Skyline of Karachi. Pakistan achieved an average annual growth rate of 6% in the first four decades after independence in 1947.
Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are on the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves. (Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan)
Anatol Lieven, in his book “Pakistan-A Hard Country,” calls Pakistan a country with tremendous resilience. It is the resilience that always comes out of the shadows to reclaim the sun that shone on the country’s fortunes after every crisis. It is a country created after a long political struggle by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who envisioned it as a peaceful, democratic and modern Islamic country where all citizens would enjoy equal rights regardless of their ethnicity and religion. Pakistan’s origin lay in the struggle for political and civic rights of the minority communities fearful of majoritarian hegemony of the dominant community.
The resilience of a new-born nation was palpable during its early years with resistance against the injustice of withheld resources and water supply by a large neighbour that laid irredentist claims on its geography and ideology. The country, however, rose from adversity to become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia in 1960s. With an average annual growth rate of 6% in the first four decades after independence in 1947, its economic development model was emulated by countries like South Korea.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan. Credit: Pakistan.gov.pk
Pakistan’s founder had predicted with remarkable foresight the value of the country’s geographical location. Situated at the confluence of South, Central and West Asia, it provides a valuable access to the sea to the landlocked Central Asian Republics. With its 7,253 known glaciers, Pakistan has the distinction of having the most glacial ice in any other country outside the polar regions.
It also has 5 of the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters and 108 above 7,000 meters, making it a veritable paradise for climbers and mountaineers. Deosai, literally meaning “land of the giants,” with an average height of 4114 meters, is a long savannah like plateau, which transforms into a hue of rubicund and yellow in summers with a kaleidoscope of wild flowers splashed across the ethereal landscape.
Fishing for mountain trout at shimmering lakes Sheosar and Phundur lakes and the inebriating fragrance of mountain flora of Deosai is an experience to behold. From the jagged serenity of the Indus gorge to the sylvan verdure of Himalayan peaks, Pakistan possesses a virgin cornucopia of forested mountains redolent with the deodar (ceder) fragrance, which cannot be described, only felt. The best thing about these nature’s treats is their un-spoilt essence. Pakistan has unique topography and geography with 12 ecological zones from up in the mountains like K-2, the world’s second highest peak, down to the deserts of Thar and the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.
Climate change, along-with the unique topography, pose peculiar challenges like floods and droughts. However, the country has coped well despite limited resources. Despite contributing less than 1% to the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Pakistan ranks 8th in the German Watch’s long term Climate Risk Index. Pakistan has formulated a sound climate protection and adaptation strategy by abandoning imported coal-based power projects of 2600 megawatts and a plan to convert 60% of its energy mix into renewables by the year 2030.
A ten billion tree plantation campaign is well underway, providing 85,000 new jobs focused on the project. With construction of new large dams and run of the river projects, Pakistan is well configured to enhance its climate resilience. A new and ambitious e-vehicle policy, which aims to capture market share of 30% of all passenger vehicles by 2030 and 90% by 2040, would further add to mitigating the effects of climate change.
The country, after 74 years of politico-economic convulsions, has been inoculated well against the pathogens of instability. The political resilience of the country is clear from the fact that it is led by the constitutionally mandated civilian government for third consecutive time, establishing a firm tradition of civilian-democratic control of the armed forces.
The civil-military accord during the present government’s tenure is a refreshing departure from the past dissonance. The statements by the country’s top leadership at the Islamabad Security Dialogue earlier in the month, about the need for transition towards a development oriented state manifests a unique congruity of views. The new notion of security based on cooperative engagement with neighbours, partnerships instead of aid and resource sharing through digital as well as physical connectivity is the harbinger of a new dawn of peace and development in South Asia. This vision echoes Walter Lippmann’s famous saying in the 1950s about Pakistan being the “Heart of Asia.”
Robert Kaplan wrote about Pakistan’s Gwadar Port as a place “where the dreams clash with reality.” A strategically located natural deep sea port, Gwadar offers a life breathing opening to landlocked countries like Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics. Pakistan indubitably is the new bellwether for peace and connectivity in South Asia.
Lippmann’s “Heart of Asia” epithet and Jinnah’s “Asian Pivot” prediction have come together in a new vision of interconnected South, West and Central Asia. Western countries can tap into this connectivity to build an India-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Central Asia Corridor as a complement to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), building stakes in regional and global peace with the help of a politically and economically resilient Pakistan.