In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered Americans the New Deal, a series of programmes, public work projects and financial reforms to pull the nation out of the doom and gloom of the Great Depression. The programmes focused on what historians refer to as the “3 R’s”: relief for the unemployed and the poor, recovery of the economy back to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

The progressive measures of the New Deal resulted in the recovery of the economy to normal levels in four short years, by 1937, and full employment level after the US entered World War II in 1941. The massive infrastructure projects and the economic recovery acted as a catalyst for the US to consolidate its status as an economic superpower in the decades to follow.

Today, Pakistan’s situation calls for a similar “New Deal” encompassing not only the economic sector but also the political reset and a new relationship between the civil authorities and the military to formally give the military a role in the governance to ensure that the objectives of the New Deal are realised.

Pakistan’s political instability and governance challenges are well known. For more than seven decades, the country has been governed by incompetent and corrupt civilian governments, direct military rule or quasi-military rule disguised as civilian government propped up by the military leadership.

Every major political party and most of the smaller and regional ones have been part of the government in one form or another but failed to improve the political-economic landscape

Politicos and commentators have often accused the military of stepping out of its sandbox and meddling in political affairs.

Today again, the country is at a crossroads. A pair of civilian governments stumbled and lumbered to the finish line of the five-year term earmarked after the last general elections in 2018, leaving behind a shattered economy, soaring inflation, crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating law and order situation, public trust in government institutions at an all-time low and the country in diplomatic isolation.

A caretaker government is in place, presumably to ensure that the next general elections are held in a timely manner so that an elected government can again assume the charge. There are, however, doubts about if and when the elections will be held as the caretaker government is acting as if it is there for the long haul.

It is also generally understood that the caretaker government was hand-picked by the military leadership so that the military continues to influence the government’s decision-making, and it alone will eventually determine the timing and framework of the next elections.

In the last four decades, every major political party and most of the smaller and regional political parties have been part of the government in one form or another and collectively have ruined every institution of the country.

A handful of powerful political families, now in their third generation, consider it their hereditary right to rule the country. The feudal system, the voters’ demographics, the urban/rural divide and the gerrymandering of the electoral map all but guarantee that even if free and fair elections are held, the parties of one or more of the same powerful families will form the next government.

Expect no miracles from them as they have no vision, no plan and no particular skills to run the government. Their only priority would be to continue to maintain their family control of the government and use the national treasury (if such an entity still exists) to further boost their family fortunes.

So, what then is the way out of this quagmire? A “New Deal” similar to the one Roosevelt launched in the US in the mid-1930s but one that also includes a reset of the political party system and realignment of civil-military relationship to formally give the military a role to ensure national security is maintained all the time and to prevent social and economic chaos and anarchy.

In her book, Military Inc, Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, Ayesha Siddiqa skilfully examines several civil-military relationship models in countries around the world, which are intriguing as some seem to have worked well in a few select cases. It should be possible to borrow or develop a similar model to suit Pakistan’s unique circumstances.

It is unlikely that a messiah to propose such a “New Deal” will come from the current political leaders as they all have been tested in the past and failed miserably. It is more likely that the military leadership will recognise the need for such an initiative as, in addition to the national interest, it is in their own long-term interest to put the country on stable footing. Not to mention, it has the resources, ability and power to implement such an initiative.

The writer is a retired engineer, an expat based in Canada and has a keen interest in Pakistan’s political affairs.
Email: zahid110@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, October 30th, 2023

QOSHE - A ‘New Deal’ for Pakistan? - Zahid Hussain
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

A ‘New Deal’ for Pakistan?

196 9
30.10.2023

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered Americans the New Deal, a series of programmes, public work projects and financial reforms to pull the nation out of the doom and gloom of the Great Depression. The programmes focused on what historians refer to as the “3 R’s”: relief for the unemployed and the poor, recovery of the economy back to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

The progressive measures of the New Deal resulted in the recovery of the economy to normal levels in four short years, by 1937, and full employment level after the US entered World War II in 1941. The massive infrastructure projects and the economic recovery acted as a catalyst for the US to consolidate its status as an economic superpower in the decades to follow.

Today, Pakistan’s situation calls for a similar “New Deal” encompassing not only the economic sector but also the political reset and a new relationship between the civil authorities and the military to formally give the military a role in the governance to ensure that the objectives of the New Deal are realised.

Pakistan’s political instability and governance challenges are well known. For more than seven decades, the country has been governed by incompetent and........

© Dawn Business


Get it on Google Play