A proposal for Social Democrat Party’s Manifesto

There is a need to understand Pakistan’s problems in specific context. If stated in briefest possible terms, all the problems Pakistan is facing, are due to four basic factors: Democracy failure, economic failure, failure in addressing national / ethnic question and failure to ensure gender equality / equality of religious communities. In order to change the status quo in Pakistan, and to address the above failures, it is must for political parties to incorporate following in their manifestoes in a way their ideology allows:

1. Establishing a Modern State with a Reviewed Ideology

A revisionist history has to be written that does not compromise on historical facts. Youth has to be told what was the basis of Pakistan. Pakistan was created based on three important movements: against social injustice, minorities’ political, economic and social rights; and provincial autonomy. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan’s struggle in this regard, has to be taken into account alongside his utmost attempts to save Pakistan from becoming a theocracy.

2. Constitutional Reforms

Based on the above mentioned ideological foundations, comprehensive constitutional reforms must be introduced that should root out all non-democratic elements in the constitution, whether or not they were enshrined in original constitution of 1973. These reforms can cover following:

• Formation of new provinces based on administrative considerations, but right to decide on this should rest with provincial assemblies. Upper House in the Federal Parliament should be re-constituted based on the number of new provinces thus created.

• Provinces should have control on their resources.

• There should be a Constitutional Court in addition to Supreme Court, that should decide about constitutional matters if referred to them, and mediation between provinces on issues of conflict and disagreement.

• Federal govt should only deal with fiscal issues, fluctuations of currency, foreign policy, armed forces of Pakistan, countrywide telecommunication system, inter-provincial coordination etc. Rest should be handled by provinces themselves.

• All constitutional reforms should be done in consultation with the people. It would strengthen the democracy.

• All developmental work should be the responsibility of district governments with ample resources under their control to fulfill this responsibility.

• Powers should be devolved from federal to provinces and then, from provinces to the district / local governments. All decisions should be ensured to be taken with people’s participation.

• Women and minorities must have equal rights and all discriminatory laws / constitutional clauses need to be removed / repealed with immediate effect.

• Separation of powers among parliament, judiciary and executive will be ensured with completely independent judiciary and sovereign parliament.

• Basic human rights would be ensured including right to expression, especially for media and civil society. Rights of religious groups would be ensured and all constitutional clauses and laws would be removed that compromise minorities’ basic rights.

3. Agricultural Reforms and Removal of Traditional Feudal System

Pakistan can’t progress until the agriculture and economy is not freed from the shackles of traditional feudalism based on ridiculously big landholdings. Pakistan’s biggest challenge in agriculture is drastic increase in agricultural produce. That calls for sparingly big landholdings to ensure bigger produce. Following points are important:

• It is crystal clear that feudalism as economic system has failed miserably and needs to be replaced with a more pro-people system. At the same time, it is a must that some difficult decision be taken. Agriculture should be given the status of an Industry. Such steps would be taken as to treat agricultural land as industrial unit and coin similar rules / laws to regulate them as of other industries. For example, peasants and farmers should be considered as paid employees instead of bonded labour, and should be given all those facilities normally available to the employees of any other sector.

• Taxation system would be made effective and efficient so that state could invest more resources in research and other facilities to people.

• Agricultural produce would not only be packaged according to international standards but would also be marketed world wide so they could earn better and bring foreign exchange.

4. Education:

  • Pakistan needs an educational revolution, not just reforms. It is every citizen’s right to get primary, secondary and higher education. It would be specifically ensured that not only the number of schools is increased as well as quality of education is brought up. Educational curriculum needs to be completely changed.
  • Parallel systems of education would be removed and it would be ensured that quality of education is uniform, to allow rich and poor have quality education without any discrimination. This would help in rooting out discriminatory class society and will make general standards of education better.
  • Standards of teaching will be improved, towards this goal, considerable effort would be made to improve the social, financial status of teachers alongside an improvement in their working conditions. It would be ensured that important educational reforms be carried out in consultation with teachers’ associations, so that their implementation is ensured and is efficient with teachers’ ownership.
  • It would be ensured that common citizen knows the language of power, the language that is used at official level in the corridors of power, so that a common citizen is not outside the realm of powerful offices, which to date remain out of the access of poor in every sense of the word.
  • It is a must to recognize that medium of education be a language that is closer to students’ everyday life.
  • Curriculum will be made completely free of prejudice, narrow-mindedness, illogical elements and distortion of history. A modern, logical and thoughtful curriculum would be introduced.
  • It is important to recognize the educational institutions at the levels of Trust or Communities, but they would not be allowed to maintain parallel educational and teaching system / curriculum.

5. Health:

Health services are very important to provide to every citizen, but basic concept would be preventive rather than curative. For this:

  • It would be ensured that people have clean drinking water, unpolluted environment, and all civic amenities based on hygiene principle.
  • Number and quality of health centers throughout the country would be increased. It would be ensured that these health centers have modern and best health services available for all citizens without any class or religious / gender / ethnic discrimination.
  • Budget allocated for health would be increased to the optimal level.
  • It would be ensured that the country has its own pharmaceutical industry, so that every citizen are provided quality medicines at cheap prices.
  • Import of medicines would be banned, however, the only medicines that would be allowed to import would be the ones not being made in the country.
  • Production of food items and medicines would be increased manifold, with assurance of their quality and hygiene. This process would be monitored at state level.
  • The recommendations of Pakistan Medical Association and halth experts would be endorsed that emphasize introducing preventive medicines and techniques for epidemics, at lowest levels of society, alongside a mechanism to implement them.
  • Special attention would be given to women specific diseases, gynecological facilities and pediatrics. It would be ensured that entire population of the country has these facilities readily available.
  • It is most deplorable that Pakistan’s rate of deaths during pregnancy is highest in the region. Solid steps would be ensured to control this.

MOREOVER following steps would be taken to immediately take effect on country’s situation:

  1. To trigger industrial development in the country, more and more industry would be encouraged as well as solid step to improve the conditions of labourers / peasants / workers.
  2. Steps to solve labourers’ issues / problems would be taken in consultation with their associations / unions.
  3. Strong steps for women’s progress and gender equality would be taken. Planning in any sector would entail an analysis with gender lens.
  4. Ministry of Women Development would be made efficient with more clarification in its mandate.
  5. Substantial planning and practical steps would be taken to control population explosion country is facing
  6. Religious minorities would be given equal right of representation, to jobs, to country’s resources and would be ensured that they are able to perform their religious rites with freedom and without any fear. Their right to education and even to preaching would be ensured and even if the constitution needs to be amended, steps would be taken to do so.
  7. All discriminatory laws including Hudood Ordinances and blasphemy laws will be repealed so there’s no danger of their misuse.
  8. Steps to ensure progress in the fields of science and technology.
  9. Terrorism would be rooted out from Pakistan with people’s participation. All parties would be taken on board while making tough decisions to counter this menace.
  10. War against terrorism and religious extremism would be fought with Pakistan’s national interest in mind and would be linked with educational reforms, revisiting foreign policy along with other government policies. However, no decision would be taken without taking people into confidence.
  11. Army would be made subservient to democratic governments.
  12. Defence budget would be made transparent and wherever possible, less opaque keeping in view the sensitive nature of official secrecy.

13. No un-auditable budget would be allocated to army

14. Cut in the defence budget would be ensured after a successful campaign within SAARC countries for similar cuts in order to ensure an environment of security among all member states.

15. Pakistan’s foreign policy would revisited and national interest would be redefined keeping in view long term interest of the country that ensures highest moral place for Pakistan in comity of nations.

16. Number of Pakistan’s enemies would be reduced to zero by changing internal and external policies and triggering a new paradigm of international relations in the region.

17. Domestic role of spy agencies would be curtailed to allow political opponents a level of freedom to associate, thought & expression as well as to ensure stability internal security environment.

18. Secret missions in neighboring countries would be considerably curtailed as confidence building measures, however, their removal would be done in consultation with defence and foreign affairs ministries.

19. The land of Pakistan would NOT be allowed for use as training grounds for terrorist organizations. All terrorist organizations will be completely rooted out from the country and armed forces would not be allowed to have any linkages with terrorists. Upon the proof of such linkages, strictest possible measures would be taken against the perpetrating army officer(s) that might include strongest punishment available in the statute.

20. Capital punishment would be abolished.