Deferred Dreams Of Development

Deferred Dreams Of Development
Quaid-e-Azam, few days ahead of the creation of Pakistan, in his Presidential address on 11th August 1947 in a loud and clear message directed the future generation politicians to “wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people and especially of the masses and the poor” if to set the state of Pakistan on the path of glory and greatness.

He indeed presciently fathoms the very fact of high returns for investing on human capital and development thus laid the cardinal policy principle of upholding the socio-economic development.

However the successive politicians in the coming years have not taken the Quaid’s advice seriously and the nature of politics that followed in the years after the demise of Quaid has been dominated by the power politics, politicians locked in perennial greed for power, instead of principled and pro-people politics practiced by Quaid himself in his political career and the dreams of human development have been deferred ever since.

Jinnah was a diehard democrat and constitutionalist and dreamed of the nascent nation to be ruled by the civilized political concepts of transparency, accountability and oversight by the people. The peoples’ right stayed in the center of his genre of politics throughout his political career.

However, the people who were to be in the heart of politics were subtly subdued through numerous self-created structural barriers by the agents left by the recently departed colonial agency and politics in Pakistan became the total opposite of what Quaid had foreseen.

The Quaid whose genuine fears of Hindu domination in post-British political arrangements in United India led him to create an independent Pakistan for Muslims to prosper could not see the more harmful domination of an alliance of fickle elements, remained loyal to British causes throughout history and the beneficiary of British Raj.

The leadership void which was created after the demise of founding fathers has immediately been filled by the powerful opportunist alliance of bureaucracy, military establishment, feudals and religious elite. Thus the plane of Pakistan has successfully been hijacked by the hijackers trained by the departing colonial master.

Unlike India where a strong leadership like Nehru kept the powerful elite in check to strictly implement the redistributive policies reducing inequalities and promoting sustainable developments, the people in Pakistan, in the absence of strong and visionary leadership, were taken off conveniently and completely from the political agenda and the definition of the concept of democracy which is government of the people, government by the people and government for the people to serve and to be the subservient to the people have been replaced with a unique form of collaborative government among military establishment, religious elite, bureaucracy, land owning class and industrialists.

The alliance of opportunists reinforced their relation through intermarriage networks and further tightened the grip by penetrating deeper into the root of socioeconomic and political structure of Pakistan to achieve complete control at all micro and macro levels. Their children, who were prepared to play with Pakistan’s political future in years to come, receive education from elite education schools and universities, wear aristocratic dresses to look noble and proficient in speaking the colonial language which is still alien to the majority of Pakistanis but a language that instills a sense of superiority, guarantees the success in a culturally cringe society and, instrument to rule.

Thus the new definition of government was born out, a collaborative government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite and people in such an exploitative political model do not matter much however merely to be the plaything of the elite.

The objective of the elite was shared which is to be accomplice in the crimes of one another and protect and preserve the vested interests of each other and more dangerously to keep the people polarized and make them hate each other in the name of politics and piety and to keep the semblance of democracy but ensure the absolute rule by dynastic traditions.

As a consequence, the country which was to become a welfare state, committed to serve the downtrodden, uplift their socioeconomic conditions and to devise the pro-poor policies turned into the system of oppression and citadel of wealthy powerful elite in Pakistan.

The Pakistani elite who controlled both Houses of Parliament ruthlessly used their legislative power to enrich themselves, while opposing and using the veto power to block anything that threatens their vested interests on the legislative agenda. The legislative control is the chief cause of the great failure of land reforms and implementation of the policies redistribution of resources in Pakistan.

From politics to economic, even the legislative business has been stringently captured by the powerful elite, weakening the state growth and strengthening the hands of status quo.

The alliance of convenience amongst forces of status quo with disintegrating effects on state put Pakistan on the path of unending disasters rather than on the path of progress and development as envisioned by Jinnah.

In retrospect, two types of disasters with recurring destructive patterns has been experienced since the inception, first, policy disasters born out of terrible policies and governance by myopic, self-centered and greedy ruling elite and the other, natural disasters due to environmental and climate change with no bureaucratic competence and capacity.

The focus strictly remained on traditional security whereas the other vital sectors of human security including the economic security and environmental security failed to capture the attention of the self-focused ruling elite even continues to be absent from the national agenda in Pakistan, not because of resource-restraint but because of Political “will” and “Vision”.

The human security has never been the priority of Pakistani ruling elite over the fears that it may improve human conditions which may cause a social revolt by poor and challenge the powerful status quo in Pakistan.

Many scientific studies prove that the investment on human capital pay the higher dividends including the increased individual self-respect, self-awareness about the concepts of fundamental rights, promotes the rational culture, encourages the political participation which further result into creating the confident civil society and augment the national confidence of a nation and eventually serving and strengthening the tradition of true democracy, such a wide scale structural change has never been in the interest of self-serving ruling elite.

National Human Development Report (NHDR) on Pakistan, a flagship of UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) published under the tilted of, “Power, People and Policy” highlighted some provoking stats that how the powerful and privileged groups in Pakistan make use of system level weaknesses and using their networks in the systems for their benefits.

The report further provides the astonishing fact about the whopping sum of $17.4 billion committed for the elite privilege on the pains of poor people’s burden. This whopping sum is stolen from the saving account of starving people of Pakistan to fulfill the insatiable greed of the powerful Pakistani elite.

Former UNDP country director for Pakistan, Marc-Andre Franche, in an interview in 2016 gave summary of his four years of service as country head in Pakistan saying, the only way the critical change could happen in the country was when the influential, the politicians, and the wealthy, would sacrifice short term, individual and family interests for the benefits of the nation”.

He further criticized, “You cannot have an elite that takes advantage of very cheap and uneducated labour when it comes to making money, and when it is time to party it is found in London, and when it's time to buy things it is in Dubai, and when it's time to buy property it invests in Dubai or Europe or New York. The elite needs to decide do they want a country or not”.

He expressed his frustration over the class divide saying, “Pakistan will not be able to survive with gated communities where you are completely isolated from the societies, where you are creating ghettos at one end and big huge malls for the rich at the other end. It is not the kind of society you want your kids to live in.

He identifies the existence of serfdom in Pakistan, that how downtrodden and poor in Pakistanis tilled the fields, cleaned homes and other different forms of labor and served under inhuman conditions for wealthy and landowning Pakistani elite. He said,  “I have visited some very large landowners, who have exploited the land for centuries, paid nearly zero money for the water, and how they almost sometimes hold people in bondage. And then they come to the United Nations or other agencies and ask us to invest in water, sanitation, and education for the people in their district. I find that quite embarrassing.”

One wonders how greedy political elite who didn’t even bother to take the advice of Jinnah, the founding father who explicitly warned them to concentrate on the well-being of the people and especially the betterment of poor would listen to his expert opinion.

The country has become the rentier state with no foreign policy but to convince the leaders of the other states to ask for aid and then more aid and the pattern has been recurred to the extent that it reduced the country to become disgraced nation and the leadership making foreign trips is being mocked and ridiculed and have become the subject to jokes.

The economy has never been the favorite subject of ruling elite therefore the crucial area largely remained ignored and underperformed. New threats are fast-emerging such as Population bomb with no real state policy to handle the youth bulge, the age of epidemics and pandemics with no efficient healthcare system to deal, no clean drinking water, climate change; a new imminent threat is causing a catastrophic affects and many other problems but egoistic and myopic political leadership has other petty matters to priorities.

The bureaucracy, a central pillar of governance of any state, knows how to dress well and nicely walk but abysmal looking when it comes to competence and capacity to govern.

The other impeding forces to prevent the growth of strong progressive state include feudalism and theocracy with total absence of strong institutions and democratic culture, the elements remained prevalent to prevent the progress of strong state in Middle Age Europe. The political conditions if dominated by the combination of feudalism and religious elite in any society negate with their retarded influence, the concept of strong and secular state.

Many ask for the solution; no solution is possible without a genuine civil struggle to fight the political system which fears and favors only the privileged class. And any solution under the omnipotent status quo will surely be destined to doom and all the dreams of progress and development will hang in the air until the genuine change would occur. It’s surely easier said than done.

The author teaches International Relations at National University of Modern Languages and based in Islamabad. He tweets at @Sarfrazrana01