Pakistan and Bangladesh, born in 1947 as two wings of the same country, experienced a bloody divorce in 1971. Since then, the trajectory of political, economic, and social development of these two countries, two countries second and third countries with a Muslim majority population in the world, was completely different. Except for adult literacy and child enrollment in school, Bangladesh once lagged Pakistan in terms of living quality as determined by all its significant metrics. There were shared problems when Bangladesh and Pakistan separated like overpopulation, energy crisis, political instability, inflation, bad policies, etc. But today is a different story. Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan in every way.
Talking about Bangladesh’s performance in major crises like the 2010 economic recession and COVID-19, the country performed very well when almost the world was facing major economic problems. When Bangladesh first achieved GDP growth above 6% in 2010, it came as a surprise. Bangladesh has achieved this even during the global economic downturn. Bangladesh ranks eighth among the top 10 recipients of remittances. Notably, from January 1 to December 10, 2020, the whole country received 20.50 billion USD, about 12% more than the whole period of 2019 (World Bank). As of now, there are pertinent predictions that Bangladesh may control the global economy in the future (Goldman Sachs, Year), and based on its demographic dividend and growing per capita income Bangladesh’s economy would rank among the top 25 by 2035 (BBC, 2021).
Comparing the two countries’ progress reports, one can easily ascertain the development gap. In the Human Development Index (HDI), Bangladesh’s position( 121) is advanced than Pakistan( 161) in the ranking, indeed though Bangladesh was behind Pakistan 30 times agone . An inversely important fact is that the gender gap in Bangladesh is much lower than in Pakistan, and women in Bangladesh have made further progress. In the past 20 years, Bangladesh has experienced growth of more than 5% and a significant increase in per capita income (2620 US$), surpassing Pakistan (1500US$) and drawing closer to India. Together, Bangladesh’s accomplishments many of which are ahead of India’s have given it a foundation for growth in the international sphere.
Bangladesh saw a GDP growth rate of 7.2% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, which was higher than the 6.9% recorded in FY 2021. Pakistan recorded a 5.97% GDP growth rate during FY 2021–22 (World bank).
Moreover, the commerce sectors of both countries can provide one with interesting comparison. According to figures released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), exports were $2.2 billion in July as opposed to $2.9 billion in June 2022. Whereas, due to the outstanding performance of the readymade garment sector, Bangladesh’s exports increased by 14.72 percent to $3.98 billion in July 2022 from $3.47 billion in the same month of 2021. All nations were affected by the rise in prices, but Bangladeshi exporters praised the country’s export increase in July, the first month of the current fiscal year 2022–23, saying it demonstrated the industry’s resilience in the face of rising inflation. Whatever the hue of its government, Bangladesh has followed practical economic policies and encouraged economic diversity.
In the education area, Bangladesh has made significant strides; its literacy rate is 74.66% compared to Pakistan’s 62.3% with frightening 22.8 million out-of-school children.
In addition, more than 30 million women in Bangladesh use microcredit services, showing their close connections to the economy. Bangladesh has achieved significant gains in both the personal well-being of women and the general health of its economy. In the meantime, women business owners have been given 15% of the total Bangladesh Bank refinancing capacity for the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. Bangladesh reported a 30.4% female labor force in 2021, whereas Pakistan recorded a 20.16% female labor force (world bank).
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is currently a significant sector in Bangladesh for receiving remittances. In Bangladesh, 42 ICT initiatives with Hi-tech parks and innovation hubs are assisting young people in commercializing novel technical concepts. The installation of broadband internet for 100 million individuals in rural areas will likely result in the creation of 20 million new jobs.
Moreover, it is important to note that in Bangladesh, NGOs (like the Grameen Bank and BRAC) and other members of the civil society have been crucial in assisting the government’s efforts to advance the interests of the poor, particularly women, through a variety of programs and laws, such as access to small loans, family planning, health care, education, and other services. In addition, Bangladesh has secured significant outside funding for these initiatives, and it has done it more effectively than Pakistan. Government collaboration with NGOs and funders has historically been more cordial than it was in Pakistan. It is, nevertheless, a story of recent economic liberalization, forward-thinking governmental policies, and democratic continuity, all of which contributed to the country’s vibrant growth.
So, the question arises why Pakistan has been left behind in these 50 years. A holistic overview of Pakistan’s situation allows one to easily navigate through the facts that Pakistan is a population of 224 million, 5th largest populous nation with 22.8 M children out of school and 2.6 percent GDP spending on education (lowest in South Asia) dwelling in never-ending chaos of economic meltdowns. Moreover, lack of investment, inability to handle climate crises, water scarcity and international disengagements are emerging challenges for Pakistan. All these problems and challenges hold their premise in the perennial political instability in the country. The prime menace which is holding back today’s Pakistan is its political instability leading to national disharmony. Pakistan needs to work on its national consensus agenda to bring all the falling pieces together. Pakistan needs to rebalance its civil-military relation, repair interprovincial disharmony, and neutralize the opposition-government tug of war for power. Without embarking on the journey of consensual democracy and political stability, Pakistan is not likely to match the developmental pace of Bangladesh rather these challenges can lead to the self-immolation of Pakistani society.