NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 18

Social changes and unresponsive state

It is argued by scholars that a state, like an institution, could function and survive if it is largely responding to social changes that are taking place, rather the state itself is the cause of so many of social changes. If the state remains unresponsive to key social changes in terms of managing them and mitigating their harmful effects as well as amplifying their positive effects, then this will most likely cause panic, conflict and instability in the country. The present state of responsiveness to social changes in Pakistan is a typical example of how important state responsiveness is to manage the situation.

At the moment in Pakistan there is a near breakdown of constitutional order and panic and instability reign supreme. This is because the key state institutions, which in fact are the executive arm of the state, the federal government along with provincial governments, are largely unable to respond to key social changes that have taken place in the last decade and so. After the information revolution and globalization and access of people to extensive information through multiple channels, particularly social media, the knowledge levels of most Pakistanis have risen stupendously.

Consequently, any abuse of power, authority and corruption by government institutions comes to the limelight. While this information revolution has infused extensive awareness among Pakistanis of their rights and there are increasing tendencies in Pakistan for individualism, the 13-party ruling alliance is still stuck in the past and trying to revive collectivist family politics and the politics of nepotism. Therefore, the state remains unresponsive to the needs and desires of most Pakistanis, particularly a dominant majority of the young population.

So, as mentioned above, 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 even 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.

In today’s Pakistan some very important social changes have taken place and assumed the shape of huge social currents. A very 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 about their conditions of life, how to improve it and what development means and how it is possible. This confusion and lack of direction prevalent among Pakistanis is due to disagreement over the value system. Pakistan is a very conservative society while development in the fields of economy, politics and society requires adopting liberal values and attitudes. Moreover, sizable people in the country believe in anarchism considering that the government or any traditional or modern authority is an evil and thus an anathema so to be totally abandoned. Others are ultranationalists considering that there is a need to support the state whether it does anything for the citizens or not. Thus the 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 this lack of direction and purposelessness among the people. Resultantly, there is no response from the state to address this problem deepening the confusion giving rise to multiple issues.

Another most important social change in contemporary Pakistan is the ever-increasing and fast growing population of the country. Pakistan has become the fifth most populous country in the World. This rapid population increase has extensive and deep impacts on the politics and political institutions of the country. Firstly, this rapid and galloping 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 governmental 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 needs. 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 in the fast growing population. At the moment, it seems the state has become totally aloof and powerless to control the population.

If one deeply looks into population growth and bad governance, it transpires that both bad governance and irrelevant policymaking, on the one hand, and rapid population growth, on the other, have fed each other, because important factors in population growth around the world among others, certain specific reasons include lack of education, poverty, conservative society, prevalence of large-scale lack of purposelessness within the people and society. These are the key factors of 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 is too prevalent in contemporary Pakistan. Radicalism and intolerance in society has permeated over decades and fundamentally is the result of bad governance at all levels of state action. However, today it is transpiring in complete bloom in society. Intolerance in turn has resulted in development of extremist social attitudes among 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 poses an existential threat to the state. While the state response to terrorism has been multipronged, 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 had to face physical dislocation, displacement and privation.

Although the state may be able to a great extent to eliminate terrorism, however, its root causes and seed 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.

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, as the state has to spend a huge amount of its foreign exchange reserves to pay for the import of consumer items, the financial stability of the state is greatly affected.

If the government remains unresponsive to the social changes in Pakistan then at least other state institutions, including the military and particularly the judiciary, must respond. Otherwise the situation will further deteriorate and problems of the common Pakistani multiply.