2021: A year of challenges and opportunities | By Frank F Islam, US

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2021: A year of challenges and opportunities


WHILE WAVES of inflation and Covid-19 economic and health after-effects kept pushing masses to the wall in 2021, Pakistan and Pakistanis continued to persevere.

By doing this, they were able to convert many of the challenges confronting the nation to opportunities.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge these steps forward as 2021 draws to a close. Most notable from the global perspective, was the hosting of 2021’s World Environment Day. Pakistan is listed as one of the ten most climate vulnerable countries in the world.

In spite of this, because of its flagship Green Initiatives, it was deemed to be a worthy host for this global discussion of what to do to combat climate change, restore the ecosystem and to reverse the decline in biodiversity.

The most notable accomplishments within Pakistan include: Governmental initiatives to combat Covid-19, alleviate poverty and improve health-care.

Individuals seizing the initiative with the emergence of female entrepreneurs and citizens speaking out against hate crime.

Let me comment briefly on each of these in turn. Due to its vaccination drive, it is reported that Pakistan has done quite well in combating Covid-19. While neighbouring countries experienced a high number of infections and tragic losses of life, near the end of the year Pakistan’s numbers stood at 1,293,715 cases and 28,909 people dead due to Coronavirus.

These numbers were kept so low because a total of 65,149,948 people had been fully vaccinated and 92,086,806 had been administered their first doses of the vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “The groundwork WHO and Pakistan have laid on combating other diseases has been a decisive factor in limiting the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak so far.”

In this year, Pakistan launched Ehsaas (Feeling) Program, which is a platform for implementing various measures of poverty alleviation (income support, food safety, education and health).

This program aligned with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s New Year resolutions for 2021 which included a Zero hunger initiative and universal health coverage for all citizens.

On the health-care front, under the Sehat Sahulat Program (health cards coverage), a total of 7,919,338 families have been enrolled and 2,462,021 hospital visits have been facilitated. Each family is eligible for Rs.60,000 annual health coverage for secondary care services and Rs.3,00,000 annual coverage for primary care services.

Turning from the positive to the negative, there was a brutal mob killing in Sialkot of a Sri Lankan accused of blasphemy. The Sri Lankan was a manager of a textile factory.

This tragic incident resulted in many across Pakistan speaking out against those who would give a bad name to their country and religion. A group of heads of religious schools met the Sri Lankan Ambassador to express solidarity with the grieved family and to denounce such acts.

Finally, on an uplifting note, there was the performance of the Pakistani cricket team in the T20 World Cup. This performance was kicked off by their win against the Indian cricket team. The win was important and special for all Pakistanis.

More important for me was to see, the ‘real victory moment’ for both nations which was heart-melting hugs between skipper Virat Kohli of India and match hero Muhammad Rizwan of Pakistan.

In 2021 Pakistan and Pakistanis converted many challenges to opportunities. Those opportunities provide the platforms for greater progress in all of these areas. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said: “With Faith, Discipline and Selfless Devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.”

In 2021, Pakistan and Pakistanis have begun a very worthwhile journey of achievement. In 2022 and going forward, they should heed the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and continue to use their faith, discipline and selfless devotion to continue that journey in order to improve the climate, alleviate poverty, enhance health care, develop new entrepreneurs, promote peace and harmony within the country and the region and to compete with honour, dignity and respect with other countries on the playing fields. Those are my words and wishes as 2021 draws to a close. Happy New Year!

—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.

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