By Khalid Hashmani, USA
Can any Pakistani honestly say that Pakistan has turned out to be the country that they or their fathers had envisioned 62 years ago? Even among the privileged class such as military and civilian bureaucracy, who have been the primary beneficiaries of what has cooked and re-cooked in Pakistan, would admit that it is not all fair in Pakistan. Many Baloch demonstrated on the 62nd Independence Day under the banner that said, “De-celebrating the Pakistan’s Independence Day”. Many Sindhis either stayed out of the Independence Day celebrations or made comments such as “Pakistan Zindabad. Jeay Sindh Dharti. May Allah this year give true autonomy to all provinces so all can live in peace” or “May Allah bless all people of Pakistan and show right path to the leaders.” “30 Lakh Bangaliyoon ka qat’l Mubarik, Hazaroon Balouchoon ke Laa’sh Mubarik, Senkroon Sindhi Ma’aoon kee Ujree Jholia’an ke Mubarak”, and “I am a Sindhi – a Hindu Sindhi, with roots in Hyderabad, Sindh, in modern day Pakistan. I cannot celebrate the creation of Pakistan – because August the 14th stands as a reminder that my family was uprooted”. The world calls Pakistan as the “hub for planning and training terrorists and global terrorism”. Hundreds of Pakistanis are dying each month on account of terrorism. Minorities feel unsafe and common men and women feel oppressed. Indeed, one wonders what went wrong and why it went wrong and what can be done to steer Pakistan on the right path? This article attempts to answer both of these questions.
Ironically, finding answers to these questions is not that difficult. How do you expect that a country that spends far more on military than on health and education would be able to survive in the current competitive global economy? It is obvious that people of Pakistan cannot live happy and healthy lives when it is 183rd among 188* countries in the world when it comes to taking care of heath. It spends only 2.2% of its GDP on Health (2004 data). This is less than half of the percent that India spent (5%) and exactly what Iran spent (6.6%). The per capita GDP expenditure on health by Canada, Turkey, Israel, Bangladesh, and the US was 9.8%, 7.72%, 8.7%, 3.1%, and 15.4% respectively.
As a percent of Gross National Income (GNI – formerly called “Gross National Product or GNP), Pakistan spent meager 1.63% in 2005 on Education — (163rd from the bottom among 184 countries). Again, this is less than half of what India spent (3.99%). Bangladesh spent more than Pakistan (1.69%). The per capita GDP expenditure on health by Malaysia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and the US was 5.77%, 4.39%, 3.49%, 7.31%, and 4.79% respectively. With this low investment in the future of Pakistani children, how do we expect our future generations to live better lives?
On top of these low percentages that Pakistan invests in the health and education of its people, it suffers one of the highest corruption in the world. It is 145th from the bottom among the 159 countries with a score of 2.1 on a scale of 10 to 1 (10 means least corruption). In comparison, Canada, India, Israel, Iran, Bangladesh, and the US rank 14th, 88th, 28th, also 88th, 159th, and 17th respectively. The corruption takes further toll of investments in all areas including education, health and military. It further minimizes the prospect for Pakistan to offer a reasonable future to its citizens.
What is absolutely irresponsible that Pakistan being such a poor country supports 6th largest Armed Forces in the world (612,000 persons) behind only China, Russia, United States, India, and South Korea? It spent 3.36% of GDP on Military compared to 2.87% by India and even more than Turkey (3.23%). The per capita GDP expenditure on military by Israel, United States, Canada, Philippines and Bangladesh was 7.92%, 4.08%, 1.14%, 0.82%, and 1.14% respectively. There is no way Pakistan could sustain to continue spending such a high military expenditure without adversely affecting education, health, and economic growth. This is a drag that if left unchecked would keep Pakistan among the very poor countries of the world.
The situation for Sindh and Sindhis must be so bad that according to a recent newspaper story that the party in power is illegally helping elect outsiders as senators to represent Sindh. The newspaper calls this practice as “disenfranchising Sindh and Sindhis”. I always thought that Senate is supposed to have more or less equal representation from all four provinces. This concept of equal representation is hallow as both Punjab and Pakhtonwa provinces have several additional senators from what is called special areas of ” Pakistani Capital” and FATA region. Thus, Sindh and Balochistan are already under represented now without the gracious gift from Pakistan People’s Party for their generosity of overwhelming vote to help the party to form the government. This is a gross violation of political rights of Sindhis. The Sindhi language, the province’s official language and spoken by the majority of its people has been forced to take a back seat in favor of the language spoken by large minority in Sindh and has been declared as the national language of Pakistan. In pre-independence days, Sindhi language was used in every government, business, and commercial correspondence. It was the medium of instructions in the schools of Sindh. The students learnt mathematics, Geography, History, Social Science, and other subjects in Sindhi language. Every year several hundred books were published on a wide array of topics including Arts, and Sciences. Today, many Sindhi students in large cities and towns have been “persuaded” to opt for Urdu. If a visitor, who had visited Sindh in pre-partition days, was to re-visit Sindh now, they will be shocked to hardly find much “Sindhi” in the cities and towns of Sindh. What is shocking that native NGOs such as Pakistan Fisher Folks (PFF) uses Urdu in its communications. In today’s Sindh, Sindhis are scarcely hired in many of the private and government-run commercial sectors. The irony is that Sindh produces about 60% of gas and 70% of all oil produced in Pakistan, yet the number Sindhis hired in the energy sector is substantially lower than their population ratio. Sindh contributes 14 billion rupees in revenues to the federal governments and receives back only 4 billion rupees as a share from the pooled revenues. The Federal government collects all taxes, duties and royalties and Sindh has been forced to depend on its share from the pooled revenues.
Thus, the state of union of Pakistan is not good due to misplaced priorities and state of Sindh and Sindhis remains hopeless!
Now the question is what needs to be done to steer Pakistan on the right path?
First the litany of over-centralization in Pakistan must end. The provinces must have the autonomy and sovereignty consistent with the 1940 Resolution that encapsulated the “Promise of Pakistan”. The investment in Education and Health must be increased in steps by making corresponding reductions in the military expenditure until a reasonable balance is achieved and is consistent with other countries in Asia. The non-productive sector of military should be paired down to increase assistance for poverty-reduction programs. The concepts of the conscription and on-call personnel in the event of a conflict are implemented in stages as being done in Israel and through the institution of National Guard in the United States. The military should must under go some fundamental changes in order that it becomes an ethnically balanced and with equitable representation from all provinces. Special programs to curb corruption must be implemented with serious consequences for those who engage in corruption with a goal that Pakistan would rank in the middle of the “corruption” rankings within five years.
A de-centralized Pakistan with autonomous provinces and lean military and emphasis on education, health, and economic gowth and check on corruption is what will restore Pakistan that was pledged in the “Promise of Pakistan”.
*Source for statistical figures: http://www.nationma ster.com/index.php
About the Author: Khalid Hashmani is a Washington DC-based veteran human rights activist. He is the founding President of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) and Chief coordinator of Sindhi Excellence Team (SET) that participates in advocacy activities on behalf of Sindhis.