web analytics

Let’s not divert public attention from the Core Issues of Pakistan

Those who ever lived in Pakistan must have seen the monkeys’ dance on the streets of the country. These performing monkeys are a common feature in many Pakistani cities. They can be seen doing tricks and entertaining people while dressed up in sparkly outfits and clothes. They immediately grab the attention of a large crowed. We may find a lot of similarities between these performing monkeys’ shows and the current political situation in Pakistan.

In the modern world the primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites. Maintaining public attention diverted away from the real social, political and economic problems, captivated by matters of no real importance; keep the public busy, busy, busy, no time to think.

We have seen that Musharraf’s trial, and now Hamid Mir’s drama has sucked all the media oxygen from every other important topic. For the last few weeks, the entire Pakistani media and nation has been consumed with pointless debates about Pervez Musharraf’s trial, civil military relationship and now about Hamid Mir and Geo.

In the meantime, very real and serious problems are being almost totally ignored.We are ignoring that the country’s economic situation has worsened. Although GDP growth increased from 3% in 2011 to 3.7% in 2012, the government did not achieve itstarget of 4.2%. The GDP growth forecast for fiscal year 2013/14 has been revised upward slightly to 3.1 percent but it is still less then GDP growth in 2012.

Inflation is projected to hover around 10 percent in the remainder of 2014 fiscal year. The current account deficit is expected to be about 1 percent of GDP. Pakistan’s Gross official reserves declined below US$3.2 billion as end of January 2014. The Government of Pakistan was unable to attract substantial other financing and it has already borrowed 90 billion rupees additional funds from the State Bank of Pakistan during fiscal year 2013/14.  Weak inflows and continued debt payments resulted in a US$1.5 billion decline in our reserves. Next 10 months are very crucial for Pakistan’s economy as 64 percent debt is due to be paid back which entails high rollover and refinancing needs.

Government of Pervez Musharraf initiated the policy of privatization of public sector enterprises (PSEs). State companies, such as the Karachi Electric Supply Company and Pakistan Telecommunications Company, have been privatised. However, the privatisation of Pakistani Steel Mills was stopped by the Supreme Court after allegations of corruption. The World and IMF has stressed to cut down public subsidies. Due to these enormous pressures the present Government is acting decisively on their commitments to reforming or privatizing public sector enterprises.

Inflation in Pakistan has increased sharply as a consequence of economic downturn. Inflation has increased as a consequence of rising energy imports. Rising food prices also cause severe problems for the poorer segments of society. The government projected inflation was 10.5% for the fiscal year 2013, which was the sixth consecutive year of double-digit inflation rates. This clearly means our nation will further suffer under inflationary economic conditions.

Pakistan ranks 145 of 187 in the U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) and is still categorized as a country with “low human development.” The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIC) puts Pakistan on rank of 75 of 80 countries in its index that considers the “best place to be born” in 2013. The World Bank figures had stated that 60.8% of the population lived on less than $2 per day. Although Punjab majorly and Sindh partially has seen a positive socio-economic transformation but Pakistan is still characterised by provincial disparities. Socioeconomic development lags in Baluchistan and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Special development problems exist in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) because of the tense security situation.

Pakistan has an acute energy crisis that it cannot resolve domestically, at least not in the near term. The country’s generating capacity falls well below demand, and its available domestic energy supplies are dwindling. As a result, poor public will pay increasing amounts for expensive energy imports. The energy crisis is a complex, long-running, and multifaceted problem. For the economist, it is primarily a circular debt issue. For the political watcher, it is an issue of absent political will. For the aid organization specialist, it is a governance problem. For the engineer, it is a matter of resolving technical problems, improving energy conservation, and addressing issues like theft and non-payment of electricity bills.

The fact remains that only 62% of Pakistanis have access to electricity, although those that do face chronic shortages. In the face of rising consumer demand, the problem of load-shedding has intensified in recent years and an unreliable supply remains a major obstacle to economic growth and competitiveness. We may remember that in the summer of 2012, cuts of up to 20 hours per day led to street protests in Peshawar, Jhelum and Lahore.

The government has previously estimated that approximately $10 billion is required to meet the country’s immediate energy needs, and at least twice this is needed for its longer-term energy plans.The ADB’s Integrated Energy Sector Recovery Report and Plan for Pakistan has suggested that Pakistan energy imports totalled more than $10 billion, which it argued could rise to as much as $38 billion by 2015–16 if there is a failure to take action to increase indigenous resources.

Unemployment is a critical problem in Pakistan today. High unemployment is not only resulting in underutilisation of available manpower but also resulting in economic agony. This high rate of unemployment is also giving birth to many undesirable social consequences in the country e.g. crimes such as theft, kidnapping, burglary, suicides, assassinations, threat to national security etc.

A high level of corruption and mismanagement shows that Pakistan’s efficient use of resources is low. Resource management is further hindered by the politicisation of institutions, which often leads to the creation of new institutions rather than to strengthening existing ones. The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) was established, among other things, to increase the political clout of members of parliament of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The present government has introduced Youth Loan scheme with more or less similar motives.

Pakistan’s educational sector is characterised by low effectiveness and increasing fragmentation. The children of the societal elite attend expensive and high-quality private schools while a majority of students attend poorly equipped government schools. As a consequence of the 18th amendment, responsibility for education has shifted more to the provinces, similar to health care services. Higher education is also included in this devolution which illustrates again the government’s limited capacity to invest in future-oriented sectors. We should not wonder that Pakistan is already ranked 105 of 125 countries on the Global Innovation Index (GII).

As a result of the 18th amendment, which includes among other things the abolition of the concurrent list, policy coordination is faced with new challenges. Lengthy negotiations between the central government and the provinces will be required to demarcate responsibility boundaries in areas such as health, education, labor and so on. 

The country’s water resources are increasingly thinly stretched and increasingly dependent upon the River Indus. Natural streams have dried up and the water table is dropping. The situation is compounded by poor storage and distribution infrastructure and high levels of deforestation, which has played a major role in facilitating the devastating floods of 2010-11. It is feared by environmentalist that unless there is urgent and effective public action there could soon be escalating conflict over water resources between Pakistan’s provinces, which could reach a pitch that “will be incompatible with the country’s survival.

International concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme have grown in the recent times. Since the return to civilian rule in 2008 these concerns have intensified, rather than diminished. There is a growing concern that ‘civilian control’ could heighten risk, rather than reduce it, continued military control has provided a degree of reassurance.

The Pakistani army has for years been in fierce conflict with the Pakistani Taliban which is a compilation of militant groups. The Taliban movement is not homogeneous, has different agendas, but is united under the common cause of installing Sharia-Law in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda’s ideology calling for an international jihad has had a huge influence on these groups. In their battle with the Pakistani army, attack the police, state institutions or politicians, they see themselves fighting the allies of Western neo-colonial interests and a liberal, decadent un-Islamic democratic civilisation.

Large segments of the Pakistani population feel that their country has become victim of the US led war on terror. Many Pakistanis believe that the presence of international and US forces in Afghanistan has fostered the extremism that Pakistan is battling today. Hence there are new games by the international players to defame Pakistan army and its agencies. The world and media in Pakistan needs to understand that if Pakistan is further destabilised, it could become a failed state: a haven for terrorists that can destabilise the region.

Unfortunately, at present, Pakistan is not well placed in the world affairs. It is in a fiscally fragile position. Its security situation is poor, and social unrest in the country is unusually high. Relations with regional neighbours remain problematic, and its global standing is poor. It is the responsibility of the media to give up trends of sensationalism and stop the mass-manipulation by distracting public from so called ‘important occurrences’ while MORE important occurrences are taking place in Pakistan and the world around her. 

Facebook Comments