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Editorial: A Confused Nation

Over 75 years since Partition, Pakistan remains stuck in a state of perpetual crisis

by Editorial

File photo. Asif Hassan—AFP

The international media often describe Pakistan as a country in perpetual crisis—some of it permanent, some temporary—with recurrent civil-military conflict and plaints about rigged elections. Over 75 years since Partition, some observers believe it remains “a rudderless state” lagging behind regional neighbors India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal in almost all aspects, including economic, human development and governance. That is not to say Pakistan has not seen its share of periods of high growth, but none have proven sustainable, prompting questions of what has gone wrong with the country.

From 1940 to 1947, the leaders seeking the formation of Pakistan wanted maximum provincial autonomy and a weak center. After independent, however, the script flipped, and focus shifted to questions over “whether Pakistan is a Muslim country or an Islamic state.” This is key to the sad direction of the state, which waffles between calls for a theocracy or a democracy, even though many still believe that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted the new country to emerge as a modern democracy.

Writing in daily The News in 2020, Tasneem Siddiqui observed that Pakistan’s liberal intelligentsia had believed Jinnah’s Aug. 11, 1947 speech—which narrowly escaped censorship—was “enough to make Pakistan a secular, pluralistic and progressive state.” The same intelligentsia, however, did not realize that Jinnah had played the “Islamic card” to secure a win in the 1946 elections and had little choice but to fulfill his promises after Partition.

Today, the Economist Intelligence Unit describes Pakistan as an “authoritarian” regime, often hijacked by the civil-military bureaucracy. This stifles national integration and political development, steering the country toward a strong “ideological rhetoric” that occasionally flirts with democracy and a perpetual economic crisis that has no end in sight. No state can long afford this state of uncertainty; with a new, controversial government in the offing, it is anyone’s guess whether the country can finally find the stability it needs to regain lost ground.

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