Friday, January 14, 2022: Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a comprehensive national security policy, which integrates foreign policy, infrastructure development and technology. Without ignoring geopolitics, the policy emphasizes geoeconomics. According to the document, strengthening the economy and achieving economic sustainability will be the backbone of Pakistan’s national security.
He talks about seeking peace with India for the next 100 years, that is, until a period well before the 22n/a Century, uncompromising on its position on Jammu and Kashmir. The policy speaks in general terms, attempting to serve as a general guideline for the various state bodies and institutions involved in national decision-making. This article focuses on how to shift the focus on Pakistan’s national security from geopolitics to geoeconomics.
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According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (2022)
“Agriculture is the largest sector of our economy. The majority of the population, directly or indirectly, depends on this sector. It contributes about 24% of the gross domestic product (GDP), accounts for half of the employed workforce and is the main source of foreign exchange earnings. Agriculture feeds the entire rural and urban population (PBS, 2022)”
Although agriculture accounts for almost a quarter of its GDP, Pakistan currently imports wheat, pulses, edible oils, sugar and even cotton to meet domestic demand. Currently, the economy is held hostage by the barons of sugar, wheat and fertilizer. Most sugar mill owners are retired civilian and military politicians and bureaucrats.
Wheat bread is the staple food of Pakistanis. The wheat harvest in Pakistan contributes 1.8% to the country’s GDP and represents 9.2% of the value added of the agricultural sector. In 2020-21, wheat production was officially estimated at 27 million tonnes. Against the target, Pakistan produced nearly 25 million tonnes in 2021 and was expected to import 3 million tonnes to “build up strategic reserves” (Saddler, 2021). It is believed that agricultural statistics provided by various government agencies should be taken with a grain of salt.
Behind the cover of fake statistics provided by the Department of Agriculture, every year millions of tons of wheat are smuggled into Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, or hoarded by black traders. If we take the 2020-21 statistics as a reference, nearly 3 million tons of wheat were smuggled/hoarded by black merchants during this period.
According to USDA, Pakistan’s sugar production for 2021-22 is forecast at 6.8 million metric tons (USDA, 2021) while sugar consumption for the same year is forecast at 5.9 million metric tons , which means a surplus of about one million metric tons. If so, why are there chronic shortages of sugar in the country, leading to huge price hikes? This is because surplus sugar is either exported (with subsidies to exporters) or smuggled out.
The increasing scarcity of water in the country is closely linked to the farming system. The per capita water availability of Pakistan in 1947 was 5,600 cubic meters, which in 2021 has been reduced to 1,038 cubic meters, a decrease of 400% (Ali, 2021). Since the 1970s, no new water reservoirs have been built to meet the increased demand for food resulting from the increase in population.
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According to the population census conducted in 1972, the population of Pakistan after separation from East Pakistan was 65,309 million, which jumped to 220 million in 2022, an increase of 366.66%. Per capita water availability in Pakistan has decreased by 400% from 5,600 cubic meters in 1947 to around 1,038 cubic meters in 2021 (PBS, 2022)
The textile industry, Pakistan’s largest foreign exchange earner until two decades ago, now faces fierce competition, even from a country like Bangladesh, a net cotton importer. This happened because previous governments encouraged the cultivation of sugar cane at the expense of the cultivation of cotton and wheat.
Energy security is another factor driving economic stagnation
After the 1970s, no new major water reservoirs were built. As a result, electricity generation during the 1990s shifted from hydro to oil/gas power plants. The majority of these power plants are operated by private companies, which for the past three decades have strangled the country in circular debt. Ten new water reservoirs are under construction. However, it will take another decade for the situation to normalize.
The ruthless misuse of natural gas over the past half-century, from using this precious resource for power generation to gasifying the transportation system, has caused severe gas shortages. Natural gas reserves are being depleted at the rate of 9% every year, forcing the country to resort to importing exorbitantly priced liquefied natural gas from foreign countries (ANI, 2021).
To shift the focus of Pakistan’s national security from geopolitics to geoeconomics, Pakistan’s economy will need to be redesigned if we are to exist, and not just survive, as a strong, self-reliant nation. For this to happen, our overreliance on foreign remittances will need to be replaced by an economy based on value-added agricultural and industrial exports. If we start today, it will take at least a decade to restructure the economy and put it on solid footing.
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For this to happen, we must look inward for most of the 21st century and consolidate, as the Japanese did after Commodore Perry’s blockade of Tokyo Bay on July 8, 1853. This It was only after strengthening its industrial and military power that Japan defeated Russia. in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan was defeated in World War II because at that time America was the only nuclear power.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistani military veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defence, military history, and military technology. He tweets at @saleemakhtar53.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.