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Monday, April 15, 2024

Defense day of Pakistan: A day of introspection

For any institution to perform well, be it state or non-state, a key factor is the quality of its human resource. Investments in civil service training are thus critical to help build the state’s capacity to deliver. In this regard, Mr. Amjed Jaaved talks about the institutions where Pakistan needs to develop reforms and points out how economic equality and prosperity, peace and social tranquility can never be achieved unless we work hard towards our institutions.

Every year, the day comes and goes by. This year the Pakistani nation should observe Defence of Pakistan Day (Sept 6) as a day of introspection. Let us do some soul searching. Will every new baby be born in Pakistan indebted forever? Why have successive Pakistani governments failed to provide universal healthcare and education to their people? There are several points to ponder. Pakistan is doubtlessly an Islamic republic, but not a theocracy, as envisioned by the founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah. AK Brohi has in his The Fundamental Law of Pakistan highlighted the contours of a theocracy very well.

Read more: How can we play our part in defense of Pakistan?

Interest outlawed under Pakistan’s constitution

The Islamic preamble (Objectives Resolution) was inserted in the draft constitution under Pakistan’s prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s influence. Unlike the US and many other secular constitutions, the Objectives Resolution (now Preamble to 1973 Constitution) states sovereignty belongs to Allah Almighty. The golden words of the constitution were warped to continue an interest-based economy. We pay interest on our international loans and international transactions. Do we live in an interactive world or in an ivory tower?

The Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan enforced Shariah Governance Regulations 2018. This regulation is a follow-up to Article 38 (f) of the Constitution of Pakistan, and Senate resolution No. 393 (July 9, 2018) for the abolition of riba (usury).

Extortionist interest and normal interest/profit are indistinguishable. They disallow even saving bank accounts. They point out that riba is anathema both as `addition’ (taffazzul) and due to `delay'(nas’ee) consequent upon fluctuating purchasing power.

The regulation is welcome but there are unanswered questions about the Islamisation of finance in Pakistan. We pay interest on our loans and international transactions.

Future trading is a hub of modern commerce. Yet, it is forbidden under Islam. Islamic law of contract does not even allow advance contracts concerning raw fish, fruit, or anything involving an element of uncertainty. Islam does not allow even tallaqi-ur-rukbaan buying camel-loads of goods from the caravan before they had reached Madina open-market.

Read more: Analyzing the colonial style bureaucracy of Pakistan

Converting consumerist Pakistan into a productive economy

Let China help expand Pakistan’s manufacturing capacity and thereby reduce unemployment in Pakistan. All policymakers should act in unison. They include policy formulators (prime minister, finance minister, et. al), policy detailers (chief economic adviser, statisticians), and technocrats. The policy-makers should decide upon a balance of priority, agriculture or industry, a “closed” economy with import substitution, “living within means” and a balanced budget or deficit budget. Will increased spending “crowd in” or “crowd out” private investment?

Monetary policy objectives and the role of the central bank stability of employment and inflation, growth rate, balance-of-payments issues, the role of foreign direct investment and non-bank financial institutions? Their impact on capital formation, consumption trends, and other macroeconomic aspects.

Building Kalabagh and other dams

The first priority of most countries, including the USA, Russia, Brazil, and China, was to build hydel projects. China’s big push into industrial progress was due to a chain of hydel projects like the Three Gorges, Gezhouba, Xiluodu, Xiangjiaba, Longtan, Hengshui, Nuozhadu, Jinping-I and II, Yalong, Laxiwa, Xiaowan, Goupitan, Guanyinyan, and Ahai.

The Kalabagh Dam Project was approved by the Technical Committee on Water Resources 2003-2005. It was composed of eight technical experts, two from each province. To store monsoon flows of the upper reaches of the Indus River, they approved the project. The committee looked into all aspects including the effect of dilution of seawater with freshwater, seawater intrusion into the groundwater, riverine irrigation, and forests fisheries, besides the growth of Mangrove forests. Later, the 3500 megawatts KBD was approved by the World Bank Indus Special Study Group in its report titled Development of Water and Power Resources of Pakistan: A Sectoral Analysis (1967).

The estimated cost of constructing the dam was US$6.12 billion, over six years from 1977 to 1982. After the commissioning of the Tarbela Dam in 1976, the dam could have been built in six years by 1982. The cost per unit of 12 billion units the hydel electricity was Rs.1.5 as compared to Rs. 16.5 per unit from thermal sources. We are losing Rs. 180 billion per year due to ten times costlier production (12billion xRs.15 billion). Add to it loss of US$ 6.12 billion per annum due to the superfluous flow of 30 Million Acre Feet of water from Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea (one MAF valued at US$1-1.5 billion).

Our water resources reserves have not risen pari passu with growth in population. Three provincial assemblies resolved against building the KBD. A politician alleged the dam would convert Sindh into a desert. Apprehensions against the dam could be allayed by reviewing Water Apportionment Accord (as directed by Lahore High Court also vide its Order dated November 29, 2012, case no. WP 8777). No justification to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Read more: Pakistan to produce record bales of cotton

Revamping healthcare

Pakistan’s healthcare system is in shambles. There is only one hospital for federal civil servants are the Federal Government Services Hospital. Instead of establishing new hospitals. The successive civil governments allowed civilian residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and those who happen to have CNICs of the said cities to get free treatment at the said hospital. Because of overcrowding, the hospital has become good for nothing for civil servants.

Even senior civil servants with a lifetime of service have to stink in general wards. The officers’ wards are allotted to non-civil-servants who have a way with the muckraker doctors. Recently I, a septuagenarian, with 40 years of service, was admitted to the hospital. Look at my agony. I had to avail myself of a stinking clogged toilette with a flat seat from where I could not rise without external help. The Medical Superintendent never visited the wards even once during my stay.

Short of funds, we should put our fragmented unbridled hospitals under one civil-military supervisory board, and distribute load reasonably. The facilities at PIMS should be improved, including an increasing the number of ventilators and dialysis machines.

The politically expedient burden of residents of Rawalpindi/Islamabad on Federal Government Services Hospital should be taken off. The hospital is now good.

The ‘civilian officers, serving and retired, paid out of defense services’ should be impaneled to the military (CMH/AFIC) to reduce the FGSH patient load. A revolving fund may be created to entitled them for 7/24 treatment subject to payment of contributory share (say 50: 50) to a revolving fund or actual expenses payable by a patient.

Read more: Pakistan’s trade deficit widens 133pc in August

No healthcare system, not even the US ‘system’, in the world is perfect. Yet, each, by and large, delivers the goods. The familiar medical system of wealthy countries is the Bismarck model (multi-payer health-insurance model), the Beveridge model, the National Health Insurance Model, the out-of-pocket model, and the US model. The government should pick up good points of medical systems of wealthy and poor countries alike. The Bismarck model is being followed in Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.

Generally, healthcare providers in this model are private entities. The government neither owns nor employs most physicians. Health insurance also is provided by private companies, not by the governments. Governments strictly regulate costs and other aspects of healthcare (no arbitrary fees and fleecing). The US outspends its peer nations on health. Yet it has no universal health insurance, nor universal health coverage.

Thailand’s successful healthcare plan reflects three lessons: being prepared, exercising tight control, and being pragmatic and politically broadminded.

Thailand took opposition and other stakeholders aboard. As such, the plan remained intact despite the change of governments. Thailand’s per capita income, health expenditures, and tax base are comparable to India. Yet, it achieved universal healthcare in 2002.

It spends around four percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health. In Thailand, the out-of-pocket medical expense has fallen to 12 percent, as compared to 40pc to 60pc percent in wealthy countries. The proportion of children dying in the first five years of life fell to less than 1.2 percent.

We need to do some soul searching. We could learn a lot from the planning and development experience of the Ayub era. Is it fair to devolve dam building to provinces? Pakistan has abolished interest (riba) in accordance with its fundamental law. Yet its banking sector and international transactions are interest-based.

Read more: Pakistan’s oil, gas import bill goes up as economy rebounds

Let Pakistan face the truth. It needs to evolve and showcase a politico-economic model of Islam that is compatible with international practices. Or else, dispense with hypocritical patchwork, and go for the secularist IMF model. What is the justification of the top-heavy paraphernalia of a civil government if it can’t even provide healthcare and education to its people?

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing freelance for over fifty years. His articles are published in dailies at home (The News, Nation, etc) and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is the author of eight books including Kashmir: The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.