A golden opportunity-By Dr Mubashir Hasan

THE rule of our civil and military services under the titular leadership of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the 1990s and that of Gen Pervez Musharraf who succeeded them has brought Pakistan to the brink of a cave-in.

Civil war conditions obtain in Fata and parts of the NWFP. ‘Nationalists’ in Balochistan are up in arms against Islamabad. Sabotage attacks against electricity pylons, gas pipelines, railway tracks, police and military vehicles are common all over the country. Bombers have taken a heavy toll on civilians and security personnel alike. No one feels safe. It is a frightening situation for any state to be in.

The economy is tottering. Inflation and unemployment are out of control. There is acute shortage of electricity and gas and the prices of food and transportation are rocketing sky-high. The value of the Pakistani rupee is falling dangerously and there has been a huge flight of capital from the country. One hundred and sixty million souls yearn for adequate food supplies, potable drinking water, basic healthcare and education. Hardly any social contract remains between the state and the people.

The grave national situation looks graver when one realises that Pakistan is the main battleground of a world war raging between the United States and its allies on the one side and Al Qaeda and an assortment of militant groups on the other. It is a hot war. Both sides are going for the kill. The war has chillingly disturbed peace in Pakistan.

The United States is trying to maintain its post-Second World War imperial neocolonial role by waging a conflict. The failure to win a victory and the taste of defeat is no deterrence for the superpower. It did not win in Korea, Vietnam and in the two wars in Iraq. In Afghanistan it declared victory but had to come back reinforced with Nato detachments. But it cannot abandon the fight because as Noam Chomsky correctly diagnoses the US is waging not a war on terror but a war of terror.

The US is keen to achieve domination over strategically and economically important territories like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Towards that end it wishes to rely on governance through pliant ‘democratic’ regimes and economies in the hands of the private sector. This policy introduced by President Ronald Reagan has manifestly failed.Columbia University’s Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics, observes: “The world has not been kind to neo-liberalism, that grab-bag of ideas based on the fundamentalist notion that markets are self-correcting, allocate resources efficiently and serve the public interest well.

“Neo-liberal market fundamentalism was always a political doctrine serving certain interests. It was never supported by economic theory. Nor, it should now be clear, is it supported by historical experience. Learning this lesson may be the silver lining in the cloud now overhanging the global economy.”

Thanks to our ruling elites and their neocon patrons, Pakistan is now landed with a disastrous economic doctrine and a fragile ‘democratic’ dispensation, the latter headed by cliques imported from exile through enacting laws which bestow on them reprieves and pardons. They have reputations of gross corruption and crimes. They command neither respect nor support among the masses, so essential for good governance.

Looked at from the point of view of Pakistanis who have suffered political oppression and economic deprivation for the last 60 years, the situation offers a golden opportunity. The people must reorganise themselves politically as the present system of governing Pakistan is afflicted with political autoimmune deficiency. It is incurable in its present state. The state needs restructuring.

The four provinces and Fata should decide what powers and authority they would like to bestow on the federal government. In a new social contract the people should restructure the government at three levels — citizens, provincial and federal. What political and economic power can be exercised at a smaller population level should not be decided and implemented by the body of an area with a larger population.

The citizens’ government at the level of a village or cluster of villages or tribes should have the jurisdiction and authority for the protection of person and property of the people, the management of local policing and the organisation of citizens’ courts for criminal offences. The citizens’ government at the level of tehsils and talukas should have its own administration to maintain land records, adjudicate on questions such as those presently dealt with by the revenue officials of tehsils and talukas. It should also have its own civil courts.

The provinces should exercise power over all matters not specified in the jurisdiction of the federal and citizens’ governments. The principal responsibility of the provincial governments should be to legislate for the governance of the provinces.

If so proposed by the provinces and Fata, the authority of the federal government may be limited to external affairs, defence, communications, currency, the State Bank, import, export, holding of elections, nationality and immigration, and collection of income tax and customs duties. Money bills should be passed by the Senate as well. The National Economic Council and National Finance and Planning Commissions should be abolished. High court judges should be appointed by the provinces. The power of the president to issue a proclamation of emergency should be limited to the time when there is a threat of war or external aggression.

The new structure of state should guarantee all citizens facilities for work and adequate livelihood; provide for the social security of the entire working population through compulsory social insurance or other means; provide basic necessities of life to the people, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical care irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race; and reduce disparity in the incomes of individuals.

The guarantee for the emergence of a sovereign Pakistan lies in its healthy relations with the countries of South and South-West Asia. The defence of Pakistan should be ensured through strategies and policies which are not largely dependent upon defence-related agreements signed with the United States.

The economy of Pakistan needs to be rescued from the trap created by liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Operating along with the private sector, the public sector needs to be revived in several fields such as electricity and other forms of energy, communications, water supplies and housing for the poor, food distribution and buffer stocks. The vestiges of feudalism should be removed through land reforms and other measures.

The working classes desperately need laws to strengthen unions to achieve common important goals such as improving wages, hours and rules of work, procedures for registering complaints against working conditions, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, and regulations in respect of benefits and unionising of labour.

mh1@lhr.comsats.net.pk

Source: Daily Dawn, 9/8/2008

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