According to a UNDP report on the Human Development Index in 2021-22, Pakistan ranked 161 out of 192 countries, which reflects the fragile status of economic, social, food, energy, environmental, gender and youth security in the country. As the world’s fifth largest country in terms of population, the human security predicament of Pakistan is deepening with each passing day. An unprecedented political and economic crisis in Pakistan has taken a significant toll on human security; not only has poverty been exacerbated, but inflation and a sharp escalation in the prices of fuel and food have squeezed households.
How can a human security predicament in Pakistan destabilize state and society, and why there is meager headway to deal with issues which tend to augment human insecurity? How will the 220 million people of Pakistan cope with crises of food, energy, water on top of a flailing economy, and will the country’s elites ever face the wrath of the masses who are currently buried under crushing inflation and unemployment? These are the questions which are raised by those who are deeply concerned with growing human insecurity in Pakistan.
Human security means when people have access to the basic necessities of life, like clean and safe drinking water, affordable and respectable public transport, housing, free and compulsory good quality education at least till high school, affordable medical facilities, employment opportunities based on merit, good governance, rule of law, accountability, food and environmental security. Human security also means gender equality and youth empowerment. A welfare state takes care of the human security affairs of its citizens and makes sure that there is no discrimination in race, gender, color, ethnic, lingual and in sectarian basis.
Pakistan’s human security predicament needs to be analyzed from two angles. First, human security depends on the economy of a country. If a country has meager per capita income, low foreign exchange reserves and weak economic growth, is heavily dependent on foreign aid and loans, it cannot ensure basic security to its people. Elites living in their comfort zones are naïve about the plight of the people, which deepens the political and social crisis. This is exactly what has happened to Pakistan, where in the last one year, the economy has crumbled – with inflation reaching 45%, foreign exchange reserves at a meager $4 billion, annual exports amounting to less than $30 billion, a sharp weakening of the Pakistan rupee relative to the American dollar, and unprecedented escalation in the prices of essential commodities like food, medicine, fuel, electricity and gas. When indifference and insensitivity is the response on the part of those who are at the helm of affairs on the worsening of human security issues, the outcome is anger, antagonism, frustration, intolerance, militancy and violence and terrorism. Islands of comfort zones cannot prevent the tide of a popular uprising if the state fails to act and plausibly deal with the economic predicament of the majority of people of Pakistan.
The way out from the human security crisis in Pakistan is a difficult task,
and will require a complete restructuring of the existing political,
economic and social order of the country.
Second, the unprofessional role of organs of the state like the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy and military tend to further deepen the human security crisis in Pakistan. When the state is transforming from a fragile, failing to a failed state, the outcome will be a complete breakdown of the rule of law and governance. It will be wishful thinking that the military will control the situation by taking over power because from any standpoint, Pakistan has become ungovernable, which is reflected in the gradual loss of the writ of the state in Balochistan, parts of the Merged Areas and Karachi.
The National Security Committee (NSC) in its meeting held on April 8 took up the issue of terrorism but put the blame on the previous military leadership’s policy to appease Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). When rogue elements in the security establishment were patronizing TTP, particularly by facilitating the escape of its former spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan to a foreign country, how can one talk about zero tolerance for terrorism? Furthermore, the manner in which political polarization between the coalition government and PTI is destabilizing the situation reflects grave mismanagement of multiple overlapping crises. Targeting the Chief Justice and other judges of Supreme Court by the coalition government is tantamount to the augmentation of political and judicial crisis in the country. In this scenario, how can one expect Pakistan to cope with an unprecedented political and economic crisis?
The way out from the human security crisis in Pakistan is a difficult task, and will require a complete restructuring of the existing political, economic and social order of the country. How can a mindset be transformed, which is feudal in nature and is devoid of political wisdom, acumen and prudence? If those who are at the helm of affairs learn lessons from role models of success in different parts of the world, there is a slight chance that things may get better. Professionalism, time management, political wisdom and proper work ethics, along with hard work, intelligence and integrity on the part of those who matter at different levels will certainly pull Pakistan from the vicious cycle of crisis and effectively deal with the challenge of human security. Utilizing human resources along with financial resources is essential for progress and development of a country. Yet, merely through rhetoric, it is not possible to seek any paradigm shifts in Pakistan’s politics, economics and society.
When indifference and insensitivity is the response on the part of those
who are at the helm of affairs on the worsening of human security issues,
the outcome is anger, antagonism, frustration, intolerance, militancy
and violence and terrorism. Islands of comfort zones cannot prevent
the tide of a popular uprising if the state fails to act and plausibly deal
with the economic predicament of the majority of people of Pakistan.
Investments in education and other segments of human security including health, water, energy, climate change and empowerment of women will go a long way in transforming Pakistan into something that resembles a welfare state. Before the 2018 general elections, PTI Chairman Imran Khan used to lament that 20 million children were out of school and their future was at stake, because they could be exploited and used by Jihadi and extremist groups. But those in power then and now possess marginal political will to undo the injustices borne by the marginalized sections of society, including children from lower income groups, women and the youth.
In a country where more than two thirds of the federal budget is consumed either on defense or on the paying of debts, how can one expect spending on development, education, health, environmental protection, providing safe and clean drinking water, better housing, transport and employment opportunities? How were China, Japan, South Korea, and the Gulf states able to seek a paradigm shift in the quality of life of their people should have been the focus on the part of those who matter in Pakistan. But, in an environment where corruption, nepotism, genocide of merit and unprofessional handling of developmental projects is common and acceptable to both elites and the people, the future of human security remains a big question mark.
A more comprehensive approach at the state and societal level is the need of the hour to eradicate obstacles which impede economic and social upliftment of people. Without zero tolerance for corruption and nepotism, better governance, rule of law, across the board accountability and the cultivation of a proper work ethic, the goal of human security in Pakistan will remain elusive.
No regime in Pakistan, whether it is civilian, military or quasi-military, can yield positive results unless those wielding power are conscious and accountable of their duties. If Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railways and other public sector organizations are running several hundred billions of rupees in losses every year, it means that there is something fundamentally wrong. When tax evasion is rampant, and the tax base is not widened because of the power of vested interests, resources for development cannot be generated.
In a nutshell, there is no short cut to ensure human security for the people of Pakistan, unless there is political stability, economic progress and development, along with a focus on human and social upliftment of the people. Compulsory and good quality education for all school going children of Pakistan till high school will turn things around, so that the country emerges as a welfare state instead of remaining a national security state that turns into a basket case.__Courtesy The Friday Times