Challenges Faced by Pakistan in 21st Century

Unfortunately, the sapling of democracy in Pakistan has not taken its roots.

Pakistan suffers from a number of social, political, and economic problems. With a population roughly half that of the United States in an area slightly less than the size of two California’s, Pakistan is experiencing unwanted growth. While projections indicate that the population growth rate of Pakistan may actually be decreasing, those same projections also predict that by the year 2050 Pakistan will have assumed its place as the third most populated nation in the world. A rapidly growing population, along with political tensions, both internal and external, and an economy trapped in a cycle of debt, all serve to prevent Pakistan from attaining the progress it needs to advance, and perhaps to survive. Some of the major problems faced today by Pakistan as a country are:

Failure of democracy

Since its inception, the most difficult challenge Pakistan has struggled to meet has been to establish a true democratic system, which could guarantee its survival, stability and development. Unfortunately, the sapling of democracy in Pakistan has not taken its roots deep enough to make the country ‘a durable democratic state’. Pakistan was conceived on the basis of Islam, which is democratic both in letter and spirit.

But unfortunately we have not proved worthy of the freedom achieved after immense sacrifices and selfish interests and political intrigues dominated the national scene.

It is imperative to have constitution when a country starts fresh. Sudden and unexpected events within the body politics of Pakistan not only delayed the framing of a constitution according to the needs and ideology of the newly formed country but also thwarted the process shaping the opinion in favour of democracy as a modern political necessity. The Draft Resolution was thrown into cold storage. The country had a Constitution in 1956 that was abrogated after the military coup by Gen eral Ayub Khan in 1958.

The second constitution was drawn in 1962 to give a semblance of democracy in the form of Basic Democracy and to suit the purpose of one man who was a dictator in the guise of a president. Not Parliamentary but presidential form of government with wide powers was imposed on the people. It also served the seeds of regionalism and disintegration in the country. There was democracy in name only.

Experimentation in politics is always dangerous because it halts continuity of democratic convention and gives rise to instability in the country. It is only a strong constitution that is always above the ordinary law and gives stability and inspires sense of nationhood among the people. When the experiment failed, second Martial Law was imposed in 1969.

Wide based political parties are essential for running democratic government by the elected representatives of the people. The 1970 elections were held in a free atmosphere on party basis to put the country on road to democracy but what followed, is the darkest chapter in the history of the country.

The country was dismembered as a result of lack of political foresight, sense of compromise and undemocratic attitude on the part of some political leaders. The breaking of the country necessitated framing of a fresh constitution and the result was 1973 Constitution and democracy in Pakistan. However, nothing had been provided in the 1973 Constitution to secure this democracy.

From 1977 onwards, no stable government has been formed till now. Military has been intervening, sometimes intentionally and sometimes invited, in the political affairs.  Several amendments have been made to the constitution, each change serving the purpose of some selected people. Moreover, the opposition failed to perform its due role and the rulers were too proud to listen and to bear criticism.

Since its inception, the most difficult challenge Pakistan has struggled to meet has been to establish a true democratic system, which could guarantee its survival, stability and development.
We have still to see real rule of law in the country. Democracy can never exist without rule of law, justice, civil liberty and equality of opportunity. Representative ruler ship could not uphold these values due to favouritism, nepotism and obstructing the course of law. Such limping democracy can never serve long.
Deeply linked to the massive debt and poorly educated people, is the large portion of Pakistan’s population that lives in poverty. With an average of 2,000 dollars of GDP per person (adjusted for purchasing power parity), the average citizen is forced to live off very limited resources. This is reflected in the fact that 34 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, despite a mere seven per cent unemployment.Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere. It is a scrooge and one of the worst curses and miseries that a human can face. According to an analysis conducted by the government of Pakistan, poverty has increased roughly from 30 per cent to 40 per cent during the past decade. Consider that if 40 per cent of a country’s population is earning their livelihood below the poverty-line in which the people are deprived of basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, food, education and medication, such families and their children will be forced to think of their survival only.Poverty has emerged as the most important issue for Pakistan. The reason that economic growth has failed to trickle down to the poor is the slow improvement in social indicators. Economic growth and social sector development are interdependent as one reinforces the other. In fact, economic growth is necessary for poverty reduction but poverty reduction itself is necessary for sustained growth.

The main reasons for increase in poverty during 1990’s can be attributed to the relatively lower rate of economic growth, rising unemployment, stagnant real wages, declining flow of worker’s remittances and bad governance. Pakistan’s lack of fiscal resources is yet another barrier against foreign investment. Without foreign investment, Pakistan lacks the resources to bring about positive economic development. Without positive economic development, Pakistan is unable to attract foreign investors. Without foreign investors, Pakistan will remain poor.

Overpopulation, inflation and unemployment

Pakistan is also facing the dragon of over population. This problem has given rise to multi-dimensional problems in our country. At present we are scarce in resources and it has become difficult for the government to meet the rapidly growing needs of the huge population with its scarce resources. The growth rate of Pakistan is very high and is among the highest in the world. Since 1947, the population of Pakistan has become more than triple. Every year almost four million people are added to already over burdened economy. This year increase in our population is equal to the total populations of many countries. This rapidly growing population has really created an obstacle in the way of our economic progress. The massively increasing population has almost outstripped the resources in production, in facilities and in job opportunities.The genesis of the situation reflects some obvious reasons. Joint family system, illiteracy and lack of insight, issue of having at least one male child, the issue of dynasty in the rural elite and lack of recreational facilities are all contributing factors.The rapidly growing population is having a lot of adverse effects on our country. All over the country poverty has increased and people do not have the basic necessities of life. It is estimated that if the present growth rate prevails, then the population of Pakistan will be double by the year 2020. This is an alarming situation. Even today it has become difficult for us to provide basic necessities of life to the majority of the population. A great number of people have no access to the health services, safe drinking water is also not available at many places, many people do not have the sanitation facilities, a lot of children are not provided the primary education and illiteracy rate is very high among the adults.

There is a shortfall of educational institutions and class rooms are overcrowded. Due to high growth rate of population the healthcare facilities have become inadequate. Child and maturity centres are also lacking. The standards of food have fallen and people’s health has deteriorated. Ever increasing population creates housing and settlement problems. It becomes very difficult for the individual and the society to overcome them. The recreation facilities are also decreasing as more and more areas are being used for residential and business purposes.

Unemployment has also increased and it has become very difficult for the employers to provide social fringe benefits to the employees. Thus the employees are often deprived of their rights like pensions, medical facilities, children’s education, etc. The increase in population without an increase in the resources means an increase in the crime rate.

Unemployment creates frustration and revengeful attitude. People tend to snatch when they cannot get their rights through lawful means. Poverty also produces a state of hopelessness and this leads to an increase in the incidence of suicides. The same has been witnessed in Pakistan in the past few years.


Perhaps the greatest loss comes in the field of education. Whether or not this is a direct result of country’s economic problems, it is undoubtedly connected and unfortunately educational improvements are given an inardently low priority. Literacy is defined as persons aged 15 or above who can ‘read’ and ‘write’. According to this definition, Pakistan is officially reported to have 50 per cent literacy rate. Which means half of its population is illiterate. With such family backgrounds, inflation, poverty and child labour, this rate is expected to rise in future. Even for those who are termed as ‘literate’ are only able to read and write, which in today’s technology-oriented world is still considered as illiteracy. Majority of the people forming the top controlling tier is almost unaware of technologies and technical mindset, thus causing the country to adopt the new technologies at a snail’s pace.

A poorly educated populace makes Pakistan a poor choice for the foreign investors that it needs so desperately. Furthermore the low literacy rate among Pakistani women means that most women never enter the work force, creating fewer incentives for them to limit the size of their families. This is clearly reflected from the fact that only 38 million people of the entire population make the total work force.

 By: Dr Najam us Sahar Butt (CSP)

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