Pakistan: Meeting the Challenges

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Atta-ur-Rahman,

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

The severe financial crisis being faced by Pakistan at present needs urgent remedial action. The huge amount of wealth that past leaders have accumulated abroad needs to be brought back to put the country back on its feet. However this cannot happen easily due to the decay of institutions such as NAB where a large number of senior officials were appointed through nepotism to protect the interests of the corrupt leaders who ruled over us in the past. A financial emergency therefore needs to be declared and certain actions taken. Due to the accepted nexus between financial corruption and terrorism, military courts need to be activated to deal with cases of mega corruption. Otherwise years will drag by without any progress as numerous “legal safe guards” are in place to protect the corrupt. There should be no opportunities of plea bargaining, so that the looters and plunderers can get no escape.
Pakistan should also consider abolishing the Rs.5,000 note so that black money can be largely eliminated, as was done by India. Similarly a huge amount of wealth concealment is involved in property dealings where the declared value of a property being sold is about a third or less of its real value. This alone deprives the government of billions of rupees of tax income each year. The minimum assessed values of all transactions should be tripled across the country so that concealment of black money through investment of ill-gotten wealth can be eliminated.
A major issue faced by the country is good governance. To transition to a knowledge based economy, the Secretaries need to be to technocrats with specialization in the field of the sector that comes under them. Each Ministry should have a Think Tank of the best specialists in the country in that field, so that proper policies can be devised in order for the “triple helix” to come into action. What is the triple helix? It is a term used to represent the dynamic interaction needed between three key partners to develop a strong knowledge economy. One partner has to be a government that understands the critically important role of education, science, technology and innovation to migrate to a knowledge based economy and that frames appropriate policies to create the required eco system where innovation becomes a key driver of socio-economic development in the new Pakistan. The second partner is the group of academic and research institutions where creativity flourishes. They need to be given the highest national priority so that school, college and university education can be uplifted to meet the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution that is now upon us. The third partner is the private sector that should be incentivized to invest in innovation so that Pakistan can become a hub for the manufacture and export of medium and high technology goods. CPEC presents a wonderful opportunity for this to happen as high technology manufacturing hubs can be established all along the Corridor, in partnership with Chinese technology giants such as Ali Baba, Tencent, Baidu, Xiaomi, Ant Financial, Huawei, Didi-Chuxing and others. They could be given free land, lower electricity tariffs, 15 year tax holiday, and government insurance against loss of production due to any terrorist attempts to disrupt production. These measures alone will not suffice unless the present system of governance undergoes drastic changes. This will require a change in laws that will need support from the Parliament and Senate. This seems impossible. The present government has a flimsy majority and it can be easily overturned if the opposition buys over a few of the members. Horse trading has not been uncommon in the past in our political system. The opposition parties will strongly oppose any laws that are likely to endanger their corrupt leaders. That is where the role of the Supreme Court will be of critical importance so that major amendments in our Constitution can be made possible and the new Pakistan that we all dream about can emerge.
In Pakistan we have seen a sinister plot being implemented in which the political parties, that have a strangle hold of feudal land lords, have ensured that the majority of Pakistanis remain illiterate and therefore, easily exploitable. The lowest national priority has therefore being given to education. Democracy under these conditions is a complete farce. In SoorahInaam, Aayat 116 in the Quran, it is stated that we should not just follow the majority opinion or otherwise we will be led astray. There is no concept of democracy in the conventional sense in Islam. The Islamic concept of democracy is much more sophisticated, relying on consultation (“shoorah”) with those with “Fehm” (understanding).
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah had realized in 1947 that Parliamentary system of democracy will not work in Pakistan and advocated a Presidential system of democracy. He had written a note in his own hand writing in his personal diary in which he stated, and I quote:“The Future Constitution of Pakistan” — “1. The Parliamentary form of government: it has worked satisfactorily in England and nowhere else—and 2. Presidential form of government (more suited for Pakistan” Unquote. This note is available in File 42 of 1947. This was unsealed by President ZiaulHaque and a copy of it was given to Mr. SharifuddinPirzada, while the original is available in the Jinnah Papers in Islamabad. The notehas been reproduced in the book entitled The Jinnah Anthology of Oxford University Press, page 81, edited by Liaquat H. Merchant and SharifulMujahid (3rd edition published in 2010). In the chapter entitled “Constitutional Set-up of Pakistan as visualised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah” by SharifuddinPirzada in this book he states: “The note was jotted down by Mr. Jinnah on or about 16th July 1947. The note clearly states that in the future constitution of Pakistan regarding form of government there would be Presidential form of government. It was not specified which Presidential form. However in the manner in which the government functioned from 15th August 1947 to 11 September 1948, it seems it was more on the pattern of the French system” Unquote. These views of Mohammed Ali Jinnah were deliberately ignored by politicians as the British Parliamentary system best suited those with a strong feudal power base who could enter the parliament and then indulge in massive fraud. President Musharraf had tried to modify the system by introducing the requirement of a Bachelors degree for eligibility to be elected to the Parliament. This was a move in the right direction, though I was personally in favour of a Masters degree with a first class career through out. Unfortunately many shady characters simply forged their degrees so that some 200 Parliamentarians were ultimately discovered by HEC with forged degrees.One of these crooks even became a Federal Minister. To bring in a Presidential system, the Constitution will require changes. This can only be done if the Supreme Court realizes the gravity of the crisis and takes suo moto notice of the system of governance.
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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