The Nawaz Government and the Issue of Good Governance in Pakistan

Democracy sustained by ‘good governance, not promises,’ Pakistan’s Prime Minister tells UN. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Nearly after four years of rule, the Nawaz government suffered from bad management which had become the norm. An editorial aptly entitled “Bad Governance as the hallmark of PML-N rule” published in Pakistan Today on March 16, 2017, maintained that it began from the first day and continued till toady. The arbitrary hike in the sales tax soon after coming to power had to be withdrawn since it could not have been imposed until Parliament passed the Finance Bill. Much later, the Supreme Court canceled promotions of senior officials by a selection board headed by the Prime Minister on the grounds of these conflicting with the prescribed procedure. The Premier being the chief executive of the country was required to take all the key decisions in Cabinet meetings. For three years, Nawaz Sharif made these decisions himself not caring for the Cabinet till Supreme Court told the Government that this was unconstitutional. Secretiveness continues to persist in Government. Forcing the Chinese government to intervene to remove these reservations. Total concentration on big projects which can be translated into votes at the next elections leads the Nawaz Government to ignore its constitutional responsibilities. The Supreme Court had to intercede numerous times to direct the Nawaz Government to correct its path. The Nawaz Government against its wishes had to be forced into the conduct of the Local Government elections and the Census. The method in which the Nawaz Government had managed the circular debt was another example of bad governance and lack of transparency. The secretive way the debt was paid off soon after the government came to power and the way it piled up to the dangerous level of Rs 216 billion in less than six months was no secret. This happened despite the Finance Minister’s solemn promise that the circular debt would never be permitted to escalate again. The circular debt had now spilled over the entire fuel supply chain, choking ports, and refineries and down to transport. Meanwhile, the responsible federal ministries blamed one another for the crisis. This was yet another example of bad governance. [1]

Pakistan suffered from a lack of political will to tackle the country’s mushrooming seminary problem. The state had failed to initiate education reforms in the public sector. The galling failures were responsible in a large youth body that was very poorly educated and badly trained to take up any meaningful jobs in the growing economy. The entire education sector was in shambles with very few exceptions. Madrassah education was perhaps the worst of all. It was estimated that a decade ago, Pakistan had about 25,000 religious seminaries across the country. Now, however, the number was estimated to be around 35,000. Under a madrassa reform process that was much earlier approved by the government of Pervez Musharraf, religious seminaries were required to register and make public their funding resources. However, beyond the realm of what law demands, it was a bitter reality that successive governments since Musharraf’s rule have not been able to ensure that religious seminaries register with the government, let alone making public their financial records.

It was ironic that the Nawaz Government in the last two and half years had been only focused on appeasing the conservative lobby for their support to ensure much-needed implementation of madrassa reforms. While it was clear that the country’s conservative circles were not likely to support the government madrassa regulation plans, the state’s weakness to deal with the challenge has apparently become appalling. The challenge here is multi-layered: it is one thing to convince the conservative elite about the necessity of liberal education and regulation of religious schools, it’s an altogether different challenge to make sure that sectarian oriented culture is stamped out from the country.

While madrassas are an important social institution, not only in Pakistan but across the Muslim world, the dignified rationale behind these organization formations have been challenged by numerous sectarian elements in Pakistan. It’s an open secret that majority of madrassas in Pakistan do not primarily focus on teaching basic religious education; rather their focus remains on teaching sectarian style education, which in a way is the beginning point that opens the door to radicalization. The gradual intolerance and fanaticism which is introduced to students through such education isolate young minds which eventually results in thousands of protesters pouring into streets every other day to condemn the state’s progressive and liberal policies. Arguably, young minds that go through this process of religious indoctrination should not be considered blameworthy, for it’s the failure of the state’s policies which put them through such system in the first place.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s latest address of urging religious scholars to present a counter-narrative against extremist mindset or an address to the country’s Hindu community where he condemned forced religious conversions, doesn’t reflect anything beyond lip service to issues that deal with the deep-rooted ideological divisions in the country. According to some reports, under the NAP, so far, Pakistan has shut down about 2,327 religious schools nationwide. Out of these about 2,300 have been shut down in the province of Sindh alone while only two have been closed in Punjab. While the actual number of religious seminaries in Pakistan is in thousands, the closure of 2,300 religious seminaries, whose details remain anonymous, doesn’t reflect in any way a headed policy action. Earlier this week, the chief of army staff stressed that the implementation of NAP needs to be expedited jointly by relevant stakeholders. Such requests by the military have been made before which are an indication that the civilian leadership’s role, which under NAP also involves early regulation of religious seminaries, has been deplorable.

The early implementation of madrassa reforms should, therefore, be a vital component of any state-level strategy that envisions a tolerant and progressive Pakistan. [2]

The Nawaz Government must boldly act and change Pakistan from within. Pakistan does not have the luxury of time. Let the Nawaz Government act immediately. The future of Pakistan depends on such rethinking. A frank and open discussion ion these issues must commence immediately. Remember there are no sacred cows within Pakistan. Notwithstanding the opinion of the military brass, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was the only thing sacred for the citizens of the country and not it’s military. Because of past failures, Pakistan was facing an existential crisis which emanates from several internal and external factors. The Nawaz government was largely impaired because of massive corruption, incapacity and endless and unwarranted political bickering with the PML (N) its main rival for power. The morale of the people is at its lowest in history. India, an arch foe of Pakistan, smells blood and is going for the kill. It is accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism and is bent on destroying its global image as a responsible military power. Tragically, the Nawaz Government does not have a foreign policy to speak of. It only reacts to events by external powers, especially the US and India. The Army calls the shots as far as foreign, and defense policies are concerned, and the US is interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs as never, virtually dictating our foreign policy now.

It was prudent to realize that Pakistan was not only threatened from outside but is also threatened from within. Seemingly, the current political and military leadership now stands discredited and does not have any credibility left. The tragedy of Pakistan does not stop here. The country’s political parties are also discredited because of their actions, the bureaucracy demoralized because of bad governance, and the society itself badly divided on sectarian, linguistic and ethnic social cleavages. Pakistan is now certainly a mess. The country is now among the list of top ten failed states in the world. This is ironic because Pakistan also happens to be one of the strongest military powers in the world today. Pakistan’s military strength cannot prevent an implosion of sorts like what happened with the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The country was now dangerously isolated. It was only China that has shown some support. The people were feeling hapless and disillusioned as never. The country is a mess with no silver lining on the horizon. The only real thing happening in Pakistan is the rising awareness. Thanks to the Information Revolution and the expanded media. This knowledge needs to be channelized into a political force of some reckoning. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i Insaf had shown some promise, but it needed several years to establish itself as a political party of some reckoning. The politics of elections was a different creature altogether. Therefore, the Tehreek-i Insaf couldn’t be expected to make a dent in the next general elections. Both the Pakistan Peoples Party has been vanquished, and the ruling PML(N) has lost its steam and suffers from weak and visionless leadership.

The failure of the Nawaz Government was beyond doubt now. The incumbents’ greatest fault is poor governance, which has sadly become the norm in Pakistan. Poor service delivery has alienated the masses like never. The Army Chief was stronger than ever. Civilian space is becoming more and more restricted by the day. The Nawaz Government’s performance, being dismal, the Army Chief’s power was now largely by default. Notwithstanding the Nawaz Government’s claims, the overall performance is pathetic, to say the least. Much was expected from the PML-N but disappointment reigned.

Instead of proper planning and bold action against terrorism, delay and procrastination have become hallmarks of the style of governance by the Nawaz government. Again, notwithstanding the tall claims made by Prime Minister, the civilian leadership has been both clueless and without any vision on how to tackle the various challenges confronting Pakistan. The PML-N has been focused on infrastructure development only. There is nothing wrong with that but a balanced approach is sorely missing. Meanwhile, the masses have suffered as economic growth has not been trickling down to them, as was expected and promised. Maybe it takes time for a new government to adjust but the poor of this country cannot wait so long. Desperation and alienation have set to the public as only a tiny segment of the population have prospered. Previously, General Raheel Sharif, then army chief, had moved gradually and surely to gain influence in Pakistan. The mandate of the military has now been extended from security to ending corruption also. Thus, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the federal anti-corruption agency, has started functioning now. The Rangers have begun successfully cleaning up the criminal-political-mafia terror nexus in Karachi. The once hapless people of Karachi now allow themselves to feel joy at the turn of events in the city.

The military’s encroachment of civilian ruling space continues to expand unabatedly. The most powerful man in Pakistan was not the PM but the army chief. General Bajwa, the new Army Chief, seems honest and means business. He looks bent on cleaning the country of corruption and terrorism. The general is also perhaps the most popular man in Pakistan today. However, the greatest challenge remains. Pakistan is still faced with the existential challenge of terrorism, extremism, corruption and outright criminality. It is not going to be easy to clean up the mess that is Pakistan now. Past military actions have also contributed to this poor state of affairs. Everyone shares blame in the creation of the mess that is Pakistan today. The Army establishments itself suffers from endemic corruption of an institutionalized nature and cannot be expected to make any dent in the country’s sorry state of affairs. Terrorism can only be eliminated through a comprehensive strategy in which all are on board. This requires commitment, patience and resolve.

The Army Chief had taken command of the situation in the absence of proper governance, and the nation seemingly had resigned to the eventuality. There was seemingly no alternate to this state of affairs. Meanwhile, the Nawaz government is becoming defensive and was clearly unnerved by the sudden turn of events in the country, especially the Panama leaks scandal and the upcoming Supreme Court verdict regarding the case.

Panama Scandal and the Weakened Nawaz Sharif Government

Pakistan was weakened because of the lingering Panama scandal. There was a state of paralysis because of the fate of the Panama Papers case in Supreme Court of Pakistan, which named Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s immediate family. A five-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Khosa reportedly had a “strong difference of opinion.” [3] During his earlier tenure as prime minister in the 1990s, be Naomi (without names) properties worth billions were allegedly purchased by Nawaz Sharif in London in his daughter Maryam’s name, who was declared a dependent (or without a source of income) at that time. Nawaz Sharif’s sons, Hussein and Hassan, were also accused of owning several off-shore companies and using them to buy properties in Britain. The Supreme Court petition had been moved by the Opposition PTI, headed by Imran Khan, who had accused the Prime Minister of deceiving Pakistanis in parliament and pursues his disqualification.[4] Earlier, soon after details emerged in the Panama Papers., Nawaz Sharif on the floor of parliament on May 16, 2016, declared that no money had gone out of Pakistan. Then the Opposition as Nawaz Sharif proposed a parliamentary commission to probe the allegations.

The Opposition had claimed that in previous corruption cases legal proceedings had rarely moved beyond basic stages and that leaders were exonerated. However, this time there was no doubt since the Supreme Court t court bench was deliberating upon the petition. The dynamics are visibly different, as the petition was founded on information uncovered not by a Pakistani political party but by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was a very strong global network of news organizations. The ICIJ had lately won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the corruption net. The verdict of the case has been decided since February 23m 2017 but hasn’t yet been announced to the great surprise of everyone. The delay had even led to rumors of a quiet background role by the Army. The PTI believed the case had put the issue of corruption in the center of Pakistani politics. It was hoped that the case would turn out to be the beginning of real accountability for state institutions, corrupt politicians, and bureaucracy. [5] The reason for the delay is best known to the Supreme Court bench itself. The nation was at its edge because of the delay.

The most important reason for the paralysis is the fate of the Panama case in Supreme Court of Pakistan. The case has been decided, but the verdict hasn’t yet been announced to the great surprise of everyone. The reason for the delay is best known to the Supreme Court bench itself. The nation was at its edge because of the delay. Most probably, Nawaz Sharif will be ousted from his office because of proven corruption charges against him and his family. But the verdict was expected very soon. Likely, Nawaz Sharif will be ousted as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Najam Sethi, in his article “April the cruelest month?” published in The Friday Times, on April 14, 2017, said that: [6]

The truth is that it has been a rough ride for Mr. Sharif so far and there is no respite in sight. He was nearly toppled on two occasions during the “ThankYouRaheelSharif” period. Then Panama leads hit him like a bolt from the blue. In between, he has had heart surgery and gall bladder problems. All this while, he has had to contend with angry protests over “missing political persons,” souring relations with neighbors India and Afghanistan, power shortages, civil-military tensions, terrorism, and constant attempts by the judiciary to clip his wings. …The impending judgment in the Panama leads case could unravel Nawaz Sharif’s future. But there is no assurance that the next elections will be more ordered and less controversial than the last ones which led to acute instability and destabilization. Despite four years of judicial commissions and negotiations over electoral law reform, the political parties have still not come to any meaningful agreement over the way forward. At last count, the all-parties parliamentary committee tasked to prepare a bill had still not overcome dozens of objections posed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Indeed, at one stage the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) felt so harassed by the PTI that it walked out of the committee and threatened to hold the party in contempt.

Mohammad Waseem, in his article. “Political temperature on the rise, The News, April 16, aptly stated that: [7]

The Panama case has not been out of sight for months now. Previously, a court case was hardly ever handled in this profusely tenacious way in public, whereby all decorum reserved for the litigation process was set aside. The anti-PML-N forces have pinned their hopes on getting rid of Nawaz Sharif at this stage so that it considerably weakens his party for the 2018 elections and improves the electoral performance of its principal competitor in Punjab, the PTI. Even as there is no clear indication of the way the court verdict will go, the PTI and the JI have taken the lead in the media trial…There is a general understanding in political circles as well as social media that the Panama case is essentially a political issue far more than a moral issue relating to corruption. Curiously, the ISPR has also tweeted about the military’s acceptance of the prospective verdict of the case. The rising political temperature has many facets. The much-awaited court verdict in the Panama case has the daunting potential to circumvent the political process. The street action of several big and small parties and party factions points to the absence of the conflict-resolution role of parliament…. Pakistan seems to be in the midst of domestic and diplomatic crises, which do not point to a stable condition of political and international relations. What is needed is a mature handling of the situation. That, in turn, requires an understanding of the destabilizing potential of the persistence of conflicts within the country as well as within the region. One can only hope for a deft handling of the issues at hand whereby peace and harmony, instead of tension and confusion, emerge as milestones of political strategy at home and foreign policy abroad.

Smita Sharma, in her article “Will the Panama Papers Case Open Pandora’s Box on Corruption in Pakistan?”, published in the Wire on April 17, 2017, claimed that:[8]

As reports suggest the verdict is around the corner, the big question is whether Khosa will interpret Articles 62 and 63 of the Pakistani Constitution, dealing with grounds for disqualification for lawmakers. In a hearing involving allegations of dereliction of duty by the National Accountability Bureau last year, Khosa had reportedly quoted from the Jain Havala diaries case in India, which he closely followed. Will the bench achieve a consensus and set precedence for accountability and transparency in a country whose popular leaders including, Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif, have faced serious corruption charges in the past without consequences? If the apex court does order the formation of an inquiry commission, the PTI could claim to be vindicated. This would show that there is enough in the leaks to suggest wrongdoing and the First Family were not able to clear all doubts on illegal transactions and money trails. The ruling party, on the other hand, could simply say that setting up an inquiry commission is not an indictment but only a logical step, which Sharif too had initially asked for. The by-elections in mid-May in Chakwal in Punjab – the first seat to go to the polls since the Panama Papers erupted – will be a litmus test for the PTI and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in this perception war. It will test whether corruption is indeed an issue today for voters. Regardless of whether circumstances exist to disqualify Sharif as prime minister, any doubt cast by the final verdict could jeopardize the future political prospects of Sharif and his daughter Maryam, seen as the face to lead the party in the years ahead. For now, the case hangs like Damocles’s sword upon Sharif’s head. As Mahmood says, “It is an important case to determine the future of Pakistani politics.

Pakistan’s Multifold Challenges

Today, the greatest challenge for General Bajwa remains to eradicate terrorist groups from the country. The military cannot do it alone and neither can the elected PML-N government. It almost seems as if a new dispensation shall be worked out again with General Bajwa clearly in command and the Nawaz government following his directives. The chances of a coup d’état are zero since there is simply no need for it. Given the situation in Pakistan and the region, a military takeover would prove to be catastrophic and therefore cannot be imagined. Most importantly, the military brass realizes that military rule is also no solution to Pakistan’s complex and myriad problems. Maybe the latest version of ‘controlled democracy’ is in the making. Desperate circumstances require new out-of-the-box thinking. Pakistanis need to ask themselves what they want as a nation: the rule of a strong army man or a government that gets its act together and works for the betterment of the people? Whatever the future dispensation in Pakistan the control of the Army on the country’s foreign and security policies is ensured. The Army is too powerful and the political party system too weak to resist, not that they are even trying to wrestle control back from the Army.

Things have moved on, however. Pakistanis are relatively more educated and exposed as before. The civil society though comparatively weak as an institution is growing and finding its feet on the ground. The middle class is gradually growing, and public awareness is increasing. The only saving grace in this very dismal situation was the growing public awareness of Pakistan’s hour of danger. This awareness has largely happened because of a strident media. Notwithstanding the defaults, and there are many, the Pakistani media has done well to make the people aware of the situation in the country. There is still hope because of this development alone. A crisis is also an opportunity to change. Gradually a better political leadership hopefully will emerge to steer the country out of the governance crisis. Patience was needed. Hopefully, in the long-run Pakistan will get its act together and becomes a great nation that the nation’s forefathers dreamt about. Only time will tell. The only saving grace in this very dismal situation is the growing public awareness of Pakistan’s hour of danger. This awareness has largely happened because of a strident media. Notwithstanding the defaults, and there are many, the Pakistani media has done well to make the people aware of the situation in the country. There is still hope because of this development alone. A crisis is also an opportunity to change.

Much earlier, some analysts argued that recent developments in Pakistan pointed to positive changes. For example, Khurram Husain, in his article, Is Pakistan self-correcting? Published in Dawn March 10, 2016, was of the view that Pakistan was changing for the better. He stated that a series of developments in the recent past indicate that Pakistan was being moved in a direction that leads away from a growing role of Islam in public life, and towards a liberal conception of state and society. It was the Chinese influence in Pakistan and sound strategy that was bringing this change. He said: [9]

The growing Chinese embrace, which has a material dimension to it. Pakistan’s relationship with China is no longer just a rhetorical partnership restricted to supporting each other’s position in the UN. Now there are facts on the ground, growing economic stakes, a long-term vision unfolding and even more importantly, a growing military partnership that is largely hidden from public view. What is not hidden from public view, however, is the disdain the Chinese have for religious militancy, and the deep concern with which they view the prospects of instability in Afghanistan spilling over into their backyard in Central Asia. This concern is revealed in their participation in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, amongst other places. So we see unusual things happen across the board. In arenas from economic, to military to cultural, something big is changing. There is a new willingness to take on those who thought themselves beyond the rules laid down by the state. It’s true that the tightening of the noose remains selective. Malik Ishaq and Qadri are gone. Abdul Aziz and Masood Azhar are still around. But doesn’t it, in fact, make sense to priorities rather than open all fronts at the same time? Those who have taken up arms against you come first. Those who have taken up the loudspeaker against you can have a few more days under the sun. It might be too soon to say that things are changing for sure, but today we have more signs pointing in that direction than we have ever seen before.

The CPEC is a game-changing opportunity for Pakistan. Global pundits are looking at the multi-trillion dollar investments being made by China and saying that its effective utilization is key to the success of this vision. Similarly, for Pakistan, if we do not evolve a vision of how we use this improved infrastructure and realignment of global trade in this region for our benefit, and execute on it effectively we are in danger of being left behind. Indeed, it will be a shame if we do not rise to the opportunity and fashion national consensus on an inclusive strategy that leverages this project to propel a major part of our population, and not just a few families, into the economy of the 21st century. [10]

Meanwhile, purposeful and sustainable reform is badly needed in Pakistan. Pakistan can only come out of this vicious cycle through a major reappraisal of its domestic, foreign and policies. An excellent advice was given in a very recent editorial in Newsweek Pakistan which had argued:[11]

Pakistan can yet do more to shift out of its frozen military strategy of hanging its entire foreign policy on hatred of India. It can break out of its current regional and global isolation by adopting the posture of its friend China and invite India to join the trading corridor China is building in the country. It can also revive the snagged gas pipeline project with Iran by inviting India back into it, also offering it the trade route India wants to Afghanistan and Central Asia through its territory.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s current policy of permanent Indian enmity and conflict was going nowhere. Pakistan was a security state because of this approach. The Pakistan military was adamant in confronting and was still supporting some jihadist elements like the LeT, HQN, and Quetta Shura for its purposes. Clearly, a change in direction was required now. Given the complexity of the regional situation, more robust diplomacy was urgent to get Pakistan out of the current morass and crisis. However, the Nawaz government wasn’t up to the task and was failing to protect Pakistan’s vital national interests. Plus, it faced an immense image problem because of the Panama Papers case pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Pakistan was faced with the horrendous situation inside the country as rapid population growth was fueling a massive rural to urban migration, the strain on the cities, and massive environmental degradation. People were suffering from a poor environment, lack of social services and neglect of state institutions to respond to the situation in any coherent manner. Bad governance was the norm, not the exception in state institutions. The poverty gap was striking and was widening in many areas of the country. Pakistan was deficient in governance matters as public services were inadequate and there was immense poverty in the country. The Human Development Index (HDI) was extremely low in Pakistan. The HDI was devised and launched in 1990 and was a statistic which ranked countries into four tiers of human development based on indicators like life expectancy, education, and per-capita income. A higher lifespan, a higher level of education and higher GDP per capita results in a country scoring higher HDI.

Earlier, the 2015 Human Development Report (HDR), by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) declared that with an HDI value of 0.538, Pakistan ranks 147 out of 188 countries and territories. Pakistan ranks 121st out of 155 countries regarding its Gender Inequality Index: only 19.3 percent of women reach secondary education compared to 46.1 percent of men, while female participation in the labor market is 24.6 percent compared to 82.9 percent for men.[12] Pakistan ranked again at 147 among 188 countries on HDI in 2016 as released by the UNDP. [13]

In a scathing criticism of the country’s state of affairs in social welfare the Dawn editorial entitled “Human Development” published in Dawn, April 17, 2017

It claimed that over the last twenty years most of South Asia had witnessed progress in human development. More children are in school, people are living longer, and there is greater access to basic social services. That said, countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan rank low on human development indicators because of severe neglect of public health and education, according to Health in South Asia, a collection of analyses launched recently in Delhi. Examining rising infant mortality, vulnerability to infectious diseases and the poor capacity to respond to outbreaks, this research finds that the level of preparedness is inadequate to protect public health in South Asia — home to a quarter of the world’s population. The findings are no secret especially in countries where extreme poverty, child deaths, stunted development and limited future productivity have hampered progress. Noting that Afghanistan has the highest fertility rate followed by Pakistan, the work underscores the need for governments to invest in early childhood years through quality schooling, nutrition, and healthcare. In Pakistan alone, 800,000 children die annually, more than 35pc from malnutrition. Regrettably, even such grim statistics fail to jolt our government’s conscience. For starters, with the population growing at the annual rate of almost 2pc, the government must campaign for smaller families with greater vigor across the country, and invest in accelerated family planning and female literacy to lower the fertility rate. With its pulse on economic development policies, the PML-N surely realizes that investment and sound policies in health, education, and good governance are the only way to create a quality workforce.

It was intolerable that, regionally, Pakistan had the highest rate of infant mortality when the government was obligated to implement policy changes having signed up to the SDGs. Moreover, the World Bank had declared that it would name and shame countries before potential investors for failing to tackle stunting. The death of children due to hunger and the absence of government action and outrage was a stain on Pakistan’s collective conscience. There were 400,000 starving children in Thar and despite international food fortification assistance of over $1m, malnutrition had deplorably increased in Pakistan.[14]

Democratic institutions are fragile and need to be strengthened through patient and sustained efforts. It was a doable when there was the required political will. Essentially Pakistan’s overall governance form just refutes democratic principles and practices. The personalized political system doesn’t allow the building of any workable democratic institutions. The prevailing norm of loyalty to the political leader had superseded the much-needed ethics of professionalism, merit, proper administration of governed funds, neutral bureaucracy, and focus on national socio-economic development. The only thing that matters in government is unconditional loyalty to the political leadership. Thus, the political leadership dispenses largesse and favors to the public instead of public rights and entitlements. The social contract has broken, and a patronage system has developed instead. The leadership gets elected to bestow favors to those who got them to their much-coveted positions. Elections have become a business and were also getting more and more expensive as the years go on. The whole atmosphere of governance had been corrupted as money made an enormous impact on election outcomes. The leadership that came out of the electoral system was mostly transactional minded. Meaning the elected leadership was only there to reap hay while the sun shines and pocket as much money as was possible under the circumstances. Notwithstanding some exceptions, the entire leadership of the country was now corrupted beyond imagination. Resultantly, new values had entered the governed system of Pakistan. Sycophancy and timid behavior of the rulering circles and the bureaucracy that served them had all but destroyed the integrity of the entire system. Policymaking is on whims and becomes ineffective as serious deliberations aren’t the norm any more. Mistakes result as the leadership couldn’t see the whole picture nor get professional advice speaking truth to power. Even figures are routinely fudged to present a better picture to the world. This sorry state of affairs was now a reality in Pakistan. How can Pakistan’s political leadership and military rulers turn the county into a modern civilized nation with a contemporary system of government? Clearly, Pakistan society was failing to confront the daunting challenges facing it. How can the state face these challenges when some sections of it were even supporting Islamic extremism? How can the Nawaz Government, media, enlightened scholars, and jurists unite to formulate the path for essential reform in the legal, political and social spheres? Why wasn’t enough voices of sanity speaking up now in the face of such cynical manipulation of Islamic sentiment? In any civilization, the rule of law must be supreme principle, and all state institutions must to guaranteed that the principle exists and not the law of the jungle. It was a stark failure of both the Pakistani state and society, that the populace negated the belief that all people are innocent until proven guilty. Finally, questions must also be asked of Pakistan Army establishment which still considered some preservation of Islamic militancy as an essential and required element of country’s security policy. Though continuous military operations were designed to eradicate terrorism, the relentless flow of Islamic messaging of Jihad and the fear of India had now entered the very fabric of Pakistani society. The country’s political and military leadership used Islam to manipulate the people and to legitimize their power. Thus, society was being radicalized. If critical actions are not taken to finish the appeasement of Islamic extremism, no National Action Plan or military operation shall be adept to suppress the threatening forces of Islamic extremism that were now being let loose across the country. Pakistan had seen an unprecedented surge in Islamic extremism and fanaticism in the past decade. Islamist groups had constantly targeted religious minorities in Pakistan to impose their version of strict Islamic law on people. Pakistan is facing an existential challenge from within by Islamic fundamentalism which has taken deep roots in the country and cannot be easily uprooted. Given the weaknesses of the ruling establishment, both military and civilian, it will take decades to eradicate the menace from Pakistan’s state and society. The anarchy unleashed by Islamic fundamentalist must be checked in Pakistan before it engulfs the whole region in further chaos. A lot of deliberations have led to several initiatives, but nothing remarkable has been reached so far. Pakistan response to terrorism lacks a comprehensive approach. There was too much emphasis on Army operations, and not enough was done at the critical civil administration, civil intelligence apparatuses, and local policing spheres. Resultantly, the country will continue to be challenged by terrorism, Islamic extremism and insurgencies for decades to come. There was no silver lining on the horizon, so to speak. That was Pakistan’s tragedy.

The country was expected to improve on the economic front thanks to CPEC imitative but the sheer negligence of the ruling establishment to tackle the issue of social justice and enlightened Islam will draw it back from reaching its true potential. The anarchy unleashed by Islamic fundamentalist must be checked in Pakistan before it engulfs the whole region in further chaos. Much depends on timely action taken by the ruling establishment of Pakistan to get its act together to achieve the true prospects of economic development presented to the country by the CPEC initiative. Bad governance is still the norm in Pakistan and not the exception. Badly needed reform measures still await the nation. The nation is poorer because of its poor leadership, both military and civilian. It is hoped that a turnaround maybe yet happen as a new civilian leadership replaces the current lot. Pakistan has enormous potential in its youth but lacks the leadership to make full use of the potential. The leadership is bickering among itself, complacent and corrupt. Too bad for the country. There was also a bright side to the country’s dismal picture, however. Pakistan can indeed have a great future and be on the road of success and sustainable peace. Pakistanis are the most resilient nation. Pakistan’s can indeed position itself in the region as a massive trade corridor that will catapult this country to economic prosperity and a symbol of geostrategic integration. Pakistan as the regional trade, industrial, and economic hub will be in a position of strength, and the world will endeavor to improve relations with Pakistan. Pakistan believes in cooperation, instead of competition. Pakistan is carving out a trajectory of progress for the region by way of economics, which the world needs to recognize and acknowledge. Pakistan faced an existential crisis of a daunting magnitude. The primary threat was from within the country.

The time was to go back to the liberal message of Islam and propagate the Sufi version of it where the principle of Sulh-i Kul or peace with all must become the new societal paradigm of governance and mutual conduct of communal affairs. The message of peace and tolerance in the liberal version of Islam must be adopted by both state and society in Pakistan. Given the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan, there was little choice in the matter. It was time to act. Bold measures were needed and enlightened leadership at the helm of affairs in the country.

Much depends on the future leadership of the country not only at the governmental level but also at the societal level, especially the intellectual level. It was hoped that Pakistan would indeed make the best of the golden opportunity made available by the CPEC project and turn around the country towards a path of economic development, prosperity for all, peace and national security.


[1The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2017,, accessed March 31, 2017

[2] See editorial “TWEAKS REQUIRED”, March 22, 2017, Newsweek Pakistan,, accessed March 22, 2017

[3] Pakistan ranked 147th on HDI, UNDP report, The News, January 26, 2016,, accessed April 17, 2017

[4] India ranks 131 on Human Development Index, Business Recorder, March 22, 2017,, accessed April 17, 2017

[5 See EDITORIAL, “Human development”,  Dawn, April 17, 2017 accessed April 17, 2017

[6] An editorial aptly entitled “Bad Governance as the hallmark of PML-N rule” published in Pakistan Today on March 16, 2017, accessed March 19, 2017

[7] Pakistan’s ‘unreformed’ madrassa enterprise”, Pakistan Today, March 1, 2017,, accessed March 19, 2017

[8] Smita Sharma, “Will the Panama Papers Case Open Pandora’s Box on Corruption in Pakistan?”, The Wire, April 17, 2017 maintained that:, accessed April 17, 2017

[9] Ibid

[10] Smita Sharma, “Will the Panama Papers Case Open Pandora’s Box on Corruption in Pakistan?”, The Wire, April 17, 2017 maintained that:, accessed April 17, 2017

[11] Najam Sethi, in his article “April the cruelest month?”, The Friday Times, on April 14, 2017 said that:, accessed April 14, 2017

[12] Mohammad Waseem, in his article. “Political temperature on the rise, The News, April 16, aptly stated that: 2017, accessed April 16, 2017

[13] Smita Sharma, “Will the Panama Papers Case Open Pandora’s Box on Corruption in Pakistan?”, published in the Wire on April 17, 2017,, accessed April 17, 2017, Accessed April 17, 2017

[14] Khurram Dastgir, Is Pakistan self-correcting? : Dawn March 10, 2016, accessed March 10, 2016



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