When India and Pakistan got independence in 1947, Pakistan literally had all the advantage in the world as compared to India, they did not have the extraordinary diversity of India to deal with, they had a far smaller portion of land to govern, had some of the most fertile lands in the world and even had more per capita GDP than India. But even then while India has gone on to become a 3 trillion Dollar economy, Pakistan has been struggling with the same economic, political and terrorism-based problems since the past 75 years.
The question is what is so terribly wrong about Pakistan’s political model that they’ve been in turmoil since 75 years, apart from the Chinese is debt trap what are the most critical problems in Pakistan that is stunting the growth of its economy?
India and Pakistan both got independence in the same year, but even then India has had a democracy for 75 years with one emergency in between but in Pakistan there have been 23 Prime Ministers since 1947 and none of them have completed their full term. The question is why?
Well firstly time and again the military has ousted the Prime Minister and took control of the country. In fact for more than one third of its years since independence, Pakistan has been ruled by its military rather than the government. So the bigger question over here is why does this happen so often in Pakistan and what is the fundamental problem?
This is because of something called the Doctrine of Necessity. In simple words it’s a principle in governance that gives extra Constitutional Powers to certain people to do unlawful things in a lawful manner, basically Dictatorship Powers. This came into existence because in 1954 the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court named Mohammad Munir, reversed the decision of the Sindh High Court and in a way gave the power to the Governor General of Pakistan and this dissolved the first constituent assembly of Pakistan after their independence and after that the Pakistan army Chiefs have used this Doctrine of Necessity again and again to justify their military takeover from the democratically elected government.
In 1958, General Ayub Khan did it, then in 1977 General Zia-Ul-Haq did it and then in 1999 General Parvez Musharaff did it. So every 20 odd years the Doctrine of Necessity was being used to overthrow the Government. Because of this extreme instability and unprecedented power of the army three things happened that shook the foundations of Pakistan’s development.
Firstly, the important Government and Military Officers were more concerned about protecting their power from each other and making money for themselves rather than taking long-term risk to grow the economy. As a result corruption and crony capitalism grew stronger and stronger in Pakistan.
For example, Aseem Saleem Bajwa, a retired Pakistani three-star General who served as the chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority from November 2019 to August 2021. He was also Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on information and broadcasting when Imran Khan was the Prime Minister of Pakistan. In June 2020 he signed an official declaration form disclosing all of his assets and liabilities as Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan and in this form Bajwa declared an investment of only 3.1 million Rupees and that too in his wife’s name, apart from this he declared no immobile property held outside of Pakistan and no business Capital outside of Pakistan but as it turns out Saleem Bajwa actually owns 175 franchises of Papa John’s Pizza that too in the United States. He started this business in 2004 which is coincidentally the same year when he was appointed as a Lieutenant Colonel under Parvez Musharaff, who was the dictator of Pakistan during that time. And starting with one franchise he expanded to three then opened 20 more in 2006 and another 28 in 2008 and according to the report by Fact Focus, this five-year investment’s cost alone would amount to almost 52.2 million Dollars. This is the level of corruption that too from a Lieutenant Colonel and Assistant to the Prime Minister.
Similarly, the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and has been fined 10.6 million Dollars for his unaccounted fortune in the form of offshore companies.
Secondly, because of this extremely unstable government and no prime minister having completed the term, none of the parties were fully able to execute their plans for the development of Pakistan. In fact, they were more focused on keeping the power by pleasing the people than actually developing the economy and the classic example is the same is the petrol subsidy of Pakistan. As of 14th May 2022, the Government of Pakistan was providing a subsidy of 31 rupees per litre on petrol, 73 rupees per litre on diesel and a subsidy of 5 rupees per unit on electricity and the reason was obviously to curb inflation so that the common man does not suffer.
In short to give the common man an illusion that the economy was in control so that the party could remain in power.
So, since the government was selling oil in loss, it was losing billions of Dollars in just oil subsidies. Secondly, their Forex reserves were depleting very fast and thirdly, when they approached IMF for a bailout, IMF told them to get rid of your oil subsidies first.
So in order to secure IMF funding, the government of Pakistan suddenly started cutting down on these subsidies and as a result, the petrol prices skyrocketed from 150 Rupees per litre to 234 Rupees per litre in just 20 days, as a result inflation obviously shot up and the country went into an even deeper economic mess. This is the second fundamental problem with the political system of Pakistan which is short-sightedness and more focus on Power and people-pleasing policies than the actual development of the country.
And lastly, with such an unstable government and such short-term development plans very few investors were willing to bet their money in Pakistan and if you look at the numbers you will see that while Pakistan’s maximum foreign direct Investments stood at 5.6 billion dollars, in India, Maharashtra alone which is half the size of Pakistan both in terms of land and population saw almost 18 billion Dollars in FDI this year which is almost nine times more than Pakistan’s current FDI inflow.
Now let’s come to the recent developments in Pakistan starting from Imran Khan.
Imran Khan started a party in 1996 called PTI or Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaf, which means movement for justice and after 22 years in Pakistani politics, finally in 2018 he became the Prime Minister of Pakistan but then even Imran Khan’s party members didn’t support him and he lost the no-confidence vote. This is how Shehbaz Sharif became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, so now he will be able to hold power until October 2023, when the next election is due to be held.
But this is where Imran Khan’s speeches started a chaos in Pakistan. In his speeches he blamed the Army, accused the Government and even spoke of corruption and collusion with foreign powers, but the fun fact is that this is true, but nothing new to Pakistan even for Imran Khan’s own ministers. But these speeches created such an impact on Pakistani people that Pakistan’s Electronic media announced a ban on the live airing of Imran Khan’s speeches and this was because of his extreme criticism of the army.
The Election Commission barred him from contesting elections or holding public office for five years and this is where the protest started catching fire. On 25th of October 2022 Imran Khan called his supporters to join the largest long march in country’s history from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad to demand early elections in Pakistan and just one and a half weeks later hell broke loose in Punjab and Imran Khan was shot. Immediately after this happened the support for Imran Khan increased by a large extent and the protest clearly showed how much power Imran Khan possesses in Pakistan.
But while the entire nation and the world were focused on the political turmoil of Pakistan, something even more crazy was happening in the exact same country, and they were the floods in Pakistan.
During the floods almost one-third of the entire Pakistan was under water and these floods have been so bad that in just four months they ended up killing 1350 people, 900 000 livestock, washed away 1 million houses breached 40 reservoirs, collapsed 220 bridges and costed of the economy 10 billion Dollars and displaced 50 million people which is almost 25 percent of the entire country’s population. This led to shortage in grains, poverty and economic slowdown.
This brings us to the last part of Pakistan’s challenge which is internal separatist movement and their external conflict with Taliban.
The Balochistan province in Pakistan is located in Afghanistan’s southwest corner, is surrounded by Iran on the west, Punjab and Sind on the east, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the North and the Arabian Sea on the south and the reason why this region is extremely important to Pakistan is because it is said to have over 1 trillion Dollars worth of Natural Resources in the form of gold, copper, Black Pearl, Oil, valuable stones, coal, chromite and natural gas on top of that Balochistan also has an oceanic coastline that stretches along with one of the world’s most important shipping routes called the Strait of Hormuz.
In spite of extracting a lot of resources out of Balochistan the separatist group claim that Pakistan has never paid attention into the people of Balochistan and if you look at the numbers they do seem to be true. The literacy rate of Balochistan is just 40 percent, by 2015 Balochistan had by far the highest poverty rate at 42.2 percent which was twice as high as Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
So the separatists believe that the Pakistani government only wants Balochistan’s resources but doesn’t care about its people, so they want their own State and want to use their own resources and Sea routes to build their economy to support themselves.
As the economic crisis of Pakistan is worsening the separatist movement in Balochistan is gaining more and more momentum and this has been happening rapidly over the past 50 years, so this is yet another threat to Pakistan
Lastly, we have Pakistan’s conflict with Afghanistan which is another external conflict.
So, in short the Government and Army of Pakistan is sinking in corruption, the former prime minister being shot has already triggered a sense of insecurity in the country, the people-pleasing subsidies are now causing inflation and Forex depletion, China’s dead trap is already taking away their money, they’ve already faced one of the worst floods in their history and then there is an internal conflict with Balochistan and an external conflict with Taliban in Afghanistan.
This is the history, root cause, conflicts and tragedies of Pakistan.
Moving on to the lessons, the first thing we need to learn from Pakistan is that every Scandal revealed is a black spot on the system of our country. In case of Pakistan we clearly saw how the cases of corruption have destroyed the faith of both the people and investors. In India’s case whether that is the Nirav Modi scam, the ABG Shipyard scam or the 2G scam, each one of them state a critical vulnerability of our system and we should not take them lightly.
Secondly, there are policies that are meant for the growth of our country and there are policies meant to consolidate power and please people. In case of Pakistan the oil subsidy was clearly a people-pleasing policy and in case of India it is the pension scheme and freebie politics that is right now happening in India and we the people of democracy need to keep a check on our politicians such that they work for the long-term growth of our economy and not for the short-term pleasures of our people.
And thirdly, just like Pakistan is ignoring Balochistan, we have ignored the North-Eastern states for a very long time and just like the people of Balochistan are tired and frustrated it won’t be long when the Seven Sisters of India would be in the same state. So we need to push our government to give equal importance to every single state in India so that all the Indians from all across the country regardless of their State witness development and growth in their life.