Poor but happy

It’s difficult to say what exactly makes Pakistan 67th happiest country, despite ranking at 150 on HDI

Editorial March 23, 2019

Pakistan is happier than almost half the world. The country ranks at 67 this year on the World Happiness Index of 156 countries and gets happier by the year, given that it was placed at 75 the previous year.

The index prepared by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network shows Pakistan ahead of all its neighbours this year again — with arch-rival India ranking at 140, China at 93, Iran 117, Afghanistan 154 and Bangladesh 125.

The countries that Pakistan has outshone include the likes of Russia, China, Hong Kong and South Africa, among others; and it lags just a spot behind Portugal, a high-income European country, and nine spots behind Japan, the second largest world economy.

While the index is based on six indicators — per capita income, life expectancy, social support, freedom, generosity and corruption — it’s difficult to say what exactly makes Pakistan the world’s 67th happiest country, despite ranking at 150 on the Human Development Index, with one-fourth of its population lingering below the poverty line.

That Pakistan is a generous nation — one that believes in charity as a religious obligation to earn contentment here and reward hereafter — may provide some kind of a clue to Pakistan being comfortably placed in the upper half of the World Happiness Index.

The ranking, however, does endorse one thing: money and happiness are not necessarily inter-linked. This reminds us of a famous aphorism of Wasif Ali Wasif, a great Sufi intellectual of recent times, which reveals the secret behind happiness. It says, “Fortunate is he who is happy over his fate and fortune, whatsoever it may be, and not [necessarily] one who is blessed with good fortune.” Almost similar is the ‘happy man’ described by Sir Henry Wotton, a renowned English author and politician, in one of his famous poems. Does that help solve the puzzle of a poor but happy nation?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2019.

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