Impediments to Pakistan’s Progress


Talk By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak
Former Director General Intelligence Bureau
To the Rotary Club of Islamabad Cosmopolitan
At Marriott Hotel Islamabad on 28 October 2010

Mr Ahsan ul Haq Khan Chairman Administration Committee of the Rotary Club of Islamabad Cosmopolitan, Dr Shakil Ansari District Governor Rotary Club of Islamabad Cosmopolitan distinguished ladies and gentlemen Assalam alaikum.

It is indeed a matter of immense pleasure for me to be addressing an august and enlightened audience such as the one gathered here. In the short time allocated to me I shall only touch upon some glaringly obvious aspects that have been impediments to Pakistan’s steady progress and growth. I shall thereafter look forward to my interaction with this august house which I am sure will have incisive questions to ask. We must ask questions of ourselves and of those who masquerade as our leaders since more than anyone else it is we, the true common Pakistani people, who are the actual stakeholders in the future of this beautiful and wonderful land of ours. There is not one true Pakistani who can today go to sleep without being worried immensely about the future of Pakistan.

Before I chalk out the aspects I intend to cover in my brief talk let me quote what my son, an engineer by profession, had to say to me. He said “Baba, it is time for your generation to give way in a smooth but faster than usual transition to the younger and upcoming generation of Pakistan as yours and the past generations have failed to take Pakistan to its rightful status in the comity of nations.” He went on to elaborate to me that Pakistan is Blessed by everything that ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY has created on this planet except just one mountain top – the Mount Everest. What he actually meant was that Pakistan has everything in terms of seasons, climates, terrain, crops, natural resources, animal life, marine life etc because ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY has actually created everything on earth within this spectrum – from K2 to the bottom of the sea. This being the case why does Pakistan only qualify as an aid seeking country with a begging bowl extended up front all the time? Why then has Pakistan not been able to feed its own population and still have spare produce to export? Why then has the industrial base not expanded as it should have when we have all the natural resources one could want? Why then has our economy not stabilized? Being such a blessed country why does Pakistan not get to stand up on its own feet in a respectable and dignified manner? Do the people and those masquerading as their leaders really care? Questions like these should stir the conscience of patriotic Pakistanis.

Having said that, the aspects that I intend to put across to you as Impediments to Pakistan’s Progress are as follows:-






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

    With a heavy heart and a lot of pain one has to admit that this is what has happened to Pakistan over all the sixty three years of its independence. However, paradoxically, despite the degeneration taking place in every single sphere of our national life we have achieved a lot which includes things like some of the biggest dams in the world, a vast communication network, a good industrial base, becoming the world’s seventh nuclear military power, having an organized military establishment, an organized civil bureaucracy and a sound, though always manipulated, 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.

    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 for development and steady progress. 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 at any point of time. This did not happen and Pakistan kept being run like a Chaudhry, Khan, Sardar etc would run his clan.

    It gets even more painful when one traces backwards that Pakistan had actually made its First Six Year Developmental 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 developmental infrastructure. To the present day Pakistan’s disadvantage that plan never went beyond being drafted.

    The early fifties as we all know saw a lot of political instability leading to Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan’s take over in 1958. But that period did see a refinement of the earlier drafted six year developmental 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, as an alternative, when Ayub Khan took over in 1958, to his credit, 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 second five year plan was implemented and we saw that the goals set by this Second Five Year Plan were actually surpassed and all that activity brought about immense national growth which most of us sitting in this room will probably recollect.

    That plan in the Sixties 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 those 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 that time which included South Korea. South Korea having laid its developmental foundations on the concept of Pakistan’s Second Five Year Plan is now the world’s fourteenth largest economy and Asia’s fourth largest economy besides being amongst the G20 countries. While others progressed on the Pakistani concept Pakistan itself lost its way after the Second Five Year Plan.

    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 tail spin from which the country was retrieved and reinvigorated by the charismatic leadership of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971-77). Five year plan’s 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 cannot be seen as happening and thus the writing too is on the wall and that writing does not read well for this brave and resilient nation that has been reduced to being similar to a high powered ship that has lost its rudder.


No country or nation can ever dream of becoming a developed and progressive country or even a civilized nation if it does not have a workable and functional political system. We all know that political stability in Pakistan has been evasive, basically, because our Parliamentary system has been too prone to manipulations by the politicians themselves who have always created such a mess of things that after their manipulations and rendering the parliamentary system of governance ineffective the military interventions have been made possible. An imperative ingredient for the parliamentary system to succeed is to have a functional devolution of political power to all the federating units as well as down to the local levels. Contrarily, in Pakistan, the federal government has been far too overbearing on the federating units which now does not suit the politically awakened Pakistan. Thus, most Pakistanis tend to think that there is a dire need for restructuring the State and its governance.

The evident societal changes in Pakistan have to be considered realistically in order to restructure the State and the political system. Pakistanis hatred for subjugation by the State is on the rise. Pakistanis now desire extensive political liberation and this desire will increase with time. The State of Pakistan, therefore, needs to be synchronized with the desires of the Pakistanis before the adverse realities of excessive centralization of political power overtakes it and the centrifugal forces overpower the centripetal forces thus rendering the State unable to keep the federating units intact around an extremely dominating Centre. The powerful Centre witnessed in the 70s/80s has become increasingly weak and incoherent over the last three decades. It is time to think hard and fast and formulate the State’s structural changes before those changes occur through their own dynamics at a colossal detrimental cost to Pakistan.

Political restructuring in Pakistan needs to be so engineered that the highly vibrant and talented middle class is brought into the loop of political power. The upsurge of the younger and educated middle class and the emergence of a politically assertive civil society are very reassuring for the future of Pakistan. The political landscape of the foreseeable future is likely to see a rise in the assertiveness of the emerging middle class and the civil society. Being well educated, well traveled and possessing an agitated collective mind this segment of the country’s population, which is nearly 95% of the total population, accepts matters only on conviction and is not likely to give in to State hegemony as a matter of rule. Subjugation now belongs to the past and is out of vogue. Massive restructuring of the State is, therefore, imperative in order to devolve functional political power to the federating units and lower down.

Therefore, is it not time to have more provinces so that the federating units are not as big as they currently are and thus, at any point of time in the foreseeable future, do not tug outwards with a strength that the Federation cannot sustain or counter? Would a presidential system with a directly elected president not be more suited to us with the provincial governors also directly elected, a factor that shall automatically bring autonomy to the federating units?

In any new system the Parliament could remain exactly as at present with the only change that the senators should also be elected directly so as to be true representatives of the federating units. As a role, would it not be more appropriate for the Parliament to only indulge in pure legislation and the debating of issues in the Houses after which they either accord approval to, or reject, Bills put forth by the Federal Government/Presidency? Would it not be appropriate for the members of Parliament to be barred from becoming federal ministers as well as from holding any public office of profit thus making the general elections less attractive for the privileged 5% and more attractive for the presently excluded 95% of the population i.e. the enlightened and educated middle class? No one would then spend tens of millions to get elected.

The formation of the Administrations at the centre and the provinces should then become the sole prerogatives of the directly elected President and Governors, respectively, with constitutional checks on them regarding the formation of the Administration. The Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies could be so empowered that they exercise checks on the President and the provincial governors.

This outline sketch can be built upon to give a workable State structure to Pakistan that shall certainly be a more workable democracy than the present State structure. In essence, it will involve moving from a Parliamentary system to a Presidential form of democracy. Have we not been an unannounced Presidential system for 36 years under Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf and now Zardari who is running the country with a Prime Minister who means nothing even when a so called Parliamentary system is in vogue? That being the case is it not time to formally become a Presidential democracy and thus get rid of the present ruling elite once and for all so that the stranglehold on Pakistan’s jugular vein is released and Pakistan starts getting ruled by its true stakeholders – the people?

After 62 years of independence Pakistan is still groping in the dark. One’s heart bleeds for Pakistan when one looks at the over six decades of its ruthless exploitation by the ruling class which always, somehow, manages to enter the power corridors irrespective of whether the country is ruled by a political or military ruler. All of it has left the country in ruins. The Pakistani nation lacks leadership to lead it. This is our real problem. One Mahathir built modern day Malaysia. Pakistan is still looking for that one soul that will turn out to be its Mahathir. Pakistan has the resilience and the will to lift itself from the edge of the abyss but what has to be understood is that 180 million people act in unison either when led by an effective leadership or when in a state of rebellion which by itself, resultantly, churns up effective leadership called ‘circumstantial leadership’ at all levels.

Having said that the choice is obvious and the writing is on the wall. The situation has to be stabilized and the resolve has to come from those in power today. The civil society must also catapult itself into active politics. The Pakistani Nation spearheaded by the civil society has to now break the stranglehold of the conventional political power bases in the country and resuscitate the country.


    Communication infrastructure, domestic tourism, undiluted provincial autonomy and bonding through the work place play a vital role in the integration of a nation. Pakistan’s national integration has suffered immensely because these factors have never been crucially important to our leadership.

    Pakistan’s communication infrastructure is primitive, domestic tourism is non existent, provincial autonomy only receives lip service and bonding through the work place is totally missing except in the armed forces; especially the Army. Uniform development across the country over the past sixty years would have solidly integrated the Pakistani nation but that did not happen due to absolute incompetence, poor leadership and corruption at all levels. The price Pakistan is paying for its neglect is in the shape of an internally disjointed nation forced to suffer the present day indignities in the shape of terrorism and insurgency.

    The political and military establishment must now understand that the military potential of any country is multiplied manifolds when that country’s military potential is backed by a nation that is well integrated. An integrated nation can cover up for military shortfalls but military strength cannot cover up for the short falls of a nation that lacks integration and cohesion. The Soviet Union’s break up in 1991 is an example that amply illustrates this aspect. Pakistan must, therefore, accord top priority to uniform development throughout the country in order to have a nation that can back its enviable military potential in a solid manner; if not then all will be lost.

    Mian Nawaz Sharif deserves the credit for initiating the modern communication infrastructure of Pakistan that is so essential for the integration of a nation that is spread far and wide in a country as big as Pakistan. Launching of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway by Mian Nawaz Sharif in the early nineties was a huge step in the right direction. If the process had been initiated decades ago Pakistan today would have been a very cohesively integrated nation. Nothing integrates people more solidly than regular contact between the people of that nation; an aspect that only a good communication infrastructure can bring about. I am a million percent sure that if someone had built a motorway between Peshawar and Islamabad to Swat we would not have had the Swat situation develop as it did with all its consequences which are still far from over. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s motorway initiative must be pushed forward with full force so that the bottled up population of Pakistan opens up and the process, in turn, enhances national integration.

    Following the example of the armed forces it is necessary that Pakistanis learn to work with each other in all sectors of national life. Army units are formed on the basis of amalgamating soldiers from different areas. For example a battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment (FFR) does not consist of Pakhtuns alone but has a component of soldiers from other parts of Pakistan amalgamated with the Pakhtuns. Likewise, a Punjab Regiment battalion will always have the Punjabi component amalgamated with soldiers from other parts of Pakistan. Each unit does a three years tour of duty at any one station and then moves to another area under a planned system which takes the unit, as an entity, all over the country and the multi ethnic component of the unit, over a period, works and lives in each others native areas. Thus they become one solidly integrated entity – the Pakistan Army. Pakhtun, Punjabi, Baloch, Sindhi and Kashmiri fellow soldiers posted anywhere in the country then willingly die for each other and for Pakistan; such is the level of integration. Sadly, one cannot say the same about the rest of Pakistan.

    In the light of the military experience it just might be a good idea if all businesses, factories, corporate entities, service providers etc located in any province are made to follow a regulated system that absorbs people of other provinces so that a bonding interaction is brought about in the work place. The people of all the provinces of Pakistan must now be brought out of their segregation from each other and made to interact and work together.


The accountability process in Pakistan has always been vehemently criticised and has always come under attack from all political quarters as soon as it has ever been initiated. As far as the general public and the intelligentsia is concerned they have always welcomed any new accountability initiative that has ever been launched by any government whether that government has been civil or military. The criticism has not exactly been unfounded because after a fanfare launching and new fancy names initiated e.g. EBDO, NAB etc the launching authorities have always lost track of the real objectives and have used their own otherwise welcome initiatives as tools of coercion. Opponents have been always targeted or at times people have been given a “fall in line with the government or face persecution/accountability choice.” Many of the heartless and weak nerved politicians have always fallen to this threat because they always knew that the allegations against them were fit for prosecution. Others have evaded that choice by choosing to go into exile both, forced as well as voluntary, only to always return to Pakistan when their tormentors have grown weak or have been thrown out of power by the people who stayed back and fought on principles and on the soil of Pakistan exposing themselves to grave dangers. They have not only always returned but have always returned as heroes and this unsuspecting Pakistani Nation has always accorded them heroes welcome and looked up to them as their saviours only to be disappointed all over again.


This was followed by a question answer session

Parents who do not stay up to date with the technology that their children are learning will only fall further exceptional source behind in the future as technology continues to progress

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6 Replies to “Impediments to Pakistan’s Progress”

  1. Agreed 100% and I feel that you would have also touched the issue of Tax evasion.People have become billionairs in few decades.How it is possible when economy is in slump always.Our leaders though in the top 10 richest persons of country dont pay tax.Nawaz Sharif tried to clarify the issue but am astonished that no one questioned his tax.Corporate tax is altogether different from income tax.Accountability doesnt exist.Mehran Bank,Indus Bank,Schon Bank,Prudential Bank,Cooperative scams are hushed up.This is 3rd time our party PPP is in power but couldn’t reopen Shaheed Z.A.Bhuttu case.Demand for UN investigation was made as it was Musharaf the helm of affairs in case of shaheed BB.What progress has so far been made.NAB required politicians are wandering free.Every govt. is helpless to bargain with those who are criminals as they are in greed of power.Who will be the saviour? or we need a man like Khomini?

  2. Thank you for sharing all these nuggets of wisdom. just went through the contents. No contention, its every word is true but order of the points in terms of importance needs a bit tweaking when you will have both the will and the power to execute(soon Inshallah). Will you be on the stage on Dec 25,Karachi? Mazar is just 3km away from my residence, and will participate with my kids along.

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