Path for progress

When we look around the world today, we find stark disparities in the economic and political set-up of various countries and the resultant levels of prosperity or impoverishment. What are the reasons behind some countries prospering greatly while others remaining mired in poverty? The answers are multi-dimensional and complex. The main determinants seem to be the level of political freedom of citizens, their value systems, their outlook on life, business acumen, the prevalence of modern skills, the extent of learning and the legal and institutional framework in which they live.

Mankind has, over time, experienced diverse political and economic systems. These are still evolving. Today’s world still consists of nation-states but many of them are undergoing fragmentation and dissolution. Smaller non-state entities are emerging with a capacity for violence. Thus, monopoly over the use of force is no longer confined to nation-states. The capacity for the use of force has percolated down to smaller groups as well as individuals. This was made possible by the dissemination of lethal weapons and weapons technology to smaller entities opposed to national governments.

It is a moot point as to whether the nation-state system of the past two centuries adequately reflects the will of the people composing it. But the alternatives are no better and are, instead, fraught with peril.

On the constitutional plane, we must avoid experimentations and oscillations between authoritarian dictatorships and democratic governments. We should try to do the best we can with the existing dispensations. The calls for shifting to and fro between parliamentary and presidential forms of government disrupt a smooth political process. Whatever the political and administrative system, its successful functioning depends on the people who comprise it. The primary responsibility of the state is to ensure law and order and the prevalence of the rule of law. For this purpose, an impartial administration and an independent judiciary are the pre-requisites.

Over and above these considerations is the imperative of developing sound education in Pakistan. There is dire need for a spirit of inquiry, open-mindedness and critical thought. Science and technology must be stressed and developed. At the same time, the humanities also need to be promoted in our educational institutions.

The emotional well-being of our citizens, especially of the young, is as important as their physical health. To prevent genetic degradation, first cousin marriages, which are common, should be prohibited. The emancipation of women and gender equality are necessary for a balanced society.

Economic growth is best fostered by free enterprise. The Marxist dictatorships of the last century were failures all over. The complexities of modern economic management are best ensured by free enterprise and minimum, but sensible and effective, governmental regulation. In our quest for economic development, we need to learn from the experiences of different countries in the way in which allocation of resources is achieved and economic well-being attained.

In an overall context, the inculcation of ethics and enlightened moral values in our people and society will determine the extent of our success as a nation. A commitment to truth and integrity of character is imperative. That we have been found wanting in this regard is a cause for dismay. Despite there being notable individuals as exceptions, the overall deterioration of our society and its mores is a cause for concern.

I realise that some of the views expressed in this article go against the grain and are not favoured by many amongst us. These are many diverse strands but they are linked together. I felt it necessary to put these considerations forward candidly in order to stimulate thinking on the best way ahead for Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March  26th,  2015.

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