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Dismal Pakistan in 2011

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, Dec 23,2011

If we look back, the picture for 2011 has remained bleak; politicians are at each others’ throat. Together they are gunning for the military establishment. And the establishment, so is the perception, is keenly expecting the Supreme Court to fix erring politicians. The theatre of political intrigues at its best; the kings and the princes at daggers drawn for power. 

And what happens to their subjects, the hapless teeming millions; on Dec 19, tens of thousands of residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad spent hours on Murree Road and Islamabad because of agitation against gas load-shedding. We witness similar protests – power, gas and water riots - in other cities such as Karachi, Multan, Lahore and Faisalabad. One third of the PIA fleet is grounded; Pakistan Railways is facing its worst ever crisis, and the authorities have announced to resume longer hours of power outages from next week. 

And the latest State Bank of Pakistan annual report tops it all by underlining that institutional weakness at all tiers of the government — judiciary, civil services, law enforcers, regulatory bodies and accountability agencies — are directly responsible for poor economic growth in the country.

The report, released on Dec 19th, also expresses multiple concerns surrounding the economy, attributing the institutional weakness to the extremely poor governance indicators and to the deteriorated business environment. This way, says the report, Pakistan performed the poorest of all South Asian neighbours. 

According to the “Doing Business 2011 – Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs” survey carried out by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation ((IFC, official website, July 20, 2011), Pakistan dropped 8 places in the list of best countries for doing business, slipping from 75th in 2010 to 83rd in 2011. The survey had listed Singapore as the best country in the world for business, and Chad the worst.

The SBP reports also draws on the IFC-WB survey to underscore the need for drastic measures to fix some of the most pressing problems that Pakistan faces.

“Both domestic and global factors are responsible, but we believe that domestic issues are more decisive and chronic. These include the collapse of fixed investment, acute energy shortages, urban violence and lawlessness, poor physical infrastructure and institutional fragility,” observes the report.

It also points to the loss-making public sector enterprises which “continue to haemorrhage and drain scarce fiscal resources.”

“Railways, PIA and Pakistan Steel are classic examples of the heavy cost of poor governance to the economy.”

“Pakistan’s political leadership must take credible steps to stop the slide,” the SBP suggested.

But who listens to the State Bank of Pakistan, and who is interested in stemming the slide when the status quo promises enrichment of a few?

Why would double nationality-holders – US, British Passports, Green Cards – be committed to the interests of Pakistan or its hapless people? If they were, there would most probably be:

a) No rental power plants.

b) TTC, involved in Reko Deq project, wouldn’t face cancellation of its mining and processing licence and forced to go for arbitration.

c) No shadow ministers and heads of government entities to cut shady deals.

d) Far less load-shedding.

e) Far greater and serious attention to streamlining internal security mechanisms rather than obstructing the traffic of goods and people through concrete barriers.

f) Better management through professionals rather than cronies.

g) People-focused policies to protect them from the food and oil cartels that have contributed to the crushing inflation.

h) No compromises with religio-political bigots who are responsible for much of Pakistan’s political isolation and infamy across the globe.

i) Far more attention to harmonizing the school curricula.

j) Far greater and sincere effort to subject private schools and the religious seminaries and mosques to regulations (like in most Muslim countries).

Pakistan’s multiple political and economic crisis will not end until the ruling elite puts an end to squabbling for personal gains. It will only aggravate the country’s socio-political adversity if it continued courting the religio-political alliances such as the MMA, people who have little concern for the common man. Pakistan’s mighty military establishment has messed up with politics. It must not any more. Nor should it cut unholy deals for short-term gains. Nor must politicians act like vultures who are slicing away whatever is left of the land called Pakistan


Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and is currently a Fellow of International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk