In a recent article, “Turning Challenges into Opportunities” we argued that Pakistanis are a brave, resilient, and highly intelligent people who, under a strong, determined, and patriotic leadership, can surmount any crisis. Furthermore, there are many reasons that Pakistan could become a global superpower within few decades.
Of course, in the sublime sense, the only superpower is the Almighty Allah. However, in more mundane terms, a superpower can be defined as having the ability to influence events and project power on a worldwide scale. Unfortunately, the traditional definition of a superpower represents a raw and crude psyche that only exacerbates violence, environmental decay, inequality, tyranny, and instability.
We must then redefine “superpower” to emphasize morality, international cooperation, world peace, clean and healthy environment, eradication of poverty, and promotion of equality among nations. Pakistan can take up the challenge under a two-pronged doctrine, namely possessing an effective and successful deterrence against aggression and the will and the means to enhance international cooperation, peace, and prosperity.
The defeatists, uttering doomsday scenarios, will question our proposition. These elements have always infused distress, despondency, and despair among the masses. Pakistan has survived many odds since its birth. To the dismay of its detractors, Pakistan has achieved a reasonable degree of self-sufficiency in food and other essential commodities. The poverty level has declined to 25%, while wealth distribution has been relatively much better compared to many developed and developing countries.
In the vital fields of agriculture, science and technology, industry, medicine and engineering, nuclear technology, art and architecture, as well as in sports, cultural, and the literary world, it has won a respectable place in the community of nations. The Pakistani people have courageously defied what the proponents of gloom and doom had wished. At the time of its inception in 1947, the country lacked the basic infrastructure for development, but it had the romance of youth, the diversity of its people, and a kind of mysticism for survival. The birth of Pakistan in less than ten years since the idea of nationhood was conceived in the 1940 Resolution is truly a gift of Allah to the Ummah. And its survival is a miracle.
Many serious analysts believe that with proper management and governance, Pakistan can become the sixth biggest economy within the next fifteen years and one of the most developed economies by 2050 AD. (Adjusting for unreported economic activities and comparative prices, the current GDP estimates can actually be four times higher putting Pakistan in the middle-income category.) Moreover, with an estimated population of 350 million by 2050, it will be fourth largest country in the world. Similarly, the literacy rate, 52% at present, is expected to reach 90% in next twenty years.
However, Pakistan’s biggest asset is its 100 million people below the age of 25, a highly productive age, which can play a vital role in the economic development of the country. These young people have entered the phase of their economic life cycle, whereas in many other countries most of the population is aging. Moreover, some ten million overseas Pakistanis, with estimated assets of $500 billion, constitute a huge reserve and strength as well as a source of considerable remittances and investment.
On the geo-physical scene, Pakistan has adequate natural resources. For example, of a total land area of nearly 882,000 sq.km. (ranking fifth among the developed countries while it is larger than France, Germany, Britain, Japan, and Italy), it has over 30 million hectares of land under agriculture. It has rich soils, favorable agro-climatic conditions, one of the most extensive irrigation systems in the world, and a hard-working farming community. Pakistan also has a large population of cattle, buffalo, goats and sheep, camel, and poultry while it ranks among the highest producers of meat, milk, and animal products.
In addition, the country has tremendous opportunities for developing fresh water and sea fisheries. With the introduction of improved farming techniques, the country can produce at least 60 million tons of food (wheat, rice, and maize) — enough to meet the nation’s food requirements and for exports. Pakistan can also boost its existing significant production and export of fruits and vegetables. The potential exports of food products alone to the Middleast are estimated at $200 billion per year. Development of the agriculture sector could also release surpluses of income and manpower for the industrialization of the country.
Pakistan has been bestowed with huge deposits of mineral resources and stands among the top ten nations in the world in vital mineral resources such as gold, copper, silver, gas, precious stones, and coal. In the case of energy, the country has immense hydroelectric power generation potentials as well as solar, wind, nuclear, and thermal power and can boost electricity production several times its present levels. For example, Pakistan has the world’s fourth largest coal reserves equivalent to over 600 billion barrels of oil, which can be developed for electricity generation both for domestic and export markets, coal byproducts, gasification, petrochemicals, and many other chemicals.
In terms of its geography, Pakistan enjoys a unique central and strategic setting. It is also a potential hub of trans-regional trade and commerce, and scientific and technological linkages. In addition, its over 1,000 kilometers of coastline has many suitable sites for developing the most modern ports linking all five continents. Pakistan’s proximity to the Islamic world, accessibility to the Indian Ocean and to the markets of East Asia, steadily growing economy, and principled stand in international affairs, good relations with other important neighbors, the PRC, Iran, and Turkey, and its emerging relations with the Central Asian countries and Russia should be a positive force in bringing peace, stability, and prosperity to this region.
It could also help integration of the region with the rest of the world, and promote international peace and cooperation. Pakistan could benefit from increased exports to these countries of agricultural, textile, engineering, and steel products, as well as advanced weapons, fighter aircrafts, tanks, UAVs, and ships, electronics, mobile phones, chip, and computers and software.
Pakistan’s armed forces have attained global dimensions since the end of the Cold War. It has a million strong, fiercely patriotic, battle-hardened, and highly mobile professional armed forces equipped with advanced weaponry. The country has nearly achieved self-sufficiency in production of arms and ammunition while its nuclear weapons and short and long-range missiles are awesome. For many years, Pakistan’s armed forces have played an important role in the security of its friends and under the aegis of the UNO. While they are capable of deterring any aggression, they could become a force for peace and stability for the region and the world.
Finally, Pakistan’s cultural and historical diversity and a challenging topography truly offer a delight to those seeking the most exciting adventures. The country is blessed with terrain ranging from coastal areas with attractive sea spots to the highest mountain summits. In terms of the beauty and magnificence of its landscape, Pakistan can also rightfully claim to have at least five of its mountains rising above 8,000 meters. There are many other spectacular mountain panoramas, glaciers, treacherous rives, valleys, and gullies containing some of the most dangerous cliffs in the world.
Its soil contains the ruins of the Gandhara University, unique historic places such as Mohenjodaro and Taxila, and sites in Balochistan with the oldest civilization (estimated to date back to 4000 BC) known to-date. Its colorful cities, with a beautiful mix of ancient culture and modern habitations, beautiful architecture, mosques and shrines, and cuisine are of great interest to visitors. Finally, Pakistan’s free and vibrant media can play its role in projecting the country’s true image to the world.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Pakistan can become a superpower by 2050. China, which at the time of its independence in 1949, was behind Pakistan in many vital sectors, has made it to the superpower status. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with sheer intelligence and will power, created a homeland for the Muslims of the region in less than ten years since the 1940 Lahore Resolution.
The greatest strength of 170 million Pakistanis is their strong faith in religion, their glorious history, their culture, their beautiful geography, and their immense natural resources. The birth of Pakistan was the first step; for it to become a formidable force in the world is the ultimate objective of its birth. Much hope for the present and the future rests upon the steely will of the people. With “unity, faith, and discipline,” the people and the leaders of Pakistan can transform the country to its fullest capabilities and superpower status.