How Bangladesh is defeating the ‘the idea of Pakistan’ out-and-out?

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After the end of centuries of humiliations by foreign invaders, India got rid of the so-called “The White Man’s Burden” thesis. But before leaving India, Britishers broke a part of India in the name of religion and promised the Muslim League for the formation of Pakistan. The Idea of Pakistan was based on religion and against the idea of India which is based on pluralism. Merely after two decades ‘the Idea of Pakistan’ got thrust from within Pakistan and this led to the formation of Bangladesh.

Conflicting visions in the idea of Pakistan

Stephen Cohen, in his book “the idea of Pakistan,” talked about three conflicting visions for the future of Pakistan. First, Pakistan received the first blow with the secession of East Pakistan as ‘Bangladesh.’ During the partition in 1947, Pakistan accounted for two-thirds of the Muslims in South Asia. After 1971, it accounts for only one-third, negating the main tenant of the two-nation theory. In fact, still, secessionism movements are going on in Pakistan by Baloch, Sindhi, and Pashtun. For example, Sindhi sub-nationalists calling Dahir a Sindhi hero and in the process, disowning Md. bin Qasim which is against the notion of Punjab.

Second, there is no unique interpretation of an Islamic state. There are numerous sects and sub-sects within the Islamic faiths within Islam. Conflict within Islam is witnessed across the globe due to doctrinal differences based on exclusion. E.g. Exclusion of Ahmadiyas. Third, The military has been all-weather powerful in Pakistan. In the system of ‘Bureaucratic-military oligarchy’ as stated by Hamza Alvi, the probability of democracy and protection of minorities is almost ZERO.

I would like to add one more conflicting vision to the list. Fourth, Apart from various sects and sub-sects, the regional issues sometimes act as an antidote to the vision of the Riyasat-e-Madina. For example, the People of Sindh identify themselves with the Sindhi identity first followed by Muslims and Pakistan. The famous Sindhi Leader, Ghulam Murtaza Syed once said “I am Sindhi for 5,000 years, I am Muslim for 1400 years, I am Pakistani for 63 years.” This makes Punjabi Muslim-dominated Islamabad annoying.

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How Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan?

Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan on all fronts – In the field of economy, Bangladesh is booming at a faster rate. In 2006, Bangladesh’s first time surpassed the economic growth of Pakistan. In fact, in May 2021, Bangladesh outpaced India on per capita income. Even during the Pandemic, Bangladesh stood straight. Economic experts say that Bangladesh is performing quite well in terms of macroeconomic performance.

Bangladesh did not have any balance of payment shocks in the last 20-30 years. The fiscal deficit is very much under control between 3.5-4.5%. That’s why Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate is 7.9%, unlike Pakistan’s 1.5%. The foreign exchange reserves held by Bangladesh are almost double i.e. $41 billion as compared to Pakistan’s $20 billion. The number of employed workers living below the poverty line dropped from 73.5% in 2010 to 10.4% in 2018.

According to the United Nations report, Human Development Index 2020, in South Asia, Bangladesh remains in the 5th position out of 8 countries. Bangladesh (133th) is much ahead of Pakistan (154th) in HDI and very near to India (131th). Bangladesh has been ranked 75th out of 107 qualifying countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020 which is not only better than Pakistan but also India. Bangladesh is also ahead of Pakistan when ranked in terms of passport index, literacy ratio, micro-credit financing, and women empowerment.

Why is Bangladesh growing so fast?

The secret behind booming Bangladesh is the focus on developments. The garment trade that began in Bangladesh in the 1970s is now a $30 billion industry. Bangladesh has been committed to diversifying its economy. For example, The services sector including microfinance and computing makes up 53% of the country’s GDP. Bangladesh exports technology products nearly $1 billion every year. Bangladesh’s government has expected to increase to $5 billion by 2021.

According to UN DESA, Bangladesh has worked in the field of the health sector to improve education, infant mortality, and life expectancy. Bangladesh has also controlled its population which is also one of the causes behind increasing per capita income. According to the express tribune, Bangladesh has a population of 164 million as compared to Pakistan’s 220 million. Whereas, in 1971, the population of then East Pakistan was 70 million and that of West Pakistan was 60 million.

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Bangladesh has able to focus on development but Pakistan is not because Pakistan still lives in a 1950s dilemma – Riyasat-e-Madina, which is practically not possible. The ghost of the two-nation theory followed by partition has not left Pakistan. That’s why Bangladesh is able to corner radical elements in society but Pakistan still projects radical elements in the mainstream. For example, Pakistan still defends Masood Azhar and Hafiz Sayed who are potentially accused of the Mumbai attack in 2008.

How did Bangladesh manage its priority?

Dhaka has a good understanding of Indian civilization. Thus, it sees New Delhi through the prism of cooperation instead of conflict. Islamabad still sees India through the old age prism of partition. The politics of Islamabad has been nurtured in the same fashion to see India with skepticism. That’s why politics in Islamabad uses India in elections and hate against Hindus in academics. History witnesses that India has never been an aggressor in the past. But still, the military expenditure of Pakistan is continuously increasing.

Pakistan’s military spending is nearly 4% of the GDP which is higher than the US, India, UK, China, and France in terms of percentage of GDP. While Bangladesh’s military spending is nearly 1.34% of GDP. Islamabad diverts resources on the name of India and threats from Hindus because of the large budget of India. But in terms of % of GDP, it is smaller than Pakistan. People from Pakistan should understand that India has never attacked Bangladesh which was also a part of Pakistan at one point of time and is also a Muslim majority country.

Thus, after understanding the peaceful nature of Indian civilization, Bangladesh extended hands for cooperation. First, Bangladesh peacefully settled its boundary disputes (Land Boundary Agreement 2015) without a single drop of bloodshed. Pakistan has not been cooperating with India on Kashmir disputes for more than 7 decades. Second, Bangladesh has cooperated with India in eradicating terrorism in the northeastern states. But in the case of Pakistan, it sponsors terrorists as part and parcel of foreign policy which was even accepted by former president Musharraf in an interview.

Dhaka following the footprints of realism

Bangladesh understands the reality of this world. Internally, Bangladesh has rejected the communal politics of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Khalida Zia. There is political stability at home. Radical elements don’t get space in the mainstream. Dhaka preferred to make peaceful relations with neighbors especially India. Countries from all corners of the world are coming closer to exploit the new opportunities. France is becoming one more Russia for India. But Pakistan, which shares a 3,323 kilometers border with India is missing opportunities.

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Pakistan follows egoism in making policy while Bangladesh follows realism. For example, recently after the Israel-Palestine escalation in 2021, Bangladesh dropped ‘except Israel’ from new passports. In 2018, Saudi Arabia has opened the airspace for India to travel to Tel Aviv in Israel. But Pakistan deems itself as a leader of the Islamic world just because it carries nuclear weapons. Pakistan has no civilization connect to Islam. But it still loses its own interest in expressing fake pride.

Similarly, Dhaka seems very neutral on Kashmir and other identity-related issues like Nagorno Karabak. It knows that in present world what matters is the interests. For Dhaka, New Delhi is more important than Islamabad in spite of the fact that both are Muslim majority countries. Calling abrogation of article 370 from J&K is an internal matter of India by Dhaka is one of the examples.

The time has come when Pakistan should learn from Bangladesh. It is not only in the interest of South Asia but also in the interest of Pakistan. Pakistan should not become a prisoner of the past because, constitutionally, India is obliged for world peace and equitable growth.

Footnotes

  1. Amazon | The Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Cohen
  2. The Print | Bangladesh is pulling ahead, rapidly
  3. UNDP | Human Development Index Ranking
  4. The Express Tribune | Why is Bangladesh better off than Pakistan today?
  5. Decoding Dream India | Melodious history in Pakistan schools textbook
  6. Decoding Dream India | Land boundary agreement 2015
  7. The Print | Bangladesh drops ‘except Israel’ from new passports
  8. Firstpost | Bangladesh calls abrogation of Article 370 from J&K India’s ‘internal matter’
  9. Decoding Dream India | What Bangladesh can learn from Pakistan?
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