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Pakistan – A Decade Later

Aisha Saeed

James Wynbrandt in his book “Brief History of Pakistan” adequately narrates Pakistan’s journey from the day of its independence to the present. In his introduction of Pakistan, Wynbrandt notes that “Pakistan occupies a position of historic importance. Its strategic location, its role in the birth of civilization, and its influence as a crossroads of political and religious ideologies have kept it at the forefront of world events. Geographically, present-day Pakistan has long been a gateway between Eurasia and the subcontinent and between East and West. Its culture and history have been enriched by the countless invaders, traders, and settlers who have been a part of the region’s past. Some, like Alexander the Great and his army, merely passed through but left a lasting mark. Others, such as the Arab armies spreading the word of Islam and the British who imposed the ways of the West, became an integral part of the region’s culture and character. Some of humankind’s greatest works of art and architecture, of verse and word, were created here.”

A lot more has been written about Pakistan, dissecting its history, its foundation, the culture and politics, and the present. Many thought that Pakistan would become a failed state at one point. But as Pakistan stands at the crossroads a decade later, we need to reflect on events of the past and prepare for the future. As James further adds that “Today the region again has taken an outsized role on the world stage: It is a linchpin in the global struggle against terrorism, a cauldron in the heated conflict between secular and theocratic rule, a poster nation for the struggle between autocracy and democracy, and a nuclear power whose relations with its neighbor India have made this one of the most unstable regions in the world.”

The fight for independence was not easy. India posed a constant threat to the newborn country resulting in wars that tested Pakistan’s grit.  Pakistan lost a part of itself and with that emerged another country on the world’s map. Since its inception and acceptance by the world, Pakistan still survived through sanctions, wars, political instability, sectarian divide, and intolerance. Despite being sanctioned, Pakistan tested its first nuclear weapon in1998, becoming the first Muslim country and the 7th in the world. But sanctions hampered Pakistan’s economic development.

Despite its limited resources, Pakistan hosted refugees when conflict brew in neighboring Afghanistan. Then Pakistan faced massive internal displacement when its war on terror began. The enemy had waged a war on the state and its citizens, threatening the existence of Pakistan and the years of struggle as an independent country that had only started to rebuild itself. Later, the APS attack shook the entire nation but a unitedcountry stood against the terrorists. Religious and sectarian intolerance, violence against women and children remains a problem for the country. The government has been attempting to address the issue but loopholes and certain individuals within the system obstruct new laws that could otherwise remove hurdles for the citizens required to ensure justice within the society.

Today, Pakistan is still struggling to find its ground. But the improvements hint at a promising future. Regionally, Pakistan is once again at the center stage. While India hoped to isolate Pakistan from the rest of the world, Pakistan re-adjusted itself to improve its internal situation and external standing.  By learning from the mistakes of the past, Pakistan today is striving to become an economically sound country that wishes to see a peaceful region. Unlike the early days of its independence, it has gained more allies. The tinted political past of the country has also faded. The civil-military divide that was exploited for years and was thought to be the reason for the political instability is also diminishing.  One of the most recent and important aspects that the country has been working on is climate change. Pakistan is amongst the top ten countries facing the severe impact of climate change and water scarcity. Pakistan’s Billion Tree initiative drew international appreciation, but internally it is linked to preserving Pakistan’s natural climate and its tourism potential.  Pakistan’s response to COVID with smart lockdowns and the vaccination drive has been one of the most effective responses in the world.  While economies worldwide suffered due to lockdown, Pakistan was able to avoid a complete economic collapse.Education too has been at the forefront. To bring uniformity in the education sector, the Single National Curriculum has been introduced by the current government.  The new curriculum is said to be inclusive of all socio-cultural aspects of the society and aims to close the missing gaps.

Pakistan’s significant victory however is the victory on war against terror. After the struggle for its independence, Pakistan was now fighting for its survival. Pakistan soon launched its counter-terrorism operation that took many lives and years to ensure Pakistan did not fall at the hands of the enemy.  Recently, Pakistan faces this threat again as regional disturbance peaks.  But all is not lost for Pakistan. If it addresses the issues at hand, eradicates corruption it can change the course of its economy. Pakistan must protect the white of its flag and ensure religious tolerance at all levels. This country needs to be safe for women and children who are the real future of the nation.

Our freedom must not be taken for granted. The examples of war-torn countries in the world are proof that once divided, no country could rebuild itself. Independence Day should be a reminder of our past and it should also renew our resolve for the betterment of the homeland.While enemies will always plot against Pakistan,it is up to the individuals to work with the government to put our own house in order. Only then can the enemy be defeated. Pakistan’s way forward requires a collective effort. As in the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah “My message to you all is of hope, courage, and confidence. Let us mobilize all our resources in a systematic and organized way and tackle the grave issues that confront us with the grim determination and discipline worthy of a great nation.”

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The writer is an independent media and foreign policy analyst.She tweets @MsAishaK

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