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Impossible To Make Pakistan An Asian Tiger Without Implementing 18th Amendment In Letter And Spirit

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In this article, Muhammad Ziauddin explains why Pakistan cannot be compared with any of the Asian Tigers that we so want to emulate. He argues that acknowledging the country’s diversity is the key to fixing what has gone wrong during the last 71 years and implementing the 18th amendment in its letter and spirit as a first step could be a good beginning.

“If the country can make the right decisions now, Pakistan can accelerate and sustain growth to become a confident upper middle-income by the time it turns 100. It’s ambitious, but possible. Other countries — South Korea, China, and Malaysia — have transformed their economies within a generation, and there is no reason why Pakistan cannot achieve the same.”

In an article published on Monday (March 18) in Dawn (Shaping a brighter future for Pakistan by World Bank staffer, Illango Patchamuthu) the author reminds Pakistanis once again that their country could also be a South Korea, a China, a Malaysia if it is managed, presumably as per the advice formulated by the infamous Washington Consensus.

The article is based on a recent World Bank report which takes a deep look at what Pakistan needs to do to have a better future for its people by 2047, a full ­century after the country’s birth.

The fact of the matter is, all these 71 years we have been doing exactly what the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank have been advising us to do with funds as well from these three multilateral institutions. But look at the result. More of the same is not likely to turn Pakistan into an Asian Tiger by 2047, the country’s centenary year.

Indeed, did we ever try to find out the reasons why the very first five-year plan authored by Pakistan succeeded in South Korea but failed miserably in Pakistan? There is, of course, no authentic work identifying the reasons that actually contributed to the plan’s failure in one country and its success in the other.

Not only that. Since the mid-1980s successive governments in Pakistan have been promising to emulate the Asian Tigers but could never accomplish the miracle. The most favourite of our ruling elite among the pack of Asian Tigers have been South Korea, China and Malaysia.

Mahathir’s Malaysia where only ethnic Malays are recognized by the country’s constitution as first class citizens has once again become one of the countries that we would like to emulate besides South Korea where American troops are stationed since the Korean war of the 1960s and which had remained a sweat shop of the developed first world for more than two decades. The city state Singapore is also mentioned occasionally as an example for Pakistan to follow. But China takes the cake.

Since about the late 1990s when Deng Xiaoping’s reforms (under the framework based on the principle of ‘from cradle to grave’) started bearing fruit in mainland China, successive governments in Islamabad have been talking about turning Pakistan into a virtual China.

Remodeling Pakistan on the lines of any of these economically highly successful countries has always been our ruling elite’s favourite mantra. Even most of us in the media as well would occasionally write articles wondering why Pakistan cannot be a Malaysia, a Hong Kong, a South Korea, a China, a Turkey or any of the other such successful economies.

What we always ignore while talking about emulating an economically successful country of the day is the political, social, cultural and economic uniqueness of Pakistan which sets it apart in a lot of meaningful ways from countries that we look upon to emulate.

This is not to say that Pakistan is condemned to permanent backwardness because of this uniqueness. What is being attempted here is to show that with the peculiarities that flow from this uniqueness it cannot become any of the countries we wish to emulate but can still strike out its own unique path to progress and prosperity.

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But then to achieve the desired success on this front not only do we need to recognise these peculiarities but we need also to accept them as such and own them without any reservations. This is the only way we can achieve unity out of our federation’s peculiar diversities.

Pakistan is a federation composed of four distinct units plus two additional ones, which are still out of the purview of our constitution. Each one of these units has its own distinct features. Each is ethnically different from the rest and each has its own distinct mother tongue.

Our national language, Urdu, is not the mother tongue of our nation. The language of our rulers is English (official language) while it is not the lingua franca of the ruled. Culturally too, these units differ from each other in many ways.

One of the federating units is larger population-wise than the rest of the three units put together and another one is larger in size than the three put together. Economically the more populace province, Punjab is relatively richer and more advanced than the other three units. The one larger in size, Balochistan is poorest of the four and relatively less advanced.

Of course, Pakistan is overwhelmingly Muslim majority country. But then in this context as well Pakistan is five countries in one. Part of it is Saudi Arabia, part Iran, part Turkey, part Afghanistan and part India. Adding to the peculiarities is the ongoing tug of war among various schools of Islamic thought. The majority of Pakistanis belongs to the Sunni school of thought. Those who subscribe to the Shia school of thought are also in good numbers. And above all, all these 71 years Pakistan has remained essentially a security state.

It is because of these diversities in our society that our successive governments have failed to redesign Pakistan’s economy on the lines that had led to the success of all those countries we had wanted to emulate.

And it is because of the failure of our ruling elite to recognise these diversities and accept them as such that those who have been ruling this country since independence have continued to keep looking at Pakistan as a unitary state made up of one unified Muslim nation. That is why all our socio-economic plans, short-or medium-or long-term, were designed for such a country all through the last 71 years and not for one with all its inherent peculiarities and diversities.

Obviously, we cannot turn the clock back to correct our mistake, if it was really a mistake to view Pakistan as a unitary state or perhaps a federation of a nation having a single culture, single language and single ethnicity. Instead it is to the future that we should be looking at now; asking ourselves some searching questions about the kind of state Pakistan is in reality.

Answers to these questions would perhaps allow us to come out of our denial mode, if it was really a denial mode that we were in all these 71 years and start looking at Pakistan for what it really is. Of course, there are a number of countries in the world that possess more challenging diversities than does Pakistan. In Asia, we have India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China in the same class.

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India is perhaps one country with the most diversities and peculiarities. It is more complex than the other three. China being a one-Party socialist country has managed to dissolve its diversities into a crucible, to a large extent.

India, on the other hand has managed these diversities and peculiarities by recognising and accepting them as such very early in the day; and then it has used liberal democracy to allow all its states to develop on their own, each focusing on its comparative socio-economic and cultural advantages.

Lately, India under what appears to be the BJP politics seems to have gone into reverse gear trying perhaps futilely to create a unitary whole using the religious card—the Hindutva. Alas, it is perhaps trying to walk back the road which we had traversed all these past 71 years!

Pakistan can overcome its diversity challenges and strike out a path to a unified progress by first incorporating in its letter and spirit the 18th Constitutional amendment.

However, some influential elements in the country which seem to be still suffering from the colonial mindset believe that giving political and financial autonomy to provinces which they believe are not yet capable of shouldering increased responsibilities would lead to financial chaos, economic instability and wastage of limited resources.

Some of these elements seem even to believe that ‘granting’ full autonomy to the provinces would eventually lead to fragmentation of the country.

These elements perhaps fear that the smaller provinces would use the 18th amendment to drift away from the federation, not realising that it was because they were being ruled all these years as colonies from Islamabad, negating the spirit of federalism that the three smaller provinces today seem to be suffering from a massive dose of disillusionment with the federation itself. And that is also why East Pakistan is Bangladesh today.

The reluctance of these elements and the apprehensions of influential political elements have made it almost impossible to draft and pass in time, relevant subordinate legislations both in parliament and the respective provincial assemblies to move ahead on the game-changing 18th constitutional amendment.

This particular amendment renders redundant a number of federal ministries while increasing the administrative responsibilities of the provinces in equal measure. But the federal government is yet to abolish the redundant ministries and the provinces are yet to receive the administrative powers that the amendment has mandated.

It is only when we are able to liberate the provinces from the clutches of a Centre that is still in the grip of a colonial mind-set and the local governments are set free from the controls of the provincial head-quarters that fear losing political hegemony over traditional and dynastic politics that we could unleash the creative forces in each of the four federating units to start with to be followed by AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan in due course of time which in turn would surely lead Pakistan on to the path of genuine socio-economic progress and prosperity.

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