5 Steps That Can Turn Pakistan Into A Roaring Success
To turn around Pakistan economically and socially there are only a few things that need to be done but the problem is that no one is willing to do it. I am going to list the 5 top things here which, if undertaken, will turn Pakistan into a roaring success within a few years. All of these are sine qua non and irreducible minimums.
Implementing Jinnah’s 11 August speech
First and foremost Pakistan needs to implement Jinnah’s 11 August speech in letter and spirit. The only founding principles that can work in the 21st Century are those that are based on complete equality of citizenship. There cannot be any distinctions on the basis of religion, caste, creed or gender. Jinnah’s 11 August speech is a living document- unlike our ossified constitution- which still has the answers to our problems.
The 11 August speech should become both the preamble and the substantive part of the Pakistani Constitution because a house divided cannot stand. What is keeping Pakistan backward and unable to realise its true potential is the constant religious and sectarian feuds over what ought to be in the final assessment a matter between man and god. Implement this and see Pakistan free itself from shackles of tyranny and bigotry. State must impose its writ and force Mullahs back into the mosque which is where they ought to be.
A modern state does not need a state religion. By all means keep the name but our decision to have a state religion in 1973 has not helped the country and has certainly not added to the glory of Islam. Similarly the office of the Prime Minister should be opened once again to all citizens and not just Muslims. Profession of one’s faith should be enough and there should be no religious tests of any kind.
We must revert to the position under the 1956 Constitution at the very least and it would be better if we simply rewrite the constitution should ensure that religion has nothing to do with the business of the state. You can call it secular or Islamic or whatever you wish to call it but there can never be any departure from the fundamental principle that a person’s religion is absolutely NO BUSINESS OF THE STATE. In Pakistan it seems that it is only the business of the state.
Equality for women
Having achieved one, the second issue should be creating an equal playing field for women in every sphere. The state should actively encourage full participation of women in national life. Pakistan was proudly the first Muslim country that elected a woman Prime Minister. Pakistan must lead the entire Muslim world in ensuring complete equality for women and that can only be achieved by having a uniform civil code.
If someone wants to divide their property according to their own understanding of Sharia let them opt out but the default position should be equal inheritance for men and women. It should also mean making it mandatory to have more women on corporate boards. By empowering 50 percent of your population, you will create a mighty economy that would be unassailable and unstoppable. The reason why we lag behind the world is because of our abysmal treatment of women. They should be active participants in the destiny of the nation and not left out in the cold. It also means giving them certain minimum standard freedoms, which are denied to them, often in the name of religion. This can no longer stand. You either exist in the modern world or you cease to exist. This would require us to crush misogyny and patriarchy once and for all. This also means that you give women autonomy over their own lives, the way they want to live it and the way they dress. For long the clergy in Pakistan has reduced religion to what women wear. This attitude must end if Pakistan is to progress as a nation state.
Fixing the legal system
UK updated its codes several times over the last 20 years alone. A complete overhaul of the legal system especially civil courts has to happen to ensure certainty for business and commerce. Lawyers who resist change must be rounded up and put in jail frankly, if need be. It is absolutely criminal what lawyers have been doing in Pakistan. It should be harder to become a lawyer and should be even harder to remain a lawyer vis a vis ethical standards. Lawyers and judges must be the conscience of the nation – the whistleblowers.
Letting CPEC truly become the jewel of OBOR
Right now CPEC is merely enriching China. The advantages to the Chinese economy of this route are limitless. Yet we should get out of it as well. In the final analysis Chinese influx into Pakistan is also good. If the OBOR idea works, it will connect the world in a way that has never been seen before. As Pakistanis we must let CPEC work wonders for us by allowing it to truly become the jewel of OBOR.
CPEC should go hand in hand with enhanced tourism and a more global outlook for our republic. That means doing away with any laws that hamper personal freedom, by making commercial codes easy and accessible and by creating free zones within the country. An immediate relaxation from the stricter laws on our books should be granted to cities like Gwadar and Islamabad.
CPEC can only do wonders if Pakistan also extends a greater measure of freedom of expression and speech. This means an end to all laws that go contrary to Pakistan’s obligations under the ICCPR and UNDHR. Once that is allowed the CPEC itself will become a hub of travel tourism commerce and industry. The entire world will come here.
Emphasising Pakistan’s cultural heritage
Promoting our culture is also of great importance. There should be an Alexander trail. Mohenjodaro Harappa and Taxila should become tourist havens. Lahore can be like the Istanbul of South Asia. Karachi can rival all the port cities of the world.
Pakistan has a unique amalgamation of Buddhist Hindu Islamic and Christian heritage which makes who we are today. Our temples churches mosques etc are monuments of our civilisation and culture. Then we have the magnificent Mughals also and the wonderful architecture the British left us. To appreciate all of this you have to go back to point one where it all starts.
Pakistan must be mindful of its history, culture, civilization and the meeting point it has historically been for various different kinds of people. Pakistan is not just for Muslims but for everybody. This means owning up not just to our Islamic past but also our Pre-Islamic past and our British heritage.
The fascinating crossroads of East and West is the real selling point of our state and our people. This is why the revival of festivals like Basant is of utmost importance. It should never become hostage to the whims of the orthodox.
If these 5 points are put in motion, there is no end to the progress Pakistan will make. What this means is that we will be in demand, and consequently our currency will be in demand. That means stronger rupee, more investment and actual inflow. Let our people be prosperous and stop putting our future on the line for your own archaic and anachronistic insecurities vis a vis religion.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.