Together we need to rise to the challenges

National stakeholders are oblivious to tenets that are critical to the country’s salvation and progress

Mahmood Iqbal November 11, 2021

Pakistan is just a year shy of 75. Frankly speaking there is nothing much to write home about when it comes to measuring our progress in the various walks of life. The key indicators of national development rank us somewhere at the bottom — 135th in literacy, 154th in human development, 181st in per capita income, etc. The issues that have hampered our progress and prosperity include: failure to invest in education; absence of the rule of law; dearth of non-partisan socio-economic institutions; lack of professionalism in legislature, bureaucracy and executive; poor political culture; unwillingness to let democracy grow; a governance system at war with the Constitution; etc.

The absence of a national consensus and national focus on the following issues has gotten us into this current mess, yet national stakeholders are oblivious to these tenets that are critical to the country’s salvation and progress. It is important to understand the reasons for the mess we have created if we are to rectify and steer ourselves out of the worsening economic, social and diplomatic crises that have raised all sorts of national security alarms across the country. We have failed to institute a strong professional culture backed by an education system capable of producing the right people to do substantive work. Instead, we have created a state culture based on personal likes and dislikes as well as political considerations rather than merit.

Our failure to abide by the constitutional framework as laid out by our founding fathers has created confusion at all levels of policy and decision-making. Who is in charge? Whose role is what? The state works as a team; and without clarity of roles and responsibilities, the team crumbles. That is what has led us to a poor standing in the world — a matter of shame for us Pakistanis. If we are to improve, we must abide by the spirit of the Constitution, which gives us a way out of this mess only if we are willing to take it.

We must also strive for religious unity, cohesion and clarity towards which the Medina Pact guide us — a pact which made it possible that Muslims, Jews, Christians and Pagan communities of the time co-existed peacefully under the leadership of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The state apparatus must continue its struggle for uniting the Muslims at home and abroad to eliminate religious extremism once and for all and create an environment for progress and multilateralism.

Political culture is the key — it sets the tone of the day for all citizens regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations. We can no more afford politicians who disregard the public trust and are negligent of their duties towards the nation. The nation looks up to the leadership every day, but the leadership has unfortunately misled them for their petty political gains. However, the responsibility lies not just with the leaders but with the led too, as they have the power of the vote whereby they can hold their leaders accountable over the sacred trust of the nation they are bestowed with.

In today’s world, a decade or so should be enough for nations to modernise and progress. China’s meteoric rise is a case in point. Countries like Malaysia, the UAE, Indonesia, and Taiwan have been progressing fast too. Even the neighbouring Bangladesh is now heading in the right direction. What is stopping us then? Who is responsible for the prevailing mess? Power-brokers. Of all kinds. To start with are military dictators who abrogated the constitution multiple times throwing the country backwards each time. Next come the politicians who lack the will, vision and capacity to pave the way for inclusive national development. The incumbents have taken it to a new level by reneging on the election promises made to the people. Bureaucracy is not too far behind, having failed to evolve into a modern civil service to power progress. We must learn from our past mistakes and rise to the challenges together. It is now or never!

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2021.

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