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Discharge of state capacity in Pakistan IG News

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The capacity of the Pakistani state to provide services – health, education, security and other civic and social goods – to its masses has been declining since the 11-year rule of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. Constantly shrinking fiscal space, an inefficient and sometimes non-existent state apparatus, and a political elite completely devoid of any policy-making capacity have gradually deprived the Pakistani state of any ability to care for the social and economic needs of society.

This gradual process of reducing the country’s capacity took place in the context of slow and lackluster economic growth. Ironically, we are surrounded by two of the fastest growing economies in the world – India and China – both of which have lifted large sections of their impoverished populations above the poverty line over the past two decades. The key to India and China’s ability to achieve this feat has been the relative stability in their policies over the past two decades.

Our society is very unstable, run by a political elite with a penchant for promising greener pastures to the people of the country, in the midst of a crisis-like situation that has exposed the capacity of the Pakistani state to deliver services to its people. Obviously, Pakistan’s political leaders have to rely on this same state apparatus to fulfill their promises made to the people of Pakistan during election campaigns. Almost no one doubts that the country’s capacity has declined.

The reduction of the country’s capacity did not come only to us. This was accompanied by the rise of the elder Bhutto’s political style, loud and populist, promising the people great results, while our country’s ability to deliver simply evaporated into thin air.

Our society is very unstable, run by a political elite with a penchant for promising greener pastures to the people of the country, in the midst of a crisis-like situation that has exposed the capacity of the Pakistani state to deliver services to its people.

The 1990s was the period when the Chinese and Indian economies began to benefit from the process of globalization, the benefits of which began to be reaped by Southeast Asia, as the parallel process of deindustrialization in the Western economies brought investment in the form of capital, knowledge and technology to the region , where cheap labor was available in abundance. The availability of cheap labor in China, India and other Southeast Asian countries has made these countries popular destinations for investors and capitalists from all over the Western world and Japan.

Experts also highlight the socially liberal cultural environment as a factor that attracted international capitalists and investors to China and India, but not to Pakistan, where political elites flirted with the idea of ​​Islam as a political ideology in the 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan has simply missed the train – foreign investment has remained minimal and the process of globalization has not benefited us the way it has benefited the Chinese and Indian economies.

Remember our obsessions in the 1990s when the Chinese and Indian economies liberalized to take advantage of the process of globalization. We were obsessed with installing a friendly government in Kabul; our obsession played no small part in destroying the prospects for a peaceful post-Soviet withdrawal in Afghanistan and contributed significantly to the start of a civil war in our neighborhood.

We were obsessed with maintaining a favorable military balance with India and with ensuring that we were obsessed with developing a nuclear bomb. As a result, we have ignored the education of our youth, we have ignored our economic and productive capacity, we have ignored our social and political stability. As if nuclear bombs, strategic depth, a favorable military balance with India and a friendly government in Kabul were all we needed.

A comprehensive package of failures – long bursts of political and social instability, economic distress felt at the local level, and a totally incompetent political elite that led us on a long and continuous daydream – has consequently made our society delusional. Yes, a delusion. As a nation we are showing clear signs of living in delusion.

We love candidates and clients who promise us the world. We engage in the exercise of dreaming together, knowing full well that the promises made to us are not in the realm of possibility. Everyone at the lowest levels knows that the Pakistani state uses borrowed funds to cover its expenses. But we believe and vote for leaders who promise us the world. This has been happening since the 1990s. By the time Imran Khan appeared on the scene with his promise of a welfare state, Pakistan’s fiscal and monetary balance was running at full steam. But Imran Khan used the same populist style as the elder Bhutto.

Our political discourse is completely devoid of any attempt to understand the nature, ideology or structures of the Pakistani state.

Everyone knows that the reality is that the Pakistani state does not have the financial capacity to fulfill any of the promises made by the populist political leaders who are vying to take control of the state apparatus. It is ironic that the Pakistani media does not even question the claims of these cyclostylized Butovites during election campaigns. What word would you use to describe this situation? I think delusion is appropriate.

Our political discourse is completely devoid of any attempt to understand the nature, ideology or structures of the Pakistani state. The intellectual discourse on the Pakistani state largely revolves around two parallel currents: Islamist and Marxist. This has been followed in recent years by an attempt to reify the state as an institution that should be loved, if not worshiped, by one and all. Our political discourse does not prescribe any reformist agenda for our political structure. Take this example: Pakistan’s state machinery is good for only one task: coercion. As already pointed out, its capacity to provide services has been drastically reduced.

Two of Pakistan’s great populist political leaders, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, have personally experienced the coercive power of the Pakistani state. However, none of them claimed to reform the structures and institutions of the Pakistani state. None of them emphasized that the country’s capacity is diminishing and that we will need to build that capacity before making any promises. In fact, none of the election programs of the political parties promised to build and strengthen the country’s capacity.

Every political party is trying to take control of the state apparatus, yet no one has a clear plan of what they intend to do with this state apparatus. It is obvious that a state apparatus without any capacity to provide services to the masses will not benefit these political leaders whose desire and desire to attract more and more voters to their parties is unabated. As a result, these political leaders use public funds to buy votes by providing subsidies to their favorite, selected segments of society. Building a sustainable economy or increasing the production base is far beyond their capabilities.

Political parties are governed and run by the benevolence of capitalists—big business, rentier industrialists, and the landed elite—and when the parties come to power, the political leaders act as the true representatives of these moneyed interests, giving the masses nothing but crumbs.

Until the 1980s, we had a very lively Marxist intellectual discourse about the role of the state as a political institution representing the interests of the economically dominant classes of society. With the end of the Cold War and the triumph of capitalism, Marxist discourse evaporated into thin air. To a large extent, Islamist discourses on the institution of the state already enabled the control of the economically dominant classes over the political and power structures of society.

One of the side effects of the global victory of neoliberal capitalism and its corresponding impact on the political discourse in our society has been that the oppressed in Pakistan have been rendered voiceless. Political parties are governed and run by the benevolence of capitalists—big business, rentier industrialists, and the landed elite—and when the parties come to power, the political leaders act as the true representatives of these moneyed interests, giving the masses nothing but crumbs.

This is true of any major political party in the country that has any realistic chance of coming to power in Islamabad. The dominant classes remain dominant, and the state truly represents the economic, social and cultural interests of the dominant classes. Marx’s analysis of the capitalist system could not be more accurate when it comes to describing Pakistan’s political system. No political party that does not include an agenda of transforming the productive base of the national economy as its primary election platform can claim to represent the masses of Pakistan.

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