Lessons in history: Pakistan’s bright future

The division of Punjab was very tragic and probably unfair to non-Muslims who had built the city with blood and sweat but watched the downtrodden become the masters of the city in this historical twist.  Furthermore, despite all daunting challenges for Pakistan, the most fertile part of north India if not the entire subcontinent became part of Pakistan. Now, not only does this country enjoy a rich and middle class of Muslims along with the poor, but the industrial areas are stretched in every direction up to Sheikhupura, Kasoor and Bhai Phairoo. If the textile industry of Faisalabad, along with other industries in entire Pakistan is included, poor peasants, artisans and laboring classes of pre-1947 era have done quite a marvelous job just in 60 some years.
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FRUITS OF INDEPENDENCE THOUGH NOT SWEET AS HONEY, HAVEN’T  YET BEEN BITTER, EITHER

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by Dr. Manzur Ejaz 

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Come August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day, there is nothing but doom and gloom all around, or at least that’s what the media would have us believe. One e-mail heading reads “Division of Pakistan is about to start by 14th August 2011.” Such pessimism is absolutely uncalled for and the news of Pakistan’s demise is totally immature.

Pakistan has been in an enormous mess for a long time and no one knows how to get out of this morass. Shortages, socio-political anarchy, sickening economy, the war on terror and urban terrorism are all prevalent in the country. And, yet every Pakistani dreams that by now the country should have been like Europe, America or at least at the level of India and China. Alas, Pakistan is not there but is in a position that its present citizens could not have imagined to be in before 1947. To appreciate a substantial progress of Pakistan, we need a historical perspective.

To value the progress of Pakistani Muslims, we should look at the demographics of pre-1947. Without burdening the reader with too many statistics and numbers, it can be said that 99 per cent of the Muslims of present Pakistan were peasants, artisans, labourers or attached to lowly professions. Yes, of course there were Muslim feudals all around, but they did not represent the vast majority. Other than the army and police, Muslims were almost negligible in business, services, professional classes, bureaucracy or education. All the non-agricultural sectors were completely monopolised by Hindus. This was not from the British era, rather, it was the pattern for the entire Muslim era as well.

Lahore was the main city in the areas now included in Pakistan and is now the second most populous city. One should imagine the Muslims of Lahore of that that era and compare it with the present one. Back then, every economic sector, from banking to education, was owned and run by Hindus only. Muslims had only couple of shops in Anarkali and Mall Road and only two families of note, headed by Ch. Muhammad Shafi and Nawab Muzaffar Qazalbash. In Jhutha Sach (The False Truth, 1958–1960), novelist Yashpal encapsules the status of Muslims in a dialogue between two Hindu ladies talking to each other about seeing a Muslim vegetable vendor in the inner city, one says, “these are the people who will rule us in Pakistan?”

The division of Punjab was very tragic and probably unfair to non-Muslims who had built the city with blood and sweat but watched the downtrodden become the masters of the city in this historical twist.  Furthermore, despite all daunting challenges for Pakistan, the most fertile part of north India if not the entire subcontinent became part of Pakistan. With huge surplus production in agriculture it could provide capital for industries. It was not fair to the peasantry to transfer their surplus to budding industrial class but this is how it happened.

Now, not only does Lahore enjoy a rich and midlde class of Muslims along with the poor, but the industrial areas are stretched in every direction up to Sheikhupura, Kasoor and Bhai Phairoo to the south. If the textile industry of Faisalabad, along with other industries in entire Pakistan is included, poor peasants, artisans and laboring classes of pre-1947 era have done a marvelous job just in 60 some years. Pakistan-Punjab, as compared to its eastern part in India, has much more industry on a per capita basis. Furthermore, Punjab has still remained the bread basket of Pakistan and Sindh has progressed in fruit production. Other provinces have done their own share in the economic sectors in which they have comparative advantage.

India and China have certainly done better than Pakistan in most areas. However examined in a historical perspective, both countries had inherent advantages over Pakistan. China had been the world leader in industrial production for 1800 years, except the last five to six hundred years.

Furthermore, the Indian bourgeoisie industrial/entrepreneurial classes were far more mature than the peasantry and feudals of Pakistan. Though urban Hindu migrants to India were a burden for that country for some time, but they were still skilled and intellectually advanced.  And, if human capital is extremely important in socio-economic growth then Indian gained at the expense of Pakistan because of this devastating migration. Despite all the advantages India had, if one looks at living conditions in the entire northern region of the subcontinent, its Pakistani counter-part has done equally well if not better.

As far as the breaking up of Pakistan is concerned, one can cynically repeat what Faiz Ahmed Faid had once said “My fear is that this country will go on like this.” On a serious note, the disintegration of Pakistan does not seem to be on the agenda of history. Basically, most ethnicities have developed huge stakes in united Pakistan. Pashtuns from KP and Balochistan have developed economic interest in every big city of the country. They even monopolize certain sectors of the economy in Punjab and Sindh. Why would they wish Pakistan broken to leave them to struggle where they cannot find jobs and markets in which to sell their products? Sindhis, despite the protestations, are much better off within Pakistan rather than being a small country.  This is why no nationalist Sindhi political party has ever won the elections.

It is true that at present Pakistan seems to be in a very fragile situation as we all know. It is also true that Pakistan has great potential, if it was governed properly. But this is a big “IF” because history cannot be explained with “if this had happened then that would happen.” Instead history is a series of interconnected events where we say that “A led to B.” Pakistan was a peasant country in 1947 and it had to go through all these phases of socio-economic evolution. I feel realistically optimistimistic about Pakistan’s future: the actions of independent judiciary are one indicator to be followed by other institutions.

The demise of present ruling parties and elite is inevitably giving birth to new forces. Sit tight and just watch the horizon of the next 10 to 20 years, not just from this election to next election.

Dr. Manzur Ejaz is a poet, author, a political commentator and a cultural activist. He is a Doctor of Economics and currently lives in Washington DC.

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Published in: on 17/08/2011 at 12:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dr. Manzur, Don’t be over-optimistic. Your emphasis on the potential of Pakistan clearly indicates that you have doubt about it, but we don’t. After all once it was a part of India. In last 64 years there has been a sea change, so I wonder how your dream about Pakistan will be realized!

  2. Thanks.


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