Dr.Zafar Iqbal Qureshi
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
The struggle in Pakistan over the past more than six decades had been to transform the country from a security to welfare and development oriented state. Unfortunately, however, for half of its existence the country had been under the rule of the military elite which had promised much but delivered little. There is this erroneous thinking among the top echelons of the military including its retired elite that the democratic system does not suite our people. Therefore, the country needs governance model in which the primary focus is on stability and security instead of welfare and development.
The above perspective creates a dissonance in the two, supposedly, contending parties for ruling the country. This dissonance also creates a degree of tension in the relationship between the military and the civilian rule. Some ambitious leaders in the political arena use this relational tension to create a wedge between the military top brass and the civilian rulers. Unfortunately, the present ‘dharnas’ by PTI and PAT are a classic example of this. A popular perception was created by the leaders of these two parties about this tension when they predicted the fall of the PML-N government under an umpire of unknown identity.
It is now widely believed that a traditional warrior or security state built on an intolerant religious or political ideology is fast becoming an anachronism. Yet in our case this thinking has not become an operational reality. The persistence of this approach promotes certain values in the system which on the one hand is dangerous to the internal existence of the state and on the other makes the state vulnerable to external threats.
The purpose of transforming Pakistan from a security to welfare state will remain unrealised without transforming the thinking in which security takes precedence over welfare orientation. This then warrants not only changing the present nature of relationship between military and the civilian rule but also transforming the entire national machine which consists of military, civil bureaucracy, judiciary, electronic media and the Parliament. Can this transformation be achieved in the near to mid-term timeframe to make Pakistan a welfare state?
The above may not be possible if it is not realised by all and sundry that Pakistan’s survival doesn’t rest on keeping it as a security state. This in no way that we should not have a capable fighting machine to ward off all external threats. But our priorities have to be righted. This would imply that there has to be a more judicious allocation of finite resources between concern for security and concern for welfare. Assuming for a moment that the present civilian setup wouldn’t be able to do it, then a follow up question would be could the PTI and PAT have been able to achieve this if they were or ever came into power? Regrettably, the answer will be no given the composition of the top layers of the two organisations. These organisations, one political and the other politico-religious would have perpetuated the same philosophy of a security state that rested on, as stated earlier, on intolerant religious and political ideology as manifested by their current protest. These are the trademarks of a security and not a welfare state mindset. Why is it so? Two reasons substantiate this claim: first, the top layers of both these organisations are captured by those who would rather preserve rather than change the status quo by making personal sacrifices, and secondly, the revelation of the London Plan had further exposed the hollowness of their change rhetoric. From all accounts it now appears that the London Plan was hatched by the remnants of the Musharraf era operating either as politicians or as retirees from the military. These remnants of Musharraf era cannot be the harbinger of change. Above all, PTI leader needs to explain the details of the London Plan without being apologetic about it. Did it have the support of any individual connected with the intelligence establishment presently or in the past?
For the first time in the political history of Pakistan the opposition and the ruling party got united to save the democratic system and to establish the supremacy of the Parliament, so essential to lay the foundation of a welfare state. This did send a strong message to security establishment to keep its hands off the ongoing protest. The initial statement which came from ISPR was a bit confusing as it created the perception as if the message was aimed to counsel the government and not the organisers of ‘dharnas’.
The question now is what sorts of changes have become immanent in our national machine to transform it into welfare oriented state? First, there is no denying the fact that without proper electoral reforms true and genuine representatives of the people will not be returned to the Parliament. This is a necessary first step to turning Pakistan into a welfare state since, it is hoped, that the sessions of the Parliament will spend time to seek genuine solutions to peoples’ problems.
Second, our national priorities would require focus on the immediate sufferings of the masses rather than widening the already yawning gap between the haves and have-nots. Third, all poverty alleviation programmes would require a thorough auditing to assess their viability in containing the incidence of poverty. A right course will be to engage the poor in jobs to improve the physical infrastructure of their own communities and pay them wages for their labour. This approach while instilling in the poor the value of hard work would also give them the feelings of self-respect and self-worth. Above all, it will improve the living conditions of the poor communities.
Fourth, without an active middle class to transform Pakistan into a welfare state will remain an unrealised goal. The middle class can become a powerful influence in our governance system if rule of law and merit are not compromised in our decision making at all levels. The rule of law and merit must become a strong value in our central authority system. Mere rhetoric will not help. Opportunities have to be created for this class to be integrated into the national decision making system. One way could be to reserve some seats in the NA and PAs for technical professionals. Also, this will kill all undemocratic demands to install a technocratic setup with the support of the third force that was the original plan of the PTI leader.
Fifth, leadership of our public sector institutions will have to also change. For this the Leadership development programs must prepare them for the development challenges of the current century. In this waythese individuals can be the instrumentof change through innovative public policy and thus facilitating Pakistan’s transition to a welfare state.
Last but not least, our national leadership and central civilian governance system must put before the people its vision to transform the current security state into a welfare state. This vision must be underpinned by the UNDP Human Development Report 2014. Put mildly, Pakistan’s position in this report is embarrassingly low. This report should serve as a benchmark for the vision to turn Pakistan into a welfare state. It must be widely communicated and published and changed in the light of feedback received from the general public to set the agenda for transforming Pakistan. This agenda cannot be secretive nor can it be shared only with a select group drawn from people known to the ruling elite. This task isn’t going to be easy but now is the time to take the first step.