By Safiullah Shahwani
Dawn of democratic governance had already brightened dark corridors of the world in late 19th century when the Muslims of Indo-Pakistan were still struggling to shatter the clutches of slavery. Sub-continent, which Muslims had ruled for centuries, had become an unwelcoming abode for them with communal antagonism on the one hand; and, the English atrocities, on the other. Muslim identity, culture and faith were endangered. This alarming situation led the Muslims of Indo-Pak subcontinent to demand for a separate homeland. The founder of this nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who turned this ideal into a reality, once said, “Pakistan not only means freedom and independence but the Muslim Ideology which has to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure; and, which, we hope others will share with us.” As such, sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children paid off and Pakistan was carved out on the map of the world. Muslims of sub-continent, the minorities and Ummah living abroad had pinned great expectations on this nascent country of Muslims. Seventy years on, this country has survived the most formidable storms ever and even today she braces herself to face the odd circumstances. Nevertheless, covering long distances in the right direction notwithstanding, many more challenges are still waiting to defy the willpower of this nation. These challenges include the question of national integration, achieving an institutional balance, strengthening democratic process, expressing state’s will through a well-articulated and robust foreign policy, rule of law, respect for diversity and turning the fault lines of terrorism into havens of peace and tranquility. Interestingly, history herself bears witness to the fact that Pakistan has withstood the wildest of storms in the yesteryears; and, this is enough to suggest that foregoing challenges too shall be tamed down by this nation. This essay will unfold the achievements and highlight the challenges that lay ahead of this nation.
Pakistan has travelled long distances and achieved great milestones in the field of education since her inception. At the time of independence, the number of schools and colleges in this country were limited while there was only one university in the entire country—the University of Punjab. The most active platform of the Muslims that perhaps gave an impetus and vision of independence was Aligarh University that was left behind in India. But today this country has a cluster of schools, colleges and universities, both publicly and privately owned, which have produced great brains to serve the people. Pakistan has also established a network of vocational training centres for enhancing skill-based economy. Moreover, free and compulsory education has been made mandatory under the article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. Literacy rate of women, which was alarmingly low in the initial stages has been boosted up, leading to the empowerment of women in all the fields of life. According to UNESCO, the overall literacy rate in Pakistan in 1950 was 14% which has increased up to 58 per cent as of 2012. These figures testify that Pakistan has achieved considerable success in spreading literacy and education since her inception.
Additionally, industrial sector of Pakistan has grown exponentially over the years; not only employing a large number of workforce but also increasing the exports of Pakistan. At the time of independence, most of the industrial units were left behind in India as a result of the partition. However, after the creation of Pakistan, industrial sector was focused by different governments, among whom, the government of the then President Ayub Khan deserves special mention who rendered state sponsorship to industry during his rule. Such state sponsorship of industry soon enabled Pakistan to have a strong industry with high production. According to a report of The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Pakistan’s industrial sector is the second largest individual sector of the economy, after agriculture, accounting for 25 % of GDP; whereas, at the time of independence it only accounted for 1.8 per cent of the GDP. This indicates that Pakistan has travelled long distances from where it started in 1947.
Pakistan has not only achieved great milestones in the field of Sports but has also promoted women’s sports internationally, defying many stereotypes. Squash, hockey, cricket, and other sporting fields have been the areas where players of Pakistan have left their mark on the pages of history. When it comes to Squash, Pakistan is proud to be producing players like Jahangir Khan who is famed for winning 555 matches in a row. Moreover, Pakistan has also won 30 British Open titles, 14 World Open Titles in Squash. Additionally, the achievements of Jansher Khan who has to his credit eight titles of World Open are a matter of pride for Pakistan. Similarly, Cricket remained another area where Pakistan has remained unbeatable on many great international fronts. She won the World Cup of 1992 and the T-20 World Cup in 2009, apart from series of other victories. Pakistan has also to its credit winning four World Championships of Hockey and ruling the world of Hockey for long. Similarly, Pakistan’s international Women Cricket team has been playing international cricket since 1997. Athletes like Rabia Ashiq who ran 800-meter dash for Pakistan in 2012 London Olympics Games, Kalsoom Hazara who has won 6 medals in South Asian games in martial arts, Hajra Khan the football team captain of Pakistan, Naseem Hamed winning title of fastest South Asian Woman in South Asian Games in 2010 and many more women have defied the stereotypes in Pakistan, adding to the achievements of Pakistan in the arena of sports day in and day out.
Moreover, Pakistan has a very vibrant media which is considered one of the most outspoken media of the South Asia. Electronic media is a late joining but Press had always been proactive in Pakistan since her birth. Newspapers like Pakistan Times, Daily Dawn, Nawa-e-Waqat and Jang were among the dailies that had always been on the forefront to criticize and check the ambitious designs of rulers as and when required. However the introduction of electronic media at the turn of second millennium has injected a new life in the body of media in Pakistan. It has been a champion of good governance, accountability, independent judiciary and democratic norms. According to a report of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), there were around 2000 journalists prior to the introduction of electronic media which has increased up to 20,000 now. Moreover, the FM radio has been another source of constant and uninterrupted source of information for the people of Pakistan in the recent years. Many scandals of the politicians and bureaucrats have been highlighted by media on daily basis. Media, in fact, has become a true watchdog on any attempts of malpractices in Pakistan and this stands one the most valuable achievements of Pakistan during these 70 years.
It should not come as a shock to the listening ears that Judiciary in Pakistan was criticized for being subservient to the wishes of dictators; however, it has asserted its powers in the recent years and has exhibited independence to a great extent. Undoubtedly, there were times when judiciary in Pakistan validated martial laws under Doctrine of Necessity but it has been a champion of democratic norms, justice and good governance in the country in the recent decade. The duel of former dictator General Pervaiz Musharraf with judiciary is a case in point which led to an unprecedented lawyers’ movement in the country back in 2007. This duel subsequently led to the fortifying of the independence of judiciary for which the then party in power, Pakistan Peoples Party, took constitutional steps under 18th constitutional amendment in 2010 and later the independence of judiciary was further enshrined under the 19th Constitutional Amendment. As such, Judiciary in Pakistan has become a champion of human rights and good governance, apart from its basic function: dispensation of justice. Many of the suo motu notices taken by the Apex Court over a series of issues and executive shortcomings speak volumes about an independent and vibrant judiciary which is a precious achievement for the country so far.
Pakistan has also played a very positive role in upholding human rights and discouraging violent modes of expression, extremism and terrorism giving an evidence to the international community that this nation is a peace loving and peace seeking nation. This desire for peace and tranquility is shrouded in the words of the founder of the nation who, after the creation of Pakistan, once said: “I sincerely hope that they (relations between India and Pakistan) will be friendly and cordial. We have a great deal to do…and think that we can be of use to each other and to the world.” In fact, this is the reason why Pakistan has been a frontline state in the war against terrorism for the past one and half decade and has sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives of man, women, children and soldiers for maintaining peace and order not only in Pakistan but also in rest of the world. The founder of the nation, during a broadcast talk to the people of USA in February 1948, said, “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation.” The constant support of cause of Kashmir since 1947 by Pakistan is a translation of this principled stance that was advocated by the founder of the nation. Moreover, the contribution of Pakistan in the peacekeeping missions of United Nations Organisation (UNO) is yet another example that testifies her belief in the peace loving and peace seeking motto. Reliance of the great powers of the world for maintenance of peace and prosperity in the world in general and in South Asia in particular amounts to achievement of Pakistan as a key player for maintenance of peace and prosperity of humanity.
To begin with the challenges that Pakistan has been facing since last 70 years, the issue of evolving a democratic culture in Pakistan has been a major failure on the part of subsequent governments in the country. Pakistan had to face the democratic destabilisation right from the earlier days and it took the country 9 long years to formulate her first constitution. Moreover, long spells of dictatorial regimes further undermined the political process in Pakistan that led to the rebellion of smaller federating units. Provincial autonomy had remained a contested issue in Pakistan and it was only under 18th constitutional amendment in 2010 that the federal government was able to do away with concurrent list that was long viewed as a bottleneck in the way of provincial autonomy by the province. Further, the clauses of the constitution, such as 58 (2) b, were also wiped off in the same amendment that had always been used a Damocles Sword hanging on the heads of the elected governments. Notwithstanding all these, the democratic culture in Pakistan is still in toddling position. Heads of the political parties own political parties very much akin to business ventures whose heads are not even elected democratically, despite fulfillment of the codal formalities, but in a dynastic order. Appreciation for diversity is a core trait of the democratic societies; and, diverse societies believe in the doctrine of Unity in Diversity. Appreciation of diversity has been lacking in Pakistan and out of 73 languages spoken in the country, only four are recognized by the state. Moreover, tolerance for difference of opinion is the fundamental requirement for evolution of the democratic culture but this too seems to be very weak. In short, these and myriad other issues on democratic screen call for further nourishing the democratic culture which is, perhaps, in its embryonic structure now.
In addition to democratic culture, Pakistan also faces challenge of terrorism that has somewhat crippled the economy of the country for the past one and half decade, specifically. There had always been issues of ethnic and secular terrorism, which aimed at more autonomy through armed struggle such as in Balochistan and the erstwhile East Pakistan. In case of the latter it proved disastrous, leading to creation of an Independent State out of half of Pakistan. Unfortunately, as a result of volatile international structure of the politics and governance, religious terrorism also crept in Pakistan. The two Afghan Wars of 1979 and 2001 onwards led to new phenomenon of Talibanisation that wreaked havoc in this country. Phenomenon of suicide bombing was never known to Pakistan until the second Afghan War when America declared War on Terrorism, making Pakistan a frontline ally. Handling of such delicate issues required very cautious treatment by the powers that were at the helm of the affairs at that very nick of the time. However, the cataclysmic impact of terrorism in the country to this date suggests that the rulers had failed to weigh the delicacy of the situation then which literally lit an inferno in the entire country, leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives so far.
Apart from the internal religious terrorism, nurturing inter-sect and inter-faith harmony in the country is yet another colossal challenge that the rulers in driving seat have failed to address effectively so far. The emergence of sectarian myopia is perhaps manifestation of a larger game played two Muslim countries owing to ideological rift in Middle East. Pakistan should have kept a closed check on the foreign funding of any militia groups of any sect, maintaining neutrality. Hate speeches and hate literature were also not controlled effectively which led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people from many sects in Pakistan. Balochistan and Karachi and other tribal agencies also remained a hotbed for this ugly game. Moreover, the religious minorities were also under attack by different mobs in the country. This sorry state of affairs on the front of inter-sect and interfaith harmony speak volumes about the inability of the governments to nurture goodwill among different sects and faiths.
The economic growth in Pakistan is also stunted as sustainable development plans had not been the priority of governments so far. Economy is the backbone of any society and all the other social phenomena depend upon the strength of the economy of a particular country, whether that is political stability, exploitation of the untapped resources, generation of employment opportunities, improving infrastructure and communication. There are four major pillars of Pakistan’s economy through which a big revenue can be generated. These include agriculture, industry, minerals and fisheries. But it seems that governments have failed to exploit the potential of Pakistan to the fullest as agriculture practices of Pakistan, in majority cases, are outdated; industry is at the verge of collapse owing to looming crises, mineral wealth of Pakistan is a victim of bad deals made with foreign governments, Saindak and Rekodiq projects of Balochistan cases in point, while sea food potential is not exploited to the fullest despite having 1100 kilometers long coastal lines. This sorry state of affairs has resulted in caloric poverty, high mortality rate, stunted growth, calcium deficiency, burgeoning unemployment bulge, lowest per capita incomes, slow growth of GDP, reduced exports and increasing debts. Economy, hence, remains another area where performance of governments reflects failure on many counts.
A silver gleam of hope is always there at the centre of the darkest of clouds. Therefore, all these challenges though, few steps in the right direction can perform miracles in turning the table in the favour of Pakistan. Among these steps, the reshaping of Pakistan’s foreign policy can be one of the best measures in the right direction. Pakistan has to keep the well-being of its people at the top-most priority and should take decisions that reflect, not only the interest and aspirations of current generation but the generations to come. This can happen when Pakistan has strong institutions in place; and, amongst all the institutions, the mother institution—parliament, has to be made supreme in the country so that the genuine voice of the masses is heard from that platform. Moreover, the current world is a world of knowledge based economies and knowledge is treated as commodity today which is well checked for its quality. In this context, Pakistan needs to improve its credentials of the quality knowledge and review its preferences of budgetary allocation of different sectors. Debt should never be a priority with the governments; they should, rather, open their arms for trade with any country that can lead to the prosperity of this nation. Innovation, science and technology should be promoted to turn the consumer economy of this country into a producer economy on all fronts. Last but not the least, Pakistan should evolve its system into a true federal state with guiding principles of Islam as basic source of legislation.
In a nutshell, whereas Pakistan has achieved great milestones during these seventy years, she has also been facing formidable challenges on many fronts. The gaps left by the subsequent governments in different fields including energy, peace and order, economy, education, institutional balance, foreign policy and evolving a true democratic culture need to be covered sooner than later! Improvement in many areas already achieved, as highlighted in the foregoing paragraphs in details, are enough evidences to suggest that enormous potential lies in Pakistan for improvement and covering all the loopholes that call for action provided a genuine political will, national integration, and ownership of every inch of the country is promoted with equality of opportunities for all the federating units. Having said all this, national character building is key to development for any nation as Holy Prophet (PBUH) built the character of Muslims in first instance which later led to the conquest of hearts and minds of people. The power of character and uprightness in a nation’s life is also recognised by contemporary leaders as Dalai Lama once said, “In our struggle for freedom, Truth is the only weapon we possess.”
Safi Ullah Shahwani is a former journalists and a freelance writer. He has authored a novel An Innocent Dream Bleeds. The above-mentioned essay was written back in 2017 and is published for the students who aim to prepare essays for competitive exams. The author can be reached at Shahwani786@gmail.com