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Can these two co-exist, without loss or compromise to their unique characteristics? Perhaps, more no, than yes.

Economics is that branch of knowledge or field of study, which inherently is a matter of social sciences, but is concerned with the production, distribution, consumption of goods and services, coupled with the transfer of wealth; it is inclusive of the behaviour, pattern and interaction of all other economic agents. It also studies how individuals, corporates, industries, businesses, governments and nations make choices between alternatives for allocation of resources.

Politics is all about activities associated with the management and governance of either a country or an area that relates, especially to the debate between various political parties and the party in power.

At least from the standpoint of a review of the last 74 years of existence, Pakistan has found these two more at tangent than in tandem. That’s the basic reason for a perhaps, more no, than yes.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, with his brilliant education and understanding was the only and the last leader, who appears in our short history as a politician who understood economics. Unfortunately, he too, within the first three years of his government, miserably floundered. The fad of socialism in that age and the era swept him off from the realities of our economic foundations. The wholesale nationalisation project cutting across all types of industries very quickly undid the glorious economic development of the sixties. If he is not to burdened with full responsibility for the chaos that followed, because within two years of the nationalisation, he was deposed and hanged; the concept was abused more during the Zia years; but ZAB, still remains guilty of having encouraged flight of the private capital, and for the institution of associated fear of the investors, of losing assets to the State. Private capital owners (the infamously famous, 22 families) packed bags and fled from the business scene.


Politicians who are good at economics are a rare breed. Since most possess no handle to grasp, it is a subject that must be best left to either the technocrats or the bureaucracy. Ronald Reagan (the great communicator), President of the US, barely knew what was the state of the economy, but it was doing well, despite very high interest rates, because of the independence his economic managers enjoyed, especially the autonomy displayed by the chairman of the FED, Paul Volcker.

The world witnessed the emergence of ‘Reganomics’. His economic policy was associated with the reduction in taxes and the promotion of unrestricted free market activity. The primary element or premise was “the claim that cutting taxes generates more revenue”. That in essence was Reaganomics, named after a Hollywood trained politician, who was innocent of economics. But the US bureaucracy led it successfully.

Margaret Thatcher was another politician of recent era who was not only an Iron Lady in politics but had a keen sense and understanding of economics. Her policies gave rise to the concept that was coined as “Thatcherism”.

She was an enigma to most conservatives. She believed and subscribed to Victorian ideals, of following the traditions, respect for elders, hard work, etc. Later, Thatcherism was linked to neo-liberal economics, which harboured on reducing taxes and making individuals responsible for the finances.

Free enterprise and private entrepreneurs were encouraged. She knew how to combine political and economic objectives. This was also in step with the views of Milton Friedman and Fredrick Hayek.

J F Kennedy, had said: “Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of the people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance.”


This remark explains our own growth in the sixties, where the country witnessed progress, but wealth got concentrated in the hands of the 22 families, during the Ayub’s era. There is; therefore, it is no wonder that the slogan of “Islamic socialism” raised by ZAB found popular and mass appeal.

Just as no man or society can absolve themselves of the collective responsibility for peace and harmony, neither can they escape from their obligation for creating economic plenty. Those politicians who combined within themselves great political sagacity and a keen understanding of the need to pursue growth-oriented economic policies did great favour to their respective nations.

Lee Kaun Yew of Singapore, Nehru and Manmohan Singh of India, Park Chung hee of South Korea, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, are some good examples for politicians to emulate.

Post-independence, India was extremely lucky to have Nehru as the prime minister for a little over 17 years; we lost most of our founding fathers within a decade of our creation.

Nehru was made chairman in 1938 of the National Planning Committee of the Congress party, which had 30 members… Nehru divided almost equally between the worlds of science, industry and politics. Sub-committees were allotted specific subjects: such as agriculture, industry, power and fuel, finance, social services and even “women’s role in planned economy”.

He followed this up with his first five-year plan, which, in the minimum, made India planning conscious. We faltered all through and continued to experiment with no success to recall from records. In the economic modernisation of India, Nehru is reported to be in absolute fascination of building dams, which in his opinion were to be the “the temples of modern India”.


He built several dams. For over four decades, we have been debating whether to build or not to build the Kalabagh Dam. The lack of political and economic vision in our case is so stark and obvious.

The newly-industrialised countries (NICs) of South and Northeast Asia are great examples of consistency in economic vision and plans. The territorial disputes have been set aside to overcome poverty, they have diverted their attention to the economic wellbeing of their people.

Successive governments do not indulge in undoing the vision of the previous governments. We live today in a more interdependent global village, we cannot pretend even to become Robinson Crusoe’s, with an isolationist mindset. Adlai Stevenson (1952), had said: “It is not possible for this nation to be at once politically internationalist and economically isolationist. This is just insane, as asking one Siamese twin to high dive, while the other plays piano.” Enlightened leaders know how to mix and match their economic vision with the foreign policy.

The Chinese started off by adopting a combination of communist and socialist economic stance. The political and economic manifesto then moved towards a mixed economy model. Deng Xiao Ping started the open door economic policy, in selected areas they adopted the capitalist model (SEZs). The pragmatic leadership negotiated without firing a bullet the takeover of Hong Kong, the entrepôt city became instrumental in the creation of the economic success of the city of Shenzhen.

Politicians by inherent attitude and practice undertake tasks with the next election in view; a Statesman takes initiatives with the future generations in mind. Deng Xiao Ping is a case in point. The economic reforms he initiated in 1978, continue to be in vogue, with necessary amendments and revisions, to suit the changing global realities. Again, the Chinese policy of engaging with Africa started in the early 90s and today it is bearing fruits. Chinese leadership has used the tool of economic diplomacy with great tact, skill and finesse. The OBOR/CPEC project is a classic example of long-term thinking. Politicians with economic flair are the need of the hour for Pakistan, too.

Against this foresight, we need to ponder over only the last 10 to 15 days, all the economic managers (the cabinet members) and the shadow opposition leaders are on the streets… who is running the show? Who is doing futuristic thinking? And do any of these have time to engage in this luxury of creative thinking? Possibly, no. All that is in sight is the next election, which shall again be won by those who can better accuse.


Good time is lost by the politicians in accusations. Since childhood years, I haven’t seen any walk-in president or prime minister, who gleefully said, the past rulers have left so much more treasure in the country’s chest; instead it is always a loud lamentation that the coffers have been emptied to the last cent.

Again, JFK, the last of the US presidents, who said things profound, had once remarked: “Let us not seek Republican answer or the Democratic answer. Let us not fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” Exactly, what are we as a nation doing for the last three decades, gazing into the past! Is democracy meant for every political party to blame and prove to each other for being corrupt, inept, inefficient and unfit to rule? Politicians fill their belly with their own lies. They are consistently inconsistent in articulating their thoughts on the economy or even otherwise on any other subject. At best, they display as low grade gymnasts who swing from their stated positions like the pendulum. On TV talk shows, they miserably defend the indefensible. Cicero in the 1st BC wrote: “Persistence in one opinion has never been considered a merit in political leaders.” They follow him religiously.

No country can progress without a sound industrial base. It was in sixties decade that we saw in the country, emergence of industries, making us an envy for most countries of Asia. We lost the plan somewhere. In fifty years, Bangladesh has a more robust economy; its fundamentals are more solid than ours.

Economics is too serious a subject to be left alone to politicians. Long-term goals have to be designed and pursued regardless of who rules in Islamabad. The Planning Commission must be empowered. The process of facilitating the setting up of industries has to be made easy and efficient. Our efforts to set up the SEZs along the CPEC route are moving at a snail pace; we need to press the accelerator.

Our politicians and the policymakers have failed to pick up the change in the cycle of production and consumption. No study is undertaken on how, for example, the credit cards are being used! Who buys Levi’s jeans, cosmetic products of Estée Lauder, Lancôme and electronic gadgets of Sony, Samsung, etc? Why cannot we induce investors to produce these products?

ZAB had written in his book, “The Myth of Independence”, political independence is meaningless without economic independence. Politics and economics are more intertwined today than any other time in history, if only our politicians would learn and recognise this fact… because if they did, not all would then be commenting on the Russia-Ukraine crisis!


Politicians must know economics. There is no other way. They must be able to see beyond their nose, no room for conflict of interests. This is critical for the country’s progress.

Sacrifice only non-compliant individuals, not the ideals of this nation.




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