Will CPEC add to Pakistan's growing challenges?

Political stability is the necessary ingredient for every country for weaving societal Integration. It is a prerequisite condition for economic development and establishing the supremacy of the law in the state

Deepak Kumar Mar 31, 2021

Political stability is the necessary ingredient for every country for weaving societal Integration. It is a prerequisite condition for economic development and establishing the supremacy of the law in the state. Without political stability, a country cannot advance itself on the path of nation-building.

The inefficiency of political parties, weak government, and absence of political culture are the factors that make an unstable political state. The weak political system is the main characteristic of developing and under-developing countries like Pakistan. Problems like religious extremism, terrorism, inequitable regional development are becoming the cause of concerns for Pakistan. It is because of these reasons Pakistan’s future is of vital importance at the regional and global level.

Military dominance in Pakistan

Among various factors for political instability, one of the most important reasons is the dominance of the military in policymaking. By setting the fiscal priorities and agenda of foreign policy with its focus especially on the fear of Indian hegemony in the region are the challenges that Pakistan has to overcome. The military consumes a huge share of the state’s resources and influences major decision-making processes. More importantly, it affects internal security policy in addition to having high business interests.

Frequent conflicts with the government regarding the influence over the issues of vital and strategic issues are the order of the day. Civilian political forces are not powerful and united to introduce sea change in civil-military power relationship dynamics.

For instance, the influence of military can be understood by the fact that the then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had to extend the tenure of General Ashfaq Kayani as chief of army for another three years, indicating the powerful position of the army in Pakistan’s governance architecture. In regional foreign policymaking, Pakistan’s army decides and implements the geostrategic policy with respect to neighbors like India, Afghanistan, and up to some extent Iran.

Moreover, Pakistan’s army competes with the judiciary. High corruption, inefficiency, deference to the military, and extra constitutional intervention are the chief characteristics of the judiciary. The overall judicial system of Pakistan is identified by many problems like high corruption in lower courts, lack of training, and judicial backlog. 

Absence of judicial system

The biggest drawback of Pakistan’s judicial system is the absence of a national judicial system in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) due to the outdated and repressive colonial laws. In addition, the judicial system is suffering from a lack of investment and understaffing. Lack of public investment in the judicial system is resulting into corruption and inefficiency in subordinate courts and police. A huge backlog of cases means numerous opportunities for corruption. The absence of a judicial system in FATA, continuously decreasing the importance of tribal leadership of the provinces, unjustified distribution of resources between federal and provinces, and federally controlled developmental projects are forcing FATA to come under the control of religious extremists and militants.

All these reasons are resulting into a non-harmonious relationship between federal and provinces like Baluchistan and Sindh. The problem of political instability arises out of the nonfulfillment of regional demands. When the pressure of fulfilling the regional demands are high and do not get satisfactory response from the central leadership, these demands transform into the demand of separation from the federation. Leadership in Pakistan has become fully weak due to its functional mechanism from top to bottom.

This kind of functional mechanism is not considered good because it does not connect the leadership to the grassroots level public. It should be from bottom to the top. Another very important issue is that leadership in Pakistan is based upon heredity or family lineage. Trends in Pakistan show that people recognize those persons as leader who are the sons or daughters of leaders and hence possess heredity leadership. The charismatic style of leadership is very much popular because of the lack of education. Lack of education and decay of leadership are the two most important factors that contribute so much to the political instability in Pakistan.

Next contributing factor to the political instability in Pakistan is the weak political organization of all political parties of Pakistan. Political parties in Pakistan are not properly organized, and more importantly, these parties do not conduct regular party elections. Domination of any family or group or ethnicity limits the scope of the party in terms of its voters and hence loses national character. Weak organization and improper style of functioning of political parties paves the way for coalition government, and which has become a common characteristic of every government. Consequently, these political parties invest their entire energy in maintaining the coalition and remain in continuous pressure from partners.

Impacting economic growth 

Political instability in Pakistan is not considered good for Pakistan’s economic growth. It could also influence the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistani leaders consider CPEC will benefit the economy of Pakistan. Some critics say that it will not benefit the local communities and provinces lying along the route. CPEC can also exacerbate the tension between federal and already neglected provinces like Baluchistan and Sindh over the inequitable economic development and resources distribution. In addition, it can also widen the social divides and could create new sources of conflicts in Pakistan. 

In Tharparkar district of Sindh, coal-based CPEC power projects will damage the environment and will displace the locals from their homes and could destroy their livelihood. These consequences are the result of opaque policy formulation by the center with little consultation with the provincial leaders, business leaders, and civil society actors.

Pakistan needs to rethink and debate over the opportunities and challenges associated with CPEC. It could trigger tensions or worsen conflicts between the federal government and provinces and within provinces. Pakistan should determine the direction and implementation based upon its social, political, and economic interests rather than on China’s geopolitical interests.

The success of CPEC lies in giving voice to the provinces and communities for shaping these projects. Unequal opportunities and not favoring local communities will enhance social and political divide, and consequently fuel tensions and conflicts between the federal government and provinces.

(The writer is a policy analyst. The views are personal. He can be contacted at kdeepakk27@gmail.com


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