Can Pakistan learn from Belgium?

A lesson for Pakistan: Whatever differences you have with your neighbours, keep your lines of trade open with them.

Farhan Zaheer May 04, 2013
Is Pakistan the only country in the world that is facing sectarian violence in today’s world? Can we expect Pakistan to overcome it in the coming years? With a huge population, widespread poverty and various non-state actors, it may take Pakistan many years to fight this menace but it is not impossible to take this challenge head-on.

We have the example of Belgium before us, which resolved this problem successfully.

Belgium – a small but ethnically diverse country in the heart of Europe consisting of French, German and Dutch-speaking population – took over four centuries to learn the lesson of peaceful coexistence.

With a population of just 11 million and a small land mass, Belgium is 26 times smaller than Pakistan. Its deputy head of mission in Pakistan, Dr Stephane Mund, recently delivered a lecture at Area Study Centre for Europe at the University of Karachi.

In his address, he said that his country has triumphed over not only sectarian conflicts that existed between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, but also over recent ethnic and language issues.
“Until recently, we had ethnic and language issues but we decided to listen to each other,” said Mund.

“Difference of opinion does not mean that you kill each other. We learnt that only dialogue can resolve issues.”

Belgium was the battleground of Europe for centuries as it had no natural protection from its big neighbouring countries. For centuries, armies of almost every big power of Europe have fought on its land for resources and power.

Being a small country, it always relied on active trade with its neighbours – something which contributed to its economic growth.

Today, it is among the top 10 trading nations of the world with most of its trade occurring with its neighbouring countries. Here is another lesson for Pakistan: whatever differences you have with your neighbours, keep your lines of trade open with them.

There are no two opinions that Europe took centuries to overcome sectarian violence but at least it systematically tried to achieve peace.

Regardless of the bloody history of Western Europe, the fact of the matter is that it has not witnessed a war in the last six decades – when it decided to end wars and violence in the continent after World War II.

Read more by Farhan here
Farhan Zaheer
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


senmc | 9 years ago | Reply @Rex Minor: True...only if the country learns to exploit its resources properly,i believe one can thrive even in the great storms.Pakistan should stand on its feet and system should be based on equity.Let anything come if we stand united we cud make our way out of distress and disasters..
senmc | 9 years ago | Reply @Ali: Its not the country which fails.. its the people who fails their country.Pakistan is not a failed state,it still have many humble and gentle ppl like Abdul Sattar Edhi,intellectuals like Asad Umar and a just like Choudary Ifthekhar Ahmed.Things which fails the state r ppl like u who cant do anything nor can encourage any one to do but as an ordinary person i can make a difference...i can hope and encourage others for a future to come.If it wasn't the God's will this state wud never have been founded and offence but we shud not blame our failure on our state or on our believes
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