Pakistan, along with its archrival India, has the very young population with an average less than 30 years. According the “Next Generation Survey of Pakistan”, there will be a dire need of creating more than 36 millions jobs for this young generation in upcoming decades for relatively young population of Pakistan. Since Pakistan’s industrial corridor and agriculture mainly lie around Indus Valley, located in Punjab and Sindh. All other states including Baluchistan, Kashmir, and FATA have remained relatively poor due to the lack of economic opportunities and verities of other factors including poor infrastructure, growing insurgency.
Baluchistan overall constitutes the 43% of land of country and provides the critical minerals to the Pakistan economy but so far the benefits have been shared fairly with local population. People continuously complain that people from Punjab get all the benifit as they mostly control the decision making in Islamabad and the Army so Punjab has become the dominant state in Pakistan’s political arena. So, people have been frustrated over the continued ignorance of their demands for many years and there has been rise in separatist movements demanding the separate land for themselves.
The region of Waziristan has witnessed continuous Drone attacks from Americans as the region has been believed to be used as a sanctuary for the some of the most wanted men on the planet. This region is the less monitored and holds the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Historically, there has always been the boundary dispute between them even before the inception of Pakistan over the legitimacy of Durand Line which was demarcated in 1893. So, people move from one end to the other easily without any supervision or checking. In addition, some of the tribal areas in the region are also not under the administration of Pakistani regime. They have been controlled by tribes and ancient Shariah laws have been used in the legal matters instead of Pakistani constitution.
Without Kashmir, the explanation is incomplete. India and Pakistan have fought four wars due to this region. Indian side of Kashmir has been frequent victim of terrorist attacks after 1989 elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The issue of Kashmir is very complex and it is beyond the scope of this posting. Currently, the region has been administered by China, India and Pakistan. Pakistan controls the Skardu valley, Gilgit-Baltistan regions. India controls Jammu valley, Srinagar, Siachin, Leh and Ladhakh. China controls the region of Aksai Chin which it considers to be the part of Tibet region historically. Pakistani side of Kashmir used to be thriving region for the tourists. This region has 5 out of the top 10 highest mountain peaks including Karakorum Range (famously called K2). But, the local economy has been affected badly after 911 attacks. Kashmir is the only state which is connected geographically to China. In addition, the important rivers including Indus have their origins in the region. So, Kashmir has a strategic importance in Pakistan. Currently, Pakistan and China are developing Gwader Port close to the border of Iran and the highway which would connect Pakistan and China through Kashmir and Xinxiang regions.
In the recent years, insurgency and terrorism have become widespread. In addition, there has been political chaos due to rampant corruption and power struggle with Army. Especially, the situation reached to a severe level after assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Interestingly, the army has always been the dominant power within Pakistan’s 65 years of history. The key projects and activities are controlled by it. There is always confusion about the actual Commander-in-chief who actually makes the decisions in Pakistan which further complicates the decision making process.
In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed another kind of challenge: the madressa education. Over many years, madressas have been the only way of getting the education for economically deprived families. The madressas provides much needed education along with necessary food and shelter for free to the children. But, many of them have been found to be involved in terrorist activities and train these children to be “terrorists”. This report also mentioned the majority of youth considering them “Muslim” first and then “Pakistanis”. Thus, religion has always been considered to be very important in all aspects of lives in Pakistan. Since the education and economic opportunities are not abundant, it is relatively easy to mislead young people with brainwashing and religion has always been used to serve this purpose.
Pakistan has a huge potential to grow substantially due to variety of factors. First and foremost, it is relatively young country. It is also considered to be strategically located between Central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. Hence, it can be the potential entry point for land locked Central Asian countries. In addition, the road into China would also open its gates to East Asia. Pakistan has many minerals buried in isolated regions of Baluchistan. It has also maintained great relation with Middle East, Turkey and China-its biggest trading partner. For all this factors to work, it only needs to have functioning democracy and proper leadership.
For years, its foreign policy has always been India centric. There have been always trust deficit from both sides. Each has reservation with another about promoting insurgency on their soil. Hence, there was very little economic cooperation between them. Over the years, attempts were made to engage in the positive dialogues to reach to the concrete solutions on the core issues including water sharing, terrorism and Kashmir. But, it was never realized due to the disagreements and lack of political will. But, both countries have tremendous growth potential if they work together. Both countries have nuclear weapons and the armies on both sides are always ready to take over another country. This factor makes the whole south Asian region very volatile. Hence, it is really important to establish trust among both.
The long term solution to Pakistan’s problems is to establish sound educational system, transparency in governance and more economic opportunities. But, the hurdles for it are many.