Who is listening?
THE degenerate politics of Pakistan on public display every day is sucking the life-blood of the country. The legislative and political stratagems in support of massive and organised corruption and in defiance of the Supreme Court are holding the whole country to ransom.
The relentless plunder of the people is destroying the lives of millions upon millions of living and unborn Pakistanis. No enemy could be so hostile! Is it too late to save Pakistan? It is never too late for decent Pakistanis to change from being passive spectators and actively organise to save their country from hovering vultures. Now is a defining moment.
Fifty years ago, Pakistan was on course to be a prosperous, educated, middle-class, secure and stable country with a per capita income at least 10 times that of today. But institutionalised corruption, cynical leadership, predatory governance, subversion of national priorities, and the hijacking of the national interest have brought the country to its present pass.
No ?saviour? will come. Pakistan?s ?leaders? must be servants of people?s movements.
We are told ?speak truth to power?. Noam Chomsky says the powerful know the truth and are very happy with it. The people need to speak truth to each other in order to realise their own power to change their circumstances and confront predators. No ?saviour? will come. Pakistan?s ?leaders? must be servants of people?s movements. CPEC and China?s invaluable friendship cannot compensate for criminal misrule.
Movements require a mobilising vision, commitment, organisation, struggle, feedback, and participatory decision-making. Otherwise, any progress will be sporadic, temporary and insufficient to overcome the political inertia. The hopeless response to constructive proposals will remain: who is listening?
The challenge is not to make sensible recommendations which are promptly ignored; it is to develop movements which ensure they cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, many think the moral strength, mental horizons, political confidence and organising capacities of the people are too limited to challenge the powers that be.
If true, Pakistan will have no future. But if slavish pessimism is rejected we can meaningfully discuss some realities and requirements a leadership committed to serving a people?s movement for national transformation should consider. The following are a few:
(i) The population of Pakistan will reach an utterly unmanageable 400 million by 2050;
(ii) Along with climate change and the risks of nuclear conflict these are existential challenges. Addressing them are overriding priorities;
(iii) There has been enormous underinvestment in the whole range of human resource development which would raise capacities to address these challenges;
(iv) Massive investments are needed for poverty reduction and transforming the health, education, sanitary, housing, mother-and-child care, basic services provision, human and gender rights protections, administrative and governance systems;
(v) The money for these investments must be largely generated from the revenues of a developing economy to preserve Pakistan?s political and economic sovereignty;
(vi) Long-term economic growth rates should be transformational (eight per cent for 30 years?) for defence expenditures, debt repayments and administration costs to be met without incurring unserviceable and ruinous debt;
(vii) Budgetary allocations and tax burdens must be transparent, rational, redistributive and pro-growth;
(viii) Social and economic inequalities should be significantly reduced while living-wage job opportunities are maximised through human resource development;
(ix) Credit Suisse recently estimated Pakistan?s middle class at over 6m. This is around 3pc of the population. A middle-class country should have a middle class approximately half the population. The structure of power and class-based governance stand in the way of addressing this situation;
(x) Defence spending that takes away from other essential spending undermines economic and national security;
(xi) Transition from a security to a development and democratic state is the condition for national security in today?s world;
(xii) Major corruption should be a capital crime. The Soft State Syndrome is fatal;
(xiii) The promotion of a ?culture? of rationality, innovation, and science and technology is indispensable to implement transformation policies;
(xiv) Civil-military relations mean nothing outside civilian supremacy;
(xv) Capable, responsible and accountable policymaking institutions must replace personal, uninformed, uneducated and unaccountable decision-making;
(xvi) Governance must be brought closer to the people through devolution of power;
(xvii) The formation of additional provinces should be encouraged in accordance with the wishes of the concerned people;
(xviii) Terrorism is a major challenge. Though deep-rooted it must be uprooted. It is largely the result of national and international injustice, violence and elite complicity;
(xix) Counterterrorism without addressing the root causes of terrorism is disguised state terror. Politically mainstreaming banned but renamed extremist organisations associated with terrorism is an irresponsible dereliction of duty;
(xx) Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to prevent war. They should never be considered a first-strike option;
(xxi) The protection of nuclear assets and materials is less about systems reliability; it is more about external perceptions of Pakistan?s sustained political will to deny unauthorised access;
(xxii) Without transformational change at home, foreign policy cannot develop international credibility and effectiveness;
(xxiii) The foreign service as the nation?s ?first line of defence? must be upgraded and empowered as a major priority;
(xxiv) A foreign minister must elicit respect and loyalty from the foreign service through his understanding of foreign policy issues and his commitment to service morale and welfare;
(xxv) The foreign minister must also carry weight in the cabinet and the corridors of power for his ministry to provide indispensable professional input for a credible foreign policy. Recent criticisms of his remarks about putting our house in order are disingenuous and infantile; and
(xxvi) Policies towards India, Kashmir, the US, Afghanistan, Iran, etc should be integrated and consistent with national transformation, 21st-century imperatives, international law, strategic partnership with China, and UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. Short-term policies must be embedded in longer-term policy perspectives to maximise possibilities for principled and acceptable outcomes.
All of the above is doable. But who is listening? The political system is rotten beyond polite description. A corrupt elite cannot communicate with the people. It can only deceive and ferociously defend its loot. However, a people made aware of their faith and power to be free, will listen, challenge and prevail.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2017