Dr. Rafiq Ahmad, Vice Chairman of Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust and a renowned Economist

Jahangir’s World Times: What was the vision of the Quaid-e-Azam for the economic future of Pakistan; and have you ever seen any glimpse of his vision in the past 65 years?  

Dr. Rafiq Ahmad: Well I would say yes, I have seen glimpses on the lines suggested by the Quaid-e-Azam for the economic future of Pakistan. But, first of all, I would like to elaborate what exactly the ‘Vision’ itself is.  Vision is a comprehensive idea in fact. This has a theoretical aspect; a practical aspect; a basic aspect and a detailed aspect associated with it. The Quaid-e-Azam’s economic vision was best reflected in his speech which he delivered on July 1, 1948 on the eve of inauguration of State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi. The crux of his speech was that Pakistan cannot make economic progress as long as the capitalism prevails.

This system is exploitative. The Quaid was of the opinion that Pakistan would have to develop her own system on the basis of equality of rights as stressed upon by Islam. Unfortunately, the State Bank could not accomplish this task; though a few of the rulers tried to introduce Islamic reformations; yet the net impact has been dismal and gloomy. Actually, Islam provides a concept of welfare state in which the whole economic activity is based upon justice and fair play. When people label England, Norway and Switzerland as the welfare states, in my humble opinion, they are wrong. A state cannot be called a welfare state unless it gets rid of the exploitative capitalist system. Similarly, in capitalist system the relief is temporary when an economic crisis occurs but contrary to this, the Islamic welfare system brings a permanent relief to the wounds caused by the monetary unjust.

A pure Islamic economic system was the dream of the Qauid-e-Azam, which has not been fulfilled yet although some attempts have been made for instance, Council of Islamic Ideological. I myself had been the member of State Bank’s Islamic Advisory Council for a long time. And we had been discussing so many aspects, making several recommendations; but then, they were not implemented.

It is a tragedy that our system is continuously working in a total compliance with the capitalistic and exploitative principles which were condemned by the Quaid-e-Azam on July 1, 1948.

JWT: We have lost East Pakistan because of economic disparities, now we are facing serious problems of the same nature in Balochistan. Would you please tell us to what errors we commit while policy-making?

DRA: Right from the beginning till Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din took oath as PM, the people who fought for the freedom were at the helm of affairs. They had a revolutionary vision and fertile ideas for the economic and socio-political development of Pakistan. Even, Liaqat Ali Khan, when he was the finance minister of the united India in 1946, was the chief architect of the first-ever poor-oriented budget. In fact, that budget was a reflection of the vision of the All India Muslim League.

People, in general, are unaware of the fact that the Quaid-e-Azam formed a planning committee in 1943; it was on the eve of the annual meeting of All India Muslim League. Because they knew that Pakistan was about to become a reality and it would face a number of economic problems as a new- born state.

Keeping this emergency in view, they chalked out a plan workable for the upcoming 20 years. The report was also published in a book by Shums-ul-Hassan with the title of ‘Quaid-e-Azam’s Unfulfilled Dream’.

So, if these people would have remained in power then the economic and socio-political structure of Pakistan might have been on new grounds as it is visible in China. Whosoever came after these visionary people into power like Siknder Mirza, Ghulam Muhammad, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and the likes, were simply visionless. They made temporary arrangements and as a result of their policies, the country could not be brought to the desired results. See the misery, we went for the foreign aid in 1960s, and the fundamental policy outlines were drawn by the Harvard Group; in fact, the group had been behind all each of the measures taken in the reign of Ayub Khan. So, these policies were the major cause of resentment and sense of deprivation in the East Pakistan. That is why, the people of East Pakistan expressed their anger in the election of 1970.

Despite all economic troubles and the (mis)governance of Yahya Khan, Pakistan could have been saved from the tragedy we know as Dhaka fall. The East Pakistan could not have become Bangladesh if there were no direct attacks carried out by India over the East Pakistan.

Fortunately, this is not the situation in case of Balochistan. Yes I agree that there is exploitation there too. But the feudal lords of Balochistan are also responsible for the deprivation of Balochistan. In fact, not only Balochistan but all the backward areas of Pakistan are facing the same problems. Actually, we have those people in the administration who always make temporary arrangements instead of implementing short-term and long-term plans.

JWT: Why our political parties lack an economic vision?

DRA: Unfortunately, all the mainstream political parties lack an economic vision. Neither they have economic manifestos nor they have any think-tanks for policy making. That is why, our policies are unable to bring positive results. Actually, they are not proper political parties, if we see their structure. Apart from economics even they do not have a political vision; they just want to grab power. Furthermore, if we look at the present coalition government comprised of PPP, PML (Q), ANP and MQM, we come to know that they have nothing common, but, the lust of power-sharing.

JWT: Would you please elaborate the ‘Economic Federalism’? Does it exist in Pakistan especially after the 18th Amendment?

DRA: Well, after independence, Pakistan took start from zero. So in the beginning a strong central government was required which could look after all the issues in an appropriate way. In fact, federations are strengthened if are coupled with a sound political system; and local bodies are an integral part of a political system.  For instance, all the known democracies like UK and USA do have a strong system of local bodies, which empowers the federalism. So, the local bodies’ set-up is the integral part of the federalism and in these aforementioned countries system of local bodies is very mature and intact.

Coming to the18th Amendment, I agree that it is fulfilment of a long-awaited dream but in my opinion provinces are not prepared to exercise the powers which have been transferred to them from the centre after the 18th Amendment. Thus, the exercise of drafting the 18th Amendment only is not enough for the economic federalism. In fact, we need a viable system of political bodies for the provinces but the provincial governments are reluctant to conduct the local bodies’ elections because they don’t want to share their power with the local bodies’ government.

JWT: Today, Pakistan is stuck in acute debt crisis. Do you think that it is an outcome of the uncertain policies of the PPP-led coalition government or the omnipresent corruption in the country is the major cause?

DRA: Yes, these are two major causes of the present debt crisis; but it also has a historical background, i.e.  loan-based economy developed during Ayub’s era. Later on, in the Pervaiz Musharaf’s regime, his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also got loans on easy terms from American donors in the name of the war on terror but again we are facing a debt crisis.

In fact, not only rulers but our planners always preferred to go for the loans instead of making infrastructural policies. They always got loans but never spent on the people welfare projects. For instance, no attempts were made to build new dams or other power projects and trade relations with other countries were also not developed on a solid footing.

Thus, this debt crisis has also a background too vis-à-vis uncertain policies of present government and massive corruption.

JWT: Do you really think that the Punjab is facing a discriminatory treatment as far as the distribution of power supply is concerned or it is mere a political statement?

DRA: Well it is partially political and partially discriminatory. It is partially political because of the mutual rivalry of Punjab and the centre, because both the parties want to make the other unpopular. Apart from this, power supply and WAPDA are under the control of central government. Similarly, the distribution of electricity and load management is in their hands.

The discrimination is clearly seen because in all other big cities the load has been almost equally distributed, but in the Punjab, it is not the case. The industrial sector in the Punjab is facing massive power spells of the power breakdown as compare to Karachi or other big cities. In fact it is only the Punjab which is suffering from the disease of the unscheduled load-shedding.

JWT: What would you say on circular debt? Is there any immediate solution of this problem?

DRA: Thermal power generation, lack of recovery and poor governance are the main causes of the accumulation of the recent circular debt. Here, a question arises as to why purchasers do not their dues to the power-generating companies. In addition, line-losses, lack of the maintenance of power plants and most of the government departments and employees are the defaulters of WAPDA.

The issue of the circular debt could be resolved, provided, an effective governance and a political will are exercised to achieve the seemingly unattainable.


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