Our inability to evolve political and administrative systems — that could ensure quality decision-making for the benefit of the people — remains the main cause of our debacle.
The spectre today is dismal. A country, a nation that had a place in the international community as a leading Islamic State that could produce enough to eat and drink, had a reasonable industrial base, nurtured excellent world class sportsmen and sportswomen, produced poets, musicians, dramatists, scientists, economists, civil officers of the international standing and sustained a modern professional military force, is today being looked down upon not only by outsiders, and unfortunately even by its own people. What a tragedy!
What went wrong? Who did it? What should we do now? For the first two questions, I will give only short answers but will delve more into the answer to the third question that should be the focus of all who wish to see a flourishing future for our beloved country.
Our inability to evolve political and administrative systems — that could ensure quality decision-making for the benefit of the people, who in turn propel Pakistan into prosperity and abundance — remains the main cause of our debacle. Undue and repetitive intrusion in the nascent and evolving systems, by the non-representative, nonprofessional and nonpolitical entities, at the behest of foreign powers or self-assigned righteousness did not allow democracy and its traditions to take roots.
Unfortunately, the drama with nearly the same old script continues. Surprisingly sad is the fact that whichever political party senses a temporary advantage in using the shoulders of these muscular institutions, do not hesitate to destroy their political opponents, without realising its long-term implications, that always come back to haunt them in this circular history. This ominous circular train of events must be broken.
Now how to move forward? There is a near consensus on the above-mentioned reasons for our failures, though few quarters wrongly blame the western democracy for it. The fact of the matter is that democracy never got a fair opportunity to fully bloom in the land of the pure so that it could be modified and tailored to our own requirements. So, let’s catch the bull by its horns and say what has to be said.
Immediate short-term measures
Stop sidelining any popular political parties if we wish to imbue the spirit of inclusiveness and democratic norms in our polity and society. By all means punish anyone involved in culpable crimes irrespective of his/her following or stature, but refrain from political victimisation and witch-hunting that has become a permanent feature of our political mosaic. It was, and is being done so blatantly that even an ordinary layman can see through this political circus. History proves that political opponents are best defeated in the political arena. Otherwise, even if they are physically eliminated, jailed or sent into exile, their political influence never diminishes. This is a permanent lesson of political science. Let the judiciary be the final arbiter to evaluate whether the cases built against someone are genuine or politically motivated.
All the institutions should immediately refrain from interfering in each other’s domains, and act as enshrined in the Constitution, or else if required, make appropriate changes in Constitution and laws as per the agreed and legitimate procedures.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should comprise noncontroversial and mutually acceptable clean individuals with no political leanings. Procedures must be modified accordingly. The ECP must ensure that democratic environment prevails in all political parties and free elections be held to root-out dynasties and cults.
Politically affiliated lawyers should never be inducted in the judiciary; better would be to create and nurture a separate independent judicial cadre — on the lines of armed forces — with no lateral appointments. Efficient and professionally competent judges are evaluated on their number of correct decisions (upheld in subsequent appeals) and speed of the trials.
The country should be divided into manageable administrative units with elected setups down to the local levels. The general election process should not be deemed complete till the lowest local elected set ups are in place. The National Finance Commission (NFC) award must contain the proportion of all districts with mandatory disbursements based on already agreed factors of population, physical area, backwardness etc. Even better would be the devolution of collecting most of the revenues to the local governments, and after keeping their share the amount may be sent upwards to provinces and federal exchequer. Expenditures on defence and national debt be shared by all according to a certain formula. Required amendments in the Constitution will have to be made.
The Chief of Army Staff’s (COAS) decision to contribute and lend help in the task of ‘nation-building’ is a welcome step, provided the Army remains aware of its strengths and limitations in various fields where the help is being rendered. Experts and specialists must be employed — reportedly being done – for planning, supervision and implementation, and their inputs must be respected. The main factor of the support and goodwill of the people is of paramount importance in any large enterprise undertaken by the Armed Forces. For that the aspirations of the people and expectations from the Pakistan Army in other areas will have to be met.
Media should be reasonably free and the flow of ideas be encouraged rather than gagging the opposing views. No society or country can develop intellectually, politically, and economically in a coercive environment. This is an eternal principle for sustainable progress.
Free, transparent, inclusive and fair elections must be held as per the constitutional requirements, and a combined team of higher judiciary, armed forces, retired politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, agriculturists, and industrialists, should ensure imposition of all or most of the above-mentioned reforms that are agreed as a part of public debate on free media as a one-time surety.
As it is said that “doing the same thing again and again, and expecting different results, is stupidity.” So, this time, let us do it the way it should be done. Have some mercy on this beleaguered nation. This is the only way that we will move towards our deserved glory. Inshallah. Let us rise above our personal, institutional and party interests.