Dr. Hasan Askari
Pakistan was at 145th position in 187 countries in the Human Development Index.
Pakistan experiences human tragedies from time to time. Currently, parts of Balochistan and Sindh are hit by floods. Some parts of Punjab also faced floodings
It is important to note that the floods of 2011 and 2012 were not caused by the overflow of rivers. Heavy rains caused a heavy flow of water from mountains. Rain water inundated large tracts of land. Other sources of extra water, then overflowed water channels and, in some cases, canals overflowed or their embankments were breached due to water pressure. This is a relatively new development that floods have occurred without any river overflowing.
Other human tragedies in the recent past include the fire in the garment factory in Karachi on September 11, 2012. It caused the death of over 270 people. Another fire incident in a shoe factory in Lahore on the same day killed 25 people.
The two fire incidents in the factories were followed by the ritualistic visits of the politicians to the incident sites where they made tough statements for taking action against those responsible for these deaths. The MQM leaders and activists brought flowers to the garment factory and lighted candles to honour the dead in pursuance of an international tradition when human life is lost for one reason or another. The Sindh High Court took notice of the incident. Different departments of the Sindh government ordered inquiries. Financial compensations were given by the federal and provincial governments but also by Malik Riaz, the leading real estate businessperson.
Everybody was shocked by these tragedies. However, within a couple of days’ life returned to normal and those killed there were treated as historical data. The federal government created a disaster management organization but its performance has been poor in the floods in 2011 and 2012.
Pakistan’s state system is not necessarily geared to helping the poor and disposed people because the political class, the government, the opposition spend most of their energies on high politics that involves their individual and group or party interests. The state institutions are no different because these are more interested in protecting their institutional interests and project their top officials.
At times these politicians may talk of the problems of the common people but that is done only to blame the opposite side, especially the provincial or federal governments.
The political leaders and parties often sell dreams of a better future to the people. Currently, the PTI is offering a glorified dream of solving all problems of people through a technocratic approach. There is hardly any realization on the part of the PTI that economic and social development plans are implemented in the political context which is so fragmented and divided that any plan is likely to run into trouble.
The PMLN is desperate for knocking out the PPP-led coalition government at the federal level and offsetting the appeal of Imran Khan to young people in the Punjab. The PPP cannot come out of its self-articulated persecution syndrome and the MQM and the ANP want to protect their exclusive political empires in urban Sindh and KP respectively.
The other side of the high politics is Pakistan.0’s foreign policy where the federal government faces enormous problems in pursuing peace in and around Pakistan because of their inability to overcome the traditional mindset of hostility towards India and active role in Afghanistan.
The military builds pressures on the civilian government to promote its professional and corporate interests. Given Pakistan’s fragile democracy and divided political class no federal government can always assert itself on military and security affairs. Similarly, the high judiciary and especially the Supreme Court has become a political player because of the proliferation of politically loaded cases. It has removed an elected prime minister and it may do the same with another prime minister or make it difficult for him to function effectively.
The ordinary people are neglected in the discourse of the competing interests.
Pakistan should assign the highest priority to human and societal development. Population can become Pakistan’s major asset if sufficient resources are devoted to education, health care, available of clean-drinkable water, civic amenities, law and order and promotion of religious-cultural tolerance and protection of civil and political rights.
In November 2011, Pakistan was at 145th position in 187 countries in the Human Development Index. In the same month the Punjab Civil Secretariat received 42,000 applications for 90 positions of ‘Naib-Qasid;’ the people with the Master’s degrees applied for these positions.
These are the real problems of Pakistan. If Pakistan is to function as a peaceful and coherent country these issues should be addressed as the first priority and high politics and strident foreign policy will have to be down-played.