Happy Birthday Pakistan! May You Reach Your Full Potential~

 Islamabad, Pakistan- 62 years ago, Pakistan and India gained their independence from Britain after a long struggle for freedom and self determination. For centuries, the Hindus and Muslims of India had lived together as part of one country under multiple rulers, from Hindu princes to Muslim emperors. But once the British came and colonized the country, religious differences became more evident as oppressed Indians of Muslim and Hindu backgrounds became keenly aware of their differences.

Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to the division of India into two countries. However that is exactly what happened as Pakistan was the country designated for the Muslims of India.

One of the oldest civilizations in the world with more than 9,000 years of history, became newly independent modern day states of Pakistan and India on August 14 and 15 1947, respectively. Although other countries in history have been founded on freedom of religion, most notably the United States, only Pakistan has been specifically created as a nation for Muslims, carved out of India.

Even though he advocated for a homeland for the Muslims of India, the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was a secularist and wanted a nation that was democratic, moderate and a model for other Muslim nations. However the last 62 years of the country’s turbulent history has shown that true religious freedom and democracy is still a concept that is trying to get a solid foothold in the country as over half its existence has been dominated by military dictatorships and coups as well as allegations of corruption by the elected leaders.

A country founded on religious freedom for the Muslims of India also finds itself struggling with religious espressions between Muslims as routine violence between Shiites and Sunnis as well as violence against the minority Christian population is not uncommon.

One of the most populous yet poorest countries of the world, Pakistan is an enigmatic and perplexing country for many analysts and observers. A country that has a literacy rate of just 49.9% according to the CIA fact book also happens to have the 7th most engineers in the world! A nation that does not possess abdundant clean water for all its citizens, yet is one of only a handful of nations that possesses nuclear weapons and technology. One of the few nations of the world  to have elected a female as a leader of the country, only to watch in despair as she was tragically gunned down in December of 2007 as she ran for the top spot in the elections of 2008.

Pakistan has tremendous potential that has not been and is not being realized. A surplus of manpower, vast quantities of resources such as natural gas, coal, hydroelectric power, iron, copper and fertile land for crops. It is also situated in a very strategic location of the world at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in the Indian Ocean near the oil rich countries of the Middle East and busy shipping lanes between Asia and Europe and Africa.

What Pakistan is missing is strong and competent leadership that needs to focus on eliminating corruption, disbanding terror groups and militias, and fostering a long term peace process with its neighbor and arch rival India. Once that is done, the rest of the issues will be easier to solve such as illiteracy, health improvement of the people, economy and security.

One more important ingredient Pakistan is not lacking is a strong sense of patriotism and pride among its citizens throughout the country and around the world. Pakistanis have high hopes and aspirations for their homeland and on this independence day they look forward to better days ahead in achieving the kind of state that the founding father Jinnah had hoped for when the country became independent from Britain on August 14, 1947. Let us hope that this dream lives on and becomes a reality as a stable and prosperous Pakistan is vital for the region, the Muslim world and global security and prosperity.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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