PAKISTAN: WHERE ARE WE NOW AND WHERE DO WE WANT TO BE?
SAAD ANWAR HASHMI
Aug 20 - Sep 2, 2012
Pakistan came into existence in 1947 to give Muslims a separate homeland where they are free to earn a living and practice their religion. Pakistan's literal meaning is "Land of Pure" where people respect others and make significant efforts for the uplift of the country. When talking about Pakistan, there are many aspects which makes the country great and many which remains a cause of concern for the masses. Pakistan has the 7th largest armed forces in the world and is the first country to have Nuclear Power among Islamic countries. Pakistan based on its geographic location is strategically located enabling trade with Middle and Far East including Western countries. Pakistan has 5 rivers flowing through the country enabling farmers to cultivate their land making the country self-sufficient with food supplies through agricultural produce. Pakistan is the only route adopted by western military for supplies into Afghanistan to support the war.
The country enjoys a cordial relationship with neighboring countries with the exception of India on the issue of Kashmir which is yet to be resolved. The two countries have fought two major wars on the Kashmir Issue i.e. in 1947 and again in 1965 to claim the state. Pakistan and India have fought several battles with cross fire over and around the Siachen Glacier including the border between Pakistan and India within Kashmir. Pakistan has always propagated that the future of Kashmir should reside with the people of Kashmir whereas India claims Kashmir to be an integral part of India. The people of Kashmir were at first split between the views of India and Pakistan but due to delays in decision, majority want the state to be separated from both India and Pakistan to form a separate country.
With respect to the economic situation of Pakistan, the country is plagued with high prices of fuel, shortage of power and gas along with high inflation which is a major cause of concern for the masses. It is expected that inflation will stay in double digits through FY13. High prices commodities and food stuff is further pushing the middle class below the poverty line. There is no price control mechanism or authority which keeps a tap on unjustified price increases therefore, exponential increases are observed time and again resulting in people reaching the streets to voice their concern. It is said that with a population of 180 million people, an increase in the population automatically creates inflation through demand of food and resources. The government continues to support the budgetary deficits through borrowing from financial institutions which has resulted in crowding out, increasing interest rate and inflation. With considerable population in Pakistan, the country only has 970 Hospitals nationwide with 150,000 registered doctors. Population per doctor computes to 1,200 per doctor which eventually results in many not being able to avail medical facilities or access to doctors for their treatment.
Many industry experts put forward different points how Pakistan may progress in the future. However, a significant reason why the economic situation is as such is due to illiteracy and low focus on education. The literacy rate in Pakistan is only 59 percent. Male literacy is 70.2 percent, female literacy rate is 46.3 percent whereas female literacy in tribal areas is only 3 percent. Most children in low socio economic class choose not to go to school and prefer working at the earliest of ages to support their family. The government through various educational reforms hopes to attain 100% enrolment levels among children of primary school age and a literacy rate of 86 percent among people aged over 10 by 2015. There are only 1,105 Universities in Pakistan none among the Global Top 100. There is a dire need to increase rural penetration through schools, colleges and universities so that the general population is able to get skilled jobs rather than resort to crime. Universities need to inculcate quality research so that Pakistani universities gain recognition on a global scale.
With respect to religion, Pakistan has a 97 percent Muslim population whereas others include Ahmedis, Christians and Hindus. All religions coexist in the country and are free to practice their beliefs, however, sectarian violence is witnessed. Though Islam is a religion of peace, the country has witnessed constant bloodshed, target killings, murder for ransom and shooting at gun point if someone refused to hand over belongings including, does not demonstrate a country where people live in peace and maintain cordial relationships. In case of riots against a political party or the government, people tend to come on streets and destroy public belongings disrupting the peace in the country. These acts do not demonstrate that Muslims involved in such criminal activities practice their religion in full and promote peace as taught in Islam.
With the Olympic Games witnessed in London such avenues provide a perfect platform to uplift the image of the country through participation in various sports. Pakistan through history has won medals only in Hockey and Wrestling and Boxing. Recent performance of the Pakistani team at the Olympics was not satisfactory with those qualifying with the exception of Hockey were far from either the Olympic or World records resulting in payers being ejected from the tournament in early rounds. There has never been any focus on promoting sports in the country though the talent is immense if exploited. It is beyond one's understanding that sports including cycling, racing, swimming, tennis, table tennis, badminton, archery, basketball, football, high jump, shooting and volleyball to name a few have never been considered for participation at the Olympics where such facilities are already available in various clubs, schools and universities and played frequently by sports enthusiasts. It is widely believed that Pakistan can have participation with a large team with diversified sports to win medals and show case Pakistan's name to the world if only focus is brought into this area.
Infrastructure development in Pakistan has remained under question. The country is plagued with corruption which is deep rooted in the system and seems impossible to be eradicated. There is little to no accountability for the decisions undertaken whereas every one attempts to pursue own goals rather than goals of the country. We have witnessed the progression of Malaysia, Singapore and more recently Dubai whereas Pakistan is being pushed behind year after year due to level of dishonestly, corruption, political rift and crime in the society. State owned entities including Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railway have posed perpetual losses due to management competence.
What is required for the country is a complete paradigm shift from the current state through change in leadership with severe punishments through enforcement of law. With more than 6 decades since independence, we can only be hopeful that Pakistan can lead towards a better tomorrow.