Saturday June 22, 2024

Statecraft vs stategraft

By Hassan Baig
June 07, 2023

Statecraft is a larger concept of running the affairs of a state through its dynamic institutions on professional lines. The state is like a mother, taking care of its citizens without any discrimination. In theory, the state cannot be cruel.But in reality, governments often adopt strict rules and regulations against their citizens, which are detrimental to the healthy growth of society. A country’s leaders are required to play their due role in uplifting a society and must act on the principles of statecraft, not stategraft.

The state and the government in Pakistan need a leadership capable of running the state’s affairs. Statesmanship has become all the more important now to deal with the hurdles on the way to peace, prosperity and stability. There is a difference between a politician and a statesman. Politicians have limited thinking and they mostly manipulate the situation on ground to grab political power.An ideal statesperson has a long-term vision to manage the affairs of the state for a bright future, as s/he sees things 40/50 years ahead of others to put the state on the path to growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, statesmanship is missing in Pakistan, and stategraft has taken over. This needs to be addressed; the sooner this is done, the better it will be.

Statecraft is the art of running the affairs of the state through strong institutions including political, economic and social institutions. Grafting of this institutional setup makes things worse, causing state collapse. Pakistan is, unfortunately, passing through this phase, which must be avoided at all cost. There needs to be a cohesion in and among all state pillars.There seems to be a missing link in the hierarchy of political institutions, as the system has yet to ensure political stability which can only be achieved through general elections. Political engineering will not yield results, as it never did in the history of Pakistan. The need of the hour is to give a fair chance to all political parties to participate in general elections, which must be held in time. People’s confidence in political institutions is essential for progress and prosperity.

The economic system needs to be revamped and revitalized for the good of the people of Pakistan. Discrimination makes things worse. This is what history teaches us. The concept of encroachment is posing more threats. The encroachment of state institutions by non-state actors is a form of stategraft. The exploitation of citizens by the state itself is the worst example of stategraft.

Pakistan faces a lot of challenges in this regard, especially in relation to the taxation system in the current economic situation. There is a regressive taxation system as it is applicable equally to all – whether rich or poor. Those who are in the tax net are being exploited, and those who are not being taxed are living it up. The government has not taken any steps to widen the tax net. The state needs to reconsider its budgetary proposals to take care of its poor and marginalized segments.The education system of the state plays a crucial role in shaping up society. Statesmanship is an offshoot or by-product of political institutions that nourish in the education system. With close to a 60 per cent literacy rate, education in Pakistan is in a terrible state. Around 25 million children are out of school, which is alarming. The education system is dominated by the madrassa system where outdated curriculum is still being taught.

The state of Pakistan is duty-bound to provide free education to all children, but it has failed to provide the same. There is no alternative for madrassa students to get modern education although some madrassas have incorporated modern curriculum with religious education. The political educational system is almost non-existent, as the concept of students union has been done away with. The main question is how to evolve an ideal political system out of our educational system and how this system will promote the concept of statesmanship in the present situation.

Domestic politics and economics have a close relationship with its social development. The state of Pakistan these days is in shambles on all these fronts. Society is facing a lot of challenges and difficulties when it comes to following a value system based on strong ethical and moral grounds. There needs to be a strong philosophical support along with a policy shift to get hold of irritants that prevent the state from setting up a strong political and economic system to help support the social system.Strictly following the constitution and complying with the existing rules and regulations is the first step towards political stability. The economy needs to rehash all the concepts of complete reliance on loans to total dependence on a strong export-oriented industrial growth to get rid of debt burden.

Statecraft in the context of geopolitics is another dimension to be discussed. The state of Pakistan needs to reconcile with geopolitical realities. Geo-economics is all the more important to achieve the desired results of economic prosperity and development.Pakistan has an ideal geographical location, but unfortunately we could not benefit from our geography. Again, it is a matter of political leadership. Our leaders should have led this nation through their political and international acumen, but they have utterly failed on this front as well. There is an immediate need to take confidence-building measures with all neighbours and other geopolitical partners including the US, China, Russia, India and CARs to promote trade, commerce and economic growth.

The concept of statecraft needs to be re-evaluated and re-assessed in the context of Pakistan for the overall development and betterment of Pakistan. Political leaders need to sit together involving all important institutions and stakeholders to take long-term decisions to get Pakistan out of the present crisis situation.

There is an existential threat looming large for which a visionary political leadership is required to take immediate decisions and get Pakistan out of this mess.

The writer is a former additional secretary and can be reached at: