Pakistan has been facing extraordinary challenges, which have multiplied due to the lack of a crystal clear policy direction in the recent years. Although the government regularly draws a 5 year plan, it subsequently either misses the targets or shelves the plan altogether. New priorities are then undertaken, often neglecting the prior ones.
The manifestos of all the parties seem too similar in letter and spirit, as contemporary popular concepts are usually plagiarised from documents of developed countries, without even realizing the consequences for Pakistan.
One of the shortcomings in planning is the lack of focus. Keeping in view the current circumstances, the nation has to concentrate on five key areas by taking customized initiatives into consideration. Each area is discussed briefly, with some highlights for concerned stakeholders.
There is no difference of opinion about the fact that emancipation for any nation lies in education. Knowledge-based economies can come into existence with highly educated, trained and skilled human resources. Aggressive planning and implementation, especially in the case of higher education, is the need of the hour. The Higher Education Commission has played a positive role in this regard, particularly encouraging universities to pay attention to the local problems and provide innovative solutions to them.
Establishing specialized universities on nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology and other newly emerging fields can provide new avenues for the youth. Academic free zones can be created in major cities on the model of the Knowledge Village in UAE. Such universities can provide high class human resources to the industry, both nationally and internationally. These dedicated universities should avoid general programs of arts and managements which are already in abundance, so that unprofessional candidates do not saturate the limited job market.
The public schools require improvement in quantity and quality on immediate basis, however, with scarce resources; instant solution is not in sight. The private sector should be encouraged as much as possible. The Gulf States are an enlightening example where public sector and private sector go hand in hand.
In substitution to the laptop distribution scheme by the Punjab government, Information Technology and vocational training centers should be set up by offering short and long term courses with free and highly subsidized fee structures. Future entrepreneurs from these institutes can serve the economy by taking a leaf from India whose IT industry exports are now worth US $50 billion.
The Energy issue has lately dominated all the problems facing Pakistan. The lack of planning by previous governments in this respect has had socio-economic effects on the country. The energy sector should be prioritized by availing all the means available.
Resources such as coal in Tharparker are a great blessing, which is spread over an area of 9000 km2. The coalfields should be exploited to the full capacity, as they have the potential of supplying 50000 MW for about 800 years to businesses and households.
Pipelines from energy rich neighboring countries can provide an edge to our industry in the coming years, as fuel dependent countries will face high prices or even lack of fuel access in the future.
Nuclear Plants with support from China can provide cheap energy sources in the long run. Such nuclear reactors should be built on technology transfer basis so that Pakistan can become self-sufficient in manufacturing and exporting the technology.
Alternative energy producing options such as wind, biomass, tidal, solar, and geothermal sources of energy with private and public sector partnership should be encouraged.
Equity / Enforcement
The Equity factor should be the highest priority to impart justice through efficient law enforcement agencies and judiciary. It includes the law and order situation which has been deteriorated since the Twin Towers attack.
Legislature, the executive and the judiciary should be reformed to pass on justice at the doorsteps of the citizens. Millions of pending cases, dragging for years in courts, frustrates people. The judiciary should be made to work round the clock by using the same buildings; there should be no time or day for justice deliverance. Video links can be quite valuable in conducting swift and secure trials.
Pakistan Protection Ordinance, 2013, legislated to combat terrorism, should be enforced immediately, in letter and spirit, by eliminating any sensitivities from the political parties.
Having around 33 civil and military intelligence agencies in the country is inefficient and overlapping in nature, which should be either merged or wound up. National Intelligence Directorate [NID] can be the first step in combating terrorism effectively. Law enforcers should be provided all social, economic, political and technological backing by providing state of the art training, equipment, merit based hiring and promotion, health facilities and other such actions.
Serious and organized crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping, rape, unsolved murders, car theft and frauds involving interprovincial operating gangs should be dealt with by a specialized agency on the federal level with highly trained and professional staff.
Autonomous witness and judges protection programs, financial assistance coverage, usury free loans, secured residential areas can provide mental relief to the security personnel’s to carry out their duties.
Economy influences every aspect of life and has a direct bearing on the initiatives mentioned above. Numerous measures from comprehensive austerity plans to trade liberalization are to be taken to yield positive results.
Trade between Pakistan and India should be of prime consideration. As MFN status has a political connotation with opposition from some quarters, the same status can be extended with some other acronym to enhance bilateral trade upto US$40 billion as proposed by the Nawaz Sharif Government.
Pakistan has not opened its land route for India to trade with Afghanistan. However, India has circumvented the route by developing Iran’s Chabahar port, resulting in the loss of toll tax and other revenues to Pakistan. Security concerns can be allayed by using sophisticated technology, building specialized zones, roads and railway tracks all the way from the eastern border to the western border of Pakistan. This infrastructural support will provide a swift and cost effective route for Pakistani and Indian products to Afghanistan.
A Pakistan–China Corridor will open new opportunities for the region, where infrastructural facilities from Gwadar port to western China can act as a catalyst for progress and prosperity.
Industrial export zones with strategic locations around major cities and on the borders of the country is the need of the hour. The zones with uninterruptable utilities and fool proof security and infrastructural support can provide the necessary incentives to local and foreign multinationals for setting up businesses in the country. Introducing reforms in these areas can attract foreign capitalists to invest, visit their counterparts and sign agreements with full legal security. Information and Technology Parks can augment our US $2.8 billion IT global market share.
New cities should be planned and built with private sector support. The construction industry has the potential to revive up to 70 other industries. Massive housing shortage with lack of investment opportunities makes property ideal assets for cash disposal, both for local and overseas Pakistanis. Planned cities will not only raise the standard of living but also create employment, foreign remittances and tourism.
An economy driven foreign policy should be adopted and productive relationships should be established with the emerging economies of the world.
Delegation of authorities on the grass root level is now the essence of democracy. The Election Commission, in association with the provincial government, should make sure that the local bodies elections are held on time. Awareness campaigns about the significance and impact of these elections on the life of the citizens is a must. The local bodies’ elections can be made more democratic if a candidate is nominated by the residents of the constituency rather than the candidates presenting themselves as their savior. The nomination can be on a minimum number of people endorsing a candidate by their signatures and particulars. In the case of multiple candidates fulfilling the criteria, the majority wins rule can be applied by the election commission.
The Government should make sure that power is also transferred along with the authority by the transferring of funds to these local representatives instead of the MPAs and MNAs.
Electronic voting can play a game changer in providing genuine leadership. Complaints of election fraud are common in Pakistan, especially in the 2013 elections. All political parties leveled charges of poll rigging and evidences of irregularities were provided. The biometric system can not only root out fake voters but also tabulate the results in seconds.
Non-resident Pakistanis who are to a quite extent independent of the local influences of caste, sect and tribal affiliation, while residing overseas can alter the political scenario altogether. Their right to vote should be legislated as soon as possible.
Fast tracking E-Government projects can improve the governance level by providing the citizens with easy and cost effective access to the government departments and officials.