by Mashhood Alam
If you have been to any gathering in Pakistan you can’t help but notice statements like ‘God has bestowed Pakistan with immense talent, more than any other nation in the world’, ‘Pakistan has a huge asset in its 220 million people, 65% of which are youth’, ‘Allah has special favor on Pakistan and Pakistan can never be undone’, ‘Pakistan’s current situation is due to a global conspiracy led by India, America, and, Israel’, and ‘Pakistan must play a leading role in reviving Islam globally’.
Here is a perspective that hopefully will quell these myths and help us see reality as it is.
Myth # 1: God has bestowed Pakistan with immense talent, more than any other nation.
First of all, the importance of talent is overblown. Environment, access, ecosystem, training, and mindset are more relevant than talent. Secondly, God has bestowed talent around the world equally to all nations. Those nations which focus on human development and creating an environment where everyone has an opportunity to take advantage of their unique talents and skills, rise up and become strong. Finally, talent gets wasted when the system doesn’t enable access.
So we must focus on systemic changes and human development rather than hoping for mythical talent to emerge.
Myth # 2: Pakistan has a huge asset in its 220 million people, 65% of which are youth.
In today’s age, the size of the population doesn’t matter as much as the productivity of the population. Look at Israel, which is a powerhouse of research and technology with a population of less than 10 million. Look at Singapore which has just over 5 million people, yet is considered one of the most advanced countries based on its focus on education and trade.
In fact, a large population is considered a burden if it isn’t productive, which is the case with Pakistan. With a literacy rate below 50%, and a large portion of children malnourished, these large numbers of people are essentially a liability. Bangladesh, at the time of its independence, had a bigger population than Pakistan. Now, their population is 20% less than Pakistan. One of the key factors for their relative success is their ability to control their population growth.
So let’s take some prudent measures in building a productive populace rather than just touting this horn.
Myth # 3: Allah has special favor on Pakistan and Pakistan can never be undone.
This claim is so absurd that it isn’t even worth commenting on. Anyone with just a minimal knowledge of history wouldn’t make such a ridiculous claim. The graveyard of history is full of empires and dynasties of the past. Romans, Persians, Greek, Moguls, Ottomans, and Mayan are just a few examples that collapsed under the weight of their massive debts and injustices that plagued their dominions.
Even if the boundaries of current Pakistan (the former West Pakistan which already lost its Eastern part) remain intact for some while, the living standards could continue to slide and global relevance drastically reduced in the coming years if the status quo continues. There are many countries in the world today that are in such a state, an example of such a country could be found in our neighbor to the West of our borders.
We must do everything in our power to bring about the revolution expeditiously, lest we’ll soon join those nations of the past in the graveyard of history.
Myth # 4: Pakistan’s current situation is due to a global conspiracy led by India, America, and Israel
The sole responsibility for Pakistan’s current situation lies on Pakistanis themselves.
As individuals, the majority of Pakistanis do not let any opportunity for corruption slip for short-term gains.
A large majority in both rural as well as urban households subjugate female members in our families.
Pakistanis do not hold our leadership accountable at the local, provincial, or national level.
Pakistanis find the most narrow interpretation of religion and use it to discriminate against brethren of other sects and religions.
We do not stand up for justice.
Our justice system is a glowing example of corruption.
As a nation, we failed to abolish feudalism, nor kept military power in check.
The result of all these, and many other factors is that we are one of the poorest, most corrupt, and non-productive countries.
No other nation could be blamed for our own failings.
Myth # 5: Pakistan must play a leading role in reviving Islam globally
Pakistan is a nation-state that was formed as British Raj was coming to an end. The unfortunate reality was that Muslims and Hindus fought side by side against British rule till the struggle in 1857. Britishers, keeping up with their tradition, found religion a potent reason to sow the seeds of division amongst the people of united India. The people who lives peacefully for millennia, were at each others’ throats within a few decades thereafter, which led to the partition of India in 1947. Forget about playing a global role for Muslims, Pakistan couldn’t even stand up for the Muslims in India and closed its borders to Indian Muslims a few years after partition. Even now, more than 180 million Muslims live in India and another 200 million in Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan till 1971. So, to claim that Pakistan should play a leading role in reviving the Islamic spirit in more than 1.6 billion Muslims globally when it can’t even revive the Islamic spirit within its borders or the Muslims of the subcontinent is no more than a pipe dream.
If a nation must prosper, it must focus on human development and economic progress, and focus on saving Pakistan first before thinking of Muslims around the globe.
Facing our reality
The best approach would be to focus on human development, strengthening Pakistan’s economy, increasing exports, fostering innovation, establishing justice, abolishing the feudal system, reducing military involvement in politics, and making it safe and easy for anyone around the world to be attracted to Pakistan.
The time for wishful thinking is long gone. We must own up to our problems, rise up and change NOW.