We have, during the last few days, seen a string of positive and desirable steps taken by the federal government and the National Assembly. These include the assignment of management of the Gwadar seaport to China and the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline agreement. Also, the rushed Anti-Terrorism Bill and the passing of some meaningful social legislation. Though late, these initiatives are, indeed, welcome.

A lot of credit is claimed for the elected Assemblies completing their terms of five years, as also the continuation of democratic governments. What, however, has been the record of their performance? They enjoyed electoral legitimacy, but did they also meet the demands of performance legitimacy?

Is Pakistan today better off compared to 2008 when these goverments assumed control? Are the people of Pakistan more prosperous, more secure and more progressive? What kind of legacy is being gifted in terms of the state of the economy, law and order and welfare of the masses? Has the industry moved up by leaps and bounds, providing the much needed employment? Have we caught up with the rest of the world in education and healthcare? Have we restored peace and initiated development works in our backward and neglected areas like Fata, Waziristan and Balochistan? Have we taken good care of the flood affected towns and villages? Has there been some headway in learning to live together and a better treatment and care of women and minorities? Have we taken serious steps to impart literacy skills to more than 55 million illiterate Pakistanis? Have we managed to control the growth of population? How good is school and college education? Are hospitals in the rural areas better manned and equipped to provide treatment to the poorer sections of the society? Has our image internationally improved a wee bit? Or has it worsened?

The United Nations Report on Human Development 2013 released last Thursday, speaks of the “Rise of the South”. It extols the rapid strides made by China, Brazil and India. Pakistan does not figure in the four dozen or so developing countries, which have done remarkably well. These include Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa and Indonesia. In 2010, Pakistan ranked 125th worldwide. In 2012, it came down to 146th. This marked decline sums up the downward trends in Pakistan.

It makes one sad to read the Transparency International’s latest assessment of the government’s performance. Just read some of its findings: More than Rs 18 trillion were lost to the nation because of corruption and bad governance (one may recall the NAB Chairman’s statement that Rs 10-12 billion go down the corruption drain every year). In the scale of the most corrupt countries of the world, Pakistan has risen by 12 places during the last five years. Adil Gillani, the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) Adviser, said: “Last five years period in Pakistan’s short history has been the worst in governance and corruption.”

The TIP has highlighted the mega corruption cases. A number of them were taken up by the Supreme Court. The report mention’s some of them. These are: the Rental Power Plants (RPPs) deal, Rs 500 million, NICL, Rs 8 billion, Pakistan Steel Mills, Rs 20 billion, Punjab Bank, Rs 10 billion and hundreds of billions in Pakistan Railways, OGRA, Hajj payments, LNG imports, KESC, WAPDA, CDA, Neelum-Jhelum project, NHA, SCCL, PSO, PIA, and OGDCL.

Just last year, the country’s ranking on the international Ease of Doing Business index fell from 104th to 107th. Pakistan has been described as the most dangerous country in the world. UNESCO declared it in 2012 as the second most dangerous for the journalists. During the last five years, the consumer price index rose from 100 points to 173, and the dollar to rupee conversion rate slipped from Rs 60 to more than Rs 100.

The TIP also pointed out that not a single case of mega corruption was successfully prosecuted by FIA or NAB during this period. It would be unrealistic not to acknowledge the commendable contribution made by the PPP-led coalition government towards desirable amendments of the constitution.

It is also appropriate to compliment the government from implementing part of the Parliamentary Resolution and APC recommendations, stopping Nato containers to use Pakistani routes for carrying supplies to Afghanistan for a considerable period of time.

Mention, too, however, should be made of a surprising failure on the part of PPP to bring the killers of Benazir Bhutto to book during all the five years.

(The TIP has found Punjab as the least corrupt compared to other three provinces. Some of the projects completed in record time by the Punjab government - in particular education, communication and transport schemes - are worthy examples of competence for the centre and other provinces to follow.)

As against this dismal picture depicted above, it looks odd, if not amusing, to read the contents of the manifesto dished out by the PPP. The rainbow promises and sweet dreams projected in it defy logic and even commonsense. A number of core priorities have been unveiled. These are: meeting the basic needs of the people, employment for all, equitable and inclusive growth, infrastructure for the future, a new social contract and protection of the people.

Moreover, a pledge to increase cheaper electricity by 12,000 megawatts, roti, kapra and makan and a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 (3,000 more than the figure put forward by PML-N). Hardly any comments are needed on these tall targets, considering the party’s performance during the long five years.

It will be an act of gross omission if General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s commendable restraint is not duly appreciated. His resolve not to interfere in political affairs helped a great deal in ensuring completion of the term by the elected governments. Kudos also to the Supreme Court, media and the civil society for the democratic process to continue.

At the end, it would be instructive for Pakistani politicians to heed the sane observations and advice tendered in the UN Human Development Report 2013 for the guidance of the developing countries: how have so many countries in the South transformed their human development prospects?....…there have been three notable drivers of development - a proactive developmental state, tapping of global markets and determined social policy and innovation....…They challenge preconceived and prescriptive approaches…....A strong, proactive and responsible state develops policies for both public and private sectors - based on a long-term vision and leadership, shared norms and values, and rules and institutions that build trust and cohesion…....Promoting equality, particularly among different religious, ethnic or racial groups, also helps reduce social conflict.

Social policy has to promote inclusion and provide basic social services, which can underpin long-term economic growth....…Investments in human development are justified not only on moral grounds, but also because improvements in health, education and social welfare are key to success in a more competitive and dynamic world economy…....Good policymaking also requires greater focus on enhancing social capacities, not just individual capabilities.…...Active civil society and social movements, both national and transnational, are using the media to amplify their calls for just and fair governance.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political

    and international relations analyst.

    Email: pacade@brain.net.pk