Pakistan is celebrating the International Day of Peace today alongside all other peace-loving nations of the world. The people of the country value the importance of peace and stability more than anyone else as they have lost thousands of men and women in uniform and civilians in the war on terror.
With every sacrifice, the resolve of our nation against violent extremism and terrorism has strengthened over time. Pakistan has made it clear that it will continue to fight terrorism until it is completely eliminated from the country once and for all. Pakistanis aspire to lead a peaceful and prosperous life. The political and democratic history of the country is a testimony to the fact that its people have always rejected the forces of extremism and violence and sided with the forces of peace and development.
Pakistan has celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. One of the country’s biggest assets is its youth. They are a force of positivity and progress. It is essential that we leave a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan for our future generations. Therefore, we must learn from our past and avoid repeating the same mistakes. It is a healthy exercise to critically reflect on our past and pragmatically plan for our future.
In hindsight, one thing has remained obvious over the past seven decades: Pakistan has yet to fully achieve its true potential. In 1965, the GDP per capita of Pakistan was $116 whereas China and South Korea’s GDP per capita were only $98 and $109, respectively. Today, Pakistan’s GDP per capita is around $1,600 while the GDP per capita of China and South Korea are around $8,123 and $27,538, respectively. The primary cause of this divergence is the lack of political stability in Pakistan. The by-product of the lack of political stability is the inconsistency in policies. As a consequence, the economy of Pakistan has been the main casualty.
We have seen how long periods of undemocratic regimes have fractured the unity of the nation. As a result, we lost half of our country in 1971. Unity does not originate from administrative measures. It requires the continuity of the political process. Our history shows that non-organic solutions, such as the one-unit system, are unlikely to work in a diverse and pluralistic society like Pakistan. We cannot afford any more experimentation. For diverse and pluralistic country like Pakistan, democracy is the key binding factor. Today, I am pleased to note that the entire nation agrees that the continuation and solidification of democracy and rule of law is the only way forward for Pakistan.
As a federal minister in charge for planning, development and reforms for the past four years, I have firsthand experience in understanding the nature of economic development challenges. I am pleased to share with you that the highest-ever allocation of funds have been channelled towards the historically disadvantaged regions of Pakistan over the past four years. This is an important aspect of security because regional inequalities fuels anger and mistrust towards the state.
Inclusive and sustainable development is the best way to ensure long-lasting peace. Similarly, providing security and maintaining law and order are the necessary prerequisites to execute development projects. In other words, peace and development are intertwined. To put it in Hegelian terms, there is a dialectical relationship between peace and development.
The restoration of peace was on top of the government’s agenda. Following the successes of military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad, terrorists are under the siege of the state. Similarly, the successful Karachi operation has dramatically improved the law and order situation of the economic hub of the country.
We are now supplementing kinetic measures with soft interventions to consolidate the gains made over the past four years. To ensure the effective implementation of National Action Plan (NAP), I have consulted all four provincial chief ministers, the PM of AJK, the CM of Gilgit-Baltistan and the governor of KP to immediately address any roadblocks. After consultation with various provinces, I have decided to form the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee of Home Ministers on NAP to facilitate smooth coordination between the provinces and centre and launch a robust campaign of developing a counter-narrative to extremism.
Pakistan lies at the heart of different historical civilisations. Our diversity is our beauty. Our adversaries have tried to use our diversity to pit us against each other. But this will not be tolerated anymore. Let me reassure everyone that there will be zero-tolerance towards discrimination or the victimisation of religious or ethnic minorities in Pakistan. Protecting the rights of every single Pakistani – irrespective of his or her religion, ethnicity and gender – is the constitutional duty and a priority of the government.
Extremism and terrorism are the exact opposite of the core values of Islam. The message of Islam is of peace and inclusiveness. There is a hadith in Muslim and Bukhari: “Do you know what is better than charity, fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations among people as quarrels and bad feelings destroy humankind”. This provides us the foundation of the counter-narrative to extremism. To disseminate and popularise this counter-narrative, we plan to work closely with academics, the media and the civil society.
I would also like to point out that as a nation we must not fall into the trap of developing low self-esteem and a negative self-image. The myth of Pakistan’s preoccupation with negative characteristics needs to be shunned. Nations with low self-esteem are susceptible to violence. Pakistan faces similar problems – as most developing countries do. Unnecessary cynicism must be avoided. In order to grow faster, we have to develop self-confidence as a nation that can eventually stir positive thinking. The gains made over the past four years in terms of security and economic development are unprecedented. Pakistan is destined to achieve sustainable and long-lasting peace and prosperity once we channel our collective efforts towards realising Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of an inclusive Pakistan.
On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, I would urge all of you to take concrete action by making peace with at least one individual or family member with whom you have a conflict.
The writer holds the portfolio of the minister for interior as well as planning and development in the government of Pakistan.