The real conspirators – By Ahsan Iqbal

Article suggested by Syed Ali Raza: Although the author may not align himself with the political views of “Let us build Pakistan”, he offers a valuable perspective on present deferring and escapist tendencies in our society.

The real conspirators
By Ahsan Iqbal

There are so many conspiracy theories for what is happening to us that at times it becomes difficult to keep track of them. USA, West, Israel, and India most commonly get referred to in those conspiracy theories. The conspiracy syndrome isn’t just limited to uneducated, very often educated and elite are also vocal champions of such theories. If we analyze the psychology of conspiracy theory syndrome, it can be safely said that it provides a safe refuge for finding an explanation for all the negative events and outcomes, which we don’t like and about which we are not willing to do anything in order to bring a positive change.

These theories are escapists’ heaven providing comfort, catharses, and solace to the pain of mind and soul. What they conceal and block is the path of introspection. The believers in conspiracy theories find all the faults and responsibilities with conspirators, who are villains, and view themselves as victims of treachery, who are innocent, hence throwing all the blame on the conspirators for their sufferings.

The first cardinal principle of diplomacy is that each nation is entitled to act in its own best national interest. Therefore, to expect that any other nation will watch some other nation’s interest is contrary to this basic axiom of international politics. The nations may cooperate but they do so to the extent that their national interests converge. Therefore, what is a national interest for one nation may well look like a conspiracy to another nation or society beyond its shared interest. In Pakistan, thanks to a long history of dictatorships, we have developed a strong culture for conspiracy theories, as lack of information and disempowerment, become key drivers of this culture. We seldom try to analyze the root causes of our problems. After 62 years, if we are still mired in poverty, under development, and political instability with little sovereignty, who has afflicted these wounds on our soul and body? Before we fix responsibility, we should draw wisdom from history of rise and fall of nations and societies.

The literature on this subject throws many explanations for development and decline of nations. Some of these factors are unique while others are general in nature. The law of history is that sovereignty, prosperity, and development have neither been bestowed upon nations in charity nor in aid. Dignity, prosperity and progress are earned and manufactured by the nations through the work of the following seven factors; i) leadership and vision, ii) knowledge and skills, iii) justice and peace, iv) governance and merit, v) enterprise and hard work, vi) integrity and trust vii) team work and synergy. No matter what circumstances nations may face or resources they are gifted with, it is the work of the above seven factors that determines their prospects and rendezvous with destiny.

Where Pakistan is today and where it will be tomorrow, it only reflects the choices we make as a nation. The difference between a successful person or a nation and an unsuccessful person or nation is in its belief and outlook. Successful individuals and groups take responsibility for what they are while unsuccessful individuals and groups try to blame circumstances and others for their failures. The public discourse in any society plays very important role. It helps in understanding its agenda and also drives its future. Therefore, it should be of paramount concern to any society how the agenda of its public discourse is shaped. If we believe that all our problems are due to some sinister conspiracies being hatched against us by others then the logical implication of this thinking is that others are being unfair and devilish with us. This argument shuts the lens for introspection and objectivity in analyzing the past, present, and future. In order to understand why we are where we are, it is important that we analyze our situation in the light of the seven above mentioned factors of progress and development. The first factor is vision and leadership. Both vision and leadership are part and parcel of each other. Leadership without vision is a journey in circles and vision without leadership remains an abstract reality. All small and big success stories are born out of a compelling and a shared vision and a committed and a competent leadership. Vision is what determines what an organization or society is going to try to accomplish. Without a clear vision any society will be pulled in many different directions and nullify its effort.

The story of Pakistan’s creation is itself a proof of this principle. It was the vision of freedom, democracy, prosperity, and social justice in accordance with the principles of Islam that galvanized the Muslims of South Asia to launch Pakistan movement, and the dynamic and competent leadership of the Quaid-i-Azam made this dream come true. Unfortunately, after early death of Mr Jinnah, strong civil and military bureaucracy hijacked the state as political institutions were weak and in early formative stage. This led to blurring of our founding vision, giving rise to parochial thinking and politics.

Our military dictators ruled for over thirty three years playing havoc with rule of law and institutional governance in the country, which led to weakening to federation and unequal distribution of wealth across regions and groups further denting the founding vision of state. Our judges granted legitimacy to the dictators, our bureaucrats served them, and there were always willing politicians to join them while the people accepted it as their destiny. Was this some conspiracy against us or our collective failure to resist most glaring deviations from our founding vision? The second factor is knowledge and skills. Societies, which understood the importance of human resources and invested in developing strong intellectual and human capital, have always performed well. Development is the process by which human beings become aware of opportunities and challenges, formulate responses, make decisions, and initiate organized actions. This process follows the sequence from knowledge to inspiration to action. Human beings acquire knowledge, they become aware of opportunities and challenges. When that knowledge matures, they acquire a motivation or inspiration to translate that knowledge into action. No matter how great the opportunity or how dire the necessity, without that knowledge no adaptive response occurs. In earlier stages of development, land and minerals constituted the principle resources for development. Knowledge was rudimentary. Human beings were valued mainly for their physical labour. Today, information and knowledge have become increasingly important inputs to the development process. All economic activities are becoming more knowledge-intensive. In this context, where do we stand, we are rated at 141st position in the Human Development Index out of 172 nations and sixth out of seven South Asian countries. Our education system from primary to tertiary levels is in a mess with multi-class system with lowest budgetary allocations in the world. Has any country ever stopped us from providing our children best education and from producing quality scientific research in our universities? If almost half of our population is illiterate and we have worst form of class based education apartheid with purposeless education without offering the marketable skills then who is to be blamed?

The third factor is justice and peace. Martin Luther King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Justice and peace are preconditions for an enabling environment that can attract investments and talent for the development of any society. Absence of justice means no rule of law and without rule of law societies become jungles in which might is right, leading to chaos and anarchy. Under such circumstances, society fails to produce stability and order as necessary conditions of progress. If we are mired with inequality, injustice, and strife today whose fault is it? In all those countries, which we call as conspirators, sitting heads of governments can be put to trial but we are finding it difficult to initiate legal proceedings against former president General Musharraf.

The fourth factor is governance and merit. Governance can be described as the process and capability of a society to set and achieve its goals. Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, merit based, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, and the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society. While good governance helps build confidence of local and foreign investors in the economy merit recognition guarantees best standards of performance. According to World Governance Indicators Pakistan’s ranking is 162 out of 179 countries even behind Afghanistan. If we have failed to establish good governance in our country, according to the above criteria, is it not entirely our own doing and choice. There is no evidence of any foreign hand involved in enforcing poor governance on us.

The fifth factor is enterprise and hard work. Strong and stable societies are built on successful economies and no economy can prosper without entrepreneurial spirit and hard work. There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that societies that exhibit higher levels of entrepreneurial effort are more innovative and successful. Likewise, there is no substitute for hard work. In Quran, Allah says, “Man will only get for which he strives”. Has any foreign country ever asked us not to harness entrepreneurial skills of our people and to not work harder in our offices, educational institutions, factories, and professions?

The sixth factor is integrity and trust. Development has two dimensions, hardware and software. While physical infrastructure lays the foundation it is ethics and values infrastructure of any society, shaping social attitudes and social capital, which determines its level of success.

Following Fukuyama, this social capital can be defined as the “set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permits them to cooperate with one another”. Obviously the level of trust capital is key for fostering cooperation and comfort. Trust is developed among members of group through mutual respect, honest transactions and tolerance. How much integrity and honesty is there in our work and dealings? Has any conspiring nation ever asked us to indulge in adulteration, be unfair in measures, and not be honest in our dealings and transactions?

The seventh factor is teamwork and synergy. As Henry Ford said, “coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” High performing organizations and societies are good at transforming individual excellence of their members into collective competence in a way that combined effect is greater than sum of individual effort, which means there is harmony and positive synergy in the system. It is said that in the new economy the basic unit of work is team rather an individual, which means group dynamics of nations have become critical for their success. How good are we in collaborative modes? Has any foreign power forced us to be divided on parochial lines and not to work together as a united nation and communities?

If we look at the above seven factors, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to find out that we alone are responsible for our failures. No one is conspiring against us as we are guilty of conspiring against ourselves. Instead of blaming others we need to focus on our shortcomings and take responsibility for our destiny. This is the only way forward to become a dignified, a strong, and a prosperous nation. Source

The writer is an MNA and former minister of education.