Political instability, economic woes in focus as Pakistan completes 75 years

By Amjad Ali

Islamabad, Aug 14 (EFE).- Pakistan on Sunday completed 75 years of its independence from the British empire as a nation aimed at fulfilling the dreams of the region’s Muslims, which has largely come to be seen as a tale of lost opportunities, with an unstable democracy and a collapsing economy.

The country continues to struggle to set up a political system based on democracy, its constitution, justice and peace.

Even seven decades later, Pakistan, literally the” land of the pure,” is yet to fulfill the dreams of its founders.

In 1947, with the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, millions of people turned into minorities, strangers in the land they had been living in for generations and to which, for religious reasons, they no longer belonged.

An estimated 10 to 12 million people crossed the newly created border: Muslims on one side, Hindus and Sikhs on the other, in what became one of the largest migrations in history.

In addition, an estimated one million people died in communal violence, which included widespread arson, rapes, kidnapping and forced religious conversions.

Due to historical reasons, Pakistan’s democracy continues to witness a massive influence of Islamists and the military.

The country has been under military rule for more than half of its history due to repeated coups and power tussles, with the quest for an independent democracy remaining elusive.

The Pakistani economy has also failed to find its feet, and is now marked by regional instability and global uncertainties, with the state’s survival itself at stake.

Amid growing foreign debt, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and rising inflation, the country continues to heavily rely on aid.

Of the foreign debt accumulated by Pakistan over the years, civilian governments have borrowed almost 82 percent of the total, while military regimes have taken around 18 percent of the loans offered by the International Monetary Fund.

“Pakistan entered (into) IMF loan agreements 22 times in its history, making it one of the highest loan taking countries in the world,” economist Muzzamil Aslam told EFE.

The densely populated country continues to witness high rates of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty, with a quarter of the population or about 55 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

In Pakistan’s 75-year-long history, a total of 23 prime ministers have been sworn in, but none of them completed their term due to either being overthrown by a military coup or getting removed by the president, parliament, or the Supreme Court.

Analysts have highlighted several factors behind the political instability.

Perhaps “the most important reason is that we have not found the formula for who will be the legitimate player to control the state,” analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told EFE.

Islamist groups have played in important part in Pakistani politics right from the first armed conflict with India over Kashmir in 1947.

The alliance between the military and Islamists became really powerful during the reign of military dictator Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, and continues to play a major role.

The all-powerful and influential Army is often uncomfortable with any civilian government at the helm of the nation.

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