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Post 1980: Pakistan

1980: Pakistan

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet troops, beginning in December 1979, raised Pakistani fears for their own security. The government undertook three main approaches in dealing with the crisis. The first approach was to explore a possible revitalizing of the relationship with the United States. Early in the year, the United States offered $400 million in economic and military aid to Pakistan, in an attempt to provide a modicum of security, but Pakistan turned it down, considering it an inadequate response to the grave threat facing the country and believing that only a formal treaty approved by the U.S. Congress would send the necessary message to Moscow. The unwillingness of the Carter administration to proceed along these lines was reportedly taken to indicate a lack of American seriousness. A visit by the U.S. presidential national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to Pakistan failed to resolve many of the two nations' differences.

A second approach was based on the belief that concerted action by the Islamic bloc would make it more difficult for the Soviets to sustain the occupation or, at least, to move against other countries. Toward this end, an Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference was held in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in late January and again in May, and a special group composed of representatives of three countries, including Pakistan, was set up to seek ways of resolving the Afghan situation and securing the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

Pakistan's friendship with China suggested a third approach to the Afghan situation. While it was acknowledged that Peking's options were somewhat limited, its support for Pakistan was expected to discourage Moscow from taking any major action against the Pakistanis—particularly if China's support was coordinated with American assistance.

The presence of over a million Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been an additional source of potential trouble between Pakistan and the Soviet Union. Two Pakistanis were killed in a border attack in late September, and the Soviets made numerous reconnaissance flights over the refugee camps. In addition, the refugees are an economic burden that Pakistan can ill afford. Pakistan's President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq met with U.S. President Jimmy Carter in early October to discuss economic assistance for the refugees, among other matters of concern.

Other foreign relations.

The fall of the shah of Iran, in 1979, led to initial concern in Islamabad, because of the traditionally close relations between Iran and Pakistan during the years of the monarchy. However, a rapport was established with the revolutionary regime in Tehran on matters of regional interest. In September, Zia undertook a "goodwill" mission to Tehran and Baghdad, aimed at exploring a possible end to the Iran-Iraq war; he was politely received but given no encouragement.

Relations with India became critically important due to the sensitive situation on the Pakistani-Afghan border. Relations had improved under the government of Morarji Desai; the return of Indira Gandhi to power was expected to lead to difficulties, with India playing a tougher role as regional leader.

U.S. opposition to the Pakistani nuclear program continued, although public condemnation was muted by the events in Afghanistan. When the United States agreed to send enriched uranium nuclear fuel to India, Pakistanis believed that they were being singled out for punishment and that there was a legitimate need to continue the program. On August 31, Pakistan announced that the country had become self-sufficient in nuclear fuel production for the Karachi nuclear power plant.

Government and politics.

The grave repercussions that had been predicted following the execution of former Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979 did not materialize in 1980. Domestic political demands were toned down somewhat, in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, although there was some pressure for a return to civilian government. Political activity remained banned, and the military government made vague promises for free elections, but no date was set. In the meantime, the population was polarized between leftist and rightist elements, with strong grass-roots support for an increased Islamization of the country.

This summer, the government announced the formation of "Zakat" committees for the collection of taxes to be distributed to the poor and needy, as prescribed under Islamic law. The Shiite community, comprising some 15 million people, objected to the mandatory program and also contended that their contributions should be distributed within their own community and not dispersed by the government. This led to a major demonstration by the Shiite Muslims in Islamabad, as a result of which the government exempted them from these laws.


Pakistan's economic performance improved during 1979-1980. The overall growth rate was 6.2 percent, with manufacturing improving by 8.1 percent (up from a 7.4 percent increase in 1978-1979) and agriculture by 6 percent (up from 4.2 percent in the previous year). The government reported that the average annual growth rate in Pakistan over the past three years was 6.4 percent, in sharp contrast with an annual growth of 3.7 percent during 1970-1977.

There were record harvests of wheat, at 10.87 million tons, and cotton, at 4.2 million tons, not only because of an increase in the area under cultivation but also because of a significant increase in the yield per acre. Specific efforts were taken to move the country toward food self-sufficiency, such as price supports, promotion of rust-resistant wheat varieties, provision of fertilizer and irrigation water, encouragement of the use of farm machines, and educational programs for farmers.

Despite these gains, the economic situation remained precarious. In the absence of national savings, the country remained heavily dependent on external borrowing, which totaled $822 million for the period from December 1979 to July 1980. Foreign aid commitments during 1979-1980 totaled $939 million, compared with $1,426 million for 1978-1979. Total pledges from the Aid Pakistan consortium (both bilateral and multilateral) amounted to $675 million, as compared with $845 million for 1978-1979. U.S. assistance remained limited to $40 million in agricultural commodities. Pakistan's current foreign debt stood at $5.5 billion, which constituted nearly 32 percent of the gross national product, and Pakistan was unable to get any debt rescheduling.
Pakistan's oil import bill (a factor in its debt problems) amounted to $1.2 billion for 1979-1980. Efforts to offset this high cost from indigenous sources have thus far yielded modest results, with only 10 percent of the 1980 oil consumption being met from domestic output.

Area and population.

Area, 310,724 sq. mi.
Pop. (est. 1980), 86.5 million.
Principal cities (est. 1975):
Islamabad (cap.), 250,000;
Karachi, 3,500,000;
Lahore, 2,100,000.


Islamic republic under martial law. Pres. and chief martial law administrator, Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.


Monetary unit: Pakistani rupee; 1 rupee = US$0.1030.
Trade (est. 1979-1980).

Exports, $1.8 billion;

Imports, $3.2 billion.

Principal exports:

rice, raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton cloth, wool carpets, leather, fish, sports goods.

Principal imports:

petroleum products, wheat, edible oils, fertilizers, tea, chemicals, tires, medicines, iron and steel.

Education (est. 1979-1980).

primary schools, 5.9 million;
secondary schools, 1.3 million;
high schools, 500,000;
junior colleges, 195,000;
universities, 28,500.

Literacy rate, 19.8%.

Agriculture (est. 1979-1980).

Production (in millions of tons):

wheat, 10.87;
cotton, 4.2;
rice, 3.2;
sugarcane, 27.

Armed forces (est. 1980).

Army, 408,000;
navy, 13,000;
air force, 17,600;
paramilitary forces, 109,000.
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