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Future of Pakistan

Qaisar Sultan

There seems to be “Pakiphobia” in West, especially in USA. Two recent published articles have stabbing negativity of the present and future of Pakistan; and it is not amiable. First article was published in Wall Street journal, written by Sadanand Dhume; he is an Indian born journalists. Though he is levelheaded in his analysis in his article, “The Myth of Moderate Pakistan” shouts out Indian and Hindu bias that cannot set off without a cautious repudiation of detrimental intentions. There is no doubt that a small segment of our society has succumbed to a noxious view of religion; but we have a great number that refuse to support and vote for them. The problems our extremists have created come to haunt us at every step of the Pakistani reputation. The murder of Pearl, a Wall Street Journal journalist, turned the newspaper against the environment in a country that they felt encouraged killings. In turn they allowed and endorsed the probing into the crisis in an extremist state as they see it know or  pinpointing the extremism of a country that has tolerated and created a milieu of incidences of slitting throats, bombing and killing of innocent men, women and children, blowing up girl’s schools, market places, torture and mayhem. The second article is written by a supposedly friend of Pakistan, Stephen P. Cohen, a think-tank with Brooking Institute; he has also written a book, “The Idea of Pakistan”. In his article, Future of Pakistan, he seems to be very pessimistic about the future of Pakistan. Cohen writes, “Pakistan could be a major disruptive force in Southeast and Southwest and Central Asia, ruining India’s rise and destabilize Persian Gulf and Central Asian region”. He also pointed out that Pakistan has fallen deep into the abyss of ethnic and religious view of its political existence; and the possibility of a moderate, reasonably secular and competitive state is out of reach. He predicted, “Revival of insurgency will take place, given the absence of real economic growth and the weakness of political institutions”. The foreign policy reports have indicated that Pakistan has posed the greatest threat of terrorism to West. Most of the indicators in terms of human development, down to 141 at the bottom, the disliking level in the West for Pakistan are at number three; Iran and North Korea are the most disliked countries in West. The biggest concern is that Pakistan is a nuclear state; if religious groups take over the government, the world may face a real threat to the security of the region and the world. Pakistan is not a happy place to live; on happiness Index, Pakistan is at the bottom of all Southeast Asia countries, 112 in ranking; Bangladesh is 41. All these statics suggest as if we are reading the demise of a nation; that has been almost predicted by Stephen Cohen.

There is no argument regarding the growth of terrorism, extremism, weak economy and lack of strong political institutions. In modern age, we are tempted to find patterns, based on accidental and occasional occurrences. There is no doubt that the statistics provide us the art of predicting the possibilities; but the variables have to stay in place and chosen carefully the way outcome has to be concluded. When there was heavy snow in West, they started talking about coming of the ice age; and when weather got brutish, heavy rains, flooding or hot weather, they began talking about green house effect. In the life of this planet, the extreme weathers, ice ages, flooding of Biblical proportions, earth quakes and other natural disasters have destroyed regions and nations; the doomsayers predicted the end of the world. So in the life of nations, bad times come and go; but bad times do not necessarily define people and the end result. America had its civil war; China went through the period of opium consuming nation. We do have problems; we have extremists in our midst, we have a corrupt army that has consumed most of our resources; we have corrupt and incompetent politicians and bureaucrats. Our people have been electing the wrong leaders. But at the same time we have one of the smartest groups of people in the world. We have done good work in sciences and engineering; our doctors are treating people in USA and Canada.

During General Musharraf’s government, western countries started believing in a bright future for Pakistan. They thought that Pakistan was a moderate nation, reasonably secular and competitive country; then how come in short three years, we, as a nation are doomed to be non-competitive, non-secular and immoderate. It is true that at this stage our majority is not the most enlightened, most competitive in international market and reasonably secular. It is not that we try to justify what is wrong in the country; and there are plenty of wrongs. That does not mean that we look at ourselves without critical introspection; but at the same time we do not consent to vilification of our national character. In the Pakistani situation, the duplicity is a random variable that makes any prediction very difficult. The assumption in Cohen’s argument is that Pakistan cannot be moderate, reasonably secular and competitive. When we look at our middle class and young educated segment, the majority is moderate. The greatest news coming from Pakistan is that we have five universities in top five hundred universities of the world; these good universities in Punjab and Sindh must be producing competitive and moderate young men and women. Off course, we need more and better universities throughout the country; we need more focus on education. There is no doubt that our people have religious outlook; that does not mean that the majority is extremist. Lastly, we find Pakistani community as one of the most competitive minority in North America that happens to be extremely competitive. One has to understand the inherent qualities that should define the very basis of a premise. One thing that I have been emphasizing for a long time that Pakistan is full of cognitive resources- It is an important factor to be added into the calculus; the derivatives and integrals require real variables, such as the potentials and capacities inherent in a particular human society.

Most of our intellectuals are critical of the present set up in Pakistan. Even if we had a long rule and influence in civilian politics of the military, we always desired democracy; notwithstanding the incongruity in Pakistani style democracy with our present conditions of poor income level (Per capita less than $3,000), ethnic division and lack of education in the masses. We should also not forget that as long as the military and powerful rich and feudal class flexes its muscles in the democratic process, there is no point conducting fake elections- Our majority lives in rural areas under the influence of rich and feudal class. Three most damaging factors pointed out by Cohen are the ethnic split, religious fervor and the militarism. He said in one of his speech that Pakistan finds India as number one, second and third enemy; that the Pakistani establishment sees at the problems in the prism of Indian enmity. The question raised does not require answer but another question: If Pakistan’s existence is as grim as predicted based on recent development, so called democratic politics, opinions and circumstances, should we ignore the most important variables of potential and cognitive, geographical and natural resources- If not then the possible possibilities will be willfully ignored. The promise of a good future may be realized just by fine tuning the politics (getting rid of corrupt and ignorant politicians), reducing the military budget to less than half and putting that money in education and health, lowering the loud volume of religiosity and allowing people to freely conduct business in peace and security.

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