Defending Pakistan: economic stability and human resource

September 6th, Defense Day is celebrated to commemorate the sacrifices made by Armed Forces of Pakistan during 1965 war.On this occasion, Armed Forces of Pakistan send out message of strength, unity, and bravery. Various events are held on the occasion, where personnel from all military and paramilitary forces pay tribute to all the martyrs of the war.They also convey the message that Pakistan believes in peaceful coexistence and wants to promote mutual cooperation for peace and economic prosperity of the region despite belligerent behavior of its neighbour state time and again.

On September 6th 1965, Indian forces crossed international border of Pakistan and launched a provocative attack on different regions of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Armed Forces displayed valour and gallantry and sacrifice their lives in defending their motherland.

The peace and freedom that we enjoy today, which is often taken for granted, is a gift that our security agencies and military forces gave us through working round the clock and safeguarding us. Therefore, our generation owes a duty to defend the dignity and prosperity of the country. Amidst of fast-moving world and shifting dynamics of international relations, power of the states relies not only on its conventional power but also in its economic strength. With the shift in criteria to measure power of states, the apparatuses to defend the state also have evolved. Now states not only aspire to enhance their conventional power to deter enemy, but they also struggle to grow economically more powerful than their rivals because now the war zone lies in economic corridors. Therefore, there is dire need to strengthen economy of Pakistan.

Pakistan has already taken a step forward towards achieving economic power to counter the rival states. Many experts have foreseen Pakistan as an Emerging Asian Tiger due to CPEC project, which had transformed it into an emerging Asian market. MSCI indexed Pakistan as an Emerging Market status in its latest review which would attract foreign direct investment thereby injecting huge amount of money in the state. Pakistan lost this status in 2008, which is regained due to CPEC-driven projects. Pakistan should keep on striving to enhance corporate governance to better its chance of becoming an Asian Tiger. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation to convince investors all over the world is the need of an hour.

Moreover, Pakistan should invest in elevating human capital as skilled human resource is mandatory for economic prosperity of the country which if remain unskilled and uneducated becomes liability on country. Large population could be an effective source for country’s economic progress if they are provided with proper dimension. China is the prominent example that has used its demographic power to turn around the country’s economy so much so that it has emerged as world’s largest economy. Whereas, Pakistan, with one of the highest population growth rate and huge youth bulge, could not progress like China due to lack of political will and clear policy to resolve this issue.

Pakistan is on the verge of potential demographic disaster. According to 2017 census, Pakistan is 5th most populous nation only behind India, China, USA, and Indonesia. Its population has doubled over the past few years with growth rate 2.4 per cent per annum. Out of the total population that is 207 million, 120 million of its population is under the age of 25 years. 32 per cent of this huge youth bulge is illiterate. If this enormous number of young people are not provided with any dimension, proper education, and facilities, they can lead to civil conflicts, political instability, internal insecurity, and extremism in the country. Though population explosion is not a direct threat to nation’s political and economic security, it has been observed that the growing demographic pressure has always remained a major cause of destabilization of developing countries. Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Haiti, and Central African Republic are few ‘low-income countries under stress’ due to population explosion, as cited by World Bank.

Unfortunately, our enormous number of youth is not provided with good education opportunities. Only around 2 per cent of the GDP is spent on education out of which approximately around 80 per cent is consumed on non-development expenditures. This results in poor quality education due to which 32 per cent of youth is illiterate and many of them are school dropouts. This poor quality of education making Pakistani youth incompetent to face challenges of the globalized world and pushing them towards further isolation. Consequently, frustration grows among youth that can pose serious threat to national economy and political stability. According to surveys illustrating youth’s feeling towards government and state have shown that youth’s despair is deep-seated in present condition. There is a dire need to take firm action before this can grow more nightmarish.

In addition, according to a study conducted by Population Action International, around 80 per cent of the world’s civil conflicts have occurred in countries with fast growing youth bulge. Low economic growth rate plays an important part in widening socio-economic divide which may result in civil conflict. The total annual growth rate required to fulfill the needs of growing bulge of people is 6 to 7 per cent. But Pakistan’s economic growth rate is around 3-4 per cent over the past decade. Due to insufficient annual economic growth rate, the number of unemployed youths is increasing drastically. The country creates few job opportunities and business prospects. Consequently, social classes of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ have emerged. This economic and social divide make non-privileged ones more vulnerable for the reception of extremism. Many studies have shown that there is a direct link between religious extremism and socio-economic marginalization. We should invest in human capital to enhance economic stability which in turn necessary to build national power to safeguard our country from belligerent states. There is a necessity to remind our youth about the sacrifices that our people and armed forces gave to achieve this homeland. Defense day is one of the occasions which rejuvenates patriotism among our youth.

About the Authors:

Ms. Aneeqa Memon is an Academician and social sciences researcher. Currently working as a Teaching Faculty at Bahria University Karachi in Department of H&SS. She can be reached at [email protected]

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