In July 1999, two young Guinean stowaway children, Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara, were found dead on a Sabena Airlines that flew from Conakry, Guinea, to Brussels, Belgium. Amongst the items recovered included a letter written by the young children and addressed to the European leaders, members, and officials. The letter, among other several pleas of support, help, and rescue, requested a patronage “to struggle against poverty.” The children expressed their yearnings for Europe’s concept of love, experience of better life, wealth, and power, and wished “to become like you in Africa” (emphasis added). Certainly, the children were mesmerised by the idea of material development the West had gone through. They did not know that the most of their issues were a logical by-product of a global capitalist structure devised just three hundred years ago. Africa was poor for the very reason that Europe had become rich. Economic historians agree that the subcontinent and China, put together, used to produce about half of the world’s GDP around 1750. During the next one decade, the English defeat in the American Revolution in 1776, pushed Britain to focus on India and China, and loot the two vast regions as extensively as possible, to create an unbridgeable gap between the West and the Rest. Shashi Tharoor, former Indian foreign minister, has calculated that Great Britain owes about $3 trillion in repatriations to the subcontinent. Today, when we define poverty and development from Western perspectives, we must keep in mind that the West could develop because of a wholesale transformation it went through in all sectors of collective life. European states in the later medieval period witnessed an enormous prevalence of anarchy; they had to become praetorian, thus generating a greater need for a military revolution, which occurred during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The said revolution enabled Europe to develop and hone warfighting skills and weapons that it later on used against Asian empires, particularly India and China, and occupied the regions for more than two centuries. During the same time, European occupation of South Americas brought a currency revolution to the continent — of course, this was through extensive extraction of silver from South American mines, European empires settled their centuries-old headache of balance of trade with Asia. They took American silver, traded on arbitrary terms with Indian, Chinese, and East Asian merchants, and accumulated enormous wealth in their own continent. During the last decades of the eighteenth century, Europe, and particularly Great Britain, went through the Industrial Revolution. To help their incipient industries succeed, they destroyed the Indian and Chinese, pre-modern yet competitive, industrial base. Today, when asked to justify the misgivings of the subcontinent, English statesmen refer to the development of world’s largest irrigation system, English-based modern educational institutions, legal systems, democracy, and the concept of statehood embedded with a unified structure of governance, including bureaucracy and military as their unforgettable gifts to their former colonies. Unfortunately, many from these colonies believe in these gifts. Kartar Lalvani recently wrote: “The indisputable fact is that India as a nation, as it stands today, was originally created by a small, distant island nation. India has endured as a democracy and a unified nation thanks to the all-important and fully-functional infrastructure of an independent civil service and judiciary, a disciplined and apolitical army and a well-drilled and efficient police force, all developed by the imperial power.” However, Angus Maddison, one of the world’s most respectable economic historian, succinctly explained the British approach toward the subcontinent when he argued, “The British were not averse to Indian economic development if it increased their markets but refused to help in areas where they felt there was conflict with their own economic interests or political security.” Once liberated, India and Pakistan took divergent paths in almost every manner. Pakistan, since it had to be different than India, and adopted a free-market economic structure sooner than India. The state rolled back its role, if any, as the engine of industrialization, promoted private ownership of industrial class through offering subsidies and loans, devalued its currency, and emphasised surplus production of agricultural products. The pseudo-socialist policies of the 1970s, however, left the national concept of development nowhere. During the period of 1979-1990, Pakistan lost her chance of catching up; we served imperial interests at the cost of our own prosperity. Pakistan, a desperate country claiming and demanding parity with India, cut a sorry figure when Indian economy took off after its financial crisis in 1991, and accepted a decisive shift in favour of neoliberalism. Instead of realising the origins of Indian economy’s successful take off, which in large part stem from the strengthening of local industrial production through statist patronage for about four decades, Pakistan’s leadership looked towards cosmetic solutions such as motorways to gain temporary electoral advantages. Since 1991, we have consistently been fed with a narrative of development as being a centralised strategy of material growth, infrastructural build up, excessive importation of non-productive items bound to facilitate the westernisation of lifestyle, and mushroom urbanisation. The narrative of development, therefore, became one of the most sellable political item. Almost all the governments, military as well as pseudo-democratic, emphasised the need for “development”. In a country already devoid of academic input in policymaking process, the political leadership revitalised the concept of material development and propagated in its favour in stark contradiction with the concept of sustainable development. Established by the United Nations in 1983, Brundtland Commission emphasised the sustainable nature of development and defined it as, “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Pakistan, unfortunately, failed to adopt an iota of this definition. A myopic approach towards development has been a problem in Pakistan for some time. Our political leadership, with the exception of a few parties, emphasises “mega” projects without catering to the needs of long-term stable growth Our mantra of development, the origins of which to a larger extent can be traced in our colonial history, emphasises capitalist growth without spending our energies on social development. Our budgets show huge allocations of funds to the development sector without emphasizing any concept of ‘sustainability.’ Pakistan is facing a looming water scarcity crisis, the 2011 Pakistan national nutrition survey found that about half of the population of the country faced food insecurity and 44 per cent children had not received sufficient nutrition and therefore faced stunted growth. However, this did not make a big difference in the national media; instead, we celebrated Orange Train, new highways, airports, and so on. Pakistan faces a persistent problem of adopting a myopic approach towards ‘development.’ Our political leadership, with the exception of a few parties, emphasises “mega” projects without catering to the needs of long-term stable growth on all indicators. Infrastructural development, or industrial development, means enhancing productivity in a given sector and provision of employment to the unemployed youth only. No attention whatsoever is paid to the consequences of installing an industrial unit in an area. Recently, we installed coal-based power plants in one of the most fertile areas of the Punjab without considering the implications. In some sectors, such as motorways, we have developed an oblivious approach to the consequences. Dams have their own ecological implications; no discourse in Pakistan concentrates on the ecological viability of mega projects. Our itemised approach convinces us that it has no affect. In fact, the ones who object to the large scale and unplanned industrialisation are ridiculed as being the enemies of prosperity of Pakistan. Our illiterate majority agrees with this idea, thus delivering an immediate political advantage to the forces propagating the narrative. British and other Europeans could rule the world because they transformed their societies, economies, and militaries in a wholesale manner. The policymaking process in the United States, as far as development is concerned, faces enormous challenges from environmentalists and scientific communities. Paradoxically, we, just like the Guinean children, want to be like them but fail to recognise the origins of our problems. We want a democratic political structure without embracing individualism and secularising our polity. We want growth and development without accepting that it is not just roads, bridges, and motorways but includes hospitals, schools, universities, research and development, and sustainability. Our failure to thrive requires a strict, neutral, and wholesale retrospection of our policies and approaches. It is the only way we can redefine our concept of development and align it with sustainability. The writer is former Fulbright Fellow and a Lecturer at South Texas College USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 4th 2018.