Our constitution clubs together the promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils together under Article 37 where the fundamental law lays stress on the removal of inequality, illiteracy, securing just and humane conditions of work, besides inexpensive and expeditious justice.
Successive rulers caricatured the golden words of the Constitution by taking no tangible steps to ameliorate the lot of the common man. The feudal mafia in cohort with the nouveau riches continued to rule the hapless masses since partition.
No effort was made to develop a down-to-earth understanding of the structure of the society dominated by the elites.
A UNDP report broaches the issue
India did away with feudal aristocracy shortly after the Partition. But, Pakistan could not do so until now. Industrial robber barons and nouveau riches joined hands with feudal to perpetuate their rule in Pakistan, truncated only by coup d’états.
The United Nations’ Pakistan’s National Human Development Report 2020 (Power, People, and Policy) debunked the holders of mafia power and gullible people of Pakistan.
The report defines power as privileged groups that make use of loopholes, networks, and policies for their benefit; sugar scam, SputnikV price in Pakistan about Rs. 9000 against Rs. 2000 in India, oxygen cylinder with kit Rs. 16000 at Rawalpindi chemist shops, at-home vaccination for a former governor’s daughter and son-in-law as well as for an MNA’s family, as per viral videos.
People are mired in the deeply embedded belief system. The policy is defined as systems and strategies that are either ineffective or at odds with principles of social justice.
The flawed system enables the feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons to devour together privileges of whopping Rs. 1094 billion. The feudal enjoys privileges worth Rs. 370 billion while the business tycoons enjoy Rs. 724 billion. The feudal elite of only 1.1 percent of the population owns 22 percent of the country’s farm area.
The report also depicts how miserable the lifestyle of the average Pakistani is in contrast with a high net worth household. The average income of a high net worth household is 600 times more than that of an average Pakistani household.
Despite being filthy rich, the high-net-worth bracket evades taxes worth Rs. 168 billion. Being perched in Pakistan’s parliament they ensure that no pro-poor legislation is enacted.
The crux of the problem is demokratia is sans demos. During their tenure, the civilian autocrats do nothing to win civilian hearts. No welfare, no uniform healthcare, education, shelter, and other basic facilities for the common man.
Read more: Socially embedded corruption in our society
According to idealists like William A. Welsh, the rise of democracy has signaled the decline of elites’ Leaders and Elites, p.1). But so this is not the case in Pakistan. The ‘equal citizen’ as enshrined in the golden words of our constitution is a myth. About 460 inter-related figures would continue being perched in parliament for another hundred years.
No progress without eliminating the elites
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in Why Nations Fail, (p. 3-4) point out, “The United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. The result was a fundamentally different political and economic trajectory culminating in the Industrial Revolution.”
He observes that Egypt could not change for the better as each upheaval led to the substitution of one elite with another. He says that Egypt is poor precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that has organized society for its own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people.
Political power has been narrowly concentrated and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it, such as the $70 billion fortune apparently accumulated by ex-president Mubarak. The losers have been the Egyptian people, as they only too well understand.
Though the Egyptian shook off the Ottoman and British Empires, and in 1952 overthrew their monarchy, these were not revolutions like that of 1688 in England, and rather than fundamentally transforming politics in Egypt, they brought to power another elite as disinterested in achieving prosperity for ordinary Egyptians as the Ottoman and British had been. In consequence, the basic structure of society did not change and Egypt stayed poor.
“Divine authority” of Pakistani rulers
Under Pakistan’s Constitution “sovereignty belongs to Allah Almighty” and “authority” is exercised by elected representatives. Pakistan’s rulers presume that being chosen they are clothed with “divine authority” like that of the kings. However, Locke reminds us that people have the right to overthrow even the divine rulers if they do not deliver the goods.
Locke postulated that men are naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government.
Life, liberty, and property are the cornerstones of Locke’s ideas. According to Locke, Government exists to protect and secure the rights of their subjects. A person with rights has something of his own for the government to secure, and in that sense has “a property” to protect.
A person without rights has nothing of his own and is a slave, not a member of political society. This thought has a long lineage and is at least as old as Cicero. It follows, as Locke is at pains to say that absolute authority is not the essence e of political authority, as Hobbes and Filmer said but inconsistent with it.
Read more: Pakistan needs leaders, not social movements
The crux of the problem
The feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons together enjoyed privileges of whopping Rs. 1094 billion. The feudal enjoyed Rs. 370 billion while the business tycoons enjoyed Rs. 724 billion.
Being perched in Pakistan’s parliament they ensure that Pakistan’s taxation system remained regressive. The feudal elite of only 1.1 percent of the population owns 22 percent of the country’s farm area.
The average income of a high net worth household is 600 times more than that of an average Pakistani household. Despite being filthy rich, the high-net-worth bracket evades taxes worth Rs. 168 billion.
The 20 percent richest devoured 50 percent of the country’s national income as compared to seven percent which the poorest 20 percent get. Instead of paying most taxes, the high net-worth individuals enjoy privileges amounting to Rs. 368 billion.
What does Pakistan lack?
Pakistan is unable to undertake radical land and capital reforms. It could not do away with the jagirs granted by the British raj to its “chiefs” and “chieftains” like India. Bhutto’s land reforms were annulled by a majority decision of the Shariat Appellate Bench in the Qizilbash Trust vs. Karachi Commissioner Case.
The UNDP foresees a social movement to transform the baneful system. But, sine-qua-non of every movement is grass-root awareness. That’s lacking in Pakistan.
Factors contributing to Pakistan’s economic malaise are obvious. However political will to grapple with them is lacking. We need to learn from Ayub-era planning experience. We should activate the planning commission and the statistical offices.
We should float fair global tenders to tap our mineral resources. China should launch turnkey projects to utilize our local resources and create jobs. The import-export policy should be bridled. Economic relations with the Muslim world should be improved.
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing freelance for over fifty years. His articles stand published in dailies at home (The News, Nation, etc)and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes, and other Issues in Focus. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.