“National power rises from a relatively stable foundation of geography, through different gradations of instability to its peak in the fleeting elements of national character and morale.”

–Hans Joachim Morgenthau

Pakistan is a country of contrasts and paradoxes. It appears at the top or rock bottom of various indices indicating the idiosyncratic nature of the collect. A few flashes of brilliance are punctuated with pathetic lows and a yawning national disconnect; a nuclear state with a begging bowl and lowest of low human development indices. A lethal brew of self-serving politicians, absence of an informed political discourse, moral bankruptcy and corruption put the security of citizens at risk. Yet resilient working classes sustain themselves despite a politically franchised black economy that sucks more blood from stones than revenue departments. Missing is a vision backed by an imaginative and workable national framework based on Pakistan’s short, mid and long term architecture of national power.

The reasons for this low, lie in a constitution subjected to unchecked abuse. Had the organs of the state implemented the first three parts of this document, Pakistan’s road map to a credible self-respecting country would have already peaked. Realities reflect the hollowness of national purpose and a proliferation of whims. Countries with a compact set of indices enjoy more respect in the comity of nations and show consistency in growth. These nations are resistant to threats, and exercise leverages towards attaining national objectives. Constant incremental development raises the bar consistent with international competition bringing happiness and wellbeing to people.

It is high time that Pakistan’s policy makers and analysts learn that national power is a continuously aggregated sum of the potential of a country, overlapped by natural and social determinants, on a timeline. The two are connected by knowledge, resolve and hard work. Geography is permanent; power is dynamic, spurred by national character and morale. Power is latent and needs effective governments to convert it into implementable policy tools. These elements can be divided into natural and social determinants.

Natural Determinants

Geographically, Pakistan shares borders with India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It connects West, South and Central Asia, has four climates, a very steep gradient, the world’s highest mountains, steep rivers, alluvial plains, deserts, plateaus and a long coastline from Thatta to the mouth of Arabian Gulf. At a glance it translates into an enviable geo-strategic location and has natural barriers for security. Pakistan has exploited this determinant in it power rivalry only. National growth is missing. No dams, no hydropower, no ports, no communication infrastructure and no modern agriculture.

Demographics are an important determinant though not an assurance of strength. The correct balance in diversity and skills of the population is significant. 60% of Pakistan’s population is unskilled, uneducated and unemployed youth. The limited resource of skilled manpower is fast shrinking. Education and technical development is incompatible. Crime and militancy provide ripe grounds for disillusionment. Unplanned urbanization and slums grow. The educated and skilled manpower serves the West and Middle East with distinctions. Brain drain is a constant. Within Pakistan, this resource is unutilized. This resource is crucial if Pakistan’s geography is to be realized into a juggernaut. Failure will rip the nation at its seams.

Large amounts of natural resources are essential for security, an industrial base, export of raw and finished materials, trade led foreign policy and political influence. The mineral rich Tethyan belt extends from Taftan through Waziristan to Chitral and Swat. Mere physical possession of natural resources is not a source of power unless the country has the political will and technical prowess to maintain control and harness its dispositions. Pakistan’s vast reserves of gold, copper, antimony, uranium, coal, lignite, hydrocarbon, precious and semi-precious minerals are meaningless if in control of outside actors. The energy, minerals, gemstones, irrigation, water and land based communication infrastructure is nowhere. Agriculture is neglected.

Social Determinants

Sound economic capacity bridges between natural and social determinants of power and overall modernization of institutions, education, social mobility and instrumentalism. Strong domestic economies produce non-military power that impacts the international arena. Leading industrial nations exercise power without a bullet through their impact on international agreements and international financial institutions. A country tied to outside trade, aid and strings remains pliant, weak and poor. Pakistan has the potential to become the world’s fastest growing economy within three years if its natural determinants are harnessed by a creative economic policy.

The political system of Pakistan has psychological fallouts. Do the constitution and system of government deliver? Is the system inclusive? Do political institutions have the capacity and will to gel the natural determinants. Do they have the vision to see their country progress from year to year? Does the leadership have the potential to keep its citizens in a high state of morale and optimum performance? Are they instrumental in creation and control of a national construct? A paragraph in the preamble of constitution states, “So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honored place amongst the nations of the world and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity”? The failing can be summed in the system’s contextual inability to create a framework for its realizable systemic potential on a continuum based on its strengths, weaknesses and force multipliers.

National will and morale imply zeal that citizens manifest in the pursuit of internal or external objectives. This is a force multiplier for the growth of social capital. Education, skill development, national development, employment and state of happiness integrate diversity towards a common objective. Unfortunately, this is a rare commodity in Pakistan.

Military in a modern nation remains just another instrument to meet ends of national policy, primarily the defence of its geography and national interests drawn from national power. It performs in tandem and not isolation of other instruments of policy. In peacetime it also has a constitutional role to use its diverse ability in national development. In Pakistan, in absence of a comprehensive national framework, it is frequently sucked into every sphere of national activity. This is a bad omen for a nonfunctional democracy.

I have been writing on this subject for two decades. Each day is a new low convincing me of the inevitability of a national narrative and framework. Someone has to take the lead in framing this narrative. Unfortunately, Pakistan is like a cricket team whose captain has no game plan, whose bowlers spray the ball, whose batsmen are in awe and whose fielders yawn.