Policies that promote progress and stability

Talat Masood July 10, 2024
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board


When countries deviate from the basic norms and fundamental principles of democratic governance, they perhaps do not realise the adverse impact it has on practically most aspects of governance, affecting the lives of millions. It distorts politics when power is in the hands of other state institutions whose responsibilities are different to a political government who are accountable to the people. There are other negative fallouts and it weakens political institutions as we have witnessed in the seventy-six years of our history and throws up leaders who are willing to compromise to gain power. But political leadership that is not in a position to fully exercise its authority further weakens the state by increasing its vulnerabilities.

Pakistan’s leadership needs to reassess its internal and external policies too in view of its own experience and the changing global dynamics. A country that is heavily dependent on IMF and external sources for prolonged periods to keep its economy afloat compromises its independence and is destined to keep majority of its people in a state of poverty. Seeking support of the IMF and international agencies in case of an economic downturn for a limited period of time for developing countries is acceptable but prolonged dependence and no serious effort on the government to revive the economy and shed dependence on foreign assistance should be a cause for serious concern for the leadership. On the contrary, managing the economy so that the country acquires economic autonomy should be a high priority of the government. Considering the extent of prevailing poverty affecting a significant percentage of population in the country improving the economy should be government’s highest priority. This obviously demands ability on the part of leadership and a firm commitment toward achieving this goal.

Equally important is that the political leaders should set aside partisan differences if they are really serious about the country’s future and the wellbeing of its people. But there are no signs of that happening. The PTI despite its significant support among the masses has been reigned in to a point where most of its leadership is in custody or facing charges. When politics is confrontational, democratic values are disregarded it is the people who eventually suffer. And when politics is dragged into court cases the judiciary that will like to stay away from political infighting gets dragged in. What is perhaps not realised is that these policies and actions have a serious impact on practically every aspect of national power and lowers the image of the country. And the burden of these derelictions falls on the people.

The external and internal security situation is another area of serious concern. In KP areas close to the border with Afghanistan security had deteriorated to an extent that military action had become unavoidable. This was also necessary due to the patronage that the TTP and other militant organisations were receiving from the Afghan Taliban government. It indeed remains a matter of serious concern that supposedly a friendly Taliban leadership of Afghanistan be indifferent and support forces hostile to Pakistan. After the army has successfully countered the TTP and a modicum of peace and stability has been restored in the tribal belt the government’s priority should be to focus on the economic uplift of the area. The major reason for militancy to take root apart from the spillover from Afghanistan’s disturbed conditions is the prevailing poverty, meagre opportunities of employment and poor governance of the area.

It is puzzling and difficult to comprehend what encourages the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan to pursue hostile policies toward Pakistan, especially when Pakistan has stood by it all along and extended valuable support. It is a general feeling of insecurity but it is hurting Afghanistan in a big way for it has virtually locked itself in a prison. Perhaps the Taliban leadership apprehends that allowing its people having normal contact with the outside world will open their eyes and broaden their perspective. They will then pose a challenge to the present leadership and their primitive and inward-looking ideology.

Relations with India are on the freeze and it is unclear if Narendra Modi would be any different in his third term in office and pursue the same hostile policy of isolating Pakistan. This is more the reason that Pakistan should further strengthen its ties with China and seek new avenues of cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. The recent murder of seven Chinese nationals by a militant outfit in Pakistan was a major setback to relations between the two countries. It was not surprising that China downgraded its strategic relations with Pakistan and has taken measures to strengthen the security of its nationals working in Pakistan.

Developing strong political and economic linkages with Central Asian states is critical. There is considerable potential and possibilities of cooperation in the economic and political field with these countries for which Pakistan is well placed. But it can benefit from these provided it is correctly focused, internally stable and capable of producing quality products. This may sound a tall order considering the present state of political confrontation and state of the economy. Our leaders however cannot continue to ignore these and remain oblivious of their responsibilities. Only those leaders succeed who fully grasp the centrality of national interests and work seriously toward promoting these. This makes them more conscious of their obligations and the significance of serving the interests of the people. Our leadership should pursue on these lines if it truly wants to serve the people.

As I and many others have said that our leaders should set aside partisan differences and bring in the PTI and other dissident groups in the fold as an act of responsible leadership that has the interest of the people as their foremost priority. With politics in serious disarray and economy faltering, building a framework for a cooperative approach to tackle national issues should remain a high priority.

Moreover, political consensus and a conscious effort towards reviving the economy is the best way of tackling the perils facing the country and promoting values and policies for moving forward in the 21st century.


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