How underdevelopment ravages Pakistan Dr Qaisar Rashid Friday, April 01, 2011

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A developed country manifests itself in both cerebral and physical terms and in so doing the country establishes a criterion for us to compare with it the development status of any other country. On the development index, Pakistan lags behind on several planes. The term ‘developing country’ is a misnomer in the context of Pakistan; in fact, Pakistan is ravaged by the blight of underdevelopment.

There are several causes and effects of Pakistan’s underdevelopment but a few are noteworthy.

First, (national) security consciousness hogs most available space. Immediately after the formation of Pakistan, the country’s priority shifted to becoming a security state rather than a welfare state. The shift in priority was noticeable because the primary objective of the country’s formation was not an armed empowerment of the Muslims of the subcontinent but to have a piece of land where the interests of Muslims could be secured. At first, fortifying state security was declared a means to achieve that objective but afterward the state security became an end in itself.

The shift initially made the military a partner to the political regimes but later on the shift graduated the military to the position of a surrogate for any ruling regime. Further, the shift has been gobbling up a major chunk of the budget.

After May 12, 1998, it was expected that the priorities would be normalised to keeping a qualitative defence force only - to actualise the ‘minimum deterrence’ doctrine. Moreover, it was expected that room would be provided to social sectors such as education and health to make up for the lag in their progress.

Unfortunately, this has not yet happened. To cope with the devastation caused by the recent flood, funds allocated to the HEC and public universities have been slashed. The education sector is used as a contingency head to offset any loss in other sectors. The Pakistan Education Task Force has declared an ‘Education Emergency’ in Pakistan and rightly so. Nevertheless, who will declare the ‘Health Emergency’ is yet to be known.

Second, a culture of consumption is rampant. The habit of conspicuous consumption bequeathed by an agro-society is unleashed on the industrial produce which is mostly imported. Consequently, the import bill has made inroads into national savings and struck a trade imbalance. This means that if imports keep on outnumbering exports, the economic sufferings of the country are interminable.

Further, the volume of imports and people’s preference for subsequent extravagant utilisation have together made the indirect tax, including General Sales Tax, a tax of choice for the government to levy and engorge the exchequer. People fail to learn how to economise their purchase bills and why they should focus on the production of goods for export. Both China and India are banking on their production strategies (for export) to boost their economies.

Third, medievalism is cherished by people while modernism is despised. Modernism is a thinking pattern which brings about specific changes in the attitude and action of a person; modernisation is a process to achieve modernism. Hence, merely buying and utilising luxury items such as cars and cell phones, travelling in aeroplanes, and living in posh areas is not modernisation.

In the presence of all material things one may not be modern while in the absence of all material things one may be modern. The difference lies in the ways of thinking that are translated into specific behaviour.

In Pakistan, most people live mentally in the medieval age but survive physically in the current age, the twenty-first century. The paradox is goading Pakistan into smarting under it because people tend to sanitise their homes but are averse to keeping surrounding areas clean. Vehicles of the latest models are plied on the highways but traffic rules are not observed. Violating laws and then getting away with it is considered an affirmation of offender’s clout while abiding by the law is reckoned a point of disgrace. Standing in a queue is deemed a matter of demeaning oneself while bypassing the procedure entails a degree of prestige.

Interestingly, most Pakistanis reconcile themselves with medievalism considering modernisation equivalent to westernisation which in turn is abhorred. A conceptual update of Pakistanis is, therefore, essential. People should be helped in the task of harmonising time with the space they are living in.

Fourth, corruption and nepotism have been rationalised. The twin evils are contemptible because they promote an inequity in society leading to dispiriting the talent and hard work. Consequently, adequate contribution to society by all cannot take place. In the past, the pretext of corruption was employed to dethrone political regimes. The anti-corruption thesis of General Musharraf belied him twice at least when he forced NAB to lend him a hand in doing political make-and-break and when he promulgated the NRO to perpetuate his rule. Owing to such malpractices, it is considered that anti-corruption slogans are more to defraud people than to edify society. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if another military general takes over the country touting the self-professed anti-corruption mandate.

Fifth, the fatalistic approach is relied on. Taking spiritual measures to crack temporal enigmas is a repudiation of the fruits of science. Generally, chanting incantations to treat Hepatitis is preferred to consulting a specialist doctor. One hardly ever hears voices calling for installation of water purification and sewerage treatment plants in housing schemes (to ensure supply of clean water and safe disposal of sewerage) to quell the endemic of Hepatitis.

People also declaim invocation to end the power outages instead of launching a people-to-people contact campaign for forging a trans-provincial consensus to build dams. One hardly ever hears people demanding to know how solar and wind energy can be utilised. It seems that people have abandoned themselves to the swerves of fate.

In short, Pakistanis have yet to wake up to the realities of the present age.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:

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