The Case for Pakistan
-By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
I’ve recently commenced a series of video interviews with eminent Pakistanis who have occupied positions of significant authority, power and influence in Pakistan.
The objective was and is to discuss and debate serious issues in a serious manner with serious people who know what they’re talking about.
A common attribute amongst these people is that by and large all of them have great reputations, outstanding achievements and are generally considered amongst the best in their areas of expertise. By and large.
Our conversations have focussed on what ails Pakistan, what brought us to this stage and what are some possible solutions.
I believe these interviews are different from the run of the mill narratives one hears on TV because these opinions, insights, perspectives and solutions carry the weight of the trophies these people have achieved in life.
I also recommend two books for those serious about what ails Pakistan.
“Governing the ungovernable” by Dr. Ishrat Hussain”*
“The Faltering State” by Tariq Khosa.
Both gentlemen have agreed to being interviewed for these special series as well, which I hope to start airing in a few days!
Hopefully these conversations will give us much better and informed insights about our challenges and opportunities.
Interestingly, each speaking from their vantage point and unbeknownst to others, unainimously agreed that the root causes behind the deliberate destruction of our state institutions were political interference and patronage, leadership incompetence, lack of meritocracy and lack of accountability.
All leading to our current dismal state and the terrible corruption, loot and plunder we’ve seen, especially in the last 10 years.
The big picture emerging from the conversations to date is:
Pakistan’s recovery can ONLY happen if deep and widespread systemic institutional reform and overall is undertaken to ensure that
1.All public sector institutions are freed and made independant from damaging political and executive interference and given constitutional protection.
They must be headed by competent and honest leadership who will preside over a transparent, accountable and merit driven culture and perform their functions without fear or favor.
2. Very strong regulatory oversight regimes are put in place not only to check irregularities and corruption but also create an enabling environment for the public and business.
3. A Judicial system that supports and enables social order and economic growth. Today our society and business sector is hamstrung by a slow, overworked, mostly corrupt judicial system unable to decide cases for decades. One senior executive said off the record, they are “Pakistan’s Biggest Mafia” and have caused the most damage. Either they are corrupt, incompetent, lazy or overworked or they go on a rampage of judicial activism which scares the daylights out of everybody, especially the innocent. Where in the world do you find a judicial system which pretty much convicts a person facing only a NAB inquiry?
There was also near consensus that unless there’s serious and uncompromising political will by a leader and party in power, any party, no change is possible. Guaranteed no change!
And if we continue the path we are on, we will continue to sail in stormy waters bereft of sails, at the mercy of the elements, and the inevitable tragic consequences!
The terrible acts of terror in Peshawar, Bannu and Mastung are heartbreaking and evidence of how fragile we have become! The loss of life and limb just unbearable. Young Bilor and Raisani two symbols of a tolerant Pakistan, their lives nipped in the bud!
Only a committed political government headed by an uncompromising and honest leader can mobilise our economic resources. Collect more Taxes. Increase exports. Initiate rapid Industrialization. Attract investments and create jobs for the nearly 3 million people joining the employment market every year!
Only a committed political government can ensure that we benefit from CPEC ensuring that net net, our exports increase, our tax collection is higher and our employment increases.
Only a committed political government can begin the process of providing security of life and property, a speedy and cheap judicial system, equal access to quality education, healthcare and employment opportunities!
And even more interestingly, to the chagrin of some, I’m sure who read this, all seemed to agree, in some cases a trifle grudgingly, that Imran’s success of doing this in KP is evidence that such reforms are possible.
And if anyone can do it, it’s perhaps him.
While we can find many things to criticise him for not doing enough in KP, in my opinion even what he’s achieved in KP is revolutionary by Pakistani standards.
As I shared with someone earlier today, people’s view of Imran range from godlike adoration to incompetent buffoon.
Personally I think both views are wrong.
On the one hand people either grossly underestimate him expecting him to fail miserably or overly overestimate him, having unrealistic and sky-high expectations.
My personal sense is that he will deliver much more than his detractors think he’s capable off, and a trifle less than those who adore him like a rock star.
But if there’s any person and an opportune time in our history for deep systemic reform then this is it.
This is perhaps the first time in our history that all key state institutions are fully aligned, especially if Imran were to win.
Our Executive, Legislatures, Judiciary and of course the Army will, for the first time, under a civilian government, stand fully committed to reform and redeem Pakistan.
Will this be sustainable? What are the chances that we will revert to our older habits, even if a new government brought about these changes?
The answer. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that at least we would have started the journey and that’s half the battle!!
I’m often accused of my single minded support for Imran and my visceral hatred of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.
Let me rephrase it as I see it. There is no personal hate or love for anybody, but only and only love for the well-being of Pakistan.
I genuinely believe that the direct responsibility of the systematic destruction of our state institutions lies at the doorsteps of the Sharifs and the Zardaris and our military rulers.
I’m not a journalist, nor a disinterested geo political commentator making a living by writing “……on the one hand and on the other hand…..”, trying to please everybody!
Fortunately I only have one hand which carries the Flag of Pakistan
And after a very very long time I simply see Imran as Pakistan’s best fighting chance to keep the Flag flying, given the near Divine alignment amongst all our key state institutions!
This is not about politics. ,It’s about Pakistan!
It’s as simple as that!
Salaams and Prayers