The myth of change in Pakistan
despite giving the symbolic importance to education and economic reforms, why hasn’t any political party succeeded in achieving these goals?
By Baber Shehzad
The latest so called rhetoric of change in Pakistani political area comes from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). The dream of change envisaged by Imran Khan is going to be implemented by a majority of electables, who have served in the past successive governments of PML-Q, PPP and PML-N. As usual PTI has devised a bi-layer strategy; economic prosperity and education, to implement its agenda of change.
Here, two fundamental questions arise in mind. First why does every political party welcome these turncoats? Second, despite giving the symbolic importance to education and economic reforms, why has not any political party succeeded yet to achieve these goals?
The very nature of political institutions in Pakistan provides the answer of these questions. The distribution of power in Pakistan is skewed in few hands. The reach to power is highly monopolised by a myopic elite. Here the concept of elite is not just restricted to politicians alone. It also applies to its various other forms such as religious elite, industrialists, the executives and judicial classes.
In Pakistan this oligarchy controls the distribution of the tickets to same electable belonging to the upper strata of society such as Jatois, Khars, Khosas, Legharis and an unending list of such names. In the political culture of Pakistan, the direct lineage from the powerful political dynasty has superiority over the political sagacity and commitment of the contestant.
This exploitative nature of the politico-economic institutions may foster a controlled version of change, which is only devised to serve the vested interests of the ruling hierarchy. The economic modernisation by Ayub Khan, Islamic Socialism by zulifqar Ali Bhutto, Zia’s Islamisation and Musharraf’s version of enlightenment, these all versions of change were implemented by the same narrow minded elite.
The change comes has its own opportunity cost. The real change transforms the exploitative political and economic institutions into more progressive and pluralistic ones. This institutional transition may jeopradise the hegemony of the ruling class. This cost of change as termed ”Creative Destruction” by the great economist Joseph Schumpeter, was paid by English ruling class in 18th century during Industrial Revolution and determined the glorious future of their nation. On the contrary, the rulers of Spain (The super power of medieval Europe) remained fearful from creative destruction and as a result ushered into the state of oblivion on international scenario.
Unlike England, the ruling class in Pakistan has remained fearful of this creative destruction. They have just accepted the controlled version of change which may just foster their myopic interests. For instance, Ayub Khan’ economic reforms have just created the myth of 22 families and the ” trickle down doctrine” by famous economist Dr. Mehbub ul Haq has never been materialised.
Similarly, education and free thought, which promotes awareness and creativity in any society has been considered the least priority of the Pakistani ruling strata. Free thought and dissent is branded as thought crimes by the state and oppressed through coercive means. Education has just been made a tool of national propaganda. The creative thought has been replaced by the nostalgia of glorious past in young minds. This ant- intellectualism by the state has minimised the chances of renaissance in Pakistani society.
Likewise, the complete control of economic activity in the country has obstructed the way of ambitious middle class in the country, which may in future replace this ruling class. This fear of the creative destruction is the main hurdle in the way of real change.
In the bottom line, the institutional transformation is considered as the real change and it can never be achieved without the creative destruction. Therefore, the utopia of change may be created by the political elite to attract the voters from less privileged class yet it can never be materialised without paying its cost. The illiterate masses will be exploited through the hollow slogans of religious revivalism, nationalistic fervour and the false promises of change, while their real issues regarding health, education, unemployment and better civic facilities will be remained the least priority of the leaders. The broad based distribution of power and rational education can only be able to revolutionise the political and economic institutions in the country. As a result of this tangible change, creative destruction will replace the traditional ruling dynasties with the ambitious educated youth in political arena of the country. Consequently, no political party in Pakistan will be dependent upon ”electables” to implement its agenda of change.