By Fareeha Qayoom
Pakistan is 61 years old this August. 61 years of independence! Imagine that. Despite a lot of strange people who have nothing better to do than wait anxiously for us to fall flat on our faces! So survival of Pakistan despite all odds is a definite cause for celebration! Let’s celebrate!
There are two schools of thought in Pakistan right now; the optimists and the pessimists (who call themselves realists!) – the optimists think things could have been worse, so thank God they are not, the realists think things will only get worse so jumping ship is the only option if you have money to buy dual nationality.
Our times remind me of the opening passage of ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens, it goes something like this:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, English novelist (1812 – 1870)
Pakistan is facing many challenges today. Yes, things are tough. It’s a fight for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. Unfortunately, Pakistan is the proverbial bone that all top dogs are fighting over. To simplify things – there are only two goals facing us as a nation- a continuous battle for survival and a better quality of life. There may not be much difference between military and civilian regimes in these terms for all in our checkered past but as a nation we should wake up and try to help ourselves too. The so called rich elite need to take some of their money out of their Swiss bank accounts and spend it here providing moderate health care, education, and housing facilities, in the process, they can create more wealth for themselves and as a by-product some essential city infrastructure and better quality of life for all – recycling money is very Islamic – you know venture capitalism? It’s an idea borrowed from our Islamic heritage by the west. We need more entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, fund managers and financiers. The private sector should get involved and create some major quality brands in all key sectors of economy including Real Estate – why should the foreign investors only reap the benefit of our resources and labor? Why can’t our local investors create some mean brands (and jobs) that can compete globally and locally? This however, doesn’t mean that we should take a license out to rip off the masses – our products and price structures need to be moderate to match the pockets of the middle class – only then can we have a sustainable economy that can provide opportunities of growth for all.
To put things in context, we have lots of land – cultivable and otherwise. Creating new infrastructure (and fixing the old) should be a piece of cake. Some of it is suitable for setting up new cities with agriculture estates and forests, industrial estates, businesses and commercial spaces, why shouldn’t we benefit from our God given resources? Who are we waiting for? Why should foreign investors and multinational firms only benefit from our lands and resources? Why can’t we invest in our lands too instead of depending solely on foreign investments and investors to come and create opportunities? Why should it always be a ‘Peter Gabriel’ who introduces us to our own potentially rich resource called ‘Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,’ in other words, why do we need the west to show us the way? Why do we need Emaar, Bandar Raya Developments, Al Ghurair Giga, Meinhardt Pakistan, Taavun (Pvt.) Ltd, Maxcorp, Best Brands etc to show us the potential in our own country? I am not saying ban all foreign investments. I am saying create some local wealth too. So what if the gap between the rich and poor would widen with the wealth going in the pockets of few? It’s happening anyway. At least, let’s all create good for the maximum number of people and improve the quality of life for some of the people for some of the time. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country?” thing, know what I mean?
Valuemag continues to explore these questions and raise some more in this special patriotic issue of August. Come celebrate with us sixty-one years of Pakistan while we explore Lahore and its suburbs…
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, August 2008, issue 4, under the section ‘from the editor’s desk-August 2008’