Is Pakistan's Past Relevant for Its
Shahid Javed Burki
In a number of earlier works 1 I have argued that most important decisions that have influenced Pakistan's economic development must be understood by analyzing the political and social context in which they were taken. It is only with the help of this kind of in-depth analysis that we can fathom the motives behind the actions taken by a number of important leaders in Pakistan. Pakistan's fiftieth year has been one of the most difficult in its history. With the economy in shambles, the administration headed by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif needs to move ahead decisively. It must adopt a number of policies aimed at bringing about a deep structural change in the economy. Without such a structural transformation, Pakistan will be subject to recurrent economic crises of the type that have marked its fiftieth year. The question then is, will the country's social and political situation allow the new government to undertake deep reforms? We will look at Pakistan's social, economic, and political history to search for an answer to this question.
By way of preface to this brief paper I should also point out that for a number of years I remained optimistic about Pakistan's economic future. In many articles and speeches written and given in the late 1980s, I argued that Pakistan was well on the way to achieving the status of a middle-income country. 2 I used to suggest that Pakistan would have achieved that status in the 1980s if its remarkable progress during the period President Ayub Khan held office had not been interrupted by the political populism unleashed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's six and a half years in office were to set back Pakistan by a couple of