A failing state

Published: February 22, 2013
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The writer is a former federal minister for science & technology, and the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission

The writer is a former federal minister for science & technology, and the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission

Pakistan is on the brink of becoming a failed state. Rampant corruption, particularly by those who govern us, has brought us to a position where the state of affairs under the military regimes of yesterday appear to be a bed of roses. The dream of the Quaid-e-Azam has turned into a nightmare. The estimated quantum of corruption, based on calculations by Transparency International, was about Rs8,500 billion in the first four years of the present government. The rupee has collapsed from Rs62 to the dollar to its present rate of Rs100.

Massive corruption in the rental power projects has cleared the way for the collapse of our industry. Balochistan has become a hotbed of intrigues, with India, as well as certain Western powers, who profess to be our friends, creating chaos and encouraging separatist movements.

The failure of the British parliamentary system of democracy in Pakistan is primarily due to three interconnected factors. Firstly, the provincial and federal parliaments in Pakistan are controlled by feudal landlords who have turned elections into a dirty business. Most of these corrupt and incompetent legislators do not appear to have any inclination to serve Pakistan. They spend millions to come into power and once elected, start plundering national funds to make up for that. Pakistan must be the only country in the world where 249 of its parliamentarians appear to have been elected on forged degrees. The Higher Education Commission should provide the names of all such dishonest parliamentarians to the election commission, as well as make their names public so that they do not get re-elected till their degrees are properly scrutinised. If it is found that they had indeed committed forgeries, then they should be barred for life from contesting future elections.

The second factor responsible for the failure of democracy in Pakistan is illiteracy and a low level of education. About half the people are illiterate. Of the remaining half, a major portion can barely sign their names. In this situation, elections are not fought on the basis of party manifestoes but on the basis of power footholds. It is not in the interests of those in power to invest in education as they would like their serfs to remain as slaves. Pakistan spends only 1.8 per cent of its GDP on education, ranking us among the bottom seven countries of the world in this category.

The third factor is the failure of the judicial system to dispense justice swiftly in cases of financial corruption or even terrorism. We seem to have established a tradition in which crooks get away without any punishment — the National Reconciliation Ordinance being one example of this. Terrorists belonging to various political parties roam at will in Karachi and a dozen or so political murders occur each day without any action taken against the persons responsible. The apparent murder of NAB official Kamran Faisal is also another example of just how perverted the law is in this land.

A major change is needed in the system of governance if democracy is to survive in Pakistan. Firstly, the Constitution needs to be changed so that a presidential system of democracy is introduced, and the president then selects his own team of technocrats as federal ministers from the most suitable persons available. Members of parliament (MP) should not be eligible to become federal or provincial ministers or ministers of state. This will thus remove the desire of the corrupt feudal landlords to ‘invest’ hundreds of millions to get elected.

MPs should have at least a master’s degrees as their primary role is lawmaking. The removal of educational qualifications as an eligibility requirement to become an MP is a mistake. How can we expect our legislators to make laws unless they are properly educated? Similar screening should be carried out for the post of president and other key persons in the government and heads of key national institutions. Furthermore, genuine land reforms should be introduced, as was done in India, and later in Bangladesh, to lay the foundations of genuine democracies.

Pakistan is at a precipice. The present set of MPs will not change the system since the status quo suits them. In Bangladesh, it was the Supreme Court that abolished the feudal system and paved the way for democracy. The Supreme Court of Pakistan needs to take suo-motu notice of our alarming situation before it is too late.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (31)

  • Gary
    Feb 22, 2013 - 12:49AM

    “MPs should have at least a master’s degrees as their primary role is lawmaking. The removal of educational qualifications as an eligibility requirement to become an MP is a mistake. How can we expect our legislators to make laws unless they are properly educated?.”

    This is such a specious argument; high on assumptions, low on facts.

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  • John B
    Feb 22, 2013 - 12:51AM

    I am sorry to say that the esteemed gentleman is tragically mistaken and offering solutions which have been put through the mill before. Did he forget that the land reform was considered unislamic by the PAK court?

    Neither the college degree nor the constitutional changes are necessary to bring the basic necessary requirements of governance. Honesty, sincerity and concern for the fellow citizens welfare are not taught in schools or written in any constitution.

    Aren’t the technocrats a part of the dishonest system in passing the nepotic and dishonest policy down the chain of command from politicians? Now they want the powers again through their high and mighty education for themselves?

    The “illiterate” common man on the streets makes a honest day’s labor by scraping what he can.

    It is the technocrats who continue to throw every concievable excuses for the ill management by blaming neighbors and others on domestic problems, as the author states here on Baluchistan.

    “The best coin which a man expends, is a coin which he spends on his co-religionists in the path of God.” This was the motto and inscription on Akbar’s coin. Recommend

  • Nadir
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:00AM

    Talk of genuine reforms and that too from a puppet of a dictator. Yeah right!

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  • Adil Zaman
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:23AM

    With respect, offcourse the technocratic type of governance is very much suitable for Pakistan, but it must be with extra checks and balances to stop the extra constitutional activities and also to stop the way of autocracy. the Current political setup and about all the institutions, including the sacred constitution seems to serve these currupt politicians. But the New setup should be in the larger interest of public welfare. How to ensure the public welfare is another problem, but atleast the Govt machinery should be handed over to Honest and and sincere People…

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  • gp65
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:32AM

    “industry. Balochistan has become a hotbed of intrigues, with India, as well as certain Western powers, who profess to be our friends, creating chaos and encouraging separatist movements”

    A federal minister of science and industry making a statement unsubstantiated by evidence?

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  • MSS
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:43AM

    Mr Rahman has made a half hearted attempt here. he should have gone deeper and also addressed the other major issues of hate killings, lack of governance, the negative role of media etc.
    It would be wise to blame internal powers for the chaos in Blauchistan rather than the external powers. It is not the US that fixes the education, development or defence budgets of Pakistan. It depends on priorities. Currently the education does not make it on the ‘fix it’ list.

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  • gp65
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:46AM

    “They spend millions to come into power and once elected, start plundering national funds to make up for that. Pakistan must be the only country in the world where 249 of its parliamentarians appear to have been elected on forged degrees. The Higher Education Commission should provide the names of all such dishonest parliamentarians to the election commission, as well as make their names public so that they do not get re-elected till their degrees are properly scrutinised. “

    A degree was a requirement for the 2008 election. It is no longer a requirement , so absence of a degree would not be a legitimate reason to prevent someone from contesting the elections.

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  • Naresh
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:56AM

    .
    As per the State Bank of Pakistan the US Dollar Exchange Rate to the Pakistani Rupee is 98.0740.
    .
    Cheers

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  • Sterry
    Feb 22, 2013 - 2:10AM

    A poorly presented argument that seems very disjointed. The devaluation of the rupee has as much to do with the global economic rececession as the economic challenges of Pakistan. Take a look at the Japanese Yen which went from 130 to a dollar down to 70 and now hovers at 100. The Japanese want it at 100 to facilitate exports. All over the world politics is a dirty business and this has nothing to do with literacy but rather the culture of politics and people. The difference is that corrupt political cultures in Europe don’t have power hungry generals like Musharraf who come in and destabilize countries. Look at Italy or Greece where there is rampant corruption but hey develop because the army doesn’t bud in. Even the mighty US has people questionaing corruption in the electoral system but stability happens. Next door in India, abolishing feudalism has not stopped widespread corruption both from government bureaucrats or politicians. Look at how many millions were stolen in the 900 million dollar VIP helicopter scandal. As for MPs having degrees, do you not know that this whole idea is a farce? Why do you think having a degree will make anyone more or less honest? In developed countries, there is no requirement for a degree if someone is standing for office. If anything, the rural poor who are illiterate are more honest than city dwellers who are used to cheating and bribing. There may be truth to the figure of 8.5 billion rupees fraud but do you know that this is less than a billion dollars which is a drop in the bucket compared to corruption in other countries – even next door in Afghanistan, corruption exceeds anything in Pakistan. Lastly, it’s unfair to say Kamran Faisal was murdered when the facts are before the courts. Most police people still say he committed suicide since he has a history of depression and was on medications.

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  • Rakesh
    Feb 22, 2013 - 2:30AM

    What’s up with all these science Ph.Ds? Why don’t they speak of science more often?

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  • sabi
    Feb 22, 2013 - 3:31AM

    Its not the politicians but people like you who have destroyed the very fabrik of this country.Why did you join dictator if you so much care for this country.Even a child knows that dictators not democrates are responsible for the failing state of this country. ET should take care if someone is using its pages for publicity compaigne.This article is part of series of maligning democracy for dictators to step in once again and fool the public.Highly biased and misleading article.

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  • sabi
    Feb 22, 2013 - 3:37AM

    No to dictator no to puppets.Authors should join exclusive club of Qadri and Qadir khan.

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  • gp65
    Feb 22, 2013 - 3:55AM

    “MPs should have at least a master’s degrees as their primary role is lawmaking. The removal of educational qualifications as an eligibility requirement to become an MP is a mistake. How can we expect our legislators to make laws unless they are properly educated?.”

    Highly elitist statement. Understanding, articulation and advocacy of the people’s needs is the primary goal of the legislator. There is a whole bureaucracy to do the policy design to fit the needs.

    “A major change is needed in the system of governance if democracy is to survive in Pakistan. Firstly, the Constitution needs to be changed so that a presidential system of democracy is introduced, and the president then selects his own team of technocrats as federal ministers from the most suitable persons available.”

    All ministries are staffed by career bureaucrats who are tecnocrats. Parlimaentary committees can also appoint technocratic committees to finish specialized tasks. So the parlimantary system does not deprive the executive of technocratic input simply by putting a requirement that the minister be member of Parliament. UK, Australia, Canada are all parliamentary systems and they are no less effective than US and France which are Presidential. Even in India, people of the stature of Nandan Nilekani and Ragh Ram Rajan who are technocrats of the highest order serve the goverment for specialised tasks. The quality of the government is determined not by the system (PResidential or Parliamentary) but the people who are governing.

    “Balochistan has become a hotbed of intrigues, with India, as well as certain Western powers, who profess to be our friends, creating chaos and encouraging separatist movements.”

    A former minister of science making a statement without evidence.

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  • Ph.D.
    Feb 22, 2013 - 7:06AM

    These days one can’t get a clerk’s job without a masters. MP should be required to have at least a Ph.D. Postdoctoral fellowships for ministers and tenured track professorial appointments necessary for all Prime Ministers. The President should have been the Vice Chancellor of a large public university. Pakistan can thus steal a march over everyone else and become a heaven on earth in five years.

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  • Jackson
    Feb 22, 2013 - 8:10AM

    Dear author, your statement “Balochistan has become a hotbed of intrigues, with India, as well as certain Western powers”. Any proofs or after charges against HEC’s efficiency by Dr. Parvez Hoodhbhoy.
    If literate people like you will make such comments then i have no hope from others.Recommend

  • Karim
    Feb 22, 2013 - 12:55PM

    Difficult yet Sincere recommendations for this unfortunate country.

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  • A sad citizen of Quetta
    Feb 22, 2013 - 1:16PM

    ”…where the state of affairs under the military regimes of yesterday appear to be a bed of roses”.

    You really miss the military rule, don’t you? Honesty is more important than education and it doesn’t come with degrees and PhDs. For a country with 50% of its population illiterate, how can master degrees represent the common people? Your intention of this article is definitely not honest. With the billions of rupees that you wasted in name of higher education, could you name one worth mentioning invention made by your army of PhDs in the field of science and technology?

    Please leave us alone, Sir.

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  • Najam
    Feb 22, 2013 - 2:50PM

    Straight forward and excellent article that makes sense. The path is clear and solution is simple but our leaders dont have the will.

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  • jugnoo
    Feb 22, 2013 - 3:37PM

    Who says pak politicians are uneducated. PM, interior minister and former law minister are all Ph.Ds!!!

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  • pk
    Feb 22, 2013 - 4:20PM

    I ask this question today it took 200 yrs or so for US after its declaration of independence to be a democracy, it took around 500 yrs after Mughal, Rajputana and other eras for India to be a great democracy. Its sheer hypocrisy to expect us to be one in mere 65 yrs. I dont believe in the system but i believe in basic rights being given to common man no matter what system it is! Democracy has snatched food, shelter and right to live from a common man! Democracy is hypocrisy in a land of illiterates. I so miss Musharraf so much today I dont care what the system was at least pre-2008 a poorman was getting his stomach fed with food. Im for military govt and its major aim should be to educate our nation and then later on introducing Presidential form of govt who will bring capable educated technocrats when they are elected but this proposal too if some sanity comes to this nation, then only!

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  • Umair
    Feb 22, 2013 - 4:59PM

    totally agree. I see a lot of PPP and PML-N trolls here attacking the esteemed scientist.

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  • Jehangir Mari
    Feb 22, 2013 - 5:52PM

    Ace scientist & Pakistan lover Dr. Atta is accurate in his prescription. Our present General, who secured this democracy, is he reading/consulting Dr. Atta?

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  • ADEEL
    Feb 22, 2013 - 7:02PM

    @gp65:
    Foreign elements are assisting seperatist elements..
    This is common sense knowledge for those who know an iota about politics and international relations…u just dont seem to know about it

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  • Pro Truth
    Feb 22, 2013 - 8:41PM

    Dr Rehman is absolutely right, but the majority of status quo feudal and mega corrupt wouldnt want any change. They absolutely dont like education or people getting education so they can understand and stand up to fight and demand for their real rights and for real democracy.

    While many other countries dont have limit on minimum education requirement, most of their PM and Presidents are PhD and Masters. Do check credentials of Indian PM, British PMs and American Presidents. Manmohan, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown are PhDs! While elite schools and degree doesnt make a person honest, they do enable them to be leaders. Also on those countries, secondary education is mandatory for everyone!

    Majority of un educated and corrupt has been ruling and minority of intelligentsia and sincere Pakistanis are watching their countries getting destroyed in very front of their eyes. This has to change.

    I really dont understand why Indians has to poke their nose here in topic thats entirely focused on Pakistan internal politics. The proofs are shared with Indian and other Governments about interference at Sharam al Sheikh by Pakistani PM and many other official channels. About time Pakistan government play less diplomacy and bring these to public.

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  • Jalil Ahmed
    Feb 22, 2013 - 8:50PM

    @ADEEL: Are you saying our ISI is a bunch of buffoons? If they “know an an iota about politics and international relations” as you put it, then why is the evidence not being shown to the world? If India (or any other country) is behind it, then how does it help us not to reveal the facts and bring it to book in the UN. Your naivety amazes me.

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  • BachelorBoy
    Feb 23, 2013 - 6:11PM

    There`s always an eminent need of a layout plan and infrastructure before constructing some Building Or menifesto, and more importantly that Layout plan should be designed on well calculated valid measurements.. likewise in socieity when a nation goes to acquire a piece of land for meeting their conceptual and identitical needs, they must had have to confided on same path.. Scientifically, infact in the age of science where everything has became scientific enough to seek the reasons contemporarily of mythological aspects could be traced out, there even Nations are needing some aspirations, some true sense of motivations inorder to satisfy their provisional needs…
    In Pakistan, whatever is happening is nothing but a Blame game of accusating institutions versus institutions, social classes versus classes, idealogies versus idealogies; a clearer sign of proclaiming Or accepting oneself a Looser or on Broader creterions a failed state. Recent dilemma, we are severly criticising a social class being concieved as Feudalist while if ever there is any feudal class; that should be enjoying outside of the country with captured perks and previlages Or Somewhere above the heavens invisible with ocular eyes, must b contained only 1 percent of Population; IF THERE IS ANY… while as a matter of fact, only working classes are being brought on verge of hatred,jealousy and segrigation against eachother; which should be infact a devide and rule game of majority of Beurucrate proportion, mostly Semi-Political civil beurucracy and fully-Political Army Beurucracy..
    Instead of educating ur parliamenterians and empowering Presidency to select their Premiers, more better it would be if country is being introspected throughout her Historical flaws and technical corruptions had been made in the basics of the HomeLand, inaddition restoring this country to the idealogy which has been set to found this piece of land, before going for some change, because what we see are only changes, each intellactual,politician and power-holder talks about Change, nor anyone sees if ever those promises has been fullfilled which had had been made to the people of the country, while creating this….!!

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  • NP
    Feb 23, 2013 - 10:09PM

    Ridiculous. Some of the wisest men in history had little or no formal education. Abraham Lincoln never had any formal education beyond primary school.

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  • Naresh
    Feb 26, 2013 - 12:47AM

    @Jalil Ahmed: You stated @ADEEL: Are you saying our ISI is a bunch of buffoons? If they “know an an iota about politics and international relations” as you put it, then why is the evidence not being shown to the world? If India (or any other country) is behind it, then how does it help us not to reveal the facts and bring it to book in the UN. Your naivety amazes me.
    .
    Welcome to the Club!
    .
    Cheers

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  • realist
    Mar 5, 2013 - 4:45AM

    @Pro Truth:
    “Do check credentials of Indian PM, British PMs and American Presidents. Manmohan, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown are PhDs”

    Frankly, Manmohan the PhD fares very poorly as a leader compared to Narasimha Rao with Master’s degree, Atal Behari Vajpayee with Master’s degree or Lal Bahadur Shastri with Bachelor degree. Having a degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a good leader. (Of course Manmohan the PhD is still better than Sonia Ghandy high school degree or Rahul Ghandy with unknown degree).

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  • Mar 22, 2013 - 7:04AM

    Yes, but we will be back.

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  • Naresh
    Mar 25, 2013 - 2:51AM

    @Dr. Atta ur Rehman Ji :
    .

    You stated Yes, but we will be back
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    Doctor Ji, You Must!
    .
    Cheers

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