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Solutions of the Challenges faced by Pakistan in 21st Century

A rapidly growing population, along with political tensions,both internal and external, and an economy trapped in a cycle of debt, all serve to prevent Pakistan from attaining the progress it needs to advance and perhaps to survive.

Pakistan suffers from a number of social, political, and economic problems.  With a population roughly half that of the US, in an area slightly less than the size of two California’s, Pakistan is experiencing unwanted growth.  While projections indicate that the population growth rate of Pakistan may actually be decreasing, those same projections also predict that by the year 2050 Pakistan will have assumed its place as the third most populated nation in the world.  A rapidly growing population, along with political tensions, both internal and external, and an economy trapped in a cycle of debt, all serve to prevent Pakistan from attaining the progress it needs to advance, and perhaps to survive. Some of the major problems faced today by Pakistan as a country are:

Economic Crisis

The real issue of our economy is to achieve higher productivity and to strengthen and develop the infrastructure. For this purpose the foremost need is to restore the confidence of our businessmen, cultivators and industrialists to engage them in product processes. In the past, various governments made some efforts to build up infrastructure and productive potential of the economy. It was started by launching a six years Development Programme in 1951. The plan was suspended two years before its completion due to the repercussions of the Korean War. Besides this plan, five other development plans were also drawn up but none proved to be successful due to economic, social, cultural and administrative obstacles.

Political stability of the country is the basic requirement of economic stability. In Pakistan, since its inception, there have been rapid changes of governments. Each government which came to power condemned the planning work done by the previous regime. They introduced their plans, formulated their strategies of development and left the chain without achieving the targets of their plans.

Exports are the backbone of economy of any country. The government and private sectors should try to explore new markets for exporting Pakistani goods. The export base should also be broadened by exporting software handicrafts, fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, livestock and flowers, etc. Suitable arrangements for processing or packaging of fish, fruits and vegetables should be made.

The construction of deep sea port at Gwadar and its connection to the rest of the country should be taken up at the earliest to facilitate exports from Balochistan, to provide transit for trade of Central Asian States and to get suitable share in international trade, making use of ideal geographical location of Gwadar.

Pakistan is by and large an agricultural country and its economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Due attention has to be given to this sector, so that we are not only self-sufficient in agri products, but also new dams should be constructed to increase availability of water for irrigation purposes, as irrigation water has a vital importance for better agricultural production.

Failure of democracy

Democracy in Pakistan can work but not under the system of government which is barely at a normal functioning level. First and foremost, a swift transition must take place from a purely military-led government to one where its presence is a less dominant. The next move by who ever comes to power and the rest of the opposition should be to review and change the current system to one that is more adept to the type of democracy that the people of Pakistan want in the future.

The role of the military has to be gradually brought to the level of nil direct interference or rule. The judiciary and legislative body of the government have to be allowed to function at a normal level. The military’s interference represents inefficiency of the system and therefore the most visible reason for drastic change to prevent any further chaos from breaking out.

There is a crying need for division of power among the three estates of the state, i.e. the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature. The fourth estate, i.e. the print and electronic media, should play a constructive role to inculcate patriotism and create public awareness about democracy. It should also extend its helping hand to other three estates of the state in resolving national issues instead of further complicating them for selfish interests. The army, the bureaucracy and the politicians should play their national role in strengthening the foundation of democracy.

Poverty

Poverty has emerged as one of the most important issues of Pakistan. Poverty redressal requires economic growth accompanied by an improvement in access to social services. Economic growth and social sector development are interdependent, as one reinforces the other. In fact economic growth is necessary for poverty reduction but poverty reduction itself is necessary for sustained growth.

National economic development is central to success in poverty alleviation. But poverty is an outcome of more than economic processes. It is an outcome of economic, social and political processes. To attack poverty requires action at local, national and global levels. Growth is essential for expanding economic opportunities for the poor. The question is how to achieve rapid, sustainable and pro-poor growth. A business environment conducive to private investment and technological innovation is necessary, as is political and social stability to invite public and private investments.

The poor should be empowered in the true sense. Empowerment means enhancing the capacity of the poor to influence the state’s institutions that affect their lives by strengthening their participation in political process and local decision-making. It also means removing the political, legal and social barriers that work against particular groups and building the assets of the poor to enable them to engage effectively in markets.

The government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to promote pro-poor economic growth and reduce poverty. The main elements of reforms are devolution of power at the grassroots level, civil services reforms, access to justice and financial transparency.

Overpopulation, Inflation, Unemployment

The dragon of population has become a serious threat for the prosperity of our country. Now the time has come that if we want to make Pakistan a state where integrity, solidarity and prosperity will be all around, then we should not leave no stone unturned in reducing the population growth rate.

Late age marriages should be encouraged and the early age marriages should be condemned very seriously. This will prove very useful because the early age marriages usually give rise to large families. The services of ulema should be utilised in order to convince the people that family planning programmes are not against the Islamic values. The electronic media should also be utilised. The advertisements through television might convey the message very easily.

Government should make efforts to push the economic growth process. For this, an economic revival package should be announced for the industrial sector to encourage investment and production. Exports should be increased by broadening the tax base and reducing tariffs. With a view to reducing unemployment, self-employment schemes should be encouraged and supported.

Controlling inflation is very important as an unrestrained increase in the prices is not healthy and sound for the overall growth of the country. Inflation can be controlled by a number of means like, reducing government expenditure, decreasing government borrowing, increasing the rates of direct taxes and raising the interest rates on borrowings, etc.

Illiteracy

Human capital is an important asset and its development is vital for sustained economic progress. Literacy level is an important indicator of human development. Pakistan’s case in this regard is far from satisfactory. It lags behind even among the developing countries. In addition, there exists large disparities in literacy rates across various regions of the country. Various steps have been taken by government to identify the areas which are still lagging behind other parts of the country in terms of literacy levels and are unable to play their role in the development of human capital of the country.
Government should make efforts to push the economic growth process. For this, an economic revival package should be announced for the industrial sector to encourage investment and production.
Some of the measures that can prove to be useful are:
  1. Availability of physical facilities (sheer existence of schools or sufficient numbers of classrooms, correlated with the adequate number of teachers.
  2. Increasing youth literacy through formal schooling and non-formal education.
  3. Rightly using the funds given by foreign donor financial institution. Government should ensure check and balance in usage of these funds for right purpose.
  4. Non-formal education for young adults and the workforce.
  5. From policy to action: Implementing the strategies: the government should implement the policies and strategies. For this purpose, the policy makers should make partnerships with UN and other international organisations and seek help from them.
  6. The political parties of Pakistan should take this as a serious issue and take instrumental steps to increase the literacy rate if Pakistan aims to progress in real terms.
  7. Universal free education as mentioned in the Constitution.
  8. Pakistan’s universities produce students with degrees but they have low skills regarding human capital and practical work.
  9. Continuation of policies is very important. The main problem with us is that either we do not make long-term policies or we do not continue them. A good long-term policy, if allowed to work, can alone make a huge difference.

    Ethnic crisis
    Ethnicism is not a peculiar phenomenon. It is a trend finding its full bloom and expression in both the advance and the developing countries. As far as the case of Pakistan is concerned, a comprehensive plans need to be devised to bring ethnic politics within the force of main stream politics. Sustained efforts should be made to cultivate faith in the constitutional means for the redress of grievances and fulfillment of basic genuine demands at a large scale.

    There should be frequent exchange of students of high academic calibre between provinces to provide opportunities to promote friendship and understanding between local and educated young ones. They may be brought back to the track by providing the skilled education and granting small loans for their self- employment.

    The devolution of power plan is a real effort to minimise the ethnicity in the country. By giving the power to the people where it actually belongs, well being, stability and unity of the nation will be enhanced. It may help the government in strengthening the federation, removing disharmony and restoring national cohesion.

    Terrorism and religious extremism
    There is a dire need to root out extremism and fundamentalism that pose a threat to the sustainability and stability of Pakistan. At this stage of economic turnaround, the country needs to focus on its socio-economic developmental activities.

    Terrorism alone has caused the greatest financial damage to Pakistan, both because Pakistan is spending huge amount of money on war against terrorism and also because it has lost many of its existing and potential markets. Tourism industry has suffered greatly due to the security concerns of foreign tourists. Efforts should be made to create a secure environment so that Pakistan is labelled as ‘safe haven for tourists’ not terrorists.

In the circumstances, one may ask that what is the possible way out of this quagmire? No doubt, this is an important question and for a better future, the country needs to focus on the following:

  1. Moderation in society.
  2. Minimum standards be set and enforced for religious authorship and orator ship.
  3. The controversial literature of all schools causing hurt, desecration and fuelling fire should be banned once and for all.
  4. Religious dictums should be issued under a license from the government and not by any private board or wafaq (charity).
  5. New mosques shall be built with the approval of the government and the local populace.
  6. Education in Madrassas should be mainstreamed.
  7. Technical and vocational training for Imam, Muazzan and Khudam of the mosque and Imambargahs.
  8. Gradual affiliation of the madrassas with government universities and colleges.
  9. Community councils for religious madrassas.
  10. Ban on inheritance in the stewardship of mosques and madrassas.
  11. Emphasis on essence of principles of Islam in daily life rather than lip-service without substances.
  12. General spread of customary education by making it more productive relevant and result-oriented.
  13. Provisions of speedy justice to deny allurement to private courts established by the extremists.
  14. Promotion of cultural activities and fine arts.
  15. Encouragement of female education and female participation in all walks of life.
  16. Promotion of consensus-based finding of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
  17. Immediate closure of all madrassas associated with banned militant organisations.
  18. Media has to take a very responsible position and assume a very enlightened role.
    By: Dr Najam us Sahar Butt (CSP)

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