Govt should do more

Bilal Qureshi

I have noticed strange things in Pakistan during my recent stay there, but two things stand out for me. One, it is the unbelievably weird ability of Pakistanis to connect every bad thing to American and how America with Israel and India is relentlessly trying to destroy Pakistan, but Pakistan is surviving against all odds.

Second, it is the unusual talent of Pakistanis to ask the government to solve all there problems, do more, and more and more, without being specific. For example, prices of daily commodities go up, and the people start repeating the same thing: government should bring down the prices, but is it really possible? Of course not because the government in Pakistan is not in the business of owning or running agriculture or agricultural products, but obviously, nobody cares, or even understands the frame work of how government and markets work, at least in Pakistan.

Similarly, the government in Pakistan does not produce or market sugar or flour, but once again, people in Pakistan demand, repeatedly that the government provides them with cheap and abundant sugar, flour, rice, lentils, meat, oil, spices, even though, government in Pakistan has nothing to do with prices, production, storage or distribution of any food commodity in the country, none whatsoever.

After thinking hard and long about it (and I am not being sarcastic here), I have come to the conclusion that people in Pakistan are not only desperate for help, but they also feel helpless and hopeless about almost everything, including their future. Therefore, they want their government to step in to help them about every possible issue that they face in their daily lives. These expectations are wrong, but when people lose hope it does not matter whether their expectations are realistic or not – they just want help.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is not a socialist country, and Pakistan’s economic model does not allow the government to interfere with free markets and businesses in general. In fact, given Pakistan economic model, it is not even possible for the very active and populist judiciary to intervene. Therefore, the businessmen are free to charge whatever they feel is right for their products because this is how free markets and Capitalism work at the end of the day, whether we like it or not.

When Z.A. Bhutto socialized industries in Pakistan, he was maligned (just go back and read what was written about Bhutto at the time), but what people in Pakistan expect today would require the government to take over all the industry in the country, once again. So, Pakistan has to decide, once and for all whether it wants to be a socialist country or not in order to proceed on the right path from on. Based on people’s expectations, it is obvious that Pakistan should be a socialist country, but who is going to tackle this issue?

No question if Zardari decided to socialize anything, he would be crucified publicly. If Zardari doesn’t do anything about it, he would be accused of being not doing anything for the ‘poor’. He is going to lose both ways.

On the other hand, there is no other alternative in Pakistan. By and large, people in Pakistan don’t seem to understand the concept of free market economy. Worse, there is no effort by anyone to educate the public and make a case about settling on a national system about how to run the country.

In addition to everything else, in the end, it is the responsibility of Pakistanis to work and lift themselves up, one family at a time if they have to in order to develop a society that is self reliant and self sufficient.

Unless and until help arrives for ordinary Pakistanis, the society will have to take steps to help itself. If people in Pakistan kept looking towards the government to solve their problems, they will be disappointed, again.

Bilal Qureshi

Washington, DC

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