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Remaking Pakistan

Indeed, a nation, like an individual, is an organic entity that goes through different life-stages from birth and infancy to the identity crisis of adolescence, then budding into maturity and adulthood, and if not nourished and groomed properly through institutional strength with political, economic, social and moral steadiness, like a handicapped human body, first suffering inertia and purposelessness and then fading into decline and decadence. These stages are partly the result of governance patterns, governmental policies and priorities and the nature and effectiveness of institutional arrangements, partly of the way the state’s leadership acquits itself and partly of the changing perceptions and preferences of the people themselves.

As the diseased condition of one organic element in human body affects the normal functioning of the entire body, the health and wellbeing of a state also depends on proper functioning of its different organs, all inextricably interconnected with one another in providing and regulating the legal, political, economic and social
frameworks for an institutionalized governance based on rule of law, justice and equality. In our case, unfortunately, with the Founder’s early demise, Pakistan was orphaned in its very infancy. It lost the promise of a healthy youth with acute systemic deficiencies and normative perversities restricting its orderly natural growth. It went through politico-constitutional delinquencies and economic failures with no parallel anywhere in the world.

After the Quaid, Pakistan was left without any sense of direction and in a state of political bankruptcy and moral aridity. It started cutting itself into pieces, losing within less than quarter of a century, not only its own half but also the very rationale that had inspired its creation. The real Pakistan disappeared with its tragic dismemberment, and whatever was left has been converted into a land of political merry-go-round by its self-serving, corrupt and incompetent rulers. What an irony that a country which on its birth was considered a “twentieth century miracle” and which was created entirely through a democratic and constitutional struggle, should still be struggling for genuine democracy, social justice and equal rights for all.

Ours is the story of a society that has been going round and round in aimless circles for the last 67 years. Unsure of our future, we are still groping in the dark with one crisis after another and have yet to figure out a sense of common purpose for ourselves as a nation. Absence of real democracy, rule of law and good governance have been our continuing hallmark. The country has been engaged in a precarious struggle to define a national identity and evolve a political system for its ethnically and linguistically diverse population. Pakistan is known to have over twenty languages and nearly 300 distinct dialects. This diversity contributed to chronic regional tensions and provincial disharmony, thus impeding the process of nation-building.

Looking at the systems of other developed and developing countries, we find ourselves a unique example of a federation with almost no parallel anywhere in the world. Our present provincial set up has long been the cause of political instability. It has not only been fuelling misrule and corruption in the country but also aggravating sense of inequality and deprivation among the federating units. We are perhaps the only country in the world with provinces based on ethnicity and language. Also, no country, roughly equal to Pakistan’s geographical and population size has so few and so large provinces. In any unequal setup, no method of governance will work. There is a strong underlying resentment in Balochistan and in other smaller provinces against what is seen as continued “Punjabi dominance” and inequitable distribution of power and resources.

Our Constitution does not provide solution to the genuine concerns on the inequality of the size of provinces and lopsided sharing of political and economic power. Lately, there have been demands for more provinces on ethnic or linguistic grounds. If this trend were to continue, we would be left with a loosely-wired skeleton of a federation with self-serving disgruntled and corrupt politicians playing havoc with this country. It is a system designed for paralysis which we are already experiencing. The solution lies in separating governance from ethnic-linguistic considerations by replacing the present four provinces with as many new administratively-determined provinces as necessary with some balance in their geographical and population size.

Most of the large and medium size countries in the world are divided in small size provinces or states as administrative units. For example, China has 34 provinces, India 28 states and 7 union territories, Iran 30 provinces, Indonesia 33, Egypt 26, France 26, Germany16, Switzerland 26 Cantons, Nigeria 37, Philippines 80, Thailand 78, Turkey 81, UK 114 counties, and USA 50 states. By dividing our country into smaller administrative units as provinces, we would not only be eliminating the causes of regional acrimony and discontent but would also be ensuring effective and efficient governance through elected bodies at local and grassroots levels.

Also, given our pathetic performance in our political conduct and discipline since our independence, we, like most developing countries, are perhaps not yet fit for the parliamentary system. Britain struggled for centuries to reach its current parliamentary status. For us, it would be too long and too arduous a journey to be indefinitely chasing illusory goals. Temperamentally, we are a ‘presidential’ nation. It is time we abandoned the system that we have never been able to practice, and explored an adult franchise based ‘presidential system’ suitably designed for and tailored to Pakistan’s needs.

What in fact we need is the remaking of Pakistan as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam, free of ethnic and linguistic labels and sectarian, communal and regional disharmony. Our problem is that the overbearing elitist power structure in Pakistan is too deeply entrenched to let any systemic change take place. It doesn’t suit them. In the ongoing political crisis, we saw how politicians of all sorts, like birds of a feather, flocked together to save the status quo in which is rooted the deeply entrenched culture of power and privilege at the cost of common man’s wellbeing.

As a country and as a nation, at this critical juncture in our history we cannot leave ourselves to the vagaries of time or at the mercy of our corrupt and incompetent rulers. We can’t even innocently continue to believe that everything will be all right, magically or providentially. A wake-up call has already been given for a new Pakistan, loud and clear. Changing faces will not do, nor elections alone will make any difference. The system itself must change. The need for drastic change in our present anachronistic setup is urgent to get rid of the elitist-led status quo in our country. Reason, not self-serving emotion, should be our yardstick.

To avert the vicious cycle of known tragedies, we need a serious and purposeful national debate involving a holistic review of our entire governmental system. A high-powered national commission should be mandated to evolve the blueprint for a new Pakistan with time-bound political, economic, judicial, educational, administrative and land reforms.

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