In 1947 British India was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan. Their lives as independent nations began at the same time, and yet since then the two countries have diverged drastically.
Modern India is a stable democracy with a growing economy. Pakistan only just completed its first democratic transition of power, is burdened with serious security issues, and has a lacklustre growth rate.
India is a significant target for investment from the West and elsewhere in Asia. Potential investors in Pakistan are put off by its predictable unpredictability and its chronic power shortages.
India just sent a space probe to Mars. Pakistan is not yet able to provide more than half its citizens with an education.
This assessment is not entirely fair – things in India are not quite as rosy as Western filmmakers would have you think, with corruption, economic problems and a cruel caste system that often results in violence against women, while conversely Pakistan is really not as bad as the Western media makes out – but it is undeniable that, broadly speaking, the two countries have travelled along different and diverging paths since the summer of 1947.
The question is this: why?
Some people blame Islam, but this surely cannot be fair. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and yet is relatively prosperous, while Nepal, a Hindu majority country like India, is wretchedly poor. Corruption is also notoriously high in Christian countries like Nigeria and Kenya.
Some people blame the army. The amount of money spent on the Pakistani army is dizzyingly high – some 30% of GDP – but the army is more or less the only trusted institution in Pakistan and has saved Pakistan from domestic chaos on a number of occasions.
My best estimation would be that a number of factors are at play, including a lack of education, a culture of endemic corruption, the physical makeup of Pakistan (a couple of prosperous and fertile provinces, coupled with wild mountains and remote deserts that are chronically undeveloped and miserably poor), and a cruelly unjust social system in which the poor are kept in poverty by the avarice of the wealthy.
It simultaneously baffles and saddens me that a country with such potential can be so horribly misused. The Pakistan Paradox is a rich and dark mystery for Pakistan’s leadership, and global institutions, to resolve at their earliest convenience…