As the din and clutter of a noisy election begins to unfold in Pakistan and both the population and the parties get into election mould, it is important to take a look at some issues that the next set of aspiring parliamentarians need to own.

The leading among them are issues of health and education. These are the two factors that directly impact the quality of life and the state must take the lead and responsibility in assuring them for all its citizens.

It is, indeed, strange that we have crises of humongous proportions in the health sector when we look at what we need and what is actually available in the public sector healthcare facilities.

The country’s population has doubled twice since 1951 and Pakistan is being projected to be the fourth most populous country in the world by 2050 - so the area for family planning and birth control alone are well into the danger zone and need emergency handling.

Recently, the Economist Group posed a question to find out which child born in 2013 will be most likely to have a good quality of life. The life satisfaction index was measured against eight indicators like material well being, quality of family life, state of political freedoms, job security, personal physical security, climate, the quality of community life, governance and gender equality. Switzerland, considered the most boring within Europe, came out at the top. It was followed by Australia and New Zealand and the next were the Scandinavian countries. The average age expectancy in these countries was over 80 years.

Compare that to the situation here. Recent research has revealed that 54 percent of the most serious crises that the country suffered from in the last three years have all been health related as compared to only 3 percent that have been law and order related.

It has been a fire fighting exercise every time as in the cases of dengue virus, polio virus, the Punjab Institute of Cardiology episode, the Naegleria infection in Karachi, the recent cough syrup killing controversy and the ongoing child deaths from measles.

It is but stating the obvious that our state has failed to provide its citizens good healthcare. Political will to spend more money on healthcare is the most important ingredient to bring about an improvement in this scenario.

In Punjab, the country’s biggest province, there has been no Health Minister for the last five years as the Chief Minister opted to keep the health portfolio with himself. As it is not humanly possible to be able to focus in depth on several multi-dimensional issues simultaneously, the Health Department has suffered because of this.

It also points to healthcare not really warranting too much time or money as far as our politicians go. Somehow, cosmetics like the new public bus service and road networks are more important to them - even though they impact the lives of a select few residing in a particular city only.

Our priorities and mindsets have to change. Instead of the bulk of the nation being forced to rely on dum darood and half-baked quacks for their basic health problems, the next governments in power in the provinces have to do much more in this regard - as it is the first law of health economics that “increased spending on health leads to an increase in per capita GDP.” The 2 percent that is currently allocated to health has to increase manifold. It is a promise that must be made in the elections and then put into a practical shape afterwards.

The media and the civil society can play a more vigilant role in highlighting awareness of these problems, instead of neglecting them just as the state chooses to do. One of the demands of the doctor’s movement is to increase money allocation for public hospitals and a decrease in VIP protocol patients.

It is a new century and we have to recognise the importance of our most important resource, the citizens. Everyone has to play their role in turning things around. The last 65 years have been taken up by protecting the interests of the upper crust of our society alone. The next 65 must have a more egalitarian approach and the state cannot be allowed to absolve itself of its responsibilities towards its citizens. We too would like to be in the top 10 of the survey for the best place to be born in - in 2030, if not earlier.

Postscript: Last week one of the living legends of our times Munoo Bhai celebrated his 80th birthday. He is a playwright, a poet, a columnist and in general, a human being par excellence. Whatever he pens, he does it with great sensitivity and with gifted ability. He is charming and witty to boot. As long as we can produce thinkers and humanists like Munoo Bhai, there is hope for ourselves as people. The word ‘Bhai’, which means brother, has become an integral part of his name and I do not think a lot of people, including me, even know what his real name is. He was once being interviewed on television by Dildar Bhatti, another extremely witty and gifted media host (who died far too early), who suddenly sprang the question on Munoo Bhai: “What does your wife call you?” Munoo Bhai, never one to be fazed out even for a second, retorted in an instant ‘Dildar’ (beloved)!

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.  Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com Twitter: @tallatazim.