Need to focus on national priorities | The Express Tribune

The PTI has announced the launch of a movement to court arrest and fill up the prisons from today with the aim to “prevent the violation of the constitution and fundamental rights”. There is no doubt the reason for the anticipated delay in elections by the PDM is to prevent PTI coming into power. The army leadership apparently supports postponement due to disturbed security situation and its reservations about Imran Khan’s independent thinking and quality of governance.

In short democracy and constitutional obligations are being undermined and the will of the people is being trampled. History seems to be repeating itself for we never seem to learn as lust for power overrides principles. The other serious fallout of the weak coalition is that at a time when the country is facing multiple problems covering a whole range of economic, political and security related issues, we ought to have garnered maximum national response. No one expects that if PTI or any other party comes to power through fair elections the economic crisis would be over but at least it would be better equipped to govern and take difficult decisions. This is not to overlook the past when PTI too has been leaning on the establishment for support and by its own reckoning it helped the party in 1988 to win the elections. Imran Khan ignored the parliament while in power and in opposition his politics is centred around demonstrations and street power. When in recent past serious floods affected nearly one-third of the country even then the urge for a joint effort was missing. These failings have to be corrected if Pakistan has to have a future. But when that moment will come and how that fragmentation and political chaos would end. More significantly, as the internal slide continues, dependence on major powers will increase and become a part of our culture. It is rare that these weaknesses are seriously debated in the parliament. A dispassionate analysis of national challenges and their remedies need to be worked out. For we are not destined to be where we stand today. But this would only be possible if PTI reverts to parliament, abandoning its demonstration of street power. And the PML-N government instead of remaining captive of its own manipulations announces a firm date for elections within the stipulated timeframe of three months.

Moreover, we are facing a serious security situation as TTP is intensifying its hostile activities and the government has left it primarily to the army leadership to deal with it. Apart from using kinetic force, economic development of the border areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and fuller participation of its people in political and economic decision-making process is a must. Pakistan’s greatest weakness has been its neglect of human resource. Pakistan’s educational level is one the lowest in the region with a significant percentage of younger generation being denied even basic education.

We have been frequently mentioning the attributes of our geostrategic location but year after year we fail to actualise its natural potential. In fact, it is the opposite that has been happening. Most of the ills of the region have seeped in as inimical forces have taken full advantage of our geographic location. Terrorism, smuggling, flow of narcotics and drug trafficking move faster than our exports. It is obvious that we have created favourable conditions into crippling disadvantages through our follies, making the corrective course more difficult.

The question that arises is how to steer through this mess and unlock the nation’s potential. No miracle will happen to correct the country’s course. Most sensible approach would be to ensure elections on time so that uncertainty is removed. There is need to build pressure on leaders, if necessary, through mass movement to ensure elections are held. No single party or institution should stand in the way of elections. Pakistan cannot afford arbitrary decisions imposed on its people. The logic that this is not the right time for elections is not sound. If Britain and European countries could have elections during World Wars, what prevents Pakistan to hold elections now. Any delay or postponement would be considered a diversionary tactics to deny the people their fundamental right to choose the political party and leaders of their choice. An imposed or unrepresentative government will not have the capacity or the will to steer the country in these trying times. Moreover, any departure from the constitutional obligations will further hollow the foundations of the country. We are told political governments have failed miserably in the past. To answer this, we need to introspect honestly. Have we ever allowed any political party to take independent decisions or the political system to follow a natural course so that the process of elimination or selection is left to the collective wisdom of the masses? We are not realising how much of our national energy is going waste or being withheld.

In the maze of intra-party rivalries and undemocratic practices, we as a nation have ignored the value of education. Seldom do we hear any political leader talking seriously about matters related to education. The fact that 26% of children are deprived of schooling does not stir the conscience of our leaders, nor do they realise the adverse impact of it on the overall growth and development of the society and on the economy. Many of our industries are medieval in their character and it is not surprising that our exports are suffering as it becomes difficult to compete with those nations that have built a strong science-based and technology-oriented educational system. Our agriculture productivity has been equally affected as only a small percentage of farmers are benefiting from the use of modern techniques to increase productivity and improve quality. Similarly, advanced technology is playing a major role in enhancing the capability of nations and there is a continuous race to excel and stay ahead.

We as a nation cannot afford to remain oblivious to the incredible progress the world is making in multiple directions.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2023.

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