Erroneous Priorities of the Pakistani Government: Human Security on the Back Burner

While the representatives of the state are constantly engaged in verbal onslaughts, public interests have been jeopardized. Since independence, human security has not been prioritized by any government of Pakistan. Instead, territorial security was the cornerstone. Recently, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that Pakistan ranks 10th amongst the largest arms importers of the world. On the other hand, according to the latest United Nations Human Development Index Rankings, Pakistan is positioned at 154th number. These annual rankings are measured by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment, and income. Moreover, on the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan stands in the 88th position which highlights serious issues of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality due to inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.

Nonetheless, the country is not facing only one problem rather there are so many to be enumerated. Every state has different dynamics and one solution cannot fit all. Therefore, understanding the problems of the populace for long-term solutions is paramount. For twenty years, the natives of this country have been performing funerals of those who died in suicide and terror attacks. For all these years, civilians, as well as the army, struggled to fight terrorism. Despite this, people are deprived of basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education, health, and adequate sanitation facilities. Furthermore, increasing unemployment and inflation have wreaked further damage to the country. Recently, an exorbitant increase was envisioned in the prices of food products. For instance, the prices of fundamental kitchen commodities like flour and sugar have risen and posed a precarious challenge for the government. Amid this crisis, the coronavirus pandemic proved to be the final nail in the coffin. Most of the businesses were shut down due to the proliferation of the coronavirus thus, leaving people unemployed. The economic slowdown was observed, not only in Pakistan but worldwide.

On the other hand, while politicians are busy in internecine verbal clashes and incessant efforts to criticize their opponents, when will public interests be addressed? Maleeha Lodhi has rightly termed this as the ‘poverty of political discourse’. After all the aggressive rhetoric and slandering, the public can only perceive these clashes between political representatives as ‘games to acquire power’. Though Prime Minister Imran Khan has initiated the Ehsaas programme in order to eradicate poverty and feed the poor, however, it has made little progress. Despite the current account surplus, the fruits of governmental policies are not reaching the common populace. Pakistan’s Trade to GDP ratio for 2019 has increased up to 30.44% i.e. a 1.39% increase from the previous year. Notwithstanding, foreign direct investment calculated for 2019 was $2.22B i.e. a 27.69% increase from 2018. Pakistan’s trade balance for 2019 was $-28.38B, an 18.72% decline from 2018. However, one cannot ignore the inflation rate and GDP growth rate. Pakistan’s GDP growth rate recorded for 2019 marks a 4.85% decline from 2018 and it was 0.99%.  Whereas, the inflation rate of Pakistan in 2019 was 10.58% i.e. a 5.5% increase from 2018. Formulating policies and making decisions is not a problem rather implementation and timely evaluation of those policies is an actual challenge. Despite rampant corruption and political instability, a weak institutional setup is another obstacle in the country’s development. As an illustration, statistics relevant to poverty in the country were last updated in 2015-16 and the responsible institutions are blaming each other instead of performing their task.

When there are so many internal issues relevant to human security, the focus of the governments has always been traditional security. The defence budget in the fiscal year 2020-2021 has increased 11.9 percent from the previous budget, in the fiscal year 2019-2020 which was Rs. 1,227 billion. Whereas, Rs. 83.3 billion were allocated for education for 2020-21, having no significant increase as compared to the ongoing Rs. 81.2 billion. Nevertheless, spending on defence is crucial in order to ensure territorial security. The prolonged conflict with India, threat from Afghanistan, and terrorist organizations that can further exploit the sectarian fault lines, like the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (IS-KP), can only be deterred via strong military forces. However, the significance of human development cannot be overlooked. Survival is the foremost national interest for Pakistan which will not only be ensured by border security but also human security. People with empty stomachs can neither think about border security nor environmental security; it is just a luxury for them.

Albeit Pakistan is ranked as the 10th largest importer of major arms, the neighbour countries, India and China, hold 2nd and 5th position respectively. India has also not addressed its fault lines rather stifled voices which have resulted in frequent demonstrations in the country. The prevalence of Islamophobia and Hindutva ideology, within the society under Modi’s regime, has resulted in polarization. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of farmers abandoned their fields after the Indian Parliament enacted the three laws in September 2020. The months-long peaceful protests transformed into violent ones when on Republic Day – January 26, 2021 – hundreds of protestors changed their pre-approved routes to enter the capital amidst the Republic Day parade.  Instead of addressing the grievances of the farmers, the Indian government tried to oppress their voices just like it did after the enactment Citizenship Amendment Act and the revocation of Article 370 by arresting citizens under Sedition Law. Anyway, if such issues and grievances are suppressed, they erupt as contradictions and violence later on.  The case for Pakistan is no different because problems in the agricultural sector remain unresolved. Similarly, one cannot turn blind eye to the resentment in the hearts of the people of Balochistan. Dozens of coal miners are dying due to accidents and delinquency of mines inspectors to ensure safety standards. Contrarily, China has been working on human security and economic development for years. Lately, China has announced victory in tackling poverty and achieved its long-trumpeted goal of lifting its entire population above a poverty line of $2.30 in daily income.

In conclusion, the problems are the same since the partition of the Subcontinent and the solutions by this government are not different from the previous ones. The government ought to comprehend that even after so many years of independence; only dialogue over human security will not be enough. In spite of that, transparency, merit, accountability, rule of law, implementation and timely evaluation of policies is pre-eminent. Furthermore, a stable institutional setup is crucial along with efficient and honest public servants. In addition, political leaders need to engage in negotiations and address the grievances of the people instead of suppressing them. Confronting such concerns at the latent stage is preferable otherwise; these agitations flareup in the form of direct violence.  Over and above that, engaging in an arms race has never benefitted any nation. From plenty of historical conflicts, one can deduce that there is no victory in war rather there is humanitarian and material loss. Ultimately, when conflict is ripe and warring factions reach a mutually hurting stalemate, they look for a peaceful solution to terminate the violence. Therefore, it is high time to realize that in this globalized world, cooperation and understanding the root causes of nuisance is the only way to progress.

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