Managing the Country Toward a Stable Future By Talat Masood

Managing the Country Toward a Stable Future By Talat Masood

It is difficult to comprehend where the present steep downward slide in every major facet of our national life would lead us to; and whether there are any ways it can be halted and attempts to restore normality and a sense of balance and propriety injected in our very complex system that has developed over the years with several power holders.

As I see it self-righteousness of individuals at the helm, a sense of superiority amongst certain political and non-political institutions and their weak commitment to democratic values allow them the freedom to frequently circumvent legal and constitutional obligations.

The most recent example of this was the way the constitutional obligation of having elections within a period of 90 days after the dissolution of the national assembly was circumvented. As expected, the outcome of this unpredictable and anarchic situation is having a serious impact in several critical areas especially the economy and national standing.

It is only natural when politics is confrontational and democracy under severe threat investment shies away and moves to more promising destinations. Direct foreign investment in 2022 was a meagre $1.348 billion, which should be a cause for serious concern for the present and incoming governments. As the situation stands and policies being promoted, there is hardly any room for optimism.

The country would be more peaceful and people the greatest beneficiary if vindictive or harsh policies against opposition are not applied and normal rule of law is allowed to take course. When in power, political parties fail to foresee that any pain and injustice is committed will be done to them also when they are in opposition. It is a lesson for Imran Khan and leaders of other parties. We need to break this vicious cycle in the country’s vital interest.

There are other major national weaknesses in governance that need to be corrected. Past and recent governments have failed to create sufficient job opportunities or taken measures to promote balance and reduction in population growth. A combination of these factors has resulted in growing number of our people remaining unemployed. Many amongst them have been risking their lives to find avenues of employment abroad which should shake the nation’s conscience.

Moreover, it is a matter of serious concern and contemplation that we as a nation do not learn and keep making the same mistakes by pursuing policies that have pushed the country back. As an example, the hybrid model of governance that we have had most of the time that political governments have been in power has not met with success. Another example is the hold of dynasties on major political parties that has throttled democracy within political parties, a subject on which I have also discussed in the past. Nor has any other country with such deviations prospered. These are questions that our political and military leadership need to seriously address to place the country on the right path.

The country is transiting through a phase where the situation is fluid and is appropriate to take a deeper look to correct national course. For the common good of the country and its people we simply cannot continue to coexist with a weak economy and a highly disturbed polity. Unless the leadership among the political parties and across other institutions realises that they have shared interest in strengthening the economy and conforming politics to democratic norms, no tangible change would be feasible. Furthermore, learning from our past and the experience of mature democracies it is evident that the prerequisites for building democracy and bringing stability demand that leadership focuses on education especially of girls, better governance, women’s rights and greater cohesion in society. It is not that our leaders are unaware of what needs to be done but their priorities, at least as of now, lie elsewhere. Going by past experience, election promises they make in abundance that we will be hearing soon are one thing but when it comes to execution this is where they are failing. There are no visible indicators that the situation would be any different in the near future.

Moreover, the whole concept of a caretaker government needs to be reviewed and analysed whether it has in the past served the purpose that it was conceived for. And if it has some weaknesses that we have experienced in the past they should be addressed this time. More significantly, it needs to be learned how other democracies, including in South Asia, having interim governments before elections, have been able to have fairly credible elections that find acceptance of the people.

Pakistan is also facing one of its worst economic crises and is leaning heavily on IMF and intermittently on friendly countries, mainly China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Leaders should do serious introspection, for after all how long can we remain a heavily dependent country. One fact is undeniable that if major political parties cooperate on these common challenges that the country is facing, economic and political, we are more likely to find solutions and gradually get over our heavy dependence.

It is time to arouse national consciousness that people vote for candidates that have the resolve and ability to address national challenges. For it is with prudent policies and their faithful implementation that the country would be able to come out of the inflated borrowing syndrome and other weaknesses. It seems there is little realisation that borrowing heavily unfairly burdens the coming generations. There are other reasons for concern. We cannot ignore the reality that China which has been a major benefactor is facing an economic slowdown. This will weigh on Pakistan directly and also impact the global economy negatively. The security situation on both our eastern and western borders does not either give much leeway to reduce security-related expenses.

This brings me to the point that how important it is for the people to vote for those parties or party candidates who are serious about these national issues and can be vehicles of change. This might sound an exaggerated expectation in the present national scenario but it would be a folly if we as a society succumb to defeatism.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2023.

Managing the Country Toward a Stable Future By Talat Masood

Source: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2431996/managing-the-country-toward-a-stable-future

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