How we reached where we are

The case for proportional representation

Presently Pakistan is wading through the worst ever period in its 76-year history. The prevailing situation is a cumulative effect of the continuation of an exploitative system of governance with in-built avenues of corruption which has worked to serve the interests of the elite classes at the expense of the poor masses.

Politics has become an industry where the people belonging to the elitist classes invest to multiply their fortunes while the poor bear the brunt of their devious machinations. Name any evil in the social, political and economic domain; these classes are responsible for it. Consequently the country is actually ruled by different mafias enjoying unchallenged influence in manipulating markets and having strong clout in running the state affairs.

Hereditary politics, a culture of political vendetta, the decisions given by some pliable and corrupt judges at different junctures of our history and detestable machinations of the politicians that warranted repeated military interventions have also immensely contributed to how we reached where we are at the moment. The economy is in complete shambles, making the lives of the people extremely miserable.

While I have full sympathy for the suffering masses I honestly feel that there is no quick-fix solution to their miseries. Those crying from every convenient roof-top to hold the interim government responsible for the repeated enhancement in the rates of petroleum products, electricity and gas are actually the people who are responsible for the situation obtaining because they signed the agreement with the IMF in this regard.

The interim government is fulfilling obligations from which there is no escape. It is only there for holding free and fair elections in the country. So any major decisions required to winch the country out of the current economic quagmire will have to be taken by the next elected government.

Some elements are also trying to incite people to come out on the streets to launch an agitation against the government for frequent increases in the utility prices. They are actually trying to misguide the people and want to exploit the feelings of the masses for their political agendas. That is crass politics.

The people need to understand that agitation is not going to fix things. It would rather add to the difficulties that the country is confronted with at the moment. More than anything else, the country needs peace and political stability to create an enabling and conducive environment for revival of the economy.

People need to show patience and support the initiatives taken by the Army leadership to rectify the maladies afflicting the economy and the social fibre. Miracles do not happen in the economic domain. Improvement in the economy surely has a time-lag

It will take some time to reverse the situation provided an honest effort is made to identify and rectify the maladies afflicting our polity and social fibre which are having a debilitating impact on kickstarting economic recovery and changing the economic profile of the masses.

However, in the perevaiing situation, it is encouraging to note that the Pakistan Army has taken centre stage in reviving the economy on war footing and also eliminating mafias and corruption wherever it exists. The establishment of the Special Investment Facilitation Council to attract direct foreign investment from the Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar in IT, minerals, agriculture and defence is an auspicious development.  Positive signals have already started emerging in this regard. As revealed by the COAS in his interaction with the business community, nearly $100 billion in investments are likely to be made in Pakistan by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. It is indeed an auspicious development but again it requires a time-lag for the things to materialize and produce the desired benefits.

The Army chief not only talked about attracting foreign investment but he also expressed his determination to sternly deal with the land mafia and extortionists to weed out corruption. He further said that four task forces are being constituted on FBR, border control, smuggling and social media.

Bringing reforms in the working and mandate of FBR is a long due initiative. The country cannot be run only on foreign aid or investments. According to the World Bank, a tax-to-GDP ratio of 15 percent and above ensures economic growth and poverty reduction in the long term. Taxes are a critical measure of a nation’s development and governance. The tax-to-GDP ratio is used to determine how well a government directs its economic resources.

Higher tax revenues mean a country is able to spend more on improving infrastructure, health, and education— keys to the long-term prospects for a country’s economy and people. The latest available data for tax-GDP ratio in Pakistan is 10.3 percent below the Asia Pacific average of 19.8 percent by 9.4 percentage points. It is also below the OECD average (34.1 percent) by 23.8 percentage points. So there is considerable room for improvement in this regard.

Smuggling is a pervasive issue that undermines both the economy and society of a country. It results in the loss of revenue for the government and has been estimated to cause an annual loss of over Rs 400 billion to the national economy of Pakistan. It can be adequately curbed by strict border controls as rightly observed by the COAS. Managing and reforming the social media is also an immediate imperative because its unwieldy nature and negative use, particularly rumour-mongering, is having a negative effect on social harmony as well as on the economic landscape.

People need to show patience and support the initiatives taken by the Army leadership to rectify the maladies afflicting the economy and the social fibre. Miracles do not happen in the economic domain. Improvement in the economy surely has a time-lag.

The crackdown initiated against money launderers, electricity theft, hoarding, smuggling and illegal dealings in dollars and their smuggling, have already started producing positive results.  These are however ephemeral measures with a very limited impact. The country needs drastic reforms in the system of governance and a growth model that not only helps in putting the economy back on rails but also takes care of the distributive aspect of the produced wealth.

My considered view is that things would start falling in place if we are able to break the hold of elite classes on political power. Keeping in view our social milieu and cultural diversity the system of proportional representation provides the best solution in this regard. It would eliminate the dominance of the elitist classes on the political power and also neutralize the non-democratic forces to have any role in the make and break of the governments. The resultant political stability would act as a catalyst to economic growth. But the problem is who will bell the cat?

The current political leaders, who are flag bearers and protectors of the corruption-ridden colonial system of governance, would resist any change that undermines their vested interests. This system will have to be imposed on them by the praetorian powers whose benign intervention is the call of the moment.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Malik Muhammad Ashraf is an academic. He can be contacted at: [email protected].


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