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The people of Pakistan have continued to find themselves in a persistent, chronic and unending crisis that takes various forms.

Reports say people are committing suicides after receiving a metaphorical shock in the form of unprecedented electricity bills.

Yet there isn’t anyone who is willing to take responsibility of the events. The blame game continues. Mudslinging gains momentum. Sloganeering makes it way back as the probability of elections emerge on the horizon.

In all of this madness, we see that Pakistan has become home to two very important concepts that aren’t new to the world. One is that of organized irresponsibility and the other of polycrisis.

Ulrich Beck’s concept of ‘organised irresponsibility’ is a sociological idea that highlights how institutions and powerful entities within modern societies often evade accountability and responsibility for the risks they contribute to or exacerbate.

This concept is closely tied to Beck’s broader theory of the ‘Risk Society’, in which he argues that contemporary societies are characterised by an increasing awareness of and dependence on various risks associated with modernisation, technology, and industrialization.

Organised irresponsibility refers to a situation where institutions, corporations, and other influential actors systematically shift the responsibility for managing and mitigating risks away from themselves and onto individuals or society as a whole.

It has many features and the reader can easily (and unfortunately) relate to them: the first is externalisation of risk and its consequences. The second is the diffusion of accountability wherein so many actors and entities are brought into equation that no one can be held accountable.

This also transforms into what can be termed as individualisation of responsibility where the individuals are under so much pressure that they start blaming themselves for the events around them and are forced to consider other means to hedge their risks which never seems to go away.

This is exactly the state of mind of an individual and society in Pakistan.

With no end in sight, the problems amplify and multiply. And this leads to the second idea which is called polycrisis. It is said that we are living in the age of polycrisis but nowhere in the world this fits so perfectly as it does in Pakistan.

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Adam Tooze, one of the great thinkers of the current century, in his book Shutdown, introduces this idea where he mentions that different crisis have started to emerge at once such as climate, food, social and economic.

Pakistan recently suffered from apocalyptic floods costing the economy a whopping $30 billion. Global Hunger Index has ranked Pakistan 99 out of 122 countries with the prediction that Pakistan will fail to achieve “zero hunger” by 2030. Another report by UN and World Food Programme puts the total number facing food insecurity at 8 to 10 million and the level of hunger in Pakistan is being compared with countries like Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan etc.

Our passport ranks 4th from the bottom while the whole economic episode of the country is news to no one. While our naughty neighbor landed on the moon,our policymakers seems to bury their heads further into the ground.

Moreover, an essay by Chen Yixin helps us understand the intricate ways these multiple crisis transition into each other that only increases the possibility of a mega-crisis. His essay focused on six main themes:

Backflow effect

Convergence effect

Layering effect

Linkage effect

Magnifier effect

Induction effect

By the virtue of being connected to the world and our foreign policy, many crises have made their way back into Pakistan due to the backflow effect.

Social crisis seems to converge on the economic one and both seems to overlap the political one creating a layering effect where ideological meets the fiscal and social merges with community issues. Different linkages are also created in this process which creates an environment where minor issues can magnify into bigger ones - remember the self immolation of a street hawker in Tunisia setting into motion the great Arab Spring.

The overall milieu of the country can also induce other stakeholders (internal and external) to launch their own campaigns creating further issues.

Caretaker govt raises petrol price by another Rs26.02, takes it to Rs331.38 per litre

The recent electricity crisis and the resultant shock that people have received in the form of their monthly bills exceeding their salaries is one such instance where the theories of polycrisis and organised irresponsibility seem to converge. The result can be a mega crisis as the country grapples with an extraordinary and sever cost of living crisis. Overall debt has increased to an extent that it has turned into a national security issue.

The basic amenities of life including energy, food and basic items have registered an increase of over 100 percent in YoY basis.

With income levels either falling or stagnant, such a scenario can not only be harmful for the economic outlook but also eat away the social fabric. Crime rates in Lahore are already going up. We can expect doctors, teachers, and other professionals taking to the streets to protest. Calls for sit-in(s) will be frequent.

As the world undergoes serious shifts with BRICS rising on the center stage, Pakistan seems to be mired in domestic issues. Nineteen countries applied for BRICS partnership, 6 got formally in. Pakistan didn’t even apply. Why? Where do we see ourselves in the changing world order? That is a question that should be addressed as soon as possible. We might be missing out on the opportunity of the century.

The two policy frameworks mentioned above provide incredible insights into our national and individual dilemma. It is important to study these and deconstruct for the purposes of devising solutions that are pragmatic and immediate. We cannot waste more time. Chaos cannot lasts for long without turning into something else - something uglier. The viscious cycle once set into action can wreak havoc as the negative feedback loop keeps it going.

Policymakers and stakeholders should pay heed to the lessons of history and try to act before it is too late.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Read more articles by Osama Rizvi:

Osama Rizvi

The writer is an international energy and economic analyst. He works at Primary Vision Network — a US-based market intelligence and consultancy firm

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Comments are closed.

John Sep 17, 2023 11:58am
Backflow effect Convergence effect "Pakistan: an example of organised irresponsibility and polycrisis" But the top effect missing in the list (Layering effect, Linkage effect, Magnifier effect, Induction effect) is the Generals effect!
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KU Sep 17, 2023 12:51pm
Very true picture and analysis. This gives birth to an age-old question about the selection of civil administration and their qualifications and expertise in different public sectors. If this recurrent problem is not enough, we are in clear danger as long as the system keeps on electing the suspects who have made Pakistan bankrupt. There is no doubt that we are certainly left behind in the international community and our participation in the world economy, especially BRICS and G20. Most of our history has witnessed political and ideological heists by our leaders leading astray public sentiments towards the South while indulging themselves in riches. A very simple, yet often lost in propaganda, is the question, how long will we be able to survive as a country?
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ZY Sep 18, 2023 10:31am
@John, The root cause of country's respect for the constitution...out of control generals!
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Builder Sep 18, 2023 12:18pm
The root is cause is education. That's it and legacy politicians are to blame.
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Tariq Qurashi Sep 18, 2023 03:08pm
Why can Pakistanis be quite brilliant as individuals, but put us in a group and we are a disaster. Why is this? Why are nearly all our government institutions and departments almost dysfunctional? Is it the system, or is it us that are at fault? I propose that the fault unfortunately lies in us. As a nation we have never learned the necessity of following rules. It is only when rules are followed strictly that a modern state can function. Without rules you are just like a rabble; the strongest of which will come out on top. No modern state can function without a framework. We have no respect for laws and rules, and we will continue to be a chaotic mess as a nation until we learn the important lesson that following rules is not an option, but is a necessity if we want to be a modern civilized state.
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U2 Sep 20, 2023 12:57pm
@John, Indeed, their love for wealth and real estate has led to doom for the easy it is to buy them! Few dollars and plots!
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