are numerous examples of these ills which have now almost become a part of our national culture. Late night eating has become a common habit and particularly in cities people take pride in late dinners, forgetting that it negatively impacts early rising the next day or work at office.

Similarly, there has been a consistent growth of housing societies which have all facilities except sports. The same policy is followed by private schools which operate in small buildings. The government and the nation have almost forgotten how important it is to raise a healthy youth and workforce. It is ironic that the whole nation has accepted medical hospitals as health guarantors rather than sports grounds. Although it is against the commonly accepted perception in which cricket is projected as a game which unifies the whole nation, but as a matter of fact, this game consumes more time and its contributions towards physical health and stamina are far less than the other fast paced sports like athletics, marathon races, hockey, football, basketball, boxing etc. There is a need to encourage all other fast paced sports so that the majority of our population becomes healthy and fit to sustain the rigours of work and life. It is encouraging that our women now take part in all the fields of national life, but still their participation in sports and physical fitness-related activities is negligible. If we are able to promote a national culture which gives top priority to women’s health through sports and physical activity, then it will be a truly game changing achievement. 

Another detrimental national trait which can be easily noticed is that almost everyone buys the most expensive decorative and luxury items for the house they live in, except buying books. A population without books and shrinking from acquiring knowledge is sure to waste time in useless debates, conjectures and gossip.

In addition to other cultural ills, time is one commodity which our nation likes to waste in abundance with maximum ease and neglect. We eat food which takes hours to prepare, but is hard to digest, wear dresses, particularly women, which are fancy but consume a lot of time and money to prepare, and are not impractical for daily work. We also waste a lot of time in social functions, including marriage ceremonies.

The list is long but these habits which have now become part of our culture do not encourage a society which is efficient. All these ills directly and indirectly impact our work habits, and thus economic performance.   

There is a need to launch deliberate and consistent campaigns by the nationalist forces using all mediums of influence to cure these social ills and promote a culture which can create responsible and industrious citizens. The nationalist must not wait for a government and the ruling elite to do this for them. This is a new economic revolution, which will come through great awareness. The nationalist writing books, novel, drama, plays and poetry, should take a lead and guide the nation in the realm of action that is manifested through productive work and nothing else. Our work and its efficient output should be the goal of neo-progressive and economic nationalism.

A regimented disciplined behaviour is neither expected nor desired, but definitely efforts must be made for a happy, healthy and confident populace which can be transformed into an efficient workforce. It is time that we glorify the work as well as create conditions which facilitate the whole nation doing productive work.

While we are facing great economic difficulties, one trend is the most alarming that we have mentally accepted that relief is only possible if we get foreign loans and grants. However, it is far from reality and we can build a happy, healthy and responsible citizens just by promoting a healthy culture. A national emphasis on time and its strict observance, health through sports and not medicines, simple and balanced food habits, general cleanliness of our cities and places of work etc., are such basic changes that are direly needed to be adopted and they require no foreign funding.

Nothing will survive our freedom and independence but our capacity to dominate the world through our productive work.

Tahir Mehmood
Tahir Mehmood
The writer is a student of human history. He has authored two books: A Lone Long Walk and Where Clouds Meet.
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