Pakistan has recently completed its visit to the ballot box and emerged with Imran Khan, the former cricket player, as its new Prime Minister. Much has already been written and spoken about Pakistan’s new leader and many are cautiously hopeful that he will be a positive force for his country.
I’ll add my voice of hope too to the above sentiments, that this is possibly a chance for Pakistan to create a new and positive direction, one that has eluded it from the very date of its inception.
But what of determining success? My preference as ever, is to try and let the story be crafted through a narrative of numbers.
Below are graphs showing key national metrics with both past and present perspectives. Comparisons are made with India and Bangladesh – countries once joined together with Pakistan as a single entity, in addition to China – the economic powerhouse of Asia.
Preservation of life
Any government should have within its agenda the objective of ‘preserving/safeguarding life’, to create an environment in which life matters, be it by reducing murder or the rate of child mortality or taking measures to support the increase of life expectancy. Unfortunately, Pakistan has an abysmal record with respect to these metrics.
It’s child mortality rate suggests that close to one in every 10 children born in Pakistan dies before reaching their fifth birthday, a rate which is approximately double in comparison to India and Bangladesh, and certainly distant when compared to China, which has a child mortality rate nearer 1 in every 100:
Pakistan’s homicide rates are woeful too, with a rate of 8 in every 100,000 murdered per annum, more than two to four times the rate in India and Bangladesh respectively and an eight fold ratio when compared with China:
The third ‘preservation of life’ metric of average life expectancy is very low at just over 66 years, a near 10 year difference with China and significantly below Bangladesh:
Given Imran Khan’s initiatives to date, including his campaign to establish Pakistan’s first cancer hospital, it is hoped that he will create a national focus and strategy on health which will hopefully yield positive outcomes for both child mortality and life expectancy. Also, an increased focus upon law and order and tackling some of the root causes for Pakistan’s high homicide rates will surely be a priority for the new prime minister.
Economic preservation and growth
An important objective for any decent government is to ensure that the wealth of its citizens is ‘preserved’ (i.e. safeguarded) and that there is also an environment facilitating economic growth.
With respect to these objectives, one of the significant metric which undoubtedly has an impact upon the above desired outcome is the corruption level within a country. The Corruption Perception Index, rates Pakistan as 117 out of 180 countries in its economic cleanliness level, a metric in which Bangladesh is even further behind at number 143. India and China perform better at numbers 81 and 77 respectively.
Corruption, in which power is used for private gain, not only has an impact upon public funds which would otherwise be returned back to the society and used for the public good, but it also undermines the fabric of economic activity as corporate decisions are non-meritocratic, the inevitable effect is a stunting of corporate potential and thereby the economic prospects of a society.
With respect to economic growth, Pakistan’s GDP per capita is particularly worrisome, it appears the country has become stagnant in GDP growth which contrasts with India which is making reasonable economic progress, Bangladesh which has been making slow and steady progress  and finally China which continues to make its meteoric ascent.
For any society to flourish it needs to drive its intellectual and research capabilities. A proxy for baselining intellectual capacity is to assess the strength of its tertiary education system.
The QS university ranking places the top universities in China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at rankings of 17 (Tsinghua University), 162 (Indian Institute of Technology Bombay), 397 (Pakistan Institute of Engineering Applied Sciences) and 801 (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) respectively.
China has invested heavily in its education system and the outcome is self-evident. It’s apparent too that India is making progress, but unfortunately Pakistan and particularly Bangladesh are laggards in their efforts to advance their people’s education.
Change takes time particularly when viewed through the lens of State governance. As such it will not be an easy endeavour to make an impact on the metrics listed above, nonetheless, Imran Khan and his PTI party have 5 years to hopefully get the dial moving in the right direction.
 I aim to write a separate post on Bangladesh which has a particular context for the relative strength of its socio-economic performance.