AFTER social sector development has been a subject of negligence for decades, the crisis of governance has become unmanageable. People seem to be left unguarded as violent seasonal variations subject them to hunger and diseases. The climate change affecting water cycle, natural habitate and crop patterns, education sector should have been reformed on a priority basis. The curricula should have been focussed on promoting awareness about both the impact of violent seasonal variations on the strategies to cope with changing nature.
The state-run media could be used to promote healthy eating habits among the people who have become used to consume adulterated food and unstandardized ghee and cooking oil that have made them suffer from cardiovascular diseases. Commercialisation of agriculture and irresponsible use of pesticides has resulted in pollution of waterways to the bad luck of teeming millions. Contamination of soil, water and air costs people in the form of deadly diseases. The whole cycle of economy stands paralised due to non-implementation of environmental regulations.
Who would like to invest in an environmentally disturbed and poorly governed country like ours? The civilian regimes have virtually abandoned education and healthcare to private sector seems not only strange but naive at a time Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA and Pakistan Railways causing huge losses to the national exchequer continue to be state owned enterprises for it means jobs for the cronies of ruling parties. While liberalising economy, as part of package deal with World Bank and IMF, the traditional elite, who took turn in the corridors of power after 2008 general election, saved its own skin and left the common people on the mercy of capitalism. Technically speaking, health and education should have been the last two concerns to be seen off in the name of economic liberalisation by the democratically elected governments. Democracy, of course, is not about protecting capitalist class but a check on their lust for profits.
There is no justification, whatsoever, in leaving social sector at the mercy of moneyed interests. Think about the large size of unregulated economy and what comes to mind is quite awesome. Is it not strange to find real estate tycoons, businessmen and even the smugglers investing in schools and hospitals under the spell of demand-supply mechanism? In the absence of effective and efficient regulatory regimes, professionals stand exploited and consumers defrauded.
One should expect nothing but cruelty if capitalists are let loose in an otherwise traditional economies. If democracies fail to check unjustified profits, there is something wrong with its custodians, say political parties. Abandoning social sector development is not the innovation of the civilian regimes but a legacy of Musharraf regime that they followed in the fit of absent mindedness. See how private sector is poorly paying teachers, nurses and the lower staff! There is none to address the grievances of consumers, as well.
How people not knowing complexities of nature can brave climate change? Can the best hospitals ensure their health if polluters are not made to pay the cost of their negligence to environment? Can pharmaceutical firms defend them against diseases if necessary ingredients become missing in their food and clean water is out of their access? When next general elections are in sight, it is time to review last eight years of civilian rule against the fact of politics of reconciliation and how it deliberately kept the benefits of democracy out of people’s reach at the grassroots level. It started with abolition of local governments and ended up disposing off the sectors where they mattered the most: health and education.
Had the Charter of Democracy been signed by guided souls, enough energies should have been consumed in the aftermath of 18th Constitutional Amendment to make local governments even stronger by assigning them the power to recruit below 16 grade employees. They were mischievously seen off, instead and the matters were handed over back to bureaucracy. The local government system is back, thanks to the overwhelming interest of Supreme Court, but these are Deputy Commissioners who are the real masters of the people. After the Centre has devolved power and resources, the people have left to the wishes and whims of bureaucracy located in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.
Only meagre resources have been allocated by provinces to social sector development during last eight years. Note the irony of the situation: the utilisation of the funds reserved for education and health has been less than 50% while priority has been given to infrastructure development rather than improving the quality of services. None should expect Pakistan moving ahead without keeping alive the spirit of devolution. All efforts to enter power corridors without showing solid commitment to Article -140 A constitute treachery to democracy and the people of Pakistan. As for political parties, they are just a tool to advance sectional interest, not the agents of social change. It is where justice matters and it should be done now. The Supreme Court must get implemented the 140-A in letter and in spirit to make benefits of democracy reach the people of Pakistan.
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.