Sunday, December 23, 2012

Two Pakistans

Anyone can see that there is not one Pakistan. After more than 60 years the two Pakistans can clearly be demarcated. One is for the ordinary lot of the people, and the second one is for the elite classes. Pay a visit to the ordinary Pakistan, and experience the ordinary life there, have a taste of some basic social services available there, and you will realize how neglected is this ordinary Pakistan of the ordinary people of Pakistan. Likewise almost in every big city, there are two cities, one for the ordinary lot and one for the special elite. All other smaller cities including the vast rural expanse fall under the ordinary Pakistan.

Now roam about some areas of the elite Pakistan such as GORs (Government Officers’ Residences) or Cantonments, and see the difference between these two Pakistans. In a number of cases, these two Pakistans adjoin but never in the quality of services. Leave the ordinary Pakistan and enter the elite Pakistan where you will notice the provision of basic social services with a high standard of quality. It is just unintelligible, for instance in Lahore, why some areas are permanently showered with tax money! Have all other areas in a city, or in the country, already achieved provision of basic social services so the extra funds are available for the chosen elite areas? Not in the least!

Ordinary Pakistan is without water supply, sanitation, public transport, roads, paved streets, street lights, libraries, parks or playgrounds; it is polluted and noisy. Where some of these services are available their standard will be low. Not one single service is provided in this Pakistan with a minimum standard ensured.

Though the ordinary people raise this issue frequently albeit sporadically, showing resentment and anger in the form of violent or non-violent protests, to this day there is no thinking or doing in government to resolve the issue.

The March 18-19 violence in Barakahu and other areas of Islamabad and Rawalpindi against the transport fares hike attests to this, as in Lahore in recent months. Also regarding this affair, quite arrogant and apathetic attitude of the bureaucracy such as Commissioner of Islamabad, and ruling elite such as that of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, may be noted, which tells of the government’s least concern for the ordinary people’s problems. In fact, public transport almost throughout Pakistan is more than pathetic. The transporters in collusion with transport officials get a fare structure that benefits only them and exploits the commuters. What a pity those who never travel in the public transport and use luxurious transport facilities at the expense of the commuters are empowered to determine the transport fares!

The same is the case with other services. Water supply and sanitation are symptomatic examples, while park and playgrounds just do not exist in the ordinary Pakistan. As for pollution and noise, this Pakistan is a dirty and noisy hell.

That lends support to the already well-demonstrated theory that Pakistan is an elitist state expropriating public tax money to build another Pakistan within Pakistan. This elitist Pakistan must be dismantled and resources be equally spent to provide the basic social services to all the citizens of Pakistan wherever they live. This may be achieved in the following manner:

First, by an amendment it must be provided in the constitution of the country that provision of above-mentioned social services will be ensured indiscriminately to all the citizens wherever they live in Pakistan.

Second, in this regard, with the consultation of experts a minimum standard of these social services be set down and made part of the amendment.

Third, the constitution should also make the federal government in conjunction with provincial and local governments responsible for making sure that all these services with the fixed minimum standard are provided to all the citizens of Pakistan regardless of the area where they live within Pakistan.

Fourth, as the delivery of services provided by the state, i.e. federal, provincial or local governments, is already plagued with inefficiency and corruption, it must distinctly be stated in the proposed amendments that though government will be responsible for providing these services to all the people throughout Pakistan but this does not authorize it to impose new taxes as well as erect new huge bureaucratic establishments for this purpose. The notion of its responsibility amounts to a supervisory role of its already existing agencies. To provide these services, it may resort to new ways such as public-private partnership, privatized delivery of services. This aims at restricting the size of government especially in financial terms.

To accomplish this, there already exist various government agencies. They need to be converting into working in partnership with private providers without any political interference. This will help wind up the present practice of providing funds to the members of national and provincial assemblies, and will change altogether the election scenario which then may be contested on really important issues than providing this or that social service. But it is for the people, especially for the think-tanks and NGOs, and no doubt for media also, that the big issue for the next election should be the provision of these basic social services to all the citizens in Pakistan not only ensured in the constitution but binding on the next government also. If achieved, that will be a great step forward towards the unification of the ordinary and elite Pakistans.

Is there any political party ready to take up this at the top of its agenda?  

[This article was completed on March 19, 2010.]

No comments:

Post a Comment