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How is 64 year old Pakistan doing?

“You tend to hear the worst 5% of the Pakistan story 95% of the time!”


The above is a quote attributed to Pakistani Entrepreneur Monis Rahman in the August 8th 2011 edition of Forbes Magazine story titled “Want to Start a Company in the World’s Sixth-Most Populous Country? Time to Move to Pakistan”. So let us show you the other 95% that Pakistani media refuses to tell you about!


Let’s start with some of the key indicators of progress Pakistan has made since independence in 1947.


Health & Wealth

The health and wealth of a nation depend on availability of good nutrition and access to health care and education, which in turn rely on economic growth to support needed public and private social spending. The most basic indicators of progress, such as the life expectancy and per capita incomes of many nations, have been compiled and brought to life in animations developed by Professor Hans Rosling. The Gapminder animations show that life expectancy in Pakistan has jumped from 32 years in 1947 to 67 years in 2009. Per Capita inflation-adjusted PPP income has risen from $766 in 1948 to $2603 in 2009. Over the last two decades, Pakistan has continued to offer much greater upward economic and social mobility to its citizens than neighboring India. Since 1990, Pakistan’s middle class had expanded by 36.5% and India’s by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report on Asia’s rising middle class released in 2010. The ADB report on Asia’s rising middle class confirms that Pakistan’s middle class has grown to 40% of the population!




Literacy is also a very important indicator of progress. Though the literacy in Pakistan has increased from about 10% in 1947 to about 60% today, it remains dismally low relative to many other nations. However, a closer examination of literacy data by age groups shows that the literacy rates are rising by every generation:



+55 = 30%

45-55 = 40%

35-45 = 50%

25-35 = 60%

15-25 = 70% (Male 80%, Female 60%, UNICEF)


However, rural and female illiteracy are still the biggest challenges which Pakistan must address.


Poverty, Hunger & Inequality

The World Bank ranks Pakistan among lower-middle-income nations with per capita income exceeding $1000 a year.  Pakistan is still a country with significant population of poor people. However, its recent levels of poverty are among the lowest in South Asia. The 2011 World Bank data shows that Pakistan’s poverty rate of 17.2%, the lowest in South Asia.


Based on hunger data collected from 2003 to 2008, The International Food Policy Research (IFPRI) has reported that Pakistan’s hunger index score improved over the last 3 consecutive years reported since 2008 from 21.7 (2008) to 21.0 (2009) to 19.1 (2010) and its ranking rose from 61 to 58 to 52.


Pakistan is also more egalitarian than its neighbours. The CIA World Factbook reports Pakistan’s Gini Index has decreased from 41 in 1998-99 to 30.6 in 2007-08, lower than India’s 36.8 and Bangladesh’s 33.2.


The Economy

In 1947, Pakistan was broke – because India refused to give Pakistan its share of Sterling reserves. The situation was so bad that Pakistani Government couldn’t pay it’s employees. In this first existential crisis, the Habib’s bailed out the government by lending Rs. 80 million, more than half of Rs. 150 million budget.


Today, Pakistan’s economy is the 27th largest in the world and is apart of the “Next 11 Economies”. It is one of the top 15 emerging economies (BRICs+Next11) picked by Goldman Sachs. Goldman forecasts Pakistan to be among the Top 20 biggest economies in the world by 2025. Since 2008, Pakistan’s economy has been suffering from a serious stagflation, a very bad combination of slow growth and high inflation. But history tells us that this current situation is not normal for Pakistan. Afterall, it’s Pakistan’s robust economic growth that has enabled significant progress based on the health and wealth indicators outlined earlier.


Beginning in 1947, the economy grew at a fairly impressive rate of 6% per year through the first four decades of the nation’s existence. Inspite of rapid population growth during this period, per capita incomes doubled, inflation remained low and poverty declined from 46% down to 18% by late 1980s, according to eminent Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain. This healthy economic performance was maintained through several wars and successive civilian and military governments in 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s until the decade of 1990s, now appropriately remembered as the “lost decade”.


In the period from 2000-2007, here’s what the IMF agreed to in 2008 as part of the nation’s bailout:

Pakistan became one of the four fastest growing economies in the Asian region during 2000-07 with its growth averaging 7.0 per cent per year for most of this period. As a result of strong economic growth, Pakistan succeeded in reducing poverty by one-half, creating almost 13 million jobs, halving the country’s debt burden, raising foreign exchange reserves to a comfortable position and propping the country’s exchange rate, restoring investors’ confidence and most importantly, taking Pakistan out of the IMF Program.


Science and Technology

Here are some of the facts about Pakistan’s progress in Science and Technology that never make the headlines in the mainstream media anywhere, including Pakistan!


-Pakistan has been ScienceWatch’s Rising Star for scientific papers published in various international journals


-Pakistan is among a handful of nations with dozens of scientists working on CERN’s SuperCollider Project. Several of the SuperCollider components were built in Pakistan.


-Jinnah Antarctic Station puts Pakistan among a dozen nations doing research in Antarctica


-Pakistan’s IT Industry is worth $2.8 billion and is growing every year


-Pakistan leads the world in Biometric IT services with the world’s biggest biometric database.


-Top-selling Blackberry application was developed by a Pakistani company


-SUPARCO (Pakistan Space Agency) is rumoured to be designing it’s own satellite launch vehicle TAIMUR


Arts, Literature & Culture

There has been an explosion of the uniquely Pakistani arts and literature:


-Sachal Orchestra, a Lahore Jazz Group, is topping western music charts


-Regular book fairs, music concerts, fashion shows & theater group performances


-UK’s Granta Magazine Special Issue Highlights Successful Pakistani Authors’ Books Published in Europe and America. Examples: Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders), Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows), Mohammad Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) who have been making waves in literary circles and winning prizes in London and New York.


Heavy Manufacturing

Pakistan has a significant heavy industry today. For example:


– Autos, Motorcycles, Tractors, Buses, Trucks (Auto sales up 61% in July 2011)

– Steel

– Nuclear Reactors (Khushab)

– Aircrafts

– Ships

– Unmanned Drones (UAVs)

– Army Tanks

– Ballistic and Cruise Missiles


Natural Resources

Pakistan is rich in energy and mineral resources. The US Deptarment of Energy estimates 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas mostly in Sindh. And there’s good potential for shale oil in the country.


-Vast coal reserves at Thar for cheap electricity (Coal power plants)

-Huge deposits of Copper, Gold, Iron and Rare Earths at Reko Diq, Dilband and Saindak in Balochistan

-High sustained wind speeds of 13 to 16 mph along the Arabian Sea coastline (Wind power plants)

-Lots of sunshine everywhere all year round (Solar power plants)

-Significant hyrdo energy potential


Strong Society

The Habibs bailed out Pakistan in 1947. Now, let’s see how Edhi doing it in 2011. Here’s quote from Anatol Leiven’s “Pakistan: A Hard Country”:


“There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its own elected representatives – to see the flag of the Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality”.


Lieven says Pakistanis donate 5% of the GDP for charitable cause, making Pakistanis the most generous people in the world. As a benchmark, philanthropy accounts for 2.2% of GDP in the United States, 1.3% in the UK, 1.2% in Canada and 0.6% in India.


Weak State

Unfortunately, Pakistan is run by incompetent politicians! The Pakistani military and the civil society bails out the state each time it is found lacking. Examples include the Earthquake in 2005, Swat takeover by Taliban insurgents in 2009, and massive floods in 2010. In each of these cases, the politicians and the civilian administrators abandoned the people and the world media declared Pakistan a failed state on the verge of total collapse. But they were proved wrong each time.  The military launched the rescue and relief efforts by deploying all of its resources, and then the NGOs like Edhi Foundation stepped in to help the people stand on their feet again.



While the worst 5% of the Pakistan story gets all the headlines, the reality of Pakistan today as vibrant society and a strong nation gets ignored by the mainstream media. The real story of Pakistan is the resilience of its 180 million citizens who continue to strive to make it better and stronger. These are tough economic times for Pakistan, but if history should stand corrected, Pakistan will pull out of this and continue to grow!



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