Organized by IPIR: A Sister Organization of World Times Institute
Overview of the organization
IPIR is a non-profit, non-political, and independent research organization established to promote evidence-based decision making, innovative thinking, cross-disciplinary research culture, integrity, and human resource development. It does not support any political party or institution in policy evaluations. The foremost purpose of this organization is to establish a research culture and inclusive policy-making model for a better society where the coming generations can flourish. IPIR aims to promote professionalism, transparency, and objective research. IPIR is a sister organization of World Times Institute that also publishes Jahangir World Times (JWT) monthly magazine – Pakistan’s premier monthly magazine on current affairs that is tailor-made for the aspirants for CSS, PMS and other Competitive exams.
Institute of Policy Input and Research (IPIR) organized this seminar titled “Pakistan at 75 Years: A Country in Search of Political Stability” at World Times Institute Main Hall on 29th October 2022 at 2:00 PM.
- Critically analyzing various eras of Pakistan’s politics.
- To find out the causes behind our turbulent political history.
- To highlight why we don’t have a functional democracy.
- To evaulate the causes behind prolonged political instability.
- To examine critical events, such as seperation of east Pakistan.
- To find if Pakistan is an accidental state.
- To learn about the role of military and bureacracy in our politics.
- To debate the solutions to this perpetually prolonged thread of instability.
- The politicians need to get their own house in order. Infighting should be stopped. It creates governance vacuum that can give an alibi for other institutions to fill it.
- The civil institutions should focus on performance legitimacy and outbid other state structures using this measure. This will involve, above all, provision of basic amenities.
- We should learn from history that it is highly important to manage the public and their identities. Note that at times some identities (ethnic, lingual, and otherwise) might not be relevant but may become so given the overall context.
- The youth bulge of Pakistan is our greatest asset and a huge liability. It depends upon the policies that how the leadership of the country wants to utilize them.
- There is a crisis of leadership in the country. We need good quality leaders that are pragmatic and forward looking. We need to work for our future which can only happen once we are out of the current issues.
- Electoral legitimacy is the need of the hour. Accountability and transparency should be prioritized.
- There is a need to create and form a minimum consensus among the political sphere for smooth functioning of the country.
- Economy needs to be prioritized. Agricultural policies should focus on creating food surplus.
The speakers included:
- Prof. Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi – Senior Political and Defense Analyst
- Dr. Hassan Iqbal – Former Federal Secretary
- Mr. Zahid Aziz – Senior Political Analyst and Columnist
Our honorable guests included august personalities from academia, politics, bureaucracy, law and other fields of life.
- Ambassador Irfan ur Rehman Raja (Senior Faculty Member of WTI, Lahore)
- Mr. Adeel Niaz (Project Director World Times Institute)
- Miss. Tahmina Habib (Deputy Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs)
- Dr. Mahmood Alam Durrani (Principal of Akhtar Saeed College)
- Shahid Zaheer (Retired Chief Commissioner, Inland Revenue Service)
- Col (Retd) Abid (Senior Defense Analyst and Columnist)
Apart from our speakers and chief guests, around 100 participants joined the seminar from various universities.
We initated a Google Doc for participants. Apart from the general information e.g. university, qualification, grades, they had to submit an answer highlighting the reason(s) for attending this seminar and the key learning outcomes.
The selection was done based on the quality and clarity of their answers.
Setting the Context
Past 75 years for Pakistan have been chaotic, tumultuous and challenging especially in terms of politics. Our political history is full of upheavals and dissonance witnessing minuscule periods of stability and peace. Due to political instability, leadership vacuum and half-baked democratic values, less was done to strengthen the state institutions of the country. Consequently, with every passing day instead of bridging the gap, Pakistan fell prey to socio-political polarization and depletion of economic resources.
As Ray Dalio mentions in his book ‘Changing World Order’, Pakistan seems to be on its path to a civil unrest/war checking all the boxes of what he calls an Internal Order/Disorder Cycle. In last 25 years Pakistan’s industrial productivity has only grown 18 percent while that of China grew by 512 percent. Foreign Direct Investment witnessed a decrease of 26 percent in first two years of FY23. Our reserves have fallen to their lowest in three years at $7.59 billion.
In order to compete with time, Pakistan needs a path that promotes political stability, balance of power and strengthening of institutions which are paramount for development and integration otherwise the gradual decay of the institutions will eventually pave way for the implosion of the state. It is high time that Pakistan’s political leadership take substantial steps so that Pakistan can earn the respect it deserves on regional as well as global level.
The moderator, Ahsan Tariq, started the seminar by giving the floor to each of the respected gentleman that they share their thoughts on 75 years of Pakistan from a political perspective in 5 minutes.
Following are some of the observations by each of the speakers.
Prof. Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi:
Despite problems, Pakistan continues to be a funcational democracy. Also, it is doing better than many other muslim countries. However, from another perspective, we see a deficit of democracy perpetuating by the lack of a democratic culture. 75 years of Pakistan’s political history have many achievements yet multiple problems as well. (He added that ) “I’d say there are problems but we cannot call them failures”.
Referring to achievements, the incipient state of Paksitan had to overcome a plethora of issues. For instance, the Bristish Indian economy was a unified one and after partition, the acres that went under Pakistan were not productive. Due to this factor agriculture sufferred and the workforce, most of them being the incoming refugees, took much time in not only going up the ladder in terms of their expertise but also settling down causing serious delays. This was exacerbated by some natural events such as flooding. All of this made many observers to conclude that Pakistan will not survive and will fail as a country. But we survived. Why?
Because right from the beginning Pakistan’s orientation was survivalist. Democratization was never the priority, survival was. IT was the need of the hour.
However, moving forward challenges are moutning. Especially, food deficit as we still are an agrarian country. It is instructive to mention here that problems with food has direct correlation to rising social unrests.
As we continue our journey, I see some promising factors such as the burgeoning class of professional, knowledgable yougnsters, budding entreprenuers, and if all of these are find proper avenues and utilized smartly, they can ensure sustainability.
(Shifting gears to another aspect he added that)
In order to understand Pakistan’s political instaiblity we need to take into account the following dimensions:
- Political dimension that involves assessment of the leaders and their leadership qualities.
- Economic dimension – which is crucial and critical to the contemporary time.
- Nature of Society – this involves studying and reflecting upon the orientation and disposition of society.
The biggest problem that continues to haunt is that we remain obsessed with changing other but not ourselves. We have been debating the same issues from past 75 years that is to say our collective narrative has not matured or evolved. For instance, recently there was a debate about “what does it mean to be a Pakistani?” when this should have been established decades ago. Our narrative should be forward looking.
Dr. Hassan Iqbal:
I’d like to start off by mentioning this brilliant aphorism: “if you forget your past, you will live it again”.
There is no doubt that Pakistan’s history is full of turbulent period with the country virtually remaining a laboratory of politics and unrests. In the midst of all this madness, there was some achievements as well, certain landmarks were reached. We should remember that we became nuclear power striking the Balance of Power in the region. Our country’s history is full of brillant developments and stories of highly intellecutal individuals belonging to all spheres of life. But collectively, as a nation, our story is mired in instability and infighting. The big question today is how to utilize the biggest asset that our country has i.e. Youth. We should remember that this asset can also become a liability is not properly used and channelised. Today our young talent is going to waste, the brain drain is one of the highest, there are no avenues where the energies of our youth bulge can be put into action.
In the past we had external problems such as wars with other countries, heightened geopolitical temperatures in the region and Pakistan, as a corollary, was hit hard by such intrigues. But moving forwards I believe the set of issues that we face are internal (not to mention that the external ones have vanished). Having a 40 year experience in administration, I have seen it firsthand that adminstrative hiatuses, red tape and other administrative issues are the greates hurdle for a country like Pakistan that is constantly looking for some stability.
Our approach to problem solving is myopic and shortsighted. We resolve issues only when things are broken. There is no proactive approach. Matters are being dealt on Ad Hoc basis because the whole design of the system is not capable of having a sustainable mechanism. It hurts to be said but collectively we do not have much to brandish highlighting the dire need that we should be gearing for future.
Mr. Zahid Aziz:
For me 75 years of Pakistan is a perpetual contest. If we divide the history of the country into odd and even decades we find some pattern. In the even decades we see dictatorships with relative political stability but good economic growth. The odd decades host political regimes where we had some political and economic problems. Even if on the face of it dictatorship might have entailed good economic growth the long term consequences of this weren’t worth it. War with India, language and ethnic issues, economic stability are some of the ills that have haunted us recently. Albeit we have been able to perform better than some muslim countries, ours has always been a hybrid model.
In order to instill long term political stability, we need to work on multiple aspects. There is a need to highlight middle class politics. We need organic leadership and so far there have been multiple issues in our leadership qualities as most are a product of establishment. We need local government and the cliched accoutnability mechanisms to ensure stability in the longer run.
After this the moderator asked each speaker some questions. Following is the first round.
Moderator: Is Pakistan an accidental state? What is the nature of our problems?
Prof. Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi:
I will not use the word accidental for Pakistan. The independence and foundation of Pakistan, as history bears a witness, was a struggle based event. It is correct that we have not been able to create stability yet that is part of the journey. The initial problem that Pakistan faced was “how will we create a state”? It also involved issues such as linkages of provinces, along with creating a provincial government in Dhaka. All of this was happening when we didn’t have enough or adequate infrastructure. There were additional problems, as I explained in the starting, such as the influx of people turning into a refugee crisis. There were communal rights (in Bengal and Calcutta).
Whenever we start a thing there is a learning curve which means people learn by doing it over a course of time. Pakistan right after independence faced a similar issue. There was a lack of trained civil servants. They were settling down, some were leaving the country. We also had to rehabilitate the military. Our main reliance was on British Civil/Military asssets and it was comparatively more than India’s. The issue of economy, highlighted in the starting, that it was a unified one and it took a lot of time to create a sepearted version of it. The institutional imbalances spilled over from British where state institutions were more powerful than political. Gradually other problems emerged such as increased role of military which was due to the overall geostrategic makeup of Pakistan at that time. The role of bureacracy also added but was constantly undermined given the continuous disturbances.
It is also important for civilizations that we create alternate civilian infrastructure that we critically lack. To reduce the role and influence of military and to strike a balance in our institutional makeup we need to change what is called the security profile of our country. Furthermore, we need to stop our over-reliance on these institutions for administrative and other issues that come under the rubric of government. We need to perform as a civilian government.
Moderator: What do you think about Ayub Khan’s “Golden Era”? Why is it called as such?
Dr. Hassan Iqbal:
To understand this we first need to understand the role of bureacracy
before the partition. Apart from other dimensions it was also actively involved in development in the sub-continent such as railways and other infrastructures. This policy continued after independence as well where state structures were involved in economic development. During Ayub Khan’s era the lead role was of bureacracy. Green revolution is an example of it that saw per capita income increase by 27 percent and farmers benefitted. As long as bureacracy was in charge during Ayub khan’s era it was going well. From allocation of funds that was transparent and efficient and construction of canals and from development of export industry to increase in per capita income all was going very well – hence the name Golden Era. All of this ushered into a unified and broad bases bureacratic effort. But as the hand of the clock continued to move, policies were capsized and the specter of Nationalization began to haunt the industrialists, foreigners who were interested to invest in our country, entrepreneurs and everyone else. The level playing field was gone. We can make a good contrast with Dubai, they have become the most important and famous investment destination and even Pakistani are investing there and not in their own country! Why? Because of the issues discussed here so far.
Why did we not develop after Ayub? Because of the corruption and inefficiences.
Moving forward we need to create a secure environment as capital flies to such destinations. Uncertainty is the enemy of business. We need to address and set parameters of progress. We need composite development not a scattered one. Bureacrats do not mind leadership of anyone as long as those who are making decisions owe their actions and don’t blame everything on them.
Moderator: What was the identity of Bhutto?
Mr. Zahid Aziz: He was an astute politician, there is no doubt about it. He addressed functional disparities and the lack thereof. As a social democrat he has strong credentials. But the problem was he didn’t or very meekly realized those policy doctrines that he so vocally championed. His success and failure both were of herculean proportions. He was also a victim of fate. His whole era can be taken as a mixture of failures and achievements. The greatest feat he achieved was that of political consensus as he tried to establish a unified voice across the political spectrum. But the fact that he timidly realized his policy doctrine (which had a socialist tilt) didn’t play well for his career.
Moderator: Who can we blame for Fall of Dhaka?
The problem with the events of Fall of Dhaka is that although there is a lot of material available but when there are narratives that obscure national objectivity, then it becomes a problem. As per my opinion, Bangladesh crisis was our internal failure. There are multiple identities in a country. But not all of those identities are politically relevant or important at a given time. The question is that how and why was Bangladeshi Nationalism allowed to take a shape where it took the form of ethnicity and language and their identity suddenly became valid. It was because of unequal development, social justice.
If we would have created participatory political system then socio economic justice had prevailed. So for me all three played a role: Mujeeb ur Rehman, Yahya Khan and Bhutto.
Moderator: What are your thoughts on Zia’s era?
Dr. Hassan Iqbal: There was an international background to whole islamization. Inn retrospect, we can see many other things followed up. It was an indirect consequence of cold war. We were used without us knowing the consequences. We were getting aid but it was eating us away. The biggest loss of it was that it was shredding our social fabric. After Zia chances of a sectarian rift increased. Before that I have personally seen worshippers of all sectors under one roof. But after 1980s, when the 1st murder in peshawar happened on sectarian basis, the conditions got uncontrollable. Unfortunately, it has not stopped hitherto.
Moderator: Same question to you Sir Zahid?
Mr. Zahid Aziz: What options did we have? The problem was not that PAkistan became a part of that but that we perpetuated it by socializing jihad. We introduced and lionized foot soldiers and when the excursion was over, they had nowhere to go so the problems turned inwards. We still suffer from its remanants.
Moderator: Your assessment of 1990s
Prof Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi: I believe we should assess this era similarly to the parameters to that of Ayub. The point of we need to understand is that despite all the claims by a dictator, that it si done for the sake of stability, we know that no dictatorship has been able to achieve it. We need to understand that a coup doesn’t guarantee that it will address or solve the problems due to which it happenend in the first place. The problems re-emerge or remain the same. We should be taking some lessons from the 90s era as politicians should up their game in terms of performance. They need to reduce infighting and develop a minimum consensus. They need to inculcate the disciplaine and coordination of military in civil institutions. This will feed into the biggest strength for such organizations is popular support. And how do can political, civil institutes add up to this ? By working on electoral legitimacy through being fair and accountable and performance legitimacy that can be done visa provision of essential services. Our government still lack in basic facilities such as health care, education, and affordable food. We can outbid other institutions by “performance”.
Moderator: Future Stability of Pakistan
Dr. Hassan Iqbal: There is a silver lining amongst all the contemporary issues. That is of our untapped potential. We currently have a crisis of leadership that have not been able to use the true potential of our youngsters. We need pragmatism and resilience and vision in a leader. We had such leaders but there is a dire need that we get them again and for a long time. That will save us from perpetual stagnancy.
Moderator asked views of the panelist regarding the latest breifing of DG ISI and reprentative of ISPR.
Prof. Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi: ISI chief used to have this policy that he never came on tv or newspaper and any other media outlet. But I believe that if they are saying that they will now change the role of institution moving forwards it should be welcomed. Once again the burden is on the political parties to show performance and do not leave a gap because the other institutions are certain that they will always find support from a certain section of the society if it is left out.
Mr. Zahid Aziz: The future of Pakistan’s tability is dependent on the political acumen of the leadership. They should resolve their issues and avoid creating a power and givernance vaccum. The words of DG ISI should be accepted and taken as true. The confinement of the role of the said institute depends upon the sgacity of political parties.
Dr. Iqbal: We should be cognizant that the foreign elements can take advantage of this situation. Therefore, the need is of harmony, cooperation and coordination.
Final words of advice from Prof Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi:
I would advise the audience and students here to please study and when you do so, try to be objective. There is no space of emotions in academia or knowledge. The world cannot be viewed into labels and binary terms. It is a complex world. We need to study various factors to understand it in a better way.
As far as Pakistan is concerned one thing is certain that it will not collapse as a state. But we need social mobilization to ensure a balance between the power dynamics of our country.
Hassan Ejaz: Role of student unions and why aren’t they now allowed here in Pakistan?
Mr. Zahid Aziz: When we talk about leadership, we should also talk about proper channels through which it is polished and refined. Also, we believe in collective wisdom so to say that only students can be good leaders will be wrong. Students should be channelizing their efforts and energies in becomoing better leaders and persons and then there should be a proper mechanism that ensures that they rise to the top.
A Student: We are told that once you enter government or become civil servants you won’t have any control over your decisions? How true is that?
Dr. Iqbal: Decision making is a collective exercise and requires collective opinion. We do realize that sometimes there are illogical decisions being peddled by the higher authorities but that is not always the case. So while it is true but you can turn it around by showing and proving yourself. Your work should speak and that will give you some space to be vocal and voice your concerns.