Some seventy years ago, Pakistan came into existence and what it inherited was the blood and trauma of the partition. The journey of the then new-born country started with massive scars on its soul and remained a topsy-turvy one. But nonetheless; its journey is not less than a fairy-tale. A tale that is exciting, adventurous, unpredictable, rash and dangerous without a dull moment.

In the midst of the monsoon of August 1947, British India ceased to be and gave way to two independent nations. The logic of this partition being religious and regional, the older and larger India was reinforced as a Hindu majority society, while the newer and smaller Pakistan emerged as an Islamic country. No partitions are total and absolute but this one was especially terrible and ambiguous; it left about a 20 percent religious minority population on both sides.

Moreover, it created two wings of Pakistan with a hostile Indian body-politic in the middle. And Pakistan has to pay for that hostility in shape of further partition as its eastern wing fell prey to India’s folly and the western part is still struggling to cope with a mischievous neighbour’s nefarious designs to bring in stability and prosperity.

So its own survival and existence is in itself the biggest achievement so far. And the belief behind its survival is an even bigger one. It is a country that remains at the heart of international politics due to its geo-political strategic importance and was influential in bringing down a superpower at the end of the cold war. Pakistan is still at the centre of the so-called war against terror and has suffered a lot in this war but is about to emerge victorious against the wishes of many in the world who are supporting Pakistan half-heartedly and consider it more like a thorn in the eye due to its Muslim identity and on the top of that its nuclear arsenal.

Mere focus on survival has failed to help develop institutions in the country. And the biggest disappointment in this regard is on its political horizon. The politics of division, distrust and fear have played a disastrous effect on Pakistani society. This has given us a deeply divided society, ethnic unease, sectarian discomfort, a securitised state, at least three decades of direct military rule, and a deep distrust of all institutions – including that of the military and judiciary, but especially of politics and politicians. Trust cannot be cultivated under the assumption that no one can be trusted. If our democracy has seemed flawed, it is mostly because our trust in democracy has been so little.

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 feudals of Pakistan. Though urban Hindu migrants to India were a burden for that country for some time, they were still skilled and intellectually advanced. And, if human capital is extremely important in socio-economic growth then India 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 counterpart has done equally well if not better.

What has not sunk into international perceptions about the country is the tangible consensus among the government, military, and Pakistani citizens against violent terrorists including the Pakistani Taliban and the alphabet soup of other terrorist groups in and around the country. Pakistan will continue to experience attacks by fringe groups, but foreign policymakers and investors need to stop operating as if the Pakistani Taliban is at Islamabad’s doorstep.

Chinese investment is another reason why the world is reassessing Pakistan calculus. Since Xi Jinping first announced the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2014, the project has quickly become the centrepiece of diplomatic relations between the two countries. CPEC will include highways, railways, and oil and gas pipelines – all constructed via Chinese companies.

The CPEC project aims to connect China and Pakistan, ending in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

Even the possibility of the scheme’s partial achievement has injected optimism in a country starved for infrastructure and energy investment. The deal has also greatly incentivised the government to clamp down on terrorist groups.

But then we hit another roadblock. While experiencing first-ever civilian to civilian hand over of the government, the politics of Pakistan have just seen another twist. At a moment when the country was just put on the right path with improved security and political stability, a judicial earthquake jolted Pakistan’s progress again. Though it’s not our place to comment on the judgment, its aftershocks may be considered as a potential hazard to Pakistan’s development as an already fragile political institute has suffered more and it would deeply impact all the other institutions in a negative way.

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.” Pakistan was a peasant country in 1947 and it had to go through all these phases of socio-economic evolution. I feel realistically optimistic about Pakistan’s future. So fingers are crossed as opportunities are unlimited for a country to shed its unpredictability and thrive on the global horizon.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor.