Shattered Foundations

In the absence of a vibrant and inclusive public, a country can never truly progress

Lately, a prevailing narrative has been circulating around that Pakistan is currently facing its worst socio-economic and political crisis in its 75-year long history. However, what often goes unnoticed is that Pakistan’s decline has been an ongoing predicament since its inception.

The persistent culture of ‘doing less while wanting more’ has deeply entrenched itself in Pakistan’s governance landscape, with detrimental consequences. The ruling elites have consistently prioritized short-term gains to serve their own interests, rather than implementing substantial measures for the country’s long-term benefit.

Undoubtedly, political instability stands as a glaring reason behind Pakistan’s economic downfall. Throughout Pakistan’s political history, not a single Prime Minister has completed a full term, as the norm oscillates between democratic and military rule. Even during democratic regimes, instability persists, as each new government typically discards the initiatives and programs of their predecessors to establish their own. Unfortunately, this cycle repeats itself leading to a lack of continuity and sustainable politics. For instance, after the demise of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto revoked the ban imposed by him on students’ union, granted media freedom, and formulated liberal progressive policies. However, she too was overthrown on charges of corruption and bribing, paving the way for Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government. In a bid to secure his conservative vote bank, Sharif suspended progressive and liberal developments. This pattern has persisted since independence, with each government or leader pursuing their own preferences, diverting policies in different directions. 

The implications of these inconsistent policies and political instability are glaring. Leaders entering office anticipate opposition attempts to overthrow their government, leading them to focus solely on survival rather than meaningful development. Consequently, power struggles ensue, resulting in short policies instead of sustainable and long-term solutions.

Presently, Pakistan finds itself trapped in this predicament, where the government’s primary focus lies in surviving the term and securing future election, rather than engaging in visionary development planning. The ruling elites fail to comprehend that short-sighted policymaking not only hampers the country’s present situation but also leaves behind a lasting scar on the nation’s fabric.

Political polarization and the absence of confidence-building measures further exacerbate the situation, promoting survival politics and hindering structural reforms across institutions. It is crucial to recognize that no country can achieve socio-economic prosperity without political stability. In the case of Pakistan, several structural changes are necessary to ensure progress specifically in economy’s domain.

However, attracting foreign direct investment in pivotal development sectors remains the paramount factor in accomplishing stability. Regrettably, political instability creates apprehension among foreign investors and companies, dissuading them from establishing ventures in a nation plagued by uncertainty. They fear that adherence to agreements and policy-continuation will be compromised in an unpredictable environment. 

Consider a scenario where a company establishes a manufacturing facility in Pakistan under one government, benefiting from a favorable 5% tax rate and a flexible economic landscape. However, if another government assumes power, sudden revision may ensue, such as a significant tax increase of 15% or complete overhaul of economic policies. Consequently, the absence of political stability refrains foreign investors and companies from making substantial commitments to Pakistan. The adverse repercussions extend even to the local industry, which grapples with high inflation and a volatile political climate. The local industry emphasizes the utmost importance of price stability, recognizing that the absence of a state-provided safety net exacerbates their challenges. 

Unfortunately, there seems to be no immediate solution to stabilize Pakistan's current state. Even receiving tranches from the IMF will only offer temporary relief. What the country truly needs are substantial structural changes, which unfortunately, no stakeholder in this country appears to be pursuing. Without such changes, we risk regressing to the starting point, falling back into the twin deficit trap, encompassing tight fiscal and monetary policies. This cycle has occurred repeatedly, and we find ourselves currently trapped within it. Simultaneously, the government's priorities lie in philosophy of doing less while expecting more, focusing solely on short-term gains without fostering actual long-term development.

The myriad challenges confronting Pakistan at present do not require ground-breaking innovations or revolutionary approaches for resolution. The prevailing political and economic turmoil stems from the implementation of irrational policies adopted across the realms of governance, economy, and politics. Thus, the solution lies in altering the status quo within these critical spheres. Through formulating crucial regulatory frameworks and confidence building measures among key stakeholders, we can effectively deal with the plethora of challenges currently faced by our country. These practices extend beyond the purview of government institutions alone; they necessitate mobilizing the masses as well.

In the absence of a vibrant and inclusive public, a country can never truly progress. Undoubtedly, this demands a willingness to challenge the status quo and foster an all-inclusive environment where progressive and sustainable approaches are not only favored but deemed indispensable.

GOD BLESS Pakistan!

Muhammad Faizan Shaukat is a public-policy Graduate from NUST and member of Youth General Assembly, Pakistan. Faizan Shaukat can be reached at faizanshaukat598@gmail.com  

 

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