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April 12, 2017

‘Pakistan must navigate out of centrifugal global forces’


April 12, 2017

We are living in a rapidly changing world, one where there are many centrifugal forces. While international borders are losing their relevance and technology is integrating the world into a whole, there are also forces of racism and xenophobia that are making moving across borders difficult.

These views were expressed by Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, while addressing the “Pakistan at 70” Summit at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Tuesday via video link.  “Today’s is a world where the forces inimical to peace and stability are asserting themselves, despite the universalisation of education and enlightenment. We are living in a world today where there’s mindboggling technology that is also being put to disruptive uses.”

“Today’s world is a mix of opposites that alongside making the world a better place, also have their attendant perils. It is amid this world that Pakistan has to navigate itself through these intricacies in the most circumspect of manner,” Lodhi said.

To that end, said Lodhi, Pakistan must have two priorities; attach top priority to economic development and crush the dark forces of terrorism and militancy.

She said that the good news here was the democratisation in Pakistan. In this context, she mentioned Pakistan’s efforts to ensure lasting peace with her neighbours.

Pakistan’s geo-centric liability had generated a fallout, however, and today, Pakistan was on the crossroads of global growth. 

There was, added Lodhi, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was an effort to connect the region to the world in general and Europe in particular, which would tremendously benefit Pakistan.

Pakistan, she said, was poised to consolidate ties with the United States as also with East Asia which, today, was the engine of economic growth.

She said Pakistan harboured great potential for economic growth, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that 66 percent of its population was under the age of 30.

Lodhi stated that we should build a new narrative about Pakistan highlighting its efforts to defeat terrorism and militancy, and our oozing talent in art, music, and films.

Pakistan, she added, had all along defied the prognoses of doomsday scenarios and had demonstrated its resilience as a nation to the world.

Earlier at the morning session, Senator Sherry Rehman, speaking on the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, lamented that we did not create a framework to bring all citizens together. “The injustices are very real,” she said. 

The human rights discourse, she said, was owed to women parliamentarians exclusively. After many years, she said, the ‘Right To Know’ had been restored. Pakistan’s elite, she said, had always collaborated with those who had subverted the constitution.

This was followed by a panel discussion on the constitutional history of Pakistan and matters pertaining to the constitution. The panel comprised Dr Mukulika Banerjee, Director, South Asia Centre, London School of Economics; Hina Jilani, Lahore-based lawyer and social activist; Matthew Nelson from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); and Anwar Mansoor Khan, advocate and former judge.

Banerjee, in her comment on the 1973 Constitution, said the document was really democratic in that it fully accommodated the views of all opposition parties.

Matthew Nelson said that the 1973 constitution contained features which were there in earlier constitutions too. Military and elected leaders both used the doctrine of necessity on the pretext of retaining order.

Hina Jilani, a human rights activist and advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, said that the constitution reflected the history of Pakistan. Despite flaws, she said, it was a democratic document. “Whatever Zia deleted or added reflected the aims of a dictator,” she said.

Quoting Article 25 of the Constitution, she said that all citizens were equal in the eyes of the law. She condemned this tendency to create parallel and contradictory systems of justice like the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) by Zia.

Advocate Anwar Mansoor Khan lamented that the 1973 Constitution had not been left in its original form, what with all those amendments.

Democratic institutions, he said, had never flourished under martial law.  He said that politicians always collaborated with the martial law administrators to have the constitution subverted.

The post-lunch panel discussion, titled “Development and Dividends”, comprised  Adnan Khan, Research and Policy Director at the International Growth Centre, London; Faisal Bari of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS); former Dean of the IBA, Dr Ishrat Hussain; Farrukh Iqbal, current IBA Dean; and S Akbar Zaidi, Professor at the IBA, Karachi.

Adnan Khan cited the lack of payment of taxes – stemming from the ruler-ruled trust deficit – and lack of provision of utilities – which are a fundamental right of all citizens – as the main factor behind our stunted economic development.

Faisal Bari dwelt on the health aspect and said that in 2010, our child mortality was 92. The international average, he said, was 43. For the same period, he said, India’s child mortality rate was 60, Bangladesh’s 50, and Sri Lanka’s stood at five. 

In 2010, Pakistan’s income per-capita was $4296 while Sri Lanka’s was $8,000. In Pakistan, he said poverty had dropped considerably but the child mortality was the same. This, he said, could be attributed to a total lack of potable water, glaring shortage of basic health facilities and clinics.

Farrukh Iqbal dwelt on the aspect of education. He lamented that the teacher content was very poor and that teachers needed to be re-educated. Private education, he said, had exploded the differences in society. 

He pointed out that there were districts where there were no schools for girls. Thus, he said, women, a very vital cog in the chain of development, were being completely overlooked. 

“We have not been able to create the right motivational environment. We’ve not been able to link teaching performance with career paths. These shortcomings are hampering public sector education,” he said.

Dr Zaidi talked about the gender imbalance in the panel as there was no woman on it. He pointed out the structural changes in society whereby now women were coming out and were working shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts. Today, he said, there were no Pakistanis who would not like their daughters to be educated.

Former IBA dean, Dr Ishrat Hussain, said that there was a huge appetite for education at all levels. Finances, he said, didn’t matter but it was the governance of the education system and the shortcomings. For instance, he said that there was not a single female science teacher in Loralai as they had themselves transferred to places like Quetta. 

He blamed the National Pay Scale system and said that a teacher getting Rs100 in Quetta should get at least Rs300 in a small district town to make up for the disadvantages that go with being in a small town.

The previous night, April 10, the Oxford University Press (Pakistan) hosted a dinner for the delegates to the two-day conference at the DHA Golf Club. The dinner was preceded by a talk by David Gilmartin, which was titled, “The Indus and its Peoples”, but actually it was an account of the tussle between India and Pakistan to control the Indus basin and its waters. 

He dwelt at length on the Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India in 1960 and the history of the canal waters and how they were shut off from the headworks in India and the canals in Pakistan ran dry immediately after Partition.  He showed slides of the Rajasthan canal in India and talked about the Jhelum-Chashma link canal and other canals in Pakistan. The talk was followed by an animated question-answer session.

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