“Scars of Conflict Are Deeper and Longer Lasting”

Irshad Salim, Karachi: An infographic (below) shows the intense impact of conflict in Middle East and Central Asian countries (including Pakistan I suspect)–the repercussions on their real GDP per capita have been harsher and longer lasting as compared to rest of the world.

The accompanying note says: “A year after the start of a severe conflict, countries in these regions lose about 2 percent in real GDP per capita compared to before the conflict, with the decline extending to about 10 percent after a decade. Countries elsewhere, by contrast, typically have a similar drop after the first year, of about 2 percent, but then largely recover after the fifth year, as the Chart of the Week shows.”

As we all know, Pakistan faced the conflict, or the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan since the early 80s–it all started with the so-called “Afghan Jihad” followed by the so-called “War on Terror”.

So, how do we know, as in the case of Pakistan, “the decline extending about 10 percent after a decade” of conflict–and how much, and what, where are the repercussions?

Coincidentally, Dawn last week published an article on the “boom and the bust” trend of Pak economy–covering two different periods: 1961 thru 1991 and 1991 thru 2022.

A transparent overlay of Dawn’s graph (below) on the IMF graph (above) may help analyze the Pakistan’s “bust” period–other factors notwithstanding.

There was a decade, give or take, between the period of “Afghan Jihad” which lasted for 11 years (1978-1988) and the “War on Terror” period which lasted for almost 20 years (2002-2021). The interval of non-conflict lasted for 12+/- years (1989-2000) until the September 2001 terror attack in NY city.

To correlate IMF graph with Dawn graph, Pakistan underwent its first prolonged impact during the period covering 1989 thru 2001. Immediately, thereafter (in October 2001) another intense conflict began which lasted for 20 years (until 2021).

Pakistan’s second recovery period which theoretically began sometime after the Afghan withdrawal in 2020/2021 was impacted by a mega economic stroke: The Covid pandemic.

The country’s per capita GDP growth nose-dived (see graph below).

Extracted from the Dawn graph–to highlight Covid impact in Pakistan and India.

The recovery span was quick though, apparently, as compared to the conflict-driven span of two successive 10 years–other factors notwithstanding.

Will the conflict-based repercussion post-2021 take 10 years–as the IMF note says–to ease out? This is where my usage of the caveat, “other factors notwithstanding” comes into focus.

The article in Dawn has addressed the macroeconomic factors quite a bit.

The Criticality Index (CI) of addressing ‘conflicts’–in the case of Pakistan economy–has been high. (CI means how often a particular task was on the critical path during the analysis.)

Can we, or should we slog it out for 10 years, and with the same armory of “factors, players, means, methods, sequences, priorities, lenders, donors, givers, etc.” as we move forward, or is there a need for leap of faith–“one step forward, two steps backward” seems to have happened–repercussions of two prolonged impact periods.

Learning from China and Singapore economic models is probably a good idea.

Regardless, a penchant for competency, character, credibility (3Cs) on full spectrum basis (this time) would probably help us not to think, act, perform, deliver beyond our heft.

Scars of conflict are indeed deeper and longer lasting.

1 thought on ““Scars of Conflict Are Deeper and Longer Lasting”

  1. Irshad Saleem Sahib makes an Engineer’s write by way of graphic presentation. IMF does so as Analyst. Common citizens are more concerned with Employment level in a country they live in; or migrate on similar reason. India’s progress is very recent in history. And by its size, it should be compared with China not Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan had been performing in Economics better than India until it triggered War with India in 1965 – Ghaur Ayub, as Foreign Minister of Pakistan said it was his father’s mistake (Gen. Ayub Khan) to embark upon War. Instead, he should have consolidated on Industrialization! Pakistan couldn’t stop downtrend thereafter; and Bhutto’s Islamic Socialism was a mixture, which gave no cure. Corruption overwhelmed after Gen. Zia’s take over. Again due to American’s instigation as Henry Kissinger puts it in his memoirs. Today, we are still facing similar dilemma, which Camp we go to? The US hasn’t been a sincere friend on one side, and on the Jagirdari Nizam took other power sources in its fold; such as Capitalists & Industrialists dragging it in the
    List of African countries – what a fate indeed!

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