Poverty and rural development in Pakistan

Agriculture is the mainstay of economy of Pakistan as about 67 per cent of our population is associated directly and indirectly with this sector. Agriculture has a big share of 21.5 per cent in the GDP and this sector employs 45 per cent of the country’s labour force. It also contributes in the growth of other key sectors of economy. The development of this country is not possible by ignoring the development of its rural areas. Rural development can be defined as the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. There are so many hurdles and dilemmas of rural development in our country. Transportation issues, unavailability of recent technology in agriculture, undefined and scattered structure of local governing bodies come also emerge as the bottlenecks of rural development.
In some countries like India, China and Bangladesh lies voluntary poverty. This type of poverty covers those people who want to upgrade themselves as spiritual personalities.  Studies show that 20.16 per cent of our population earns only $1.25 a day, while 60.19 per cent of our population earns $2 a day. The population that lives under the poverty line is 22.3 per cent which is a huge portion of the population. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan (2013), the per capita income is $1254. This report was presented by the government, but it was challenged by the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme. These independent organizations assessed that the percentage of population living under the poverty line ranges from 25-28 per cent. But these organizations claim that Pakistan is far better than India and Bangladesh. So there is a hope and a great potential for development in our economy. The human development index of Pakistan is 0.549 which is far better than these countries. Ten per cent of the population is earning 27.4 per cent and the lower 10 per cent is earning only 4.3 per cent of income. Such discrimination and inequality of resources distribution is causing problems in smooth development of economic regimes especially in rural areas.
Economic aspects of poverty focus on material needs, typically including the necessities of daily life such as food, clothing, shelter, or safe drinking water. Poverty in this sense may be understood as a condition in which a person or community is lacking in the basic needs for a minimum standard of well-being and life, particularly as a result of a persistent lack of income. Analysis of social aspects of poverty links conditions of scarcity to aspects of the distribution of resources and power in a society and recognizes that poverty may be a function of the diminished “capability” of people to live the kinds of lives they value. The social aspects of poverty may include lack of access to information, education, health care, or political power.
According to the United Nations Human Development Report, Pakistan’s human development indicators fall significantly below of those of countries with comparable levels of per-capita income. Pakistan also has a high infant mortality rate (88 per 1000). The unemployment rate is much higher in Pakistan as compared to that of other developing countries. According to the census of 1998, the percentage of unemployed population was 19.68 per cent, which is much higher than the previous census report and surely it has risen furiously in preceding years. Maximum unemployment is being seen in Baluchistan i.e. 33.48 per cent of its total population. 
The main reasons for poverty in Pakistan are feudalism, inequality, natural disasters, illiteracy, political influences, and militancy up to some extent. Pakistan is the home to large landholding feudalists, as they have very much influence in the local governing bodies. They might have a thought that these people are born only to serve them as their fore-fathers were doing. The poor are bound to serve these feudalists as their tenants and used to lend money from their landlords on different occasions like marriage and funerals. The feudals are also responsible in diverting the public funds to their private uses. So, the money which was allocated for public welfare is now being used by these big fishes. These also involve in bursting the embankments of the canals and rivers in order to give harm to those people who tried to stand before them.
The World Bank’s “Voices of the Poor,” based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries including Pakistan, identifies a range of factors which poor people identify as part of poverty. These include:
Precarious livelihoods
Excluded locations
Physical limitations
Gender relationships
Problems in social relationships
Lack of security
Abuse by those in power
Dis-empowering institutions
Limited capabilities
Weak community organizations
Poverty has dire consequences troubling the society. A large number of deaths are due to higher poverty rate in Pakistan as well as in the whole world. One thirds of the world population dies due to poverty. Basic health facilities in our country are not available to the poor. Education is also affected by higher poverty rates in our country. The rural areas of our country do not have schools for girls and even for boys in some areas. Education discrimination is very common in the rural areas, which also cause hurdle in development of rural areas. 
According to Federal & Provincial ministries for education the literacy rate of Pakistan is 57.8 per cent and the total number of enrolments in school is 37,462,900, which seems not very satisfactory. Pakistanis in the age group 55–64 had a literacy rate of almost 38 per cent, those ages 45–54 had a literacy rate of nearly 46 per cent, those 25–34 had a literacy rate of 57 per cent, and those ages 15–24 had a literacy rate of 72 per cent (according to education ministries). The government should engage all the available resources for the maturity of these rural areas. It also should take responsibility for the proper allocation of declared funds of this sector.
Pakistan is not poor in manpower, talent, planning expertise and institutions of research and development. However, sustained and directed research and a strong political will are some of the pre-requisites to achieving the desired goals. The development process that started with the birth of the country, has had much success, but has been limited in scope. Almost all efforts have failed in achieving the distributive justice for the lowest rungs of the society. As noted earlier, envisaged benefits of planned changes through different rural development efforts have not percolated downwards to the poor. The basic reasons are vertical linearity in planning and in the execution of rural development efforts. Moreover, attention has not been given to horizontal spread of programs through active and concerted participation of rural masses, which are at the lowest rung of illiteracy and poverty. Amongst others, these are some important factors which make all schemes of rural uplift efforts in the country ineffective. 
Rural folk must be involved in the political system by decentralizing power in an appropriate manner at the local levels. The fate of the masses should not be left at the mercy of dynastic political leaders and an administration of narrowly selected civil service. It would be rather impossible to create and sustain powerful constituencies/institutions for change without the courageous leadership from within the masses. The political leadership and elite of the society should seriously think and plan for introducing desired reforms for social and economic changes at the local level.
The writers are associated with the Institute of Agri. Extension and Rural Development University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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