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Opinion

March 17, 2017

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To potential legislators

In a democratic society, the stance of the contenders for the country’s supreme legislative body should be driven by the issues that the nation is facing.

The primary qualification of the contenders ought to be the quality, achievability and robustness of the vision they have which are summed up in a manifesto to address the nation’s penury. The opposite has been witnessed in Pakistan since its first constitution was introduced. Ideological politics has been fading away from the political sphere. On the brink of the electoral campaign for the 2018 general elections, an individual voice can qualify as a reverberation in the squall that drives the country’s long and short-term decisions. Success in an election appears to be predominantly influenced by wealth, political linkages, business interests, family background and an array of other factors that holds no direct pertinence to a manifesto.

The gap between the issues of a nation and the vehicle used to address them – through the electoral process – should ideally be filled with a manifesto and its delivery. The failure to realise the need for such elements can be attributed to an absence of awareness and understanding among the public of the core issues that a country is facing. From my limited cognisance – and considering space considerations – I hereby address the contenders of the general elections of 2018 in this article.

Dear contenders, we have seen many of you sit on both sides of the speaker’s chair. However, this time when you knock on people’s doors for a vote, please be able explain your party’s plans and the impact you will individually exert on addressing the state of education in the country. There is a huge disparity in the quality of education under the three tiers in the country: the O/A levels system, the BISE systems at private schools and the BISE system at government schools. The nation looks forward to your plans to bring uniformity among these tiers and ensure quality education standards.

Honoured candidates, a common man in the country has no idea about economic reforms. Nonetheless, as evident from your plans of representing the community, I am sure you do. As per recent figures which indicate that the trade deficit has widened by 29 percent, the circular debt stands at Rs480 billion and the opportunity cost of state-owned enterprises amounts to half the PSDP budget of 2015-16. The public might not realise this but the nation is in need of your vision for the redressal of structural inefficiencies in the economy and plans to achieve real and sustained economic growth.

Honoured potential legislators, the menace of corruption and the lack of accountability are perceived as the core problems of the country and society. The nation wants to hear about your plans to ensure accountability and transparency across the board once you assume public office. Are there any plans to revamp the mechanism of the office of the auditor-general and develop a stringent legislature to effectively address corruption at all levels?

Concerned candidates, the nation is in a shambles at the hands of terrorism and extremism. The public expects you and your respective parties to come up with a staunch plan to address these issue itself and inculcate a mindset that quells such acts so that we don’t have to lose children, men and women’s at the hands of brutal killings. A detailed modus operandi – a plan that can be implemented and incorporates all these facets – is the prime need of the nation.

Honourable potential statesmen, there are grave concerns about the benefits of CPEC for the country and the lack of a state policy aimed at maximising the benefits of Pakistan. The nation expects you to advocate Pakistan’s needs in a manner that the socio-economic benefits accrued to us through the project are at least comparable with China.

Honourable knights of democracy, the public expect you to be firm believers of democracy and strengthen state institutions. You must not be party to dubious acts such as bringing regulators under the administrative control of their respective ministries. They are regulating or taking away authority from the boards of state-owned enterprises after the promulgation of the Companies Ordinance 2016.

Honourable potential planners of the country’s affairs, with the completion of the population census, there will be a baseline dataset for you to plan effectively. We expect development projects to be ranked on the basis of their social and economic impact assessment rather than their tangibility. I don’t mind not having a metro worth Rs50 billion to board as long as the funds are being used towards uplifting education, health and other socio-economic dimensions in underdeveloped areas. Also, this time we expect the ‘loadshedding will end by the end of this year’ slogan to turn into reality.

Lastly, the nation expects and needs a foreign policy, a set of health reforms, a comprehensive mechanism for local bodies and an operational plan to ‘mainstream’ Fata and uphold rule of law.

By now, readers would find this article a delusion and would perceive my thoughts as ideas that look good and exist on paper only. That’s how it has always been. Over the years, an array of deprivation has brought the noetic structures of the public to a point where the real issues have become alien concepts. Priorities and expectations from legislators have boiled down to micro-level demands – like building a playground, approving the replacement of transformers for a constituency, expediting a gas pipeline project and building a road – that barely even fit in with the issues faced by the country at the macro level.

As we complete 70 years of our independence, it is time for us realise and strive for changes within the system and as a nation.

 

The writer is a chartered accountant and a graduate of Oxford Brookes University.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: Shahzad_91

 

 

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