FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 32

Pakistan’s cyclic journey

People are passing through the hardest time of their lives after prices of essentials have skyrocketed in the country. The past government was mainly responsible for it but the new government is also finding it hard to lesson public woes. The nation is once again apprehensive of a showdown among politicians and fear for the future of democracy in the country is growing after ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched a movement against the government. Dictators and dictator-like elected leaders have brought Pakistan to a point where problems of the people have compounded and politicians change parties to remain in power to line their own pockets.

Like the previous governments, the new coalition government is trying to run its affairs through borrowing. The last PTI administration relied on short-term foreign commercial loans. Like the PTI government, the new coalition government has contacted the IMF for the revival of its loan package. When it was in opposition, it criticized the government for turning the country into a “beggar” and promised to abandon the “harsh” IMF programme. After coming to power, it is willing to accept even harsher conditions of the IMF. It also savaged Imran Khan for seeking loans from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It has done the same now. The new government also plans to contact China for loans. However, it was annoyed when the then Prime Minister Imran Khan had reached China for the purpose. It is clear that the new government is also taking new loans to repay old debt.

Skyrocketing prices of essentials have already maligned the image of the government among the public. It had promised to reduce prices after coming to power. Instead, prices of electricity, foodstuffs and essentials have increased. They are expected to increase further after the revival of the IMF programme. It has already eroded the credibility of the government in the public. Their belief in its ability to perform has shattered badly.

Pakistan has the world’s second highest number of out-of-school children, with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44pc of the total population in this age group. In the age group of 5-9 years, some five million children are not enrolled in schools and after the primary school age, the number of out-of-school children doubles, with 11.4 million between the ages of 10 and 14 not receiving formal education.

According to the Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17, of the total educational institutions (149,852), only 51.5pc of the buildings are deemed satisfactory: whereas, 21pc don’t even have a boundary wall. In Balochistan, 51.64pc of school buildings require repair; 78.78pc don’t have electricity; 70pc don’t have latrines and 43.8pc of schools lack clean drinking water. Over 1.9 million children out of 2.7 million are out of school and the retention rate from grade 1 to grade 5 is 41pc in the largest province of the country. A report states that each year 165,869 girls are enrolled in the primary section and the number drops to 44,076 in the middle section and further down to only 20,015 in the higher section. In Sindh, 36.5pc of the buildings don’t have latrines; 42.77pc don’t have drinking water; with more than 6.4 million children out of school.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is still a challenge in Pakistan. The total economic cost of poor sanitation in Pakistan is nearly Rs343.7 billion – 3.94pc of the country’s GDP, according to the World Bank. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation, 27,000 children die each year from diarrhea-related diseases in Pakistan. Though prices, health and education are provincial subjects after the passage of the 18th Amendment, yet the Centre cannot absolve itself of the situation.

In Pakistan, dictators toppled civilian governments and ruled the country for about 30 years. However, elected governments have also failed to make a difference as elected representatives proved to be inapt, corrupt, egotist and tried to concentrate all powers into their own hands. The threat to Pakistan’s sham democracy has always come from inapt, corrupt and belligerent politicians.

Pakistan has been a battleground for foreign players since its inception. Many Pakistanis believe the US interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs is the main reason for sham democracy in the country. It is a fact that the US masterminded events in Pakistan, when and where required. Civil governments were toppled in the past when the US wanted to advance its agenda after a domestic or international crisis. Pakistan’s history reveals that the US has encouraged military takeovers and then exploited the “illegitimacy” of the military rulers to advance its designs in the region.

As all dictators have held local government elections in the country, all political parties have tried to avoid them, even though local bodies are considered basic democracy all over the world and the best way to empower people on their doorsteps. According to the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the provincial governments to hold local government polls within three months of the general election but that has not happened since 2002.

The new government also faces stiff challenges. However, it comprises all political parties which have ruled the country for decades. It is hoped that they would use their experience to put the country on the path to prosperity.