Archive for June, 2007

Pakistan: How can we become a nation?

Struggle for Pakistan was based on the theory that Islam is not only a religion but a way of life which defines Muslims of India as separate nation from Hindus. As soon as the independence was achieved the definition of nationhood shifted from a religion to ethnic association. This ethnic division was fueled by rulers who had vested interests to keep the nation divided. Field Marshall Ayub khan divided the nation into two equal political units defying the democratic concept of pluralism. He did not distribute the economic wealth equally between the two units. When that experiment failed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to accept the majority of Awami Leaque in East Pakistan with the help of a military president which ultimately resulted in the division of the country. When Zia ul Haq came to power he promoted Islamic fundamentalism fueling sectarian division between Sunni and Shiti communities. He is also responsible for creation of an ethnic party in Sindh, MQM, to undermine the influence of Pakistan Peoples Party. The ten years rule of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto did not make any efforts to resolve ethnic differences and promote a national identity. General Musharraf introduced the concept of Enlightened Moderation to keep his western allies happy without really defining what it means for the nation. Defying his own ideology he ordered military intervention in NWFP and Balochistan to resolve purely political issue with force thereby fueling separatist feelings in these two provinces.

 

In almost all countries except few like Japan, China and South Korea, most of the countries have to deal with ethnic diversity. UK is divided into Scotish, Irish and English ethnicities. Canada has French and English speaking communities. US have strong Spanish, African American and Caucasian communities. But in all these countries they keep the nation together by equitable distribution of economic wealth as well as giving political freedom. US model of federation could be adopted by Pakistan as it gives considerable political and economic independence to the 50 states while keeping three key functions to itself i.e. defense, monetary policy and foreign affairs.

The state of union in Pakistan is getting weaker as federal government refuse to share power with provincial governments. The reason is quite simple. For most of its history government is controlled by Army which wants to retain the control through concentration of power in the center. This creates dissatisfaction as well as dependence on the federal funds for provincial development. The first step towards provincial harmony could be economic independence of the federating units. For instance motor vehicle taxes, toll taxes and sales tax should be charged and collected by the provinces instead of given to federal treasury. Similarly law and order should be the responsibility of provincial governments at all levels instead of appointments of DIG’s and IGs by the federal government. Education and health at the local level should also be the responsibility of local governments. Fees charged at airports and sea ports should also become part of provincial revenue system. Provincial governments should be allowed to charge a transfer price for sale of natural resources so that they can finance development of their communities.

 

Central government should reduce its control on all sectors except defense, foreign affairs and monetary policy. To regulate various sectors of the economy federal government should work with provincial governments to devise umbrella regulations while each provincial government can create their own laws under this umbrella to implement it in their jurisdiction. Federal government should also refrain from competing with private sector in industrial, services and export sectors.

 

Provincial planners should work independently to attract investments and create employments for their citizens. Each province has its own strength which can be exploited to benefit not only local population as well as contribute to national exchequer. For instance Sindh can be developed as a financial and trading center with Karachi as its heart. Sindh can also strengthen its services export sector to utilize their international expertise. In Punjab manufacturing, services and agriculture sectors can be developed further. NWFP can earn revenue from its natural resources and promotion of tourism. NWFP can also become a center of transit trade to Afghanistan and Central Asian States. Baluchistan is rich in its natural resources and fruit production. These can be further developed by not only developing the mines as well as installation of refining and processing plants. Sandak copper and gold project is a perfect example of this approach. Gwadar has the potential to be developed as an alternate port to not only export minerals but also facilitate trade with CIS states.

 

Poverty and illiteracy are root causes of creating divisions. People who are struggling to survive wants to find a reason for their miserable condition. In this situation it is very easy to blame the other person who looks different in color, dress, language and religion. In the present political crisis everyone agrees that democracy is needed in the country. But people do not trust the current political leadership to resolve the deepening difference among the provinces. Not a single political party has any ideology to offer that could bring the people together to become a nation. They seem more interested to take advantage of the crisis for the benefit of either their party or their personal ambition. In all rallies people are motivated to carry flags of their ethnic group or political party. National flag is non existent which is a symbol what is the real motive behind these rallies.

 

The first principle in achieving a strong federation is adopting an ideology acceptable to all units. During the struggle for independence the uniting ideology was Islam which brought all the Muslims together to prevent English and Hindu domination. But as soon the goal was realized that ideology became irrelevant in the new paradigm. Today we have to find a new ideology that is shared by all ethnic groups living in Pakistan. This ideology could be economic interdependence, shared values or a common cause for a better life. We can not become a nation unless we look beyond the face of a person and walk hand in hand to a common destination.

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