A Consolidated National Policy

The ideal situation is when a state has a comprehensive and consolidated national policy. Any state that functions without this will always gradually slip into a steady decline and with that into the process of degeneration in every sphere of its national life.

With a heavy heart, one has to admit that this is what has happened to Pakistan in the 62 years of its independence. However, paradoxically, despite the degeneration taking place all over, we have achieved a lot which includes things like some of the biggest dams in the world, vast communication network, good industrial base, becoming the world’s seventh nuclear military power, having an organised military establishment, a civil bureaucracy and a sound political structure for the state. If the political structure has not functioned as it should have, it is because Pakistan’s political landscape has been devoid of the middle class where the actual talent and potential lies.

If we could achieve all that we have actually achieved without adhering to the five-year plans that we kept making over the decades, Pakistan would surely not have been in the sorry state that it finds itself in today, had it followed a well-defined consolidated national policy. In that case, Pakistan would have moved on a trajectory that would have been planned for the achievement of well-defined, long-term goals, irrespective of who ruled the country. This did not happen and Pakistan being run the way a Chaudhry, Khan or Sardar would run his clan.

It gets even more painful when one realises that Pakistan had actually made its first six-year development plan as far back as 1950 but the same was not implemented due to the early years of unsystematic handling of the state and its components. That Plan had been designed to bring about the then new nation’s development infrastructure.

The early 50s as we all know saw a lot of political instability leading to Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s take-over in 1958. But that period did see a refinement of the earlier drafted six-year development plan made in 1953 which eventually came to be known as the first five-year plan (1955-60). Unfortunately, this plan too never went into operation. However, when Ayub Khan took over in 1958, he set about the planned development of Pakistan by commissioning what we today know as the Planning Commission of Pakistan. This major step brought about the second five-year plan (1960-65) during the peak of the Ayub era. This surpassed all its goals and brought about immense national growth.

The plan basically encouraged the private sector in the sense that it drew private entrepreneurs into those areas of business and industry that yielded high profits and the state went into sectors that the private entrepreneurs could not handle for business reasons. Pakistan’s second five-year plan (1960-65) that brought about a good mix of business and social responsibility between the state and the private sector was acknowledged and adopted by other developing countries of the time which included South Korea. Having laid its foundation on the concept of Pakistan’s second five-year plan, South Korea is now the world’s 14th largest economy and Asia’s fourth largest economy besides being among the G-20 countries. While others progressed on the Pakistani concept, we itself lost our way.

The fourth five-year plan (1970-75) did not produce any mentionable results because of the East Pakistan debacle due to which many aspects of Pakistan’s national life had gone into a tailspin from which the country was retrieved by the charismatic leadership of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-77). The five-year plans continued to be prepared and be ignored with the last one being the eighth five-year plan (1993-98). Except the second five-year plan (1960-65) under which Pakistan experienced an enviable industrial and agricultural growth (the famous green revolution that made Pakistan a surplus nation in agricultural produce), none of the successive plans were ever put into actual operation.

It is now time for Pakistan to fight its do-or-die battle once again and rekindle the old spirit by embarking upon a consolidated national policy in order to stop the free fall of the nation, put its nose up and start climbing once again towards self-reliance, however slow and difficult that climb maybe. It has to be ensured that the force behind it is strong enough to prevent it from stalling and falling towards utter destruction. With the heaviest of hearts, it has to be said that all this does not seem possible, thus the writing on the wall does not read well for this resilient nation that has been reduced to being similar to a high-powered ship that has lost its rudder.

The writer is a former director-general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice-president of the PPP Parliamentarians. Email: masoodsharifkhattak@gmail.com and www.sharifpost.com
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