August Special

Pakistan: A Dream Come True

Pakistan was a dream come true on August 14, 1947. This was a truly historic moment for the Muslims of the subcontinent and freedom-loving nations all over the world. That dream would continue to blossom in the decades and centuries to come. The creation of Pakistan was an epic odyssey which today inspires and shapes the lives of the 210 million people of Pakistan.



Renowned historian Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, who in the aftermath of partition was humiliated in the Delhi University and lost his professional library during a communal arson, wrote in his book The Struggle for Pakistan: “The Pakistanis did not receive Pakistan on a silver plate. They have paid a heavy price for it. In fighting for it, they have tasted more despair than hope, more disappointment than success, more chastisement than reward. 1
Before the creation of Pakistan, though the movement for a separate homeland for the Muslims in South Asia was strong, there were huge uncertainties. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress leader, derided the “idea of a Muslim nation” as “the figment of imagination” and said that it would “vanish at the touch of reality”.


Pakistan has done well in the comity of nations. It acquired nuclear and conventional capability to defend itself, making it a member of an exclusive club of 7 declared nuclear weapon states. This was no mean achievement given the sweeping sanctions imposed on Pakistan. Pakistan has also raised armed forces which are the 6th largest in the world and the largest among Muslim nations. Pakistan’s Armed Forces have won immense respect abroad and are the pride of Pakistani nation for their proven capability to meet threats on land, air and sea simultaneously. 


In 1946, in Delhi Gymkhana, bets were placed by club members if Pakistan would ever exist and if so for how long. There were many who said that it would not last for three months and the people of Pakistan would beg India to take them back.2 This is just one glimpse of the uncertainties that prevailed at that time. The British rulers were loath to make up their mind and practically abetted the Indian Congress leaders in either stopping the establishment of Pakistan through legal manoeuvres or, if it materialized, to weaken it structurally, politically and economically. 


In 1947, the population of West Pakistan, now constituting present day Pakistan, was around 32 million and today it is 210 million. Pakistan has fed this growing population throughout this period. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan is among the top ten countries in the category of agricultural and dairy products. The middle class has grown rapidly while the incidence of poverty has been pushed down. Economists believe that the number of the middle class in Pakistan should range between 80 to 84 million, a number bigger than the population of many middle income countries. In 1947, Pakistan had only one university – the University of Punjab. Today, there are more than 200 universities and degree awarding institutions of higher learning, and Pakistan produces about half a million graduates every year.


Yet, here we are, 72 years later, with a strong state of Pakistan. It is a homeland that came into being because of the will of Allah, the steely resolve of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the heroic and tenacious struggle of the Muslims of the subcontinent. Doubters and detractors were proved wrong. 


No doubt, over the past seven decades, Pakistan has achieved spectacular successes in many fields. But that is not its destination. Destiny of a nation is carved and crafted, not inherited; and who knows it better than Pakistan which has fought four wars for its defense and survival, combated most pernicious forms of terrorism on its own land, faced discrimination and ostracism while it was merely trying to secure its national integrity, and has tried to build its economy in the harshest conditions in the past two decades.


The idea was to found and develop a modern, democratic and enlightened welfare Muslim state that would neither lean towards any form of theocracy nor blindly mimic Western liberalism. For the past seven decades, there has been this constant quest in Pakistan for the middle ground of a spiritually vibrant society working for representative politics, economic development and cultural harmony. With a few exceptions, Pakistani polity and society have assiduously stuck to this path, which can broadly be described as Muslim nationalism, but one that would be inclusive and safeguard the interests of all segments of society, especially the minorities. This vision entails the tenets of Islam, pluralist democracy and pursuit of knowledge especially of science and technology. 
While Pakistan has its unique identity, it was also part of the Islamic Ummah and the broader international community. This is the fusion that the people of Pakistan had been trying to achieve as compellingly set forth by Allama Iqbal. 
Pakistan has done well in the comity of nations. It acquired nuclear and conventional capability to defend itself, making it a member of an exclusive club of 7 declared nuclear weapon states. This was no mean achievement given the sweeping sanctions imposed on Pakistan. Pakistan has also raised armed forces which are the 6th largest in the world and the largest among Muslim nations. Pakistan Armed Forces have won immense respect abroad and are the pride of Pakistani nation for their proven capability to meet threats on land, air and sea simultaneously. 
In 1947, the population of West Pakistan, now constituting present day Pakistan, was around 32 million and today it is 210 million. Pakistan has fed this growing population throughout this period. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan is among the top ten countries in the category of agricultural and dairy products. The middle class has grown rapidly while the incidence of poverty has been pushed down. Economists believe that the number of the middle class in Pakistan should range between 80 to 84 million, a number bigger than the population of many middle income countries. In 1947, Pakistan had only one university – the University of Punjab. Today, there are more than 200 universities and degree awarding institutions of higher learning; and Pakistan produces about half a million graduates every year. 



In its foreign policy, Pakistan has done extremely well in five areas. First, it has worked productively for the national security of Pakistan in a holistic manner. Second, by pursuing deft nuclear diplomacy it has ensured that Pakistan remains in the multilateral mainstream while safeguarding its vital national interests by warding off any abrasion of either the development or the maintenance of its nuclear programme. Third, despite all odds and the increasing clout of India globally, Pakistan has steadfastly maintained its principled stand on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute which impinges on the political destiny of 20 million Kashmiris and security of South Asia. Fourth, through diligence and ingenuity, Pakistan has become an integral part of the global security and development architecture. As a member of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and numerous other international and regional organizations, Pakistan influences decision making. Fifth, by cementing bilateral ties with key capitals, Pakistan has tried to build a national firewall for security and economic cooperation with major nations. 
Pakistan’s sterling performance in UN peacekeeping spanning nearly six decades, starting in 1960, has been widely recognized and applauded. Committed to global peace and security, Pakistan has contributed 200,000 peacekeepers to 46 UN missions in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America; and during this period 156 Pakistan peacekeepers, including a female officer, have laid down their lives in the cause of peace. Moreover, Pakistan has been an active player in the UN peacekeeping reform process. 
Pakistan is a strategic pivot for the region and indirectly for the world. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has provided a launching pad for Pakistan’s economy and regional connectivity. But Pakistan’s potential is much, much larger. Forecasts for Pakistan indicate that it would be amongst the top twenty economies of the world by 2050. Some time ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that Pakistan’s economy could become the 16th largest global economy by 2050 on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP), overtaking many developed nations. Given the fact that Pakistan already ranks today as the 24th largest economy in terms of PPP (39th in nominal GDP), there is no reason why by 2050 it would not be one of the top ten economies of the world, once economic development takes off following regulatory and policy reforms currently underway. Pakistanis are recognised for their entrepreneurial spirit and skills. Even most conservative Western analysts say that Pakistan has the potential to become the next success story among emerging markets; and that its economic difficulties are transient. Such predictions are not an occasion for euphoria but are calls for rigour, diligence and discipline. We know ‘the potential’ remains a mere potential unless tapped. 
No doubt, over the past seven decades, Pakistan has achieved spectacular successes in many fields. But that is not its destination. Destiny of a nation is carved and crafted, not inherited; and who knows it better than Pakistan which has fought four wars for its defense and survival, combated most pernicious forms of terrorism on its own land, faced discrimination and ostracism while it was merely trying to secure its national integrity, and has tried to build its economy in the harshest conditions in the past two decades.
Economy is key to Pakistan’s emergence as a great power on the map of the world. In due course, Pakistan’s equity market’s performance will bounce back and Pakistan’s liberal regime combined with economic freedom would attract foreign capital and investment. For this to happen, Pakistan would need to rethink its educational policies and make them drivers for fast-paced development of human capital and enhanced quantity, quality, access, absorption and utilization of scientific and technological knowhow in Pakistani and Pakistan-led markets. Without an optimum level of these inputs, Pakistan would not be able to create a knowledge economy, which is a must for Pakistan’s rise. Secondly, the once-in-a-lifetime-of-a-nation opportunity offered by the CPEC must be fully understood and exploited. It is a catalyst, not a substitute for Pakistan’s economy; and it is a vehicle for mainstreaming and globalizing Pakistan’s economy riding on the tide of a tanscontinental network across Asia, Africa and Europe. Pakistan should become a manufacturing hub and a crossroads for trade, as a conduit and destination simultaneously. The author of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China, but its primary beneficiary will be Pakistan if it perceives and implements the mega-project of CPEC astutely. Pakistan is mature for economic transformation witnessed earlier by South Korea, China, Malaysia and Brazil, to name a few. This opportunity would not be lost.
To unleash Pakistan’s full energy and to put it on the path of exponential growth, Pakistan will change its risk averse, risk mitigation and firefighting mindset to a long-term pro-growth strategy. Statistics show that in the past seven decades, difficulties notwithstanding, Pakistan has been punching below its weight economically. Indices related to GDP, quality education, health facilities, human development, housing, agricultural and industrial growth, and services sectors show that Pakistan could have done much more, much better. There is an expectations revolution in Pakistan and for its people “less is not more” anymore. They want all barriers removed that impede their growth and rise as individuals, communities and a premier nation of the world. 
A strong state protects the weak and vulnerable individuals and segments of society. The future vision for Pakistan is to ensure that there would be no poverty, no exclusion, and no marginalization. Income inequalities would be reduced. Pakistan’s dream would fully come true when all citizens will be protected and will have equal opportunities to be healthy, educated and prosperous. 
Federations anywhere in the world have to work consciously and constantly for promoting national unity and integration. Pakistan has a vast geographical expanse with a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic population. For the overwhelming majority, Islam is the common bond and denominator. Constitutionally, Pakistan has vowed to create an inclusive society that respects and upholds the rights of the minorities. Despite a singular ideological orientation, Pakistan faces the challenge of coalescing national unity with the participation of mass national and regional political parties, vigilant electorate, mass media, and interest groups with divergent agenda. We have to respect diversity; unity is not unanimity and integration is not an absolute amalgamation erasing distinctiveness. Because of the information-and-new-technologies revolution, the challenge of national integration has become more demanding. 
The following measures will help strengthen national unity and harmony. First, Pakistan needs to work harder to leverage its internal economic geography to buttress and expand mutual economic dependencies and linkages among all the provinces. Second, the core values of Pakistan should be incorporated into the curricula being taught in the centre and the provinces, from primary through tertiary levels. Third, merit-based, accountable and transparent governance, bound by the gold threads of the rule of law and access to justice, should be ensured for all citizens. Fourth, Pakistan should become a national and international leader in religious harmony and moderation because the fault lines of religious divisions and discord cross many international borders. Fifth, citizens, not just government institutions and entities, should be made vigilant about attempts to fan sub-nationalist and secessionist tendencies. Sixth, political stability and continuity should be treated as an imperative no matter how difficult the challenges are. Seventh, the mass media and social media should be made participants and stakeholders in evolving national narratives. Finally, national dialogues on unity and harmony at all levels and in all spheres should continue because a narrative that is valid and viable now may cut no ice with the domestic and international audience tomorrow because of the constantly changing cognitive and communications environment. 
In the coming years, Pakistan needs the best political insight and resourcefulness to navigate its international relations. In this context, it is important that Pakistan’s self-image is of a great power with a destiny. If it conducts itself like a big, responsible power, with an eye on the future, it will balance its relations with major global states and would never be reduced to a client state of one nation or the other. It would invest its political capital in its natural and niche constituencies abroad; and reach out to all markets and open its door for foreign businesses for trade, investment and services. If Qatar, UAE and Singapore, despite their small size, can reach the zenith of economic progress, Pakistan’s chances for growth and development are monumental. 
With that in mind, Pakistan would cultivate close ties with the United States, reinforce its strategic cooperative relationship with China, expand its relations with Europe, further improve its ties with Russia, and explore new markets in Africa and East Asia. Pakistan would no doubt work resolutely to help in putting an end to the conflict in Afghanistan because it cares for the people of Afghanistan and it is in its own national interest. 
Resolution of the issues with India is much more daunting because Pakistan cannot do it alone and, as they say, it takes two to tango. Pakistan would persevere in its goodwill, unilateral diplomacy, but for success there must be reciprocity. To create an atmosphere for engagement and a working rapprochement, India must be asked by the international community to do two things: wind up its proxy war and subversive operations in Balochistan; and spiral down its anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim rhetoric, based on religious intolerance and xenophobia, and actions which are fraught with great dangers for peace and security of the region. 
The Kashmir dispute, India must know by now, cannot be resolved through the use of brute force nor it is malleable to a formal bilateral process or backdoor bilateral diplomacy. President Donald Trump’s recent offer for mediation provides new political space and opportunity to explore a win-win solution for Pakistan, India, and the people of South Asia. In the interest of peace, it would be prudent for India to review its blanket rejection of this offer. 
Pakistan is there to stay. It is a precious gift that would be valued, cherished, preserved and nurtured. The citizens of Pakistan have a state and therein they enjoy liberty and every one of them will passionately foster and defend it. And one day it would be a shining star in the comity of nations radiating brilliance, peace and prosperity. 


The writer is President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and a former Ambassador to the United Nations (in both New York and Geneva) and China. 
E-mail: [email protected]


1. Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. (1965). The Struggle for Pakistan. Karachi: Univesity of Karachi, p.308.
2. The News, Karachi, February 6, 2016, reporting Ambassador Jamsheed Marker’s at the launch of his book ‘Cover Point: Impressions of Leadership in Pakistan’.

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