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How Pakistan became Aunt Sally!

Pakistan must undertake comprehensive reforms that prioritise sustainable development, political stability, education, security, energy diversification, and strategic diplomacy



How Pakistan became Aunt Sally!
How Pakistan became Aunt Sally!

Turab Ali 

Once considered a promising nation with potential for economic growth and regional influence, Pakistan is increasingly becoming a subject of international ridicule. The root cause of this decline lies in a series of 'poor' and 'foolish' policies that have plagued the nation for decades. 

One of the primary areas of concern is Pakistan’s economic mismanagement. Successive governments have failed to implement coherent economic strategies, resulting in a fragile economy that heavily relies on foreign aid and loans. As of 2023, Pakistan’s external debt clocks in at approximately $115 billion, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) frequently stepping in to provide bailouts. High inflation, which reached 24.5% in 2023, coupled with an unemployment rate of around 6.3%, has significantly reduced the purchasing power of ordinary citizens. Additionally, rampant corruption and tax evasion have further eroded public trust and depleted national resources. These economic woes have not only stunted growth but have also made Pakistan a laughing stock among nations with more robust economic frameworks.

Political instability is another critical factor contributing to Pakistan’s declining reputation. Frequent changes in government, coupled with military interventions, have created an environment of uncertainty and dysfunction. Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has experienced multiple military coups and periods of martial law. The political leaders often engage in power struggles rather than focusing on governance and development. For example, the political turmoil following the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2022 led to nationwide protests and economic uncertainty. This lack of stability undermines investors' confidence and hampers long-term planning. The international community views Pakistan’s political scene as chaotic and unpredictable, further diminishing its credibility.

Education is the cornerstone of any nation’s progress, yet Pakistan’s education system remains in shambles. Ill-conceived education policies have resulted in low literacy rates and poor educational outcomes. As of 2021, Pakistan's literacy rate was approximately 62.3%, one of the lowest in South Asia. The curriculum is outdated, and there is a significant disparity in the quality of education between urban and rural areas. Furthermore, a lack of investment in education has left schools underfunded and understaffed. In 2023, Pakistan allocated only 2.8% of its GDP to education, far below the recommended 4-6% by the UNESCO. The failure to prioritise education has long-term consequences, as it limits the nation’s ability to develop a skilled workforce and innovate in various fields.

Pakistan’s policies towards extremism and internal security have also drawn international criticism. Despite efforts to combat terrorism, the country has struggled to 'completely eliminate' extremist groups operating within its borders. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2022, Pakistan ranked 8th among countries most affected by terrorism. These groups not only pose a threat to national security but also tarnish Pakistan’s image globally. The inconsistent and often lenient approach towards dealing with extremism has raised questions about the government’s commitment to maintaining law and order.

The energy sector in Pakistan is another area plagued by poor policy decisions. Chronic energy shortages have severely impacted economic productivity and the daily lives of citizens. In 2023, Pakistan faced an electricity shortfall of around 5,000 megawatts, leading to widespread loadshedding and blackouts. The reliance on imported fuels, outdated infrastructure, and circular debt exceeding $14bn has exacerbated the crisis. The failure to diversify energy sources and invest in renewable energy has left Pakistan struggling to meet its energy demands, further undermining its economic stability. Where the entire world is switching towards cheap solar energy and promoting it among the citizens, the incumbent government in Pakistan instead of promoting it is now mulling burdening the citizens with expensive solar unit cost.     

On the diplomatic front, Pakistan has often found itself isolated due to its erratic foreign policies. Strained relations with neighbouring countries, inconsistent positions on international issues, and a failure to effectively engage with global powers have left Pakistan with few reliable allies. For instance, Pakistan’s complex relationship with India has hindered regional cooperation and economic integration. The lack of a coherent and strategic foreign policy has weakened Pakistan’s influence on the global stage and has contributed to its image as a nation struggling to find its footing. Average relations, especially in trade and border security, with Afghanistan and Iran also indicate how much Pakistan's foreign policy has been compromised.     

In conclusion, Pakistan’s current plight can be attributed to a series of poor and foolish policies across various sectors. Economic mismanagement, political instability, inadequate education policies, ineffective handling of extremism, energy sector crises, and diplomatic blunders have collectively eroded Pakistan’s standing in the international community.

To reverse this trend, Pakistan must undertake comprehensive reforms that prioritise sustainable development, political stability, education, security, energy diversification, and strategic diplomacy. Only through a concerted effort to address these fundamental issues can Pakistan hope to regain its dignity and credibility on the world stage.

-- The writer is a staff member of GNN News and analyst