On the 75th anniversary of independence when we look back, what do you find? Did we realIse our potential and did we achieve what we set out to do? Have we proved ourselves worthy sons of the great Father of the Nation?
To be honest, the record is a mixed one. When we log successes and failures, we find the scale tipping on the negative side. First, let us recount our achievements.
At birth the enemies said Pakistan will not survive. But we did, in a hostile regional and international environment and we also thrived with very little resources at our disposal initially. We fought three wars against India and every time we foiled the designs of our enemies.
We started with an almost nil industrial base. But soon we overcame this lack and built many new industries, especially the textile industry which is one of the biggest in the world. We set up the steel industry and other engineering units. We built dams and developed our agriculture to not only achieve food self-sufficiency but having enough surplus for exports.
As part of our defence mechanism we became a nuclear power despite strong opposition by the world powers. We strengthened our relations with the Muslim countries with the result that now Pakistan is the leading voice in the Islamic world. With their achievements, talented Pakistanis are earning plaudits for themselves and making Pakistan proud in many parts of the world.
But now let us take stock of our failures.
First of all we failed to build a just society envisaged by Quaid-e-Azam, who wanted to establish a system based on the egalitarian principles of Islam. Instead, we have established a capitalist system which is highly exploitative in its nature and composition. We have a small elite, who live a luxurious life, while for the majority living is a daily grind. Over the past seven decades the rich have become richer while the poor have sunk deeper into poverty.
The country’s resources have been plundered by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Pakistan’s imports are double its exports, while its industrialization has not expanded sufficiently to close the gap. The ratio between tax collection and exports and between exports and GDP is among the lowest in the world. The country faces a mounting burden of foreign debt, and today new loans are contracted only to repay past loans, with nothing left for development projects. In recent years, rising inflation has broken the back of the common man. To boot, there is no relief in sight and no prospect that things will improve in the coming days.
On the political side, we failed to establish democracy on strong foundations. Continued political instability has weakened the state mainly because of an unending cycle of martial laws followed by stints in power by civilian governments. In this perspective Pakistan remains a soft state and projects a bad image on the world stage.
In April, former premier Imran Khan was ousted from office through a no-confidence vote after being blamed for mismanaging the economy during his three and a half years in office. Imran Khan claimed he was “overthrown” by a “US-backed, imported government.” His supporters took to the streets in protest, and he remains a destabilizing political force.
Imran Khan’s successor, Shehbaz Sharif, appears unequal to the gigantic task of rebuilding the economy. He is unsure of his feet and also unsure of his tenure. Observers also doubt his capacity to deal with the multifarious problems of governance.
What is the way forward for Pakistan now that it is 75 years old? Clearly, things cannot go on as they are doing now. It is time to set things right. And the sooner this is done the better. The youth of Pakistan, seeing the political and economic mess around, is despondent. Facing what looks to them a hopeless situation, many of them are trying to go abroad in search of greener pastures.
Pakistanis are immensely talented. For the flowering of their talent, they need an enabling, conducive environment. It is the duty of the civilian and military leadership of the country to put their act together, sit down and sort things out.
The need is to frame a new social contract to plug the gaps and remove the hurdles that have stood in the way of Pakistan realizing its potential. The first and foremost requirement in this connection is to stamp out corruption from all sectors of life. This is important as corruption is the route through which the rich become richer and money flows abroad.
The second priority is to ensure political stability without which economic progress is impossible. A new code of political conduct should be formulated which should, among other things, lay down that no party would be allowed to topple a duly elected government during its five-year term through unfair means like horse trading and vote buying.
Last but not the least, there should be undiluted rule of law and justice in the country. The current situation in this regard is highly unsatisfactory. The judicial system favours the powerful and the rich and discriminates against the poor and the weak. This must change if we want Pakistan to become a strong, prosperous and progressive country in the days ahead.