THE disconnect between the rulers and the ruled has come into even starker relief than usual of late. Details of the obscene amount of wealth possessed by many of our erstwhile legislators have been laid bare thanks to electoral rules. Then there was that telling departing gesture by these august personalities whereby they gave themselves — with retrospective effect, no less — added perks and privileges. Against this backdrop, the statistics in the UNDP report released recently are a scathing indictment of those at the helm of this country. Pakistan is tied with Bangladesh at 146 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index, just above Angola and Myanmar, slipping one place from its last ranking. Nearly half its population lives in poverty and it has one of the lowest investments in health (0.8 per cent) and education (1.8 per cent) in the world.
Predictably, political parties in their election manifestos have pledged to substantially increase investment in the health and education sectors if they come to power. However, the problems in these crucial sectors have hardly just come to the fore, nor are such promises anything new — although in the PTI’s case, they haven’t been put to the test yet. The bitter truth is that when push comes to shove, incumbent governments weasel out of electoral promises to take steps that will improve the lot of those in whose name they rule. Also, policy continuation is given short shrift and ongoing projects are dismantled in an effort to discredit the efforts of political rivals, regardless of their efficacy. Pakistan cannot afford a continuation of this myopic, cavalier approach. The only long-term resolution to the country’s militancy problem lies in a comprehensive effort to improve its people’s quality of life, rather than only increasing the defence budget, which went up by 6.8 per cent last year. Otherwise, the political elite may find that consigning multitudes to lead an existence that is “nasty, brutish and short” is a route to self-annihilation.