NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 51

The impact of social changes on governance and stability in Pakistan

The current landscape in Pakistan is characterized by a multitude of profound social changes that hold significant implications for the nation’s stability and functioning. Scholars emphasize the critical role of a state’s adaptability to these shifts, as neglecting them can give rise to turmoil, conflict, and instability. The prevailing state of responsiveness to these social transformations in Pakistan exemplifies the paramount importance of the state’s involvement in effectively managing and addressing these shifts.

Scholars posit that a state, much like an institution, can only endure and thrive if it adeptly responds to the evolving social dynamics within its society. The state itself should not be the catalyst for these changes. When the state falls short in addressing and managing these pivotal social transformations, it can foster anxiety, discord, and instability within the country. The existing state of responsiveness to social changes in Pakistan serves as a poignant illustration of the indispensable need for the state to adapt and oversee the changing landscape.

At present, Pakistan grapples with a near breakdown of its constitutional order, characterized by widespread panic and instability. This predicament can be attributed to the insufficient response of crucial state institutions, including the federal and provincial executive branches, to the substantial social changes that have transpired over the past decade. The advent of the information revolution and globalization, coupled with extensive access to information through various channels, especially social media, has heightened the awareness levels of the majority of Pakistanis.

Consequently, any abuse of power, corruption, or authority by government institutions is rapidly exposed. This information revolution has led to increased awareness among Pakistanis about their rights and a growing inclination towards individualism. However, the ruling coalition, consisting of thirteen political parties, remains entrenched in archaic practices such as collectivist family politics and nepotism. Consequently, the state fails to meet the needs and aspirations of the majority of Pakistanis, particularly the youth.

When politics, political culture, and political institutions become disconnected from the prevailing social trends, it engenders widespread consternation, panic, and both low- and high-intensity conflicts. Pakistan is currently experiencing a scenario where political actors and institutions, especially within the government, lack a meaningful connection to the evolving social trends in society. These purported leaders and ministers lack an understanding of the social changes that have unfolded, the associated needs and concerns, and how to address them.

In contemporary Pakistan, several substantial social changes have unfolded, engendering profound societal currents. A dominant trend is the prevalent confusion and a lack of direction among most Pakistanis. People grapple with uncertainty regarding their living conditions, how to enhance them, and the meaning of development and its attainability. This confusion arises from the clash of values within Pakistani society. While Pakistan has traditionally adhered to conservative values, economic, political, and social development necessitates the adoption of more liberal values and attitudes.

Furthermore, a significant segment of the population subscribes to anarchism, viewing the government and any form of authority as inherently malevolent and to be categorically rejected. Others are staunch ultranationalists who support the state unconditionally, regardless of its actions or inaction. This divergence in perspectives has generated a pervasive sense of aimlessness and purposelessness among most Pakistanis. The state could play a pivotal role in mitigating this confusion by leveraging its institutions to provide people with a sense of purpose and facilitating avenues to enhance their lives and standards. Nevertheless, the state appears disinterested in addressing this lack of direction, exacerbating the confusion and giving rise to a multitude of challenges.

Contemporary Pakistan is marked by another significant social change: rapid and continually increasing population growth, which has positioned it as the world’s fifth most populous country. This population surge carries profound implications for the country’s politics and political institutions. Firstly, the escalating population places an overwhelming burden on the state and its governance structures. Historically, Pakistan has lacked a robust and effective state apparatus, as evidenced by its inability to adequately address societal needs. Additionally, state policies have contributed to uncontrolled and sustained population growth. Therefore, the state cannot absolve itself of responsibility for this rapid increase. Currently, it appears that the state is detached and powerless in managing population control.

A closer examination of population growth and poor governance reveals their symbiotic relationship. Ineffective policymaking and irrelevant decisions, characteristic of bad governance, have contributed to rapid population growth. Conversely, unchecked population growth exacerbates the issues of bad governance. Several factors, such as lack of education, poverty, a conservative society, and a widespread sense of purposelessness, contribute to the surging population in Pakistan. Once again, bad governance plays a significant role in enabling these factors to persist.

Radicalization and intolerance are pervasive issues in contemporary Pakistan. Over the decades, these problems have deeply permeated society and are fundamentally rooted in poor governance across all levels of state action. Currently, they have reached alarming levels. Intolerance has given rise to extremist social attitudes, which, in some cases, have manifested as terrorism, often justified in the name of religion, sect, or ethnicity. Groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan pose an existential threat to the state. While the state has employed a multifaceted approach to combat terrorism, it has predominantly relied on military offensives, resulting in significant damage to society, displacing and depriving millions of their livelihoods.

Although the state may have achieved some success in combating terrorism, identifying and eradicating its root causes remains a significant challenge. Furthermore, intolerance and terrorism continue to impact all aspects of society, including political institutions and culture. The lack of tolerance among key political parties has stifled the growth of democracy, largely due to intolerance among political actors.

Consumerism is another noteworthy social trend in contemporary Pakistani society, driven by the adoption of postmodernist values. While consumerism has led to increased public spending, it has also strained the financial stability of the state, as substantial foreign exchange reserves are used to import consumer goods.

If the government fails to be responsive to these social changes in Pakistan, it is imperative that other state institutions, including the military and particularly the judiciary, step in to address the situation. Failure to do so will only exacerbate the deteriorating conditions and multiply the problems faced by the common Pakistani citizen.

In conclusion, the social changes taking place in Pakistan present significant challenges to the state’s governance and stability. The rapid population growth, fueled by historical governance failures, places an immense burden on the state’s resources and structures. Radicalization and intolerance, products of longstanding bad governance, have permeated society, leading to extremism and acts of terrorism. Additionally, the rise of consumerism, influenced by the adoption of postmodernist values, strains the financial stability of the state. It is crucial for the government and other state institutions, such as the military and judiciary, to respond actively and effectively to these social changes. Failure to do so will further exacerbate the challenges faced by the common Pakistani citizen and hinder the progress of the nation.