Sunday, April 3, 2016

Some proposals for a Glorious Pakistan

March 29, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Throughout its existence since August 14, 1947; Pakistan has, perennially remained in troubled waters. From the anarchy of the initial years to the interspersing of democratic stints, to military dictatorships, it has been overshadowed by a constant threat of disintegration as a state. This disintegration came off in 1971 when its eastern part then known as East Pakistan was truncated.

While East Pakistan changed her nomenclature to Bangladesh, the West Wing came to be known as Pakistan. It was a cataclysmic event that happened in contemporary history when a state was dismembered barely 24 years after its birth and independence from the colonial rule.

All these years, Pakistan earned strictures such as a failed state, a country not viable to stay on the world map and a nation moving towards eventual extinction or another disintegration a la East Pakistan. 

Pakistani society is infested with myriad chronic problems that range from poor social and utility services to unstable or dysfunctional institutions and sway of reactionary cutthroat religious militants. The competent, efficacious, egalitarian and public welfare oriented governance has ever remained elusive.

The mutual bickering and intolerance of the politicians kept the functioning of democratic form of government fragile and vulnerable to army intervention that always stepped in as an interim arrangement. Yet the army in due course would consolidate its rule as long as it could hang on.  As such a stable democratic culture could not take roots.

The state governance and power wielding alternated between a non-representative military set up and the political power grabbers who were more concerned with their power and pelf than the national interests. In this pernicious musical chairs game of power grabbing, the welfare of the people and development of the country was always kept on back burners.

The people favor a popularly elected system of government as was evidenced in the 2008 and 2013 general elections. Although the 2008 elections were more of a no confidence vote against the Musharraf quasi dictatorship, yet at the same time, it vividly demonstrated that the people of Pakistan were aware of the importance of a system of governance based on adult franchise contested between the political parties.

During the past two decades Pakistan has been turned into a war zone by latter day Islamic warriors as evidenced by a string of bomb blasts and terrorist activities. In the latest suicide bombing in Lahore on the Easter Day (March 27) claimed by a religious outfit, 72 people were killed and 340 injured. It is Pakistan's second deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military-run academy in the city of Peshawar.

In such a bleak and murky scenario, the amelioration of the appalling socio economic problems of the people cannot be effectively addressed with the urgency and seriousness that it merits. The economy of Pakistan is in doldrums and seriously impaired to an alarming extent as evidenced by an all time high inflation and parity rate between dollar and Pak rupee. Apart from other countless maladies we have seen a whole panic stricken nation waits in long queues for a bag of flour.

A nation is decaying and dying on account of religious militancy, galore of crimes, hunger, disease, deprivation, poverty and rotten civic life. All these afflictions fallen on a Muslim nation of 200 millions still struggling for its survival are the consequences of the wrong doings of the leaders who lacked vision and sincerity. 

The motives and agendas of successive leaders have been to capture power and milk the national exchequer. Despite army’s continuous crackdown against outlaws for the past two years, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the crime and lawlessness.

Every year loans of billions of rupees are so conveniently written off. These loans are granted to robber barons whose bellies and bank accounts are already bulging like swelling balloons. There is least accountability for rapacious robbing of the national wealth which must be spent on people’s welfare and country’s advancement.

There is an appalling mess everywhere that instead of diminishing is accentuating. Democracy is the finest system of government provided it can ensure social justice and equality of opportunities and basic services. We need dedicated, visionary, and honest leadership that can put Pakistan on the way to economic and institutional stability, as we witness in the Western countries.

It all depends upon the quality, sincerity, and caliber of the leaders whether they make or break a nation. We in Pakistani have been having gangsters, thugs, custodians and savior of an exploitative system with such despicable manifestations as feudalism, elitism, untouchable military and civil bureaucracy and so on.

As such Pakistan is in emergent need of a new revolutionary social contract that should encompass radical remedial changes in every domain and dimension of our society. It should start from abolition of feudalism and Sardari system to abundant and adequate availability of civic facilities namely electricity, water, transportation, good roads, railways, jobs etc. Social and legal justice should be liberated from the onslaughts of the pressure groups and influential individuals.

It is therefore; absolutely imperative that Pakistan’s socio- economic and political landscape must be completely reoriented and refurbished. The status quo must be quashed, and new vigorous radical and revolutionary agenda should be evolved. A new social contract must be written that brings about structural and institutional changes in all spheres of society.

The change in attitudes, social behaviors, the modernization of civic facilities and social services should be accorded the utmost and top priority to ensure a decent living. The Pakistani nation is mired in a primitive mode of life with rampant superstitions, myths of mystical healing and fanciful stories of the past beguiling the people to remain mentally backward.

Pakistan is stuck in a morass of abysmal degradation of all kinds: open sewage lanes, cattle stalking, pollution of smoke and noise, human and animal excretion blanketing the entire country, pervading stink in the air, traffic madness and overstuffed public vehicles, life threatening adulteration of food and medicines, vermin infested water, power cuts et el. The officialdom and the departmental network are corrupt, too ill equipped, too poorly financed and too outdated to take the bull of these stupendous problems by horn.

Here are a few broad outlines of a social contract or an agenda that can be instrumental in initiating the much and long coveted transformation in Pakistan. As already stated only a leadership that is genuinely sincere and dedicated to making Pakistan a modern, progressive, prosperous, democratic and egalitarian state can enforce it. 

1.There might not be immediate and forthcoming results but a direction and course would be set in motion and the first momentous steps could gradually change the whole dismal scenario into the resplendent one with hope and a will to move forward.

2.The galloping growth of population should be restrained both by persuasion and official caveats. Two children recipe is certainly desirable and ought to be made binding.

3.For devolution of powers, rapid and optimum progress, Pakistan needs to have more provinces. The existing administrative divisions should be changed into province. Besides creating more provinces out of existing four provinces, the FATA, Kashmir and Northern Regions should also be designated as provinces with maximum autonomy, permissible under the constitution. 
4.The constitution should be re-written with necessary additions and subtractions. All those caveats should be expunged that bar Pakistan from being a true federation, a genuine democracy and modern polity. The present government has introduced a few meaningful amendments in the constitution but more are needed such as abolition of feudalism and separating religion and state.

5.While the Feudalism, Sardari and clannish over-lordship in all shades must at once be abolished, the taken-over lands by mafia should be effectively and veritably distributed among landless peasants. People should be freed and liberated from the centuries old vestiges of land-based fiefdoms and indigenous colonialism by taking away the privileged positions and royal status of super land lords against their tillers and bonded labor.
The divisions and discrimination of being high and low between citizens should be replaced with equality for all. This is what our religion warrants and this is what a modern civil society demands.

6.Religious and sectarian bands of all hues and cries should be contained and checked from spreading poisonous, biased and intolerance-based agenda. All religious denominations should be allowed to practice their faith. In case of conflict in interpretation of religious laws, a productive and positive dialogue should be followed than killing and bombing the rivals’ worshiping places as witnessed between the Sunnis and Shias. This can also be enforced by the government.

7.It would be in order that the state image should be secular and of non-interference in religious pursuits. The mosques should be built by the government and the existing countless mosques and religious seminaries should be integrated with the national education system. Saudi Arabian government the birth place of Islam controls the mosques and religious madrasas.

8.The pivotal role of judiciary must be ensured and strengthened at all costs by creating an independent judicial system consisting of intrepid, clean, conscientious and upright individuals who cannot be influenced by any trickery of bribe, pressure, political influence or similar other questionable and dirty means. All court fees should be abolished. The Accountability courts should form part of the judicial system. Pakistan can take a cue from other modern societies for establishing a strong and transparent judiciary.

9.Quality of life needs to be improved without loss of further time. The entire civic and municipal system should be completely revamped .The civic problems are directly related to the people’s lives in creating mental and social awareness. People are desperate to have their pressing and local irritants such as orderly traffic, trash collection, encroachment and cattle free footpaths, streets and roads to be addressed effectively and regularly. For these fundamental reforms the “City and County” system of local governance should be adopted whose blueprints can be borrowed from the United States or any western society.

It would be an epic milestone if the people in the coming elections vote for the candidates and parties that relatively have a clean record and a fair name in the public service and offer a progressive and a milestone agenda for change. If the same chronically corrupt leaders and highway robbers return to the assemblies, Pakistanis will forfeit a unique chance for a big leap forward and a rare choice for a better future, although physically it may still remain on the world map.

Finally the nation is beholden to the Army under General Raheel Sharif for leading a crusade to rid Pakistan of the enemies of the country particularly the religious zealots. 


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