Economic options for Pakistan

By: Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

The economic interests of Pakistan dictate that it will either have to join any economic grouping on the pattern of European Union or enhance its trade relations with the countries of the SAARC by transforming the organization into a coherent organization. The inclusion of China and Iran also appears to be a realistic possibility as the politics of bloc is taking root across the globe. Europe had integrated into a Union at the right time and has now reached a position wherefrom it is threatening for the US economy. The Iranian decision to use Euro for its trade with Europe dealt a sever blow to the US dollar. The Bloc Politics has proven to be very beneficial for the member countries. We also need to take up this route and for that, we will have to open up our borders and enter into new trade arrangements with the world. The countries of the European Union put their mutual differences at the backburner and moved ahead. We will also have to do the same. SAARC also reached certain agreements within the member countries but they could not be implemented in true letter and spirit.

We can approach the subject from two angles i.e. integration and inclusion of certain new countries in the reinvigorated SAARC. The economic angle involves the common market, which will be instrumental in cutting down unemployment. Every country has its own national interests and industries, which face the prospect of being threatened and that can be discussed. For example the textile industry of China and India is far ahead of Pakistan's. As a result, Pakistan's textile industry is on the losing side. So when these countries decide to get associated in the form of a bloc, all these things can be discussed.

There are two countries, India and China, in the neighbourhood of Pakistan, so huge are their economies that they have the potential of devouring the small economies. Germany and France had antagonistic relations and were each other's enemies but when they hit upon the idea of joining their respective forces for their common goal i.e. economic development, they put their differences at the backburner and moved ahead. The result is the formation of the European Union.

People may object here to my inclusion of China in any such economic Union by saying that we have religious and cultural differences with China. Two or three factors are important in this regard. There are no religious barriers in Europe. The differences in cultural matters were also very minimal. The number of countries in European Union was 10 but after the participation of 15 countries of the East Europe, who are relatively poor, it has reached 25. The countries like Germany and France are having to face problems but they have worked out 10-year plan according to which these countries will be spending certain portion of their incomes on the uplift of the poor countries of the Europe. This speaks volumes of the commitment of these countries towards the improvement of socio-economic conditions of their brethren in Europe.

So far as India and Pakistan are concerned, there are, no doubt, cultural and religious differences among them. But the policy of keeping the borders shut is not a solution to protecting your religious values. We are confused over the issue of national identity. The problem is that we have not got any nationalistic leadership. Whoever came to hold the mantle of power turned out to be corrupt and self-serving. Therefore religion is not an issue in that sense. All we need to do is to realize that getting together on one platform is a compulsion now. The question of reaping the economic gains from the collective efforts should be seen without its reference to religion. The best example is the good economic relationship enjoyed by Iran and India. We are refusing to enter into the era of science and technology in the name of religion. It is a different matter that our religion does not hinder us from doing that.

Iran has never been a part of Arab land nor will it be able to. There is a huge difference of opinions between Arab countries and Iran. China is a giant in economic terms. It has a large population which China has transformed into an asset. India is a developing economy and is in a position to support the countries like Nepal and Bhutan. So when South Asia will be ready to form economic grouping, Iran will not commit a blunder of staying out. The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project is a case in point.

The question may arise as to the possibility of large economies being a threat to the small economies. Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh may be fearful of China. When you join each other in the form of a bloc, it becomes clear that whatever progress you could have achieved in your industry, you achieved. If Pakistan has not been able to strengthen its industry in the last 60 years, it cannot do that now. If it thinks that it can do that, then, it is a pipedream. Times are gone now. For example our textile industry is faced with difficulties since 2005 and has been demanding concessions from the government. And we do not have the potential to make it competitive globally.

So in order to succeed, we will have to seek cooperation from other countries. Pakistan should try to explore its avenues in terms of its strong industries like sports industry etc. Our agricultural industry is better but due to short-sightedness of our policy makers, we have not been able to capitalize on this with the result that fruits and agricultural products produced in Pakistan are being sold in the international market with the Indian stamp. The best course available in this situation is the exploration of those industries where Pakistan has comparative advantage. It should also do an analysis of the industries in which other countries are in a better position. So after being clear on this subject, Pakistan can enter into agreements with other countries to give protection to some industries and demand the same from them for some others.

In my view, Pakistan is not yet in a position of take-off, which may put it on the path of progress and prosperity. It is groping in the dark to find its direction. It has not been able to come out of its fixations. Pakistan has an important role to play in the region and its interests cannot be neglected by anyone. People are in search of practicable economic model for achieving progress but the way our successive governments have been making policies in the economic domain, I am afraid, has eroded the already fragile relationship between government and people. Our leadership needs to assure people that our country can still take off.

Pakistan is an agricultural country and its agricultural products have very good quality. India has a large area but its soil is not that much fertile as ours. So Pakistan is the producer of fruit of some of the best quality but unfortunately, it bears the Indian stamp. The same is the case with our wheat, rice, mango and other fruit. The Pakistani exporters should export these items in fair manner.

It is only be becoming powerful on the economic domain can we secure our country from the internal and external threats. Economic policy making is very closely associated with improving the condition of man in the street. Therefore it is does not achieve this purpose, whatever progress a government may claim will remain merely that: progress on the paper. The recent crises Pakistan has been subjected to are very harmful for our internal unity. We had better take a deep look and come up with innovative solution rather than following the old jargons, which have failed us many a time in the past.