Social Democratic Alternative (SDA)
(Draft For Discussion)
By Imtiaz Alam
Left and progressive parties, enlightened citizens, conscientious intelligentsia and working people feel the need to evolve an interactive political network to develop an alternative social democratic platform to bring real social change in society and the state for the betterment of the working people, urban and rural poor and small and midsized entrepreneurs, from all federating units and of all nationalities of Pakistan.
Given the predominance of an extremist religious and militarist paradigm, it is time to come up with a progressive worldview to defend the rights and freedoms of our people and strive to extricate our country from its current predicaments. The proposed inclusive and broad-based platform of leftists, socialists, social democrats, progressive nationalists, feminists and environmentalists-– their parties and activists – will strive to present an alternative social democratic narrative as opposed to dominant extremist religious discourse.
The purpose is to change an anti-people status quo through peaceful democratic struggle and enlightened narrative. The Social Democratic Alternative will be a democratic, secular, federalist, inclusive, voluntary and self-sustaining collective with no hierarchical structures. It will solely rely on its own resources and peoples’ mobilization for a dynamic progressive change and social emancipation of our toiling masses.
There are physical and psychological threats from terrorism and extremism to the working people, religious and ethnic minorities, women and children. And there are ideological threats to human progress, equality, justice, liberal-democratic values, the rule of law and science. These threats undermine progress, the welfare of the people, federalism, democracy and an inclusive and pluralistic nationhood.
The Pakistani state is a national security state with dominant security structures. It is over-burdening to the economy and unsustainable. Aggressive national security agendas, couched in an isolationist foreign policy, are perpetuating hostility with neighbors and playing to the tunes of various foreign masters as a client state.
Neo-classical and neo-liberal economic models (accumulation of wealth in a few hands at the cost of the working people and professional strata, an exclusionary elitist development model, imperatives of an over-extended national security state and an inverted pyramid of economic growth) have resulted in endemic poverty, malnourishment, illiteracy, lack of access to healthcare, unemployment, social inequality and unequal regional development.
Authoritarian, centralized and alienated nation-building, in the name of Islam and identifying with an alien history, while suppressing and excluding constituent federating units/nationalities, their cultures, languages and identities rooted in historically defined regions have prevented effective devolution of power to the grassroots level.
Democracy is fragile, civil-military relations are inverted and there is intolerance, intervention of state in matters of faith, the persecution of minorities, gender discrimination and unsustainable and exclusionary growth. There are laws, authoritarian structures, feudal and patriarchal customs/traditions/codes and bigotry that negate fundamental human rights, civil liberties, pluralism, tolerance and liberal-democratic values.
The current political economy of resource generation (taxes and other revenues) and allocation of resources favor the privileged while ignoring peoples’ needs of nutrition, education, health and a humane quality of life. The development of human resources, much-needed physical infrastructure for all regions, environmental protection, conservation of resources and population planning are being neglected. Unbridled profit making and rent-seeking override needs-based, participatory and sustainable growth, to the disadvantage of the working masses.
The low quality of life of the majority of the population emanates from mass poverty, illiteracy and the lack of basic healthcare, primary and secondary education, clean drinking water, sanitation and suitable housing.
Global warming is now posing a serious threat to mother earth and is having is worst implications in South and Central Asia.
The fine arts, performing arts, indigenous cultures and languages are suppressed. Syllabi and the humanities are distorted and the education system has degenerated, in both public and private spheres, most so of madaris.
An extremist religious ideology and militant nationalism dominate the national narrative and promote violence, intolerance, hate-speech and discrimination against minorities, women and cross-gender communities.
The prevalence of patriarchal, tribal and feudal traditions, customs, especially honor codes that cause countless miseries to women, while denying their rights as equal human beings.
Remnants of feudalism, landlordism and archaic structures of extra-economic coercion not only continue to strangulate masses of rural poor, but also holding back our march towards modernization and social emancipation.
There is lack of mutually beneficial cooperation and connectivity among the South Asian and Central Asian countries.
There is a general decline and suppression of trade union activities and the role of professional associations disabling them from pursuing their legitimate rights.
An Agenda for Social-Democratic Change
To separating religion from the state and turning a national security state into a social welfare state that is at peace internally and with its neighbours.
To transforming Pakistan into a social-democratic state with the assertion of the sovereignty of the people through participatory democracy and proportionate representative and electoral system on the basis of class stratification to establisg a sound social base for a sustainable democracy. All institutions of the state are to be responsible and accountable to the peoples and their elected legislatures at all levels, including the federating units and local governments.
Deepening and consolidating provincial autonomy by strengthening cooperative federation and consolidating and expanding the scope of 18th Amendment. Equal power to a directly elected Senate and greater role of federal institutions representing all federating units, such as the Council of Common Interest, National Finance Commission, National Executive Committee, IRSA, Wapda, Railways, PIA, Communication, OGDC, OGRA, PEMRA, HEC, etc.
Empower people through the devolution of power to village and town cooperatives and community-based social entities, on the basis of municipal socialism.
Pursue a participatory, inclusive and sustainable mode of growth that includes the working people, professionals and the middle strata into the accumulation process that gives priority to the peoples’ needs rather than the dominant elites and their growing wealth.
It must address the political economy of resource generation from the rich, excessive and non-development defense expenditures and wasteful consumptions and the reallocation of resources to address unemployment, underemployment, poverty, illiteracy, diseases, marginal wages and underdevelopment of backward regions.
Greater priority is to be given to job creation, better wages, literacy, healthcare, food security, women empowerment, alleviation of the sufferings of the dispossessed and eradication of poverty. Extra-economic coercion, the widening income gap between genders, classes and various regions/provinces is to be effectively and comprehensively addressed in a wholistic manner.
There is a need to defend and uphold equal rights and equal protection for all citizens, regardless of their religion, gender, ethnicity, caste and color.
Preserving and conserving our natural resources and the environment: improving and conserving water resources, expanding renewable energy, controlling environmental pollution and addressing the imminent danger of climate change and our ever-growing carbon footprint.
Focusing on human resource development and the required level of evenly spread physical infrastructures.
Modernization, reformation and democratization of all state structures to make them people-friendly, cost-effective, efficient, transparent and accountable; creation of a Federal Constitutional Court; reformation of civil services to make them specialized and peoples’ friendly, police reforms to serve the people; territorial based peoples armed forces to ensure sovereignty, integrity and security of borders.
Eradicate systemic corruption, rent-seeking, bribery, commissions, land grabbing and pilferage of national resources and entitlements for the rich and the powerful elites. Create an across-the-board accountability system that doesn’t spare any sacred cows and pursues a due process of law.
Eradicate all feudal estates, feudal practices by introducing wider agrarian reforms, which ensure an end to feudal exploitation, extra-economic coercion, landlessness, pauperization and unleash the potential of our rural masses to make a better living free of all bondages.
Promote peace, amity and mutually beneficial cooperation and strengthening connectivity and increasing trade with our neighbors and across the regions – South Asia and Central Asia in particular.
Adopt a foreign policy based on “Friendship with All and Enmity with None” and opposing imperialist interventions, wars and subjugation of developing nations.
Support an end to nuclear weapons and the global arms race. Ensure nuclear stability in Asia while opposing war, subliminal warfare and proxy wars.
Support rights-based campaigns; movements of working people, the poor, the disenfranchised and oppressed nationalities/ethnic groups and campaigns for women’s and minorities’ rights for equality and social justice.
Participate in political, legal, constitutional and legislative processes to strengthen democracy, federalism, social rights and equal participation of all. Promote socialism, enlightenment, freedom, secularism, equality, justice and social emancipation and gender equality.
Benefiting from information and scientific and technological revolution and promoting knowledge economy to bridge the wealth and knowledge gaps and empower people.
What is To be Done?
Social Democratic Alternative (SDA) is to be a broader inclusive coalition of working masses, progressive professionals and enlightened intellectuals, left and left-oriented parties, progressive nationalists, socialists, social democrats and all those, who share SDA’s Concerns and Agenda as outlined above.
SDA’s principal purpose is to educate, mobilize and organize the masses of working people and progressive professionals and enlightened intelligentsia to bring societal change and radical transformation of state and its institutions to serve the peoples of Pakistan.
Promote research through dynamic and inter-disciplinary efforts, where it is needed, and benefiting from the research that has already been done to serve the interests and needs of our people and their fullest and all-sided growth.
SDA will engage peoples’ representatives, mainstream democratic and nationalist parties, leftist and socialist parties, trade and professional unions, progressive political activists, civil society campaigners, women activists, academia, researchers, students, youth, writers, media practitioners and artists, and lobby with major stakeholders to pursue its agenda.
SDA will use all intellectual avenues, literary and cultural forums, media, social media, seminars and peoples campaigns to cultivate an all-embracing commitment to an enlightened, secular, social-democratic, federalist and peaceful Pakistan for an all-sided empowerment of all its peoples without any social, cultural, religious, ethnic and gender discrimination.
SDA will adopt a two-way approach; starting from both local and provincial levels to representation at the federal level, while promoting a collective leadership.
SDA will facilitate and benefit from various think tanks, research groups, lobbyist groups and campaign groups for the rights of the people and support all those organizations and activists who are pursuing similar agendas.
SDA will help organize and untie trade unions, students organizations, professional bodies, rights-based groups, civil society organizations, women’s bodies and intellectual and cultural forums and join various mass campaigns for the rights of the people and the oppressed.
SDA is a broad-based, inclusive, social-democratic and plural platform with no hierarchical structures. It will have consultative mechanisms at various tiers to run its affairs with a Spokesman/Coordinator responsible to the relevant tier of the organization. It will generate its own sources and rely on the support of the people and its partner organizations.
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