April 29, 2023

Staff report


Political representatives called for radical change in the system of governance in order to resolve Pakistan’s long-standing socio-economic and political problems, as well as to survive the ongoing economic crisis.

‘Reimagining Pakistan’, a seminar series that discuss the political, social and economic concerns of Pakistan, was conducted in the Government College University (GCU)’s Bukhari Auditorium today, and boasted a slew of journalist, human rights defenders, lawyers, economists and educationists, as well as politicians from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan.

The nationwide debate and dialogue series is spearheaded by former PPP leader and ex-Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, together with former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former Finance Minister Miftah Ismail of the PML-N.

In his inaugural address, Miftah Ismail stated that no government in the past 30 years has been successful in bringing even an ounce of improvement in Pakistan’s myriad troubles. He said that the problem does not lie in political actors but rather the system of governance, and that there is a dire need to alter this system to ensure the survival of the country.

“If we want to save this republic, we have to choose between this country and this system of governance, this system of privileges. We have to fundamentally alter this system to save this country.”

He mentioned that Pakistan owes Rs. 600 billion in interest and must pay Rs. 25 billion in debt repayments each year, for which it has entangled itself in a debt trap in order to avoid defaulting.

“The world is not willing to give us anymore loans because we have been doing this [taking loans to pay off other loans] for a very long time. We need external loans to correct our budget deficit, and the more the budget deficit the more the current account deficit,” he explained to the audience which was primarily composed of young political workers, journalists and students. “Pakistan needs to get rid of its unsustainable debts to get out of this current economic situation or else we will be in it for a very long time.”

Ismail also regretted that the past and present governments of the last 30 years have accomplished very little in controlling population, improving the standard of education, eliminating hunger, reducing the infant mortality rate and correcting the country’s circular debt.

“We have seen every type of government – dictatorships, democratic leaderships, parliamentary alliances, etc. – and nothing they have tried has worked. But that does not mean that we are all universally wrong. The system itself is faulty.”

The former Finance Minister urged for radical change, which he held akin to revolution, in governance for which he suggested devolution of powers, reforms in the civil services, extensive privatization of firms and – most importantly – increasing the volume of exports. He further added that the government needs to establish its writ even in the simplest of matters.

Ismail also lamented the current coalition government’s policies to increase the price of domestic goods to unprecedented levels.

“The government cannot make the citizens suffer through 50% inflation. If a household earns Rs. 50,000 and spends Rs. 40,000 from it on food, a 50% increase in inflation means that the aforementioned household’s standard of living has dropped by 40%,” he explained. “Where 60% of Pakistan’s population earns an average of Rs. 35,000 per month and their standard of living drops by 40%, how will they feed themselves?”

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated the aim of Reimagining Pakistan to create dialogue on the problems plaguing Pakistan but regretted that the political rivalries have turned into hatred and that state institutions are at loggerheads regarding their constitutional jurisdictions.

“We are not talking about the country’s troubles on the forums where they need to be discussed. The system has failed us spectacularly – whether it’s our constitutional system, governance system, economic system, they are not functioning.”

He asserted that the leadership as well as the system have completely failed, and called on leaders in the political, judicial, military and bureaucratic spheres to regroup and tackle these systemic failures efficiently. He lambasted the governments of the past two years for failing to achieve progress during their tenures.

“In the past two years alone, all of Pakistan’s political parties have been in the government. Were any of them able to deliver? Were they able to understand our problems?” he posed the question to the audience. “Everyone demands of us the solutions to our problems. When we have complex problems, the solutions are going to be complex as well.”

He identified an inept political leadership as one of the causes for Pakistan’s social, political and economic crises.

“Parliament is the foundation of government. Those who are elected to parliament will form your cabinet, they will be appointed as ministers. Today, 40% of our political leaders were brought in on reserved seats by political parties while the remaining 60% were elected. You cannot even form a 10-member cabinet that can understand the needs of the country or usher in ministers who can resolve our crises,” he regretted. “One after the other, elections were stolen. Inept people were brought in and now they are the leaders of this country. When you bring in an artificial leadership, we are going to bear losses.”

Abbasi stated that a politician must have an education, professional experience and political acumen in order to be capable of bringing positive and implementable change in Pakistan. However, political leadership is not solely responsible for correcting course.

“There are other influences that dictate who wins or loses, who disqualify people and create such a system where people who want to work become disheartened and quit or are kicked out. They must also fix this system.”

The former Prime Minister further stated that bureaucracy is the most in need of radical reform, where the brightest minds from all over Pakistan are made to conform to mediocrity, and are deterred from garnering crucial experience before being posted to administrative positions.

He also said that he is in support of creating new provinces as the current systems of governance in the existing provinces are dysfunctional, and while such a thing may not come to pass, there should be an active move to devolve the provincial government’s authority to the district or division level.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here