Pakistan’s political and economic leaders have called for systemic reforms and changes to economic and governance policies in order to overcome the ongoing crisis plaguing the country.
During the “Reimagining Pakistan” seminar held at the Habib University on Sunday, former finance minister Miftah Ismail emphasised the need for building a coalition for growth, highlighting the issues of low literacy and poverty.
Ismail shared his “10 pillars” for development, including increasing exports, improving the law-and-order situation, and re-evaluating protectionist policies.
Former Prime Minister and PML-N senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi highlighted the need for political and constitutional reforms, and accepting the mistakes made in the past that have led to the current situation.
Former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that democracy was never allowed to be established in the country, and that the social contract of the state with its citizens via the Constitution was standing at its weakest position.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif’s aide Fawad Hasan Fawad, former PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, and others also spoke at the ‘Reimagining Pakistan’ seminar.
MIFTAH URGES SYSTEMIC CHANGES
Speaking at the seminar, Miftah Ismail stressed upon the need for systemic changes in Pakistan’s economic policy, claiming that no political or military leader can save the country from current crisis until significant change is made.
Ismail expressed concerns over the high levels of debt and inflation and urged a consensus on economic strategy.
He highlighted the issues of low literacy and poverty, stating that the economy would not perform if half the population remains illiterate.
Ismail shared his ’10 pillars’ for development, including the need for building a coalition for growth in which the elite would contribute to the economy by supporting the middle and lower classes. He called for “increasing the pie” rather than each province’s share in the whole.
He emphasised the importance of gender inclusivity and need to control population growth and implement family planning, suggesting that rising population was a critical factor halting Pakistan’s economic development.
Ismail also stressed upon the importance of education, suggesting that money spent by governments on education budgets should rather be disbursed to families to better decide on their children’s educational needs as the governments have failed to do so.
The former finance minister further added that women must be included in the workplace, as has been the case in Bangladesh and other countries, and that it was a must to have gender-inclusive growth.
According to Ismail, those in power need to rethink policies with a focus on increasing exports, improving the law-and-order situation, energy, re-evaluating protectionist policies, and doing away with the artificial control on the Pakistani currency’s exchange rate without actual economic growth.
He suggested that the government should live within its means, strengthen local governments, focus on privatising failed public enterprises, and let institutions do their own work.
“Pakistan will continue to go to the IMF if out tax-to-GDP ratio does not reach 15% and exports do not rise to 15% of GDP,” he said.
NEED FOR POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
Speaking at the seminar, former prime minister and PML-N senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that he has never seen a situation as dire in Pakistan as today, where the youth was disappointed and everyone else worried with no hope in sight.
“Everyone is asking the same question: what is the solution and how will we get out of this?” he said.
The former prime minister said there was no “one solution” for all of Pakistan’s problems but stressed upon the need for political and constitutional reforms, and accepting the mistakes made in the past that have led to the current situation.
“I don’t know about the economy, but politics has definitely defaulted,” he remarked.
He demanded that politicians pay taxes and uphold the Constitution, calling for a new consensus and direction to make Pakistan prosperous once again.
“What is happening today is not only because of this government or the previous one. It is the result of the continuation of bad decisions and the repeated violations of the Constitution,” he said.
He said that the ‘damaged’ economy could only be repaired by working together. “I have been part of this system for 35 years and consider myself guilty too.
Instead of giving explanations, we should admit our mistakes, and everyone needs to play their part.”
The former prime minister added that no miracle could “bring our house in order”, rather the leaders would have to take tough decisions—the first of which should be the supremacy of the Constitution.
‘WE NEED TO ADMIT OUR PAST MISTAKES’
Meanwhile, former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that Pakistan’s neighbours – including Bangladesh and India – had progressed much farther than Pakistan in the past few decades.
“I have no regret in saying that India and Bangladesh are progressing. China has raised millions of people out of poverty. I am happy that other South Asian nations are progressing. But I am sad that we are still the same,” he said.
“We have not learnt anything during these 75 years despite paying a huge cost. Was the fall of Dhaka not enough when the country split into two? Could there be a bigger cost? But we did not learn from it but rather only six years later, we hanged the most popular politician of that time,” he said.
Khokar said that democracy was never allowed to be established in the country. “We sacrificed 80,000 lives in the war against terror. Those are not just numbers but 80,000 families,” he added.
The former senator said that the social contract the state has made with its citizens via the Constitution was standing at its weakest position today.
“Isn’t it important to listen to the issues of our brothers and sisters from Balochistan and K-P? But politicians, rather than bringing the people of this country together, are only busy hurling allegations at each other. Who will talk about the issues of the masses if not politicians?” he questioned.
“If we do not address the issues of the people then the social contract between the citizens and the state will be broken and we have once paid the price for that already.”
Khokar said that we must admit the mistakes of the past and openly discuss the role of the establishment, stressing that “we cannot run this country like a security state anymore”.
“We must also find the role of religion in our society. If in 1930, Allama Iqbal could talk about reconstructing religious thought, then why can’t we discuss it today? We need to understand that the wrong interpretation of religion has created intolerance among us,” he said.
“Even in Saudi Arabia, they have made laws against marrying under the age of 18, but the religious fraternity of our country does not allow that to happen here. We cannot talk about domestic violence. We have this mindset that we can subject to torture over 50 per cent of our population.”
Khokar said that the under-privileged segment of Pakistan earning less than Rs 30,000 per month has buried under the burden of inflation. “We are at a very dangerous juncture. Until we get rid of this political instability, we cannot move forward with our economy.”
Source : Tribune