CHALLENGES FACED BY PAKISTAN IN 21ST CENTURY | Essay for CSS and PMS
CHALLENGES FACED BY PAKISTAN IN 21ST CENTURY | Essay for CSS and PMS
Pakistan suffers from a number of social, political, and economic problems. Pakistan is experiencing unwanted growth. While projections indicate that the population growth rate of Pakistan may actually be decreasing, those same projections also predict that by the year 2050 Pakistan will have ass_umed its place as the third_ most populated nation in the world. A rapidly growing population, along with local tensions, both internal and external, and an economy trapped in a cycle of debt, all serve to prevent Pakistan from attaining the progress it needs to advance, and perhaps to survive. Some of the major problems faced today by Pakistan as a country are:
Since its inception, the most difficult challenge Pakistan has struggled to meet has been to establish a true democratic system, which could guarantee its survival, stability and development. Unfortunately, the plant of democracy in Pakistan has not taken its roots deep enough to make the country “a durable democratic state”. Pakistan was conceived on the basis of Islam, which is democratic both in Jetter and spirit. But unfortunately, we have not proved worthy of the freedom achieved after immense sacrifices and selfish interests and political intrigues dominated the national scene.
It is imperative to have a constitution when a country starts fresh. Sudden and unexpected events within the body politics of Pakistan not only delayed the making of a constitution according to the needs and ideology of the country but also thwarted the process shaping the opinion in favour of democracy as a modern political necessity. The Draft Resolution was thrown into cold storage. The country had a Constitution in 1956 that was strangled and killed after a military coup by General Ayub Khan in 1958. The second constitution was drawn in 1962 to give a semblance of democracy in the form of Basic Democracy and to suit the purpose of one man who was a dictator in the guise of a president. Not Parliamentary but presidential form of government with wide powers was imposed on the people. It also served the seeds of regionalism and disintegration in the country. There was democracy in name only.
Experimentation in politics is always dangerous because it kills continuity of democratic convention and gives rise to instability in the country. It is only a strong constitution that is always above the ordinary Jaw and gives stability and inspires sense o( nationhood among the people. When the experiment failed, second Marshal Law was imposed in 1969.
Wide based political parties are essential for running the democratic government by the elected representatives of the people. The 1970 Elections were held in the free atmosphere on a party basis to put the country on road to democracy but what followed, is the darkest chapter in the history of the country. The country was dismembered as a result of Jack of political foresight, sense of compromise and undemocratic attitude on the part of some political leaders. The breaking of the country necessitated the making of a fresh constitution and the result was I 973 Constitution and democracy in Pakistan. However, nothing had been provided in the 1973 Constitution to secure this democracy. The very fact that it had been amended time and again is a clear proof of its weakness. From 1977 onwards, no stable government has been formed till now. The military has been intervening, sometimes intentionally and sometimes invited, in the political affairs. Several amendments have been made to the constitution, each change serving the purpose for some selected people. Moreover, the opposition failed to play its due role and the rulers were too proud to listen and to bear criticism.
We have still to see real rule of law in the country. Democracy can never exist without rule of law, justice, civil liberties and equality of opportunities. Representative rulership could not uphold these values due to favouritism, nepotism and obstructing the course of law. Such limping democracy can never serve long. Deeply linked to the massive debt and poorly educated people is the large portion of Pakistan’s population that lives in poverty. With an average of 2,000 dollars of GDP per person (adjusted for purchasing power parity), the average citizen is forced to live off very limited resources. This is reflected in the fact that 34% of the population lives below the poverty line, despite a mere 7% unemployment. Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere. It is a scrooge and one of the worst curses and miseries that a human can face. According to an analysis conducted by the government of Pakistan, poverty has increased roughly from 30% to 40% during the past decade. Consider that if 40% of a country’s population is earning their life below the poverty-line in which the people are deprived of basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, food, education and medication, such families and their children will be forced to think of their survival only.
Poverty has emerged as the most important issue for Pakistan. The reason that economic growth has failed to trickle down to the poor in Pakistan 1s the slow improvement in social indicators Economic growth and social sector development are interdependent as one reinforces the other. In fact, economic growth is necessary for poverty reduction but poverty reduction itself is necessary for sustained growth. The main reasons for the increase in poverty during the 1990s can be attributed to the relatively lower rate of economic growth, rising unemployment, stagnant real wages, the declining flow of worker’s remittances and bad governance. Pakistan’s lack of financial resources is yet another barrier against foreign investment. Without foreign investment, Pakistan lacks the resources to bring about positive economic development. Without positive economic development, Pakistan is unable to attract foreign investors. Without foreign investors, Pakistan will remain poor.
Pakistan is also facing the dragon of overpopulation. This problem has given rise to multidimensional problems in our country. At present we are scarce in resources and it has become difficult for the government to meet the rapidly growing needs of the huge population with its scarce resources. The growth rate of Pakistan is very high and is among the highest in the world. Since partition in 194 7, the population of Pakistan has become more than triple. Every year almost four million people are added to the already overburdened economy. This rapidly growing population has really created an obstacle in the way of our economic progress. The massively increasing population has almost outstripped the resources in production, in facilities and in job opportunities. The genesis of the situation reflects some obvious reasons. Joint family system, illiteracy and lack of insight, issue of having at least one male child, the issue of the dynasty in the rural elite and lack of recreational facilities are all contributing factors. The rapidly growing population is having a lot of adverse effects on our country. All over the country poverty has increased and people do’ not have the basic necessities of life. It is estimated that if the present growth rate prevails, then the population of Pakistan will be double by the year 2020. This is an alarming situation. Even today it has become difficult for us to provide basic necessities of life to the majority of the population. A great number of people have no access to the health services, safe drinking water is also not available at many places, many people do not have the sanitation facilities, a lot of children are not provided with the primary education and illiteracy r”te is very high among the adults.
There is a shortfall in educational institutions and classrooms are overcrowded. Due to the high growth rate of a population the health care facilities have become inadequate. Child and maturity centres are also lacking. The standards of food have fallen and people’s health has deteriorated. Ever-increasing population creates housing and settlement problems. It becomes very difficult for the individual and society to overcome them. The recreation facilities are also decreasing as more and more areas are being used for residential and business purposes. Unemployment has also increased and it has become very difficult for employers to provide social fringe benefits to the employees. Thus the employees are often deprived of their rights like pensions, medical facilities children’s education etc. The increase in po11ulation without an increase in resources means an increase in the crime rate. Unemployment creates frustration and revengeful attitude. People tend to snatch when they cannot get their rights through lawful means. Poverty also produces a state of hopelessness and this leads to an increase in the incidence of suicides. The same has been witnessed in Pakistan in the past few years.
Perhaps the greatest loss comes in the field of education. Whether or not this is a direct result of the country’s economic problems, it is undoubtedly connected and unfortunately, educational improvements are given low priority. Literacy is defined as persons aged I 5 or above who can “read” and “write”. According to this definition, Pakistan is officially reported to have a 50% literacy rate. Which means half of its population is illiterate. With such family backgrounds, inflation, poverty and child labour this rate is expected to increase in future. Even for those who are termed as “literate” are only able to read and write, which in today’s technology-oriented world is still considered as illiteracy. Majority of the people forming the top controlling tier is almost unaware of technologies and technical mindset, thus causing the country to adopt the new technologies at a snail’s speed. A poorly educated populace makes Pakistan a poor choice for the foreign investors that it needs so desperately. Furthermore, the low literacy rate among Pakistani women means that most women never enter the workforce, creating fewer incentives for them to limit th~ sizes of their families. This is clearly reflected from the fact that only 38 million people of the entire population make the total workforce.
The struggle for Pakistan was a unique historical experience with few parallels in the annals of history. It transcended ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional differences and coalesced into a powerful movement culminating in the creation of an independent homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent. It even defied geographic compulsions. However, Pakistan after its creation was, indeed, an ethnically plural society. Pakistan these days is passing through a crucial era of multifarious ethnic problems. The province of the Punjabi has three distinct ethnolinguistic groups i.e. Punjabi, Potohari and Saraiki speaking of late, there has been a nascent rise of Saraiki consciousness with a demand for a separate Saraiki Province comprising Saraiki speaking areas. In Balochistan, the Baloch, Brohl and Pakhtoons are dominated, ethnolinguist groups. The widespread nationalist consciousness of Balochistan has cut across the tribal divisions. In KPK Province, apart .from Pushtu, Hindku and Saraiki are also spoken in some parts of this province. The Pustoons as an ethnic group is integrating with the economic life of the rest of the country. The issue of Kalabagh Dam has arisen out of the same ethnic issue and provincial disharmony of Pakistan in the province. Similarly, the problem of ethnicity in Sindh is very complex. It is a web of discards, clash of interest and the resultant sense deprivation between the different ethnic groups creates hysteria among the people which are damaging for the peace and harmony of the country.
Provincial disharmony has risen out of the neglect and deprivation of smaller provinces. The centralization of power has encouraged internal dissension and disharmony. It has weakened the state and aggravated the multidimensional crises the people face in their daily lives. This has resulted in ·deteriorating political and social fabric of the country.
The whole world looks at Pakistan as a land of terrorists. The image of Pakistan as a peace-loving country has been badly tarnished. Initially, the war against terrorism was imposed on us but with the passage of time, it has become our own war. Pakistan has suffered great losses both due to terrorism and the war against terrorism. Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives, while millions have lost everything they had and are forced to migrate to relatively safer areas. This war has destroyed our economy and the collateral damage is $ 68 billion. But this is still not enough according to top world superpowers and every other day we are asked to “do more”. The main reason behind this extremism is the religious exploitation of the common, uneducated majority of the country at the hands of so-called religious leaders who have always used religion as a tool to serve their interests. They are responsible for the stigma that Islam is the religion of fanatics and terrorists. But the military and successive governments are also to be blamed for they failed to play their due roles for safeguarding the integrity and sovereignty of the country. Terrorism is very closely linked to the declining economic conditions and a high rate of illiteracy prevailing in our country. The poor and illiterate become easy prey for the masterminds who can train them and use them in whatever way they want. Pakistan’s economy has suffered on two accounts: first, a huge amount of money is being used for WAT; and second, because we have lost many foreign investors and potential investors and markets. China is getting 13 billion dollars as a foreign investment because of its stable and investor-friendly environment. Even smaller countries like Romania and the Philippines are getting a lot of foreign investments, whereas even tourists are afraid to visit Pakistan due to security concerns.
At present, the sorry state of the economy tops the problems facing the country. Seeing the horrible economic distress, some still suggest restoring to the begging bowl and further subjugation of donor agencies as the only solution to it. Such an approach can not provide a way out; it aggravates the situation and amount to committing suicide. Therefore, the present leadership has realized that there is no option but to reshape the economic strategy altogether. The economy of Pakistan has fallen up to this extent that it requires serious attention and endeavour to revive its state. The revival of the economy means to bring the economy on track whereby the country becomes self-sufficient and economy self-sustained to meet its internal demands and fulfil foreign obligations. The sustained economy provides a balance in trade, the potential of paying back foreign loans and gradual growth in gross domestic and national product. Rise in foreign exchange reserves, minimum inflation rate, strong local currency are a few indicators of a sustained economy whereas b!tter social indicators reflect its civic effects.
Developed economies are movers, developing economies are the followers and the underdeveloped economies have no say in the scheme of things. All economic conditions are the certain result of policies. No economy can itself produce positive results. It is the people and their actions which steer the effects. The economy of Pakistan was not doomed for disaster. It has become the victim of eccentric policies of our past rulers. It has been mismanaged up to this extent that the country has virtually become bankrupt and made to dance on the tunes of donor agencies as Pakistan has bartered its freedom with them. For the last thirteen years, there has been no noticeable addition to basic industries and the economic infrastructure of the country. Instead, the number of sick industrial units increases each year. The public sector is shrinking and suffering losses. Although agriculture ha~ helped the nation to survive the sector itself is faced with crises. In regard to oil, retrogression has set in after good progress. After attaining one-third self-sufficiency in the country’s oil requirements, advancing steps have been retracted and the annual import of oil has increased. Exports could not be enhanced despite the repeated devaluation of the rupee.
According to the genesis of the present situation the deterioration in economic activity is mainly caused by the weak performance of large scale industry, the erratic behaviour of agricultu.re, the decline in real investment, macroeconomic instability that includes large fiscal deficit, large bank harrowing, using interest payments on domestic debts double-digit inflation and personal aggrandizement. The economic situation of Pakistan at the time of independence was also very bleak but it improved over the years. Its economic policies were exemplary and countries like Korea had learned the tricks of economics from Pakistan in the ’60s, while Pakistan revived meagre financial resources at the time of independence, it was deprived of Kashmir. Ever since the Kashmir issue has been haunting Pakistan for which Pakistan has fought several wars with India and each war had its price paid by Pakistan. It had to maintain a large armed force causing a huge burden on the economy.
Agriculture has always been neglected·. Feudalism is in vogue even today and about six thousand families possess forty per cent of the total cultivable land. There is no retrieval policy in regard to agricultural inputs. The cost of seed is four times higher than its cost of production. The irrigation system is also upset. Per acre productivity of East Punjab and Haryana is four times higher than that of West Punjab and Sindh. The level of land and human efforts are the same but the difference in policies, facilities and other factors account for the disparity. Pakistan may become self-sufficient in agriculture within two to three years but at present twenty per cent of total imports comprise food cereals. On one hand, there is the common cultivator who finds it difficult to meet his expenses while on the other hand there is a particular class that not only rolls in wealth but also upholds the oppressive and unjust system.
External debts are touching new heights and the irony is that new loans are obtained simply to pay back a portion of the earlier loans. As we are very heavily dependent on borrowing to meet the resource gap, our major donor International Monetary Fund insists upon narrowing the revenue expenditure gap to under five per cent of the gross domestic product. Since other lenders follow the policies of the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan has no choice but to enhance its taxes and revenues. These foreign leaders and donors also demand that we reduce taxes on international trade which means the reduction in the customs duties which has always been the main source of our revenues. This puts further pressure on the other taxes to make up for the loss caused by the reduction in the custom receipts. As the majority of the people in Pakistan are poor and backward, they have always been preoccupied mainly in meeting the basic needs. They live in unhygienic conditions. Electricity is a luxury for them. Health services have been thinly spread in the country. Floods, drought or diseases affect people and the livestock. The combination of malnutrition, illiteracy, diseases, high birth rate, unemployment and low income has closed the avenues of escape from serious economic crises. The most unfortunate aspect of these serious economic crises and pathetic state of affairs is not because of the lack of natural resources but due to inefficient use of the key factors of production.
The socio-cultural attitude of the people is also an obstacle in the way of economic development of Pakistan. More than 50 % of the people are illiterate. They are ignorant of what is happening in their own country and the world at large. The majority of the people are extravagant. Pakistan, in fact, has a consumption-oriented society. The native culture is generally not receptive to new foreign methods of production. The caste system functioning mostly in terms of occupations like tailoring, carpentry, jewellery etc. restrict occupational and geographical mobility.
India is typically termed as a conventional enemy to Pakistan. As mentioned before the people of Pakistan need to be trained to think positively about their surroundings. We should learn a lesson from the US and Canada’s cross border collaboration to improve their affairs and provide backing, why can’t Pakistan and India enter into such strengthening relationship? Pakistan can never move forward with its proxy war politics with India and its involvement in the so-called US war on terrorism. It has to strike peace with India and other neighbouring countries soon so that it can use its resources for its own people’s welfare and focus on its collective objectives.
Pakistan has more potential to be a developed country earlier than India. It has the resources and talent. Yet it seems to sink lower by the day. India with a billion-plus population has a million problems to handle. Yet the focus of India has been right and it shows in its average 8% economic growth. It is time Pakistan learnt this lesson.