In 1971, the power equations in the subcontinent changed irreversibly. With Bangladesh, that is, erstwhile East Pakistan getting liberated from Pakistan, it became clear that subcontinent would never be the same again. Pakistan was openly subjugating the Bengali speaking population of erstwhile East Pakistan, killing their political ambitions and rights.
The way Pakistan Army carried out the barbarous Operation Searchlight which proved to be the last straw.
Today about 48 years after Bangladesh got liberated from Pakistan’s clutches, it seems to be enjoying a far better position than Pakistan, which has still not been able to shed its hostile and toxic attitude towards the ethnic minorities that has led to the liberation of Bangladesh in the first place.
The biggest turnaround has been the rise of the Bangladeshi economy while Pakistan has made it to the headlines time and again as it has to virtually beg around the world in the face of a debt crisis.
The overcrowded country of Bangladesh with 162 million people posted above 8 per cent economic growth in the last fiscal year. The garment sector, which alone accounted for 80 per cent of the country’s total exports of the country in FY 17, is the backbone of the Bangladeshi economy, and the primary source of foreign exchange.
In the last few years, it has overtaken even India to become the fastest growing economy in the South Asian region.
Naser Ezaz Bijoy CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh said, “With the tailwind of demographic dividend, healthy domestic consumption, rising investment, and successful export-oriented industrialisation, we have every confidence that our nation will continue on this high-growth trajectory in the 2020s and establish itself firmly in the 7 per cent club.” Like any other national economy, the economy of Bangladesh is dominated by Service sector which constitutes 53.5 per cent of GDP and generates 39.8 percentage of total employment. The second-largest contributor to the Bangladeshi economy is manufacturing which constitutes 27.8 per cent of total GDP and employs 21.4 per cent of the working population.
Last year, the manufacturing sector grew at double-digit (10.2 per cent) growth which is one of the highest industrial growth for any country. The countries around the world registered negative growth in the industrial sector but the Bangladeshi economy remained resilient in the global headwind due to strong macroeconomic fundamentals.
Bangladesh’s strong economic credentials have also given it the cushion for improving its social indicators. The economic growth has given the government of Bangladesh fiscal space to invest in health and education. The Human Development Index of the country is at 0.64 today, which is good for a country with a low per capita income.
On the other hand, the less said about the Pakistani economy is better. The Pakistan economy is in a free fall and its government isn’t able to revive it. As per forecast by the annual Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2019, Pakistan’s GDP growth is going to remain lowest in the region. Its GDP will grow at a rate of 4.2 per cent. Pakistan’s GDP growth rate has now fallen behind the GDP growth rate of Maldives and Nepal. These two countries will witness a GDP growth rate of 6.5 per cent.
As per the forecast, Pakistan’s GDP growth rate will drop further to 4 per cent in the year 2020.
Over the recent past, Pakistan has emerged as a country desperate to secure financial assistance from other countries. The terrorist country has been begging for help as it is a matter of survival for Pakistan now. The inflation in the country is rising faster than GDP growth which means per capita income of people in the current fiscal year is expected to fall. The currency of Pakistan too has witnessed a free fall in value.
The Pakistani economy is, therefore, a living example of an all-round failure, in sharp contrast with the inspiring story of Bangladesh’s dramatic economic boom.
However, it’s not just Bangladesh’s growth story that proves how the 1971 liberation is a successful development. It should also to be kept in mind that Bangladesh is fast emerging as a secular, tolerant state with the Sheikh Hasina regime at the helm of affairs.
Last year, for example, the Bangladesh government had issued a strict directive asking school authorities and other seminaries not to compel girl students into wearing veils or bar them from taking part in sports or cultural activities.
What is even more important is that a High Court bench in the country said, “Bangladesh is now a secular state as the Appellate Division (of the Supreme Court) verdict scrapped the Fifth Amendment to the constitution… in this secular state, everybody has religious freedom, and therefore no man, woman or child can be forced to wear religious attires like burqa, cap and dhoti.”
This not only shows the cultural openness that the Sheikh Hasina regime seems to be adopting but also showcases the strength of democratic institutions and constitutional bodies in the country, including an independent judiciary.
Such judicial Independence and strong constitutionalism which have evolved in Bangladesh do not even exist at a nascent level in Pakistan. Its democratic structure is almost an extension of its military establishment with the military leadership handpicking political leadership.
While Bangladesh is emerging as a constitutional democracy with strong institutional fundamentals and an independent judiciary, the best Pakistan can afford is a make-believe democracy largely dominated by the military establishment and the ISI.
This is also the reason why the Pakistan Army and ISI have been able to openly run terror training camps on its soil, something that even the Pakistan PM admits.
Pakistan’s weak political fundamentals accompanied with lack of institutional strength and the virtual absence of an independent judiciary have led to Pakistan subjugating its ethnic minorities including the Pashtuns in the recent past.
Bangladesh is doing much better on all fronts as compared to Pakistan. This illustrates how Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971 is a highly successful experiment and a precedent that should gradually come to justify demands for liberation from other regions within Pakistan.