NationalVolume 14 Issue # 12

Planning: the missing ingredient

Planning has always been the weakest aspect of our economy. Successive five-year plans failed to achieve their targets with the result that the pace of progress has been extremely slow. Worse still, we have done little to identify the reasons behind our planning failure. Since the mid-1980s successive governments in Pakistan have been promising to emulate the Asian Tigers but could never accomplish the miracle. For long we have talked about emulating the economic miracle of South Korea. Mahathir’s Malaysia has once again become one of the countries that we would like to emulate besides Hong Kong and Singapore. But China is our ultimate inspiration. Since about the late 1990s, when Deng Xiaoping’s reforms started bearing fruit in Mainland China, successive governments in Islamabad have been talking about turning Pakistan into a virtual China.

While we try to remodel Pakistan on the lines of any of the economically highly successful countries of the day, we ignore the political, social, cultural and economic peculiarities of Pakistan which set it apart in a lot of meaningful ways from countries that we look upon to copy.To achieve the desired success not only do we need to recognize these peculiarities but we need also to accept them as such and own them without any reservations. This is the only way we can achieve unity out of these peculiar diversities in the federation.

Pakistan is a federation composed of four distinct units plus two additional ones, which are still out of the purview of our constitution. Each of these units has its own distinct features. Each is ethnically different from the rest and each has its own distinct mother tongue. Our national language, Urdu, is not the mother tongue of our nation. The language of our rulers is English (official language) while it is not the lingua franca of the ruled. Culturally too, these units differ from each other in many ways.

The stark fact is that one of the federating units is larger population-wise than the rest of the three units put together. Economically this unit is relatively richer and more advanced than the other three units. Another unit size-wise is larger than all the other units put together but it is poorest of the four and relatively less advanced. Of course, the majority of the population inhabiting these units is made up of followers of Islam. But then in this context as well Pakistan is five countries in one. Because of the failure of our ruling elite to recognize these diversities and accept them as such, those who have been ruling this country since independence have continued to regard Pakistan as a unitary state made up of one unified Muslim nation. That is why all our socio-economic plans, short-or medium-term, were designed for such a country all through the last 71 years and not for one with all its inherent peculiarities and diversities. Of course, many countries in the world possess more challenging diversities than does Pakistan. In Asia, we have India, Sri Lanka and China in the same class. India is, perhaps, one country with the most diversities and peculiarities. It is more complex than the other three. China being a one-party socialist country, has managed to dissolve its diversities into a crucible, to a large extent. India, on the other hand has managed these diversities and peculiarities by recognizing and accepting them as such very early in the day; and then it has used liberal democracy to allow all its states to develop on their own, each using its comparative socio-economic and cultural advantages.

Pakistan, too, can overcome its diversity challenges and strike out a path to a unified progress by first incorporating in its letter and spirit the 18th Constitutional Amendment. However, some influential elements in the country which seem to be still suffering from a colonial mindset believe that giving political and financial autonomy to provinces which they believe are not yet capable of shouldering increased responsibilities would lead to financial chaos, economic instability and wastage of limited resources. Some of these elements seem to even believe that “granting” full autonomy to the provinces would eventually lead to disintegration of the country. These elements, perhaps, fear that the smaller provinces would use the 18th Amendment to drift away from the federation, not realizing that it was because they were being ruled all these years as colonies from Islamabad, negating the spirit of federalism that the three smaller provinces today seem to be suffering from a massive dose of disillusionment with the federation itself. The reluctance of these elements and the apprehensions of influential political elements have made it almost impossible to draft and pass in time, relevant subordinate legislations both in parliament and the respective provincial assemblies which is making it almost impossible to move ahead on the game-changing constitutional reform. The 18th Amendment renders redundant a number of federal ministries while increasing the administrative responsibilities of the provinces in equal measure. But the federal government is yet to abolish the redundant ministries and the provinces are yet to receive the powers that the amendment has mandated. It is only when we liberate the provinces from the colonial clutches of the Centre and the local governments from the control of the provincial head-quarters that would we be able to unleash the creative forces in each of the six federating units which, in turn, would surely lead Pakistan on to the path of socio-economic progress.