By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Jis khayt say dehqan ko myassar na ho rosi
Us khayt kay har gosha a gundum ko jilla do.
No amount of political freedom can make up for
the economic misery inflicted upon masses.
Emma Chang, a young Chinese woman, owns a small jewelry shop in the grand and massive Dragon Mall in Dubai. She is a skilled worker; in a matter of minutes Emma takes crystal beads, pearls and semi-precious stones and turns them into beautiful necklaces, earrings and bracelets. She does not own an expensive home back in China – but she makes a reasonable middle class living and her denominator of emancipation and well-being is the degree of “happiness” that she acquires out of her work and social existence. There are thousands of Chinese like Emma in this business hub of a remarkably planned Chinese enterprise.
China, in its rise to global economic-financial eminence, has mobilized the masses and trained them as skilled independent workers – the indicators of national development are measured in the rising levels of “happiness,” job satisfaction, a feeling of independence and increasing degrees of economic well-being. This process has strongly impacted social mobility by transforming the class structure resulting in the emergence of a massive middle class society. The Chinese leadership has also stressed national cultural imperatives in its developmental planning. This is precisely the sum total of China’s rise to a global power.
By comparison, Pakistan remains stuck in a time warp inherited from the colonial past. There is absolutely no sense of “transformational” processes in nation-building. We are strictly a class society with a backward political leadership and an economic structure that maintains at its core the ideology of class segregation on the basis of the socio-economic status quo. The limited upwards social mobility is essentially based on a massively corrupt socio-economic-political system that has its roots and consolidates itself in nepotism, political favoritism, and cronyism. The indicator of national well-being is still the stock exchange, which is controlled by a small vested interest group. Our leadership also takes pride in obtaining foreign loans and unfavorable investment projects that are continually bankrupting the nation. Consequently, a feasible nation-building process has yet to begin in Pakistan.
It is no wonder then that the majority of the deprived masses in Pakistan exist on a mere $2 a day, yet a Pakistani banker has paid the staggering amount of $60 million for a 60-room hotel in London (which is $1 million per room). The Pakistani landscape is littered with numerous examples of socio-economic segregation and a growing gap between the haves and have nots.
We will have to do the so-far “unthinkable” to survive as a nation. We will have to espouse an economic doctrine of a transformational process that changes our indicators of economic development from the stock-exchange performance to increases in self-employment, enlargement of skilled labor and its efficient management, and expansion of employment in public and private sectors based solely on self-reliance economics and developmental models. We should also strive for a relentless drive for upwards socio-economic mobility strictly managed and planned by engaging large segments of urban-rural populations. These sustained acts of the state must be directed towards and equitable socio-economic non-segregated class structure. It is a tall order – but a manageable process; we have the shining example of China’s early developmental model and its success as our guiding principles.
But doing and going forward on this “unthinkable” process is not possible without major rectification of our past errors; we will have to de-link our strategic economic and foreign policy doctrine from the inherited systemic fault lines of our six decade-old alliance with the US. We must come to realize and understand the demerits of our colonial bond with the west and the coercive baggage it carries against our national self-interests. We will have to start looking culturally and economically inwards, aligning ourselves with emerging Islamic Bloc nations and re-aligning our strategic foreign policy interests with interests in South and Central America, the Middle East, South Asia, China and elsewhere where countries are pursuing a progressive geo-political agenda of “resistance” against the US-West’s hegemonic imperialist objectives and goals. We need to take massive U-Turns in our national policies.
Drastic steps in restructuring our national priorities and policies have become imperative now. Our engagement with global-financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and other lending entities, need to be completely altered. Can we handle and manage default on our loans? If not, loan modalities, conditions and agreements need to be overhauled and restructured. We can no longer accept the IMF and World Band directives to run our domestic economic and developmental policies: We must heavily reduce electricity and power tariffs in Pakistan (the IMF insists on increasing tariffs on electricity). Petrol, diesel and gas need to be subsidized to re-energize the national self-reliance economic cycle. We need to expand public sector projects, finance micro-level investment schemes on a massive scale to organize the small community-level rural self-employment sector, and undertake skills development training initiatives at local urban and rural centers. We must accelerate industrial development within a conceptual notion of public-private joint sponsorship and enterprises.
Roads, hydroelectric and coal-generated power, communication infrastructure development and planning must remain the state’s responsibility. Nation-wide housing, education and improvements in health facilities must receive very large state funding. Pakistan needs to totally depart from its past socio-economic political parameters to a dynamic pragmatic approach to resolve its ailing national problematics.
What Pakistan needs most is an overhauling of its contemporary political decision-making structure and a revolutionary transformation coupled with a renaissance in its time-stuck political mindset of the traditional power elite and the recalcitrant baggage that it has carried timelessly since its institutional genesis. Pakistan’s existence is vulnerable with its present political dispensation – we need to depart from the existing fundamentals of our polemic and contentious premise and redirect our future political discourse toward an altogether different path of political conduct and practices.
Thus far, the military-civil-political regimes in this country have treated the phenomenal national issues of mass deprivation and poverty like abstractions, not imminent threats to the nation’s survival and existence, and have not grasped the consequences of their political decision-making, shattering the lives of common people and destroying the very socio-economic-cultural fabric of this society. The ruling political elite has been unable to understand that widespread poverty is a cancerous growth that ultimately decimates the very foundations of a nation’s existence. Until the masses’ welfare and uplift becomes the pivotal goal, this country is bound to become a failed state.
What we need to do has been thus far “unthinkable.” We need to become independent, self-managed, self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-directed, self-motivated, self-energized, self-invented, self-propelled, sovereign and debt-free, and largely a nation of productive, satisfied, socially, economically, culturally integrated people who value their family lives and take pride in their “happiness” scale as the major denominator of national progress and development. Without such a change, we are a doomed nation!!
Indeed, China has accomplished it to a certain extent – we can manage it, too!!
Vladimir Lenin made a universally applicable observation: “No amount of political freedom can make up for the economic misery inflicted upon the masses.”
Ironically, 60 years after its independence, Pakistan’s political structure/political system does exactly that: inflict misery upon its masses!
We need to do the “unthinkable” now.
The writer: professor, political analyst, published author and conflict resolution expert.