Is Pakistan a failing state? BY YASMEEN AFTAB ALI
The system is in shambles
Pakistan is tethering on virtual non-governance springing from weak institutions at the cost of corruption of different hues by individuals who are posted at top slots more because of whims than being qualified for the position appointed to. In the given circumstances, any positive outcome in the forthcoming elections alone is not possible. Elections are a means to an end and not an end in itself. The country’s democratic progress is hampered by the politician themselves where families are ruling the roost to the exclusion of any other quality.
One of the greatest missteps has been the decision of Pakistan to accept US aid in exchange from becoming her ally under the mantle of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, making her reliant on aid rather than being economically independent. This economic reliability has led to losing independence in making foreign policy decisions based on national interests. The outcome of an early dependence on economic aid led to Pakistan agreeing to and training of Mujahedeen to counter Soviet Union in Afghanistan. One major reason for failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy has been the fact that it has remained static, failing to evolve with changing geopolitical developments. The other has been the inability of policy makers to balance out relationships with different regional and global players by putting all eggs in one basket. Earlier it was US now it is China. Putting all eggs in one basket is a fatal error irrespective of whose basket it is.
Pakistan lacks a coherent, long-term view on issues which reflects in its poor diplomatic efforts — if any. Governments come and governments go, the thrust towards issues involving nations remains even — of course needing periodic assessment based on emerging situations. War in neighbouring Afghanistan is weakening Pakistan as a modern state, rather than focusing on using diplomacy as a tool to develop better relations in the region as well as internationally makes her muddle her way through emergency situations more on ad hoc basis than based on any long- term strategy. The longer the war in Afghanistan continues the more it will weaken Pakistan. International relations must be based on national interests. There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. With Afghanistan, Pakistan has been unable to revisit her policies initiated in the Cold War era. The ground realities now are different. Different policies or a combination of policies are needed to redefine the relationship.
Pakistan’s domestic policies are in a woeful state. From needs of small farmers, to quality of seed provision and their affordability, to upgrading of marketing of goods from producer to market where middleman walks away with major chunk of profits, old and dated methods of farming, low yield per hectare; the issues are widespread and need urgent attention.
Pakistan has failed to evolve a uniform system of education. The private schools catering to different income groups, the government-run schools to the lower echelon of the society and parallel to these two systems is the madrassa system. Increase in madrassas reflects upon failure of state to provide decent education to its people. The importance becomes magnified for those who cannot afford one themselves and choose the option of madrassa education. As the state stepped back from focusing on its priorities, madrassas stepped in and gained space to fill the gap. The students graduating from these seminaries are completely oblivious to the subjects that can win them good places in the employment market such as business, law, economics et al. Their applicability usually remains restricted to set ups like the madrassas they graduate from and/or the people who run them.
There is no longterm planning either to analyse development of need based industries, fields and areas over time to then develop manpower in line with the nation’s need. The result is young people with degrees in a field that are over saturated and not enough quality people in areas where needed.
Corruption at all levels in Pakistan is a prominent deterrent for investors in businesses that can boost economy. This malady rides from top down. Disqualified prime minister is presently facing case(s) by NAB for disclosure of offshore assets. The wide spread corruption owes to lack of implementation of laws rather than lack of laws. Whether it is land administration, police, taxation system customs administration, and public procurement… the list is long and is corrupt practices high.
Energy crisis that has caused huge set back over years to businesses and made lives of common people a living hell has bedeviled the country. Old systems, loss of electrify along the line, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Over population has led to lower standard of living. The lesser the education, lesser the income, the more the members per family. Often one earning hand is responsible for feeding seven or eight mouths.
Production and sale of fake medications is another area where big bucks are being made. Law and order situation is in shambles.
Unfortunately for all the cumulative failures, no one is ready to accept the buck. No one wants to be responsible in spite of enjoying the perks of a position. People actually get away with ludicrous statements like Nawaz Sharif stating at a public gathering organised by his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regarding Kashmir Solidarity Day at the Muzaffarabad University College Ground, “They ruined my plans for the development of Kashmir, had I not been disqualified I would have eliminated poverty from the region.” One may ask what plans he made or came to light during his four years of current tenure alone. Even today, it is his party in power. Exactly what’s stopping him to make the plans a reality?
End Note: “The political institutions of a society are a key determinant of the outcome of this game. They are the rules that govern incentives in politics. They determine how the government is chosen and which part of the government has the right to do what. Political institutions determine who has power in society and to what ends that power can be used. If the distribution of power is narrow and unconstrained, then the political institutions are absolutist, as exemplified by the absolutist monarchies reigning throughout the world during much of history.”
Daron Acemoğlu: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty