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  • Heeba Hasan

A Comparative Analysis of Domestic Policies in India and Pakistan since 1990

اِسی سرحد پہ کل ڈوُبا تھا سورج ہو کے دو ٹکڑے

اِسی سرحد پہ کل زخمی ہوی تھی صبح آزادی

Yesterday the sun had sunk on this border like two pieces

Freedom was injured yesterday on this border

– Ali Sardar Jafri (on partition)

How strange and utterly unimaginable it would have been in 1900 to pose such a question for discussion – “A comparative analysis of domestic policies in India and Pakistan”. What comparison? Someone might have questioned, eyebrows knit. What, “Pakistan”? another would ask, confused still. Before diving into an examination of this sort, perhaps it is necessary to acknowledge the strangeness of such a situation. Less than a hundred years ago, India was one, Pakistan was yet unborn, living in the womb of Time. It is necessary to acknowledge that, though partition soon carved out a separate country and two states appeared in place of one, India and Pakistan, are were quite practically the same. How reasonable would it be to compare the two? Divergent sprouts from a single seed, closer than brothers, separated – yes – but like two halves of a single string. Who would have imagined that the two ends of the Indian Subcontinent would experience such entirely perpendicular fates? Do they not in fact share the same geographical position, climate and landscape, with almost the same neighbours? Do they not also speak similar languages, cater to similar cultural and religious groups? Have they not, ultimately, shared the same lifestyle and government for decades? Yet, lo and behold! The two halves of the Indian Subcontinent have failed to resemble one another, faring rather differently as independent nations. This article will aim to tackle this fascinating concept and to analyse the domestic policies that have, since 1990, been creating a significant contrast between the two countries despite their natural similarities.

1990 was an exciting time. It was around then that major shifts were taking place in South Asia. While Pakistan descended the ladder from military rule into failed systems of democracy (one might say, from the frying pan into the fire!), India, under its Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, began to resolve some deep rooted economic issues and examine and overturn policies relating to its License Raj, which had had the country in a tight grip since its newfound conception. It was at this precise turn in history that one state continued to fall as the other began to rise, perhaps as reminders to one another of the road not taken, the nostalgic possibility, the understanding of what could have been but failed to be.

Many scrutinise the reasons for such a positioning in each state: while some see it as the natural passivity of the western regions of the subcontinent, others speculate on whether it was, indeed, the Pakistani army which held the seeds of dissent, bearing still the crown of British rule – as a carefully planted cactus by the western nation when it “left” the subcontinent – in order to maintain access to Middle and South East Asia. Whatever the true reason for the circumstances may be, the circumstances themselves which seem to have given rise to each country’s present condition can be discussed and, perhaps, it can be said that it was this decisive page in history’s book, around 1990, that wrote each country’s fate for what it is today.

Improved financial systems in India made space for a flourishing system of international trade, self-reliance and improved investments while deteriorating systems of governance and democracy in Pakistan began eating away at the progress from before Zia’s rule, diminishing the possibility of a government with stable policies (let alone economic ones) with three different Prime Ministers in a single year. It was in 1991 that India saw its major economic reforms led by FM Manmohan Singh after a serious crisis resulting from, or illustrated by, defaulting loans. With its socialist economic policy, focused on concentration, heavy industries and controls on the private sector, India found itself unable to control the rising inflation, pay its debts, produce sufficient tax revenues, or to maintain a balance of trade. As the IMF and the World Bank granted $7 billion to India, they required the removal of trade restrictions and those on the private sector, as well as imposing limitations on the government in many spheres of the economy. With the new economic reforms, the ‘structural adjustments’, India followed the Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) model, introducing tax reforms, trade and financial liberalisations, inflation control measures as well as opening up to privatisation of foreign investment. With this new doctrine and its implementation over time, India saw itself set on track as a thriving economy in today’s international market.

In Pakistan, however, preoccupations at this time were vastly different. It was, indeed, in 1990 that as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, lay in the hospital, opposition parties demonstrating nearby cried for her resignation and re-elections claiming she had been corrupt. She was subsequently ousted months later, on August 6, and a caretaker government was established by the Opposition Leader, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, to stay in power until the elections. Truly, Bhutto’s Minister of State for Defence, Ghulam Cheema had been incorrect in his previous positive estimations – the domestic situation was, in fact, "more than a storm in a teacup." Using former military ruler Zia's Eighth Amendment, as well as Article 58 (clause 2b), the President removed Bhutto despite her cries for democracy. Bhutto and members and supporters of her party were targeted and blamed for corruption before she was put on trial by a special court in September that year. The President then promulgated the Special Courts for Speedy Trial Ordinance, thereby introducing laws such as the Holders of Representative Offices (Prevention of Misconduct) Act and the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies Act. In October, the Lahore High Court gave the President the ability to dissolve the National Assembly and to terminate Bhutto and her party’s cabinet. It further established the legitimacy of the caretaker government under Article 48(2) of the Constitution. The election gave IJI victory, bringing Punjab back to the forefront of Pakistan’s political scene and forming IJI’s governments in the National Assembly and all four provinces of Pakistan.

This government initiated a number of reforms with great zeal. The new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif not only denied the need for foreign aid in exchange for the ability to develop Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, but he also introduced his ambitions to various areas such as the industrial sector, as well as women’s and workers’ rights. With Sartaj Aziz as his Foreign Minister, he presented his plans for privatisation and deregulation of the economic sectors. Overall, chaos began to subside with even the problematic MQM party of Sindh willing to work peacefully with IJI. Nawaz Sharif, too, was ousted in 1993 and displaced by Benazir Bhutto, who, of course, brought her own policies. The tussle would not end with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto but they had, in fact, set off a long line of Prime Ministers, each unable to complete their term due to some mysterious force, almost as if by intention, either dying or being ousted, some lasting a few years, others barely 54 days.

From this, it is evident that though Pakistan seemed, for a while, to revive as India, it was impossible for any beneficial policies to ever take effect in light of its constant state of change, chaotic situation, political preoccupations and failed attempts at maintaining a Head of State. While India was able to take advantage of Manmohan Singh’s wisdom, Pakistan remained chained to inconstancy and disruption, making it entirely impossible for a long term plan to be followed. Although there are various factors that created the conditions of the present day, it does seem that the events of 1990 have had substantial influences upon the progress of each country. In Pakistan’s case, an extensive line of disordered governments (each bringing novel policies) was established while in India, a sensible Finance Minister proposed a solution to the economic strife that had been faced for so long.

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