Nov 22, 2010

Fundamental shift

An indicator of successful implementation of human security paradigm would be a visible reduction in the gap between the haves and have-nots

Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri

It seems anything that can go wrong is going wrong for people of Pakistan. Security situation is getting worse; natural and man-made disasters are hitting it hard; inflation is at its peak; food and fuel price hike seems unmanageable; governance issues and stories of corruption are not only tarnishing the image of government but also weakening the writ of the state.

Continued increase in power tariff, proposed increase in gas tariff, introduction of new taxes, and hoarding of essential food items have turned the life of common persons miserable. What to talk of balanced and nutritious diet, vegetables and pulses — low budget diet — has also gone beyond the access of common Pakistani.

What would happen next? Every other person asks this question, while his/her respondent shrugs the shoulder and leaves everything to God. Frankly speaking, things were never shining in Pakistan. People have been facing crisis after crisis since inception of this country. However, the major difference is that distribution of the effect of these crises has turned much skewed now.

Few among 180 million Pakistanis find the system bowing to their feet. Their wishes and desires become the order of the day and that too at the cost of sufferings of the vast majority. Flood changes its course to save their properties and lands; merits get tailored to adjust their candidature; prices of essential commodities are allowed to soar till their stocks get sold; they always escape from taxation and effect of inflation.

Irrespective of the fact whether they are in power or in the opposition, whether in service or retired, these few can really testify that Pakistan is a gift for them. That is why they always get invited to certain places and that too on special flights at state expenses while many million Pakistani Muslims can never see their wish to perform Hajj coming true in their life time. Hajj is a big thing, ordinary Pakistani Muslims had nothing to offer as sacrifice at the event of Eid-ul-Azha this year.

Deprivation, poverty, social exclusion, food insecurity and helplessness when gets an identity — whether creed, ethnic, provincial, national, or gender — immediately leads to class conflict. I am referring to clash between haves and have not. The clash between those privileged few and majority of non-privileged who are forced by the system to serve the formers. This clash turns the system to work on auto-destruction mode.

One keeps on criticising the role of external actors and factors in creating the messy situation that Pakistan is facing today. The war on terror, heavy influence of American interests on our national agenda, ineffective foreign policy, uncomfortable relations with neighbours, role of the IMF and other multilateral financial institutions on shaping Pakistan’s economic agenda, etc., all are realities that have been affecting the country (negatively) since long. However, one cannot simply shift the blame on externalities.

One’s own house has to be in order to reduce the effect and influence of external factors. Functional democracy and good governance is a prerequisite to bring the house in order. The only difference that I see between the four army dictators and all democratically elected governments is that army dictators tried to pretend democrats after taking over power, while democratically elected rulers turn dictators after reaching power corridors. None of them ever believed in collective wisdom. None of them can bear a difference of opinion and all of them shun independent voices of sanity. Thus, the gulf between the ruling class (read haves) and commoners (read have nots) gets widened and deeper with every passing day.

Policy-reality disconnect has gone to an extent where agriculture minister denies existence of any food insecurity problem in Pakistan and information minister preaches the people to stop consuming sugar to bring its price down. However, all the ministers are not living in Utopia; at least some ministers are more courageous than agriculture and information ministers and admit the existence of problems. Unfortunately, they are always quick in promising that everything would be perfect overnight. Interior Minister keeps on claiming that target killing would come to an end and law and order situation would be perfect within a fortnight while power minister keeps on giving good news to overcome the power deficit problems very soon. So much so, the opposition too keeps on giving last chance to the government to mend its affairs. Alas, amidst these missed deadlines there is no let-up in common person’s miseries.

What can be done differently? There is a lot that needs to be done to save the system in Pakistan from self-destruction. However, one of the most important things is to enhance resilience and coping capacities among masses against internal and external uncertainties. The priority should be to enable the people to meet minimum basic requirements of life.

In order to do so, we would have to think of a new development paradigm, a paradigm that should revolve around human development and individual security. An indicator of successful implementation of human security paradigm would be a visible reduction in the gap between haves and have not which in turn keeps the societal fabric intact and hold us as a nation together. Failure in bringing this paradigm shift can lead to a situation where no one would be able to save the "haves" from the wrath of "have-nots".

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