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Pakistan Looking Forward

Wajid_Shamsul_Hasan_presents_credentials_to_the_QueenPakistan’s establishment in 1947 was a unique historical moment: it was created through the ballot box rather than by any armed struggle. Its founding father Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn with sound roots in Western democratic values of freedom, tolerance and liberty, combined with Islamic social justice and egalitarianism. A fine tribute to Jinnah’s astounding achievement was made by his biographer Professor Stanley Wolpert in his book Jinnah of Pakistan. ‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history,’ he wrote. ‘Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.’

As a country, Pakistan may not be very old, but its people can trace their roots back to three of the oldest civilisations in the world: Indus Valley, Taxila and the Gandhara. Its people learnt the art of civilised living 5,000 years ago as manifested in the planned ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro, in the Sindh province, where there were well-carved lanes, pavements, public baths and a drainage system.

Jinnah had envisioned Pakistan as a modern, progressive and liberal democracy to serve as a model for other Muslim nations. In his Pakistan, all its citizens were to be equal, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender. He had advised his nation: ‘We should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State’. He had assured his people that whatever their religion, they would be free to go to their temples, to their mosques or to any other place of their worship. He was also categorical: ‘You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.’

Unfortunately, after his death a troika comprising of civil, military and judicial bureaucracy backed by feudal vested interest and obscurantist forces waylaid democracy and constitutionalism. But happily we are now back on track after a great deal of blood, toil and tears and fully committed to fighting the ever-present danger of religious extremism.

As political heirs to Jinnah’s vision, as well as martyred prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto of the PPP, Pakistan’s most popular political party, current President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani are carrying forward the mission of bringing Pakistan back to these ideals, governing through political consensus and national reconciliation in a coalition government.

Only a popularly mandated government can turn the tables on the Taliban by an effective military operation that destroys their command and control system and erases public perceptions that the war on terror was simply ‘America’s war’. It is a singular achievement that the overwhelming majority, fully backed by parliament, now favours stringent measures against terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and bigotry.

Pakistan will be 64-years-old in August. It is the second largest Muslim country in the world with the twenty-sixth largest economy in terms of GDP Purchasing Power Parity. It is a large market of more than 175 million people, with an average GDP growth rate of five per cent over the last five years. In 2010, our international trade was worth US$50.6 billion of which exports were US$19.6 billion and imports US$31.6 billion. And this is all in spite of the simmering region we inhabit, with Afghanistan and Iran to the west and India and China to the East. Today, this region – be it India, Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan – faces some of the world’s more crucial issues.

The issues confronting Pakistan – undercutting its economy and political stability – are not the making of Pakistan itself. The volatility in our region underpins a need for security and defence for Pakistan. Guardians of international frontiers of peace and liberty must come forth to show their experience and sound judgement to bring peace which enables development in the region.

The successful growth of Pakistan next door to its huge neighbour has been castigated time and again.  Whether the South Asian region becomes an epicenter of global peace depends on the leadership and policies adopted by our Western allies. It is essential for them to realise that development at grassroots level and economic growth are inextricably linked – and only possible if there is peace in the region

We are a nation of enterprising and proud people with a tradition of hard work. Our people and institutions take great pride in successes. We have enough geo-strategic reasons to be recognised as a substantial player in a balanced and influential position in global politics.

The government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has come to power after almost a decade of military rule and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto chose to lay down her life for the empowerment of her people. In a short span of three years, we have attained a balance in the work and remit of the pillars of the state underpinned by democracy and a policy of political reconciliation. The PPP’s leadership has ensured that Pakistan becomes an equal player on the international scene. A responsible nuclear state, Pakistan carefully balances relations with the West and the Asian region.

Last but not least, I would not be doing the reader justice if I do not touch on the relations between Pakistan and the UK. The links established between the two nations during the Raj included the sacrifices of Muslim soldiers fighting in the British Army during World War II, hailing from areas which now constitute Pakistan. Common Law from England and Wales forms the basis of Pakistani Law. Then there are influences spanning civil and military administrative set-up, communication infrastructure and numerous British-built monuments and buildings in Pakistan that provide a cultural connectivity, strengthening the bonds between the two countries.

Over six decades, our ties have grown from strength-to-strength to the mutual benefit of both these countries, with cooperation encompassing understanding at a political level, as well as commerce and trade, defence, culture and close coordination on regional and international issues of common interest. Frequent high-level visits from both sides, including increased exchanges between parliamentarians, academics and officials have provided the necessary impetus to widen the scope of cooperation in multifarious fields.

On the economic side, bilateral trade has reached the US$2 billion mark, making the UK Pakistan’s second largest trading partner in the EU, while the UK is also the second biggest investor in Pakistan. British companies have successfully been doing business in Pakistan for more than five decades, reflecting the stable investment prospects in Pakistan. Britain is also one of the largest providers of development assistance for social sector development in the country.

However, the level of economic cooperation remains below its true potential and does not commensurate the level of political relations. The British Government needs to encourage its businessmen by way of supporting the promotional activities of trade bodies like the Pakistan-Britain Trade and Investment Forum (PBTIF) and the UK-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (UKPCCI). It also needs to revise its travel advisory information and ease the visa regime for Pakistani businessmen who, besides imports and exports of commodities – are also investing in the UK through services, construction and estate sectors.

Defence cooperation was revived in the wake of international war on terror and the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan. Established in 1995, the Defence Cooperation Forum is an institutional mechanism that affords opportunity to both sides to explore avenues of enhanced collaboration.

In short, Pakistan-UK relations are imbedded in history and have the potential of further improvement in times to come. This should be based on mutual co-operation and friendship in order to foster common and universal causes for universal peace and the well-being of human kind.


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