Pakistan at Seventy


Pakistan at Seventy

Pakistan is a country that has attracted enormous amount of international interest and, in the process, it has had its share of controversies. And thus, no matter what perceptions about it may exist, for various reasons, it remains an important country. Firstly, it was created after an extended freedom struggle in South Asia and under very unusual social and political circumstances. Secondly, it was carved out of a country that also gained independence from the British colonial rule at the same time as Pakistan did which brought a totally unique set of regional characteristics to the South Asian region that comprises these two countries in presence of much smaller states like Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Thirdly, alongside Israel, it is arguably one of the only few countries found in the name of religion and, therefore, religion and the Islam narrative run deep through the country’s philosophy.

Pak at Seventy: Handbook on Economics, Politics and Society

Some of this, alongside a comprehensive analysis on Pakistan’s performance in the first 70 years of its existence has been captured in a newly-released book authored by eminent Pakistani scholar Shahid Javed Burki who has been assisted by former foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury and myself. The book will sell with the title “Pakistan at Seventy: A handbook on development in economics, politics and society”. This book is probably the only piece of literature that covers the entire breadth of the country’s 70-year history while also doing dedicated chapters on nearly all important sectors of the economy including specific studies on water, energy, microfinance going as far ahead as to include a full chapter on the evolution of media in the country. Each chapter is done by a renowned sector expert. This is in principle why this book becomes a great resource for CSS aspirants who would find it to be a hands-on preparatory tool with all requisite data and information on Pakistan under one title.

This book comes out at a strategic juncture in the history of Pakistan. The country is embarking on a mass-scale economic reform, transparency and accountability drive. On the foreign policy front, the country stands at the cusp of mending ties with the Americans while also forming a renewed economic alliance with China vis-à-vis China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

This article is meant to achieve the objective of bringing out an over-arching perspective from this book which is a mass consolidation of works done independently by authors from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh focusing upon the different sectors and areas of Pakistan’s economics, politics and culture. While I try to echo the conclusions drawn by Shahid Javed Burki and Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury in their chapters, I would also want to confess that the case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—a raging subject in Pakistan—should have found more expression in the book.

Structure of the Book

The idea was not to structure the book thematically and, therefore, the chapters though consolidated sequentially aren’t divided into sections. But the coverage and scale of the work can be best examined by dividing the book into sections to see that the book has not only ventured into building a 70-year historic profile of Pakistan, an impression conveyed by the title of the book, but instead has engaged into analysis and discussions on both the contemporary and futuristic aspects of the economics, society and politics of Pakistan. The scope of the book was large indeed to engage into contemporary discussions around plans, policies and projects that are being currently run by the government and clearly, the 70-year focus of the book meant that a large part of it would be invested in discussions around Pakistan’s development context, the history of its politics and economics, international relations with the neighbouring countries and the outside world, and institutions like media. If these subjects are taken to be separate sections of the book, one would conclude that the book is able to produce credible pieces of writing on each of the areas and has more to offer than a mere account of the country’s history of a current stocktake of its economy.


The challenges facing Pakistan are manifold. Not only are they numerous but also intense and manifested frequently. Recurrent flooding in the lower riparian states, droughts and desertification in the rural parts of Sindh and water contamination are some environmental challenges that are largely unaddressed in Pakistan. There are no carbon-accounting mechanisms present in the country and the government has no capacity whatsoever to keep a count of its footprint on the environment. Climate change, thus, is an area of inquiry that is still at a premature stage in Pakistan. The Ministry of Climate Change has been set up at the centre but its capacity and functionality are both limited. This, of course, is strongly correlated with both water and food shortages, both of which have strong economic and health repercussions. Some of these contemporary challenges, especially those pertaining to misusage and the resulting lack of natural resources are well covered in the book. Mahmood Ahmad, Kulsum Ahmad and Ziad Allahdad have discussed in detail Pakistan’s energy and water deficits.

The chapters by Aziz Ahmed Khan, Khurshid Kasuri, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury and Subrata Kumar Mitra focus upon Pakistan’s foreign policy and strained relations with India while those by   Riaz Hassan, Jahangir Karamat, Shirin-Tahir Kheli and Shahid Najam take a more internal perspective on the politics of Pakistan by analyzing the contours of the changing civil-military relations and how power balances and the political landscape have evolved.

The leading economists of Pakistan Ishrat Husain, Farrukh Iqbal and Masood Ahmad have provided insights on the development and macroeconomic challenges and prospects facing Pakistan. In addition, Parvez Hasan and myself have provided timelines and histories of the development planning and discourse in the country.

The critical role that democratic, progressive and stable institutions like media can play in the growth of Pakistan is an area that has been explored by a few authors including Shahid Kardar, Ayub Ghauri, Saleem Ahmed Ranjha and Khaled Ahmed.


Shahid Javed Burki, the principal author of the book, has contributed four chapters. The common notion that he’s stressed upon in all these chapters is the unrealized potential of Pakistan and the underutilization of the country’s four sustainable assets including women who he regards to be extremely productive and passionate about their professional and work pursuits, the youth bulge which is expanding at a rapid pace and at a time when the developed global north is facing an ageing crisis, a large population that comprises the youth but also other age groups and lastly, the vast agriculture base that can be used to bolster Pakistan’s economic growth and also to cater for its increasing water and food security needs.

This is a unique perspective that is supported by an emphasis on the fact that the world is rapidly changing and technological advancements will be key to economic development in future and hence it is imperative that the potential of the four sustainable assets be harnessed by leveraging technology as a tool to create meaningful employment opportunities for the youth, women and other strata of the society.

The book is to be launched to the Pakistani audience on the 28th January 2020, at the World Bank office in Islamabad following which it shall be available with the local book retailers across the country.

The writer is a civil servant working

for the Federal Government of Pakistan.

He is ex-Director of the Institute of Public Policy, Lahore. He can be reached via email:

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