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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’

TODAY’S turmoil and turbulence are such that there is no concerted official effort to plan for Pakistan’s future. But both the urgent and the essential must be addressed if the country is to be transformed into a strong state responsive to the welfare of its people and not merely its privileged elites.

Dysfunctional politics, unresolved structural economic problems, internal security threats and the governance deficit all have to be tackled simultaneously and not in isolation from one another as together they have contributed to the systemic crisis.

But first urgent actions have to be taken to deal with the country’s security situation and the crisis in public finances to enable the pursuit of other critical goals. Prioritisation is necessary to push forward an enforceable reform agenda.

Effective governance is what makes the difference between successful states and struggling ones. Improving the quality of governance is therefore central to the effort to move Pakistan beyond the ‘crisis state’. This volume has identified both short- and long-term reform measures needed to enhance the capabilities of public institutions, institute checks and balances and create a more competent civil service. Yet none of these policies can be undertaken without articulating a vision and the mechanism to implement it.

What this book has also emphasised is the need to bring the country’s politics in sync with the social, economic and technological changes that have been transforming the national landscape and creating a more ‘connected’ society. Electoral and political reforms that foster greater and more active participation by Pakistan’s growing educated middle class will open up possibilities for the transformation of an increasingly dysfunctional, patronage-dominated polity into one that is able to tap the resilience of the people and meet their needs.

In re-designing the polity the central principle that should be applied is that democracy cannot function without the rule of law. This means strengthening the judiciary to operationalise robust checks and balances. It also means ensuring the availability of justice to citizens by reforming the judicial system, especially at the lower levels.

Stable civil-military relations are essential for political stability to be maintained. The Armed Forces can contribute towards a viable national polity by subjecting themselves to civilian oversight and control. This will have to be matched by civilian leaders who should abide by the Constitution and refrain from dragging in the Army to settle political disputes.

The goal of economic revival will have to be comprehensively targeted with emergency actions, short term measures and long term reforms, all of which will have to be pursued simultaneously. Immediate steps to restore macroeconomic stability and the fiscal and financial balance need to be accompanied by efforts to mobilise resources to power Pakistan’s economic development. Broadening the revenue base by taxing the rich and the powerful and bringing exempted sectors such as agriculture into the tax net should be the crucial elements for setting up an equitable and efficient tax regime.

The state has to play a central and active role to create an enabling environment for economic growth and job creation. This means addressing the infrastructure deficits, especially in power, evolving a fair regulatory framework for economic activity and halting the haemorrhaging in the public sector enterprises that is fuelling the budget deficit and crowding out private

A coherent strategy to revive the agriculture sector should include new investment in the rural infrastructure, appropriate pricing and incentives, land reclamation, focused research and development, application of modern technology and utilisation of international market rules and opportunities. These measures should aim to turn the country into the region’s food reservoir.

Policies to promote industrial growth and expansion should entail greater support to small and medium enterprises, and identification and encouragement of manufacturing in sectors where Pakistan has or can acquire the greatest competitive
advantage and where demand is rising rapidly. A key policy objective should be the country’s integration into global production chains and manpower training and skills development.

The highest priority needs to be given to human development. A crash programme should be implemented to educate Pakistan and meet the target of achieving universal primary education in the next 10 years through higher government spending and public-private partnerships. Meeting the education and health needs of citizens, alleviation of poverty and steps to end discrimination against women should be part of a comprehensive human development strategy.

It is also critical to address the challenge of a rapidly growing population and youth bulge by implementing a mix of policy measures that include a programme to reduce fertility and a far-reaching literacy campaign focused on the rural areas and women to achieve higher primary school enrolment. Skills training and increasing female labour participation will also be needed to reap a demographic dividend and turn the country’s human capital into an engine for economic growth.

Restoring internal security and order will require a holistic approach that deals with the multifaceted challenge of terrorism and violence. An overwhelming reliance on military means has distracted attention from the need to deal with the ideological and political aspects of the militant challenge and may even have dispersed rather than diminished the threat. Evolving a counter-narrative, forging a political consensus and mobilising public support against militancy must be part of the strategy to stop the flow of recruits to militant organisations in order to break the cycle of radicalisation. A multilayered, multi-pronged strategy is needed that includes efforts to engage in the battle of ideas and address the factors — including issues of governance and injustice — that create the breeding ground for militancy.

To promote its vital short and long term national objectives and regain lost strategic space, Pakistan needs to adjust its foreign policy and invigorate its diplomacy within the current and emerging political and economic environment.

Its priority goals should include promoting peace in Afghanistan through an inclusive political settlement based on that country’s realities while working to end terrorism and extremism within Pakistan and the region. A modus vivendi with India should be sought which maintains Pakistan’s policy independence including for Kashmir’s legitimate aspirations and preserves credible conventional and nuclear deterrence while exploiting the potential for mutually advantageous trade and economic relations.

Vastly expanded strategic and economic relations should be pursued with China which offer Pakistan the best hope for the realisation of its security and economic objectives. A balanced and stable relationship with the US should be built on mutual accommodation of legitimate national interests, respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and expanded cooperation in areas of benefit to both sides.

Pakistan should also seek to revive historic and mutually supportive relationships with key Islamic nations especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf states, as well as Malaysia, Iran and Indonesia.

Excerpt — Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ 

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