There is no iota of doubt in stating that Pakistan is now passing through a turbulent phase due to myriad of problems. But the foremost issue which needs to be addressed on a priority basis is the ailing economy. Imran Khan took over the reins of Pakistan. He is facing severe challenges regarding the fragile state of economy. During his election campaign, Khan repeatedly focused on human development. But without a stable economy, human development is nothing more but a nightmare. Apparently, delicate economy is a stumbling block towards human development. Before going ahead, it is important to know, what the human development is. In simple words, we can say, to spend money directly on hoi polloi (for instance; health, education, poverty alleviation) so that they can pass better and healthy lives.
The spectrum of human development is very vast. Initially, which areas the incumbent government must take prodigious steps in the context of Human Development? Education and Health being the key sectors demand tremendous reforms. Since the inception of Pakistan, the governments have closed their eyes regarding the abovementioned sectors. Neither civilian nor military regimes spent a handsome amount to develop the area institutions. Resultantly, a lack of basic structures can be clearly seen in almost every nook and corner of the country. Health is a basic requirement of the citizens but the stark fact is that lot of people have little or no access to ample health facilities in Pakistan. Regarding population growth, Pakistan looks very different than it did in the past. As of 1998, Islamabad’s population was 0.8 million. Now it has reached 2 million, according to 2017 census. But unfortunately there are still only two main health centers, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Polyclinic. These two institutions not only bear a burden of 2 million people, along with federal government employees and their dependents. A large number of people from far flung areas also visit the facility on a daily basis.
The health segment is far worse in other cities. Those who were at the helm of affairs should hide their heads in shame, what type of brutality is this? A lot of cases were aired on media, women gave birth and died during the process on roads and ambulances due to lack of beds, doctors and other major facilities. Ganga Ram hospital is a crystal clear example, which is half a kilometer away from the residence of the ousted PM in Lahore. The same situation exists in other provinces. Last year, when an assault took place in Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, the nearest hospital was some 130 km away from the shrine. In almost every health care centre, two to three patients in one bed can be seen. Infants and women mortality rate has reached its zenith.
According to UNICEF, 83 per 1000 live births every year are being reported, similarly 14000 women lose their lives during child birth every year. In rural areas, there is a severe shortage of BHU and LHV. Poor people are hardly able to bear the expenses while taking patients to their nearest hospitals, resultantly, many deaths occur. Basically, the health sector is riddled with numerous problems such as, lack of doctors and para medical staff, dearth of medicines, shortage of equipment and absence of infrastructure. Ostensibly, Pakistan spends 0.45 percent of GDP on its health sector, as contrast to WHO recommended 6 percent.
With a population of 200 million, Pakistan is one of the countries with the highest illiteracy rate in the world especially in South Asia. According to economic survey of Pakistan, the literacy rate declined from 60 percent to 58 percent. This figure is lower than that of Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Approximately 21.5 million children are not attending school, out of which 12.4 million are aged between 5-14 years. It is pertinent to mention here that there are about 145,829 primary schools, whereas the number of schools declined to 31,740 in secondary level. It means that there is one secondary school for children of five primary schools. The situation is very alarming. Due to lack of secondary level institutes, a great number of children are unable to continue their studies. A large chunk of masses are living in remote areas of Pakistan and most of which live a miserable life. Secondary institutes are far from their home town, so it is not feasible for parents to send their children in cities.
Another striking issue faced by poor parents of urban areas, while sending their children to far away secondary schools is bearing conveyance charges. It becomes arduous if a person has more than two children. In contemporary era, only primary education can’t be beneficial for students. On the other side, 32,272 religious institutions exist in the country, where 2.5 million students receive religious education. Madaris graduates are highly devalued in the job market. In spite of persistent assurances from the former governments to spend at least 4 percent of GDP on education, unfortunately it has been hovering around 2 percent of GDP since a long time. It is a paramount obligation of the incumbent government to take immediate steps regarding health and education sector. In health sector, the government must increase the number of doctors and paramedical staff. Today, there is still one doctor per 1000 people. It is not humanly possible for one doctor to treat 200 to 250 patients in 8 hours. Reservations of doctors regarding security issues, salaries and job structure should be solved on a priority basis. Labs have become a mafia and their high charges are out of reach for poor patients. Patients complain that they wait in long queues for registration and labs. The number of BHU and LHV is also needs to be extended in rural areas.
Furthermore, the government needs to equally focus on education, the number of secondary level schools must be increased especially in rural areas. Immediate initiatives regarding equitable environment must be provided to poor and affluent class. Especially since the basic inequalities have a trickledown effect on jobs, salaries and other fringe benefits. Public awareness programs should be started in those rural areas, where feudal lords have strong hold and are against education.
Government should announce scholarships, especially for girls and should also provide them safety. In Madaris, some fundamental reforms must be introduced by the government. English, natural and social sciences must be included in the Madrassah syllabus. Only then will we be able to have an educated and healthy population which will contribute positively to the economic and social development of the country.
–The writer is a