For a Technocrat Government

Atta-ur-rehman-1.jpg

Atta-ur-Rahman,

N.I., H.I., S.I., T.I.

PAKISTAN has been suffering from a “feudocracy” in which powerful feudal landlords— the so called “electables” — have hijacked the democratic system. The sham democracy that we have created in Pakistan has resulted in massive loot and plunder, particularly during the last 30 years, and the country has been left almost bankrupt, with a massive national debt of over 25,000 billion rupees. This money borrowed from foreign loans, and through criminal activities within the country, has been quietly stashed away by dirty politicians in secret accounts and assets abroad while the poor people suffer from hunger and deprivation and are forced to suicides and street crime.
One can divide the 70 years of our existence into eight phases. The initial 11 year phase (1947-58) involved several different democratic governments, and Pakistan achieved an average annual GDP growth rate of 3.1%. This was a very difficult time for Pakistan as we had hardly any industry and severe challenges facing the nation to survive in the face of a hostile India that was rearing to destroy this newly formed nation. This phase was followed by the glorious period of Field Marshall Ayub Khan. The country was under military rule (mainly General Ayub Khan) (1958-1969). In this period the policy of privatisation and industrialization was introduced and major national dams constructed that made the country’s economyas one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. Pakistan achieved an annual average GDP growth rate of 6.8% during this brightest period in the history of Pakistan (“termed the “golden sixties”) that saw heavy industrial development, expansion of manufacturing to 9% per annum and growth of agriculture by 4% per annum due to the “Green Revolution”. Indeed it is truly remarkable that by 1969 our exports had exceeded those of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand combined.
Then, alas, came disaster. “Democracy” was restored, and in this 3rd phase (1971-1977) of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto top industries were nationalized and many industrialists fled the country, dealing a death blow on our industrial development— a blow from which we have never really recovered till this day. The GDP growth rate fell sharply to an average of 3.9%. This was followed by phase 4, representing the martial law of General ZiaulHaq (1978-1988) in which the average annual GDP again increased to an average of 6.6% per annum. In the subsequent democratic phase 5 (1988-1999) there were four short intermittent governments of Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif. The average annual GDP growth rate again fell to 4.5% during this period when massive loot and plunder was again witnessed. In the next phase 6, the GDP rose sharply under in the next phase 6 (1999-2008) under General Musharraf/PML-Q. In this period an average annual GDP growth rate of over 6.0 % was achieved. The manufacturing sector showed average annual growth rate of 11.3%, and there was a substantial reduction in poverty. Pakistan’s Human Development Index (HDI) grew by an average rate of 2.7% per year during 2000 to 2007. Disaster struck in 2008 and the progress made was undone by the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
During phase 7 in which the PPP regime was in power (2008-2013) the pattern of slower growth and massive corruption was again repeated. The average growth rate fell to a low 2.9%. According to Transparency International about Rs. 8,500 billion ($94 billion) were lost due to massive national thefts in just 4 years ofthis period. The pace of HDI slowed down to 0.7% per year.During the subsequent PML-N regime (Phase 8),the economy improved somewhat to an average GDP growth of little over 4% of GDP but remained lower than the GDP growth rates under the preceding military rules.
A remarkable fact that emerges from this data is that every time a military regime has taken over from the preceding democratic rules, there has been a sharp improvement of GDP growth rate and a significant improvement in poverty and in industrialization. It is particularly meaningful that overall, the average annual GDP growth rate under 32 years of military regimes has been 6.3% of GDP but under 38 years of democratic regimes it has averaged only about 4%.The governance has been invariably better under military governments than under the sham democracies that we have had because of unbridled corruption. This happened because cronies were appointed by democratic governments at key positions in NAB, SECP, State Bank, FIA and other important organisations that looked the other way at the ongoing loot and plunder. If one were to prepare a graph of the GDP growth under military and “democratic” regimes, one would obtain a good “sine wave” with the hills being military regimes and the valleys being the democratic systems, indicative of the failure of our democratic systems. The false propaganda spread by some politicians is that democracy was not allowed to function in Pakistan because of repeated military interventions. This is nonsense, and the truth is exactly the opposite. The massive loot and plunder by our feudal rulers during the democratic periods of rule forced the military to intervene to prevent the country from being completely destroyed. Our military is the only organized, disciplined and truly professional institution in Pakistan that we can be proud of, and this was reflected in their more organised governance that they brought to Pakistan than under democratic rules. Other indicators such as poverty reduction, manufacturing growth and FDI have all been much better under military regimes. The prime reason for better performance of military regimes has been that technocrat Ministers were selected, not elected, and the quality of governance was therefore more professional.The sad truth is that the worst military regime has fared better in terms of economic growth of Pakistan than the best “democracy” that we have ever had. A true democracy can neverexist in Pakistan because of the low level of literacy, the feudal stranglehold and the manipulated and corrupt election process. Since an educated population would threaten their power base, successive “democratic” governments gave the lowest priority to education.
The success of the so-called “Asian Tigers” South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan was largely due to visionary leaderships but under authoritarian regimes during 1960s to 1990s when dramatic economic transformations were witnessed. They rejected the Washington Consensus of democracy (free markets being the basis for development of all nations) and appointed technocrats in the Cabinets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and China.
Surely military regimes are not the answer for Pakistan. However the installation of a Presidential form of democracy with the President appointing a team of technocrats as Ministers should pave the way for our rapid progress. The four pillars of progress are education, science & technology, innovation and good governance. This requires visionary, honest and technologically competent leadership. The answer for Pakistan lies in having a “technocracy” and not a “pseudo-democracy”.

The writer is the former Federal Minister of Science & Technology & Information Technology, Chairman of Higher Education Commission. Currently he is President of the Network of Academies of Science of OIC Countries (NASIC) and Co-Chairman of UN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP.

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