Pakistani Nation's Resilience In The Face Of Crisis Is Truly Astonishing

Pakistani Nation's Resilience In The Face Of Crisis Is Truly Astonishing

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived”Robert Jordan

If asked to name one nation in the world that surpasses all levels of resilience, one usually comes up with the Japanese, but according to DJ Vanas, owner of Native Discovery Inc., the char people of Bangladesh may be the most resilient people. They have been living happily in a region that is unique and precarious on account of its unpredictable environment. The Char are innumerable small islands that keep appearing, disappearing and reappearing in some other place because of rainfall, floods, and the tides. Despite all this, the inhabitants cultivate crops and raise their families. According to Vanas, they thrive in these perilous conditions as they know the secrets to resiliency.

Psychology describes resilience as a quality that allows some people to be deeply affected by the adversities of life and bounce back at least as strong as before. Rather than surrendering their resolve to difficulties, traumatizing incidents or failure, resilient ones find a way to alter their course, recover emotionally and continue the journey towards their goals. For them, disappointments and catastrophes are learning processes, that facilitate improved self-awareness, trigger knowledge acquisition and create impetus to overcome future debacles. This kind of optimism tones down the negative impact of stress on a person when experiencing disturbing events.

Studies are ongoing regarding different aspects of resilience depending upon genetic patterns, childhood experiences and life circumstances. While many get dejected and lose hope, some emerge with renewed power ready to take on novel challenges. However, this is not easy no matter how calm and composed a resilient may appear to others.

Exactly what can happen when two people, a weakling and a strong go through similar shaky situations? Whereas the former goes into a deep depression, loses interest in life, becomes melancholic, prone to isolation, the latter analyses reasons for setbacks, identifies contributing factors, including own shortcomings and resets life on the basis of these contemplations. There may be a chance of social withdrawal but that could be a temporary phase to come to terms with one’s emotions and recharge oneself. Such people know that life is a mixed bag of success and failure. No matter how perfect we want our surroundings to be, there are always some hidden surprises, both ugly and pleasant, that can pop up on the most unexpected occasions. This is life! We can either shut our eyes or look at them straight. Like the char people, preparedness for the worse is always the best strategy to cope with these situations.

The last 75 years for the Pakistani nation have been rocky and punctuated by unpredictability. From the bloodbath at its birth through the amputation of its eastern arm in 1971, and the humiliation of its armed forces at the hands of its neighbor, through continuous bouts of political instability, through all imaginable and improbable natural calamities, from a tanking economy to the present instability and uncertainty, the people of this country have borne these with remarkable resilience.

One is awe-struck at the way different crises striking with full force and repelled with equal indignation were braved by this nation. After all, what can be the reasons for this display of forbearance and this level of exuberance during bleak moments? To outsiders, we hardly appear to be affected. Our population is growing by the hour, the ostentatious lifestyle of our economic, military and political elite is visible wherever you look, expensive vehicles of all sorts of famous brands are plying on the roads, people throng popular tourist spots year round, shopping centres are crowded with customers at all times of the day, airports always seem full of domestic and international travelers and all this, amid a lurking economic crisis that has gripped the country with severe inflation and a rise in the cost of living.

The Ministry of Finance is at its nerve’s ends in finding solutions to rapidly depleting foreign reserves, managing circular debts, bridging deficits, battling out of control inflation and negotiating with foreign lenders to resuscitate the failing economic health of the country. Oblivious to this furor, the country’s politicians are busy in either settling scores with their opponents, or in rescuing their vote banks to continue with their foolhardy approach in settling the mega-economics of this country. The million-dollar question is - if economic matters have reached such critical levels, then how can the majority of Pakistanis continue to appear unaffected? The answer is fairly simple. They are placing reliance on themselves rather than on the government.

A cursory look at the performance of governments would indicate how many departments have armies of officials who are being paid to do practically nothing. 1972 saw the nationalization of educational institutions followed by banks and major industries, which were earlier being run privately. What happened to these organizations is already history. With big industrialists migrating to foreign lands and competent workers replaced with wholesale recruitment of uninterested employees, Pakistan’s economy started its downward trajectory. From profit making to incurring huge losses, the results became more alarming when suddenly the government’s policy shifted to privatization.

Soon, those banks that were heavily in losses became high profit earning entities and industries also began to sprout up in different areas. People had realized that if they needed to survive in the Land of Pure, they would have to fend for themselves. This also meant that compared to the documented economy, the sector that was undocumented yet legal, started thriving. It also meant that both the federal and provincial governments, which were rapidly bulging, would not be able to collect the true potential of revenues necessary to run the state machinery. Besides, due to massive tax gaps and corruption, taxes collected were insufficient to provide the growing nation with basic public goods, infrastructure and the necessities of life, meaning no quid pro.

So, the motto became that if we have to generate our own power, ensure our own security, tolerate all the nonsense that governments were shoving in our faces, then what is the point in paying them any taxes.

With this objective in mind, Pakistanis have learnt the art of self-reliance and are thus displaying exemplary resilience despite the fact that the governments’ imprudent policies and inefficiencies are the reason our economic environment has become unviable. The well-to-do take care of those who are less privileged; therefore, this stratum of society too remains subdued and is in no mood to rebel during this seemingly intractable crisis. The irony is that people are rolling in luxury while the government is running from pillar to post with a begging bowl in its hand, succumbing to the harsh conditions of global lenders.

Pakistan's current political leaders and military elites should thank the people's resilience. It is the only reason perhaps that they are able to act in ways that imperil the country.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)