NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Mr. Prime Minister!
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Mr. Prime Minister, since you are such an ardent advocate of democracy, the bedrock of which is direct participation of the common citizen in the conduct of a country’s governance and input in state policy-making, I’d like to take this opportunity to engage directly with you, an academic’s disciplined engagement with the highest manager of national affairs on the question of where Pakistan is heading after the May 11th elections, the much celebrated triumph of democracy.
Let us start this deliberation with the concept of “Solutions” and the notion of a “Solutionist” in the context of political, economic, and socio-cultural management of the state by the elected leadership (at the top echelons to manage state affairs) and elected representatives to assist in legislative matters, and in setting national policy goals and objectives. But before we talk as to what the “Solutions” are and who holds the important position of a “Solutionist” in a democratic dispensation, the first and foremost issue is to decide what the “Problems” are – and how these national “Problems” must be prioritized on the resolution agenda of an elected democratic government. Solutions will only follow when vital national problems are identified, a regimented priority list is established, and a strictly laid-out political management discourse is followed.
Political management, in itself, is a highly disciplined field which is intrinsically tied up with problem identification skills, an in-depth understanding of democratic notions, and an appreciation of political philosophy and its fundamental concepts. It is important to understand what democracy is all about. A democracy is a war against widespread poverty, ignorance and disease, and a determination to emerge victorious from this war. A democracy builds schools, hospitals, a social-cultural edifice, and religious harmony at all levels of society. It becomes a vanguard of each citizen’s safety and the security of their lives. It takes care of minority rights and is responsible for the care of its senior citizens, the handicapped and the disabled. It is responsible for maintaining peace and order domestically and conducting foreign policy in the vital interests of a nation. It maintains a deterrence against foreign interventions in domestic affairs and makes war and peace a matter of universal humanitarian concern. It builds highways and communication infrastructures throughout the land. It eradicates unsound financial practices and makes sure that corruption is wiped out of its political system.
Abdul Elah Benkirane, the Moroccan Prime Minister and the charismatic leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), in a recent address to his party’s members urged: “This [politics] is not a game… Politics is ideas, convictions, opinions. It takes years from people, fractions of their lives. This is a responsibility.” Tariq Ramadan, the distinguished Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, has attributed the fall of Mursi’s democratically elected government in Egypt partially to the failures in prioritizing national problematics: “However, on a more fundamental level, his [Mursi’s] greatest fault has been the utter absence of a political vision and the lack of clearly established political and economic priorities, his failure to fight corruption and poverty and his egregious mismanagement of social and educational affairs.”
It appears that the incumbent PML-N leadership in Islamabad believes that the “Wealth Generation” ought to be the government’s top priority in dealing with Pakistan’s collapsing economy. But that in itself is a self-fabricated misperception. The fact is that there is plenty of private wealth concentrated within a privileged segment of society. Look at the sparkling housing estates in each and every urban center of the country. Then imagine a whopping $700 billion stacked in Swiss banks belonging to a select group of Pakistan’s elite. Consider the immense levels of corruption in tax evasion, bank loan write-offs, horrible heights of embezzlement in government contracts and daily scandals in money-making scams. The top government priorities should be to fix the above mentioned problematics that have become an intrinsic part of a corrupt political-economic system, as well as retrieving the massive amount of $120 billion from Swiss banks by lawful means, and promoting a National Reconciliation Initiative seeking democratic participation of the national elite to mend systemic fault. Until a zealous reform by the prevailing ailing economic-political management system is carried out, Pakistan’s fundamental issues will continue to multiply – needless to say – with destructive consequences.
It’s apparent that another national priority set by Islamabad is to promote as much foreign investment in the country as possible. This, too, is a flawed economic concept. Foreign investments, by their own very nature, are mostly made by global corporate capitalist entities to make the foreign investors rich. The dynamics of this system do not work in reverse – the investing capitalists make the profits along with their local partners while the cheap labor force is exploited. Massive profits are repatriated overseas, leaving the country depleted of foreign exchange reserves and technological and capital dependency on foreign economic actors and managers.
What is required in Pakistan is a broadening of the small scale industrial sector by indigenous and local entrepreneurs throughout the country by the federal government’s dynamic financial, logistic, and technological assistance and intervention for a balanced development throughout the country. Perhaps Islamabad can come up with a national industrial development blueprint in which the local investors share ownership with the state institutions to overcome fund availability and streamline management systems of taxation, repayment of state loans, state assisted marketing and nation-wide mobilization of the training and placement of the labor force through technological education.
Let us not forget that the Pakistani masses are a frustrated and angry lot. The 2008-2013 democracy delivered nothing of substance for the average Pakistani citizen. It simply added to their daily deprivations, economic difficulties, lack of health and education facilities and increased poverty. The people of Pakistan do not want a political system that can only diffuse their anger by rhetorical public diplomacy and repeated democratic slogans and elections while leaving their demands largely unmet. They want a democracy that delivers, meets their demands, resolves political problems, and finds the ways and means to manage social and economic justice. To put it simply, a democratic dispensation that has “Solutions” to public issues and the “Solutionists” determined in their task of dispensing public welfare at all levels of society.
The question is: Is the contemporary democratic system in Pakistan moving in that direction towards that political discourse?
Or, I wonder at times: Are we at a stage where democracy and the “deep state” of vested interests is cohabiting?
I will leave you to answer that question!