Perhaps a lot. Certainly more Right than what’s wrong. Pakistan came into existence about 75 years back, which in the life of building nations is relatively short span of time. A country carved out of sub- continent, with more splitting features, than unifying, obviously needs more time, than those countries that have homogeneity.
But Pakistan did it, notwithstanding, the breaking away of East Pakistan, which occurred more due to diabolical machinations of the enemy forces which in turn were supported by international power brokers. In diversity, it has found unity. Small aberrations to the contrary exist in every country; in neighbouring India, there are at least 10 provinces (states) where there are suppressed separatist movements.
Pakistan has around it four neighbours. Each of them is in different stages of economic and political evolution. The area is both volatile and progressive. We get affected by the events in these countries. We have waged a battle to bring peace to at least in one neighbour, alongside the forces of international community. A price we paid. A price we continue to pay. Yet, Pakistan is seen as a country that can easily play its dominant role in regional politics.
We began our nuclear research programme in mid-seventies, and by the late 1980s we were ready; compulsions of international politics prevented its pronouncement. Indian detonation, the second one, prompted a reaction. Our scientists delivered results. The objective being that it is a mere deterrent, and no more. We have emerged as a responsible state.
A hostile neighbour brought upon us almost four wars in different time zones of our existence; our well trained armed forces repulsed, with force. And recently, it was demonstrated to any who may imagine to do any misadventure against our beloved country how our state of preparedness is — in less than few minutes, both intruding aircraft were downed. We have an army that every single citizen is proud of, and that it is formidable, developed in a short span of time is commendable. Enough reason to know that, there is strong right here.
There are many positives about Pakistan that are overlooked as a given thing by the compatriots and deliberately ignored by those who are pained to see our progress despite the many oddities of a myriad of challenges. This piece cannot do full justice to the many good aspects this nation represents, so here on the canvas are only few strokes of brushes with some well-grounded colours of facts.
Pakistan today, amongst the comity of nations, is the 24th largest economy of the world. In 1947, the combined population of both the west and eastern wings was 30 million; today without East Pakistan, it is a teeming population of 227 million people. In the first four decades following Independence, our average GDP growth was 6%. In the 1960s we were an economic miracle in South Asia. It is believed that South Korea took our blueprint of the economic model and implemented it successfully. Political upheavals didn’t permit the sustainability of that model in our case, but the Koreans pursued it tooth and nail. We have the results before us. They progressed and we stalled. The point to highlight is that we have always had and continue to have brain power to innovate and do something new and different. We were on right course.
Pakistan was and is a land of opportunities. The size of our population gives us the status of a market to be reckoned with. The geostrategic location allows us to be the key to the Gulf and the Central Asia Republics. We are positioned to promote transit trade, bringing in revenue, from overseas. Our current GDP’s size is $347 billion while the external debt stands at $127 billion.
The economy has great potential to grow. We are moving from an agrarian economic model to a fair and healthy combination of industrialisation with improvements in agricultural output. Undoubtedly, there is significant room for improving the yields per acre. The arable land is 25%, which is a blessing. The soil is fertile. We continue to produce and in some good years have exportable surpluses too; the major crops being, wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. To protect our water resources we built the world’s largest earth-filled dam, Tarbela, followed by Mangla; right now three dams are under speedy construction. We have done right. We are moving in right direction in saving water resources. The wastage will be prevented.
We are blessed abundantly with resources of produce and excavation. We have the 2nd highest salt reserves; 3rd highest copper reserves; 5th highest coal reserves, 5th highest gold; and our cotton production is 4th highest, 4th highest milk production; 8th highest wheat production and 9th highest meat production. With that economic profile of resources, we can only do better, through focused planning and management.
We have done reasonably well in the following sectors: food processing, logistics, textiles, cement, automotive, IT, housing and construction, tourism and hospitality. Our fruits are in great demand globally such as mangoes, oranges and berries. These are exported too, giving us forex earnings. We are on right trajectory to promote domestic tourism. With political stability, this industry will receive a major boost.
Our trade volumes with our business partners continue to grow. We have a decent combined trade turnover of $95 billion. This is likely to grow with export target set for $35 billion during the next fiscal. We are moving in the right direction; imports will be curbed. Again, the country’s compass appears to be in right direction
The textile industry has fetched us good results. The fruits of labour require adroit actions. And we seem to be on right course. Our textile exports are on the rise. Our apparel and home textile products are globally popular. We produce for established brands; and export to well-known retailers. We have opportunity to scale up on the value, especially where China is vacating. FIFA has yet again ordered footballs to be used in the World Cup. It is a matter of great rejoicement to visit Sialkot and see the sports, medical instruments and other industries’ progress and produce according to international standards. The only place where investment in R& D is visible. We are obviously doing right.
The power generation and transmission remains a challenge. But the attention it is receiving, we will in good time be on the right course of action. The network of roads, highways and motorways are in place; the communication strategy requires huge investments, but the payback is assured on a long-term basis, with sustainable revenue streams. We have done well in this arena too. With China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in attendance to the future economic growth, the presence of tributaries in the form of motorways will tremendously benefit the supply chain, for both the local and overseas corridors.
National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), is a success story. Only a few countries have unique identity numbers for their populace. The assimilation of Data has become easier, for the tax authorities to pursue, tax collections. Further it will help in complete digitisation of the economy, resulting over a period of time, the complete elimination of cash transactions, and hence, therefore, the decline in informal economy. We are already treading on this path with speed. Programmes like Raast and other payments systems will rely heavily on NICs.
Our ship-breaking industry is amongst the best in the world. Without the sophisticated tools, our local captains can beach the vessel of any size, with no loss to the ship. That’s talent we possess.
The financial industry is growing by leaps and bounds. We are producing bankers of high quality who are in demand in the overseas markets. The privatisation programme of the decade of the 2000s has paid rich dividends. All the ill-effects of State ownership have been removed. We have a successfully running banking and finance industry. Need we remind ourselves that in 1947, we had only a handful of banks and an even less number of bankers with experience or seniority. That’s success. The privatisation of industries and promotion of cellular companies, coupled with liberalisation of consumer banking, something like 11.8 million new jobs were created. That’s being on the track.
The foreign exchange reserves that had taken a plunge owing to detonation were at a dismal low of less than $300 million in 1998. During the decade of 2000s, they climbed back to over $ 12 billion, reaching up to $25 billion, till recently. This reflects financial tenacity and resilience. The foreign direct investment during this period also peaked.
The most important “Right” about Pakistan is its “People”. With apologies to the bard, I am rewriting Shakespeare’s words,” What is this country [he wrote city] But the people?”. They are simple, humble and friendly. The aberrations caused by the handful elite must be ignored in a fair and just evaluation. The educated middle class, despite pressures continues to grow, albeit at snails speed. The poverty levels may be striking, but the movement is upwards for its alleviation. It will take time. But the path has been chose to correct. Our traditions of hospitality, cordiality and living in peaceful coexistence haven’t fallen victim to economic well-being/growth. The diversity in culture, language and ethnicity haven’t cracked up the social fabric. The strong and binding family ties assist in making households work through bouts of inflation. That’s success.
We may be harbouring on the poverty line, yet our society is known for its philanthropy. We have our Edhis, Saylanis, etc.
Fifty percent of the population constitutes the female gender. An economic unit that cannot be ignored. By legislation and by encouragement through practice, women are being brought to the frontline of economic activity, both in the rural and urban areas. Female education is receiving most attention from the government and the civil society. That’s the right, we all must be proud of.
The country stands out in sports, be it cricket, snooker, tennis, squash. In these games and sporting activities, we have produced international stars from Pakistan. That’s a pride.
The youthful population, which is almost 65% below the age of 35 years’ is a major resource. They are hardworking, industrious, with dexterity to do anything. A colleague of mine couldn’t get his Canon camera repaired overseas including Japan, but it was repaired with perfection in Karachi’s Saddar area. This is the talent about which we must ensure right policymaking to ensure they remain self-propelling units of energy.
Pakistan sits by virtue of all the right actions taken in the past and present in the cockpit of international community with respect, inclusive of its leading role in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), being the founder nation and also in view of being the second largest Muslim country.
We have so many positives in our favour; the Pakistan of the 7-11pm on the television screen is not the reality. The truth is stated here. There is an English proverb that goes, “it is an ill bird that fouls its own nest”.
John Quincy Adams, one of the founding fathers of America, had said: “My toast would be, may our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right”. And this scribe’s prayer is likewise for Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022