The Sick Man of South Asia

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The Sick Man of South Asia

Pakistan, our beloved nation, turned 75 last month; but to the utter dismay of those who feel that the only growth being witnessed is in her age. The political turmoil, dependence on foreign aid, unrealized geopolitical landscape and security dilemmas still exist, albeit in more acute form; rather they have taken the shape of existential crises. The nation has not, for the last seven and a half decades, tried to reshape the traditional landscape of friends and foes. Looking towards the West for political rent, towards China and Gulf repeatedly for minimum reserves guarantee and to the eastern border while making security policies seems more like a repeat telecast of a tragic drama.
The country’s exports are still almost negligible when compared to those of its neighbors of similar terrain and opportunities. In software, for instance, the exports of Pakistan stand at US$2 billion while those of India and China stand at 149 billion and 62 billion US dollars, respectively. In pharma and hi-tech, exports of Pakistan stand at US$0.3 billion each, while those of India and China are around 24 billion and 21 billion dollars, respectively.
The month of August each year is a reminder of what true independence is, and that, with a pinch of salt, is certainly well beyond the patriotic anthems.
It is pertinent at this point to present a couple of global rankings to build the argument on real independence. We rank 153rd on the Global Economic Freedom Index, issued by the World Heritage. Bangladesh and India are well ahead of us. Pakistan is on 157th position when it comes to the 2022 freedom index issued by Reporters without Borders. Additionally, Pakistan is termed as ‘partly free’, with a score of 37 out of 100 in the Global Freedom Status measured by the Freedom House. It is the ranking that is most frequently cited around the globe that measures political and civil freedoms.
It is certainly the priorities that matter. For instance, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), 80 percent of the four million workers (that is, 3.2 million workers) employed in its members’ factories are women. It is indeed regrettable to cite that exactly 3.2 million women in Pakistan withdrew the enhanced Ehsaas stipend in 2021, as reported by Dawn. It is obvious that employing Pakistani women constructively has never been on agenda of successive governments.
In another example, as reported by the Times of India, an Indian automotive manufacturing company launched “Born Electric” SUV car on the country’s 75th Independence Day. In Pakistan, a re-recorded national anthem was unveiled by Pakistan’s prime minister on 14th of August, the day that marked 75 years of the country’s independence. What could be more tragic than keeping the theme behind the Diamond Jubilee celebrations being the portrayal of achievements the country has made in the socio-economic, technological, transit systems and other realms despite cognizance of the fact that there is little to cherish in reality.
An equally striking contrast was witnessed a few years back when in a surprising twining of time, India announced its mission over Mars and Pakistan announced the manufacturing of eco-friendly rickshaws. Indian strides in technology with little doubt are at par with China to whom they look up as a real competitor; unfortunately, we have never stopped looking at the matters through Indian prism.
In a pre-world War I era, the sultanate of the Ottomans had earned the title of Sick Man of Europe. Lately, Pakistan has been competing for the same in South Asia. The grounds have striking resemblance; the Ottoman Empire had already been in decline for decades, it was struggling to maintain a bloated bureaucracy or a centralized administrative structure. Its issues were exacerbated further by the rise in pursuing vested interests rather than the national agenda across the Empire, and there were few developments on modern fronts including inclusiveness, governance and technology innovation. And, comparison of Ottomans with a country like Pakistan could be a sheer injustice for we have a far stronger army as well as institutional and democratic setups.
And, in an effort on a positive note, Pakistan also unveiled its first locally manufactured car last month, which was realized with the efforts of three universities, the DICE Foundation, and the private sector, but we have still a long way to go. In the last 75 years, Pakistan has become the 24th largest economy in the world as claimed by the Finance Ministry, which certainly cannot be a great feast when compared with the neighboring country being the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity.
Hence to conclude, it is safe to assert that the nations that rise ask for more. It is high time we set our priorities right. The country cannot afford to become the property of a few rich elites. The state should guarantee the masses’ trust in law and justice. Policies made for growth have to be inclusive and public-centric, and should come from within, not guided by foreign powers. And, there must a consistency in such policies particularly there has to be a realization that Pakistan needs a long-term charter of economy which any new government in place shall have little authority to mess with. Unless the political parties stop focusing predominantly on securing their seats, institutions stop interfering in other domains, and the nation works on true ingredients of progress, there cannot be a ray of hope in times to come.

Muhammad Ali Asghar

This is the Admin of this website

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