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Beyond colonial legacies—I

The economic crisis in Pakistan primarily stems from two critical issues: the absence of constitutional governance and widespread bad governance. These core problems have led to a significant disconnection between the government and its citizens, severely impacting the country’s economic stability and growth.

Absence of constitutional rule

Pakistan’s historical failure to adhere to constitutional rule has engendered a state of political instability and unpredictability. In contrast to nations where governance is anchored in the rule of law and constitutional principles, Pakistan has seen a lack of consistent governance frameworks. This deficiency has allowed for arbitrary decision-making that often benefits a select few at the expense of the general welfare. The absence of a stable constitutional foundation undermines the rule of law, contributing to a governance environment fraught with uncertainty and instability.

Pervasive bad governance

Compounding the issue is the prevalence of bad governance characterized by inefficiency, corruption, nepotism, and a glaring lack of transparency and accountability. Such governance practices lead to the opaque functioning of government institutions, misallocation of resources, and the prioritization of personal gain over public interest. This not only diminishes trust in government entities but also hampers effective economic management and exacerbates economic challenges.

Disconnect between government and people

The divide between policymakers and the populace aggravates these governance issues. Decisions are often made without a thorough understanding of the citizens’ real-life challenges, resulting in policies that fail to meet the population’s needs. This disconnect fosters social and economic inequalities, perpetuating a cycle of instability and further deterring meaningful economic development.

Inappropriate adoption of external ideas

Additionally, Pakistan’s economic and governance issues are exacerbated by an uncritical adoption of foreign concepts and practices without adequate adaptation to the local context. This approach ignores Pakistan’s unique socio-economic, political, and cultural conditions, leading to the implementation of ill-suited policies that contribute to inefficiency and mismanagement.

So, the economic crisis in Pakistan is deeply rooted in the absence of constitutional governance and pervasive bad governance, which collectively result in a disconnection between the government and its citizens. Addressing these foundational issues is crucial for establishing a stable, transparent, and accountable governance framework that can effectively tackle economic challenges and foster sustainable development.

This critique is particularly relevant when examining the historical development and organizational dynamics of the All India Muslim League.

The All India Muslim League, as noted, lacked a coherent organizational structure and a clear, forward-looking vision. While it vocally advocated for the creation of a separate nation, it failed to produce any comprehensive documentation that articulated the envisioned future of this new country. This lack of strategic foresight meant that upon achieving independence, the nascent state found itself reliant on pre-existing colonial structures, including the civil bureaucracy, judiciary, and armed forces.

These institutions, entrenched in their established hierarchies and practices, have struggled to relinquish their colonial mindset in favour of acknowledging the supremacy of the populace in the new nation, which emphasizes democratic governance, transparency, and efficiency.

In the transition towards independence, a pivotal challenge has been the persistence of a colonial mentality among key institutions, which fundamentally conflicts with the principles of democracy, transparency, and efficiency that are critical for the new state. This colonial mindset is characterized by a top-down approach to governance, where the interests and decisions of the elite are prioritized over the needs and rights of the general population.

The failure to adapt to a democratic ethos signifies more than just a reluctance to change; it highlights a deep-seated resistance to empowering the citizenry and recognizing their rightful place at the core of the nation’s governance structure. In a democratic system, the supremacy of the people is paramount, and governance mechanisms are designed to reflect the will and interests of the population rather than the preferences of a ruling elite.

To truly embrace democratic governance, these institutions must undergo a fundamental shift in their organizational culture and operational philosophy.

Achieving this shift requires a concerted effort to redefine the values, goals, and practices of these institutions. It involves embracing new approaches that prioritize the engagement and participation of citizens in the governance process, ensuring that decision-making is accessible, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the populace. Only through such profound changes can the institutions shed their colonial legacies and genuinely embody the democratic, transparent, and efficient governance that the new nation aspires to.

It is particularly disconcerting that, even after 76 years of independence, there has been little to no transformation within these colonial-era institutions. Training academies and organizational cultures have remained static, perpetuating a mindset that views citizens more as subjects than as stakeholders in the nation’s development.

This anachronistic perspective has serious implications for governance and the relationship between the state and its people. The ruling elite, often seeing themselves as the de facto owners of the country, have focused on safeguarding economic assets rather than fostering a sense of ownership and participation among the general populace.

The enduring dominance of these colonial institutions has skewed the political landscape, granting them an undue advantage and enabling them to maintain their grip on power. The lack of significant political forces characterized by democratic principles, transparency, and the capability to deliver effective governance has further entrenched this imbalance. Consequently, governance has remained lopsided, with these institutions continuing to wield disproportionate influence.

(To be continued tomorrow)

Dr Murtaza Khuhro, "Beyond colonial legacies—I," Business recorder. 2024-02-21.
Keywords: Economics , Economic crisis , Economic stability , Economic development , Economic growth , Economic assets , Democratic principles , Economic challenges , Pakistan

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