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Was Bhutto’s nationalisation policy a mistake?

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gave hope and honour to Pakistan's poor and downtrodden people.

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Bhutto’s nationalization policy: A response to PM Gilani’s statement – by Suleman Akhtar

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani termed the nationalisation of educational institutions in 1972 a ‘mistake’. Speaking at the death anniversary of Zamindar College founder Nawab Sir Fazal Ali in Gujrat, Mr Gilani said that “it was a wrong move, and we cannot move forward without admitting our mistakes”.

There is indeed nothing wrong in admitting mistakes committed by his party in the past, but talking glibly or superficially on this subject is not doing justice to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalisation drive either. Nationalisation may not have succeeded back then but we cannot consider it a failure without closer examination. It was not nationalisation that failed but the way it was implemented led to its failure.

Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) swept West Pakistan on the heels of the euphoria of the late 1960s when socialist ideas and even talk of revolution were in the air. The PPP came up with a socialist manifesto, which appealed to the masses who were looking for social change. In 1971, ‘gharibi hataao’ (eradicate poverty) was the slogan used by Indira Gandhi during her election campaign in India. Bhutto’s ‘roti, kapra aur makaan’ (bread, clothing and shelter) slogan was an imitation of Ms Gandhi’s slogans. Mr Bhutto also tried to copy the Nehruvian model of development. He was under the impression that since it was a success in India, the same would be the case in Pakistan. But we faltered because of a number of reasons, more so because of the second round of nationalisation.

The first round of nationalisation was a relative success when Bhutto’s government nationalised the commanding heights of economy — insurance, banking and commerce sectors as well as heavy industry. The mistake that Bhutto made was handing over of these entities to the bureaucracy instead of professional corporate management. Our bureaucracy was the steel frame of the British Empire but has always been incapable of running businesses. By not bringing in professional people to run the nationalised sector, the first round of nationalisation failed due to the corrupt bureaucracy and pressure of trade unions. In the second round of nationalisation, Bhutto made the mistake of nationalising small and medium industry. This led to annoying the small trader who then became the backbone of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) movement, which also included the propertied class who were already against Bhutto because of land reforms and nationalisation.

Nationalising schools and colleges in 1972 was a good move by Mr Bhutto. It was the haphazard way in which it was done that unravelled a good policy. Most private schools and colleges in Pakistan were run by missionaries. Once they were nationalised, most missionary teachers left and we were unable to replace them with qualified staff. The lack of teacher training programmes was another factor that contributed to the fall in the standard of public education. Some of the nationalised institutions have either been completely or partially privatised in recent years, leading to an increase in fees. Lack of planning resulted in chaos. Education is the right of every child but the low literacy rate in Pakistan is proof that our state has failed in making it either free or at the very least affordable to all. High literacy rates can lead to an end of child and bonded labour and development.

The wave of neo-liberalism in recent decades has infected the PPP, which is why Prime Minister Gilani and his ilk talk about the benefits of privatisation. Instead of dubbing nationalisation of schools and colleges as a mistake, the prime minister should think of the negative effects of private sector education. It has created a disparity between the rich and the poor. We need to abandon our elitist mindset and come up with social welfare policies in the interests of universal literacy and education.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani termed the nationalisation of educational institutions in 1972 a ‘mistake’. Speaking at the death anniversary of Zamindar College founder Nawab Sir Fazal Ali in Gujrat, Mr Gilani said that “it was a wrong move, and we cannot move forward without admitting our mistakes”. There is indeed nothing wrong in admitting mistakes committed by his party in the past, but talking glibly or superficially on this subject is not doing justice to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalisation drive either. Nationalisation may not have succeeded back then but we cannot consider it a failure without closer examination. It was not nationalisation that failed but the way it was implemented led to its failure.

Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) swept West Pakistan on the heels of the euphoria of the late 1960s when socialist ideas and even talk of revolution were in the air. The PPP came up with a socialist manifesto, which appealed to the masses who were looking for social change. In 1971, ‘gharibi hataao’ (eradicate poverty) was the slogan used by Indira Gandhi during her election campaign in India. Bhutto’s ‘roti, kapra aur makaan’ (bread, clothing and shelter) slogan was an imitation of Ms Gandhi’s slogans. Mr Bhutto also tried to copy the Nehruvian model of development. He was under the impression that since it was a success in India, the same would be the case in Pakistan. But we faltered because of a number of reasons, more so because of the second round of nationalisation.

The first round of nationalisation was a relative success when Bhutto’s government nationalised the commanding heights of economy — insurance, banking and commerce sectors as well as heavy industry. The mistake that Bhutto made was handing over of these entities to the bureaucracy instead of professional corporate management. Our bureaucracy was the steel frame of the British Empire but has always been incapable of running businesses. By not bringing in professional people to run the nationalised sector, the first round of nationalisation failed due to the corrupt bureaucracy and pressure of trade unions. In the second round of nationalisation, Bhutto made the mistake of nationalising small and medium industry. This led to annoying the small trader who then became the backbone of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) movement, which also included the propertied class who were already against Bhutto because of land reforms and nationalisation.

Nationalising schools and colleges in 1972 was a good move by Mr Bhutto. It was the haphazard way in which it was done that unravelled a good policy. Most private schools and colleges in Pakistan were run by missionaries. Once they were nationalised, most missionary teachers left and we were unable to replace them with qualified staff. The lack of teacher training programmes was another factor that contributed to the fall in the standard of public education. Some of the nationalised institutions have either been completely or partially privatised in recent years, leading to an increase in fees. Lack of planning resulted in chaos. Education is the right of every child but the low literacy rate in Pakistan is proof that our state has failed in making it either free or at the very least affordable to all. High literacy rates can lead to an end of child and bonded labour and development.

The wave of neo-liberalism in recent decades has infected the PPP, which is why Prime Minister Gilani and his ilk talk about the benefits of privatisation. Instead of dubbing nationalisation of schools and colleges as a mistake, the prime minister should think of the negative effects of private sector education. It has created a disparity between the rich and the poor. We need to abandon our elitist mindset and come up with social welfare policies in the interests of universal literacy and education.

Source: Daily Times, 1 Nov 2010

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Abdul Nishapuri

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  • Here are two pertinent comments from the LUBP mail list:

    Suleman said:

    “GUJRAT: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Saturday declared that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had made a blunder in its first government in 1972 by nationalizing tens of thousands of schools and colleges in the country.”

    I’am alumnus of Government Zamindar College, Gujrat, the same place where PM Gilani gave that statement, yesterday. Having the lower middle-class background, I know it exactly that I wouldn’t be able to get admission in that college if it would have been privatized with
    some heavy fee-structure.

    We, all are well aware of the fact that it isn’t possible for the students who belong to marginalized sections of society to get admission in expensive Private Colleges and Universities. I don’t know how many of middle classiye study at LUMS, LSE, NCA, INDUS VALLEY, BNU, IQRA, BAHRIA etc, but I do now that most prestigious and
    Internationally acknowledged Engineering Universities and Medical Colleges in this country are still state owned.

    Parallel educational system for all the classes of society is still a far dream, but there was no need to give that type of statement and criticize Bhutto Sahab’s Policy, as representative of PPP. If he gave that statement in context of reconciliation as Shahbaz Sharif was also present there, then we don’t need this reconciliation which contradicts with the basic manifesto of PPP. I was present on the occasion in person, and I’am hopeful rather sure that we can win PPP this NA-105 all alone, without Sharif’s and Chaudhri’s.

    …………

    Saad said:

    I think Gilani did right bro. This is not the seventies, while the debate still remains its no longer a controversy whether socialism is an option.

    Socialism died with the cold war and BB shaheed already got rid of it during her tenure. While many middle class students cannot afford private universities, nationalising them was is certainly not an answer.

    The Bhutto government was fuuly capable of opening up its own educational institutions which it did at least in Sindh. So the acceptance by Gillani is a step in the right direction as amongst other things it would help to create confidence with regards the PPP in the private sector.

  • Nationalization of education sector in Pakistan badly affected our Christian community , education & health sector were obvious choice of occupation for them . Christian community had to transfer t control of school and colleges to state which do not treat minorities equally . Thus resulted in downfall of whole Christian community

  • I THINK WITHOUT Party CADRE NOT Established its a early Decision but after affects developed a new middle Class and oppressed people are beneficiary but big stake holder of this decision is bureaucracy and they are more stronger !

  • I think Mr. PM should avoid passing such statements publicly as it hurts the sentiments of those who love Mr. Bhutto.Moreover,PM is enjoying this status only because he was elected for this post by PPP.Mr. Bhutto’s nationalization policy of schools and collges at that time was the need of this country.It was much needed to disseminate highest education to the down trodden but desrving talented Pakistani youth.He dreamed a country with the highest literacy rate.It was alos aimed to provide job security to the employees working in these private schools and colleges and to provide them a safe gaurd against the explotation made at the hands of the owners of these institutions.The point to ponder is that if his policy of nationalization was wrong at that time then why do the employees of these institutions resist against any move made by any government for de-nationalization even during the present era.He made fundamental reforms in all walks of life,especially in health and education sector to turn Pakistan into a healthy and literary country.This nation and this country will always be indebted for the steps taken by him in the best of public interest.He sacrificed his priceless life to secure the future of Pakistan.He was undoubtedly a visionary leader with focus on the future of this country.LONG LIVE BHUTTO SHAHEED.

  • I think that prime minister Jilani is right in finding the nationalisation policy of Bhutto government a mistake-This is not the only mistake that PPP under Bhutto Saheb made–

    Bhutto Saheb could have saved East Pakistan from seceeding-