NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 14

Social changes and an unresponsive state

The subject of political sociology has been evolving with each passing year as the relations between social dynamics and political developments have become deeper and clearer and in the context of contemporary Pakistan, the links between social and political changes have become quite important to understand. Otherwise we would not be able to comprehend the real causes of issues and problems, like irrelevant policymaking, bad governance, disorder and conflicts.

In case politics, political culture and political institutions of a society remain aloof from the prevailing and unfolding social trends, the result is large-scale consternation, panic and low and high-intensity conflicts. What one can see in Pakistan at this point in time is that the political actors and institutions, particularly in the government, have little connections with the key social trends prevailing in society. In fact, the political actors, so-called leaders and ministers have no understanding of social changes that have taken place and what needs and issues they have produced and how to respond to them.

Currently, some important social changes have taken place and assumed the shape of huge social currents in Pakistan. An important social trend that is dominating contemporary Pakistan is extensive confusion and lack of direction among most Pakistanis. Most people in Pakistan are in a state of utter confusion regarding their conditions of life, how to improve it and what development means and how that is possible. This confusion and lack of direction prevalent among Pakistanis is due to disagreement over the value system. Pakistan is a conservative society while development in the fields of economy, politics and society requires adopting liberal values and attitudes. Moreover, a large number of people in the country believe in anarchism, considering that the government or any traditional or modern authority is an evil and thus an anathema to be totally abandoned. Others are ultra-nationalist, considering that there is a need to support the state whether it does anything for the citizens or not. Thus, a clash of views among different groups of Pakistanis has engendered complete lack of direction and purposelessness among most Pakistanis. This confusion could be clarified by the state through its institutions, giving the people a purpose to work for in the shape of devising ways and means to improve their lives and their standards. However, the state seems to be little concerned about the lack of direction and purposelessness among the people. Resultantly, there is no response from the state to address the problem, deepening the confusion and giving rise to multiple issues.

Another most important social trend in contemporary Pakistan is the fast growing population of the country. Pakistan has become the fifth most populous country in the world. The rapid population growth has extensive and deep impacts on the politics and political institutions of the country. Firstly, the rapid population increase in the country has been putting an unbearable burden on the state and its governance structures. Indubitably, Pakistan historically does not have a very strong state and government structure and the most important evidence in this regard is that the state has not been able to respond to society and fulfil its important functions. Noticeably, the state and its policies have also been responsible for the unchecked and sustained growth of the population. Therefore, the state cannot be absolved of the responsibility for the fast growing population of Pakistan. At the moment, it seems that the state has become totally aloof and powerless to control the population.

If one deeply looks into the population growth and bad governance, it transpires that both bad governance and irrelevant policymaking, on one hand, and the rapid population growth, on the other, have fed each other. Important factors in the population growth around the world, among others, include lack of education, poverty, conservative society and prevalence of large-scale lack of purposelessness within the people and society. These are the key factors behind the galloping population growth even in Pakistan. Again, this has been due to bad governance that the factors have been prevalent in the country.

Radicalization and intolerance are also quite prevalent in contemporary Pakistan. Radicalism and intolerance have been prevalent in society over decades and fundamentally, they are the result of bad governance at all levels. Intolerance, in turn, has resulted in development of extremist social attitudes among the people and parts of the social attitudes have translated into terrorism, particularly in the name of religion, sect and ethnicity in the country. Terrorism by groups, like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, posed an existential threat to the state. While the state’s response to terrorism has been multipronged but it largely remained confined to military offensives. Due to terrorism and the state response to it, huge damage has been inflicted on society and its members as millions have to see physical dislocation, displacement and privation.

Although the state may be able to a great extent to eliminate terrorism, yet the root-causes and seeds of terrorism cannot be fully identified and exterminated. Moreover, intolerance and terrorism continue to affect every aspect of society, including political institutions and culture. The lack of tolerance among key political parties and the resultant stunted growth of democracy is also largely due to intolerance among political actors.

A culture of insecurity has also been prevalent in Pakistan. Terrorism and the state response to it as well as extremist social attitudes prevalent among the masses have been the key causes. However, continued incidents of internecine killings and child abuse have aggravated the sense of insecurity among the masses. The most important repercussions of prevalent insecurity among the people are that they are shy of expressing their aspirations, making use of their natural talents and resources. Due to the situation, the country’s economy and society have both suffered extremely and could not get the desired levels of economic growth and social stability. The feeling of insecurity among Pakistanis has also given rise to huge challenges to the state, as it needs gargantuan efforts to allay the feeling of insecurity among the masses.

Consumerism is another important social trend in contemporary society. Whatever consumerism we are experiencing in Pakistan is the result of increasing adoption of postmodernist values. Although consumerism has resulted in the growth of public spending yet the state has to spend a huge amount of its foreign exchange reserves to pay for the import of consumer items, which affects the financial stability of the state. The state and its apparatus need to take cognizance of the rising trends and other social changes in order to fulfil its purpose.