Pakistan has been facing a multitude of problems since its inception. Though seventy-five years old, the country is still striving to cope with the crises that have been moving it towards the edge for a while. Unfortunately, this nation has failed to learn from the past and make any meaningful progress as per the intentions of its founding fathers. Now, the question arises, where is Pakistan headed? Second, how can this sorry state of affairs be addressed? This article is an endeavour to seek answers.

As far as the question of Pakistan is concerned, primarily, there are two schools of thought that have been forecasting its future. The first, called pessimists, are those who are of the view that Pakistan is unlikely to make progress because of its genetic dysfunctional makeup.

According to these scholars, the country is moving toward the edge and is likely to be devastated in the near future. Hence, the prospects of progress are bleak. The second, rather optimistic school of thought posits that Pakistan, having huge natural resources, magnificent history, ideological strength, a youthful population, and diverse culture, to name a few, is destined to leap forward and turn into a developed nation.

Pakistan is navigating through a ‘transformative phase’ and destined to win against all odds if appropriate pre-emptive, as well as preventive measures, are taken. Historically, with a few exceptions, the newly independent nations had to go through various phases of development to achieve prosperity and sustainable development. For example, the US attained its present status only after passing through many years of post-independence transformation.

Likewise, China has become an emergent world power, albeit it got independence in 1949, two years after Pakistan came into being. However, one should not ignore that Chinese progress was taking place long before the transformation of 1949, it only provided an impetus to Chinese development. After successfully coming out of decades-long turmoil of civil war, China, a dynasty before 1949, went through a transformation. The recurrent transformations led to China’s development.

Indeed, Pakistan has failed to set its direction right in the past post-independence years, which has eroded its progress. First, the question of identity has haunted and still perplexes the nation. The debate on the Islamic vs secular nature of the state has further digressed the country from a progressive path. Zia-ul-Haq regime’s Islamisation provided one direction, while Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’ sought to move the country in another, opposite, direction.

Second, the conflicting views on centre-province relations have been obstructing Pakistan’s growth. The tendency of the political elite for the centralisation of power has marginalised provinces, leading to a dysfunctional local government system, an essential facet of democracy.

Third, the securitisation of the state, owing largely to the Indian hegemonic ambitions as well as the inability of our political elite to efficiently perform, has derailed democratic progression. Resultantly, democratic institutions have become dysfunctional. Even in the democratic setup that we have, the recurring debate of the parliamentary versus the presidential system continues to cast its shadow on Pakistan’s democratic progress.

Fourth, “the bureaucratic-military complex” has negatively impacted Pakistan’s progress. Institutional pulling and hauling have resulted in weak institutions, giving some more leverage than others. Ultimately, the development of the country has suffered.

Fifth, exponentially increased polarisation in society resulting in deteriorating political stability has further marginalised any chances of cultural, political and economic growth of the country. In a nutshell, the structural dysfunctionality caused by the aforesaid factors has eradicated any prospects of progress in Pakistan.

The prevalent inequality caused by socio-economic factors has made the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. Such inequalities often lead to high crime rates, social unrest and, ultimately, civil war in societies. The people at the helm must understand the complexity and severity of the problem. The sooner they understand and take remedial measures accordingly, the better.

Now, the question is what should be done to avert these issues? Multidimensional steps are required. First, we need introspection of historical developments to find out what went wrong with this nation that was aimed at having a gigantic stature amongst the comity of nations.

Second, the country should have a proper direction to reach the destination of socio-economic development. Setting a goal and devising a comprehensive mechanism to achieve the target is pivotal for success. No nation can progress unless it defines its goals and the path to achieve the desired targets. Though policies should be dynamic to address newly emergent issues adequately, proactive policymaking is tantamount to long-term achievements. Therefore, reactive policymaking should be replaced by proactive policymaking.

Third, the political elite, judiciary, bureaucracy and military should work in collaboration without interfering in another’s domain for making Pakistan a great country amongst the comity of nations. National interest should be preferred to Institutional clashes. Not to mention, a proper system of checks and balances is utmost.

Fourth, a grand national debate is urgently required to create a national identity. Commonalities amongst diverse cultural values may be brought together through a multi-level and across-the-country open and free debate. The government should constitute an overarching national commission comprising intelligentsia to facilitate and organise the debate and formulate policy suggestions for improving the conditions of the masses.

Last but not least, the willingness of the political elite to devise an all-inclusive reform agenda is badly needed. All stakeholders should join hands together to plan and realise the dream of a prosperous Pakistan.