Problems unending

Published: February 11, 2013
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

Ask anyone, from your corner paan wala to a TV anchor to the accountant who does your taxes — if you pay any — to the babus who run the bureaucracy to the leaders of political parties; everyone knows what ails Pakistan and they all have their versions of solutions to these problems. The trouble is that no one is willing to implement the solutions they talk about, be it the paan wala, the tax accountant, the bureaucrat or the politician sitting in the legislative assembly.

The list of problems is fairly well-known and well-discussed. It is the security and law and order situation, the dismal economic growth rate, the high unemployment rate, the non-payment of taxes, the energy crisis, the very high population growth rate and the lack of a decent agricultural policy to feed the ever-growing population.

These problems are not new and have been around for most of the country’s population’s lifetime. We know where they have sprung from and where we should start to address them but we still do not do anything about it.

Take the security situation, for example. After every other terrorist attack or target killing, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or other outfits like it, claim responsibility for the act but are never apprehended. The civilian government may make the right noises but the powerful establishment refrains from taking any decisive and long-lasting action against them because it considers some of them as ‘strategic’ assets, which might come in handy when dealing with enemy countries. Some mainstream political parties look to them for political support, votes and organised workers during elections; the courts and the judges fear for their security so not many verdicts are passed against such elements. We know of instances where murderers are let go off on grounds of insufficient evidence by the courts. When the institutions that are supposed to protect the people, end up protecting those who are killing the citizens, the problem is never going to get solved.

Everyone knows that our tax-to-GDP ratio is depressing and direct taxation is one of the lowest for an economy this size. To make up for the lack of direct taxes, the PPP government tried to introduce another indirect tax — the value added tax — a couple of years back but faced opposition from the PML-N and the MQM, the parties with urban voters. The PPP is not too keen on agrarian taxes because these affect its leadership and many do not pay income tax. The PTI and the Jamaat-e-Islami talk about a reformed tax system which will remain irrelevant as long as they are not in parliament.

The country is a ticking time bomb with the highest population growth rate outside sub-Saharan Africa but no government seems to be interested in tackling this issue; our main concern remains things like Article 62 of the Constitution and the piety of the prospective election candidates. Even if the economic growth rate miraculously improves and the government starts spending on human development sectors, the population growth will wipe out any gains made unless this problem is addressed as a priority matter.

Some may say that all institutions of the state, including the armed forces, the civilian government, the bureaucracy and the judiciary seem to have priorities that apparently put their own interests above that of ordinary Pakistanis. That remains the biggest problem with the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Yoghurt lover
    Feb 12, 2013 - 6:51AM

    The root causes of what ails Pakistan, while should be addressed, Pakistan must distance itself from its suicidal cause of Kashmir.

    Kashmir is what is killing Pakistan slowly.

    Frankly today, many Pakistanis recognize and understand perfectly that backing the illegitimate Kashmir cause resulted in the downfall of the country. However, no one is willing to admit it. Because today, Kashmir is not a cause for Pakistan, it’s a question of ego! Today to give up Kashmir cause is to humiliate yourself.

    So, given this situation, India should make some concessions. These concessions should enable Pakistan to withdraw from the Kashmir cause with dignity. At no point should it appear to be a failure for Pakistan and a victory for India.


  • RAW is WAR
    Feb 12, 2013 - 6:52AM

    @ The country is a ticking time bomb with the highest population growth rate outside sub-Saharan Africa

    Pakistani politicians has a cute way of handling this- they fudge the population figures. It is always shown less by about 20 %.


  • Kamal
    Feb 12, 2013 - 10:07AM

    The writer is absolutely right in every respect that she highlights. So what can you do?


  • faraz
    Feb 12, 2013 - 4:18PM

    Provincial governments have the exclusive right to levy agriculture tax so it’s not just about PPP but all political parties
    VAT wasn’t an additional indirect tax; it was meant to replace sales tax; at the same rate as sales tax


  • faraz
    Feb 12, 2013 - 4:19PM

    Provincial governments have the exclusive right to levy agriculture tax so it’s not just about PPP but all political parties
    VAT wasn’t an additional indirect tax; it was meant to replace sales tax; at the same rate as sales taxRecommend

  • Z.Khan
    Feb 12, 2013 - 7:29PM

    Every human being has a “MURABBI” in his/her body. It is an Urdu and Arabic word which means a type of positively correcting force inside the body of an individual which makes checks and balances before human body starts involving itself in to any act. Take any nation which is morally developed you will find inner MURABBI of every one awake. When this inner MURABBI of human body is awake individual needs no supervision. No one will do dishonesty. Every one will speak truth. There will be mutual respect and love for each other. No one will get involved in to discrimination basing on colour, gender, race or religion.No driver will violate traffic rules. Suffice to say every one will endeavour to stay on right path. Unfortunately the inner MURABBI of majority of Pakistanis has gone into a very fast sleep. Ways and means to awake this inner MURABBI are also absent in the society. Very rarely a voice is raised which with passage of time also dies down. Here it may be pertinent to mention the members of Ahmadiyya Community are considered relatively better compared to other Pakistanis all over the world. Without getting prejudiced I analysed the reasons. Foremost is the supreme head of community and then other eminent personalities who keep on awakening the inner MURABBI of all the community members. Community media, including print and electronic, always prefer those writing and programs which serve as defence mechanism against the daily ill wills. Contrary to it if you analyse the main society of Pakistan, it has no central religious leader. Each faction leader instead of improving the moral behaviour of its followers is condemning the other faction. Same is true in other segments of society. Leg pulling of each other is common and game of blaming the others is a daily routine in whole society. Electronic and print media most of its time devoting to useless things. When whole society gets involved in such negative acts and stagnation then all types of problems prop up and society deteriorates further. Some suggestions have been given in the article but to me most important are the ways and means to awake the inner MURABBI of each Pakistani.


  • Parvez
    Feb 12, 2013 - 10:05PM

    Loved the way you ended it.


  • Genius
    Feb 12, 2013 - 11:04PM

    Every problem that people endure they will continue to endure. Why? People love to endure all that they endure. The fact is that if people did not enjoy the troubles they suffer would they then not come out to do anything about it. Do people not love to rally round a man a leader or a party? Does the experience gained over the last six decades not make people aware that rallying round a man or a political party gets them nothing? Do the people not realise that the problems they face today, their children will face even worse problems in the future? Yet keep on producing more and more of these trouble makers to endure even more trouble.
    Do the people make best use of the brain Lord Almighty has given them to use, to keep out of all the troubles?
    Did Lord Almighty not give us all a recipe of not only keeping ourselves out of trouble but also to avoid the slavery of the imperialist slave takers? Has anyone shown interest in the Lord’s recipe of keeping out of trouble? No. Why? Every one loves the trouble they get in repeating the same mistakes again and again so why would they bother to respond to Lord’s invitation.
    Did Lord Almighty not invite us all to come together to rally round no man but Him and Him alone so that we all can unite? Lord Almighty wants us all to be out of trouble by coming together to unite. Unite to bring about the rule of Justice and Compassion i.e. Udl wul Ehsahn. Coming together regularly in the localities where we live to work to solve the problems we face, through self help and co-operation of all us, is exactly what Lord Almight wants us to do. Do we want our problems solved? Have those leaders or parties solved our problems ever? We should all in our own interest respond to Lord’s invitation and come to unite. Unite to do good work which will help us all to solve all our problems our own self. Do we want to obey the Lord and be winners or keep on disobeying as we do and remain losers? The choice is ours.


  • MSS
    Feb 12, 2013 - 11:34PM

    @z khan, In a funny sort of way, Pakistan’s problems could simply be equated to MURABBI the conscience of all its people. People are the victims and cause of all the problems.
    Like the author says, everybody knows what the problems are but no one is doing anything about it. Has she got any idea to change things?
    Remember, people of a country get the government they deserve. Hope for better days ahead.


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