Why Is Pakistan Moving Towards A Failed State? Drastic Structural Reforms Are Required – OpEd

During the Second World War, the allied powers of the US, former Soviet Union, Great Britain, Germany, and France, being eminent winners in the war, laid the foundation of the United Nations and made international arrangements at the end of colonialism. Consequently, post-colonial nations emerged, and geographical boundaries were drawn for political and economic reasons to protect their interests in a future global order. Pakistan is one of those nation-states in post-colonial nationhood.

Within the geographical confines of a nation-state, people develop certain political and economic behaviours based on the institutions they develop for political governance and economic distribution. Almost all decolonizing nations started their political and economic journeys in a relatively similar state of affairs, but over the years they landed in different political and economic situations. Some become developed, few in developing stage, several remained underdeveloped and small numbers are gradually moving toward default or failed states and Pakistan is one of the them. Once we saw the separation of east wing in 1971 debacle, we are now again engulfed in the same situation.

The newly born states depending upon the political choices made by their founding fathers and leaders, with or without the acquiescence of the citizens, some of the nations, like South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, India, etc., and now Bangladesh, evolved strong economies and functioning democracies while others did not, and Pakistan is one of those countries. Some of these postcolonial states have emerged as leading economies in the world outside the Global North, while others, particularly Pakistan, have since begun to function as satellite nations and peripheral clients of global economic and political giants led by the US. These postcolonial states, including Pakistan, could neither develop strong institutions, good governance, a sound economy, nor functional democracies, and they are some of the lowest-ranked nations on the Human Development Index.

Pakistan, being a postcolonial state, embarrassed by geo strategic location and immense natural resources coupled with bulge of young population must essentially have a unified political and economic agenda to counter the challenges facing them on internal and external fronts, particularly from their former colonial masters, and evaluate a political and economic system to adjust their interests in the neo-colonial era. Ironically, the idea of protecting indigenousness against outsiders could only help protect the interests of the local elites in most cases. In our case, the local elites, in turn, unfortunately failed to provide leadership in providing a stable political system advancing the economic development and democratic transition of the postcolonial state into a modern democratic and viable state but unfortunately after 75 years of a long journey, they have turned the country into a failed state.

Pakistan is one of those lowest-ranked postcolonial nations on all fronts, where strong personalities, self-proclaimed messianic and patriotic so-called leaders, and the actions of individuals rather than strong institutions set the tone of the national debate on politics, justice, and economy. From the judiciary to the executive and parliament, all state institutions have been subservient to an unaccountable, powerful establishment since the beginning, though the establishment admitted its past mistakes and recent claims being apolitical.

Our political and economic journey since creation till now has experienced various brands of governance systems, from democratic to authoritarian, from parliamentary to presidential, from hybrid to judicial control, but none have provided good to the public or kept the country integrated; rather, they have resulted in the worst economic meltdown and unprecedented political and judicial crises. In fact the country has been turned into a hell for the people.

In a state of such a moral vacuum, all we have produced for the last 75 years are demagogues and so-called leaders who believe in preaching more than practising good. The demagogues of faith and ideology are out there crying for justice of their own choosing at the cost of institutional sanctity. The leadership, both civil and military, calls for respecting the constitution, following the rule of law, and being fair and honest in practise, but in fact they do the opposite. This hysterical state of mind is a reflection of the fact that we, as a nation, have only been the recipients rather than the architects of our destiny as a robust nation to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Nationhood is all about the collective aspirations and common goals of citizens based on justice, fair play, and inclusiveness, and it is certainly not about fear, exploitation, suppression, exclusion, and plundering as the Punjab-dominated elite class is doing with smaller nationalities and vulnerable communities. It is about justice and democracy, which go side by side, beyond the whims of power and beyond surprises and unpredictability.

The process of building a stable nation lies in the engagement, inclusiveness, and co-creation of a unified value system, principles of good governance, modern education, a modern health system, and ideals of grass-roots national happiness. It is about the constructive process of learning from the past and improving the future, and ultimately, it is about economy, democracy, and inclusivity.

We with a colonial legacy need political consensus, a system free from colonial mindsets, and a level of commitment and cooperation between our quarrelsome politicians. The Charter of Democracy is a model, and on similar lines, all major and smaller political parties of all shades can re-initiate dialogue to decide on a new social contract, political engagement, drastic institutional reforms, and strengthening parliament.

The political parties should decide to reform their political structures, make them democratic and inclusive, and resolve all their differences. Rather than calling upon or relying on the establishment to ensure their presence in power, as we have witnessed in the past, particularly in recent past, the ousting of Nawaz Sharif’s from the government and the installation of Imran Khan in power through political engineering by the military establishment in 2018.

Mian Nawaz Sharif is himself an architect of the Charter of Democracy, along with the late Benazir Bhutto. And who knows the cost of democracy better than Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari? Imran Khan should take this initiative. The nationalists and religious parties should play their roles in building a political consensus; otherwise, political forces will be the losers and undemocratic forces will be calling the shots again. At this critical moment, dialogue among parties is essential, but the state and society also need a charter to change the national outlook, which should be moderate and acceptable, not for the world but for people. That will make this country a place where the weak feel safe and the strong do not abuse their power on the basis of religion or numerical strength.

Cosmetic changes to the system, as we have been doing since the beginning, won’t address Pakistan’s dysfunction, its internal political, economic, and judicial impasse, or its external challenges. Fresh ideas and a new direction are needed to replace the abundance of rhetoric about false identity and nationhood. Pakistan needs well informed citizenry to keep checks and balances on their both civil and military leadership. That is only possible through modern education instead of faith based dogmas and rhetorics, which are ingrained in the minds of our youths since beginning.

My conclusion is that what Pakistan needs is a legitimate political authority that can redirect our national institutions, both civil and military, towards the welfare of the masses and the security of the country with out overlapping and intimidating each other. This central authority should be able to enforce the rule of law across the board, and this could be achieved through free, fair, impartial, and uninterrupted elections, just accountability, continuity in the system, and respect for the constitution, parliament, and parliamentary form of governance.The time is ripe; we, as a post-colonial young nation, must learn from our past folly and stand up for a new start with full consensus for a political commitment to rebuild this country from its own debris rather than from borrowed bricks.