During my studies, I was taught that Pakistan at the time of its creation faced innumerable crises, which were further compounded by the early death of its founding father and later by the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, which was followed by a period of a constitutional crises and a struggle to grab power and influence. Departing British left a robust bureaucracy with the capacity to run the country efficiently. However, in the power play, bureaucracy was politicized and made a tool to execute the whims and wishes of the powerful; and in the process, bureaucracy got rich and corrupt along with the powerful. As the state institutions were weakened, other forces took their role. Various forms of political governance were experimented with. Accordingly, long-term policymaking was replaced by short time fixes to manage the economy, and cyclically the next government took the brunt of ill-conceived policies and decisions of the previous government. Resultantly, everything went downhill. For instance, state operating enterprises (SOEs), such as PIA, Steel Mills, and Railways, which were once the pride of Pakistan, are now haemorrhaging the country in billions. In all this mayhem, the interests of the people for whom the country was created, were forgotten.
And in my living memory, I have seen Pakistan lurching from one crisis to the next. Leaders came and told that they have the perfect panacea for Pakistan’s problems; people were caught in the euphoria for the time being but eventually, every time, found themselves struggling to make a living. Concurrently, oblivious to the plight of the common people, the elite developed this obsession of taking interest in our neighbours’ affairs and fighting other people’s wars. Resultantly, people suffered from the effects of the Afghan war and the country was awash with drugs, weapons, bomb blasts and refugees, and economic progress took a back seat. And if the Afghan lesson was not enough, we went into another proxy war, which lasted for another couple of decades! And while the gladiators left, our soldiers are daily losing their lives to terrorist attacks, policemen are sacrificing their lives to bombings and noted personalities are killed in drive-by shootings. And to further add insult to injury, the departed gladiators are now advising us to curb militancy and terrorism. Along with this human loss and subversive militancy, our country’s economy again suffered heavily. After all, who would invest big time and for the long haul in a country whose focus is not on improving its human resources, and devising investor-friendly policies to promote local industrialisation but is always in a war-like situation and lurching from one political crisis to the next?
While we lacked foresight, our neighbours set benchmarks such as literacy, technology, higher education, manufacturing, and export to compete against. Resultantly, while we are mostly exporting illiterate or semi-illiterate manpower to the Middle East, neighbours are exporting highly skilled manpower to the Middle East, Europe, Canada and America, who are sending millions of dollars back home and also lobbying for their country in the important capitals of the World.
Thus, lack of political stability, poor governance, and short of long-term policies at the national level have created crises such as poverty, illiteracy, lawlessness, anarchy, and an immeasurable rich-poor gap in society. There is rapid de-industrialisation resulting in widespread unemployment, and a crisis of energy resources has resulted in massive hikes in fuel, gas and electricity prices making them unaffordable for the common folk by the day. Thus, even after seventy-five years of our existence, we are facing an existential crisis as at the time of the creation of Pakistan. That sure counts for some progress after seven decades of existence. Now, the important question is: where do we go from here? Do we continue down the same path of experimenting, and carry on with ad-hoc solutions to problems? Or we finally decide that we need a stable political environment, and long-term, viable industrial and economic policies supported by functioning institutions and social justice.