On 2 December 2016, the Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) in collaboration with the Wilson Chair in Pakistan Studies at the University at Texas at Austin hosted a workshop on Pakistan: The Long View, 2047.
The one-day event brought together academicians, researchers, development practitioners and policy-makers to reflect on Pakistan’s multi-faceted development challenges and future policy choices. As Pakistan approaches its 100th year of Independence in the year 2047, the workshop gave participants the opportunity to discuss the intersections of governance and public policy; social, economic and environmental wellbeing; and human and state security.
While welcoming the participants, in his opening remarks, Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Founding Director, CPPG sketched out the following objectives for the daylong workshop:
Stimulate deliberation on planning for future; encourage critical thinking that promotes and sustains a culture of research; develop our institutional (CPPG) research agenda; encourage academic partnerships, exchanges and collaboration that helps our breed of younger generation of scholars, experts and policy analysts to have deeper understanding of problems and transformations taking place in Pakistani society, across the region and globally; encourage inter-disciplinary approach in pursuit of social sciences research; synchronize academic and policy research to our ground reality that captures and reflects people’s voice and works for their welfare.
Given these objectives the interactive workshop allowed participants to critically assess Pakistan’s multifaceted and complex development concerns, evaluating existing understandings and proposing innovative solutions. Four intersecting themes were chosen to highlight the country’s most pressing issues and the presentations revolved around a) water sustainability, climate change and governance, b) urbanization and development c) migration trends and labor outcomes and d) domestic issues and regional concerns.
SESSION ONE: WATER SUSTAINABILITY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND GOVERNANCE
Mr. Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, founding CEO & National Program Director of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan, moderated the first session. Mr. Sheikh expressed the urgency needed to address the impact of climate change on Pakistan’s socioeconomic wellbeing. He spoke about how the poverty-environment nexus was crucial to understanding policy responses for sustainable development in the country. Mr. Sheikh then invited Dr. Paula Newberg and Dr. Akmal Hussain to present their research and findings on issues of climate change and governance in Pakistan. Dr. Newberg is Wilson Chair in Pakistan Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, while Dr. Hussain is an eminent Economist currently Distinguished Professor and Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Information Technology University (ITU). In their presentation, Dr. Newberg and Dr. Hussain argued that the state’s response to climate change in Pakistan is insufficient to deal with the multifaceted challenges that this issue raises. They claimed that both the institutional structure of the state and its underlying power structures have, and may well continue to limit policy initiatives that are unequal to the tasks of adapting to or mitigating climate change. Under these circumstances, too little will not simply be too late from the point of view of climate change, and favoring the short term over the long term in economic and political planning can potentially compromise the survival of the state.
Ms. Fazilda Nabeel, a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Sussex (UK) and currently working with the Centre for Water Informatics and Technology (WIT) as a Visiting Researcher, followed with a presentation on the marginalization of groundwater governance in the Indus Basin of Pakistan. During the session Ms. Nabeel discussed the inefficiency around water ‘governance’ in Pakistan. She claimed that there was greater preoccupation with the technical, institutional and infrastructural development of surface water while there was a neglect of groundwater management. She further stressed the intense use of groundwater has led to overexploitation as well as groundwater quality issues. Policy must therefore overcome this ‘apathy’ and manage water governance in a more comprehensive manner. Mr. Basharat Saeed, Team Leader Towards 2047 at LEAD Pakistan was the last presenter in this session. Mr. Saeed advocated for the integration of governance in the water, energy, and food sectors and called for recasting it as the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” He argued that the governance of scare resources such as food and water requires a paradigm shift: we need to move from management of resource supply, to the management of resource end-use.
SESSION TWO: URBANIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT
In the second session, chaired by Dr. Newberg, the discussion revolved around the issue of rapid, unplanned urbanization in Pakistan, which is complemented with a demographic shift, a growing youth population and rising internal migration. The first presentation was by Dr. Sohail Jehangir Malik who spoke about Urban Agglomeration, Food Security and Poverty in Pakistan. Dr. Malik is an experienced policy analyst research and academician currently Chairman Innovative Development Strategies (Pvt.) Ltd. of Pakistan, President of Innovative Development Strategies LLC of USA and, Senior Advisor International Food Policy Research Institute Washington DC’s Pakistan Program. Dr. Malik argued that the pathways from economic growth to food security and poverty reduction are not clearly understood or well defined on policy documents in Pakistan. The spatial and dynamic linkages of these underlying processes and their consequences for human welfare is also absent from the discourse. For a proactive policy response there is an urgent need to recognize and address the vast diversity across regions and sectors while accounting for the rapid changes in the underlying patterns of societal development in the country. Policies must therefore be able to cope with these changes and channelize them into inclusive growth, food security, poverty reduction and effective social service delivery. Dr. Uzma Hanif, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Forman Christian College, presented on climate change and the incidence of floods from the point of view of governance and institutions. Dr. Hanif identified floods as key climatic events, which pose a threat to infrastructure, environment and livelihood. This threat is particularly grave in South Asia, including Pakistan, which depends heavily on seasonal rains for agriculture. Her research demonstrates that deficits in legislative and administrative structures, an unstable macro-economic environment, and insufficient institutions have compounded the damage and loss caused by floods and thus requires a multifaceted restructuring to address the aforementioned concerns.
Dr. Imdad Hussein, Assistant Professor, CPPG, delivered the session’s third presentation in which he spoke about migration and urbanization in Pakistan. He emphasized the irony around the unfavorable constructions of migrants among the state institutions and urban elites despite the fact that many Pakistani cities are shaped by migrations. He contended that the chances of migrants’ political participation and an urbanism respectful of diversity could be determined in some way by the constructions of migrants. Through his presentation, Dr. Hussain contended that urban planning in Pakistan has significantly excluded migrant groups.
SESSION THREE: MIGRATION TRENDS AND LABOR OUTCOMES
Ms. Khawar Mumtaz moderated the third session for the day. Ms. Mumtaz is Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women, an experienced development advocate, policy analyst and researcher. Her work spans areas such as women’s empowerment including reproductive health and female political participation to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.
The session began with a presentation by Dr. Aysha Sheraz, Senior Fellow at National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) in which she focused on migration and socio-demographic factors from a women’s empowerment point of view. Dr. Sheraz explained that internal and international migration can have major development and poverty implications for individuals and their families, for origin and destination areas, as well as for national economies. During her research she found that variables such as age, education, work status and exposure to media, play a significant role in decision-making in Pakistan. She argued that policy measures directed at migration needed to be reinforced by proper implementation on the ground.
Dr. Hadia Majid, Assistant Professor of Economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences followed with a presentation on female labor supply in Pakistan. Dr. Majid’s analysis showed women are participating at much lower levels, both in terms of participation rates and in terms of hours worked in a week, as opposed to men. She explained that women’s employment tends to be more precarious and that they are found to occupy an inferior status relative to men in the Pakistani labor market, bringing in little to no income into the household in their own right. Mr. Raheem ul Haque, Senior Research Fellow at CPPG reiterated Dr. Majid’s concerns regarding the employment scenario in Pakistan by focusing on the case of youth employment. Mr. Haque argued that the employment policy for the youth in Pakistan lacked coherence and little interaction with the education sector. He said that in order for the country to benefit from the youth bulge, policy makers would need to start looking at tertiary education from the point of view of building employability skills.
SESSION FOUR: DOMESTIC ISSUES AND REGIONAL CONCERNS
Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Professor and Founding Director CPPG moderated the last session of the day. The first presentation by Dr. Raja M. Ali Saleem Assistant Professor at CPPG, looked at questions like ‘is Islam compatible with democracy?’ and ‘can Muslim-majority countries (MMCs) evolve into a democratic culture?’ Dr. Saleem claimed that he was “cautiously optimistic” that by the year 2047 Pakistan could become a Muslim democracy however this would depend on factors like resolution of the Kashmir issue and the role of the military in governance.
Mr. Asif Aqeel, a former student at the CPPG and currently involved with the print and electronic media, continued the session with a discussion on casteism and governance in the context of Pakistani Punjabi Christians. Mr. Aqeel spoke of the evolution of the Christian community in Punjab and how they were marginalized to menial employment opportunities. He described this as a challenge to urban planning and integration of the Christian community in society and into mainstream politics.
Dr. Charles M. Ramsey, Assistant Professor of Religion and Public Policy at CPPG, in his presentation, looked at Pakistan’s political establishment as being influenced by a totalitarian ideology described in the academic literature as ‘Islamism.’ He deliberated on the rise of post-Islamism, and considered how, despite humble beginnings, the lessons learned from this past generation may seed a new national narrative that is at once Islamic but not Islamist, and pluralist but not secular.
Dr. Saeed Shafqat and Ms. Saba Shahid, Research Associate CPPG presented the final presentation for the session on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). They argued that the in order to maximize the economic dividends from the CPEC, Pakistan’s leadership would need to garner political support from the provinces and be more prudent in the terms of agreements they negotiate with China. The CPEC could be ‘a game changer’ for development in the country only if its governance prioritized Pakistan’s socioeconomic, environmental and geostrategic interests in a transparent and equitable manner.
CONCLUDING ROUNDTABLE AND ITS MESSAGES
The workshop ended with a roundtable discussion by participants and audience members. The workshop participants conveyed a number of messages, including the need to ensure that there is political demand for problem solving research. Political will or its absence, acts as an important determinant to the success or failure of a development initiative. The biggest challenge for change can be the willingness to accept critique by the leadership and use it to make inclusionary decisions. Another significant message from the discussion was the need to highlight women’s empowerment as a real developmental issue in Pakistan. Not only is it important to raise awareness in policy arenas but there is also a need to spread a wider message to communities across the country sensitizing both men and women.
The discussion ended with a broad agreement over the importance to mainstream Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in policy formation. Participants debated academia’s ability to make a political impact and voiced concerns that developing countries like Pakistan face limitations on the kind of research they can do, both from domestic and external sources. Finally there was a general sense of positivity and optimism and the participants expressed that Pakistan lacks neither the expertise nor the practical tools to promise a brighter future for its coming generations. The workshop participants also showed fortitude in underscoring the need for designing an actionable policy research agenda.