THIS is with reference to the article “The One Per Cent Republic’” (Nov 10) in which the former finance minister eloquently identified the elite-incurred ills of Pakistan’s political economy. Although the writer was not too scathing in highlighting the fault lines, he evaded putting forward practical solutions to the problems for which much of the blame goes to the class from which he comes — the one per cent elite. One would have expected a former finance minister to also present some workable remedies to such imbedded structural problems.

To grasp the workability of Pakistan for a small elite and its failure to deliver to the impoverished, one can invoke Ibn Khaldun’s ‘cyclical theory of rise and fall of the nations’ by limiting the view to its aspects of political economy. Ibn Khaldun explained the stages from rise to fall of an empire with every stage demonstrating distinct political, military, economic and, above all, elite behaviours.

Skipping other stages, which apparently have been traversed in the last 75 years, our current state of affairs, in the light of that theory, correlates with the last phase and even that has been continuing for more than a couple of decades.

States generally feature unbridled elite-consumption, there is breakdown of fiscal discipline, immense decrease in the provision of public goods, steep decline in the real value of the currency, outsourcing or informalisation of taxation, followed by breakdown of law and order.

Things turn uglier when the nation moves from one stage to another till the ‘dynastic kingdoms’ are ‘taken over by a strong, peripheral, conquering, nomadic tribe or a foreign power’; hence restarting the cycle.

When Ibn Khaldun presented his trend-setting theory, there were, of course, no global financial institutions, like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to bail out nation-states from fiscal crises, but for how long can a state look up to foreign hands to rescue it from recurring structural and elite-provoked crisis?

We surely cannot produce another Ibn Khaldun, because we, as a nation, are intellectually infertile, but we can at least try to learn from what the visionary said and what history has proven time and again.

Salal Amin
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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