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Pakistan: Tough Choices Ahead

Can Pakistan find a way out of its political and economic problems?

June 23, 2003

Can Pakistan find a way out of its political and economic problems?

Pakistan is in a difficult position. To its West are troubled Afghanistan — and ever-changing Iran. Both countries still pose a direct threat to world peace and stability. To its east lies Pakistan's arch-enemy — India. Saddled with a weak economy and political instability, Pakistan is trying to find a way out of its difficult situation. Our Globalist Factsheet takes a closer look at a nation in dire straits.

Has Pakistan always been politically unstable?

Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has had military rulers for a total of 26 years — all of whom appointed themselves president.

(Far Eastern Economic Review)

How serious is Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf about reintroducing full democracy?

As of 2003, despite the return to civilian rule, more than 600 military officers occupy key jobs in Pakistan’s government ministries and state-owned corporations.

(Far Eastern Economic Review)

Yet, where is Pakistan politically ahead of the United States?

As of 2003, 20% of Pakistan’s members of parliament are women — compared to just 14% of members of the U.S. Congress.

(Inter-Parliamentary Union)

What is the population forecast?

Over the next 50 years, Pakistan — one of the world’s most arid countries — is projected to add over 200 million people to its population. It would grow from 141 million in 2000 to 344 million in 2050.

(Earth Policy Institute)

Why does this pose a significant problem?

Pakistan’s projected population growth will cut its grainland per person by more than half — from 0.09 hectares at present to 0.04 hectares. That is scarcely the size of a tennis court.

(U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Why is it easy to bribe police officers in Pakistan?

As of 2003, a Pakistani constable’s monthly wage is $69 — or about $830 a year. By comparison, a typical middle-class salary in Karachi is $2,000 a year.

(Time Asia)

How do Pakistanis living abroad support their country?

As of 2001, an estimated $5 billion flows annually through the hundi system — unofficial financial channels — into Pakistan. More than a third of it is sent by expatriate workers to families back home.

(Wall Street Journal)

How about Pakistanis living at home?

Barely 1% of Pakistan’s population of 150 million people pay any taxes at all.


What is one reason for that?

Between 1990 to 2000, Pakistan’s unemployment rate increased by more than 50% from 3.1% to 7.8%.

(Business Recorder)

What was Pakistan’s average growth rate before the 1999 coup?

Between 1990 and 2000, Pakistan’s GDP grew by an average of 3.5%.

(World Bank)

Who is Pakistan's biggest trading partner?

As of 2001, Europe is Pakistan’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 30% of exports — compared with 23% for the United States.

(Wall Street Journal)

What is Pakistan’s most important export?

As of 2003, roughly 60% of Pakistan’s annual export income comes from textile products.

(Financial Times)

How severe is the country's debt problem?

As of October 2000, Pakistan has $38 billion in foreign debt, with interest payments consuming nearly half of its budget.

(Washington Post)

How does Pakistan's economy compare to that of neighboring India?

As of 2001, India’s per capita income of $2,820 is-one-and a half times as high as that of Pakistan — which stands at $1,860.

(World Bank)

How big is Pakistan’s trade with India?

As of 2003, official Indo-Pakistani trade stands at $200 million annually. In reality, the flow of goods is several times larger, since many products are sold via agents in other countries — or smuggled.

(Far Eastern Economic Review)

How do both countries' armies compare to each other?

India has an army of 1.2 million men and 5,000 tanks, compared to Pakistan’s 500,000 men and 2,300 tanks.

(Wall Street Journal)

How much does Pakistan spend on defense?

As of January 2002, Pakistan spent $3.5 billion a year on defense — $24 per citizen and 5.7% of its GDP. In contrast, India spends $15 billion on defense — or $15 per citizen and 3.2% of its GDP.

(International Institute for Strategic Studies)

How much help did Pakistan receive for the millions of Afghani refugees that poured into the country in the past?

Over the past two decades, Pakistan on average has received just $8 per Afghan refugee per year from the international community.

(Financial Times)

In view of its proximity to Afghanistan's poppy fields, does Pakistan have a drug problem?

Pakistan has almost three million heroin addicts — the largest addict population in the world.


And lastly, what is unusual about Kashmir's battle fields?

The Siachen Glacier, located in the disputed region between India and Pakistan, is the world’s highest battleground — where the cold kills more soldiers each year than bullets.