Development Journey of Pakistan from 1947 to 2022: Lessons Learnt viz-a-viz Developing Countries

Key Takeaways

  • Pakistan was created at a time when it was dealing with a number of local and international difficulties; the future appeared bleak for a variety of reasons, including the massive influx of migrants, the problem of princely states, the economic crisis, and so on; nonetheless, it went on to do fairly well.
  • Pakistan’s potential growth rate has fallen from 6.5% to 4.5% since 1990; furthermore, both in nominal and PPP terms, India’s GDP is ten times that of Pakistan’s; more crucially, Bangladesh is no longer classified as a developing country.
  • These disastrous alterations did not happen by chance; rather, a multitude of causes were at work.
  • The time has come to leave our eccentricities and mistakes of the past behind us and begin building a brighter future for ourselves. Otherwise, we would bequeath Pakistan’s worst form to our posteriors.


“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy”

Marcus Aurelius

In India, the IT industry generated a total of USD 194 billion in revenue during the fiscal year of 2021, whereas Pakistan’s entire revenue was between USD 45 and 50 billion during the same period. These numbers boldly proclaim Pakistan’s progress over the past 75 years. However, I have only touched on this one aspect. On the eve of Pakistan’s 75th anniversary, celebrations may be muted if we compare the country’s economic and social indicators to those of other developed countries. This will serve as a constant reminder of how little we have accomplished in the name of nation-building. Moreover, it will be a timely reminder that composing patriotic songs and affiliating religious sentiments are not enough to create great nations. Instead, sincere and honest countries put in extra effort to better themselves. They are willing to put their bodies on the line for their goals. On the other hand, laggard nations set off a spiral of social and economic problems from which they seldom emerge. In this piece, I would like to take a quick but informative look at Pakistan’s development history, compare it to other countries, and figure out why we have not done better. Because of their historical ties, Pakistan can only draw parallels with India and Bangladesh.

Development in Post-Independence Scenario

Pakistan was founded during a period when it was struggling with several domestic and international issues. The future looked particularly dismal for many reasons, including the enormous in flux of migrants, the problem of princely states, the economic downturn, and so on. Despite its rocky beginnings, Pakistan has become the 48th largest economy globally, with a per capita GDP of around USD 1500 (compared to USD 100 in 1947).

Additionally, Pakistan has a respectable track record of economic growth: the country’s GDP has increased by slightly more than 5% yearly over the past seven decades. The average yearly expansion rate was 2.5% when measured in terms of growth in GDP per person. Per capita incomes have increased by a factor of four or five over the same period. Consequently, poverty has reduced from 40 per cent to less than 20 per cent.

A country of 30 million people in 1947 couldn’t feed itself and had to import all its food from overseas. But in 2016, Pakistani farmers produced enough wheat, rice, sugar, and milk to provide for the country’s 190 million people at a far higher per capita consumption level and even exported some of it. This has allowed Pakistan to become the third-largest rice exporter worldwide.

The cotton harvest peaked at almost 14 million bales, up from just 1 million in 1947, while agricultural output increased five-fold. Thus, Pakistan has become a significant player in the global textile industry.

If we adjust for 1947’s low manufacturing production index base of 100, we find that we are now well over 13,000. In addition, the production of goods that did not exist before independence, such as steel, cement, vehicles, sugar, fertilizer, textiles, vegetable ghee, industrial chemicals, refined petroleum, and many more, has increased substantially.
In 2016, Americans produced 10,160 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity, a significant increase from the 100 kWh produced per person in 1947.

After seven decades of work, Pakistan has doubled its cultivated land area to 22 million hectares, thanks to its extensive network of irrigation canals, dams, and barrages. Further, nearly a third of the supplementary water to canal irrigation comes from tubewell irrigation.

With a total length of 260,000 kilometres, Pakistan’s road and highway systems are considerably longer than the 80,000 kilometres they inherited in 1947. Modern motorways, superhighways, and four-lane national highways connect the country’s secondary and tertiary roadways.

In the 1950s, natural gas was discovered in Pakistan, and since then, the country’s supply has increased. Until recently, 40–50% of the country’s energy needs were met by the over 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas being produced and delivered daily for industrial, commercial, and home consumption.

Increases in personal disposable income have resulted in no decline in private consumption levels. In 2012, there were 52 cars per 1,000 residents, but in 1917 there was just one car per 1,000 residents. The number of telephone connections per one thousand persons has increased from 0.4 to 683. Among American households, just 70 out of every 1,000 have televisions (a luxury that did not exist before 1947). All things considered, Pakistan did quite well despite initial difficulties.

Current Scenario

Within its first four decades of independence, Pakistan’s economy ranked among the top 10 worldwide among developing nations. There was an average yearly growth rate of 6% in Pakistan’s first 40 years of existence. Pakistan outperformed India and Bangladesh across all economic and social metrics.

Pakistan’s potential growth rate has dropped from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent since 1990 as a result of boom and bust periods. However, the growth spurts never lasted for very long and were easily reversed. Also, it’s possible that the sluggish pace of economic activity in the 1990s was caused by investor concern brought on by political instability and frequent government changes.

Comparison with India and Bangladesh

India’s GDP in 2020–2021, at $2,709 billion, is roughly ten times bigger than Pakistan’s GDP in that same year, at $263 billion. However, the disparity is more than ten times larger when comparing nominal and PPP values. India’s economy ranks fifth in terms of nominal size and third in terms of PPP size. Pakistan ranks 48 on the nominal scale and 24 on the PPP scale. Maharashtra, India’s most populous and economically important state, has a GDP of $398 billion, significantly higher than Pakistan’s $135 billion. Tamil Nadu, with its $247 billion economy, ranks second. The disparity between their respective nominal gross domestic products (GDPs) was at its narrowest in 1993, when India’s GDP was 5.39 times that of Pakistan’s.

The fact that Bangladesh is no longer classified as one of the world’s least developed demonstrates the country’s amazing progress over the past decade. The value of the taka, the currency of Bangladesh, has practically doubled compared to the value of the Pakistani rupee, and the country’s exports are twice as high as those of Pakistan. In comparison to Pakistan’s 1.5%, Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate is 7.9%. Bangladesh’s $41 billion in foreign exchange reserves is significantly larger than Pakistan’s $20 billion. Pakistan outranks Bangladesh in terms of remittances alone. In comparison to Pakistan’s 220 million people, Bangladesh’s is only around 164 million. In 1971, 70 million people lived in what is now East Pakistan, while only 60 million lived in what is now West Pakistan. The passport index, literacy rate, micro-credit finance, and female economic participation all place Bangladesh above Pakistan.

Causes of Slow development in Pakistan

Pakistan’s potential was stymied by the country’s inadequate institutions. Institutions are frameworks of laws and norms created by humans to guide and limit how people act. Governance, law enforcement, justice, regulations, tax administration, and institutions managing monetary and fiscal policies are important factors affecting economic growth.

Further, political instability is a constant problem in Pakistan. If the rule of law prevails, the country’s sovereignty is recognized by other countries, the economy provides for the needs of the population, and there is a broad sense of social contentment and equality, then the country can be said to be politically stable. Policymakers’ short-term horizons caused by political instability will likely result in less-than-ideal macroeconomic measures being implemented in the short term. Additionally, it may cause policy shifts to occur more frequently, which can be disruptive to markets and have a chilling effect on the economy as a whole.

Furthermore, unsustainable policies hinder progress. Sustainability is the practise of making sure that the right things get done during development as well as the right things get done during development. As a result, there are no contradictions between substance and procedure that must be resolved.

Water and power shortages are also becoming increasingly problematic in Pakistan. Both of these resources are essential to the progress of the human, industrial, and agricultural sectors. A serious lack of water affects almost 80% of the population. Furthermore, as temperatures across Pakistan rise, reaching 50 degrees Celsius in certain regions, Reuters reports that the country has endured hours-long power shortages over the past month, with urban centres experiencing four to six-hour outages a day and rural areas over eight hours.

In addition, Pakistan suffers from a surplus of unskilled workers. Labor Force Survey data from 2016 shows that only 11% of Pakistanis have completed high school. When we divide this tiny “matriculate” population into age groups, we find that 2.61 percent are between the ages of 15 and 19, while only 1.66 percent are between the ages of 20 and 24. Lower educational attainment, like a lack of a high school diploma, is frequently associated with unskilled labour, which in turn leads to lower income.

Corruption and weak leadership are also detrimental to a country’s progress. This is a sad turn of events for Pakistan. According to the Transparency International 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, Pakistan ranks 140th on the list of least corrupt countries. In addition, good governance contributes positively to economic expansion. Lack of good governance makes poverty and inequality worse by making growth and investment less likely.

Way Forward

Although the energy sector may have seen more investment thanks to tax relief and guaranteed returns from the government, this is an unsustainable strategy. Advancement in the economy is not something that can be borrowed or imported. For this to happen, long-term goals need to be set, policies need to be followed consistently, and there needs to be good leadership. Every good national growth plan is built on the three pillars of deregulation, decentralization, and digitalization.

Besides, land, people, water, oil, and minerals are all readily available here. The issue is how to make the most of the available resources. The rivers here are enormous. Every year, we deal with the worst floods possible. However, we are unable to force the dams to provide low-cost electricity. Water is wasted when it is released into the ocean. To add to that, we have oil and coal as natural resources. However, there is nobody to reap the rewards of these assets. To the fullest extent possible, we must utilize the available means.

In addition to that, in order to have the strongest economy, more women need to be given the tools to succeed. Women have more to offer than men. Just one individual is responsible for providing food for the household. Why should women, the elderly, and children have to work? No single member of the family can provide for the needs of the full household. Therefore, young women need to be integrated into the system of the state so that there will be more manpower and innovative minds available. If men can be taught to teach themselves, but if we educate women, they will educate their children. And that’s the key point of differentiation.

Furthermore, more than that, Pakistan has to work on its tourism infrastructure. Business and job opportunities are generated by the tourism sector. Hotels, travel agencies, tourist information centres, the transportation sector, and retail operations at tourist attractions all present promising business prospects. All of these spheres of industry contribute to the creation of jobs. Four out of every ten jobs in the Maldives may be traced back to the tourism industry. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s tourism industry is rather tiny, and thus it doesn’t provide many job or business opportunities. That’s why Pakistan needs to figure things out.

Besides, investment in Pakistan’s export sector must rise, tariffs must be lowered so that the country can more deeply penetrate international markets, and infrastructure and technological progress must be improved. Moreover, export-led growth plans that feature high rates of savings and investment are essential for businesses to effectively manage expansion.

In addition, Pakistan needs to make efforts to reap CPEC’s full benefits. Pakistan should go beyond energy and infrastructure development. It should focus on its economic outreach initiative. Gwadar port is in a prime location to enable governments participating in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) with efficient and effective access to global markets thanks to greater economic connectivity and integration with landlocked Central Asian countries. That way, Pakistan may take advantage of its central location and become the economic centre of Central, West, and South Asia. Standards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, customs processes, rules of origin, e-commerce, and intellectual property rights are all areas where ties to the CAREC countries should be strengthened.


To encapsulate, in its first four decades of independence, Pakistan’s economy ranked among the top 10 worldwide among developing nations. Pakistan’s economy grew at 6% per year on average throughout its first four decades of existence. In comparison to India and Bangladesh, Pakistan performed better economically and socially. But by the turn of the 21st century, things started to change. Since 1990, Pakistan’s potential growth rate has decreased from 6.5% to 4.5%. Furthermore, India’s GDP is ten times larger than Pakistan’s, both in nominal and PPP terms. In 1993, when India’s GDP was only 5.39 times that of Pakistan’s, the gap between their nominal GDPs was at its narrowest. More importantly, Bangladesh is no longer considered a developing nation. At 7.9 percent, the country’s GDP is growing at twice the rate of Pakistan’s 1.5 percent, and at $41 billion, its foreign exchange reserves are more than twice as large as Pakistan’s $20 billion. These catastrophic changes did not occur for no reason; rather, there were a number of factors at play. The inadequacy of Pakistan’s government structures stifled the country’s potential. In addition, political instability in Pakistan emerged as a chronic issue. Additionally, nearly 80% of the populace is threatened by a severe lack of water. Pakistan also fared poorly on a number of other socio-economic measures. The time has arrived to put aside our quirks and mistakes of the past and start building a better future for ourselves. Otherwise, we will be bequeathing the worst shape of Pakistan to our posteriors.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin”

Mother Theresa

2 thoughts on “Development Journey of Pakistan from 1947 to 2022: Lessons Learnt viz-a-viz Developing Countries

  1. Hello sir…hope you are doing well..once again, brilliat work, i really appriciate your efforts. I wish and pray that your article must be read by senior politicians. Points you are raising r eye opening, But you know my cousin follows Nawaz sharif, he loves him the most. He spends hours n hours with flowers in his hand for Nawaz sharif…and came home with swelled eyes as he cries there becoz of no lift from nawaz sharif….
    (NOte : Nazaz sharif is nick name of Kusa dab spay)
    Please do something to change such mindset.
    One more thing, kindly arrange a special capsule for my cousin, as he’s not feeling well, his digestive system is not functioning properly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for tendering words of appreciation for my work.
      Besides, I am really sorry about your cousins condition. He realky needs help. Kindly, consult a therapist to tackle his issue.


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