Mirza Shahnawaz Agha
FROM 1947 to 2018 is a journey of seven decades plus and we the people of Pakistan are politically glued to a stage show that takes place every few years without a set time schedule and certainly without a criteria of need. I would wonder with dementia, if I were born at the inception of our country, that this is a sport like any other to enjoy despite the fatigue of being a spectator for the entire day. From the morning, when I would be coerced to leave home to go watch the show, till late at night until I would learn who has emerged as our brand new leader, I would be required to remain excited or dismayed from the results. I would also be forced to reflect on my destiny. What will the new driver in the seat do to my income plan; my job; my sanity; like. These would all remain my factors of anxiety. It is a great game for us the people to be spectators of, beyond any iota of doubt!
Do other countries play this game? Do we copy the exercise or is it really relevant to our lives? What do we achieve as a consequence? What should our expectations be? What does the chronological track record say for the good of the indulgence or otherwise? These are questions that would cross the mind of many like me unless there are others who indulge for the fun of the sport! Of course there is an economic dimension too for this event to sponsors, players and end beneficiaries! Some will get printing orders, the media would get advertisements, the bureaucrats will get lucrative postings, the winners and losers will both get stipends and we the spectators, will in the end analysis, pick up the tab for the show! Now that we the people have to pay for the event at the end of the day we need to know what we will get in return. Let us start with understanding the purpose of elections and then present our wish list. The event is for us the people to pick managers from ourselves to manage our status in human society, by international standards and provide to us the benefits of our ownership from within the asset-base we very proudly own, called Pakistan. Hypothetically if the asset worth of Pakistan is a hundred and we the people are two hundred then each one of us owns half of one unit and therefore our entitlement. From what we own individually the elected managers are required to provide to us a variety of services like global and internal security, welfare, old age care, education, medical care, prompt justice, food for sustenance, fiscal empowerment and very importantly equal opportunity.
Our expectations notwithstanding, whomever we choose must meet certain criteria for us to view: The credentials have to be impeccable of the individuals, we must scrutinize their plans for us and we in turn must have an instant accountability mechanism to check fidelity. This is why the Western model of elections are way different to the one proposed by our ideology. Our ideology seeks of us that candidates are proposed by others for the job and must never offer themselves as a candidate. Towards candidature the people have to be judiciously strong and materially honest (qavi and aameen); the plans they present linking natural resources to the human resource must be realistically achievable and the accountability must be open and transparent. The cost of feeding, securing, lodging, educating and addressing healthcare for the entire population have to be clearly spelt out and so must the enactment of laws that will support the productive ability of the state to meet the bill without begging others. With elections behind us and with some people duly elected we need to see now their plans to sustain the population on the best possible standards, which our asset base can make available.
The concept of ‘small is beautiful’ is most suited for Pakistan as it really allows fiscal decentralization, stringent accountability and even-handed development across the board. Until fiscal decentralization is not achieved resource mobilization for development will never be possible and this is the cornerstone of welfare anywhere. ‘Small is beautiful’ implies the containing of the population into small pockets of between sixty – hundred, thousand strong, in municipal companies called towns. Regulating their needs at predetermined minimum standards for the basics of construction, sewerage, potable water, energy, schooling, clinics and hospitals a down town commercial area and a congregation ground of sorts. These municipal companies should be located on Federal or Provincial leased land representing taxes. The shares of these municipal companies would serve as the equity base giving people a sense of belonging. Once these 3000 municipal towns are carved out of the territory their operations will become an investment avenue for the population and the operators will get trained to operate Provinces and then the Federal Government.
The industrial infrastructure will get the required impetus and will grow and evolve into world-class standards in a very short period of time. In realistic terms Pakistan needs to go for fiscal decentralisation to boost domestic production and bring about real welfare for the people. To assert any development plan in an erstwhile feudal society the assertion of land in the belonging of the Federation is basic. An institution or individual should not be able to hold land of any description unless it is being paid for continually and for good reason. On the analogy of these municipal companies should be industrial, mining, agricultural and tourism allocation of land. On the government elect rests a huge fiscal burden to appease the population and their welfare in addition the cost of security. They need to free the burden of colonial laws that strap the population and the burden of debt and consequent poverty. Best wishes
— The writer is an entrepreneur and author based in Karachi.