An important phrase, “charter of the economy” came into the limelight once again after being extensively discussed by the senior political leaderships of various political parties, including the two major factions, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party.
Without a doubt, this pact is essential and the need of the hour for the stability of the country’s economic system and the well-being of the majority of citizens. However, the charter of the economy cannot achieve stability without a comprehensive and feasible charter of democracy, which the two parties had previously signed but failed to fulfill in its true essence. This failure stems from the fact that the political institutions in our country hold supreme authority. If these institutions do not perform effectively, economic progress and stability remain distant dreams. Furthermore, a country’s foreign and trade policy, security, and rule of law are interlinked with economic prosperity, all of which are seemingly addressed by the parliament and legislators.
The country’s economy is at a critical stage, on the brink of default. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and friendly nations have provided assistance, but these players will eventually withdraw their support. Record-high inflation and increased unemployment rates have pushed up the poverty rate. Additionally, 42% of our children suffer from stunted growth, and Pakistan has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world. Electricity and gas load-shedding has become routine, and climate change has severely affected our crops and rural areas. In a nutshell, life in Pakistan is miserable for its citizens.
Therefore, a proposed charter for Pakistan must be introduced urgently to address not only the issues plaguing the political and economic systems but also to redefine the roles of state pillars and institutions, their jurisdictions and powers, and establish a council of reconciliation and negotiation.
First and foremost, free and fair elections should be held on time, without any manipulation or engineering, allowing the people to decide their future leadership. This should be ensured not only at the federal and provincial levels but also at the grassroots district level, which unfortunately has not been happening recently in our country. The latest episode is the local government election in Karachi.
Every political government should complete its term at all costs. The five-year term provides a systematic way to hold governments accountable for their performance, as seen in developed and democratic countries. Even in-house changes of government derail political and economic stability, as reflected in the present situation.
Opposition parties should refrain from frequent and prolonged sit-ins, as they harm the political system and erode the confidence of investors and businessmen. Political parties should learn to resolve their issues without involving the supreme judiciary. The politics of revenge and victimization must come to an end, and state institutions responsible for accountability should be allowed to work freely in eradicating corruption. Transparency, automation, and digitization are crucial elements that help minimize financial corruption in public offices, enabling a smooth and effective governance system in the country.
Similarly, the bureaucracy and autonomous bodies should be allowed to work independently based on merit. Frequent transfers and postings of federal secretaries and IGs between offices adversely affect the performance of ministries or institutions. For instance, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has had three chairmen in the past five years, with another waiting to assume the position soon. Such practices need to be changed by our politicians, and merit-based systems should be promoted instead of political appointments.
Long-term and comprehensive economic policies should be developed and adhered to by all signatory political parties. Agreement on broader issues, such as energy and food security, management of external and domestic debts, foreign investment, privatization, human capital development, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), should be reached through mutual understanding.
All political and economic policies must address the pressing issues of poverty, corruption, lawlessness, and illiteracy in the country. Focusing on these areas will contribute to a stable political and economic environment. To achieve these goals, all signatories and stakeholders must be willing to compromise and make sacrifices in the interest of the nation. In my humble opinion, through reconciliation, negotiation, and collective rethinking among these stakeholders, a roadmap for progress and prosperity can be designed for a stable and developing Pakistan.