Can we change our ‘hate-India’ mindset?

Bangladesh is, with great national pride, the literal better-half of the erstwhile Pakistan.


Shahzad Chaudhry October 19, 2010

Pakistan has been in the throes of a rumoured reconstitution of the government under the army’s patronage, similar to what Bangladesh enacted in a hybrid judicial-technocrat government. Planned as a clean-up therapy to bring some sense to the alternatively vindictive policies of both Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia, it additionally aimed at weeding out the corrupt.

The Bangladesh army did a couple of things better: one, they did not directly take over power, and two, while cleaning the corrupt from the system, carried out a thorough census and instituted a strong and independent Election Commission. The Election Commission’s insularity from any external influence was so explicitly manifested that Khaleda Zia initially boycotted the elections for a clear failure to be able to manipulate the commission for favour. We in Pakistan got involved in some other acts, chief were the infamous NRO condoning corruption and a blatant misstep to neuter the judiciary.

Since elections in 2008 and the return of Hasina Wajid under a relatively cleansed dispensation, the Bangladesh model has undergone some even more significant variations, perhaps a Bangladesh Model II. It is worth a look.

Under Ms Wajid, Bangladesh enacted an act to declare the country secular. This has separated the clergy from all matters of governance, political interference and issuing fatwas in matters of personal life. Next, a revolution of sorts has come about with the Grameen experience. Ordinary rural women have been empowered by small loans and guidance to invest in garment manufacturing and this has helped unshackle them from the religious straitjacket and presumed male domination. And, the fact is that these women are the real force behind the rise of Bangladesh’s garment industry. They have chosen to educate their daughters at the same level as their sons and also have smaller families. Importantly, the mullah’s ability to interfere in their belief system has been curtailed by the state.

Bangladesh today is the world’s fourth highest exporter of garments — at $12 billion a year (this for a country that grows no cotton!). Investors and entrepreneurs from neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan and Sri Lanka, are shifting their manufacturing plants to Bangladesh. Under Hasina Wajid, the economy has been averaging annual GDP growth of six per cent for the past three years. Bangladesh has near universal literacy and is far ahead of other South Asian nations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Around a million Bangladeshis leave their shores every year for employment in foreign countries and contribute over $10 billion a year in remittances. In another innovation, the central tax authorities held two fairs to enable citizens to join the income tax payment scheme. What happened? Long lines formed as they joined in to be a part of the drive and pay the applicable taxes.

Bangladesh is, with great national pride, the literal better-half of the erstwhile Pakistan. That needs to be applauded. And that is the model we need in Pakistan.

The question is that are there any takers? Are we going to change our ‘hate-India’ mindset as Bangladesh has done, freeing resources for the economy? Of course, at the same time, can we do without the army chaperoning this infantile democracy, especially since democracy itself seems unwilling to grow and the state is unable to make all those who should pay actually pay tax.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2010.

COMMENTS (41)

Vilander | 11 years ago | Reply Dear Pakistanis, It is awesome to see such articles in Pak websphere, if such steps are taken in your country then india might not feel the pinch in freeing kashmir. Things might come down to what it is like in Europe, our civilization could take the rightful spot amoung the chinese,europeans and anglo's ( we were afterall first world during ancient Hindu era and Mughal era) just imagine an economically unified Bang,Pak,India with no worries about military spending and cordial customs relations with SL,Nepal,China etc. Sounds so idealistic now.
Ali Sina | 11 years ago | Reply Kudos to Bangladesh that it is the world’s fourth highest exporter of garments for a country that grows no cotton. The real irony is that Pakistan is the world's fourth largest producer of cotton (9.8 million bales) in the world (after China, India, and the US). The Grameen model has been praised whole-heartedly all over the world, with prominent economists singing laurels, and venture capitalists of the likes of Vinod Khosla putting big money behind it. Microfinance is something we can and should learn from Bangladesh. It will give millions of poor an opportunity in life.
Are we going to change our ‘hate-India’ mindset as Bangladesh has done, freeing resources for the economy?
This statement should get an award of intellectualism. The glaring contradiction within Pakistan is that on the one hand, we are a nation filled with intellectuals, but on the other, our country has been tied down for too long by bigots. If we can capitalize on even a tenth of our intellectualism, there would be no looking back. Ayesha has pointed out that a leftish adjustment via political liberalism to edge out the damage from an extreme right push in our past, could prove to be a potent medicine. Like advisors in Washington do, opinion makers in Pakistan should influence and steer government policies toward economic growth as against pouring more and more money on military equipment that we can't afford.
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