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CAN PAKISTAN BECOME A WELFARE STATE?

A welfare state is determined by the type of government. If the government provides all the services for the welfare or wellbeing of its citizens, then it can be called a welfare state. Such a government is a part of the lives of its people at every extent. It caters for the physical, material and social needs. The main objective of a welfare state is to essentially create social and economic equality and to ensure fair standards of living, fair access to justice, freedom of faith and speech and complete transparency in decision making of officials and executives.

Recent sit-ins at Islamabad have sparked a debate regarding the viability of the political state of Pakistan. That political economics plays a big part can be gauged from the history of Britain and Germany. In the 1920s these countries had notable intellectuals who gave the philosophical background to these two countries. For Britain, it was R. H. Tawney with his three books namely ‘Equality’, ‘Religion and the Rise of Capitalism’, and ‘The Acquisitive Society’; and for Germany it was Wilhelm Röpke with ‘A Humane Economy’. Both these countries were devastated by the Second World War and therefore were in dire straits. In other words, these two countries mobilized knowledge.

Broadly, there are two kinds of visionaries in any country; those who are constrained and those who are not. The constrained visionary is a status quo individual seeking no change while the unconstrained visionary is one willing to try new things to improve a country’s situation. Do we have the right mix of visionaries in this country? Knowledge that is given in articulate form but that is not implementable is of no use to any country. Neoliberal economics once was made to implement, but who will implement neoliberal politics? When we took directions from the West on neoliberal economics, we were doomed for we did not use our intellect. Now we will be doing the same in neoliberal politics.

What is the democratic and political intellect in Pakistan or in any of the developing countries? The message that is coming out of our current political system is vague and not of any substantive indication. It is true that PML-N is at the helm for the third time. Does experience matter? Is politics then based on experience? The logic of life is experience!!!

No, do remember that governance each time is a new ball game, and in this modern world, every day is a new day. Nawaz Sharif has never been able to complete his term of office as PM. Was it the moral limitations that the PML-N leaders couldn’t cash in on their experience, for their system of governance is again under threat by the protests in the capital? Do moral limitations matter in matters of state? Given the current state of the country and the morality imposed by the media, there is no other way out than to be moral in dealing with the people of the country. Are these radical infirmities ought to be ignored? But we should have come of age politically and with all the infirmities that we have if only we had not lived in a world of denial and its flip side of egocentric politics. But all that is history.

This uncertainty will hit economics for sure and the macro figures in a tottering economy are not all that fabulous. The Islamabad version was that no demonstration will be allowed in the state buildings; i.e. Parliament, PM office, etc. Buildings do not constitute the culture of state; it is the people within those who determine the effectiveness of the institutions. So, the leadership gives it the reputation that it enjoys. Name one intellect in the parliament who can hold his own intellectuality. They articulate and delve in verbosity. Presently, ministers or members of parliament don’t do any intellectual work and as a result PML-N is entirely dependent on the bureaucracy and its loyalty to them. For this, they have brought with them bureaucrats from Punjab where they had been, and are still, in power. Now the difference between Punjab province and Federation work is that the provincial bureaucrats have just not graduated in official work at the Centre. They are still what Americans will call ‘lean shanks’. Loyalty is not to the individuals per se but to the state. So the human contrivances are lacking and the will to censor wrong orders from correct ones is still wanted for. Do the ill propensities outdo the good ones?

If the elected government loses out in fourteen months — despite tall claims to experience — then there is something inherently wrong in the intellect of this country. Can the political system prefer such people so shamelessly and blindly over others who are more deserving, more capable and more talented? There has to be a moral audit of the system in terms of cronyism and in terms of appointments based on caste and creed. The inefficiencies that they germinate are responsible for most of our dilemmas. Inefficiencies multiply and the governance system becomes unworkable. Politicians must sacrifice their own interests for the larger good of the community because it has led to soaring inflation, rising unemployment and pathetic financial management. But these things do not hurt one as much as the destruction of moral values. The role of the ministers has been despicable. TV talk shows are a testimony to verbal garbage thrown at opponents.
Pakistan’s law of damages is weak and incomprehensible and there is no law of torts. The legislative body is unable to legislate. This status quo has to be measured against the unconstrained persons in society that do not take anything for given and feel that there can be improvement all the way. Nothing is absolute but the stagnant mind of the policymaker.

We, the Pakistanis, have come to a sorry state by not doing our own work. The West has made us dependent. The eastern wisdom that we work on our terms is now being used by our policymakers just as they used the western systems. Dependent on the left as well as the right and this leaves me with the thought – can we ever get rid of our egocentric system and prefer the rights of the poor and others to our own luxuries? Are we corrupted by prejudices, artificial passions and social customs? Can we work out our own issues and bring them to the principles of policy?

Pakistan has a long haul and this is in all fields. Complacency and our inabilities to conceptualize for the long term may be a factor.

By:Dr Zafar Altaf

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