It was in the early sixties; we went to the station to pick up my father’s uncle Dr. Anwar Iqbal Qureshi (AIQ) who was on his way to Rawalpindi to meet the President. Those were the good times, people preferred to live with relatives rather than in hotels. There were warm welcomes and departures for travelers.
AIQ was considered the father of economics in the subcontinent. He had the unique distinction of being the first Indian to earn a doctorate. in economics from Trinity College in his thirties. In the Indian unity government, he was an adviser to Liaquat Ali Khan, the finance minister. He had just retired from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Until then, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (IRP) was not in debt.
As the president wanted an accelerated development business model based on loans, he wanted AIQ on his team. That evening there was a tense discussion after dinner. My father, the honest entrepreneur with integrity, was fiercely opposed to the idea of a debt-based model. Being in the market, he had the foresight of the impending problems that awaited such an approach. I remember my old man’s words: “Money will be wasted, loans will be canceled, repayments will be limited.”
Read more: How is Pakistan trapped in the vicious cycle of the status quo?
No way out for Pakistan?
Mohammad Ayub Khan (PA 10) was the first Desi Sipah-e-Salar in the Pakistan Army. There were better choices available for the job, but he was chosen for this coveted position by Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister (PM).
After the assassination of the PM, the republic fell into freefall. As Commander-in-Chief (CNC), General Ayub Khan decided to sit in cabinet meetings as Minister of Defence. Along with Iskander Mirza, another graduate of Sandhurst Military College, he began to meddle in affairs of state for which he was neither qualified nor trained. I don’t know who came up with the idea to go for the debt-based model because AIQ himself was a very conservative economist although he retired from the IMF.
While India under Nehru relied on self-reliance with the use of indigenous resources, Pakistan under Ayub opted for the accelerated IMF model. With the loans began the era of looting, looting and nepotism as it was believed there would be no repayment. Overnight, the standard of living rose thanks to the borrowed money.
Read more: Pakistan: A country caught in a complex economic downturn
Instead of need-based industrialization, greed has become the order of the day. Over/under-charging, tax exemptions and loan cancellations have started. Project/individual debt turned into a national burden that has continued to soar until today. As my old man predicted, the “Sipah-e-Salar economic model” has proven disastrous for the country. Today, the republic is trapped with no way out.
Ayub Khan, AIQ and my old man are no longer there to deal with the consequences of this blunder, but the people continue to suffer the fallout. Last year I received an e-mail from Turkey, they wanted to know about the life and times of AIQ, because he had also written books on “interestless economics”.
In Pakistan, the “Federal Shariah Court” recently ruled against the prevailing “interest-based model”. Let the experts deliberate as these are complex issues that are not covered at the best military academies in the world like Sandhurst. Economy and combat have nothing in common. We live in an age of specialization and complexity. The republic has already suffered enough, we must learn from it. It’s time to bring in the experts to get out of the “debt trap” we find ourselves in today.
While the nation is proud of its armed forces, as they remain the only functioning institution in the country that has provided both internal and external security, it is the economy that is in a mess created by the first ‘Sipah- e-Salar’ Mohammed Ayub Khan who rose to the rank of Marshal and President of Pakistan. Neither its constitution nor its economic model were sustainable. His 1962 presidential system was discarded to be replaced by the unanimously agreed 1973 parliamentary version.
Read more: Tax embezzlement in Pakistan
Pakistan must be saved
Today, Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. The role of each institution has been clearly defined. Pervaiz Musharraf, the last usurper, was tried and sentenced under article 6 of the constitution; he now lives in exile in Dubai while those who participated in the looting live in London; both were declared fugitives and outlaws.
In 1958, Pakistan emerged. There were a myriad of teething issues. The situation is totally different in the 22nd year of the 21st century. The people of the republic can no longer be taken for a ride. We live in the information age. Pakistan turns 75 on August 14, 2022, it’s time to fend for yourself. National interests must be kept supreme. The people must be served through their truly elected leaders. Sipah-e-Salar type shortcuts do not work and should not be tried again.
The Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) produces excellent soldiers who are trained in the art of modern warfare to ensure our territorial integrity. Let the economists lead the charge this time. There are no free lunches in life, loans must be repaid with interest.
Read more: The heavy debt of future generations in Pakistan
Let’s get out of this debt trap set by the myopia of a few untrained individuals. If AIQ’s “interest-free economy” model is eventually adopted by Islamic countries, it will be redeemed. My old man the ‘Tehreek-e-Pakistan Gold Medalist’ can also rest in peace. Ayub Khan and his accelerated debt-based economic approach will never be repeated.
“Nakhuda Jis Ka Ho Us ka Khuda Hota Ha” (If there is no “rower” to steer the boat, then God takes control) which applies well to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The savior is stronger than the destroyer.
The author is the former president of Pakistan Science Foundation; email: [email protected] views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.