Misplaced Priorities

Misplaced Priorities

Numan Mehsud

Whenever someone talks of reducing the defense budget and to increase the other parts of budget like education, health care, economy and agriculture but the pseudo patriots appear to defend the increase in defense budget calling Pakistan a security state through the concept of balance of power with India.

The quest for parity with India specifically in military terms has been the central reason for Pakistan being a security state. Why shouldn’t there be parity in education, health care system, the economy and agriculture?

I would like to refer to a story which completely fits Pakistan today’s current crisis. Once there was a poor farmer who had few sons and a wife. When his sons grew up, took a house for rent. One muscular son among others was the pride his father. The farmer barely makes enough to feed his family. In Spite of this, the muscular son took loans from a rich and powerful businessman in the name of resolving economic hurdles of the family. Interestingly he used all the loans by itself claiming that I am the sole caretaker of the family. One day the businessman came to the house demanding repayment in cash or kind. The farmer expressed his inability for either. The businessman angrily entered into the house seeing the state of poverty in farmer’s house, women with barely able to cover their bodies and the children crying of hunger. The elder son stood ashamed for his deeds. All the neighbours were watching that scene. The business man walked away. The farmer never trusted his elder muscular son as a pride of family again.

We need thousands of mathematicians, chemical analysts, engineers and other experts but regretfully Pakistan has very small number of educational institutions of higher education that are producing quality manpower but unfortunately producing radicals and religious extremist who even don’t bare critical thinking. We have recent example the nuclear scientist professor Pervaiz Hoodboy and a political scholar Dr Ammar Ali Jan who have been fired from one famous institution of Pakistan.

According to British university ranking agency, Quacquaelli Symonds (QS), Pakistan has placed at the very bottom of a fifty countries list comparing their higher education. According to Times higher education world university Rankings, not a single Pakistani university has any position in the list of 500 educational institutions.

As Pakistan ins an agricultural country and water dependent. Our economy is more water intensive but we have spent 0.25% of GDP on water development. In comparison, it spends 47 times more on defence. There is no institutionalized framework of cooperation for sharing water from the Kabul River between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Attempts to draft a water treaty failed in 2003 and 2006 because of not good bilateral relations of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The main reason was the interference of Pakistan through Taliban to weaken and dependent the Kabul government. Now Afghanistan plans to build twelve dams on this river with the help of the World Bank to generate 1177 MW of electricity. It is feared that these dams could lead to a 16-17 per cent drop in water which could be seriously vulnerable for Pakistan because this drop will occur during the winter when the flow of the Indus is already low.

Pakistan has been avoiding an economic collapse because of the poor structural changes and policy initiatives. Thrice in the past seventy years, Pakistan has been bailout by the US. All three times, the army was ruling and had not utilized the opportunity provided by the foreign bailouts to make the necessary structural changes to put Pakistan on the path of sustainable growth.

In the time of the corona pandemic, our healthcare system has completely collapsed. Our doctors were protesting for providing necessary equipments and safety kits but being experiencing this crucial time, our government has not increased the budget of social sectors but as usual has increased the defence budget

How much time does Pakistan have to get its act together? Not more than a decade at the most, If it doesn’t change the trajectory of its slide by taking at least some, if not all. The diminishing water supplies, the large numbers of uneducated youth, the lack of jobs, an economic instability and an increasingly radicalized and religious extremists population will lead to the unacceptable social chaos and anarchy that the army too will not be able to control.

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