Book Review, Writer Mian Majid Ali Afzal:
The Reforms’ is a compiled book that consists of articles written by Mian Majid Ali Afzal in the course of past few years. Not only that he is a prolific writer and an academician, but also he is an insider with respect to governance structure in Pakistan. His experience, as a strategic and administrative adviser in a CPEC based project, has given him an edge over his contemporaries. This experience is reflected in his proposals for reforms in various sectors of governance in Pakistan. ‘The Reforms’ is divided into six parts and each part deals with a major sector for targeted policy options. Nevertheless, the title itself distinguishes this book from all others and gives us a hint about the inclination and style of its writer. When literature on Pakistan is studied, it can easily be analyzed that a major chunk of it comprises perpetual criticism. From ideological problems to governance issues, foreign policy complications to domestic political affairs, everyone is there to denounce and condemn the present state of affairs. Additionally, being a developing country -with potential but problem ridden- every critic compares Pakistan with other developed countries. Reading the literature, one comes across multiple examples of European to East Asian countries. On the basis of this single assertion, ground realties of Pakistan are often ignored in policy options, if any. One must not turn a blind eye towards the fact that utopian thinking hardly changes the actual conditions of a society. Rather revolution is often suggested as a remedy to all the problems faced by a society. However, has revolution, anywhere in world, improved the conditions of citizens at the grassroot level? Reading Animal Farm by George Orwell can illuminate the mental faculties of the reader what course revolution takes when clouds of emotionalism subside. Similarly, one-size-fits-all proposals, put forwarded by some writers, are often copied. Recently, transformation of PMDC into PMC is a case in point. Since, there is a dearth of good writers and think tanks, therefore this structural problem in academic writing is seldom discussed. That is why, we rarely come across any pragmatic solution that has both substance and gives clear path to an improved future. On the other hand, ‘The Reforms’ is such a piece of writing that overcomes these fallacies and deficiencies existing in the mainstream literature on Pakistan. It does not take one to a utopian proposal with claims that everything can be changed overnight, if these proposals are implemented. It is not limited to the discussion of all evils in the society to the point where a reader gets the impression that this country is beyond any improvement just like other writers do who project Pakistan as a failed state. Simultaneously, the writer does not indulge himself in the unjust flattering of Pakistan. He takes a problem, discusses its main contents, gives his perspective about the issue, and puts forward what he is needed for the improvement. One of the distinguishing features of ‘The Reforms’is the diversification of its contents. The first part covers major international concerns regarding Pakistan. For example, Nuclear program of Pakistan, the most controversial with world powers, is discussed in detail. Other major foreign policy moorings are also discussed in this section. Likewise, in the second part, the writer expresses his critical review of the state of international political economy and how Pakistan should respond to the challenges facing it in this domain. The third part mainly consists of social issues in Pakistan: Drug abuse, Narcoterrorism, Crime and transgender issues. The Fourth part takes a turn towards reforms for all major sectors. Educational, political, WASA and police reforms are included in this portion. Moving forward, fifth and sixth part discuss climate change and personalities respectively. In his way, this book gives a wholesome picture of the problems being faced by the state. Not only it identifies mistakes in the painting, but also proposes possible alterations in it. Another impressive feature of this book is the discourse and style of writing. Nowhere in this book, a reader finds pompous and ostentatious style like we find in many other writings. The writer follows a simple line of action: converse and resonate with the reader and give him as much substance as possible. Rather than distracting his readers from the original purpose, the author with his strict adherence to the essential details keeps his readers involved. For example, if someone is reading WASA reforms, he will not find technical details about the sewerage system in Pakistan, its history and other details, he can directly discern how the service delivery can be improved. If someone develops an interest, he can get these details, which are mainly a concern of a technical person. Despite giving the excellent reality-based proposals, however, this book misses a critical point: how these reforms can be implemented? Although some reforms have found way into the implementation phase like banning of plastic bags and WASA reforms, and their positive effects are being observed by the society, a major chunk is still missing. Bureaucratic red-tape and political exigency may be the hurdles, however, this needs to be addressed. Instead the writer should have added an outlook of his futuristic plan that focused effective implementation strategies. This would have added more flavor, and a motivation for the youth and policy makers. I would recommend this book to the public, policy makers and especially to all the students who are preparing for competitive exams. For the public, this will be an eye-opener about how to analyze and respond to the slogan of reforms from politicians especially during electoral campaign. Students will be the major beneficiary of this book, since this book will manage to enhance their observation. Often the talk of town is that the students lack innovation and critical evaluation skills, however, all these innovative proposals can become a strong foundation base on which students can built their edifice. I would like to congratulate Mr. Majid Ali on writing this prolific book. Undoubtedly, this book shows his wisdom and discretion through his prolific pen that has unleashed a new wave of solution oriented writing. Emerging writers should follow the suit. Hopefully, we expect more writings from him about the reforms in Pakistan,in the future.