There is a variety of definitions of the commonly used term, “Banana Republic”. One definition that we find in the political science books is that a Banana Republic is a country that exports limited resource product such as Bananas, fruits, cheap manpower or other similar produce or products to sustain its economy.
While such a country wallows in poverty, the wealth and prosperity of the privileged and rich classes keeps swelling. There is no accountability and no holds barred from making money and getting rich to any level from questionable and unjustified sources.
In 1901, the American author O. Henry coined the term of Banana Republic to describe Honduras and neighboring countries under economic exploitation by U.S. corporations, such as the United Fruit Company.
“A Banana Republic is a country in which the ruling class oligarchy controls the primary sector of the economy. A Banana country has an economy of state capitalism. A culture of exploitation remains in vogue under a collusion between state and the favored economic monopolies. Profit derived is private property while debts are treated as the financial responsibility of the national treasury.”
All the above conditions and prototypes can be applied to Pakistan. Pakistan falls into the similar paradigm of being exploited by the big corporations and the foreign enterprises in collusion with the local cutthroat entrepreneurs.
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there is ruthless capitalism which is promoted and practiced by the people in power to further enhance their wealth and pelf and easy access to the political power. The majority of the people merely vote to the influential candidates for a small amount of money or under threats of being kidnapped or their women folks dishonored or to impose religious culture and faith-based teachings.
Pakistan too is a Banana Republic because it is a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon the exportation of raw material like cotton and minerals etc. It doesn’t have enough mills and factories to use those precious finds and sell the products at much higher prices. The payment of the income tax is the most violated regime in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a Banana Republic because it has a society which is divided into unprivileged, poor working class and a ruling-class plutocracy. Like a proverbial Banana Republic, it is composed of the business, political and military elites exploiting their high status and coveted positions for personal interests.
Such a plutocracy or ruling oligarchy control the primary sector of the economy by way of the exploitation of labour and resources. Pakistan fits into the paradigm of a Banana Republic because by and large it is functioning as a commercial enterprise for the exclusive profit of the ruling classes.
The state’s political system, the nation-building institutions, business oriented or industrial conglomerations are merely to serve a few individuals or classes. In such a country people with money and authority matter and common people suffer in all manners be it jobs, justice, education, health and other socio-economic benefits or the facilities or to be the beneficiaries of the national economy.
The political system and governing is monopolized by the affluent and socially dominant classes such as feudal, rich robber barons, industrialists or the retired individuals from the senior posts. The legacy of family domination over the political parties is shamelessly and openly followed.
In PPP, it is the Bhutto family progeny that continues to lord over this one time most popular and sought-after party. The PMLN is now the property of the Sharif clan. The PTI is now identified with Imran Khan and he would head this party as long he is healthy and materially fine. Same is the situation with other political and religious outfits.
The nation state where people enter the political arena through ability, hard work and several years of input and after establishing their credentials is unheard of in a country like Pakistan. It is horrendous to watch the rural folks still grazing their livestock, cows and buffaloes and rams in the fields as their ancestors and previous generations used to do. They plough their small land holdings and sell those at very cheap prices to survive.
The adulteration, the child molesting and kidnapping of the opponents for money and revenge is rampant without any check from the responsible agencies. Rather the law enforcers take part in such despicable bouts and forays for making additional income as their salaries are low and insufficient to cater for money budget on running the house with ease.
The bribes and grafts like polluted air spread all over Pakistan and high and low whosever can grab it goes for such enticements and then goes to the mosque for prayers and remittance of their sins. There are hypocritical doubles standards and mockery that most of the Pakistanis display along with their relgions faiths and beliefs.
Bu beyond that I would add that it is a land where the cults including the religious sects and individuals keep the people under a fear of divine revenge and blessing in this world or in the next world after death. The religious conglomerations are headed by the bearded religious heavyweights and continue to do so from the same family one after another.
The Mullahs frighten the people by repeatedly stressing on the divine wrath and the most frightening stay in the hell and burning in the fire for all time to come. And there are countless religious denominations and everyone declaring other infidel and unchaste and fodder of the hell. In addition to that there are countless spiritual healers and squatters in spiritual mansions. They exploit the credulous people for redemption of their poverty and other miseries through soliciting with God through prayers.
This land of Pakistan that was wrested in the name of the religion Islam and to live separately from other religious and racial communities offers the model of a worst and most ignoble and failed state. If this is the religious country professing Islam and for which it separated from others then it was the worst bargain and deal that even the African people would reject.
The dirty narrow lanes with human refuse overflowing, the cattle living side by side with the human beings, the ramshackle rickshaws, the horse and bullock driven carts, the small children working in the workshops and restaurants. The patients keep dying in hospitals, in the filth packed medical centers and at homes because of inattention, spurious drugs, lack of facilities, the high medical costs and the adulterated food.
When a traveler lands at any airport of Pakistan, in contrast to foreign airports, he finds him or herself as if he has landed in a jail compound. He is bewildered by the lack of discipline, cleanliness and decorum, uncouth airport staff and the foul smell. The ruffians outside pretending to be the staff of the airport customs decamp with precious belonging with impunity. Such a spectacle I have seen many a time in various airports of Pakistan.
This story of a failed state of Pakistan is endless and it might take a Hercules or a wizard to set the system right. If for one we can streamline the civic system and remove adulteration of food and other eatables and thuggery in monetary deals, Pakistan might look a bit better. If the county and city system from the West particularly from USA can be implemented with strict compliance rules, Pakistan may look clean and decent.
Above all the big land holdings must be taken over by the government. The bonded families working since the British times should be liberated to end this cruel system of feudalism which is state within state. The feudal enter the power corridors and win the National Assembly and senate seats because of the Haree (bonded land labor) families who vote from them as their enslaved servants.
IT is direly needed that the law and the courts should treat all high and low on equal footings. The ramshackle run-down kiosk like courts from a local municipality to the supreme courts need to be rebuilt to look decent and respectable. The smoking should be banned within the market places, schools, educational institutions and government offices, Railways, bus stops, schools, colleges, hospitals, government office and similar locations.
If someone wants to smoke, he or she should go out and smoke in a secluded and reserved corner, and thereafter come back his shop or work place. In the United States I have yet to see a single person smoking in public shopping centers, offices and on roads. We in Pakistan can also enforce such rules.
What I have observed is that if the county and city system of local government is copied from developed countries particularly United States and is put in place and make it workable, much of the dirty face of Pakistan can be cleaned.
Briefly, there is a dire need to resurrect and rebuild Pakistan with a new vigor and in line with what the developed countries have achieved after a great deal of efforts, injunction of rules and laws. In Pakistan’s case it is merely studying and implementing those role- model systems with full force and dedication.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.
This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com