Former World Bank vice-president and one-time caretaker finance minister of Pakistan Shahid Javed Burki has questions for his countrymen—ones echoed by our neighbors to the east. In a recent article, he wrote: “I visit Pakistan two to three times a year and am always struck by the negative views held by the people I come across in both Lahore and Islamabad. In listening to some of what is being said, I am reminded of the conversation I had a few years ago with L.K. Advani, a senior BJP leader, who had served as India’s deputy prime minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Advani said to me that he was widely misunderstood in Pakistan. He was neither against Pakistan nor against Islam. He was just pro-India. He then asked me a question that I was unable to answer. ‘Why is it that while we Indians love India, Pakistanis don’t seem to like Pakistan?’”
These days the dominant strain in political dialogue is the economic destruction caused by the Nawaz Sharif government in the past five. No one cares to make an objective assessment of the country’s endemic political instability, stemming from the pessimism Advani mentioned. Dharna politics and abusive political discourse is the shape this permanent self-flagellation has taken. Another ex-World Bank economist and Pakistan’s ex-State Bank governor, Ishrat Husain, in his latest book, Governing the Ungovernable, takes account of this slow national suicide during the period of 1990-2008:
“The reality is that the external environment between 1990 and 2008 was an extremely favorable a period in which most emerging and developing countries made great economic strides. But Pakistan fell behind India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam during that period.” During the above-mentioned decade Pakistan was routinely pulling down its elected governments, confirming the observation that no Pakistani prime minister has ever completed his tenure in office.