In Pakistan, for unknown reasons, longevity and early death are often seen as matters of fate and divine intervention. But recent advancement in developed countries tells another story. By using scientific methods and better services for health, education, clean drinking water, sanitation and doing away with structural violence, the life expectancies in these countries have been increased to a great extent, as compared to the so-called third world.Pakistanis also facing a plethora of social and economic issues, which are widening the distance between the state and its citizens. Inadequate turnover of voters could remain stagnant in upcoming general elections due to feeble access of citizens to basic and fundamental services. Having more support of voters in the assembly and providing services to voters is still a distant dream for the citizens who are playing a critical role in ameliorating democracy. Political manifestos are a rigorous reflection of citizens’ agenda, which no political or even military regimes have been able to materialise until now. Economic and social development does not nurture unless citizens have access to quality education and health services.Similarly, the political manifestos are not just a narrative of commitments, but stem from the passion of a political party to appear different and attract the votes of common citizens.A recently launched report by UNICEF on out-of-school girls in Punjab shows a dire lack of investment on women. Without this investment, we are ensuring that new women leaders do not enter our social fabric. There are many personalities who have played a phenomenal role in reinvigorating democracy, like Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir and other champions of arts and culture — we need more of these women. There are 5.06 million girls out of school in Punjab, and this is a bleak picture of political commitment on gender justice. The will of the people should not be tested. Our political leadership will be in for a rude awakening if their needs are not addressed soonWe don’t need more roads or Jalsas, we need our leaders to focus on the real issues and fix their performances. We have ample scientific evidence on social issues and this reliable data can direct the course of actions for political parties. A victory in the general elections or influencing the system to create political turmoil is not a win. On the other hand, adequate investment in people could go a long way in helping Pakistan finally stand on its feet.As the story goes, after the Cold War, psychologists remained concerned about the problem of violence.However, at the same time, they were broadening the compass of their concerns and creating the treacherous problem of structural violence. In light Johan Gultung’s work, we can safely say that undermining citizens’ agenda in development gives birth to structural violence or indirect violence.To understand the lethal effects of undermining citizens’ agenda in development, as a form of indirect violence, we can see that direct violence refers to physical violence that harms and kills people quickly, it produces somatic trauma or, in some cases, total incapacitation.In contrast, indirect violence kills indirectly and slowly, curtails life spans by depriving people of material and non-material resources.In our society, direct violence is noticed and censored only because it is dramatic and personal. On the other hand, indirect violence or undermining the needs of the public remains unnoticed because it is a common practice in our country and impersonal.In our country, only direct violence is detected because it may involve an acute insult to the physical wellbeing of an individual or group but, conversely, indirect violence stays out of common sight because it is a chronic threat to wellbeing. Direct violence occurs intermittently, as discrete events, while structural violence is ongoing and continuous.So what is the solution? We can focus on certain milestones for development,namely,respect for human rights, cleaner environment, safe drinking water, better education facilities and helping women meet their basic needs. This is only possible through people-centred development initiatives. Such efforts can also cause a chain reaction and bring people above the poverty line.However, such change is only possible if the wellbeing of citizens is kept in mind while making policies on development. Therefore, governments need to play their due roles to ensure respect for fundamental civil and political rights.In the current situation, while we have seen the country improve on some fronts there is still a long way to go. Citizens are not able to effectively contribute to the electoral process due to a lack of interest, and opt for non-democratic solutions that have never been proved sustainable.Instead of coming up with a redundant 11-point manifesto after every five years, our politicians need to go for political reforms that are beyond structural dynamics, people-centred, and offer safe spaces to protect women and marginalised communities.The writer is development professional who applies the citizen lens on developmental issuesPublished in Daily Times, June 14th 2018.