Jun 192008

A dynamic government would have by now called a meeting of industrialists and big business-houses and discussed possibilities of assisting the government in finding ways and means of attracting trade and investment

Military rulers enjoying unchallenged power, many sycophants and the support of foreign powers fail to correctly read unfolding events. They contemptuously ignore good advice, become insensitive to the feelings of the nation and bring the country to the brink of a chasm.

Regrettably, the record of our civilian rulers has not been any better (except that they are legitimate and replaced relatively easier).

This time around, with democracy returning after a lapse of nearly nine years hopes were high that our leaders would have learnt their lesson. It was expected that PPP — with grass-root support and a federal character — would be better prepared to govern well and steer the country on the right course.

But as of now the government has yet to put its act together.

Meanwhile, lawyers supported by a wide cross section of the civil society and the PMLN have shown unshakable resolve to restore the judiciary. The Long March once again clearly demonstrated which side the people stood on. And if the PPP still decides to hold the matter in indefinite abeyance then it will being doing so at its own political peril.

In a society where there is no respect for the rule of law and the state is unable to protect the lives of its citizens, the citizens have no choice but to fall back on tribal, ethnic, sectarian and family links to seek protection.

Moreover, what is most worrisome is that if the current stalemate on the judiciary and the continuance of President Musharraf persists it would result in institutional paralysis and a dysfunctional government, signs of which are already showing.

There are serious problems that the country faces in the short term. It has to be protected against chaos and the growing power of the radical. The insurgency in Baluchistan has picked up a life of its own that needs to be addressed urgently. The economic crisis has to be overcome as well. The infrastructures of energy, transport and communication are in a dire state and need to be significantly improved. Besides, Pakistan’s long term interests demand high sustained economic growth (8 percent or above) if it is to combat poverty, hunger and militancy.

In these circumstances the coalition government has to fully focus on its primary task of governance. In fact, for the government to become relevant and gain public confidence it will have to reinvent itself and come out of its current siege mentality. It should re-define its role, policies and priorities and become the guarantor of social and economic justice, which is what Zulfiqar Bhutto had originally visualised. After all PPP is a political party with a history and credentials.

But it cannot live on residual social and political capital for too long. It has to revert to its original charter that demands it to be people-centric and more supportive of civil society.

Moreover, the government should create enabling conditions in which ordinary citizens can advance their legitimate aspirations. This would require giving high priority to education, agriculture, industry and the creation of physical and administrative infrastructure.

All past governments have tried to create an illusion of progress and made vague promises through exploitive use of state institutions, but ultimately it recoiled on them. Mere promises are no substitute for reforms and good governance. A dynamic government would have by now called a meeting of industrialists and big business-houses and discussed possibilities of assisting the government in finding ways and means of attracting trade and investment and enhancing productivity in the country.

It should have assembled academicians, professors and educationists to initiate measures to improve the public education system and give a clear signal to the nation that education is its top priority. Money has to be found for investment in our state education system as it is a prerequisite for development, improving the economy, achieving political stability and social cohesion and even combating radicalism.

The experience of different nations has clearly demonstrated that nothing electrifies a people more than education, because it generates hope in the society that the future of the coming generations, and by extension of the country, would be better and brighter.

By now the government, apart from other measures, should have actively involved religious leaders and scholars to support the fight against terrorism and militancy. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim countries have relied on their support and have been fairly successful in using their influence in reducing the level of religiously motivated violence.

Our government should have initiated steps to lighten the huge burden on masses of bureaucracy and red tape. Women, that constitute half our demographic strength, cannot be denied their legitimate social and economic rights any longer.

Similarly, the government should move on several other fronts, because governments are designed to deal with issues in parallel, provided there is resolve and capacity. There is no time to lose as events are moving fast both at the external and the domestic level.

No sector or agency of government, especially of developing countries like Pakistan, has the capacity to deal with multifarious problems. The government should involve the private sector in areas of health, education, environment, transportation, etc, to combine national resources for the common good.

However all this is possible only if the government revives the coalition partnership. It is therefore crucial that the judge’s issue is resolved soon and PMLN brought back in the cabinet. The government cannot be run efficiently with ministers holding multiple portfolios.

Although PPP has a few talented ministers they need to expand the cabinet by bringing a mix of experienced and new generation leadership from the parliament. And if Mr Zardari remains the party head only, then the prime minister should have full authority in executing his functions and he (Zardari) should be sought only on major policy issues.

The coalition has to reinvent itself and energise the nation by providing more opportunities to its citizens and working on a consensual program of reform and action. Otherwise political turmoil and instability will ensue.

The writer is a retired Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at talat@comsats.net.pk

Source: Daily Times, 19/6/2008

 Posted by at 5:52 pm

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