By Danish Khan:
In the apprentice of political economy, there are distinct theories to elucidate the lack of development in the developing countries. Some political economists point towards the colonial days to trace back the roots of the contemporary social and political institutions of the developing countries, while others rest blame on the geography of the developing world, and the variance to the doctrine of the free market capitalism as some of the possible sources of the nuance. The inclusion and the close examination of the social and political institutions of the developing countries are certainly worth discussing, while I cannot say same about the other posed explanations. One of the few possible explanations of the developing countries to being socially, politically and economically astern are their historical “extractive colonial institutions” which were established during the colonial times, and in most developing countries, they have stayed alive and functional in one way or other, even after the official withdrawal of the former colonial powers. Colossal wealth disparity, lack of modern infrastructure, and the diminutive industrialization are some of the cardinal features which have differentiated these countries from the developed part of the world. Certainly, I find legitimacy and rationale in this “institutional” framework explanation to understand the lack of development in most developing countries, and especially in Pakistan. Comprehending the contemporary abject situation of Pakistan in the paradigm of the “Extractive Colonial Institutions” certainly helps us to understand this complex phenomenon of persistent under-development in Pakistan.
The abysmal socio-economic conditions in Pakistan are not a mere result of certain dissolute and adulterate politicians in power, although they are a part of the problem, but not a core problem. In Pakistan, the mainstream media and right-wing political parties tend to amalgamate all the problems in one basket, and then they dump that basket on the democratically elected government or generally on the politicians of the country. While during all this ambiguous and miserable socio-economic situation of the country, one institution of the country allays itself, and it is able to keep itself insulated from the brutal criticism of the mainstream media and the mainstream political parties. To not make it a riddle, I am talking about the Pakistani Army, if one institution that can help us in rationalizing the contemporary socio-politico and economic conditions of Pakistan; it would be none other than the Pak Army.
Although most liberals in Pakistan strongly condemn Martial Law, and any interference of military in the political affairs, but not many liberal commentators risk to go beyond this popular stance. By that I am referring to the fact that, military certainly makes things worse off by disrupting political process and violating the constitutional framework, but even during the epoch of the civil rule, when there is democratically elected government, military continues to play the integral role in formulating the socio-economic and foreign policy of the country. And this hegemonic power runs on the blood and sweat of the people of the Pakistan, figures vary around depending on the source, but most statisticians, politicians and economists would agree that around 75 percent of the national budget goes in to the tummies of the military of Pakistan. Furthermore, the huge sum of US dollars ends up in the hands of the army, and it makes the Pak Army one of the supreme and fortified post-colonial institutions of the country. The Army of Pakistan is not just an army anymore, it has become a one of the most powerful and hegemonic social, political and financial institution of the country. One might say, what’s wrong with that? Well, the constitution of the country, clearly defines concrete role of the army, and according to constitution, army is not supposed to be a real estate enterprise and those who have read Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc., they do know what I am talking about. When military of a country turns in to Military Incorporated, then it should be imminent to the rational people from where the problems are originating. The narration of completely flawed and lethargic ideologies like, “Two Nation theory”, and “a persistent threat from our neighboring state India” have been the popular rhetoric of the military, and they have launched their political wing in the form of religious parties and ISI, and the right-wing religious forces second every single notion made by the Pak Army, and they spread and impose the word of the army on average citizen by amalgamating it with the religious sentiments of the people.
The assiduous people of Pakistan are sick and tired of their fathomless lives; it is quite pleasing and apposite that most folks in Pakistan are demanding a change. But unfortunately, the mainstream political parties, and the newly emerging political force like Tehreek-e-Insaaf are not challenging a status quo by questioning the social and political role of the military. On contrary, they are focusing on the peripheral issues, i.e. corruption, Zardari, etc. Thus, anybody who understands the socio-economic structure of the country finds it nothing but a mere rhetoric when Tehreek-e-Insaaf shouts out for a change and revolution. The change cannot be realized in Pakistan, unless the hegemony and absolute power of the military is not challenged. The dismal lives of the people of Pakistan cannot be altered, unless we transform and substitute the “extractive colonial institutions” with our own new institutions. The people of Pakistan cannot afford to write a hefty check to the military of the Pakistan to venture in to real estate, and other business ventures, i.e. cement industry, cereal industry, etc. It is the time that oppressed and downtrodden masses of the country challenge the extractive institutions which have been the dominant source of their distress and affliction. In our contemporary political situation of the country, it is only possible through a grass-root social and political movement of the tyrannized and exploited classes.
Danish Khan is a social and political activist, and a final year student at University of Utah, US, studying Economics and International Studies.