ISLAMABAD, April 19: Speakers at a discussion here on Tuesday termed Pakistan’s economic development a mere illusion, saying that amid high claims of the government, poverty still held its grip at the grass-roots level. The discussion on “Illusion and Reality of Pakistan’s Prosperity” had been organized by the Centre for Democratic Development, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Dr S.M. Naseem, an educationist, said, “the much trumpeted Asian Economic Tiger of Pakistan could not come out of the jungle of red tape and economic mismanagement.”

He said though the growth rate was apparently improving and foreign investment coming to the country, poverty was still nourishing and had never been in a position to be eradicated or reduced.

Mr Naseem said Pakistan could not make progress in the industrial sector unless and until it implemented the much-needed land reforms. It is evident from the development of other countries that agricultural reforms preceded industrial growth, he added.

Ishfaq Saleem Mirza of Islamabad Cultural Forum said the very structure of Pakistani society was not fit for democracy. He said the legislators had never fulfilled their role of coming up with visionary legislation.

Replying to a question by a woman MNA of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, he said the religious parties had influenced much of the legislation in this country right from the days of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but at the same time it complained about not possessing any democratic rights. The religious parties had never acted for the sake of democracy or socio-economic development of the country, he added.

He said before commenting on Pakistan’s economy, a simple question must be asked that was whether the country was free in formulation of its economic policies or these were dictated by international financial institutions.

“With only one visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pakistan had to change its policy on the Iran gas pipeline and sign a protocol on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project. India also remained silent due to the US pressure,” he said.

Economy, Mr Mirza said, could never be separated from politics, adding that those who were not free politically could never be free economically as it was the case with Pakistan.

He said if the government was not ready to implement land reforms, it should at least industrialize the agriculture sector to improve productivity and put an end to the feudal system.

Some participants also highlighted Pakistan’s lacklustre record of human rights and the unavailability of basic amenities to majority of the population, especially the rural population who were living below poverty line.

They also highlighted the issues of lack of basic health facilities for women, malnutrition and high dropout rate among female students.

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