Most often, I dream of an ideal situation where national unity prevails in nook and cranny of the state, and people, irrespective of their ethnic and lingual differences, collectively take part in building the national prestige; where citizens participate in decision-making processes with equity and display similar zeal and fervour for the development and progress of the nation. Haplessly, in our country, the stream is somewhat flowing in reverse as it has debarred the notions of prosperity and development from taking roots.
Today’s Pakistan is grossly divided along many fault lines, thus disparity prevails; on the one side of the road, there is lavish lifestyle, while on the other are slums (Kachi-abadis). Downtrodden and the oppressed segments of the society are to abide by the strictest rules but there are no rules for the upper class as they escape with impunity; even those who abrogate or subvert the constitution. The society stands divided between the haves and the have-nots; labourers and blue-collar workers put in all efforts while a huge chunk of the profits goes to the owners or rulers. This state of affairs has been responsible for the country’s being on the verge of social as well as moral collapse.
Interestingly, those who live in posh areas of the metropolises are unaware of plight of those who live on the other side of the fence. Rather, they think of the poor as if they were from an alien world, backward and ignorant of the developments in modern world—a sheer injustice though. The state has failed to deliver on every front; social, political, religious and economic. The rich are becoming richer and the poor, poorer. And the gap is still widening day by day. Almost 22.3 % of Pakistan’s population is living below the poverty line. The country is divided along the sectarian lines where some are Shiites and some are Sunnis, and the rest are dhimmis, and the minorities are being persecuted. The masses are endeavouring to fulfil their physiological needs which are the most basic ones, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. As they are mired in their basic issues of food and shelter, they remain unaware of their actual rights in a democratic society what Pakistan claims to be. People have all the power to influence government policies and make rulers accountable as the real power rests in them. For instance, people of the United Kingdom decided on 23rd June through a referendum that they did not want to stay in the EU and the government has bowed to the people’s verdict.
But, in Pakistan, our policymakers and those in the corridors of power are busy in pursuing their own vested interests and for this they don’t hesitate even from using the name of religion to exploit the religious sentiments of the masses. In order to have a deeper insight, it looks imperative to know both internal and external causes behind this imbroglio.
Internally, the education system we inherited from our colonial masters is still prevalent in length and breadth of the country. It must be upgraded to make it compatible with the demands of the modern times. Since an educated middle class plays a primal role in strengthening democratic norms and traditions, they must be given equal opportunities to grow and prosper, and play their due role in country’s political system. Free and fair public participation in the state affairs is inevitable to make a truly democratic polity flourish. The masses must be aware of their civic rights and that cannot be achieved unless militancy is curbed and social cohesion prevails in the country. Unfortunately, this sorry state of affairs clearly depicts the failure of our domestic and national polity.
On the external front, our foreign policy makers are groping in the dark as the country still doesn’t have a full-time foreign minister.
Our relations with neighbouring countries, barring China, are largely strained. In case of Afghanistan, since our policy of strategic depth has come to an end now, we must accept Afghanistan as an independent, sovereign state and establish friendly bilateral relations with it. Ashraf Ghani, at the start of his tenure, visited GHQ Rawalpindi; giving a hope that Pak-Afghan relations will now improve and flourish, but the situation seems altogether different now. Pakistan can overcome its economic woes by enhancing its trade relations with minerals-rich, landlocked CARs via a stable and friendly Afghanistan.
Coming to Iran, our growing energy needs could be met if we enhance our trade volume with Iran. For instance, Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline can provide a boost to our energy sector. We can also import electricity and crude oil from Iran but the ongoing tension in bilateral relationship is marring all the prospects.
According to Barry Buzan’s Regional Security Complex Theory, the future security threats and concerns do not travel over distances and threats are most likely to occur in the region. That demands regional compatibility with immediate neighbours by enhancing bilateral trade and people-to-people contacts. In this era of globalization and trade liberalization and of growing importance of soft power, we need to establish trade relations with our neighbouring countries.
For this very purpose, the direst need of the hour is to improve our local industry which is in shackles due to deteriorating law and order situation and power breakdowns. Our external debt has soared to $63.58 billion, our Forex reserves are diminishing and our exports have plummeted to $23.67 billion as compared to our growing imports; thus leading to a huge trade deficit. The ruling elite must put their heads together to address these issues before it’s too late.
China, indeed, has been an all-weather friend since the inception of bilateral trade in the aftermath of Sino-Indian war. The policymakers on both sides seem committed and sincere in their larger national interests. The recent episode of the CPEC and China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) vision, which connects more than a dozen countries across three continents, offers a unique opportunity for economic and infrastructure development of Pakistan. Both military and civilian leadership of the country seems to be on the same page regarding the CPEC but there are some impediments like lack of national cohesion and unity, extremism and terrorism, and external forces’ endeavours that sabotage the mega project. India-Iran-Afghanistan nexus and Indian investment in Chabahar project speak volumes about this fact.
Lastly, our India-obsessed foreign policy has gained a little in the recent years. All the outstanding issues like Kashmir, water-related issues, are still unresolved despite many efforts—both coercive and peaceful. The aforementioned woes have left the people bewildered, distressed and helpless. It is high time that we revised our internal as well as external policies and made them compatible with changing needs of regional and global politics and prevent the country from going into regional isolation.