Bloom Gloom and Doom
Despite the fact, political power in Pakistan has been concentrated in the hands of the bureaucratic-military elite who were the British raj‘s successors. Dr. Ishrat Husain, former dean of IBA and former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, contends that Pakistan’s bureaucracy was superior to that of today for the first 30 to 40 years. However, Pakistan has evolved over time, becoming more complex, and its people have come to expect more from the government. Despite all of the mega-problems it faced, including the challenge of rehabilitating millions of refugees, Pakistan got off to a flying start after independence. During the first four decades of its independence, the country’s economic and social indicators were among the top ten in the world. However, since the early 1990s, Pakistan has been falling behind on both of these fronts, even when compared to its South Asian neighbors.
Dr. Ishrat Husain’s central thesis is that Pakistan’s economic history can be divided into two distinct periods: 1947 to 1990 and 1990 to 2017. Pakistan’s economic and social indicators ranked among the top ten developing countries for the first four decades after independence (ahead of India). Pakistan’s economic performance has been so poor since 1990 that both social and economic indicators have lagged behind those of its South Asian neighbors, such as India and Bangladesh. Pakistan has approached the IMF twelve times since the 1980s, India once, Bangladesh three times, and Sri Lanka once (twice).
What factors contributed to Pakistan’s demise as a top performer? When did the deterioration of institutions begin? Who is primarily responsible for dragging the country down to its current state of illegitimacy? Why did Pakistan’s ruling class fail to forge a national consensus on critical issues? What is the future of Pakistan in the aftermath of rampant corruption and a self-defeating system of patronage and nepotism? Finally, how can Pakistan rekindle economic growth while also ensuring the well-being of its citizens?
There are numerous myths about Pakistan’s economy and politics that pervade the media and academia and serve as a propaganda tool against the state. There are many myths about the political economy of Pakistan, including a “popular hypothesis” that Pakistan’s economy suffered primarily as a result of terrorism in the post-9/11 period, however, between 2002 and 2008, “during a period of acute violence and terror activity in Pakistan, including assassination attempts and terrorist attacks on the sitting president and prime minister,” the country experienced a “remarkable turnaround.” On average, growth rates ranged from 6% to 7%. The investment/GDP ratio peaked at 23%, and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows topped $5 billion.”
There is another popular ‘myth,’ according to which “generous foreign assistance has been the primary determinant of Pakistan’s economic success or failure,” but facts and figures show that the country received more aid from friendly countries even during periods of elected governments but failed to boost economic growth or improve social indicators. Hence it is not merely a matter of generous foreign assistance, rather, the most important determinant of an economic turnaround is governance rather than foreign aid.
However, Dr. Ishrat Husain believes that the most significant setback to Pakistan’s progress occurred in the 1970s, during the tenure of the charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose bureaucratic reforms, most notably the withdrawal of security of service provision, that set the country’s governance on the path to ruin, resulting in the weakening of civil institutions, the politicization of government service, and the flourishing of mega-corruption amid institutional atrophy. However, one important point left unaddressed by this systematic decline of bureaucracy after the 1973 argument is that an impartial and efficient civil service could not check unequal economic growth in West and East Pakistan in the first two decades, resulting in Bangladesh’s secession from Pakistan.
Aside from these commendable observations, the focus has been on the end result and has overlooked the societal and human behaviors or main forces in producing such results. First and foremost, Pakistan is failing to create a nation. There has been no serious and concerted effort to build the nation. Islam used to regard Muslims as a nation, which was true before partition – as there were two nations, Muslims, and Hindus; however, after partition, Muslims of undivided India became Muslims of Pakistan, and it became difficult to determine who is truly Muslim in Pakistan, as different sects of Islam started to struggle for sole authority on Islam after several years of partition.
Everyone in Pakistan, from laymen to rulers, follows Islamic principles such as performing daily five-time prayers (“Namaz”), fasting (“Roza”) during the month of Ramadan, and even the Prime Minister of the country prefers to spend the last week of Ramadan in Makkah and Medina. Masques can be found almost everywhere, and they are almost always populated by Namazies (devotees) Everyone observes the sanctity of Ramadan and other Islamic rituals, especially during the month of Ramadan. Everyone loves and respects the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and is enraged when he is disrespected. Even though everyone is a practicing Muslim, one might wonder why there are rampant social and economic evils in society.
- Bribery is common from the lowest level to the highest level and intensifies every day, although there is a strict warning for such people and called them “Jahanami” (dweller of hell).
- Sewer water frequently flows in streets and roads, creating a filthy and unsanitary environment, particularly in large cities. Even though the holy prophet (s.a.w.a.) said that cleanliness and maintaining a sanitary environment are half of faith.
- Similarly, instead of waiting in line, people, in general, prefer to form a crowded and unorganized mob at public utilities, especially those with some social standing; standing in line is an insult to them.
- From private drawing-room conversation to TV talk, speaking loudly and passing derogatory sentences is common.
- Hoarding and creating artificial shortages to increase profit is a common practice among ordinary businessmen and tycoons.
- Land grabbing and illegal property documentation are commonplace. This type of duality is a test case for sociologists and psychologists, as it involves on the one hand zealous adherence to Islamic rituals and on the other deception, cheating, injustice, fraud & forgery, and illegal land grabbing in daily life.
The definition of culture is also very narrow; dresses, music, foods, and other such things are promoted as culture. Culture, on the other hand, is the collective programming of the human mind. Islam, in my opinion, takes merely a set of rituals rather than a combination of culture & rituals. It would be an interesting study to look into why Bangladesh is progressing (it is also a Muslim country) while we are falling behind in terms of per capita income.
In local currency, Bangladesh per capita income was18178.29 In 1980 and 72386.74 in 2020, whereas, in 1980 Pakistan’s per capita income was 7000 greater than the Bangladesh per capita income (Pakistan 1980-12-31 25268.01) and in 2020, Bangladesh per capita income is 10000 greater than Pakistan’s per capita income (Pakistan 2020-12-31 62528.09). To visualize and compare the year-to-year progress in per capita income, please click the “Comparative Chart of per capita Income of India”, Pakistan and Bangladesh”.