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Last update: Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05pm

Marginal and fragile areas: Will democracy work?

Is democracy the panacea of all the ills that are facing this nation? The answer as any one will tell you are that one shoe size does not fit anyone and like wise democracy cannot fit all the societal variants of areas that Pakistan has. We have very diverse social conditions especially in the peripheral areas where the economics is totally different. Before the current TTP action we were not very worried about what was happening in that part of the country.

The production systems there were stable and the locals were not dependent on the rest of Pakistan. It was a very self-satisfied system. I recently had a discussion with the locals of the area and I was surprised to find that one of them was a doctor who looked after the medical requirement with his other colleagues. I enquired after the food security aspects and he was aghast that I asked him this question. The tribal people are very hardy and they can make do with whatever is available. Did we not fight the Russians with our own means? Was there a logistic line that was supplying to us?

He was right for they were doing with rations that you and I would very rarely take. It was gur and fried wheat - not atta or chappati. These were carried in their pockets and that was their meal fighting meal. But there are marginal areas and fragile areas and the terrains determine the resiliency of the people. Not so in Thar and in Cholistan but it is different in North and South Waziristan. What kind of economic activity have we given to these people who are Pakistanis? Nothing. The democratic government and its people do not have the capacity to take any action that is for the welfare of the people of that area. First things first.

Did any of the policymakers go to the area to determine what can be done and what could be tried; in other words the linkage of the present knowledge with the future experimentation in what is essentially a difficult but very exciting area. The richness of the intervention cannot be understood by morons who are dealing with policymaking sitting in Islamabad and advising the Prime Minister. Their advice at best is theoretical and worst totally out of context. The umbrella organisation has for its political boss one of the most able but he is loath to interfere in the functioning of the line departments. The option then is to get involved but for that one needs an innovative person. By definition these kinds of individuals are not available. We do not produce any such person. Second, how many have the imagination to develop such areas. Let me tell you that the products from such areas are always high value.

The Cholistan and the Thar deserts are goldmines but one needs a very objective and innovative policymaker, one who has the guts to develop interventions and then take them through. Just as an example Thar and the deserts of Pakistan are ripe for biofuel. We were almost through at Thar and we would have been able to deliver diesel biofuel at Rs 9 per liter but then we had not contented with the mafia in Pakistan. Now you can show what you can import or have an impossible task of getting hydro power. That would be the most stupid thing ever done. I had gone to Texas and Italy as consultant in biofuel. The mafia there was working differently and had milked 22.5 million dollars for an intervention that was not even worth 22 dollars. The professors there were very upset when I pointed out the money siphoning that they were doing. But that is another story.

So, marginal areas can produce virtually anything only the will is required. Yes if Bahawalpur is to be used for entertainment then you might as well forget it. One of the transcendental aspect of public life is that one's intentions should never be questioned. If intentions are doubtful you may do your best things will not work out. I had recently sent a summary of some aspects that could be done on the coastline. No response from the CM although in TV talks he comes out as a pretty straight man. What is innocent delight to do with work? In such areas the effort is not towards incremental work but very broad work effort and new interventions; interventions that border on innovations.

Pakistan is woefully poor at perception and then implementation of that perception. The art of governance requires Western pragmatism and Eastern wisdom that only one country China has been able to do successfully. They have used the pragmatism of the west and built employment opportunities. This year 2013-14 they have managed to give employment to 1.6 million people. They had when I was last there reserves of 15 trillion dollars. Mind-boggling!

We on the other hand process through things in the most uncertain manner. Northern areas where we had intervened in sea buckthorn (technical name - hippophe) the project were torn asunder by idiots located here in Islamabad. The Canadian Ombudsman who came to see me then took some plants away and profusely thanked Pakistan. We standstill and bend over.

That is not how government works and least of all democracy. The ministers lobby can do good work if they were given areas of responsibility in which they had to bring in innovative interventions. But that is a far cry from the actual situations that happen in this country. We pull down people rather than barriers? We abuse rather than help our own get over the issues. We in short are so jealous of everyone that is doing work that it is unbelievable. China's unbelievable run of economy is no simple device. It is a long-term system of discipline work. The Gobi desert is no longer on the geography map as rice is growing there with drip irrigation. The village industry or those consistently called sharp technologies has insured that jobs are created in the villages. Economics as a subject may hold a lot of difficulties for others but I see it differently. I am not concerned with econometrics or equations as the way forward. For me the local entrepreneur is the one that has to be encouraged. If one is parochial and only the powerful will be able to suck the juice of this country then what you will get is something far worse than one thinks. Mafia will have to be checked and all those involved in usurping the land of the poor to be taken to task. Be they minister, Prime ones or ordinary ones. The nation deserves better than it is getting. Economics is about sane thinking and not about fancy fashions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2014