Way back in the 1960s Pakistan was truly on the move. The early Ayub years gave us the “Green Revolution” because of the construction and commissioning of dams such as Mangla and Tarbela. Barrages were erected all the way down to the Guddu near Hyderabad. These dams and barrages gave birth to an efficient network of canals and small distributaries which in the sixties not only made Pakistan self-sufficient but surplus in agricultural products. In the 60s the building that we all know as Habib Bank Plaza in Karachi was the tallest building all the way from the Middle East down to Singapore. In the 60s almost every army, navy and air force in the Middle East was being manned by Pakistani officers and men. We literally raised those armed forces. Many airlines that operate from the Gulf have actually been trained, organised and manned by PIA staff when they initially started operations. Today they are amongst the best in the world while PIA is in a total mess.
In 1972 it was Pakistan that created history and paved the way for the world to move in the direction that it actually has moved by being instrumental in bringing about President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing (then Peking). That visit helped both China and USA equally and opened the world to be shaped as it is today. Not long after that, in 1979, if Pakistan had not taken on the USSR on its own initially, along with the Afghan Mujahideen, the world today would have been very different.
One can go on recounting many more aspects of Pakistan to show what a potently viable country it should have been today with an economy strong enough to stand it in good stead for exercising an independent foreign policy as well as in bringing about an environment in which the country would have had a content population which would, in turn, have excluded space to all sorts of disruptions.
What, then, went wrong and why do people now talk in terms of whether Pakistan will be able to outlast its present crisis? Pakistan indeed lost its way in the years that followed the incidents I have quoted; military coups, the judicial murder of an elected prime minister, frequent derailing of the political process, an erratic foreign policy pursued by a bunch of minds that were driven by reasons other than prudent statecraft, importing of self-seeking bankers and making them prime ministers, denying of provincial autonomy to the federating units, allowing ethnic and other kinds of militancy to grow, letting fiefdoms be created right under the nose of the state, making talent become subservient to cronyism, treating education as if it was insignificant and so much more is all responsible for the dire straits we find ourselves in after having made a great start in the early years of our freedom.
It is said that South Korea laid its foundations for progress and prosperity on Pakistan’s First Five Year Plan. Pakistan never made a second five-year plan and in fact the First Five Year Plan was followed by ad hocism. Who knows, had Pakistan followed its own First Five Year Plan like South Korea did, in the subsequent years Pakistan too may well have been one of the biggest economies of the world today. (South Korea is now the fourth-biggest of Asia and the world’s15th.)
Most Pakistanis are known to have a strong faith in the country’s ability to bounce back from the wilderness. Pakistan is not a country that can be written off because a handful of insurgents have taken the state on frontally and because the state has not responded as responsibly as it ought to have ever since the crisis was evolving. Reacting to situations when crises explode in the face cannot be the best of situations for any state. The present crisis should never have got to where it now stands. Now that it has and now that it has to be handled, let all Pakistanis take strength form the fact that this great country needs to be put back on the track from which it got derailed in the 60s. We Pakistanis have to once again regain our lost glory and win back our rightful, respectable and dignified place in the comity of nations. We can and must do it.
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