Pakistan in Perspective: Past and Present

By: Kalim Farooqui

As we celebrate 72nd Independence Day of Pakistan, it is appropriate that we take stock of what Pakistan was, what it went through in recent decades and what we can hope for in the future. It came into being on 14th of August 1947. This was the period when the World War II has just recently ended and many nations from Japan in the East to Germany in the West were rebuilding themselves from the ravages of war, which besides taking numerous human lives, was also a major setback to their economies. In a troubled world at the time, Pakistan set itself to emerge as a new and progressive nation. Laurels were earned by the founding managers of our country in every field since they had struggled for Pakistan and were very much on track with the teachings, wisdom and the vision of the Quaid, Mohammed Ali Jinnah had for the newly found Pakistan. It is common knowledge that Pakistan’s economy in the 50’s and 60’s was amongst the fast growing in the world and the most recognized in Asia. Economic collaboration, defense pacts, strategic partnerships from Japan in the East to Germany in the West was common knowledge with Heads of State and Governments as frequent visitors to Pakistan. The growing potential and importance of Pakistan in the region was the key factor for Pakistan becoming member in the likes of South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) of 1954 and Central Treat Organization of 1955 (CENTO). Pakistan was amongst the select few countries to be included in such very important pacts and treaties by USA to play its evolving role in the region and specially in Asia for being an emerging country pursuing pertinent policies as a developing country should.

Pakistan’s industrial base was primarily established in collaboration with Japan and Germany in several important areas while the United States contributed immensely towards the infra-structure. The gradual rise in quality textile products was due to bilateral trade with Japan where raw cotton was exported to Japan and in return Pakistan imported textile machinery to modernize our industry while for the engineering sector it was primarily with Germany. USA was a major contributor to the development of infrastructure funding two major dams, Mangla and Tarbela which accounted for almost 70% of the country’s power output at the time; besides their contribution towards improvement in the agriculture sector with both technical support as well as with related machinery to improve farming techniques for greater outputs while the demand gap being filled in kind such as supplying the badly needed wheat.

Technocrats and bureaucrats from Pakistan were consulted to assist the other developing countries with their development schemes. Commonly acknowledged is Pakistan’s contribution towards South Korea with its development plan, Malaysia with their constitution, UAE, Malta and Singapore with their airlines and the list carries on. Emirates airline which is amongst the world’s best today was first flown from Dubai to Karachi by a Pakistani pilot, Captain Fazal Ghani, on 25th October 1985 with inflight service attendants also trained in Pakistan. The flight from Emirates to Karachi was given the code EK which is still in existence. Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John Kennedy preferred to fly PIA from New York to London in 1962. She was so impressed with the quality of cuisine, in-flight service and the professionalism of the crew that when asked by Captain M.M. Salehjee how was her flight, she endorsed PIA’s slogan by simply replying, “Great people to fly with.” Diplomats from Pakistan spread far and wide contributed immensely towards setting the image of Pakistan. Pakistan had sent its first trade mission to Japan under Mirza Abul Isphahni as early in September 1948 to review Japanese textile industry for Pakistan’s benefit.  Few would know that the only Head of State ever to be received at the airport by the Emperor of Japan himself at the time, was the President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan. He also being personally received by John Kennedy at the airport and being presented with guard of honour on July 11th, 1961 and being together driven through the streets amidst flag chanting Americans in New York and Washington is still vivid in the memories of the many who witnessed.

Pakistan played a significant role during 1947-51 in lifting the Occupation and restoring of Japan’s Sovereignty. Pakistan was known as the “tower of strength” on the Japanese peace treaty signed on September 8th, 1951 at San Francisco as was stated by the then US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Unlike many countries, Pakistan waived off war reparations to Japan to help build its economy. Pakistan was among the first few countries that had ratified the Japanese peace treaty. It was Sir Zafar Ullah Khan, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and the first Asian at the time to preside over the UN General Assembly as also the International Court of Justice, who supported the application of Japan for entry into the United Nations. It was in 1961 that the first state visit ever by a Pakistani Head of State was made to meet his counterpart in Germany, Karl Heinrich Lübk, who recognized Pakistan as an example of successful development policy in a developing country and partnered with Pakistan to launch an industrial development program; hence becoming one of the first economic partner of Germany.

It was unfortunate for the country to have gone through an extremely difficult patch extending for over 2 decades because of regional turmoil and uncertainties. First on account of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and thereafter getting involved with the global war on terror after the 9/11 incident in America; not to mention the Iran-Iraq war lasting 8 years in the neighborhood whose spillover effects were felt in the region. Pakistan had become the front-line state fighting in both cases resulting in human losses of over 70 thousand innocent lives and billions of dollars in terms of economic losses. Pakistan had also in the meantime, denoted nuclear devises to counter the threats from India and in doing so faced sanctions which took a heavy toll on the economy. This is the period when Pakistan faced severe difficulties in overcoming the impediments that were created by factors beyond control.

Located in South Asia with an area of over 800,000 km and with a coastline of 1100 km, Pakistan with second largest Muslim population after Indonesia, borders Iran, Afghanistan, China and India. It also provides the economic corridor to the newly created States of Central Asia which too is a market of nearly 70 million people. As such, doing business in Pakistan means having possible access to almost 270 Million. Major exports from Pakistan include cotton and textile goods, sea food, rice, leather, sporting and surgical goods, carpets, fruits and vegetables; the collective volume of which is in excess of U.S. $ 25 Billion annually and with a GDP of $300 Billion and standing as an economy, at 25thth position in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. More than 400 Multinational Companies (MNC’s) are operating in Pakistan and include world icons such as Unilever, METRO, Nestle, Honda, BASF, GSK, Toyota, Standard Charter, Siemens, Suzuki, Philips and the list continues with fresh entrants like Samsung, Ajinomoto and Morinaga.

Pakistan is blessed with abundant natural resources which, besides ample virgin land, has copper fields, salt ranges, coal mines, gas reserves and the like and consequently has well established industrial base for textiles, cement, fertilizer, steel, sugar, engineering goods, leather and the list continues with industrial units providing value added goods. Information Technology exports from Pakistan is witnessing a 40% growth each year with current export at $3 Billion. With additional $500 Million from domestic sales, total annual revenue of Pakistan’s IT industry is crossing $3.5 Billion. 

-Khewra Salt Mine is the second largest in the world.
-Gwadar port is the largest deep seaport in the world
-Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton producer in the world
-Pakistan is world’s fourth largest milk producing country
-Globally over 50% of all footballs are manufactured in Pakistan
-Pakistan has the largest canal-based irrigation system in the world
-Pakistan is home to the world’s largest lignite coal reserves
-Pakistan is world’s sixth-most-populous country
-K-2 (Chagori) is the second highest mountain peak in the world
-Mehrgarh, (6000 B.C.) is amongst the oldest civilizations of the world
-Chitral is home to the world’s highest Polo ground at 3,700 meters
-Pakistan has the eleventh-largest armed force in the world.
-Pakistan is the first Muslim country to be declared a nuclear power
-Seventh-largest collection of scientists and engineers is from Pakistan
-Tarbela Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in the world
-Shah Faisal Mosque can accommodate 100,000 worshipers at a time
-Pakistan is the land of oldest Civilization – Indus Valley and Mohenjo-Daro
-The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world
-Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest ambulance network
 -NADRA is world’s largest database issuing identity cards with relevant information
-The largest travel guidebook publisher labelled Pakistan, ‘The Next Big Thing’.

Pakistanis have been ranked the fourth most intelligent people across the world in a globally held survey. “Pakistanis are equal to the people of developed and industrialized countries when it comes to intelligence,” the survey report said. The poll was organized by the Institute of European Business Administration in 125 countries. The survey quantifies various aspects of brilliance and intellectual work in the nations of the surveyed countries. “Pakistanis outshine in the field of intelligence despite a dearth of required resources and opportunities,” the poll inferred. The case studies of Ali Moeen Nawazish, Arfa Karim and Moosa Firoz were also quoted to prove the mental aptitude of the Pakistanis. Ali secured 22 As in A-levels exams; Arfa Karim and Babar Iqbal earned the title of the youngest Microsoft Certified Experts; and Moosa recently won the World Mathematics Championship. Malala Yousafzai, became a prominent activist for the right to education and co-authored an international best seller “I am Malala”. In 2012 she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and in 2014 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Aged 17 at the time, she was the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate with Time Magazine featuring her as one of the most influential people globally. She was awarded honorary Canadian citizenship in 2017 and became the youngest person ever to address the House of Commons of Canada. 

With such facts and many more in the background and having amongst its paramount resource, its intelligent youth, with almost 60% under the age of 30 years, Pakistan’s future holds great potential. No wonder that World Startup report, a US based organization in the Silicon Valley where 12,500 Pakistanis are already employed, while evaluating countries of the region, points to the fact that Pakistan is the most favored destination for starting new businesses. The number of 3G and 4G users in Pakistan are almost 70 million and the number of mobile phone users in Pakistan has reached 160 million; all in recent years. According to Goldman Sachs investment bank and economist Jim O’Neill in a research paper has identified Pakistan amongst one of the Next Eleven countries having a high potential of becoming, along with the BRICS, the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. An article in the FORBES by Daniel Runde & titled “The Next Columbia Success Story?” start by saying, “Pakistan has the potential to be a global turnaround story”.

While the world looks at Pakistan as a potential destiny for trade and investments, the government needs to seriously look at the following elements being the basic ingredient towards a progressive economy:

-Fiscal discipline
-Ease of doing business
-Cost of doing business
-Consistency in fiscal policies
-Current account deficit
-Foreign Direct Investments
-Rationalization of taxing structure 
-Law and order

While law is taking its own course with an independent and effective judiciary, order towards good governance is bound to set-in since accountability at all levels is being seriously and effectively pursued. China through China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has agreed to invest more than 50 Billion Dollars for infrastructure improvement and towards which, no less than the President of China himself visited Pakistan in 2015 to witness the signing of agreements in different sectors which included roads, highways and energy. This single phenomenon is being viewed to be the game changer for Pakistan in the days ahead since the Government of Pakistan has also made plans for several Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s) to be built inviting foreign investors to benefit from the packages being announced by different provinces. In addition, the Chinese Government held a meeting in Beijing in May of 2017 attended by nearly 70 countries and International Organizations for the “Belt and Road” initiative (OBOR). The plan identifies 65 countries along the Belt and Road. 44 nations were represented with 20 Heads of State present themselves including the Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Pakistan stands to greatly benefit from this Chinese “Silk Road” initiative allowing connectivity for the extensive corridor planned to cater to 62% of world’s population and 30% of its economic output.

Given the regional peace, political stability and the government’s vision of good and effective governance, Pakistan has all the ingredients that a nation can desire for it to become an economic hub contributing towards the betterment of society.

Pakistan Zindabad!!

The writer is a member of several Bi-Lateral Business Forums in Pakistan and the Managing Director of Technology Links.  Email: <kftl@cyber.net.pk>

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