Q. Can you explain how exactly, as you wrote in the paper, a war against Afghanistan which is theoretically funded by America, is bankrupting Pakistan?
A. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. marked a turning point in history. The first decade of the 21st century has been plagued by terrorism on a global level. The Muslim world has been at the centre of this debacle, as countries like Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be occupied and invaded by American forces. Amongst others, Pakistan is one Muslim nation that has caught the eye of the world in the last ten years. Being an ally of the U.S. in the war on terror, Pakistan has been facing heat from its own people for its partaking in the offensive towards its Muslim neighbors, with whom it’s maintained close ties in the past. Sympathizers of the militants in Afghanistan and home based militant groups in Pakistan have been creating civil unrest in the country by means of terrorism, as a means of retaliation towards its government for taking part in the war. This insurgence of militants has left Pakistan seeing some of its most deadly times in recent history.
Inevitably, it is civilians, particularly those comprising the “lower class” who suffers most, as the basic price of living has nearly doubled in the last five years. According to an article by Bashir Ahmed Khan and Faisal Bari, agricultural growth is key to Pakistani prosperity as most of the civilians cannot afford foreign produce and rely heavily on local cultivation for sustenance. Furthermore, 25% of the country’s GDP and 44% of total employment is generated by agriculture. The article goes on to state that Agriculture comprises a substantial amount of Pakistani exports while acting as the chief contributor of raw materials to industry. Hence, success for Pakistan’s agricultural industry is imperative for a healthy economy. However, as mentioned above, this is becoming an increasingly neglected industry – a result of the war on terror as the government has cut back focusing on this industry so it can equip the military. Q. Besides the agricultural industry, are there any others that have been affected, and in turn have affected Pakistan’s GDP?
A. Pakistan’s tourism industry has also taken severe blows, as regions like Nathiagali and Bhurban are not attracting the same amount of tourists due to its proximity to the war-plagued Swat region, which itself was once a popular tourist destination. According to an article in the Daily Times, a Pakistani news agency, the tourism industry faced a 36% cut in the new budget in 2010, only receiving RS 125 million for tourism promotions (roughly $1.5 million). The article goes on to say that due to the severe devastation the war has had on these once-popular destinations, the amount allocated to the industry is simply not sufficient for repairing the region’s infrastructure and making the region attractive for potential tourism. The ongoing war itself though, which largely takes place in these mountainous regions, seems to be enough of a reason for tourists to avoid venturing.
Pakistan’s PR profile has also been dented, as popular and reputable media such as The Economist continue to label it as “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth.” This has had lead to retraction of many foreign businesses that were once well established in the country, especially those dealing with textile mills and leather markets.
Pakistan’s agricultural industry’s success directly related to success of other industries in the country. The raw material industry, which provided priceless substances like cotton, helped the textile industry to thrive at one point. According to a book written by Gary Hufbauer and Shahid Burki, there was a period between 1996 - 2000 where Pakistan’s export of textile and clothing saw a stark increase, in part due to success of the agricultural industry. However, due to massive underfunding of the agricultural industry, the textile industry itself has dwindled.
This has led to a stark decrease in the amounts of foreign import and export. Foreign investors are also now apprehensive about investing in the region. It's no coincidence that all this steady decrease of a once-prosperous industry occurred once Pakistan entered into the global war on terror in 2001. Q. Considering the lack of funds will eventually result in a vicious cycle, there by which the country’s emergency preparation would be severely undermined, can you explain some of the shortcomings the country is facing in this regard.
A. As it is evident, Pakistan’s “emergency management program,” or lack of it towards terrorist attacks has contributed heavily to the loss of innocent lives and devastated the country. There are several factors that contribute to the failure of measures taken towards eradicating terrorism or at least mitigating efforts of terrorists.
Being an underdeveloped country, Pakistan lacks the infrastructure and capacity to develop and maintain an emergency management plan that can counteract and deal with the high frequency of these terrorist attacks. As the population of Pakistan grows, major cities are getting denser, without increase in basic infrastructure such as housing and roads. Having a solid infrastructure is one of the basic requirements of mitigation. Broken roads are common throughout the country, and lack of highways means that the flow of traffic is extremely slow. In an emergency situation, this creates difficulty while trying to get attack victims to safety and to transport them to hospitals. It also prevents various emergency units such as police vehicles, ambulances and the fire squads to move swiftly in case of emergency. The density of the population, combined with an increasing number of vehicles on the country’s broken roads can potentially lead to immeasurable death rates, as emergency situations cannot be dealt with in a prompt manner.
The institutions in play in the country also have severe problems. The police, who are supposed to assume the role of crime-fighters and law enforcers themselves, are the epitome of corruption and fraud. The exploitive conduct of the police is common knowledge among Pakistani citizens. Cases of bribery and public misconduct are common in society, and are increasing at an alarming rate. The police however, should not be completely held accountable for these shortcomings.
The police, despite its importance in society, is one of the most underfunded and unorganized institutions in the country. This lack of funding has resulted in an insufficient number of police stations in major metropolitan cities like Karachi and Islamabad, while leaving the police to deal with emergency situations with obsolete technology and untrained enforcers. Because the job of a policeman is undervalued in Pakistani society, few men are motivated to actually join the force and become a cop. Those who do, are underpaid, and generally do not require too many credentials or qualifications to reach the position. Because it is seen as a lower level position in society, these underpaid policemen lack the basic motivation to actually carry out their duties in the prescribed manner.
This can all backfire in a high-level emergency situation in severe proportions. Untrained police are unlikely to be aware of the protocols or policies (if any) of dealing with emergency cases like a hostage situation or an evacuation. The few policemen who do operate will be forced to rely on instinct as opposed to protocol, which can become haphazard and fatal. Because of this reliance on instinct, the police on scene may not be on the same wavelength when it comes to initiating rescue or preventative procedures. High-pressure situations like infiltrations or rescue missions are bound to go wrong with untrained people handling it.
For a country that is continually devastated by terrorist attacks in the form of explosions, Pakistan has a small and diminutive bomb and fire squad. They share the same traits and have the same shortcomings as the police do; underfunded, untrained, miniscule and ineffective. This reflects unpreparedness on the part of the Pakistani government, as they would struggle to contain bomb-scare and fire situations.
The country may just simply be inefficient when it comes to dealing with emergency situations, but they are even worse at treating people who continue to get wounded by these terrorist attacks.
Most of the reputable and professional hospitals in Pakistan are privately owned; meaning the common man (most of whom comprise the lower class of the country) cannot afford to get treated there, not even in the case of an emergency. The few public ones that do exist are small, unsanitary and do not contain the basic amenities that a hospital should. Also, when taking into account the population of most of the major cities that are relatively more prone to attacks like Karachi (18 million), Lahore (12 million), and Islamabad (3 million), it’s not hard to visualize overflowing hospitals that cannot treat an immeasurable number of terrorist attack victims. These hospitals are also understaffed, as there is little motivation for people to work for public hospitals. Quite simply, these understaffed and small hospitals simply cannot cater to the vast population of the country.
This again, is due to massive underfunding from the government. There is a big disparity between the wages of a public hospital doctor, who is generally underpaid, and a private doctor, whose wages measure considerably higher than their public counterparts.