Pakistan might not be a failed state, but it is certainly trying its best to get there. An interesting book launch session at the Islamabad Literature Festival for Syed Muhammad Shabbar Zaidi’s “Pakistan: Not A Failed State” and Babar Ayaz “What’s Wrong With Pakistan” discussed, among other things, the economic and political failures of the governments of Pakistan.
While Zaidi’s book focuses more on the economic history, Ayaz focuses on policy issues and all-round history.
Moderator Zahid Hussain began by stating the different points of view both books present on the same issue, Zaidi read from the book and explained how his seven phases, starting with consolidation of imperialism in 1947, to stagnation and turmoil in the present day. His most poignant points were that economic policy always comes from abroad, and there are no ‘economic allies’, referring to how cheap labour in China had destroyed local industry and how — migrant labour and their remittances — are actually a sign of Pakistan being on the road to failed statehood.
While Zaidi largely defended Pakistan as not being a failed state, Ayaz, who had dedicated his book to the millions of victims of terrorism around the world, suggested the country is much closer to the brink. “The west and [the region] see Pakistan as a hub of terrorism. Pakistan is a trust-deficit country. Nobody trusts us, and we trust no one,” he said, explaining how this applies to the army and civilians, the judiciary, the media, and the provinces.
Ayaz also brought up how Pakistan was born from secular demands such as parliamentary representation in united India, but these demands were forgotten and replaced with a rallying cry for religion. He said religion has been exploited for short-term political gains since before Pakistan was even proposed, and the country is suffering from the fallout.
He also criticised the false narratives used by political and military rulers, including the false claim that we were attacked when we were actually instigators in all six wars fought by Pakistan or our proxies.
“Religious extremism flourishes when the state patronises a religious ideology to exploit its own people.”
Zaidi explained how Pakistan shows some characteristics of a failed economy. While approving of the brain drain as talented people trying to be the best they can be, he said exporting cheap, unskilled labour to the Middle East and Europe, and the state’s inability to collect taxes are bad omens. “Forget Balochistan, you can’t even collect taxes in Raja Bazaar.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2014.
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