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Pakistan basks in a spirit of optimism and progress.

The 14th day of August, for Pakistan, marks a sacred date mdash Independence Day. On this date in 2018, the country will mark its 71st anniversary.

Pakistan has come a long way since that distant first Independence Day in 1947, when, presided over by its charismatic founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah mdash who is revered by more than 200 million Pakistanis as the Quaid-e-Azam, or Great Leader mdash it took the first baby steps toward sustainable modern statehood. The vibrant Asian country now has more than seven decades of freedom from colonialism firmly behind it.

It is now comfortable with its political genesis, founded in a movement for self-determination to leave behind its Indian past and instead pursue a freer and more modern identity. This serves to articulate a remarkable story of the political evolution of a 20th century state.

The landmark of more than 70 years of freedom and of being a sovereign member state of the UN also offers an opportunity to judge Pakistan's performance as a sustainable and progressive nation. Pakistan's story is one of tenacity and persistence in dealing with the aftermath of the creation of a new country and moving from a position of weakness in terms of an absence of the institutions of state mdash administrative (executive), political (parliament) and legal (judiciary) mdash to successfully developing and consolidating them for the rigorous needs of a modern state.

Indeed, it took decades after legal independence in 1947 before the three conventional pillars of the state had been adequately developed and a critical mass of political evolution experienced by way of elections to allow for a rules-based polity reflecting popular aspirations that strengthened a system of political transitions. It was not an easy ride.

It took Pakistan a full 23 years before the first elections were held in 1970 based on the principle of universal adult franchise mdash a vote for all adult citizens. In the early years, hampered by the absence of a consensus-based constitution, Pakistan experimented with lesser forms of fleeting, sub-par democracy.

Pakistan has now successfully held 11 elections, the latest being held only last month with almost 107 million eligible voters. The country also seems to be consolidating the health of its parliamentary tenures in line with its mission statement of parliamentary democracy underwritten with the spirit of the independence movement of the 1940s that resulted in the foundation of the country.

The last three federal governments have completed their five-year constitutional tenures: This is the longest period of uninterrupted democracy in the country's history and constitutes a huge step forward in terms of self-rule in a country that has sometimes struggled with political transitions and been punctuated with military rule. It was a full 25 years after the country came into being that a lasting constitution was drafted by an elected parliament.

This encompassed a popular mandate for a parliamentary form of plural democracy and outlined a set of fundamental guarantees based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resultant 1973 Constitution is a remarkable document that has withstood the test of time and served to successfully guide Pakistan through various political challenges and upheavals in its search for sustainable democracy.

Pakistan has also done well to accommodate its political pluralisms in its democratic aspirations. The country is not sociopolitically homogenous it is a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-faith, multi-sectarian, multi-cultural state.

Pakistan has come to accommodate all these political pluralisms in political parties, official policies, private practices and governments at both the federal and provincial levels. The country's affirmative policies mean that, in an overwhelmingly Muslim state, non-Muslim minorities have reserved quotas in national and provincial legislatures.

Despite its relatively conservative milieu, Pakistan has also done well to empower its women politically, socially and economically. Indeed, women have held the high-ranking offices of prime minister, governor, speaker and minister.

Pakistan elected the world's first female prime minister in a Muslim country (Benazir Bhutto all the way back in 1988) and head of parliament (Fehmida Mirza in 2008), while Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto led their party from the 1970s well into the first decade of the new millennium. Since 1970, Pakistan has had women as ministers in every elected government.

Pakistani women fly commercial airliners as well as military fighter jets they run businesses and media houses and are robust social and political analysts and opinion-makers. Where Pakistan has struggled in the last century is in making a big shift from an agriculture-based economy to an industrial economy considering the size of its population.

But, even in this domain, the country has come to do exceptionally well by being in the list of the top 50 economies of the world in 2018, and is slated to move into the top 20 by 2050. Not bad at all, considering there are nearly 200 countries. On Independence Day this year, there is also a palpable sense of renewed optimism among Pakistanis.

A new government has been elected, led by a new party and a new prime minister mdash the wildly popular Imran Khan mdash who is riding a popular campaign for social, economic and political reforms. Indeed, the campaign was titled "Naya (new) Pakistan.

" This spirit of renewal is infectious. Even allowing for realpolitik, it offers a critical mass of popular mandate and spirit to speed up Pakistan's attempt to fast-track a new era of development and progress.

On this Independence Day, then, three cheers for an even more developed and progressive Pakistan. Adnan Rehmat is a Pakistan-based journalist, researcher and analyst with interests in politics, media, development and science.

Twitter: @adnanrehmat1 Courtesy:www.arabnews.

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Publication:The Balochistan Express (Quetta, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 14, 2018
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