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Published Date: May 6, 2013

SDPI Press Release (May 6, 2013)

Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday launched a book highlighting the
development challenges faced by Pakistan.

Titled
‘Development Challenges Confronting Pakistan,’ the book is co-edited by Dr.
Anita M. Weiss, Head of International Studies Department, University of Oregon,
USA and Dr Saba Gul Khattak, Former Member, Planning Commission of Pakistan.

The
book is a culmination of scholarly papers written by intellectuals and
practitioners that not only identify ‘structural impediments’ in Pakistan’s
efforts to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable social development but
also offer practical solutions to move forward.

Giving
a detailed briefing on the book, the co-editor Dr. Anita M. Weiss said that
there was very limited research available to identify ‘structural impediments
to development’ in Pakistan. She was of the view that while there are many
structural problems confronting Pakistan, it is the growing violence that is
affecting all realm of life and poses greatest challenge to Pakistan’s
development prospects.

While
talking on economic challenges, she cited contributors who argue that instead
of sophisticated economic growth diagnostics, there is need to practice simpler
and forward looking paradigm called ‘weakness diagnostics’ which can address
the lagging per capita GDP of Pakistan. Referring to another paper in the book,
she quoted author that escalation of aid has consolidated Pakistan’s dependence
on west and strengthened security apparatus in the country. Citing Dr. Abid
Suleri paper on food security, she said that ‘food insecurity’ and ‘conflict’
has eroded people’s resilience adding that if individual security is not given
preference in policy, it would be difficult to break vicious cycle of poverty
and under development in Pakistan.

She
also briefed participants on the chapter of ‘infrastructural transformation
challenges’ in which eminent lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan focused on salient aspects of
Pakistani legal system that must be changed to facilitate positive development
in the country. In his paper, Hasan Askari Rizvi discussed what he says the
increasingly dysfunctional political system that threatens Pakistan’s long term
viability as stable state. He argues that priorities of political leadership
are dominated by narrow partisan interests and power politics.

Talking
of population explosion, the book mentions that despite Pakistan having one of
the earliest countries to have population policy, it is one of the last
countries to observe decline in fertility rate. Pakistan decision makers never
considered population policies seriously and this neglect has thrown Pakistan
demographics into further peril, she added.

Speaking
at the occasion, co-editor of the book and former member, Planning Commission
of Pakistan said that there is need to increase investments in social sector
development. She emphasized on the need to have wise policy decisions and said
overall social sector development must be the focus rather than heavily
investing on any single social protection initiative. Hinting at BISP she said
“At the cost of expanding BISP, the spending on other areas of social
development were greatly reduced which had resulted disastrous repercussions
such as in health and education.”

Khawar
Mumtaz, Chairperson, National Commission on Status of Women spoke as discussant
on the occasion and hailed the efforts of authors and editors in compiling a
comprehensive policy document for addressing development challenges in
Pakistan. She commented that authors seemed to have agreement in principle that
majority of Pakistan’s challenges stems from dysfunctional of state,
discontinuation of democratic system and lack of will at part of leadership on
development discourse.

She
said that due to persistent prevalence of status-quo, the country has turned
into a non performing state. She also discussed the increasing irrelevance of
Planning Commission in development framework of Pakistan and said that the book
offer interesting suggestions such as placing planning commission under the
Council of Common Interest in accordance with the spirit of 18th amendment and
to synergies’ development in all provinces.

While
citing chapter on Ulema’s role in development, she found the author’s
conclusion very interesting that bringing Ulema in development intervention
does not produce good results but rather strengthened and legitimized the
clergy and religious forces. She also emphasized on the need to preserve
cultural heritage, which she said, is the responsibility of Pakistani state and
must not be solely addressed by policy of looking after by generation of
revenues from foreign tourists.