Unwillingly the people of Pakistan have to carry the entire burden of the non-performing state. In a high school civics class, we were taught that there were three essential pillars required to support the edifice of statehood: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. For effective governance, each has a role to play.
Inefficiency of state’s institutions increases plight of citizens
As the legislative branch consists of the representatives of the people, it is supposed to legislate and govern through the institutional framework. In a parliamentary democracy like ours, while heading the executive, the Prime Minister (PM) with his Cabinet sits in Parliament and is answerable for the performance of the government.
With a legislature full of corrupt members, a non-functioning bureaucracy, overwhelmed judiciary, a large Army with its own priorities and family-controlled structureless political parties, the job of the PM is not easy but at the end of the day the entire burden falls on the shoulders of the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Read more: Is bureaucracy stalling change?
Why reforms pendulum swung the other way?
For years the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been asking all the major political parties (PTI, PML(N), PPP) for accounts of the funds received, which all of them have been evading, mainly because of poor bookkeeping.
Pakistan started off well with an elected legislature of able and honest members. With the influx of refugees the focus shifted on their settlement while the colonial institutions were allowed to function without the major reforms needed for a democratic state. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung the other way.
Ayub Khan’s debt-driven economy
First Baboo Ghulam Muhammad(Gamma) managed to become the Governor General, replacing the stalwart of the Pakistan Movement Khawaja Nazimuddin, followed by Iskander Mirza and finally Ayub Khan who packed up the entire legislative branch of the state.
Pakistan generates one of the world’s costliest power based on imported Furnace Oil together with out-of-reach imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
Like the Clock Tower of Faisalabad, the General and Later Field Marshal decided on a uni-pillar state built around him. In his empire only he ruled while everyone else was a “Darbari”, and those who dissented were taken to the dungeons of the Lahore Fort and tortured.
In order to fill in the gap he created a toothless legislature indirectly elected through an Electoral College called Basic Democrats ( BD Members ), 40,000 in each wing. The judiciary was mostly compliant with a few judges who had a spine. His debt-driven economic model which favoured the selected few, was a disaster for the many.
What’s draining the economy?
Today the burden of debt is unbearable and the largest budget item. For the size of our economy the Armed Forces are too large, that is why the elected government opted for the nuclear option. I remember the words of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, “We will build the bomb even if we have to eat grass”, that is what we have been doing since then.
With the ongoing war on terror, the size of the Army cannot be reduced but now that Nuclear Deterrence has been attained, the programme can be scaled back and put under financial audit. The non-performing administrative machinery is another big drain to be followed with a huge pension bill that has crossed the trillion-rupee mark annually.
The four education departments combined employ around one million teachers, some of whom show up to only collect salaries. Out of the Rs 7.3 trillion budget estimated for the current year there is hardly any money left for meaningful human development after interest payments on debt, defence, pensions, corruption and the salaries and perks of civil servants. It does not end here, then comes the grease money or gratification to get anything done.
Pakistan’s faultlines in focus
Today the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not financially viable. The status quo is deeply entrenched. Even the Constitution is not followed in letter and spirit. Parliament has become a debating club where no meaningful reforms are discussed. Instead of listening to each other’s viewpoints, there are walkouts and hooting matches.
Unless a major change of approach is adopted the future holds no promise for the poor, suffering and struggling people of the republic
The only area of common interest are across-the-board increase in salaries and perks. In 72 years there has been only one credible election in 1970, which led to the dismemberment of Quaid’s Pakistan. Since then 12 electoral exercises have been disputed, including the one in 2018.
Ayub Khan’s mess was cleaned up by the elected government that followed (1971 to 1977) but it proved to be shortlived, to be replaced by Zia’s Dark Ages (1977 to 1988) and his repeat of the same process of political manipulation leading to another King’s Party (the PML-N). Pakistan has not been the same since July 1977.
Nawaz Sharif’s desire to become Ameer-ul-Momineen resulted in the Musharraf misadventure which brought Pakistan into the direct line of fire of the Taliban and yet another King’s Party (the PML-Q) was formed under the leadership of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
Pakistan generates one of the world’s costliest power based on imported furnace oil together with out-of-reach imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The burden of power and fuel has rendered our industry non-competitive.
CPEC comes to the rescue
Finally, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has come to the rescue with several hydel projects together with coal-based power generation based on local reserves.
Mining has finally started at the huge Thar deposit (175 billion tons). It is poised to be the energy future of the country which will significantly lower the burden on the national exchequer. In addition to power generation, this black gold can be used to produce gas, fertilizers and several other useful products.
Read more: Is Pakistan moving forward or backwards?
Time is running out for the toiling masses of the republic. The burdened common man can no longer sustain this load. Human fatigue has set in. Unless a major change of approach is adopted the future holds no promise for the poor, suffering and struggling people of the republic.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). An expert on mining and energy, currently working on developing clean Coal Technologies for Thar Deposit. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.