Need for renewing societal contract

ByDr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam

Designation: is an educationist with wide experience


January 2, 2023

Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam talks about a national issue

Pakistan society is in the throes of severe antagonistic sentiments in which the basic tenets of social coexistence is questioned pointing at the almost breakdown of the voluntary alliances between the citizens. Any breakdown in social harmony is injurious to national cohesion as states that adhere to these alliances are progressively rewarded as their prudent political leadership endeavours to alter rules of game from within. Alliance is by no means confined to personalised exercise of national power but it encompasses the entire fabric of societal existence. The modern nation state has evolved in such a way that it is no more a centralised bureaucratic set-up but has become an entity composed of multi-dimensional interests that are required to be accommodated in its existential framework. Both decision making and implementation in modern nation state have become political in content and any deviation from this structural readjustment is bound to create discontent amongst all cadres forming the cumulative nuclei of stake holders.
The development process in Pakistan has always been viewed as the Herculean effort of a knight in shining armour cutting through all conceivable obstacles whether imaginary or real. Development plans are prepared with the help of technocratic mumbo jumbo and are rammed through the national consciousness by unbending and tough leaders purported to be imbued with high sounding unbiased national spirit. Despite the recurring failure of this development model, and its implementation process, Pakistani governance unashamedly adheres to it without subjecting it to rationalistic reappraisal. The limited scope of gargantuan efforts of the Leviathan is inherent in its very nature as the wings of a solo flight are bound to be clipped.

The Pakistani governance class has consistently ignored the changing patterns of federative national existence. Even the nature of federal governance in Pakistan is not taken into account and it is usually equated with provincial governance. It is never appreciated that the federal governance is consensual corporate in nature whereas the provincial governance is executive municipal in orientation. Conceptually overriding territorial considerations, the federal governance is an umbrella authority with hardly any territory under its direct suzerainty. The notional authority of federal governance embraces aspirations of federating units who aspire to gel with each other in a federal milieu. It is a difficult equation to maintain keeping in view massive variation in their physical sizes and demographic realities. Moreover the regional issues may not be in conformity with federal thought process that creates crises of adjustment.

In a consensual political atmosphere, objections and counter-objections on national development projects would have been considered a natural corollary of federative existence but owing to adherence to the bureaucratic notion of development process, contrary voices in this respect were dubbed as deliberately disruptive overtures aimed at harming the unprecedented economic initiative. Pakistan suffers from low levels of national integration and, with its lopsided provincial composition, Punjab is perceived to be a local hegemon vying to obtain maximum advantages from the national cake. The multiplicity of sub-nationalities inhabiting smaller units are, most of the times, made conscious of ethnic-based deprivation and their protestations inhibit emergence of a viable national interest. Any technical and dispassionate justification for massive national outlay of financial resources is mandated to pass through the political prism that acts according to regional impulses.

The most prudent method of avoiding contention on national development issues may be to subject them to political scrutiny right from the start. The notions of securing optimum political consensus on national economic development matters rank definitely higher than the limitations of political mandate accorded to a ruling dispensation as it is the only way to ensure uninterrupted national prosperity. The deliberate or inadvertent method of letting contentious issues drift away to the point that it becomes amenable for the dominant political authority to intervene as the last resort may be abandoned because it is the legacy of colonial administrative mechanism that thrived on brinkmanship as its authority was inherently coercive in nature. The political sagacity demands that all contentious issues are preempted and ironed out consensually.

The need is to unequivocally stand-up for abolition of inequalities so that future prospects of the people of Pakistan improve to the extent that every citizen get his due share in the polity. Only political experience acquired by consistent rigours in the national arena could ensure better governance as it is beyond the capabilities of the people who become ascendant due to their association with the organs of the state. Political expertise is adept at the most important process of give and take and this faculty admirably serves the national cause. Political elements are rated as rescuers of national interest and do not suffer for the limitations of the so-called initiators who venture to attain preemptory consensus. It should be borne in mind that change from within is the need of the day but it should be broad-based, voluntary and wholehearted for it to succeed in the ultimate analysis as this is the only way out for a nation-state and has resultantly become the dictum of history. TW


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