Recovering Pakistan

Published: November 13, 2012
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

Our society and state are not in good shape. At the state level, we have the issues of corruption, apathy, stealing and robbery that have seeped into society at various levels, ranging from the secular liberal sections to the purely religious ones. When the state and those in authority show little respect for the law and public interest, ethical values alone cannot keep society honest.

Pakistan confronts major problems from militant groups, which kill fellow citizens based on ethnic, sectarian and religious differences, on a daily basis, from one corner of the country to another. This is not something normal or regular; it is the pathology of a weak, if not a failed society. Militant groups in big cities, rural areas and the tribal hinterland roam around with impunity and strike at will, at times and places of their own choosing. Sectarian groups continue to produce and distribute hate material and promote intolerance and extremist ideas in society. The state authorities, the ruling elite and state institutions, including the judicial system at the district level, where trials are supposed to take place, show no grit against individuals accused of murder and other terrorist acts. Again, these are some of the troubling symptoms of a failed state.

The above brief is known at the popular level — actually at all levels of our society. What is the way out? Some like Imran Khan argue for political change, and by that he means the political replacement of the ruling group from the current lot to the one that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will provide. The two current, mainstream ruling parties and their allies also want reforms but they would like to place their own political interest before the interests of the public and society. Not that they are against positive change, but they would rather pursue it through better governance than any radical transformation of the culture of power and politics. This is something that Imran promises. But then, in a democracy, you may wish for things to happen but they do not happen until you win the hearts and minds of the people. The big question is, are the people of Pakistan ready for major changes — reject the current ruling groups or opt for those who have an appealing agenda but have light footprints or none, in the constituencies where they reside.

Both prescriptions for recovering Pakistan are outmoded, irrelevant and simply address the question of power first, change later. Any change from above, through any instrument of policy, may work but its effects will be superficial and temporary. We need a big social change at the grassroots level through education for all children.

Pakistan needs what Malala Yousufzai has stood for — education of girls. What a dream! Nobody should underestimate the power of this dream. The West changed, and changed rapidly by accepting that girls’ education is as important as those of boys and finally by accepting that every child must receive  an education. Pakistan will begin to change within a few years in terms of its internal social dynamics and its external image as a moderate, progressive society if we decide today that no child will be left out of school.

Facing such an extraordinary malaise of society and state, we will need the hard power of the law and the soft power of education, specifically, education that opens up our minds, makes us reflect and develops our critical thinking. The extremism that we face in more than one form — ethnic, political and religious — has roots in ignorance, weak rule of law and the decline of the state’s capacity to deal with this ill.

There is a lot of work for Pakistan to do if it wants to stand up again and walk on the road to recovery, progress and prosperity. The journey must begin with compulsory, generously-funded education for all Pakistani children. Only this will brighten the future of Pakistan; all other efforts will have little or no effect.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (10)

  • sabi
    Nov 13, 2012 - 1:53AM

    In 1973,nation unanimously sowed a seed of hatred on a fertile and very safe place i.e the
    constitution of a state which only after a year gave it’s early fruit when a nation decided to interfere in God’s domain of making relegion.The nation took the power of God in its own hands of deciding who is good,bad or non muslim.Years later a dictator took charge of that constitution and further watered and fertilised that crop of hatred which infact turned out to be a deadly weed giving multiple fruits of extremism.intolerance,sectarianism,killing on the basis of difference of faith and, worst of all, involved state in persecution of some weak groups.It is horrible to note that this constitution prohibts some of it’s citizens to read kalma or namaz or even say a commen greetings such as saying asalam u alaikum.
    I’m a sunni muslim and follow fiqah hanfia.I have never read in quran, sunnah hadidh or fiqah that someone should be prohibted to offer namaz or saying kalma tayyaba.However what I have read on countless places is, God curse on those who stop people on offering religious obligatins.Looking at present Pakistani society I bare witness how true are God’s words.


  • ballu
    Nov 13, 2012 - 1:53AM

    If zaid hamid can go to school, anyone can go to school in pakistan….


  • vasan
    Nov 13, 2012 - 6:29AM

    Even before “compulsory and generously funded education for all pakistanis”, the hate curriculam of Pak must be revised eliminating all hate materials , be it Hindus, Ahmedis or anyone else and also the violence supporting lessons must be modified. Or else you will produce women shahadats and suicide bombers which will make it much more to rectify in future.


  • wonderer
    Nov 13, 2012 - 9:14AM

    We need a comprehensive road-map for a long and strenuous journey ahead, and we have to start with first finding a common national identity for ourselves. Islam has not given us the necessary identity and unity. We have to search for something that will; and it will take a long while if we start now.Recommend

  • Haider Hussain
    Nov 13, 2012 - 10:00AM

    After spedning 33 years of my life here, I’m very much disillusioned. Every institution has become corrupt. I should have left this country 7-8 years ago…


  • Bill Maher (SFO)
    Nov 13, 2012 - 10:32AM

    A well accepted, tried tested and true long term strategy:
    “Educate a boy and he will go get a nice job. Educate a girl and she will educate the family/village”

    By education, one should mean a proper science, math, history, sociology, history education and not the one from a Madrassa.

    I hope, I did not offend any one. If I did, so be it.


  • Riaz Khan
    Nov 13, 2012 - 11:37AM

    Fantastic Article! Only way Pakistan can change for better is Education & separate State from Religion. There are simply no other short cuts!


  • SK5
    Nov 13, 2012 - 12:36PM

    We’ve got a bank of ideas and Misbah like action!.


  • Ibaad
    Nov 13, 2012 - 3:48PM

    Doctor sb, women literacy rate is below 30% in Pakistan. How can the “big social change at grass roots level through education” be attained without state support? And how can that be obtained in the presence of the current self-serving ruling elite, whose, financial and political domination is perpetuated by having a large illiterate and financially troubled class.

    This is what Imran really promises: “Big social change” through “radical transformation of the culture of power and politics”, since the former is inextricably premised upon the later.


  • ahmed41
    Nov 13, 2012 - 5:56PM

    Education, YES ! Female education , YES, again !!

    But~~~~education for all, in which direction ? With the help of which text-books ?
    Education mediated through what type of TEACHERS ?

    Is this education for ALL, going to be that of a deep conservative society or is it to be the curriculum of a modern , rational, secular society ?


More in Opinion