Nisar A. Memon
06-January- 2020 – Pakistan Observer
Pakistan urgently needs greater nation building efforts to meet the challenges of alarming education indicators, unprecedented burgeoning inflation and increasing security challenges. At the dawn of this decade, let the hopes of citizens be put to actions and not the sermons. Every citizen, wherever she or he is, can contribute to nation building. Nation has been built by availing and developing all the natural resources; but time and again we seem to have gone astray due mainly to greed and power in all segments of society. Deeper reflection brings to fore several reasons for our drift from our founder’s vision. One of which is polarization due to ethnicity, language, religion, sect and region. A heterogenous society can be strength, if well managed. We have witnessing political polarization of dangerous levels, despite the oft repeated democratic dispensation talk by all.
This polarization is fueled by the hate speeches and programs by the political parties and religious groups to mention a few – using electronic, print and social media – with impunity despite Section 153A of penal code, “Whoever promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, . . . shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
The PEMRA comes into action when it is against the government or armed forces; while judiciary takes immediate notice of any utterances against it and responds in self-defense. This, however, need to be addressed by political leadership restraining itself, judiciary taking suo moto actions, young lawyers diverting their energies to taking up public interest cases of citizens to uphold the Constitution.
The structure of nation is defined in the Constitution, framed by the parliament, and is comprised of President, Senate and National Assembly. Parliament is considered the supreme institution thus must be our focal point. It is here that the representatives frame and amend the laws and as elected representative of people, uphold the Constitution and keep the interest of the citizens as their top priority. The candidates for parliamentary election are the responsibility of political parties to select the ones who meet the eligibility criteria; and for Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure proper scrutiny at the time of application processing and not leave it to Courts or organizations like NAB or FIA to determine their eligibility. This process of scrutiny by ECP must be ongoing since after the initial processing they receive from elected members the ‘Statement of Assets and Liabilities’.
Just like the civil and military academies, the parliamentarians must be trained with sufficient funds budgeted. Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) is a good beginning but structured and high-level training, at home and abroad, is needed to help them perform their functions effectively. In addition, minimum actual attendance in parliament sessions and committees and suitable performance criteria can also be considered. Over the last weekend, we witnessed meeting of minds on several Service Acts, to give hope in needed parliamentary practices for strengthening democratic practices. All eyes on how they respond to non-security business in days ahead.
The nation building requires providing fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution and committed as signatory member country to U.N. Charter. The highest priority of these rights for any knowledge society is the education. Article 25A of our Constitution, says, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” The global literacy rate is 86.3%, while Pakistan is trailing behind at 62.3%. UNICEF reports that Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children. Is this the violation of Constitution? Our public expenditure on education being lowest in the region at 2.4% of GDP in 2018-2019, thereby we are risking our development and defence. Our resource allocation in other fundamental rights is no better and should be cause of concern for planners and government,
All this can be combated by addressing the inherited mind-set of colonial behavior, practices and systems. The conduct of parents to children, family and staff is reflective of such behavior at home; the relations between coworkers, the public servants in offices, industries, agricultural lands; and teachers in educational institutions are all reported in media. The furniture in public offices is totally out of line with a country under billions of dollar loans. Worst is the conduct of public office holders behaving like masters and not servants of citizens. All this is symbolic of colonial mind-set rather than of a free country. All titles bestowed upon elite must be denounced since they were given as loyalty to the crown and represent the colonial past and in fact these titles inculcate colonial behavior among the holder of these titles.
Each citizen is responsible for building the nation, however, the ones who accept to be elected representatives and public servants bear the brunt. They must be reminded that leaders command respect by not using abusive language for opponents nor showing contempt for institutions which placed them in high offices of government, but by setting the examples to build the nation from morass, else they will be thrown in the dust bin of history but at huge cost to the nation. Sooner we learn the lessons of history the better it is for us towards building nation.
2020 should be ‘Year of Nation Building’ by working together to end polarization; shunning the hate speeches; strengthening institutions with focus on parliament; implementing fundamental human rights specially the education; and discarding colonial behaviors, practices and systems. Will it be done? This can best be answered by our elected representatives.
The writer is a former federal minister for information and broadcasting and a senator.