Changing themselves for the rulers is an easy task. When they feel that they can win an election and gain power by bowing into the feet of a man, they will never hesitate to bow. Almost all the people and religions agree on one point - that telling lies is a huge sin - however, they will never hesitate to speak the lies and befool the masses.
Now rulers of Pakistan have been giving a new vision of sending people to paradise without work if they were again elected to power. The people as well as the rulers know full well this is a lie, but they have no other option.
A leading newspaper in its editorial comment discussed the new vision of Musharraf to be announced soon. It stated that the absence of democratic institutions is only one of the many misfortunes of Pakistan; equally serious have been the fundamental mistakes made in the country’s socio-economic development.
A review of the economic policies since independence is beyond the scope of this piece. But certain aspects of the kind of economic planning we have had deserve to be noted because of their profound negative impact on Pakistan’s political and economic systems.
The middle class has, no doubt, expanded both in size and in terms of its ratio to the population since 1947, but it has not expanded fast enough for two reasons: one, large feudal landholdings were not abolished and, two, the increase in the literacy rate has been painfully slow while the population has grown rapidly. There were two major land-reform attempts — first during the Ayub regime and later under the Bhutto government. But the implementation of both was half-hearted, and the powerful feudal lobby — which controlled the levers of governmental and legislative powers — managed to evade the reform laws’ operation.
This had several consequences, one of them being the perpetuation of the wretched economic condition of the landless peasant class, which depended for its survival on the feudal lords. The building of new dams, barrages and canals following the Indus Waters Treaty brought more areas under cultivation, but the new lands went to the already rich feudals or to the new class of civil and military bureaucrats, who managed to get the canal-fed lands at cheap rates. Thus, while the landed aristocracy further strengthened its position, the pauperised landless peasant had only two choices: either to accept the bondage he has been living under for generations or to migrate to the cities to earn a living.
The urban conditions in Pakistan today stem from the absence of an equitable agricultural sector. Industrialisation began in earnest during the Ayub rule, but instead of being evenly spread it was confined to certain families. While the rural poor flocked to the cities to provide manpower for industry, the scant civic and utility services in the urban areas came under further pressure, leading to tensions and unrest.
These factors, plus a low literacy growth rate, combined to inhibit the growth of a vibrant middle class which could have a stake in democracy, rule of law and the creation of an egalitarian society, with the rights of all citizens, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and gender, safeguarded. The ‘Vision 2030’ document seeks to undo these injustices and aims at transforming Pakistan into “a well-ordered and inclusive society, where imbalances created by the continuation of an ancient order are resolved and national wealth is shared equitably”.
These are laudable aims contained in a document which President Pervez Musharraf is likely to release to the media for a national debate. There have been such ‘visions’ before, too, and they have ranged from the utopia of Bhutto’s Islamic socialism to Ziaul Haq’s Islamic ‘system’. The end result is the kind of society we have today — a society characterised by the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, the rising wave of violence, especially the one backed by religious fanaticism, and the preponderant role which the military and the clerics have come to acquire in politics.
‘Vision 2030’ will stand a chance of success and acceptability by the people of Pakistan only if it is implemented by governments which are democratic in character and motive.