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Rest in Peace…Qaid-e-Azam

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan will be 64 years old on the fourteenth of August.

The world’s sixth most populated nation, and the second most populated Muslim one after Indonesia, has seen periods of civilian and military rule that have translated into little investment on education or regeneration of its infrastructure.

Over the last sixty three years, four military regimes have ruled the country for some thirty years, whilst periods of civilian government have been marred by accusations of inefficency and corruption.

Those who have been ‘elected’ owe their position to the system of hereditary families that have dominated the country from its birth, a fact brought home by the recent announcement that the inexperienced son of the late Benazir Bhutto intends to contest the 2013 election.

So little surprise that reports reveal a Pakistani youth that is very cynical about democracy in their country.

Pakistan matters because of her strategic position between China and India.  She also shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran which make her a crossroads state, a link to the oil and gas fields of  Central Asia as well as that of Persia, with the means of transporting these resources, as well as her own, through her port city of Karachi.

Today, of course the word terrorism is commonly associated with this country, and as her people have often pointed out it is they who have been its greatest victims.

The emergence of the Tariq-e-Taliban have led to fears that the country’s nuclear arsenal – which makes her the only nuclear state from the Islamic World – twinned with continued instability particularly in her north west frontier may result in that extremists seizing the Atom bomb.

This is of course nonsense, and such talk have to led to suspicions inside Pakistan that the real intention of the war on terror is break up the county with a view to seizing her nuclear arsenal.

Neverthless, whilst political instability continues – the government of Asif Ali Zardari is not popular or well respected, few have forgotten the sight of him on business trip as floods swepted through Pakistan – and there is even more conflict – apart from the war on terror, there is of course the dispute with India over Kashmir, as well as drone attacks in the North West Frontier and a still unexplained raid by America into Islamabad to kill Osama bin Laden – this still young nation will not be able to realise her full potential.

For this is a nation which is rich in minerals and gas in her Baluchistani province, with a cosmopolitan centre at Lahore, an extremely vibrant capital at Islamabad, all which are tied into a dynamic and resilient stock exchange at Karachi.

Recent projects with China to create a properous Baluchistan all point to a bright future.

This however, will not happen unless more money is spent on education – which currently stands at around 2 per cent of the budget – with a more even distribution of the country’s potentially enormous wealth to the poor.

Another neglected source of revenue is of course tourism, afterall this is a nation that is blessed with a rich history both Islamic and non Islamic in the ancient Indus Valley.

For all this to happen, the country would need a sustained period of stability, free of violence with a civilian rule achieved though a democracy that results in a child from the poorest family becoming prime minister, so that long term decisions can be made in investing in the country’s greatest asset – namely her people.

And as for those who dismiss the importance of this nation, they may want to consider this – the most important relationship of this century will be between America and China, a relationship that was forged through Pakistani diplomacy in 1971.

One man who would have loved to seen that and to have been present for Pakistan’s forthcoming birthday is of course her founder, the brilliant lawyer, Muhammad Ali Jinnnah who announced her birth on the fourteen of August, 1947.

Tragically, the Qaid-e-Azam died a year later.