Pakistan’s lessons from India

Published: September 24, 2012

The writer is a former vice-president of the World Bank and a former caretaker finance minister of Pakistan

Looking at India will be of enormous help for fashioning Pakistan’s political order. Not to imply that Pakistan should follow what India is doing, but there are some lessons from what happened to India’s political system as it evolved.

As Pakistan stumbled from one political crisis to another, many looked with envy at what the Indians had achieved — they managed to create a political system that worked reasonably well for a country much more diverse than Pakistan. That happened for basically two reasons. The first was leadership continuity during the country’s formative years. From 1947 to 1964, India was governed essentially by one man: former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was not only one of the founding fathers of India but was also a committed democrat. The second reason for India’s more robust political development was that unlike the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the Congress Party in India did not lose its raison d’être the moment the country won independence.

The PML was a one-issue party. As the All-India Muslim League, its predecessor, it had only one mission: the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India. Once that was achieved, the party failed to redefine itself. It floundered. The Congress Party had a more ambitious political agenda: to end colonial rule, keep India united and create a political, social and economic system that would improve the well-being of the common Indian citizen. The two major leaders of the pre-independence India had two very different ideologies for achieving the third objective. MK Gandhi wanted to do it by returning India to its traditions in which the citizen’s welfare was based on the work of small communities, essentially villages or  “little republics”. Nehru, on the other hand, wanted to bring European socialism into India. The Soviet Union became his model as he began to shape public economic policies.

The Congress continued to dominate the political system for half a century but then, because of the way the party itself was governed, a number of regional parties emerged to challenge it. The Indian system developed and, as pointed out by Pratap Bahnu Mehta in a recent Foreign Affairs article, “Indian politicians and bureaucrats all shared four basic management principles — vertical accountability, wide discretion, secrecy and centralisation — all of which made for a government that was representative but not responsive”. The two principles that mattered most were the fact that leaders at all levels of the system looked up to the person at the very top. Most of the time, the top person was the prime minister. The second principle was centralisation. The party was governed from New Delhi.

Several similarities exist between the way the two mainstream political parties are governed in Pakistan and the governance of India’s Congress party. Both the PPP and the PML-N are dominated by a single leader who commands total loyalty and runs a highly centralised organisation. As a result, both have left space for the regional parties to gain power in some parts of the country. However, in Pakistan, there is still space between national and regional parties that can be occupied by a relatively new national organisation. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has gained some traction as the citizens have lost some confidence in the established parties.

To the four principles mentioned by Pratap Mehta as the bases on which the Indian system was built, a fifth needs to be added, particularly on the economic side. The Indian system, to a large extent, is self-correcting. This is because for endurance, it must respond to the pressure by the citizenry for change. This affects both the economic and political components of the system. But the change comes after a lag; it took many years before the government stepped out of the way of the private sector. Nehru had placed the state on the commanding heights of the economy which produced the “Hindu rate of growth” for four decades. This experience taught the policymakers that excessive intervention by the state, as practised during the Nehru years, resulted in the economy growing at a rate much lower than its potential.

What does the Indian experience tell us about Pakistan’s likely political development and how it might affect our economy? I will take up this question next week.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • udontneed
    Sep 24, 2012 - 12:29AM

    A better lesson for economics would be Chinese model. And a better lesson for democracy would be the American model with an old constitution and commitments.Recommend

  • Max
    Sep 24, 2012 - 12:50AM

    Mr. Burki,
    Comparing Congress with Muslim League, you may also look at inherited structural differences between the two parties, their histories, support-base, and the role of the leadership. Same equally applies to principles of governance in both countries. India was and remained more diverse in its approach to governance given the differences in political cultures of the states. Pakistan adopted a monolithic policy: one nation, one language, and one doctrine of governance (mostly from above and with a heavy-hand of the federal government). Pakistan’s federal government’s first panga (involvement in provincial affairs) was removal of the elected government in Pukhtoonkhawa followed by imposition of Urdu language on the eastern province. Rephrasing my point: the viceregal system was kept alive years after independence including rule through sahibs than elected officials. Sahibs were sahibs and they treated the public nothing more than a piece of dirt. There was a need for change in their administrative doctrine. Alas! it never happened and you know this better than I do.

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  • Khalid Khan
    Sep 24, 2012 - 12:57AM

    Burki. I dont want Pakistan to be like India so please drawing comparison or lessons. Economi cs or Wealth is NOT the measure of a country. We need to be on the straight and narrow path. We are being seduced by the growing wealth of Chinese and Indians but they are leading us into shirk. On judgement day the Indians and Chinese will be poor and we will be rich. Is this world the Indians and the Westerners amy be rich but in the world which lasts for ever and ever we are richer than a million Amerikas.

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  • Sep 24, 2012 - 2:18AM

    No economy in the world has more state intervention than China’s. And yet, China has been the world’s fastest growing economy for over two decades.

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  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:10AM

    @Khalid Khan:

    You made my day ..

    So money makes a nation poorer in the after-world? What would that make all those Arab countries (well all Muslim countries except say Pakistan, Afghanistan & Bangladesh) ?

    ppl from Indian subcontinent work very hard for their next meal, while the Arabs live on Govt. subsidy, they produce several babies too…so who is richer in the after-world ? folks who work hard or folks who live on oil money ?

    India is not a rich country, Indian per capita is $1389 and Pak’s is $1201, India is ranked 140 and Pak is ranked 148 … We are almost same economically ..its just that there are more Indians and India is rising slooooowly …

    So what should be the measure of a country? Islam? well, India is the 3rd largest Muslim country in the world…means India is richer in after-world?

    I am begging you, please enlighten us with your wisdom..the world sure can do with some laughter :)

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  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:13AM

    @Riaz Haq:

    Not sure anymore, Macau (china) earns more from gambling than Las Vegas! China is more capitalist in cities & certain areas than the West.

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  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:13AM

    @Khalid Khan:

    You made my day .. WOW

    So money makes a nation poorer in the after-world? What would that make all those Arab countries (well all Muslim countries except say Pakistan, Afghanistan & Bangladesh) ?

    ppl from Indian subcontinent work very hard for their next meal, while the Arabs live on Govt. subsidy, they produce several babies too…so who is richer in the after-world ? folks who work hard or folks who live on oil money ?

    India is not a rich country, Indian per capita is $1389 and Pak’s is $1201, India is ranked 140 and Pak is ranked 148 … We are almost same economically ..its just that there are more Indians and India is rising slooooowly …

    So what should be the measure of a country? Islam? well, India is the 3rd largest Muslim country in the world…means India is richer in after-world?

    I am begging you, please enlighten us with your wisdom..the world sure can do with some laughter :)

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  • Hukum Singh
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:25AM

    @Khalid Khan:
    Read what you have written 5 times and pick every word and analyse. Seek the truth/ It shall set you free.

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  • S
    Sep 24, 2012 - 4:00AM

    Agree with @Khalid Khan, we must adopt Sharia and please dont take it as taliban rule. Its a shame that when ever some one talk abt Islam our youth starts drawing comparisons with taliban. Hope we can teach our youth about Islam

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  • Sep 24, 2012 - 4:33AM

    @Bala: India is NOT a Muslim country. Pakistan is the 2nd largest MUSLIM country. The largest Muslim country is Indonesia. India has 80% Hindu population. And India is not a good role model to follow. India has more hungry people than all of Pakistan’s population combined. It would be better for Pakistan to follow Turkey but without banning hijab.

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  • Rao
    Sep 24, 2012 - 7:21AM

    Thoughtfulpiece.Pakistani politicians should learn from Indian politicians.They are true servants of their people

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  • Sep 24, 2012 - 8:25AM

    @Khalid Khan:

    A question arises . Why the Pakistanis are willing to remain poor and why not an urge to be rich per your perception ?

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  • Pir Bulle Shah
    Sep 24, 2012 - 9:29AM

    Pakistan will never be like India. We should be like Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia. If any of us wanted to be like Indians why would we have reverted to Allah’s deen for mankind?

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  • ethicalman
    Sep 24, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. Turkey was Byzantine before 1453 and in 20 yrs or so were made Muslims…
    Indonesia and Malaysia had a Hindu and Buddisht history like Pakistan..

    So Pakistani want to be like them..fine..till you don’t prosecute the remaining minorties..it’s totally fine..but atleast try ..

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  • Sibtain Naqvi
    Sep 24, 2012 - 11:13AM

    Mr. Burki missed the crucial points of difference. Unlike Pakistan, India carried out proper land reforms which broke the power of landlords and its military was always firmly under civilian control. India has strong institutions and that is the crux of the matter.

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  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Sep 24, 2012 - 11:49AM

    There is no need for Pakistan to follow India’s model. It had its own model which would have worked fine if Pakistan had ignored India and minded its own business. The Indophobia made Pakistan distance itself from anything that had India link, and pushed it onto a self-destructive path.

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  • islooboy
    Sep 24, 2012 - 12:06PM

    india still has more poverty and gender inequlity than pakistan tribune.com.pk/…report-india-ranked-poorer-than-pakistanRecommend

  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 1:14PM

    India has 177 million Indians Muslims, while Pakistan has 180 million Muslims. India is the 3rd largest Muslim country in the world, either you acknowledge this fact or not. India also happens to be the 1st largest Hindu , Sikh country in the world. I am Hindu Indian by the way. You see India is Multidimensional.

    Or is it that Muslim country is defined by its laws? — India follows Muslim laws in areas related to Muslim Personal life/inheritance/dead etc .. Indian Muslims have as much freedom to follow Islam as any other in the world!

    Or is it that you define Muslim country by “purity”, Pakistan being the “land of the pure” — If so, that would explain Pakistani’s efforts in improving the “purity” of Pakistan by killing Shias/Hazaras ? Lets see what Allah says in Judgement Day about what was meant by “Purity” and “jihad”

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  • nitish
    Sep 24, 2012 - 2:13PM

    @Bala: I am Hindu Indian by the way Pl refrain from putting the name “Hindu” before Indian.You credential as indian automatically come on to stake as no indian in the right mind will identify himself hindu /muslim before being indian. So it should be like indian hindu.

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  • GhostRider
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:06PM

    @Khalid Khan:
    Please provide logical evidence to your claim

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  • Max
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:36PM

    @Khalid Khan: @Bala @ethicalman et. al, Please carefully read the article before you start making comments. Looking in different direction will not help Pakistan, staying focused however will. Please, please for God sake keep the discussion limited to the point. This is not the forum to resolve India, Pakistan tensions. You are actually adding more to the existing problems between the two countries. Now sit back and listen.

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  • Noor
    Sep 24, 2012 - 3:56PM

    @Shamir Your stats are just laughable. Come to India and see what kind of stone age you live in.

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  • Khalid Khan
    Sep 24, 2012 - 5:32PM

    @Pir Bulle Shah

    You are mistaken my friend about Turkey. Turkey has gone to the devils. This country has turned against all the principles of Islam. Study the history of Turkey Atstturk did his best to destro Islam there. Go to Istabul and you will what i mean.

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  • joy
    Sep 24, 2012 - 6:24PM

    in other news

    Delhi High Court has taken suo moto notice of letters sent by students of two govt. schools located in villages on the outskirts of Delhi. The students have complained about absentee teachers, poor quality of mid-day meals and bad infrastructure. The court has issued notice to the concerned authorities.....
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  • Feroz
    Sep 24, 2012 - 6:25PM

    Every country needs to adopt policies after studying the experiences of what works or does not work elsewhere. Pakistan is in dire straits because it has a Constitution that cannot cater to the needs of a modern nation State. The Constitution has to be like a backbone strong enough to take the weight of the body. It is so designed that it plays one section against another by playing favourite, thereby attracting conflict like a bee to honey. The Politics of opportunism will exploit these deficiencies to the detriment of the State.

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  • gp65
    Sep 24, 2012 - 6:59PM

    @Pir Bulle Shah: “Pakistan will never be like India. We should be like Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia. If any of us wanted to be like Indians why would we have reverted to Allah’s deen for mankind?”

    Just fyi – hijaab is banned in Turkist universities, not in Indian.

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  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 8:42PM

    @Pir Bulle Shah:

    A word about Indonesia. Indonesia is called the largest Muslim country in the world, but Indonesia is secular in sense it has 5 official religions (Islam, Hinduism etc) and its national moto is “Unity in Diversity”. Indonesian constitution does not give any special status to Islam, but atheism is not accepted, in a sense :) In practice, religious freedom for 5 major religions is equal as well.

    Indonesia still cannot be considered as a stable political country since peaceful transfer of power is very new to the country. Indonesia is economically better than India or Pakistan since it got huge amount of FDI from USA, Japan, Australia etc

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  • Bala
    Sep 24, 2012 - 9:16PM

    @Pir Bulle Shah:

    A word about Indonesia. Indonesia is called the largest Muslim country in the world, but Indonesia is secular in sense it has 5 official religions (Islam, Hinduism etc) and its national moto is “Unity in Diversity”. Indonesian constitution does not give any special status to Islam, but atheism is not accepted, in a sense :) In practice, religious freedom for 5 major religions is equal as well.

    Indonesia still cannot be considered as a stable political country since peaceful transfer of power is very new to the country. Indonesia is economically better than India or Pakistan since it got huge amount of FDI from USA, Japan, Australia etcRecommend

  • P N Eswaran
    Sep 24, 2012 - 9:52PM

    I do not attribute the success of India to Nehru or the continuity of plot of the Congress party after freedom. In fact both these factors have been the cause of delayed growth of India in which China overtook it. Indian political development despite these two distorting and inhibiting factors is the Hindu infused Indian cultural ethos of celebration of diversity, tolerance and inclusivity of the political process. Having said that I would hasten to add that there are several shortcomings in the Indian society about which we don’t shy off and find an external cause for our internal problems. This can only be done by people who have the blessings of an identity an Indian Identity and an innate vision of what we were, what we are and and what we want to be.

    No country can learn from any other country. Each country can learn only by looking at itself.

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  • Desh Premi
    Sep 24, 2012 - 10:02PM

    Few major differences between India and Pakistan:
    1) India, even though Hindu majority state is secular, while Pakistan remains non-secular, intolerant nation
    2) By law, all Indians are equal..while Pakistan treat its citizen unequally
    3) Indians are proud of its History…while Pakistan sees through prism of religion
    4) India had visionary leaders like Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru, Patel, Ambedkar etc.

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  • Sep 24, 2012 - 10:33PM

    We are Muslims first, Pakistanis second and humans last. How u can compare us with any other infidel nations. For our Gods sake, please take the advice of our mullahs who teach you how to book any poor child under blasphemy.Recommend

  • Pir Bulleh Shah
    Sep 25, 2012 - 5:59AM

    Khadar Basha

    That is how we should be. A human is just an animal, it kills, eats, fornicates without reserve. Islam is what makes that animal into a Muslim who knows the path shown by Allah. Don’t undercut Allah’s message. Had that not been so, Allah would have let everyone into heaven, instead of making reciting the Kalima absolutely necessary.

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