In the last days of 2020, Pakistani politicians, media, bureaucracies and public at large are focused on the issues of “resignations” and “long march” by country’s opposition. Arguments are couched in the language of democracy, supremacy of parliament, freedom of expression and the rule of law.
Such is the intensity of this debate on tv channels that one can be forgiven for concluding that perhaps the future of 200 million people of Pakistan is dependent on the outcome.
In reality opposition, parties under the banner of PDM want to change country’s laws dealing with corruption, abuse of public office and money laundering – as they had demanded, in lieu of their support – when parliament was bringing laws to meet requirements of FATF. While we lament this state of affairs of Pakistani politics, this is not our focus in this magazine.
GVS in this issue wants to remind its readers – and especially those in political parties, bureaucracies and policymaking circles – that focus needs to lie elsewhere. January 2021 is the beginning of a new decade for Pakistan (2021-2030) with its myriad challenges – and opportunities.
Country’s current population, around 225 million (as estimated by The Economist, World in 2021) is set to cross 250 million (may climb up to 275 million) by 2030 and if it continues to grow at the rate of 3% then according to the United Nations it will touch 380 million by 2050.
A young population can be a dividend only if it is well fed, educated, skilled with meaningful jobs and with access to proper housing, health facilities and energy sources. These challenges demand – apart from population planning – that governments focus on creating policies and national strategic institutions that can hasten structural developments in key areas.
But governments, one after the other, are already finding it difficult to provide the needed quantum of food grains, water, energy and skillsets required for real meaningful jobs that can contribute to the economy and help the nation compete with the world. For instance, when the population consumed 27 million tons of wheat, the country was able to produce only 25 million.
Agricultural yields per hectare are the lowest in the region, requiring better seeds and fertilizers but national gas resources – needed to make fertilizers – are set to expire by 2024. Coal gasification will be needed but, in a world, increasingly sensitive to climate change and thus carbon footprint country needs to learn and promote the science of safe uses of coal. Gen. Tariq Khan, CEO FFC, talks with GVS for this issue, candidly describing the chilling picture.
Regional security situation is becoming precarious. Hindutva’s – with its hatred of Muslim gand Islam – has become the driving ideology across India. With the US and its western alliance strategically aligned with New Delhi against China, Pakistan is placed in a precarious situation given its own existential conflict with India, strategic relations with Beijing, and its increasing reliance and interdependence on the Chinese economy in the form of CPEC. Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN outlines these challenges in this issue.
We at GVS believe that if we manage to draw the attention of the government, political parties, strategic institutions, judiciary, academia and media towards these “real issues” – and we spark an alternate debate – then we are succeeding in the mission for which GVS exists. We have decided that starting from this January issue, we will work with politicians, civil servants, organizational heads, corporate leaders, professional communities, experts and think tanks across Pakistan to develop a better understanding of these issues.
If political parties started to talk about these issues, then remember that GVS contributed to starting this debate! Feel free to send your suggestions to Editor@GlobalVillageSpace.com with your name and institutional affiliations; we may publish these with your details.