Continually a society experiences certain broad currents which not only are themselves important to study but have extensive impact on every aspect of culture and institutions and that is equally true for social trends impact on political culture and institutions. If the politics, political culture and political institutions of a society remained unresponsive to the prevailing and unfolding social trends, the result is large-scale consternation, panic and low and even high intensity conflict. Observing, deciphering and documenting social current have always been profoundly important due to their extensive repercussions and to make the policymakers and masses understand the trends and their implications in order to better respond to them.
The most observable prevalent social trend in contemporary Pakistan is intolerance and bigotry at every level of social interaction and interrelationship. Intolerance has been slowly and gradually pervading Pakistani society since long. Arguably, intolerance in the country has been the upshot of policy vacuum and bad governance. More dangerously intolerance in turn has resulted in development and proliferation of extremist social attitudes, which in turn has translated into the phenomenon of terrorism. The unprecedented terror wave which Pakistan unfortunately experienced in recent times has been the upshot of the extremist social attitudes and posed an existential threat to the very survival of the state as a sovereign body. Intolerance and terrorism have affected every aspect of society, including political institutions and culture. The lack of tolerance among the key political parties and the resultant stunted growth of democracy is also largely due to the intolerance among political actors. Intolerance and extremism have been affecting the statecraft, governance and policymaking in myriads of ways and at each level.
Intolerance, extremism, terrorism, military and police action have been linked in a concatenated chain in today’s Pakistan and together resulted in a large-scale sense of insecurity among the people. Consequently, an increasing number of people have been hesitant and afraid of expressing their aspirations, making use of their natural talents and resources. This situation has inflicted colossal losses on both society in terms of lack of stability and on economy in the shape of underdeveloped economic potential.
Another significant but dangerous social trend in Pakistan is the rapidly increasing population of the country. According to the Unicef monitoring on the first day of 2019 that is January 01, more than 15,000 babies were born to Pakistani women. This is indeed a huge count by any standard as if the one day average population increase is multiplied with 365 days of the year the figure comes to 5,475,000 new people. This rapid population increase has extensive and deep impacts on the politics and political institutions of the country. The galloping population growth has been putting unbearable burden on the state, its resources, infrastructure and above all governance institutions preventing the state from fulfilling its basic functions. These state functions include: to maintain its territorial integrity, to provide people security of life and property, to address the basic problems and issues of society and its members, to fulfil the basic needs of society and, last but not the least, to organise social life or society. It is important to mention here that the state and its policies have also been responsible for the unchecked and sustained growth of the population. Here the important question is whether it has been the weak governmental institutions, their irrelevant policymaking and the resultant lack of good governance or simply bad governance that has been responsible for the rapid population growth or the other way round. If one looks deeply into both the phenomena it transpires that both bad governance and irrelevant policymaking, on the one hand, and rapid population growth, on the other, have a symbiotic relationship. It is important to understand that overpopulation has affected all the areas of statecraft from political processes, including electoral processes, policymaking and planning to governance. Financial corruption by public representatives along with public officials is a case in point. Perceptibly consumerism is another important social trend in contemporary Pakistani society. Importantly, large-scale consumerism in Pakistan is the result of increasing adoption of the postmodernist cultural values. Consumerism has also resulted in extreme social trends as an increasing number of people are after products and as poverty is not only extensive in the country but also deep rooted, the have-nots are getting more disenchanted negatively affecting social relationship particularly consideration and altruism among the people.
Urbanisation is also a significant social current in today’s Pakistan and by using different definitions of ‘urban’, 40 to 60 per cent of the country has gotten urbanised. However, this urbanisation has not resulted in economic growth or has refined the people and engendered extensive civility among the masses. Therefore, it is quite disturbing.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2019.