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Answer to the question of ‘why does Pakistan lag behind Bangladesh?’

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By: Hafizur Talukdar

A columnist has recently raised a valid question through a column titled “why does Pakistan lag behind Bangladesh?” The column appeared on 1st February this year in a Pakistani ‘English Daily’. Bangladesh’s economy has been highly praised in the Pakistani media. The article, published in the media highlighted the issue of robust and resurgent economic growth of Bangladesh despite being identified as a bottomless basket. I read the column thoroughly multiple times. I thought deeply about why did Pakistan lag behind Bangladesh in the last fifty years. Then I tried to find out the reasons for the question. Basically, the author has given a task or an assignment to all of us to find out the real causes of the backwardness of Pakistan than that of Bangladesh. Pakistani thinkers, media, and politicians should come up with solutions to this valid question. The well-written article also showed some guidelines to find out the answer. The author herself tried to find out some points. Let’s try to find out the answer. We know that Bangladesh was part of then Pakistan. Then it separated Pakistan through bloody liberation war. That is another history. However, the age of Bangladesh is just 50 than that of Pakistan’s 74.

So, it was easy to say that Pakistan should had go ahead of Bangladesh. But the real fact is that Bangladesh is far ahead of Pakistan in many socio-economic indexes. But how did Bangladesh go ahead of Pakistan in most developmental indices? There are many reasons for this. One of the strong reasons is the ‘Strong Leadership of Bangladesh’. Bangladesh has had the same leader for 18 years. But consistency is good for a country.  Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina tried her level best to move forward the country. She was committed to fulfilling her election manifest in 2008.

After a long vacuum, she showed interest in the implementation of her father’s Cherish dream ‘Golden Bengal’. She is committed to transforming the whole of Bangladesh into ‘Digital Bangladesh’ through her visionary plan ‘ vision 2021 and Vision 2041’.

Bangladesh is moving forward as per these visions. “How a strong leadership can change the entire nation” Bangladesh is a worthy example to understand this. Since its inception, Pakistan needs and needed a visionary leader who likes/liked to show dreams, visions. Bangladesh got a visionary leader. For example, when PM Imran Khan was and is seeking a foreign loan from either China or Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh PM has established an example to lend Sri Lanka, Sudan, Somalia, Maldives. We can see the aid seeker Bangladesh as a lending Bangladesh. On the other hand, defying the criticiser, PM Hasina showed her bravery to start the country’s mega projects. Now Bangladesh is reaping the benefits from these megaprojects.

Pakistan’s performance in the social sector is the most disappointing. It is thought that many children do not go to school in this country, gender inequality is constantly increasing. It has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. In the current state of education and health services, the growth of forty percent of children has come to a standstill. But none of Pakistan’s political leaders are worried about this!

In fact, Pakistan has lagged behind due to social conditions.  According to economists, the property system is such that all property is in the hands of a small number of people. Those who are landlords are the owners of industries, banks, and insurance, they are the owners of imports and exports, they are the military and civil bureaucrats. As a result, Pakistan is divided into two classes – one is rich and the other is poor. And so, the middle class did not develop in that country. If there is no middle class in a country, the market for industrial or agricultural products does not develop in that country, the multifaceted entrepreneurial class does not develop. Social mobility is not seen. It has economic as well as political aspects, meaning that democracy cannot be established in that country, and even the slightest possible rule of the people does not last.

Talking to the common people of Pakistan, it is clear that they do not feel that they are citizens of Pakistan. So, it can be said that Pakistan has a state, but no citizens. A country can be taken forward by the ordinary citizens of that country, who are both producers and consumers. It goes without saying that women do not have rights. For example, Gender Parity Index Bangladesh is 50th out of 153 countries and Pakistan is 151st. Starting from their education, participation in action is very low. In Bangladesh, where 36% of women participate in the labor market, in Pakistan only 25%. Honor killings still exist there. There are various other types of declared and undeclared restrictions on women’s participation in the country.

According to the various reports of open sources (media reports), various international data (2020 and 2021) shows that in human resource development (although its discoverer was the late Pakistani economist Mahbubul Haque, who was respected by development experts around the world and his writings are still being read in various educational institutions around the world) Bangladesh 133 and Pakistan 154 (21 steps ahead Bangladesh) Poverty rate in Bangladesh is 20.5% and in Pakistan 39.2 % (the World Bank calculated that Pakistan’s poverty rate was 39.3 percent in 2020-21, 39.2 percent in 2021-22, and 37.9 percent in 2022-23), life expectancy is 73 years in Bangladesh and 67.48 years in Pakistan, the killing rate is 2.5 people per lakh in Bangladesh and 4.41 people in Pakistan, while per capita income in Bangladesh is nearly 2500 than in Pakistan, it is 1500 or less.  One dollar equals our 85 takas, they have 174 rupees.

Foreign exchange reserves are 46 billion in Bangladesh and 15 billion or less in Pakistan. But their population is 4.6 crores more than Bangladesh’s. In 1971, the population of West Pakistan was 5.97 crore and that of Bangladesh was 6.55 crore. Today Bangladesh is 165 million and Pakistan is moreover 220m. The rate of contraceptive use (CPR) in population control in Bangladesh is 67%, while in Pakistan it is below 34.5%. Pakistan produces cotton and Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of garments. That is why Pakistanis have recently demanded to make their country like Bangladesh for a good reason. But why this situation in Pakistan? There can be many explanations for this. Such as political, economic, social, cultural, even religious.

Another major reason for Pakistan’s backwardness compared to Bangladesh is the lack of education for girls. It has been said that ‘Pakistan did not educate its infant daughters!’ On the other hand, since 2008, Bangladesh’s female power has set an example by emphasizing women’s education and empowerment. Women are now dominating the country’s civil service, army, education system, and industry.

When Pakistan is busy countering the horrific terrorist and separatist movements in Balochistan and KP provinces, Bangladesh is busy developing its rural development, infrastructures, promoting social safety net programs amongst poor people. Bangladesh didn’t see a horrific terrorist attack after the country’s terror incident in Holy Artisan in 2016. Bangladesh has a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism, militancy, illegal drug peddling.

Although Bangladesh is dominated by Bengalis, Bangladesh has ensured the rights of all ethnic and religious groups in the country. Bangladesh is enjoying a full scale of communal harmony. Pakistan on the other hand is gifted with different ethnic groups trying to overpower each other so ethnic tension is to blame for this. Bangladesh has established permanent peace in the country’s once problematized part ‘ Chittagong Hill Tracts’ through a deal called ‘ CHT Peace Accord in 1997’. Now the CHT is moving forward to peace, prosperity, and development.

Bangladesh’s growth is very inclusive. Bangladesh focuses its attention from bottom to up in society. Bangladesh has ensured its tremendous engagement, enrollment, and involvement of all parts in the society such as integration of autistics, marginalized, destitute, minors. Bangladesh tries to ensure the rights of all ethnic groups in society.

Bangladesh sheltered more than 1milliin Rohingya Refugees. Bangladesh is dealing with the refugee issue properly having despite very limited resources. On the other hand, although Pakistan has sheltered a lot of Afghan refugees, it has been facing a challenge to deal with the refugees because Pakistan has many internal problems.

On the other hand, Pakistan has zero focus on developing heavy industry, creating an educated workforce, etc. because it would threaten the feudal elites’ source of income.

Pakistan’s economy has faced an inexplicable amount of damage due to the war on terror. Starting from 2001, it still hasn’t recovered, and the situation kept getting good to worse due to the destabilization of Afghanistan.

However, the political situation in Bangladesh from Pakistan was good. Large areas in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) didn’t get special attention, there was less investment. The people of those provinces need some basic socio-economic development. Pakistan didn’t get many foreign investments than Bangladesh. Only Chinese investments or investments from Middle Eastern countries can’t recover a country’s economy. Pakistan needed more foreign investments. Meanwhile, ordinary people in Pakistan, even educated people, have said, ‘We have an atomic bomb, but what can we do with it, can we eat it?’  Pakistan should focus its attention to develop the socio-economic-cultural aspects of the people parallel to other issues as Bangladesh did it.

The writer is working as a teacher at a local school in Dhaka besides being a researcher. [email protected]


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