There is tremendous pressure on nuclear Pakistan to deliver as a developing state and to not become, as many think, a failed state. If it doesn’t deliver, then what has happened in Egypt could well happen here. The government needs to truly govern for its people and be able to provide the services that citizens would expect any government to.
When I meet people in villages, I find that many are under the wrong impression that if some member of parliament has initiated a development scheme in their area, they are indebted to that MP for life and must also vote for him. The fact of the matter is that it is the right of every citizen to be provided such amenities and services. And for this, taxes are collected by the state.
Unfortunately in Pakistan, many constituencies are developed only on the basis of whether or not they voted for a particular party — usually the one that is in government. And if they did not, then, more often than not, they get left out of development schemes. This politicisation of development has to end. Every Pakistani needs a school, a basic health unit, access to clean drinking water, gas, electricity, roads and so on.
The whole concept of MNAs and MPAs being given funds for carrying out development work in their constituencies needs to end. For instance, I recently investigated the state of my own development schemes and, much to my dismay, found that, in most instances, they are incomplete (sometimes less than half the work has been completed) and shoddy building material has been used.
When I meet these people, I try to explain to them that they wouldn’t need to scream for basics and be living a life of squalor if their leaders were sincere. And the sense I get of how the people feel as a result of these exchanges is that they know that their national wealth is being squandered and looted and they are fed up. But they don’t know how to revolt against this corruption, and they also don’t know who will lead them.
For this, they need to be able to distinguish between sincere leadership and those who simply use the votes of the electorate for their own material interests and gain. To prevent this from happening, development funds should not be given to MPs directly. A separate mechanism should be devised, which ensures that they are used in a transparent manner. And if there is any embezzlement, then those who squander them should be held accountable and made to reimburse the national exchequer.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2011.
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