The United States needs to broaden the way it looks at Pakistan and helping the country to address the core structural development problems will resolve many of US security concerns, according to an opinion piece published in a leading US magazine Forbes.
The author, in a report “How US Higher Education Partnerships Can Promote Development In Pakistan,” said that the US needs to take a more broader view of Pakistan which cannot be defined completely by its relationship with its neighbors.
“For decades, security issues have dominated Washington’s Pakistan agenda while ‘soft’ issues have been an afterthought,” the report said.
From Islamabad’s perspective, the ‘soft’ issues include some of their most important challenges.
The report characterized these issues as Pakistan’s “6Es”: (non-security) engagement, economics, entrepreneurship, education, energy, and (gender) equality.
“Most of the international community engage Pakistan through an ‘AfPak’ lens or an ‘IndoPak’ lens, but Pakistan cannot be defined completely by its relationships with its neighbors,” the author said. Afghanistan has a population of 25 million while Pakistan’s population will soon exceed 200 million. India continues to grapple with its own development challenges and opportunities, many of which have little or nothing to do with Pakistan.
Pakistan, the report said, is the sixth largest country by population in the world and is projected to become the fourth largest country by 2050. “To understand Pakistan requires analysis through its own sui generis set of issues and opportunities.”
The report noted in spite of a very ‘poor country brand’ with the international media, Pakistan has undergone a series of positive developments that merit recognition. “These developments set the table for the sort of policies and investments needed to move the country on a path travelled by Indonesia or Brazil.”
The report noted that Pakistan had its first peaceful democratic transition in 2013 and currently the military, the civilian government, and civil society are broadly aligned on security issues.
“Pakistan’s economy has been growing for a number of years, and it is on track to complete an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program from start to finish for the first time in its 70-year history,” the report said.
“Pakistan’s growing middle class, which will expand from an estimated 40 million people today to 100 million people by 2050, represents a powerful engine for change, demanding both improved services and greater access to opportunities.”
The report defined the energy sector as one key area of expanding demand and potential growth.
“Pakistan’s abundant coal reserves and access to water flowing from the Himalayas mean it could be the “Saudi Arabia of Coal” and the “Saudi Arabia of Hydropower.” Pakistan also has significant wind, solar and geothermal potential.
The report said that to seize its full potential, Pakistan is going to need more capable people to lead industries that will carry its future growth; run it’s national, provincial and city governments; and grow its universities.
“The Pakistani government knows you can’t have a twenty-first-century economy with eighteenth-century basic education levels for girls in its rural areas,” the article concluded.