Let's forget for a while the never-ending political dance in Isloo and provincial capitals. Save for a few committed souls, the rest are ... what exactly? Fake degree holders, jirga lovers, proponents of 'sacrosanct' marriage, despite the woman's desperate need to escape from a violent, abusive and unequal relationship? The lofty objective of the Council of Islamic Ideology is to keep the national divorce rate low! There are even some VVIPs who favour the burial alive of ''stubborn'' women.
With its latest label, 'failed state', Pakistani planners are unable to decide on prioritisation poverty, water and food supply, electricity blues, dead telephones, school and college admissions, or the crucial need to reduce unemployment.
To get back to ourselves, the hoi polloi. The daily grind is exhausting for the majority; many vent frustration on roads, kids or wives.....
Mounting inflation, obstinately high household budgets.... each month, more families fall victim to threatening poverty a sudden calamity knocks out the family's ability to cope. End result critical, another family falls below the poverty line.
The national poverty index soars to 40 per cent; almost half the population cannot afford two square meals a day, let alone clean water. Malnutrition and disease proliferate. Rural to urban population influx, as an escape from failing rural economies, is steadily increasing. Mass suicides are frequent, and preferred to beggary — while political big wigs happily dance away.
That's not all. An interesting study by the London Economist, compared the impact of malnutrition levels on human intelligence, and thereby estimated national IQ levels. Seems Pakistan is again way down on the ladder of intelligence, with an average IQ of merely 84, compared to the average IQ of 108 for western populations.
The reason? Heavily prevalent malnutrition with such low IQs, how can we compete at the global level? The well-being of the majority is the norm in other countries, but not in Pakistan. Comparatively few children have access to favourable home environments, decent food and nourishment, and the physical and mental stimulus so essential for growth.
Scholar, Rubina Saigol, in a recent article, “Gendered Conflicts A Feminist Perspective on Knowledge of Conflict” puts it beautifully “While in theory the state gets its sovereignty from the people, the people's security, which lies in food, health, education, and shelter, is erased by an overwhelming emphasis on the security of the state, rather than the promise of Partition, which was a state for the people.
“... state security is the security of the military, its [rich], powerful supporters, feudal ruling classes and high level bureaucrats. For an ordinary citizen, the rhetoric of state security promises poverty, misery, under-development, disease and illiteracy, even in the presence of plenty.”
In the background, poverty accompanies a steadily growing population, in which there's a slight decline, but not fast enough. Every new mouth means food, sustenance, nurture and care — and finances, but the national kitty is running on empty. Add pathetic education levels, corrupt ghost schools, deadly dull school curricula, minimal student interest, continued corporal punishment, including in madrassahs. Any wonder Pakistan has such high school drop-out rates?
Health care? No better. Understaffed and ill-equipped government facilities cry out for medicines and decent treatment; emergency treatment remains a grave need.
Answers? Not many. Why should there be expectation of donor funds, when precious amounts are frittered away in corruption and inefficient handling by bloated assemblies? The consequence? A stunning lack of progress. Progressive laws remain unimplemented and ineffective.
Where to begin? Begin we must, if this nation is to survive with viability. How long will we shelter behind the 'strategic location'— and just sit back waiting for funds to pour in?
There is much the public can do, and is already doing; not the best of solutions, but certainly workable. A few examples in population planning, service-oriented NGOs have stepped into the vacuum created by inadequate population services. Their strategy is simple meet the critical population needs of the public. Their services are efficient, their pace of work intense. If NGOs can achieve this, why not the ministries of health and population?
How long does it take for the education ministry to eliminate fraudulent ghost schools? Several experiments and 60-odd years later, we still have no effective, meaningful and interesting school curricula or books; yet numerous schools established by non-profit groups are proving to be roaring successes. But not government sector schools — why?
Way back in 1978, Pakistan enthusiastically signed on to “Health for All”—but it remains unavailable. Paradoxically, private health and medi-care facilities are successful.
Edhi and Chippa Welfare centres have national outreach; there is no comparable facility in the government sector. Should the government exempt itself from all responsibility?
Why should we expect others to help us, when we cannot help ourselves? Basic remedies do not require money, only greater sincerity and working efficiency.