Recently, I had the opportunity to meet young entrepreneurs of Pakistan. They came from diverse backgrounds and all of them had ingenious ideas for new startups based in Pakistan. It was a fulfilling experience for me to see a younger generation with grand ideas transforming their dreams into reality. I admire innovators and entrepreneurs; they represent the potential for progress and change in any society. Innovation has become the key driver of development for any society in today’s age of disruption.

Two of the basic yet most important attributes that all successful innovators and entrepreneurs possess are ‘optimism’ and ‘self-belief’. Innovators and entrepreneurs have a unique ability to see the half-full portion of the proverbial glass; because when you try to roll out a new idea or invention, there is a high degree of uncertainty about the outcome, and the very real possibility that it might not succeed. And if this ‘fear of failure’ prevails, then any new idea or invention would never become a reality. Similarly, positive thinking and positive self-image are an integral part of any nation’s success. Therefore, it is quintessential for Pakistanis to internalise these two attributes in order to come out of this perpetual low-state equilibrium that we always find ourselves in. It is a difficult task because, as a country, our material conditions are not exemplary. Furthermore, there are some vested interests who are adamant on exploiting our vulnerabilities to purport a narrative of “negativity” and “hopelessness”. These cynics work overtime to manufacture — and continue to project — a fiction entered on the notion that Pakistan is “drowning” on all accounts. But in reality, Pakistan has made substantial progress, and continues to make solid and irreversible progress on many fronts in last three years of PM Sharif’s government.

The evolution of democracy in Pakistan is a remarkable story of which every Pakistani should be proud of. Time and time again, the people of Pakistan showed exemplary defiance against unconstitutional dictators, who were backed by global powers. But the Pakistani nation maintained its resilient belief in constitutional democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law. As a result of the democratic struggle of the people of Pakistan, barring few exceptions all major political parties and civil society adhere to the notion that ‘constitutional democracy’ is the fundamental essence of the federation of Pakistan. Pakistan has faced the most hideous forms of terrorist attacks, but the brave Pakistani nation did not surrender and continues to battle terrorism. The biggest trick in the ‘gimmickry book’ of our cynics is to compare and contrast Pakistan with the countries of the global North. It is obvious that if we take a static image of 2016 screenshot, Pakistan would appear as an immensely troubled country vis-à-vis erstwhile colonial powers. This approach is intentionally adopted to undermine the positive change and the progress that is taking place in Pakistan. An objective critical analysis would be to evaluate the performance of Pakistan in its own group of countries which shared similar conditions and based on previous years’ performances, or with that of previous regimes. No doubt, we couldn’t sustain our early successes in comparison with South Korea, Malaysia and China. But the major reason for this was our political instability and lack of consistency in policies. Hopefully, we have learnt our lessons.

The writer is Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, and tweets at @betterpakistan

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet young entrepreneurs of Pakistan. They came from diverse backgrounds and all of them had ingenious ideas for new startups based in Pakistan. It was a fulfilling experience for me to see a younger generation with grand ideas transforming their dreams into reality. I admire innovators and entrepreneurs; they represent the potential for progress and change in any society. Innovation has become the key driver of development for any society in today’s age of disruption.

Two of the basic yet most important attributes that all successful innovators and entrepreneurs possess are ‘optimism’ and ‘self-belief’. Innovators and entrepreneurs have a unique ability to see the half-full portion of the proverbial glass; because when you try to roll out a new idea or invention, there is a high degree of uncertainty about the outcome, and the very real possibility that it might not succeed. And if this ‘fear of failure’ prevails, then any new idea or invention would never become a reality. Similarly, positive thinking and positive self-image are an integral part of any nation’s success. Therefore, it is quintessential for Pakistanis to internalise these two attributes in order to come out of this perpetual low-state equilibrium that we always find ourselves in. It is a difficult task because, as a country, our material conditions are not exemplary. Furthermore, there are some vested interests who are adamant on exploiting our vulnerabilities to purport a narrative of “negativity” and “hopelessness”. These cynics work overtime to manufacture — and continue to project — a fiction entered on the notion that Pakistan is “drowning” on all accounts. But in reality, Pakistan has made substantial progress, and continues to make solid and irreversible progress on many fronts in last three years of PM Sharif’s government.

The evolution of democracy in Pakistan is a remarkable story of which every Pakistani should be proud of. Time and time again, the people of Pakistan showed exemplary defiance against unconstitutional dictators, who were backed by global powers. But the Pakistani nation maintained its resilient belief in constitutional democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law. As a result of the democratic struggle of the people of Pakistan, barring few exceptions all major political parties and civil society adhere to the notion that ‘constitutional democracy’ is the fundamental essence of the federation of Pakistan. Pakistan has faced the most hideous forms of terrorist attacks, but the brave Pakistani nation did not surrender and continues to battle terrorism. The biggest trick in the ‘gimmickry book’ of our cynics is to compare and contrast Pakistan with the countries of the global North. It is obvious that if we take a static image of 2016 screenshot, Pakistan would appear as an immensely troubled country vis-à-vis erstwhile colonial powers. This approach is intentionally adopted to undermine the positive change and the progress that is taking place in Pakistan. An objective critical analysis would be to evaluate the performance of Pakistan in its own group of countries which shared similar conditions and based on previous years’ performances, or with that of previous regimes. No doubt, we couldn’t sustain our early successes in comparison with South Korea, Malaysia and China. But the major reason for this was our political instability and lack of consistency in policies. Hopefully, we have learnt our lessons.

Just a couple of years ago, Pakistan was labelled as “the most dangerous place on earth” by the international media. Today, the same international media recognises Pakistan as an emerging market and a destination for billions of dollars of CPEC investment. Not too long ago, Pakistan was thought to be a country on the verge of a default. Today, Pakistan has achieved highest 4.8 per cent growth rate in last eight years and a historic high of $23 billion in foreign exchange reserves and has freed itself from the International Monetary Fund’s loan support programme. This is a remarkable story that should generate positivity and optimism among all segments of society. But in a sad and stark contrast to this, some segments of the Pakistani media and body politic project a narrative that the economic landscape in Pakistan has deteriorated in the last three years. The negative narrative being spun is that the government has overburdened the country with debt. The truth is that the debt/GDP ratio has remained unchanged in the last three years. Such narratives, which are politically motivated, are not only factually incorrect, but also hinder the growth of confidence and positive self-image among our people.

Pakistan of today is a democratic and open society. As policymakers, we look forward to contextualised critiques on the performance of the government. But doing so does not necessarily mean that facts should be distorted under the guise of “critique”. On what grounds do certain segments of the media and some politicians assert that Pakistan is worse off in 2016, compared to where it was in 2013? Isn’t this an irony that while the international media is bullish on Pakistan and much of our own media would every evening try to sell us a doomsday scenario.

The GDP growth rate has been steadily rising since 2013. The unemployment rate is under 6 per cent. The fiscal deficit is 5 per cent (as compared to 9 per cent in 2013). The current inflation rate is around 5 per cent: the lowest in the last 13 years. The Pakistan Stock Exchange surpassed the ‘psychological barrier’ of forty thousand points for the first time in its history. Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) has upgraded the status of Pakistan to an emerging market — something that seemed improbable three years ago. CPEC has brought opportunity of the century to Pakistan. All time highest investment in energy, transport, and higher education is taking place. End to the energy crisis is in sight and the security situation has improved drastically. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme has successfully been completed. The world’s leading credit agencies viz. Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s have upgraded Pakistan’s credit rating from stable to positive. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index — and to the consternation of many of the government’s opponents and antagonists — corruption is on the declining path in Pakistan. Pakistan’s ranking has improved on Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) for year 2015-16. Pakistan is emerging as an ICT and startup hot spot in the world. The literacy rate is up to 60 per cent. In the last three years, the state’s social safety net has been further broadened for the most disadvantaged segments of our society through the Benazir Income Support Programme and the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Programme. This shows that Pakistan is on the right trajectory and that is why I call Pakistan of today a ‘Rising Pakistan’.

I always try to look at the half-full side of the proverbial glass. Therefore, at one level, and even in the face of what I consider the unjustified criticism of our government by our cynics, I search for positive things. That positivity leads me to conclude that political actors, civil society and the media have attained substantial freedoms in Pakistan and, given the historical context of Pakistan, this is undoubtedly a sign of enormous progress. Being an optimist, I look forward to the day when our cynics will attain a respectable balance in their criticism, and would also recognise and highlight the positive things that are taking place in Pakistan. Can our cynics reciprocate this sense of positivity? Or are they destined to be unfortunate cynics forever?

Source:

Discuss

SHARE

LEAVE A REPLY