y last article published in TheNation on August 23, I argued that the 21st century would prove to be a period of transition from the ascendancy of the West to the ascendancy of the East, as the 18th century was for the rise of the West. China because of its phenomenal economic growth, which would gradually translate itself in growing military might, would be in the driving seat in this process of global transformation. I also argued that while the West gained ascendancy over the East in the second half of the 18th century, the intellectual and scientific foundation for its rise was laid in the preceding centuries. I further noted that the wild card in this shift of power from the West to the East remains the performance of the Muslim world. It remains to be seen whether the Muslim world would rise to the challenges of modernity through an intellectual, scientific and technological revolution or will remain mired in sloth, ignorance and backwardness.
The challenges facing Pakistan are not different from those confronting the Muslim world. The foremost out of them is an intellectual revolution to free ourselves from dogmas and traditions of the past, which have lost their relevance in the modern world, while remaining faithful to the fundamental and ever-lasting principles of Islam. In short, we need to rely on ijtihad, as advocated by Iqbal in reordering our lives as individuals and as a society. This would require revolutionary changes in Islamic jurisprudence, in the way our society is organised, in the manner in which our economy operates and in our political life. The past practices, which have lost their relevance and utility in the modern world and are not enshrined in the fundamental principles of Islam, must be discarded. The Muslim world needs great thinkers, who can produce a synthesis of the traditional and the modern thought to overcome the challenges facing it. The crying need of the Muslim world is for renaissance and reformation.
Unfortunately, what we have now is either reckless reaction to the challenge posed by the Western advancement, especially in science and technology, as symbolised by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other obscurantist organisations, or slavish and superficial imitation of the West, which fails to come to grips with the real challenges of modernity. Of course, there have been some modern Muslim thinkers and intellectuals, like Iqbal and Iranian scholar Abdel Karim Soroush, who have advocated a dynamic interpretation of Islam while remaining faithful to its basic principles. But there is a need for increased focus on bringing about an intellectual revolution to face the social, political and economic challenges of modernity in the Muslim world, especially in Pakistan that is facing an existential threat from the wave of extremism and obscurantism sweeping the country. In particular, Islams message of peace, human brotherhood and equality, tolerance and social justice needs to be highlighted.
The present international order is power-based and knowledge-driven. Pakistans leadership must keep this reality in mind in the formulation of the countrys internal and external policies. Although the United Nations and international law are based on the concept of sovereign equality of states, the fact of the matter is that decisions on strategically important issues of peace and security are taken in the ultimate analysis on the basis of power calculations or realpolitik, rather than purely on legal and moral grounds. The moral is that as the first line of defence for safeguarding their national interests, states, like Pakistan, must strengthen the development of international law and international organisations on the basis of the concept of sovereign equality of states. But they should not ignore power realities in decisions on major foreign policy issues.
Further, they must enhance their power through an optimum combination of internal and external policies, that is, through the adoption of a well calculated grand strategy.
Knowledge is not only a source of enlightenment, but also of power. In the present knowledge-driven international order, the importance of the acquisition of knowledge, particularly sciences and technology, for the enhancement of national power and well being cannot be exaggerated. Unfortunately, it is precisely the field of education, which has been given the lowest priority by the successive governments in Pakistan. As against the international norm of 4 percent of GNP, hardly any government in Pakistan has allocated more than 2 percent of GNP on education. In the financial year 2010-11, the national expenditure on education was as low as 1.8 percent of GNP. Our literacy percentage (57.7 percent) is among the lowest in the world. There is hardly any world class university in Pakistan. We remain far behind other countries in sciences and technology. Our national expenditure on Research and Development is extremely low. This pathetic state of affairs needs to be reversed by our government by according the highest priority to the education sector, particularly to sciences and technology, and allocating the requisite resources for this purpose.
The disintegration of Soviet Union has brought home the primacy of economic strength in international politics. A credible military superstructure can be erected only on the foundation of economic strength. Historically, nations have developed their economic power before building up their military might. In modern times where military strength is a function of the industrial, scientific and technological advancement, it is inconceivable for a country to do otherwise. Yet, this is precisely what Pakistans short-sighted leaders have done over the past six decades. In other words, we have put the cart before the horse by placing the lions share of the national resources at the disposal of the military, while neglecting or assigning lower priority to economic development and welfare.
For instance, during the current financial year, the defence sector would claim a total of Rs718 billion, including Rs495 billion for defence affairs and services, Rs150 billion for armed forces development programme and Rs73 billion for military pensions. The US military assistance in the form of Coalition Support Fund amounting to Rs80 billion approximately would be over and above the budgetary allocation of Rs718 billion. As against that, the allocation for the federal public sector development programme during 2011-12 is only Rs300 billion Because of such neglect of economic development, our GDP growth rate declined to 2.4 percent during the last financial year. India, on the other hand, has been recording GDP growth rate of 8 percent approximately for several years. The target for GDP growth rate during the current financial year again remains as low as 4.2 percent, whereas 6 percent growth in GDP is required just to absorb the increase in the labour force.
Of course, there are several other factors responsible for our dismal economic performance, notably our low national saving rate (13.8 percent of GDP) that determines the pool of resources available domestically for investment and economic growth, and the low tax-to-GDP ratio (10 percent), which is a major determinant of the resources available to the government. Corruption and inefficiency of the government departments or corporations take their toll in lowering the capacity of the government to deliver, given the limited resources available to it.
If Pakistan is to come to grips with the challenges of the modern world, it will have to move resolutely and fast on all the fronts outlined above - intellectual, educational, scientific, technological and economic. The inability of our leadership and the people at large to rise to the challenges facing them will make Pakistan irrelevant to the global transformation and the shift of power from West to East that are likely to take place during the 21st century.
The writer is a retired ambassador.