The state of Pakistan is currently facing numerous social changes that have far-reaching implications for its functioning and stability. Scholars argue that a state’s ability to respond to these changes is crucial for its wellbeing, as neglecting them can lead to panic, conflict, and instability. However, the present state of responsiveness to social changes in Pakistan exemplifies the importance of the state’s role in managing and addressing these shifts.
Scholars argue that a state, much like an institution, can only function and survive if it effectively responds to the social changes occurring within its society. The state itself should not be the cause of these changes. When the state fails to address and manage these key social changes, it can lead to panic, conflict, and instability within the country. The current state of responsiveness to social changes in Pakistan serves as a prime example of how crucial it is for the state to adapt and manage the evolving situation.
Presently, Pakistan is experiencing a near breakdown of its constitutional order, marked by widespread panic and instability. This can be attributed to the inadequate response of key state institutions, including the executive branch (federal and provincial governments), to the significant social changes that have taken place in the past decade. The advent of the information revolution and globalization, coupled with widespread access to information through various channels, especially social media, has elevated the knowledge levels of most Pakistanis.
As a result, any abuse of power, corruption, or authority by government institutions is quickly exposed. This information revolution has led to increased awareness among Pakistanis about their rights and a growing inclination towards individualism. However, the ruling alliance, consisting of thirteen political parties, remains entrenched in outdated practices such as collectivist family politics and nepotism. Consequently, the state fails to be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the majority of Pakistanis, especially the youth.
When politics, political culture, and political institutions become disconnected from prevailing social trends, it gives rise to widespread consternation, panic, and both low- and high-intensity conflicts. Pakistan is currently witnessing a scenario where political actors and institutions, particularly within the government, lack a meaningful connection to the prevailing social trends in society. These so-called leaders and ministers have no understanding of the social changes that have taken place, the resulting needs and issues, and how to address them.
In today’s Pakistan, several significant social changes have occurred, creating profound societal currents. One of the dominant trends is the extensive confusion and lack of direction among most Pakistanis. People are unsure about their living conditions, how to improve them, and the meaning of development and its attainability. This confusion arises from the clash of values within Pakistani society. While Pakistan is traditionally a conservative society, economic, political, and social development necessitates embracing liberal values and attitudes. Additionally, a significant portion of the population believes in anarchism, considering the government and any form of authority as inherently evil and to be completely rejected. Others are ultranationalists who support the state regardless of its actions or lack thereof. This clash of perspectives has generated a pervasive sense of aimlessness and purposelessness among most Pakistanis. The state could help alleviate this confusion by providing its institutions to give people a sense of purpose, facilitating ways to improve their lives and standards. However, the state seems disinterested in addressing this lack of direction, exacerbating the confusion and giving rise to multiple issues.
Another significant social change in contemporary Pakistan is the rapid and ever-increasing population growth, ranking it as the fifth most populous country in the world. This population surge has 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 not had a robust and effective state apparatus, as evident from its failure to adequately respond to societal needs. Furthermore, the state’s policies have played a role in fostering uncontrolled and sustained population growth. Hence, the state cannot absolve itself of responsibility for this rapid increase. Presently, it appears that the state is detached and powerless in managing population control.
Upon closer examination of population growth and bad governance, it becomes apparent that the two have a symbiotic relationship. Bad governance, characterized by ineffective policymaking and irrelevant decisions, has contributed to rapid population growth. Conversely, the 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 galloping population growth in Pakistan. Once again, bad governance has played 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 bad 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. As a result, significant damage has been inflicted on society, displacing and depriving millions of their livelihoods.
Although the state may have some success in combating terrorism, identifying and eradicating its root causes and seeds 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. The increase in consumerism can be attributed to the growing adoption of postmodernist values. While consumerism has led to public spending growth, it has also strained the financial stability of the state, as substantial foreign exchange reserves are utilized 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 pose 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.