Beyond cosmetic measures: Pakistan’s struggle for progress

In Local
March 27, 2024


Pakistan is undoubtedly entrenched in a relentless cycle where successive prime ministers bite the dust while powerful stakeholders emerge victorious, leaving citizens pondering who truly holds the reins of the nation and how authentic progress can ever be attained.

With each electoral cycle, the scene unfolds like a worn-out script: allegations of rigging, a perennial scapegoat party, as the race boils down to securing second, third, or fourth place in the poll results, with everyone knowing who holds the top position.

Reconciliation among the political parties seems to be a distant dream as, the experts noted, each one of them tries hard to be in the good books of the powerful circles. The experts say that some political parties’ lack of independent decision-making and overreliance on the powers that be keep putting the establishment in the driving seat.

The political parties’ past track record also shows that the anti-establishment narrative is pursued to exert enough pressure on the powerful quarters to be on their side. Perhaps, that is a reason why hardly anyone talks about the elephant in the room ever and believes in moving on when blessed with power.

When asked how political forces can mend broken trust, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob feels that this isn’t merely a matter of confidence but a profound examination of the establishment’s sway.

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The PILDAT chief believes that it is imperative to adhere to the constitutional principles for the genuine progress of the country. “It is not a question of trust,” Mehboob said, “It is a question of who rules the country.”

“The establishment has its own philosophy about why it is important for the country to be de facto ruled by them,” Mehboob shared, “Things will begin to improve only when the establishment decides to follow the constitution regarding who gets to do what.”

Prof Tahir Naeem Malik of the NUML University also emphasised that genuine progress can only be achieved when those in power commit to upholding the principles outlined within the constitutional framework. “There is a dire need to adhere to the constitutional limits to end the imbalance,” the professor said.

On the same-page mantra being dubbed as the key to success, Professor Malik while disagreeing with the notion said that it creates structural gaps and then things lead to impasse after working in a limited space after a certain period of time.

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“Cosmetic changes also disappoint people,” Professor Malik said, adding “It is time to sign a new social contract to tackle governance issues and to overcome issues in political and economic domains.” He emphasised that political parties should also reduce their overreliance on powerful stakeholders and try to build consensus among the political forces on key policy and governance issues.

Giving an example of a recent statement of Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar about the resumption of trade with India, Malik said that instead of issuing a statement out of the blue, the political forces should first debate on such issues and then take a step with consensus so that the change of government doesn’t affect such decisions.

In this case, he noted, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is a strong supporter of opening trade with India and Dar’s statement reflects Sharif’s approach but he is nowhere to be seen. Apparently, Malik said, Sharif is silent and has reduced himself to drawing room politics before and after the general elections, saying it hurts PML-N.

Urging to bring changes from the micro-to-macro level, Malik said that eliminating key figures from the equation and bringing in new teams might not work as effectively as is portrayed. He emphasised the inclusion of all the political forces in the process to achieve genuine and long-lasting progress.

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