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A lucky Pakistan

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مندرجہء ذیل مضمون میرے بھانجے نیاز مرتضٰی کا ہے جو ڈان میں چھپا ہے۔ یہ مضمون میرے لئے حوصلہ افزا ہے۔ نیاز نے برکلے سے پی ایچ ڈی کرنے کے بعد کئ سال اقوامِ متحدہ کے ساتھ تیسری دنیا میں کام کیا ہے۔ نیاز تیسری دنیا کی سیاست اور معاشیات کا ماہر ہے۔

Dr. Niaz Murtaza
Luck means that factors beyond one’s control supplement one’s efforts and merits to produce higher achievements. Highlighting heart-warming stories about sacrifices and perseverance, official narratives ignore luck’s role in national histories. However, academics must present complete truths. Though not necessarily the dominant factor, luck helped improve the Pakistan movement’s prospects and subsequent economic performance. We first consider the former.

The prospects of partition movements firstly depend on presenting strong claims about being a separate nation. The ideal nation is a large group of people having: i) a long common ethnic, racial or religious identity, ii) concentration and overwhelming majority in a large geographical area since long, iii) minimal internal racial, ethnic or religious differences and little such commonalities with neighbors. Japan scores highly on this definition. My Pakistani heart shouts that so did pre-1947 Indian Muslims. My academician’s head quietly assigns them low-to-moderate scores on criteria two and three. Ironically, even such scores still earn Pakistani nationhood reasonable ranking among third-world states since few of them house highly cohesive nations. Furthermore, national cohesion in present-day Pakistan has increased over 70 years, something Yugoslavia and USSR could not achieve in similar time.

Secondly, high nationhood scores are insufficient motivators or criteria for secession. Numerous nations with higher scores never pursue independence. Those that do so usually base it on unusually severe and prolonged mistreatment by dominant groups; most still fail. The Pakistan movement was an unusual pre-emptive one, based on fears of future domination rather than prolonged past mistreatment. It probably is the only preemptive separation movement to ever succeed. Thirdly, separation movements often succeed after many decades (Eritreans and South Sudanese); some remain unsuccessful even then (Kurds and Palestinians). Pakistan is among a few which got separation within years of demanding it. Ironically, Bangladesh did even better on this count.

Fourthly, separatists often suffer enormous one-sided brutalities, including heavy artillery and aerial attacks, in pursuing independence. Indian Muslims did not suffer one-sided casualties in asymmetrical war; rather casualties which were suffered by both sides in riots and which mostly occurred needlessly after independence’s approval. Given these four points, the Pakistan movement, despite incurring high losses in riots, seems highly lucky compared with the failure of many independence movements which possess higher nationhood scores and have suffered decades of one-sided brutalities. Conservatives may attribute this comparatively easier success to not luck but divine support for the Islamic fortress!

Present-day Pakistan was among pre-1947 India’s most backward regions. The British and Indians doubted its economic viability. Even Jinnah lamented his moth-eaten, truncated Pakistan. This truncation emerged from Muslim’s low score on the second nationhood criterion. However, luck blessed Pakistan even after independence economically. Pakistan surprisingly outperformed better-endowed India on poverty, overall growth rates and per capita income for nearly fifty years, partially due to favorable opportunities provided by the Korean, Cold and two Afghan wars and the ME bonanza.

Mohajirs benefited the most from this. Indian Muslims have the lowest average incomes among Indian religious groups. However, their migrated kin in Karachi have the highest average incomes among Pakistani ethnic groups despite their initial uprooting and subsequent reverse discrimination experiences. America is the land of immigrants. Not even there do post-WW2 immigrants enjoy such predominance. But natives have likely done better too. Present-day Pakistan is probably more industrialized than it would be within undivided India. Much of Indian industry is still south-based. Pakistani elites–industrialists, traders, bureaucrats, professionals, landlords, generals and mullahs—have certainly benefited highly from partition. Even the masses have probably done slightly better since absolute poverty is lower in Pakistan despite India’s comprehensive land reforms. Thus, partition has paid-off economically till now.

Two caveats apply to my “luck” thesis. First, luck helped Pakistan economically only, not politically. Its political performance was always poorer than India’s. Secondly, luck dividends ultimately subside and endowments primarily determine long-term performance. Thus, India now outperforms Pakistan overall even economically. Pakistan’s recent security and political turmoil has undermined its economic edge.

Nevertheless, both my Pakistani heart and academician’s head agree fully that Pakistan’s worst travails are probably behind it and that its future will gradually become better than its past. However, they agree to disagree on the pace of this transformation, with the former expecting and demanding overnight results and the latter robotically producing calculations suggesting a longer timeframe.

Is this article unpatriotic? It clearly challenges cherished conservative national myths. Yet, it is underpinned by the reality that nation-building, the common goal of both, is better facilitated by the truth propagated by liberals rather than the incredulous fairly-tales concocted by conservatives.

The writer is a political and development economist. murtazaniaz@yahoo.com

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ظفر جعفری

Geologist and Petroleum engineer

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