Iqbal’s the economist – Part II

  • His solutions for Pakistan

Continuing from the last week, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the sage of the nation, further pointed out the key problems as well as their workable solutions as outlined below:

  1. Opportunity Cost: In economics the opportunity cost is the cost of the opportunity lost in order to avail another one. For example if we build a plaza on an agricultural area where we could alternatively cultivate wheat, the opportunity cost of building the plaza would be the lost production of the wheat for the foreseeable future which we could have alternatively done and made use of. This needs to properly considered in all economic decisions. It’s good to see that Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken a leaf from Iqbal’s philosophy and is incorporating that within the construction bye-laws prohibiting construction on agricultural lands, hence accounting for the opportunity costs regarding food safety.
  2. Austerity: Pakistan is caught up in the crisis of underdevelopment in the face of vast unlimited resources. One important strategy to adopt, as per Allama Iqbal is austerity, as a guiding inflexible rule to allow resources to go into economic construction. Iqbal was a great champion of this cause and recommended it time and again. This, besides other factors help in building public trust. Prime Minister Imran Khan also champions this idea to build public trust.
  3. Land Reforms: Iqbal didn’t shy away from the controversial topic of land reforms either. In fact, he backed these reforms to facilitate the oppressed class of peasants. It will be a befitting tribute to the memory of Iqbal if we develop an equitable system of agriculture in which the cause of peasants is well looked after for ensuring social justice for them and for making a major break-through in boosting agricultural production.

Iqbal argued for radical reforms, arguing that land as a means of production should be owned by the society for the benefit of all. “al-Ardu Lillāh” (“The Earth is God’s”), is a poem in Bal-i-Jibril, which sums up this idea about land ownership.

در خدایا! یہ زمیں تیری نہیں، میری نہیں!
تیرے آبا کی نہیں، تیری نہیں، میری نہیں!


(To God, this land is not yours, nor mine,

Not thy ancestors’, not yours, nor mine)

If these core elements of Iqbal’s economic philosophy are properly implemented, there is no reason why Pakistan cannot progress on the path of economic prosperity 

  1. Rural Development: Iqbal also argued that the development of rural areas is at the heart of the economic and social development of a country. He analyzed that it does not only mean agricultural growth but it’s also about improving of the economic and social conditions of the rural population by way of raising incomes and providing them with necessary amenities like good houses, paved streets, water supply and sewerage, health services, education, roads, power, communication,’ etc.
  2. Industrial Development: The cause of industrial development was very close to Iqbal’s heart. He considered the development of industries essential for mitigating the curse of unemployment. On many international platforms there was talk of indigenous technology during his era, which is now wrongly associated with Mahatma Gandhi. The historical fact is that Iqbal was the author of this concept at the time. Examine the excerpt below from one of his speeches:

“We spend practically nothing on industry. And as I have said before and as many other speakers have pointed out, industrial development alone can save us from the curse of unemployment. There is a good future for weaving industry and for shoe-making industry in this province and if we encourage these industries, I think we shall be able to save the province from unemployment, provided we protect these industries against Cawnpore and Ahmedabad.”

  1. Skilled Workers: Iqbal was unequivocal on this issue. He said that Muslims must take to industry and craftsmanship. “In my eyes,” declared Iqbal, “the hands of a carpenter, rough and coarse due to the constant use of the saw, are far more attractive and useful compared to the soft and delicate hands of a scholar, which never carry more than the weight of a pen.”
  2. Global Exploitation: Furthermore, Iqbal had also analyzed protective trade tariffs and global economic exploitation of weaker nations by the stronger ones. His couplet below depicts his state of mind regarding the exploitative attitude of the Western economies and his dreams for the economy of Pakistan:
دیار مغرب کے رہنے والو خدا کی بستی دکاں نہیں ہے
کھرا جسے تم سمجھ رہے ہو وہ اب زر کم عیار ہوگا


(O, Residents of the West! God’s earth is not a shop;

The gold you think to be genuine, will now prove to be debased)


To sum it up, the key principles of Iqbal’s economic model are as below:

  1. Having strong bond of trust between the state & citizens (core issue of Pakistan particularly in the context of the revenue collection agencies).
  2. Human Capital & Human Development (which is a key with the present youth bulge in Pakistan).
  • Interest Free Business Eco-System (this warrants a detailed write-up but Akhuwat’s model is something we can begin with as a recent success story to replicate, beginning with pilot projects).
  1. Poor Centred Policies (inclusive economic policies resulting in justice and peace which in turn produce a conducive business environment leading to economic upturn).
  2. Self-reliance, which is the core of Iqbal’s philosophy and economic model.

If these core elements of Iqbal’s economic philosophy are properly implemented, there is no reason why Pakistan cannot progress on the path of economic prosperity. How can that be done and where to begin with are the concluding areas we’ll discuss in the last part of this series.