Zamir Ahmed Awan
PAKISTAN is situated in South Asia, a former British colony with a Muslim majority (97%). The country with its population of 220 million, the 6th largest population is a strong regional power to be reckoned with. Its geo-strategic location is very important as it is just at the entrance of the Straits of Hormuz and the energy rich Middle-East. In its history of independence in 1947, half of the time was ruled by Military. For the last 15 years, Pakistan was ruled by democratically elected governments of three different political parties: PML-Q, PPP and PML-N. I am not biased or politically affiliated with any political party in anyway, but having the responsibility to democracy and free speech, I must point out what the word on the street is. All of these three governments have disappointed the people of Pakistan and failed to satisfy majority of people.
However, Pakistan is a country blessed with many unique strengths, like rich agriculture, excellent climate, vast variety of minerals and natural resources. Taking an example of Thar coal, it can meet the energy requirements of Pakistan for next 200 years. Copper and gold reserves are ranked high, rare elements and salt are in reasonable quantity, gem-stone and semi-precious stones are 4th largest in the world. In agriculture, Pakistan ranks among the top ten countries of the world including rice, cotton, milk, chick peas, citrus, mango, livestock, etc. A majority population (approximately 110 million) youth is another strength of productive work force, but yet the country suffers from shortage of fuel, electricity, clean drinking, access and good health care, access to quality education is beyond the reach of common man. The gap between rich and poor is increasing every day. Common issues without any personal discrimination, with the last three political governments, are as given below:
Lack of political will to change Pakistan’s status quo, lack of planning, lack of setting national priorities, adhoc-ism approach, nepotism, lack of capacity, lack of reforms, short-sightedness etc. They were focusing only on the issues, which are more visible and attracts public attention immediately to prolong their rule, or attracting vote bank for next election. They were more interested in initiatives, which can be completed during their tenures and make them a political slogan for next election. For example, Pakistan possess huge potential of hydro-power. It is cheapest way of power generation and can solve water issues for the nation. But building dams takes long time of around ten years on average. They believe, if they imitate any such mega project, it will be not completed during their tenure and credits goes to next government. They opted for IPP, Thermal, Solar, Coal based power plants, which can be completed within their tenure and make good slogan for them to ask for vote. However, all these are small in scale and having various type of limitations. All of these three government has given least importance to basic education, health care, and long term mega projects. They all equally failed to introduce civil servant reforms and merit was compromised. As a result, incompetent and corrupt officials came into decision making positions, which has harmed the country a lot.
Pakistan is a very much diversified society, consisting various ethnic groups, religious factions, political views. I take it as a strength, as if someone want to harm Pakistan, others will resist it. Media has high degree of freedom of expression, and playing vital role. Media is a strong pillar of this society, especially social media. As a result today, the voter in Pakistan has somewhat awareness about the power of its vote. They understand, that voting for right candidate can make a big difference. The honorable Care-taker Prime Minister of Pakistan, was appointed on non-political affiliation and he has announced that the Election will be held on time. Courts are pro-active to ensure, free and fair election on time. Election Commission of Pakistan is preparing all set-go for free, fair election on time. Civil and Military establishment has also expressed on several occasions that they support free, fair election on time. Establishment has learned to support democracy and who ever form the next government, will stand with them.
Based on my first hand interactions with common man, I am confident that the election will be free, fair and on time. The voters will think twice before voting and ask or clarify any query what so ever comes into his/her mind, up to his / her satisfaction before making any decision. The election will change the status quo and who so ever will form government will introduce basic reforms, fight corruption and promote merit. They will deliver up to satisfaction of majority. It may not be ruling elite as usual, it will be public rule for the common citizen. Although, the issues in Pakistan are too complex, and may not be able to rectify each and every thing and become ideal. But definitely will be better and public-focussed welfare oriented.
— The writer, Professor National University of Sciences & Tech, is non-residence Fellow at Centre for China and Globalisation.