Sunday February 25, 2024

Unjust privileges must go

March 30, 2023

LAHORE: In a fair and vibrant society no one is indispensable but every citizen has the right to move up to the top on merit. This is not so in Pakistan.

Every ruler who assumes power in Pakistan thinks himself indispensable and never distributes power even amongst his best supporters. Even the political parties in Pakistan boast of one “indispensable” personality without whom the party has no standing.

There is no professional approach in this regard. Even in the private sector most of the enterprises are dominated by owners and their families. In the presence of “Seth culture” there is no surety as to how long the company would survive. Professionals are usually not hired but even if they are, the last word is that of the Seth, no matter how non-professional it may be.

Culturally, we are tuned to concentrate powers in our hands. We are averse to transferring powers at a lower level. We do not want to transfer power at a lower level.

The elite capture of our economy is because of this tendency. The elite make all out efforts to retain their power. They are averse to instituting real reforms that could ensure equal opportunities and equal rights to all citizens.

This is the reason that when someone fights for social justice in Pakistan, he has to fight against the norms of the society. We have stooped down too low but still fail to realise that the only way to take the country out of an economic crisis and conflict situation is to empower the people, particularly the poor and women. No citizen should be excluded from the development process. We need a fair system capable of eliminating incompetent entrepreneurs and workers.

Social injustice impedes economic growth. Lately we have seen that some enterprises which are equal opportunity employers are growing much above normal pace as they have also adopted decent social norms for their workers.

Our thinking on social justice should refocus on work, which is the only way to take people above the poverty line and give them a chance to be a partner in the solution. The civil society will have to oppose social injustice that currently is an inevitable feature of our society. Social justice is in fact a realisation by society that it is sensitive to the needs of others.

Real reforms would simply provide equal opportunity to all to scale up on the basis of competence. Citizens, whether poor or influential will get their due right and promotions on merit.

The rich earning incomes ethically would continue to grow, but those adopting unfair means to generate income would find it impossible to survive. There would be no entry barriers in any field. New entrepreneurs would emerge that would create healthy competition.

In view of the impact of the current economic crisis on vulnerable employment and labour productivity, working poverty has increased in Pakistan much above the global and regional trends.

Our elitist culture has compounded the miseries of the poor. Other countries in our region that introduced reforms are still growing robustly.

The government alone cannot address this issue, the civil society and the affluent must come forward to favour fair reforms that might hurt their unjust privileges.