EDITORIAL: It is sincerely hoped that the prime minister’s call for insulating the fields of health and education from politics wasn’t just a politically correct statement to suit the occasion. These are times of unparalleled political bitterness, after all, which is taking a very heavy toll on the country’s social fabric as well. So any attempt to isolate people’s genuine issues and needs from the ugly overall political wrangling ought to be welcomed; provided it is genuine.
It’s good of the PM to give priority to health and education, though no doubt he meant everything related to the people’s basic rights. Pakistan is number five in the highest populated countries in the world, and it ranks 161 out of 192 countries on the human development index (HDI), one of the worst scores in Asia. Post-Covid stats aren’t yet available for a lot of countries, though it can be said with certainty that they wouldn’t make these trends any better.
That makes it quite natural for health and education to be the biggest challenges for any government. And it is true that upsetting policies of previous regimes, mostly for political point-scoring, only hurts the common people. Therefore, there should ideally be a consensus among all parties that any programs with solid feasibilities that concern the needs of the people should not be fiddled with.
Regrettably, this isn’t exactly the season of give-and-take among political parties, and all sorts of efforts to get everybody talking have either failed or fizzled out quickly. Meantime, the people’s lot isn’t getting any better as political uncertainty, controversy about the judiciary and hyperinflation under the threat of default have made their lives miserable.
And the very fact that the political elite is still gripped with its lust for power to give anything else priority makes all of them, without exception, responsible for this downslide which could well result in sovereign default, outright anarchy and a strong return of terrorism.
The least that can, and should, be done, then, is to protect and promote people’s right as well as access to health and education.
Already, we have a big majority of children born stunted – 60 percent by some estimates – before being subjected to malnutrition. That means more than half of future generations will be of inferior stock, both physically and mentally, than average, normal human beings.
Even then the few that will be lucky enough to attend school will receive largely substandard education at a time when the job market is already littered with unemployed graduates. That, in part, explains why the future of this Islamic republic does not seem so bright at this point in time.
In a saner world, these stats alone would suffice to justify declaring a state of emergency till they are taken care of. But in the zero-sum game of Pakistani politics, everything, – even the lives and livelihoods of innocent people – is fair game till the fight at the top of the food chain is settled.
And from the looks of things, neither the side that wants snap elections nor the one that wants to delay them forever is getting quite what it wants. And with the judiciary also being exposed slowly, it’s only a matter of time before it, too, becomes largely irrelevant as far as the lot of the people is concerned.
Hopefully the PM meant what he said about health and education, and other parties are mature enough to realise that some things cannot be allowed to become collateral damage, no matter how intense or personal the fight for the spoils.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023