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Navigating deep malaise

Why is corruption so pervasive in Pakistan? Why do civil institutions consistently fail to deliver? Why is there a lack of accountability and action against civil institutions and the bureaucracy, with seemingly no fear on their part?

Why does our judicial system struggle to provide justice to ordinary citizens, even when they plead for it in courtrooms, let alone ensuring justice at their doorstep? Why has the judiciary, in general, often bowed to dictators without any sense of shame, with some judges even documenting their ignominious surrender in their writings?

Why do some Generals behave as if they are omnipotent? Why do they consistently hold the upper hand in civilian politics? How have they managed, since 1951, to manipulate politics to dissolve elected assemblies? Why has an army chief consistently occupied the driver’s seat, even assuming the role of defense minister in the 1950s, and then proceeded to abrogate the bureaucrat-made constitution that imposed one unit system?

Why have none of the Generals and their associates faced public punishment for violation of their oaths? Why are uniformed cadres involved in real estate and other economic sectors?

The answers to these questions can be traced back to the failure of the All India Muslim League to transform into an organized people’s party with a clear vision for the new country. They also didn’t present a constitutional framework among the constituent parts of the country, which, after its formation, could have evolved from a federation into a unified national identity. While we won’t delve into the details, let’s discuss what can be done now.

It’s unfortunate that our country lacks economists. I am not aware of a single one. Many of the so-called economists, educated in biased and skewed Western institutions, are essentially statisticians who have merely absorbed the teachings of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Asian Development Bank.

During the 1950s and 1960s, as the country transitioned from import substitution to industrialization, none of these economists considered the people of the country as equals, nor did they strive to include them in the economic process. They didn’t invest in developing their intellectual capabilities or equipping them with new skills and technology.

Most of our well-known economists adhered to a philosophy learnt from neo-colonial masters. This philosophy was rooted in the idea that economic inequality is necessary to incentivize and drive development, with the belief that development at higher levels would eventually benefit everyone. However, such economic policies and strategies primarily inflate the figures of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide material for elite presentations.

We are all aware that the “trickle-down” effect primarily means that the poor receive only a small portion of the leftovers from the dining tables of the rich. This is because most of such leftovers end up being consumed by the middle class. Do you believe that this approach is dignified? The poor, living without basic facilities and devoid of fundamental human rights, are often treated worse than pets.

Some individuals, devoid of conscience and dignity, argue heartlessly that the poor should simply work harder to improve their lives and climb the socio-economic ladder. These shameless and undignified individuals conveniently forget that it is the government’s responsibility to create an environment conducive not only to human existence but also to dignified work and fair competition for upward mobility out of poverty. Were such a conducive environment ever provided to them? Instead of offering them opportunities and an enabling an environment that fosters progress, they were led to believe that poverty and backwardness were not the consequences of their hard work, but rather an immutable system ordained by a higher power. This philosophy was ingrained in the minds of impoverished people during the colonial era and even earlier, during the reigns of monarchs.

So, what is the path forward? Achieving complete victory over the persistent political and economic crises requires addressing the structural political problem. What is this political structural problem? As previously suggested, Pakistan has been governed since its inception by an administrative philosophy perpetuated by Ex-Indian civil service officers who lacked understanding of the political and cultural aspirations of the people who became part of Pakistan. From 1947 until 1951, the civil bureaucracy held sway, addressing every issue administratively, much as they did during the colonial era.

The Muslim League, which spearheaded the Pakistan movement, disintegrated in 1948, indicating a lack of effective political leadership that could have guided the country. Consequently, due to the exigencies of the Cold War, global power dynamics, and popular movements in countries like Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, General Ayub Khan emerged as a trustworthy and dependable figure selected by the American-led bloc.

In the absence of experienced and organized civilian political leadership with a global vision for a new world and a deep understanding of the aspirations of the people, the new Commander-in-Chief effectively assumed control of the country. In the case of Dosso 1958 PLD 533, the Supreme Court of Pakistan favored a doctrine akin to the law of the jungle. It argued that if someone, whether a usurper from within or outside, successfully dismantled the old system, whatever they proclaimed would constitute the new law and constitution, thereby being considered legal in the eyes of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Therefore, the ultimate solution lies in restoring balance to the lopsided political structural equation by establishing a new digital political party. This party should maintain a strong connection with the common people, even at the grassroots level, and prioritize 100 percent transparency and accountability. It should possess a vision that aligns with the changing global landscape, particularly in this era of generative artificial intelligence, enabling every individual to participate in political, economic, cultural, and social processes in the country, providing them with equal opportunities.

For now, two steps have the potential to transform the corrupt system from within and strengthen it. The strategy, encompassing two reinforcing actions, was elucidated in the letter addressed to Chief Justice Pakistan on September 19, 2023, and is presented below for reference.

“I write this letter with the profound sentiment that under your esteemed leadership, the Supreme Court will usher in a new dawn for Pakistan. I would like to humbly propose:

1) The critical need for a comprehensive digital transformation of our judicial system in the forthcoming months. We have a shining example in the digitization of the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan, aided by UNDP. Our path forward can also be informed by best practices from countries like Estonia, Singapore, India, and China. UNDP, with its globally recognized expertise in digitization and e-justice projects, can be a pivotal partner in this transformative journey.

2) The digital transition should be seamlessly integrated with the vigorous enforcement of sections dedicated to proactive disclosure of access to information, both federally and provincially. The success of digitization extends beyond mere technological advancements; it demands stringent adherence to transparency and information access regulations. Without this, we might fall short in bolstering transparency, accountability, and efficiency.”

The process of digitization and digitalization, along with the enforcement of proactive disclosure provisions outlined in the Right to Information Acts, should be implemented comprehensively across all institutions in the country and within every sector of the economy.

Dr Murtaza Khuhro, "Navigating deep malaise," Business recorder. 2023-10-25.
Keywords: Social sciences , Civil institutions , Judicial system , Civilian politics , Economic sector , National identity , Domestic product , Human rights , Economic crises , Political structure , Pakistan , UNDP

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