Reactive Pakistan: The Pangs of Ad-hocism

Posted on May 15, 2009
Filed Under >temporal, Society
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When planning for a year, plant corn.
When planning for a decade, plant trees.
When planning for life, train and educate people.

Chinese Proverb

Pakistan was borne off an existential crisis. And purveyors of its short history tell us it has stumbled from one crisis to another. All individuals, and nations do deal with crisis of varying degrees in their lives. But the one distinctive feature that has been afflicting Pakistan ever since inception is Planning: Lack of planning, lack of foresight, lack of thinking things through.

In politics, religion and life our pre-eminent and prominent discourse has been to react. Of course, I’d readily admit there were, and will continue to be exceptions to it. But largely and generally speaking, as individuals and as a nation we have been a re-active lot.

As if reaction has been set as a default mode in our genes. The one far reaching exception to above being the dogged determination and grit shown to acquire nuclear capabilities by the state. And a greater zeal and grit displayed by one individual – Abdul Sattar Edhi.

And this is the reason the Muslims worldwide have been on a downward slide since the 14th or 15th century.

ad-hocism n.
The tendency to establish temporary, chiefly improvisational policies and procedures to deal with specific problems and tasks:

No research, no planning, no thinking ahead. Just reacting to events. And ad-hocism is patch work governance that leads to nowhere in a hurry.

Look at the past few years and look at ourselves as individuals, as a nation and as a government.

Pollution: Untreated waste is dumped into rivers and seas, auto emission is unchecked, factories pollute, plastic bags litter and pollute, waste is not disposed off.

Education: Ghost schools, un-staffed, untrained or poorly trained teachers, derelict buildings, outdated syllabus focusing on the past not the future, undue focus on negatives (“they are baaad – we are gooood”) widening gap between private and public educational institutions, ground and equipment, and then wondering why poor send children off to madressas – to turn into human fodder for ‘their’ goals

Calamities: Earth quake – and I will also mention fires in buildings such as the Islamabad Hotel or the Lahore or Karachi government buildings – floods – man-made calamities (Swat a recent example) – equipment, facilities and trained personnel not available for disaster management.

Water management: Sea is encroaching, rivers run dry, water collection is unheard of, water conservation more so, dams are not constructed, those that exist are silting up dangerously, crops suffer, people suffer.

Judging by the strikes and protests on the road, the righteous indignation expressed in the Assemblies and by the talking heads in the electronic media, and the solemn protestations or whining by the bloggeratis it is evident that people react.

There is that word, react.

If, over the past six decades Pakistanis had spent even a fraction of that time anticipating, planning and pro-acting instead of wasting time in adhocism, and reacting to situations, the nation would be ahead on most counts.

It does not mean there would have been no floods, earthquakes, fires or bombings.

Planning would mean we would have more Akhtar Hamid Khans and Abdul Sattar Edhis.

Planning ahead would mean Disaster Management would not be a dusty bureaucratic department in a ministry.

Planning means the War Games would include insurgent control scenarios that could be implemented quickly. In layman terms, artillery and gunship firing is not the way to deal with insurgencies. One does not kill an insect with a sledge hammer. Such heavy handed measures creates more determined enemies. We know this as civilians, and wonder why does the professional army not know this?

Had there been proper planning and expenditure on infra structure development over the past six decades, the quality of life, education and health would have been equal to if not better than China, South Korea, Malaysia to name three countries that were worse off than Pakistan in the past.

At the moment we are drifting, rudderless. Hope am quoting correctly:

Rau meiN hai rakh-shay um’r kahan dekhiyay thamay
Na haath baag per hai na paa hai rikaab meiN

Yes, please do all you can to help the needy, the poor, the displaced now. But not at the expense of education, health, preparedness, prevention and planning. Salvation of both the individual and the state lies in being prepared. We must eradicate this knee-jerk ad-hocism, this reactive mind set if we are to survive and get ahead.

11 responses to “Reactive Pakistan: The Pangs of Ad-hocism”

  1. Farrukh says:

    The question is how do we get past this adhocism. It is too easy to fall into the trap of technocrats who say, we will give you good planning, just let us call the shots.

    i would rather have imperfect planning in a democracy than perfect planning in a dictatorship.

  2. Aatish Lhoo says:

    very nice analysis , but there is always a silver lining.Let hope best for future if our politicians can learn from past mistakes

  3. Sehar says:

    Shahbaz Sharif is running Punjab much better in planning as compared to other provinces

  4. PatExpat says:

    (continued from above)

    Thats not a single case. The history of this nation is replete with such examples. Lets take Sufi Muhammad. When the armed forces could not control Fazlullah, they took out Sufi Muhammad from jail assuming this way they could control Sufi Muhammad. Lo! Sufi Muhammad turns out to be bigger monster extending his reach beyond Swat to Buner etc…

    Government was also undertaking another disastrous experiment last year under Musharraf. Creating Lashkars to fight Taliban in FATA. Was not the mistake of creating Taliban enough. By arming pashtun lashkars and paying them, how could the government be so delusional to expect that it will take care of Taliban problem. I believe had the Lashkar taken off, we would have created another monster which would come back to bite us.

    Even the Kargil operation or the operation before that (planned during Benazir days but not carried out) was not thought through. Musharraf always assumed that India will let its boys be killed in Kargil or give in to Pakistan’s demand rather than to initiate an all out war. A miscalculation that cost us dearly.

    But our foreign minister takes the cake. Couple of weeks ago he makes a statement that sunni tehreek is reactivating itself to handle the TAliban problem. Excuse me! who made the Sunni Tehreek law enforcers or defenders of our borders. Are they trained fighters with agenda to establish the writ of the state or would they have some other agenda. Why would Sunni Tehreek sacrifice its foot soldiers unless it has huge mileage to gain. The statement was not even analysed in the media, thats how adept we have become at creating frankensteins.

    In Karachi, MQM has employed its youth (who are useless otherwise) as community police. When the Sind Police raised the issue that there cant be two police as per law, they changed their name to city wardens. What these youths do is enforce law and order, drive around in government cars, carry weapons etc without any training physical as well as moral (about responsibilities that come with authority). If tenure of MQM comes to end or district government system is dismantled, what are these kids going to do. They know nothing else. Then you will have these unemployed kids who will wreak havoc in the city or will become guns for hire.

    We started this operation against Taliban very late. One would assume that Army would have thought through the operation and logistical problems as well as humanitarian crisis it would cause especially when a similar operation is being carried out for quite sometime in neighboring Sri Lanka. What do you know? We were caught totally unprepared. Time Magazine reports that the best aid agency in IDP camps is banned Jamat ud Dawa which was incidentally also the most extensive player in earthquake affected areas. The IDP camps would have been a very good recruiting ground for Pakistan Army or Reserve Army etc. Unfortunately, it will be good recruting ground for some other islamist jihad organiztion.Lets see when this operation shows it Frankenstein.

    [Apologies for the long post]

  5. PatExpat says:

    Sorry if my comment is a big long but this is something I wrote a few days ago in my diary which goes along the same lines

    ts a fact that Taliban are our own creation, a Frankenstein that has gone out of our control. In our search for ‘strategic depth’, the army has created a monster.

    I believe due to the circumstance under which Pakistan was created, it has become part of our DNA, to create Frankensteins. When we invent/attempt something, we never think through.

    I have utmost regard for Quaid-e-Azam. Unlike Congress which already had committees in place for constitution making, foreign policy etc., Muslim League did not expect to get Pakistan till 1946. As such, when we got Pakistan, we did not know how to rule it. Had Quaid had the time or foresight, he would have at least created a document like Bill of Rights in US to which we could all refer back to when we make laws or constitution or system of government. That lack of proper document has cost us dearly with people quoting different parts of his speeches to define the kind of country he wanted – secular, islamic democracy, etc.

    I am not discussing creation of pakistan here. It has been discussed ad naseum in lot of places and is still being discussed. However, certain elements of the errors of that time crept into the DNA of nation i.e., not thinking through the process.

    The best example is Taliban. We created them without realizing what we will do with them when the war with Russia is over. Luckily Russia fell down and Taliban busied themselves in Afghanistan. However, lets say US would have lost interest midway, what would we have done? I don’t think anybody thought about.

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