Anyone with a little interest in the ancient history of South Asia knows that the people of the land called “Pakistan” have not been poor since time immemorial. Indus Valley Civilization (present-day Pakistan) sprouted on fertile plains of the River Indus and reached a climax of advancement and prosperity between 2500 and 2000 BC. It was home to the highly developed cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro and had a well-planned village system. However, the great civilization was immensely stressed in 1500 BC, and its bustling cities fell into decline and were eventually abandoned.

How could the people of the fertile Indus Valley, which had an abundance of water and was situated at the crossroad of the most significant trade route at the time, become poor and desert their bustling cities?

The most coherent explanation for the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization is attributed to the invasion of the Aryans and the changing course of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra rivers. The people of the Indus Valley were militarily exhausted and deprived of their share of water.

The Aryan invaders had emerged from what is now Iran and brought with them polytheism and a cruel caste system. These people finally settled in northern India and formed the Ganges civilization. The Aryans also enslaved the Dravidian people of southern India and pushed them into a lower social position.

The people of the Ganges civilization (India) and the Indus Valley civilization (Pakistan) never lived under one government for thousands of years, except briefly under the British and Mughal empires. The people of Hind and Sind have never been the same, as Aitzaz Ahsan puts it in his excellent book: The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan.

Once again, the people of the Indus Valley civilization (Pakistan) became poor due to proxy wars and the transformation of fertile land into desert when the water of the Indus was blocked.

Pakistan enjoys an excellent geographical disposition. The country is situated on a crossroad of important trade routes, close to the most significant mass of land and people – China and India. Vast natural reservoirs of oil and gas are located nearby in the Middle East and Central Asia. Therefore, international political players continuously endeavor to coerce and persuade the political leadership of Pakistan to submit to their will and conform to their agenda.

Pakistan is comparatively safer than its neighbor Afghanistan due to its well-oiled military machine. However, international players meddle in the domestic politics of Pakistan and bribe, coerce and threaten the political elite to get them to accommodate foreign powers. Unfortunately, Western-style democracy in developing countries makes it both legal and convenient to fund activities of opposition parties, local media and international NGOs that work against the ruling government.

Pakistan’s insecurity is also not, as liberals claim, just something that is imagined. It has strong roots in history. India’s animosity toward Pakistan is vividly apparent. It is the clash of monotheist Buddhist and Muslim liberal social values versus a caste-based social system of Brahman exploitation. The antipathy felt by Hindus stems from Muslim (Mughal) rule of India and, more recently, the establishment of Pakistan, which is not the cause but the product of the Hindus’ ill-treatment and marginalization of its minorities.

As per the partition plan, around 514 princely states joined India and 21 states formally opted for Pakistan. Hindustan, through threats, coercion and invasions, occupied seven princely states that officially opted for Pakistan, including Hyderabad (Deccan), Junagadh and Manavadar. Pakistan was dismembered in 1971 by India. Even today Pakistan is bleeding due to Indian-sponsored terrorists in Baluchistan and the FATA. More than 50,000 people – both soldiers, innocent civilians – have died in the past decade in a bloody war on terror.

General Election-2018 has been a benchmark in the history of Pakistan. A majority of Pakistanis have rejected dynastic politics. The people have put their trust in the leadership of Imran Khan. The Pakistani prime minister is looked upon all over the world as an upright, honest and capable political leader. He has embarked upon a crusade against financial corruption and money laundering.

As expected, the corrupt politicians under scrutiny are fighting back with all their might and dirty tricks

As expected, the corrupt politicians under scrutiny are fighting back with all their might and dirty tricks. Whispering defamation campaigns against Khan, the judiciary and the military on social and mainstream media are in full swing. Intellectually dishonest and misleading reports are being published. Unfortunately, the international media is also supporting the infamous corrupt politicians of Pakistan. Sadly, capitalism has put everything on sale – including truth and ethics.

Nothing is more ridiculous than campaigns that claim the Pakistani army promotes extremism. It is very well known that large numbers of serving general officers of the Pakistani army have laid down their lives while fighting religious extremism. Lieutenant General Shahid Ullah Baig, Major General Javed Sultan Khan Niazi, Major General Sana Ullah Khan Niazi and Major General Bilal are a few names we remember. Lieutenant General Masood Aslam lost his only son in this mad game of religious extremism against Pakistan. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the current chief of army staff, is personally a victim of religious extremism. He was called an Ahmadi a few months back by religious fanatics aiming to discredit him in the eyes of some members of society.

I am not defending military rule, but it is a bitter truth that everything worthwhile achieved by Pakistan in the past 70 years has been during military regimes. The construction of dams and the establishment of Pakistan’s industrial base occurred during the General Mohammad Ayub Khan era. General Zia ul Haque through Ghulam Ishaque Khan ensured the successful completion of the Pakistani nuclear program. Every political party of Pakistan may claim the CPEC and Gawader port, but it was the vision of General Pervez Musharaf that persuaded Chinese leader Xi Jinping to invest in the port. NADRA and Rescue 1122 are projects of military regimes that are immensely important and highly efficient.

Seventeen years ago, in the financial year 2001-02, the allocation for defense amounted to 4.6% of GDP. In 2003-04, the defense budget dropped to 3.9% of GDP. Budget 2018-19 has allocated Rs 1.1 trillion for ‘Defence Affairs and Services’ which is 3.2% of our Rs 34 trillion GDP.

Pakistan’s defense budget has remained almost frozen for the last decade, despite ongoing operations in the northwestern provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtun Khaw (KPK). India, on the other hand, has increased its defense budget substantially, which has caused a serious imbalance of power in South Asia. Pakistan’s leadership has wisely avoided an expensive arms race in the region by benefiting from the deterrence of nuclear weapons.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his army chief were threatening “surgical strikes” against Pakistan, Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s army chief, in an unprecedented speech, called upon India to fight poverty, disease and religious extremism. Then Pakistan launched an army-led initiative, the Kartarpur peace corridor, for the benefit of the Sikh community of India, in order to mitigate the hostility and distrust between two countries.

Pakistan has vast natural resources and hard-working people. Pakistan’s poverty, therefore, is an unnatural outcome. The primary reason Pakistan has financial difficulties is that a corrupt political oligarchy is laundering money on a massive scale, which has been encouraged and aided by foreign manipulators.

Special thanks to well-known Pakistani veteran Brigadier General Tariq Izaz (Retd) for his valuable input for this article.