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Pakistan is experiencing a major existential crisis. But crises are mixed blessings which can lead to regression or progression.

They can cause a breakdown or become a fertile ground for a breakthrough. Some Pakistanis are worried that Pakistan, like Iraq, is heading towards a civil war where thousands of innocent men, women and children will be killed because of the violent confrontation between different ethnic and religious groups. It is so sad that, even in the 21st century, millions of innocent Pakistanis are caught between religious fundamentalism and Western imperialism while the Pakistani military and government are unable to provide safety and security to their citizens. Since September 11, 2001, Pakistanis have been pushed into international religious, economic and political wars. In the eyes of many foreign powers Pakistan, a nuclear power, has become a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any time. Many Pakistanis are concerned that over the next few years their mother land might again be divided into religious and secular states similar to the events in 1971, when East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Can Pakistan survive? has become once more, a million dollar question, as maintaining independence this time might be as difficult, if not more difficult, than gaining it half a century ago. Abul Kalam Azad had predicted in 1947 that if Pakistan separated from India on religious basis, it would further divide fifty years after its birth. It is ironic that Pakistanis, as a nation, even today, have not been able to find satisfactory solutions to the following problems. 1. SOCIOECONOMIC PROBLEMS Even after decades of existence there is no equal distribution of wealth and resources. Pakistan remains a feudal society where 90% of its wealth is owned by 10% of people. Industrialization has suffered because of the unpredictable economy and politics. None of the governments, military or civil, had any effective plan of action to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor. 2. EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS Rather than increasing, in the last sixty years, the literacy rate has decreased as the schools have not kept up with the population explosion. Sadly, most people in the villages cannot read or write. There is no national standardized educational system. Because of the large number of children, many poor parents, who do not practice family planning, send their children to madrassas, religious schools, as they get free food and shelter in those institutions. Pakistan is the only country I know where many children do not get their primary education in their native language. Rather than studying in Punjabi, Pushto, Balochi and Sindhi, many children are taught in Urdu, English and Arabic which are not their mother tongues. 3. HEALTH CARE PROBLEMS While many Pakistanis suffer from physical and emotional problems, there is no adequate health care system in place. Many pregnant women remain anemic and there is a high infant mortality rate. Children still suffer from starvation because of pervasive poverty. Many patients with emotional problems only see a psychiatrist when they get violent and have a nervous breakdown.

4. RELIGIOUS PROBLEMS Because of religious teachings in the families, schools and communities, many Pakistanis have grown with a religious rather than a secular world view. This trend intensified when Pakistan transformed into Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Ironically in Zulfiqar Ali Bhuttos time Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims. The process of Islamization of Pakistan accelerated during Zia-ulHaq period when religion was introduced to all aspects of life. The more religion entered politics and the separation of mosque and state became blurred, the more Pakistan traveled on the path of becoming a theocratic state. 5. IDENTITY PROBLEMS There was a time when some of my Pukhtoon friends used to say that they have been Pathans for 5000 years, Muslims for 1500 years and Pakistanis for 50 years, but the identity of Pakistanis has changed over the decades. There are many Pakistanis who identify with Arab and Muslim culture far more than their own ethnic and native culture. Their names are Arabic and they greet now with Allah Hafiz rather than Khuda Hafiz. 6. POLITICAL PROBLEMS It is unfortunate that after all these years an autocratic political system prevails in Pakistan. People are more familiar with army generals and dictators than democratic minded political leaders. Democracy has not thrived in Pakistan since many religious leaders consider it a Western and un-Islamic system. Social, political and religious intolerance has increased over the decades. It is also sad that popular political leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto did not die natural deaths, one was hanged and the other assassinated. 7. HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS Pakistanis have suffered for decades because their human rights have not been protected in the communities as well the courts. Whether they are women or children, Ahmedis or Christians, Shiites or atheists, the rights of minorities are always threatened. The Pakistani Constitution does not ensure equal rights and privileges to all citizens. Pakistan still struggles between the secular British and religious Arabic laws and traditions. Pakistan has not resolved political conflicts between different provinces. FUTURE OF PAKISTAN In the next few years Pakistanis need to make many significant choices otherwise international powers might dictate certain decisions as they see Pakistan as a failed state that exports terrorists and having nuclear weapons, has become a threat to world peace. If the British Empire can lose her colonies, the Berlin wall can come down and the Communist World can disintegrate, Pakistan can also divide further and the map of the Middle East can change in the next decade.

For Pakistanis to make sure that Pakistan not only survives but also grows and thrives and joins the modern world by becoming a progressive and democratic state, they need to take following steps: 1. The gap between the rich and the poor has to decrease. 2. The curriculum of schools need to be reviewed so that children can receive scientific and secular education in their mother tongue. In addition, they need to develop critical and creative thinking. 3. Health care education and free health care needs to be provided to all citizens. 4. The Pakistani Constitution has to become secular and humanistic so that all citizens, especially women and minorities have equal rights and the blasphemy law is abolished. 5. Pakistanis need to become aware of their own cultural traditions and Asian identity rather than primarily identifying with a Middle Eastern identity. 6. All political parties need to present their 5 to 10 year plan to deal with serious economic, religious and social problems so that people know which party will serve them the best. 7. All political parties and citizens need to make sure that army officers stay in the army barracks and not take over the parliament in the future. For some people it might seem like a dream but all nations have to dream before the dream comes true. If Pakistanis did not fulfill that dream, I am afraid their dream might turn into a violent nightmare in the not so distant future