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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Can Imran Khan’s Pakistan truly become a welfare state?

According to Dr. Umair Ashraf, Pakistan needs to move beyond the blind imitation of the Western economic ideologies and adopt a system based on true Islamic and nationalist foundations.

“We wish”, said Jinnah, arguing the case for Pakistan on 22nd March 1940, “our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social, and political life in a way that we think best, and in consonance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our people.”

The PTI Federal government will be presenting its budget for 2021-22 by mid of June with its fourth Finance Minister in office. The vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for a welfare state with an inclusive economic and financial structure has seen one of the most discursive economic policies since he came into the government.

Read more: Imran Khan: Pakistan will soon emerge as the leading economy in the region

Imran Khan began with his own party’s stalwart Asad Umar, a former corporate executive as Finance minister but soon relinquished him of his services and brought in a technocrat Hafeez Shaikh to fulfill his vision. But two years later and drastic inflation in the country saw Hafeez Shaikh’s unceremonious exit from the cabinet.

Khan again turned to a Politician, a young well-articulated economist Hammad Azhar but his stunt was limited to a mere press conference. And now finally we have a technocrat Shaukat Tareen, a banker by profession, back in the office to make Imran Khan’s dream of a welfare state and “Riyasat-e-Madina” comes true.

Read more: Here comes Hammad Azhar and the challenges awaiting the new Finance Minister

Shaukat Tareen in his interviews and press conferences has put forward his revolutionary ideas to create an inclusive, integrative, and welfare economy in Pakistan. An economic setup that shall uplift the poverty-ridden and deprived people in the country.

The success of his ideas will be clear in the next few months. But an economy constrained by debts and diabolical financial programs of IMF and World Bank externally and elites’ interests internally, is difficult to turn into a welfare one over the night. The question thus arises here is how will Imran Khan’s dream of a welfare state come true?

Read more: Pakistan Economy: History and Required Reforms 

Pakistan’s economic reality

As mentioned in the quote at the start of this article, Quaid’s vision was to create a system that is intrinsic and not borrowed, and above all, the Islamic economic system which was the basis of Riyasat e Madina, the true welfare state, was intrinsic and not borrowed either.

But if we look at the current economic and financial system of Pakistan, it is not intrinsic but borrowed. It is based on Western Capitalism and free-market trade and is overlooked by their financial institutions.

In the past seventy years, we have run a dozen of IMF programs, revised our economy multiple times, brought in so many economic teams and advisors yet our economy always failed to progress.

Read more: Pakistan’s Economy at 2030

Thus we see downtrodden people struggling to meet their ends. We see a huge gap in wealth, peaked unemployment, worst levels of poverty and illiteracy, healthcare crisis, a failing infrastructure, minimal growth rates, and a pernicious GDP. All aligned with overwhelming debt.

We have one of the highest risks of the food security crisis in the world. Our agriculture which caters to almost 60 percent of the population has halted to almost unrepairable damage.

We also have one of the most flawed taxation systems in the world. The elite capture and status quo have made the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Capitalism, feudalism, economic injustice, economic disparity, debt exploitation, hoarding, banking monopoly, and financial inequality have added to our already deteriorating social, welfare and justice system. Our standards of living are crippled.

Read more: Food security in danger: Pakistan Economy Watch

Pakistan’s economic system is reminiscent of a proverbial blind man who takes hold of an Elephant’s tail and concludes an Elephant is a kind of brush.

The reason is that we deviated from our intrinsic ideology and needs as mentioned by Quaid and as the teachings of Islam. Our governments tried to follow foreign economic systems in order to make their masters happy and to stay aligned with the world, but at the cost of destruction of our own society and economy.

Breaking the chains

Quaid told the State Bank of Pakistan at the inaugural gathering on 1 July 1948. “The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity. It has failed to do justice between man and man and to eradicate friction from the international field. On the contrary, it was largely responsible for the two World Wars.”

He further stated, “The Western world, in spite of its advantages of mechanization and industrial efficiency, is today in a worse mess than ever before in history. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people.”

Read more: West’s Double Standards: An Unending threat for the World?

But in the past seventy years, we have succumbed to the same system Quaid warned us against. And until we change the whole system we won’t be able to achieve welfare and prosperity in bits and pieces.

Our main goal should be to change and reform the whole system. And our approach to this issue must be intrinsic, realistic, revolutionary, and creative. We have to move beyond the blind imitation of the Western economic system and adopt a truly Islamic and national ideological basis.

We shall break the status quo, elite capture, feudalism, and capitalism and reconstruct our economy on the new foundations that cater to our needs and help in the economic and social uplift of the people and create equity and equality in the country.

Read more: Here’s how to reform Pakistan’s economic policy

We shall have to rebuild our banking system with the prohibition of interest, distinguishing halal and haram, create optimization instead of maximization of consumption, create trade ethics, equitable distribution of wealth, and prohibition of hoarding and concentration of wealth into few hands.

We shall rebuild the Islamic system of Zakat and Khiraaj and equitable distribution of land ownership. And we shall guarantee social justice to everyone in the country. Only in this way we will be able to achieve our vision of a Welfare state.

Read more: Fixing Pakistan’s broken democratic system

The author is a doctor by profession and can be reached at drumairashraf95@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.