by Imran Khan
In the past two months two of our top doctors at SKMCH & RC resigned to seek employment abroad, because both felt that Pakistan has no future. The numbers of professionals and businessmen who are being “brain – drained” is increasing at an alarming rate. Most people are losing hope in Pakistan, where a fascist Govt. has gripped all levers of power, and yet is completely ill-equipped to deal with the multi-crises facing the country. The despondency is compounded by the fact that there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
However despite this atmosphere of gloom and doom there are eleven reasons why I still believe that Pakistan has a bright future.
Nation – ready for change
1. My main reason for optimism stems from the fact that today the people of Pakistan are ready for a change. Whether it is the posh dinning rooms or the truck restaurants by the roadside or the tea stalls, everywhere the consensus is that we cannot go on any longer with the current system. While people may differ on what type of change, yet everyone agrees that to survive, change we must. This is extremely encouraging, as it is only matter of time before the winds of change turn into a gale force and sweep away those upholding the status quo. According to the Quran “Never has Allah changed the condition of a people unless they strive for it themselves.”
Vast amount of talent
2. Pakistanis are an extremely talented and a vibrant people. Wherever, they have got a level playing field they have excelled. In the past 25 years I have witnessed their talents blossom all over the world. In systems where merit + hardwork are awarded they have become outstanding doctors, engineers, bankers, businessmen, scientists even sportsmen. According to a survey in 1996 amongst all the ethnic groups residing in the USA, academically, Pakistanis were amongst the top two. There was an article in Britains Daily Mail newspaper on 16th October ‘ 98 about “Britains Brightest family”. It was about a Pakistani couple all of whose four children were geniuses. Also lets not forget that the late Dr. Abdus Salaam the Nobel Prize winner in physics was a Pakistani. Moreover it was the Pakistani businessmen who took over the textile trade in Manchester, which for decades had been a Jewish Monopoly. In the silicon Valley in the US a number of Pakistani businessmen like Farooq Bajwa + Saifi Qureshi have done extremely well in the computer industry. In international institutions like the U.N, World Bank & IMF. Pakistanis, have reached prominent positions through their hard work and talent. In the late sixties, early 70s it was six or seven Pakistani cricketers who started playing in the English County Cricket. After excelling there, they came back to make Pakistan a cricketing force.
So I strongly believe that if we can develop our systems, liberate the people from the corrupt politicians and stifling bureaucracy, award honesty & hard work and allow the potential of our people to develop (especially by investing in education) we can become a proud, independent, self-respecting nation.
Need for change of system
3. The corrupt ruling elite has created great despondency amongst the people by giving the impression that it is hopeless to fight corruption because everyone is corrupt. Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly made statements to this effect “Awa Ka Awa Corrupt Ha”. During the past decade both Nawaz Sharif and Bibi defended their personal corruption, not by trying to prove their innocence but by calling the accuser corrupt.
I believe a Govt. which has integrity and determination can crush corruption by conducting a ruthless accountability of those who have corrupted the system as opposed to those who have been corrupted by the system. The former are those who have been in power, and who have used their position to make fortunes. The latter, however should be given amnesties. How can the law treat a businessmen who is forced to pay bribes by Govt. depts or for example a Govt. servant with a salary of Rs. 5000 supporting five children, in the same way as a politician who uses his position to loot nationalised banks, development funds, gets commissions and kick backs from money that belongs to the people of this country?
Accountability, liberalisation of the economy, alongwith structural changes in our system of governance (like decentralisation, a lean well paid bureaucracy, a conflict of interest law, freedom of information, transparency, independent accountability commission) can rid our society from the curse of corruption. Pakistanis abroad live as law abiding citizens because unlike in Pakistan the systems there ensures that crime does not pay.
Determination to improve the law and order situation
4. I am also confident that a determined Govt. can dramatically improve our law and order situations. Police and judicial reforms will have to be conducted immediately. If in both institution selection is made on merit, free of political interference and have decent salaries, there is no reason why their performance will not dramatically improve. A law commission that includes retired judges, prominent citizens plus Govt. representatives, instead of the law ministry, would be a first step towards the freedom of the judiciary. The judiciary in Singapore in the 60s was as corrupt as in Pakistan, it took one dynamic chief Justice of integrity backed by a visionary head of state, to make it one of the most respected in the world.
We may not agree with the Taleban interpretation of Islam but the way they have managed to restore a complete rule of law in an incredibly short time, in a country where every institution had been destroyed by years of war, is extremely commendable. To simply attribute the Taleban’s success to harsh punishments is being naive. The reasons for their success are first and foremost that no one, including the leadership of the Taleban, is above law. Secondly the laws are enforced. Only once the rule of law was established were the Taleban able to disarm the entire country. Why can’t we establish law and order when our task is relatively easier?
5. The root cause of our present economic crisis is our inability to collect enough tax revenues – hence our debt trap. According to various estimates of our tax commissions we barely collect 25% of our tax potential – the rest is evaded. The main reason is that the privileged classes have never paid their share of taxes. Through various tax exemptions that they have provided themselves, the privileged classes have creamed off the wealth of this country. Naturally the majority of the people resist paying taxes, when they see the ruling elite not only evading taxes but also living in luxury on their taxes. Reforming the tax dept, removing all exemptions for the privileged, punishing evaders, having fewer, lower and equitable taxes, can more than double our tax revenues. After all if Uganda could raise its tax revenues by 500%, and Argentina which has high level of corruption, could raise its tax – GDP ratio from 9% to 21% in two years because of President Menem’s determined leadership, then why can’t we raise our tax GDP ratio from 13% to 26% and balance our budget.
Smaller autonomous units
6. Because there is no separation of the executive and legislature and because there is no conflict of interest law, our parliament has degenerated into various mafias whose sole reason for being there is to protect their personal interests. By bribing the legislators with plots, permits, bank loans, development funds, etc., a prime minister can control them, and in doing so, remove all checks and balances on his power. Thus Nawaz Sharif has become a complete dictator. Pakistan can only have real democracy by separating the legislature from the executive and simultaneously developing a system of local Govt. (which is the cornerstone of western democracies). A national debate needs to take place on whether the size of our provinces needs to be reduced. Bear in mind that in terms of population, the size of Pakistani provinces is the largest in the world. Good governance is clearly not possible unless the administrative units are much smaller. Switzerland which has the same population as Lahore has 26 cantons – each having greater autonomy, than even possessed by the states in the US.
7. Pakistan is endowed with extremely fertile soil. I was told by an Australian water & soil expert, that the top soil in Australia rarely exceeds six inches. While according to him, in parts of the Indus Basin it as much as six feet deep. By introducing modern farming practices, seed development, providing credit to the small farmers, lining the canals, building farm to market roads and above all by giving incentives to the farmer with a proper pricing policy, we can more than double our agriculture output in a short space of time. If the East Punjab farmer can produce twice the amount from the same quality of land, why can’t we?
8. Pakistan is endowed with the most diverse and beautiful countryside in the world. The Northern Areas, the salt range, Hazara and Malakand divisions, the Balouchistan Coastline, Cholistan Desert are all areas that can be developed for tourism and can bring prosperity to the country and especially to the inhabitants of the regions. However, certain steps need to be taken immediately if we are to preserve our beautiful country. Firstly we have to control our population through female literacy and a powerful campaign through the mosques (as has been done in Bangladesh & Egypt).
Secondly large areas have to be set aside as national parks where wild life has to be protected and reintroduced. Thirdly proper planning needs to be done where model villages are developed for the inhabitants with all the amenities, rather than sprinkling of homes all over, which ruins the landscape & environment. Above all the people of the area must have an incentive in protecting their forests and environment. They must be made to realize that if they protect their environment than they stand to benefit from both local and foreign tourism.
Overseas Pakistanis – greatest resource
9. If we can develop a just system of governance based on merit and minus the redtapism, than we can tap into our greatest resource — the overseas Pakistanis. According to Shahid Javed Burki, the annual income (GDP) of the estimated 4 million overseas Pakistanis is around $ 60 billion. Their savings are likely to be twice as much. Imagine the impact it will have on Pakistan if a portion of their capital and their talent comes back into the country. The overseas Pakistanis not only understand western systems but also through the information highway, have tremendous awareness about what is going on in their motherland, and therefore cannot be fooled by gimmicks like the Qarza Utaro or Self Reliance Scheme. Yet if they see structural reforms and good governance they will invest heavily in the country — Just as overseas Chinese and Latin Americans invested in their respective countries. If in 7 days the Pakistanis in USA could give $ 400,000 to SKMT, imagine what they can do for their beloved country if they got sufficiently motivated?
Strong family system
10. The breakdown of the family is one of the biggest problems facing the western world. Crime, drug addiction, psychiatric problems, school dropouts, poor academic results are all connected to high divorce rates. Fortunately in Pakistan our family system is still intact. Were it not for the extended family system in Pakistan, we would have had a complete collapse of society by now, with anarchy and bloodshed at a massive scale, given the high level of inflation, unemployment and injustice in the absence of a social security net. Our capability of facing all sort of hardships is due to a strong family system. Hence we have the foundations to build a humane and civilised society.
11. Finally it is my personal experience that gives me great hope for Pakistan. In cricket I was part of a team that became a world-beater despite there being no organised structure of cricket in the country. However I did find that having talent alone was not enough – we only became a force when we united and played as team, and that is what is needed to make Pakistan a great nation.
After cricket I saw another side of our people when the whole country united to build a cancer hospital in Lahore. During the fund raising campaign I was simply astounded and overwhelmed by the generosity of the common man (as opposed to the tight fistedness of our elite). I discovered that our people are deeply spiritual and capable of enormous sacrifices for their fellow human beings. I am convinced that we can set up free health and education system for the poor, just on Zakat—provided the people believe in the credibility of the government. I do not know of any country where a private cancer hospital gives 90% free treatment and which is funded almost entirely by people’s Zakat and donations. The people of this country will unite and give great scarifies behind a leadership that is sincere and just, and once they are mobilised the dream of Quaid-e-Azam of making Pakistan a model Islamic welfare state will be fulfilled.