Happy Independence Day! A brief history of 76 years.

Happy Independence Day! A brief history of 76 years in bullet points.

Formation of Pakistan and Early Years (1947-1958):

  • Pakistan came into being on 14th August 1947 after the partition of British India.
  • It was established as a separate nation for Muslims under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
  • Pakistan faced severe challenges like refugee influx and border disputes.
  • The partition led to the displacement of millions and communal violence.
  • Partition caused a massive movement of populations between India and Pakistan.
  • Resulted in a severe refugee crisis and strained resources.
  • Boundary demarcation issues between India and Pakistan led to severe crises over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Pakistan initially adopted the Government of India Act of 1935 as a stop-gap arrangement.
  • In 1956, Pakistan adopted its first constitution on the foundations of Islam & Quran with an elected Parliament and President.
  • Pakistan immediately established diplomatic relations with other countries and became a member of international organizations.
  • Security concerns emerged due to unresolved border disputes with India in the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Pakistan established Urdu as the national language and promoted a unified national identity, resisted initially by various factions of the society, but later on, all agreed to it.

Military Rule and Instability (1958-1971):

  • In October 1958, General Ayub Khan seized power in Pakistan’s first military coup, citing political and economic instability.
  • He deferred the 1958 Constitution, dissolved the civilian government, and established martial law.
  • He introduced “Basic Democracy,” a controlled form of local governance, which weakened the democratic institutions and handed over all powers.
  • Economic growth was achieved but continued martial law led to social unrest.
  • He suppressed dissent and restricted all political activities that stifled democratic freedoms.
  • With Tashkent Declaration in 1966, which ended the war with India, he faced criticism, leading to protests and opposition from political forces in Pakistan.
  • In 1969, widespread protests led to the appointment of General Yahya Khan, another despot, as a new president.
  • Yahya Khan’s rule is remembered by the political turmoil and increasing demands for autonomy by East Pakistan (now called “Bangladesh”).
  • Differences between East Pakistan and West Pakistan led to a full-blown conflict.
  • The brutal military crackdown on Bengali nationalists led to a ferocious atrocity, that in turn led to the declaration of independence by East Pakistan.
  • India also took the chance and intervened in support of the Bangladeshi independence movement, leading to the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971.

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Bhutto Era and Democracy (1971-1977):

  • Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic politician, emerged as a prominent figure after 1971.
  • He introduced a democratic government and nationalized industries, banks, and major sectors of the economy, aiming to reduce economic discrepancies among the provinces.
  • However, his autocratic style of governance and controversial elections in 1977 blemished his tenure.
  • The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 left Pakistan with a need for stability and national unity.
  • He founded today’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)
  • He promised to address the country’s problems.
  • Bhutto’s government led toward the drafting of a new Constitution in 1973, marking a return to democratic governance.
  • The constitution emphasized fundamental rights and provincial autonomy.
  • He started land reforms to redistribute agricultural land and empower the peasants, largely hailed by the people of Pakistan.
  • Bhutto’s government for the first time in Pakistan’s History invested in the educational and healthcare sectors.
  • Bhutto’s premiership span was marred by allegations of election rigging leaving many admirers sour-hearted.
  • Bhutto’s hostilities toward political adversaries led to charges of fascism.
  • Bhutto tried to strengthen ties with Islamic countries leading to the creation of OIC.
  • His party takes credit for organizing the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore in 1974.
  • Bhutto’s rule ended with an election fraud allegation, that led to civil unrest, triggering the military leadership once again, to intervene and impose martial law.

Military Regime and Proxy Wars (1977-1988):

  • General Zia-ul-Haq seized power in 1977 and overthrew the civilian government of Pakistan.
  • Zia mentioned reasons like corruption, political instability, and the need for Islamic reforms.
  • Zia is set on a process of Islamization.
  • He implemented Sharia law and promoted conservative Islamic values in Pakistan.
  • General Zia curbed civilian liberty, censured and openly flogged journalists, and went heavily after political dissent.
  • Then comes the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Not that Afghanistan wanted the help of Pakistan, but Pakistan didn’t want to see the Soviets succeed in their neighborhood, later on causing troubles for Pakistan on the western border.
  • United States and Saudis jumped and started supporting Afghan resistance fighters (Mujahideen) through different means.
  • Pakistan became the broker of that support supplying financial, ammunition, and talent-hunting support to Mujahideen in 1979.
  • The conflict turned into a proxy war in Afghanistan.
  • The Afghan war brought billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan but it also created a monster of militancy.
  • An influx of Afghan refugees contributed to social and economic challenges in Pakistan.
  • Despite Zia’s promises of a return to democracy, his regime extended martial law and postponed elections for almost the next 10 years, cementing military control over Pakistan.
  • Zia’s rule came to an abrupt end in 1988 when he died in a plane crash under inexplicable circumstances.

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Return to Democracy (1988):

  • As General Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988, the transition from dictatorship to civilian rule was made.
  • Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to lead a Muslim-majority country as Prime Minister.
  • Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif took turns till 1999, but both governments were allegedly facing corruption charges.
  • Alternate changes in leadership hindered long-term policy implementation.
  • Corruption allegations stalled economic and social progress.
  • Both governments (PPP & PMLN) Lacked transparency, and weakened institutions.
  • Due to cited challenges, the people of Pakistan faced high inflation, debt burden, and huge fiscal deficits.
  • Due to improper governance, Pakistan for the first time in its history saw the emergence of energy shortages and frequent power outages, affecting industrial growth as well as the daily life of the people of Pakistan.
  • During Nawaz Sharif’s government in 1999, the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan further stressed the economy and international relations of Pakistan with world powers.
  • The Kargil conflict as well as Pakistan nuclear explosions in 1999 led to diplomatic isolation and military tensions.

Military Return and Global Terrorism (1999-2008):

  • General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a coup by overthrowing Nawaz Sharif in 1999.
  • Musharraf specially mentioned political instability and corruption charges as reasons.
  • Immediately after Musharraf’s military coup, the United States announced a war on terror in response to Sept 11, 2001 attacks.
  • Musharaff, in the garb of democracy, conducted sham elections and made his party PML-Q win.
  • Pakistan became a key ally in the global war on terror and again came foreign dollars, again neglecting key reforms in order to solve core economic challenges and relief upon foreign aid.
  • Musharraf supported military operations in Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan freedom fighters who were called Mujahedeen’s just a decade ago, were announced terrorists, and Pakistan despite being their neighbor, bound to live with them in the future, went ahead and fought against Afghani Taliban.
  • Despite immense internal criticism, alliance with Americans led to internal conflicts and security challenges, far beyond our imagination.
  • Musharaff’s era was full of internal instability, religious extremism, creation of countless mujahideen militant groups.
  • Extreme pressure from political parties started pressurizing the government and asking for democracy, which led Musharaff to hold elections in 2008.
  • During the campaign, PPP’s head Benazir Bhutto faced multiple assassination attempts in Karachi and Rawalpindi and was finally assassinated in Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi.
  • Elections in 2008 marked the end of Musharraf’s era, leaving Asif Ali Zardari as President, and the country again moved towards civilian rule.

Democratic Transition and Challenges for Pakistan (2008-2023):

  • Despite democratic transitions, governance remained tainted by corruption of political parties, and economic challenges.
  • Extremism, Terrorism, and sectarian violence from Musharraf’s era persisted.
  • Asif Ali Zardari, Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), became the President and formed a coalition government.
  • The period of PPP saw a continuation of political instability and allegations of corruption.
  • Civil-military relations remained a source of continuous tension in Pakistan, with the military exerting influence over security and foreign policy matters, left Asif Ali Zardari, issuing a statement “eent say eent baja ker rakh dengay” and flew to Dubai immediately afterward.
  • Like Civil-Military relations, economic challenges also persisted, with prominent issues like inflation, unemployment, and a large informal economy.
  • After the successful first term completion of the civilian government, Nawaz Sharif was again voted as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  • During both civilian governments, debt burden, and fiscal deficits restrained the governments from development.
  • Pakistan started to witness chronic energy shortages in every majority city as well as no electricity in villages.
  • Energy shortage created industrial crises and major industrial players started to look elsewhere, witnessing a huge flight of capital.
  • Due to such circumstances, Pakistan saw insufficient investment in infrastructure and it hindered the economic growth and development of Pakistan.
  • The governance countryside was marred by corruption, inefficiency, lack of transparency, and clogging effective administration.
  • Political polarization in Pakistan and weak institutions also contributed to a crisis of governance.
  • During democratic governments, media freedom with reports of censorship, intimidation, and attacks on journalists also affected the transparency of the government’s conduct.
  • Human rights, Civil liberties & freedom of expression, were often compromised.
  • Pakistan continued to face issues like poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality, and virtually no healthcare services.
  • In 2018, a new entrant, Imran Khan broke the two-party system and was elected as a Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  • His most significant step was the initiation of economic reforms.
  • PTI government launched Ehsaas Program, a social safety net initiative widely hailed by economic experts.
  • Keeping in view the corruption issues of Pakistan, Imran Khan started an Anti-Corruption drive and established an assets recovery unit to recover wealth stashed abroad by Pakistani nationals through illicit means.
  • He opened Kartarpur Corridor, widely appreciated by the Sikh community all over the world, highlighting his vision of religious freedom.
  • Despite being late, he finally initiated a Digital Transformation, in various sectors like land records, education, and healthcare.
  • PTI government was among the top three countries to deal with Corona Virus and kept the economic activity in check.
  • He continued his climate change Initiatives largely appreciated all over the globe with his billion-tree tsunami campaign.
  • He attempted to improve relations with neighboring countries, including initiatives to ease tensions with India.
  • He actively participated in international forums and advocated for the Kashmir issue on the global stage.
  • Finally, after General Ayub Khan, he started building dams for the conservation of water.
  • He announced several projects to enhance the connectivity between provinces.
  • For the first time in Pakistan’s history, he started the housing initiative and introduced Nayal Pakistan Housing Program for low-income families.
  • He was ousted on 10 April 2022 by a coalition of 13 parties in a result of the no-confidence motion.  

Moving Forward, we need to Learn from our Mistakes

In order to overcome the challenges of Pakistan, we need to do the following, if we ever want to become a respectable nation with our heads held high.

  • We need to strengthen democratic institutions to ensure civilian/democratic rule.
  • We need to improve relations with neighboring countries for regional stability.
  • We need to focus on countering extremism.
  • We need to promote social harmony.
  • We need continuous investments in education, healthcare, and economic stability by industrialization and improving exports.
  • We need to create a transparent and accountable system to combat corruption on every level with severe punishments and seizure of properties.

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