Why do governments fail? | Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan


Part – II

Random thoughts

Last week I introduced an excellent book: ‘Why Nations Fail – The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty’ by MIT Professor/Economist, Daren Acemoglu, and Harvard Professor/Economist, James A Robinson.

The authors pointed out that inefficient, incapable, selfish rulers and the institutions set up and/or run by them, are mostly responsible for poverty. No country is poor solely due to its location, climate or neighbours, but only because of their rulers, bureaucrats and institutions.

Today I am introducing another excellent book, ‘Decline of Muslim States and Societies – The Real Root Causes and What Can Be Done Next’ by one of our own expatriates, Dr Misbah Islam, now a professor at Ottawa University. He originally hails from Lahore and is a graduate from UET, with an MS and a PhD from England. He worked in Pakistan for some time before moving to Canada.

This work by Dr Misbah and the efforts put into it are highly commendable. He read and/or screened more than 2000 documents, data items and historical events before preparing this diagnosis. In this book he analyses history, religion, politics and the media in order to make it a reliable and readable work. He has drawn his conclusions in the light of historic facts and has explained them in detail.

He has named as causes the usual bickering by Muslims about their dismal condition, viz: “The sad state of affairs is due to our inherent destiny. We deserve it because we have deviated from the path so clearly shown to us by the Quran and Sunnah and still we have not learnt any lessons. In a large part it is due to the monarchial system of government set up just after the period of Khulfae Rashida. We have neglected our institutions, especially education, for far too long. Since we are the recipients of the true message of God, we have been the subject of intense jealousy and intrigues, right from day one, and we have been too naive to recognise these threats or take adequate defensive measures.

“We believed in the notions of Kismet, predestination and ritual prayers so much, that it has affected all incentive and endeavours to improve. We have involved ourselves in intercessive conflicts and schisms that have sapped our energies, rendering us vulnerable against the relentless onslaught of enemies striking at the very heart of Muslim states. Our elite and professionals have not all been totally incompetent or ubiquitous. It is all the fault of the Mullah, and nobody else, and the one-liners never end.”

Furthermore, “in the gatherings where non-Muslims are present and the subject is broached, the opinions expressed are more circumspect. You hear them saying something like this: ‘You are unaware of, or do not know how, to practice democratic norms. You can brook no difference of opinion or allow freedom of expressions. You have suppressed and made chattels of half of your population (women) to the point of damaging their fundamental rights.

“ ‘You have been down so long and since you see no way out of your predicament, you are now venting your frustration through violence, to our peril. You are an undisciplined (rotten) lot and do not know how to organize or to stay focused. You missed the boat while the Europeans were transforming their societies through enlightenment and renaissance.” And the list of one-liners, however unpalatable, goes on.

There is, undoubtedly, a lot of truth in the complaints aired by both Muslims and non-Muslims. The problem lies in how to deal with the problems and how to rectify them. Dr Misbah has critically analysed the problems and given some suggestions for their rectification. He has also tried to define civilisation and society (both these terms are intertwined and frequently used). He explains civilisation as an encompassing term that characterizes the cumulative intellectual, cultural and social achievements evolved over a considerable period of time.

A society, he explains, is a more tangible term that can be viewed as a collection of people that are subject to, and work under, the rulers of a governing authority. A Muslim society implies, he says, that the majority of the population is live under Islamic rules. A Muslim state will have nominally Muslim ruling authority and may include both Muslim and non-Muslim societies.

I agree with Dr Misbah when he states that the media has been extremely impatient and averse to impartial reporting and investigation of the root causes for the current malaise.

According to Dr Misbah Islam, the main objectives of this book are: compilation of historical data pertaining to achievements by the Muslim society and individuals in a variety of fields; determination of a quantitative measure to gauge the progress or decline of the Muslim society; design of a map showing the dependencies between different types of deficiencies; application of system analysis technique to trace the progress or decline of the Muslim society over time; identification of basic factors contributing to the decline or progress of the Muslim society, their classification and taxonomy; outline processes for self-improvement and the amelioration of Muslim societies.

This excellent book contains 474 pages covering nine chapters and five appendices. Chapter 1 covers the purpose and scope, period of investigation and expected results. Chapter 2 defines terms and proposes a scheme for measurement. It also indicates how data has been collected and packaged. Chapter 3 catalogues and classifies the causes of decline; Chapter 4 deals with the behavioural issues at the individual and community levels.

Chapter 5 deals with issues related to religion, doctrine and practice; Chapter 6 deals with problems related to knowledge acquisition and use. Chapter 7 deals with deficiencies in political, governance and military matters and Chapter 8 describes the issues related to economy, production and trade.

Chapter 9 summarises the findings of analysis and points the way ahead. It also outlines a process for improvement of Muslim societies.

This book contains invaluable information for students, scholars, politicians, religious leaders, rulers, bureaucrats, international affairs scholars, etc.

I wish Prof Dr Misbah Islam all the best in his future endeavours. May Allah bless him, his family and his endeavours – Ameen.