Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
ON July 25, Pakistani nation undergoes casting the vote for election-2018. The politics of change is the mantra that is being roared in this election campaign. Will the July 25 election bring about a change in Pakistan or will the era of false dawn be over, is the most striking question of the day? It goes without saying that the root cause of our present national ailment or crisis lies in our failure to address a long awaited task of nation-state building , a dream that has been deferred since so long. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and economically viable in the long run. Yet this dream of making Pakistan politically stable and economically viable cannot be cherished without paying fidelity to the core of our nationalism— a gigantic task ahead.
Since the genesis of Pakistan, different theories, doctrines and beliefs took their effect to shape the political underpinnings/ ideological moorings of the new state. Nation-building refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state; whereas state building is less widely used and is described as the construction of a functioning state. Here, it is pertinent to mention that the real cause of our failure to meet the challenge of nation-state building is encapsulated in our negation of nationalism. While having a voyage through the history of our national politics/ leadership, we find that it was the spirit of nationalism that highly dominated the mind of our political leadership in the formative years. But as time passed by, we declined that degree of nationalism that was demonstrated by our founding fathers. As for the leadership crisis in Pakistan, for the tragedy we must blame all categories of leaders. The crisis of leadership, in fact, is the crisis of mind. Today when our leaders proudly speak of Pakistan having survived for seventy years, they fail to mention that the Pakistan we have today is not the country that was born in 1947. The idea that Jinnah started with did not take root. The politics of provincialism and cultural polarization weakened the federation of Pakistan. Take for example the case of 1971 – here was a failure that parted the nation into two. The philosophic bases of Pakistan were put to the test. The ideological Weltanschauung on which Pakistan was built remained completely bruised.
Our political elite succumbed to the dictates of personal vendetta. And a gross decline in our nationalist values paved the way for political turpitude that expanded the roots of corruption in our body politic. The national politics of 1970s, 1990s, and beyond years 2000s is rightly reflective of this fact. And yet it also remained a fact that in the 1980s, the economic indicators of our national economy were highly healthy because we had borrowed no loan from the IMF. Today, every Pakistani is under the burden of a foreign debt of rupees 1, 70, 000. Here again, we can’t refute the link between nationalism and a corruption free society.
Using corruption estimates from the World Bank and the same survey data on nationalism, another positive effect of nationalism emerges: Corruption is consistently lower in countries with higher levels of nationalism. How does nationalism reduce corruption? For many of the same reasons that it improves the economy. Just like parties to a business transaction, public servants who contemplate corruption face an unsavory trade-off: to profit at the expense of fellow nationals. Nationalism also changes the mind-set of those affected by corruption. A nationalistic public is less likely to accept government corruption and simply look the other way. On the other hand, without nationalism, the purely selfish citizen might not care about corruption at all. But a nationalistic citizenry gauges the effect of corruption on the entire nation, and this greater concern for potential abuse triggers the collective response that keeps corruption in check. In Pakistan, the political elite has tried its best to utilize the public servants as their personal orderlies. The truth upholds that it has been the sham democracy that ruled over the years in Pakistan. The understanding of ‘right to rule’ is perverted and limited to seeking votes, getting elected and forming governments. Never in history, have the representative governments in Pakistan honoured their part of the social contract with the spirit and commitment that democratic philosophy would require one to do. Sadly, some of the politicians have been the part of the foreign agenda to destabilize Pakistan.
Nevertheless, reconstruction of policy- making and forming institutional balance of power seems an emergent policy task for the future leadership. While in the given strategic environment where our national security holds top priority, Pakistan’s nation state feature has to be pragmatically matched with that of a quasi- security state, our security establishment has increasingly pivotal role in policy- making since it supervises significant national affairs—importantly the domestic and foreign affairs dictating our internal and external security threats. Make no mistake, our survival truly lies in the establishment of a strong federation viably articulated through a sustainable nation-state building process, and this epic task could only be tackled and skilfully harnessed by a strong leadership whose conduct is clean from corruption and accountability.
We, the Pakistanis must value our vote. The vote is our national asset and booty . Undeniably, a wrong choice of vote may put our nation’s future into the cross-fire of instability, unpredictability and uncertainty. The ardent advocates of change/ the custodians of our future leadership must understand that a real change may only come through resourceful state policies’ indoctrination based on foreign policy pragmatism, institutional gradualism , trans-provincialism-cum- federalism, fiscal conservatism, and liberal constitutionalism. In order to prevent dystopia, Pakistan must back its prudent policies and productive reforms to counter the mounting challenges of 21st century.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.