17 May

When Europe was heavily embroiled in geopolitics during the World Wars, they used all resources at their disposal to destroy each other’s nations, almost succeeding. 

Three years later, the US announced the Marshall Plan, a US-funded programme to rehabilitate the economies of European nations which were on the brink of disaster after unprecedented warfare. 

The Marshall Plan was a huge success for Western European countries. From 1947 to 1951, industrial production grew by 64% and the total Gross National Product (GNP) rose by about 25%.

This led to European nations like France and Germany who fought brutal wars against each other to cooperate and increase their collective wealth in the process. 

The Marshall Plan could be termed as the precursor to the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 countries, many of whom fought bloody wars against each other just a few decades ago. 

Today, the European Union boasts the highest standards of living in the world, where its citizens are able to access healthcare, education and employment opportunities. 

The GDP per capita of the EU stands at $45,567, showing that the average person in the European Union leads a life of relative comfort. 

Compare this to Pakistan, which has a GDP per capita of $1,188. 

This means that the average EU citizen consumes around 38 times the goods and services as a Pakistani. 

Pakistan is amongst the poorest countries in the world with a poverty rate of 21.5% and where 4 out of 10 citizens spend less than $3.5 a day. 

Access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities are not by any means, guaranteed in Pakistan even in urban centres like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. 

According to a government report, only 20% of Pakistani have access to clean drinking water reflecting the real standard of living for the average Pakistani citizen. 

A great reason why the average Pakistani is extremely disenfranchised in the global realm is because of the Pakistani state’s preference toward geopolitics whilst completely ignoring geoeconomics. 

This has resulted in a reality where Pakistan is one of only 9 nuclear-armed countries, but 80% of its population doesn’t have clean drinking water.

Germany doesn’t have any nuclear weapons. The country’s importance in geopolitics has fallen since the Second World War, however, is life better for the average German now or was it before? 

The majority of the citizens do not benefit from their country’s significance in geopolitics just like the average Pakistani does not yield any benefits from Pakistan’s growing role in geopolitics. 

In fact, it could be argued that as Pakistan becomes a more influential player in geopolitics, Pakistani citizens become more disenfranchised as our neighbours, regional and international powers look at Pakistanis with disdain due to some of its state’s alleged mistakes. 

It’s not the average Pakistani’s fault that Osama bin Laden was found in Abbottabad but the average Pakistani suffered due to the loss of reputation and opportunities for Pakistanis in the world. 

Today, the Pakistani passport ranks among the worst in the world, whereas even countries like Yemen and North Korea have stronger passports according to the Passport Index. 

Pakistan’s exports in 2021 stood at $25.3 billion, meaning that a country of over 200 million collectively sold this amount worth of goods and services abroad in the last financial year. 

Compare this to Pakistan’s rival and neighbour, India, they topped over $400 billion. 

India’s population is only 5-6 times more than Pakistan’s but their exports are sixteen times more.

This means that India has already won the Geoeconomic war and Pakistan is late to the party.

In Pakistan, we have been taught to ignore the economic successes of other countries while we romanticise being a bastion of Islam and the Muslim world. 

This leads Pakistan to not recognise Israel, a small country in the Middle East which is surrounded by hostile neighbours. 

While Pakistan has nothing to do with the Palestinian conflict, we have become self appointed defenders of their cause whilst providing minimal support to them on the ground. 

Countries like the UAE and Turkey which cannot afford to ignore geoeconomics maintain cordial diplomatic relations with Israel, but Pakistan refuses to do so, carrying an imagined legacy of protecting the Palestinian cause.

While it could be argued that formal relations with Israel could help Pakistan lobby for Palestinians in a better way, conservative Pakistanis brainwashed by elements of the deep state via the media and religious clergy espouse an unprecedented anti semitic worldview which considers jews as subhumans. 

These myopic views have been the greatest hurdle in Pakistan’s path to progress. 

A country cannot succeed if it continues to hold unsubstantiated and hateful views. 

Recently, a change in the strategy of Pakistan’s leadership has been witnessed suggesting that perhaps the young country is ready to move forward towards the future. 

In the last Islamabad Security Dialogue, Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa openly stated that Pakistan would emphasise more on geoeconomics than geopolitics. 

In this year’s dialogue, General Bajwa called on Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine in sharp contrast to the then Prime Minister, Imran Khan who visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow during the day of the invasion. 

Imran Khan is no longer the Prime Minister of Pakistan but he still threatens the shift in strategy Pakistan’s establishment has taken moving from geopolitics to geoeconomics. 

It is surprising to note that while Imran Khan tries to push Pakistan towards an Eastern bloc in geopolitics, disregarding the economic disadvantages by alienating the West, his own children live in the West and could not imagine life in a country like Russia or China. 

Imran Khan himself was educated in the West, he played cricket in the West, and he married in the West, but now, at the twilight of his career, he has become an enemy of the West. 

The average Pakistani must decide whether it is worth sacrificing economic benefits for political gains which may only serve those who have their personal economic future taken care of.

Hamza Azhar Salam

Hamza Azhar Salam is an investigative journalist and the editor of The Pakistan Daily. He can be found on Twitter as (@HamzaAzhrSalam)