A Pakistan for my children
GROWING up as part of the community of baby boomers who went through global challenges never seen before ranging from economic instability, security issues, political instability, and now pandemic.
Despite all this, we endeavoured for a political system that can meet the expectation of the masses to deliver on the range of desirable political goods ensuring rule of law, security of possessions, a just judicial system, employment generation, and a sustainable economy with a set of values that ensures fair play.
Still, the greatest challenge of our time is that despite so many changes and technological advancements, a sizeable population is not even on development path and is caught up in a poverty trap.
As Pakistanis, we saw some great moments as becoming the first Muslim nuclear state, a nation with the first female Prime Minister and being the world champions in the sporting fields.
However, the quest for a stable and prosperous Pakistan seems to continue as we enter a crossroads of our history.
My children and students ask me whether we are heading in the right direction or if a course correction is needed?
While the question is relatively simple the reply needs serious introspection. A rapidly growing body of evidence and literature like Daron Acemoglu and James A.
Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail” or Ray Dalio’s account of “why nations succeed and fail”, it has been repeatedly underscored that nations only fail when they are shuddered by internal violence and can no longer deliver positive results to their inhabitants and draws onto cascading problems.
As we enter the election season again, I interacted with youngsters and discussed what they expect from the government.
The response was interesting and across awide scope. They want a country without any prejudice against any cast, ethnicity, gender, or class.
They hope the new government that is formed as a result of the electoral process is oriented towards development through high priority mega-infrastructure and social sector projects benefiting all and not few, creating employment opportunities and providing the ease of doing business and success.
Based on the response of the younger generation, I believe the incoming government must set up an Industrial emergency as “Raddul Ghurbat” and create an enabling environment, conducive to investments and innovations, set a confluence of favourable conditions and norms of free speech and open debate to generate new ideas that create limitless economic possibilities.
Innovation and research need to be supported that spur modernization, development of local technological capabilities, the introduction of new indigenous resources and R&D.
It is hoped that immediate and best-conceived strategies, manifesto and measures will be made by the incoming government to end the yawning gap between the haves and have nots, set priority to end poverty, social injustice and unemployment as poverty breeds new conflicts and weakens governments and makes governments less capable to ensure domestic security and defence against foreign invasions.
The new government should pay attention to good governance and in particular good development governance.
It must explore national, regional and global connectivity and markets. For a productive export-led model a focused approach needs to be taken immediately on the development and efficiency of the border crossings and seaports.
A rebalancing of the focus toward the Blue Economy could potentially be very beneficial for a country that has a coastline of over 1000 Kms.
The work on CPEC Phase II, CAREC, and other initiatives for regional connectivity may be expanded and the most important determinant for this is productivity.
The CPEC SEZs may be used as the centre of excellence to propel rapid industrial growth that could be replicated elsewhere.
As they are replicated, multiple sites and models of industrialization and economic growth need to be studied and developed with the immediate availability of utilities and suitable infrastructure.
Like a chain reaction, the more places that will undergo this industrial change, the more they synergize with each other and thereby create the basis for yet more development.
Similarly, the maritime potential of the CPEC may be explored and utilized as that can also generate enormous job opportunities.
Overall, it was felt that for a nation to be economically developed, the younger generation expects that their government should be focused on sustainable development.
The Government has a vital role to play in identifying and financing high-priority infrastructure projects and it must ensure all necessary services available to the nation.
The Government must create an enabling environment for private sector enterprises (both foreign and local) to flourish and gain their trust by making them believe that they will be allowed to make profits.
A government must also maintain internal peace, ensure the security of its people and property, and uphold a just judicial system that can enforce and guard the national territory.
To address the headwinds, an integrated and synergistic approach needs to be taken by introducing a development system suiting our own culture and environment.
Lastly, modern agriculture is important because it is still the largest employment sector in Pakistan.
The development of agriculture should be done to facilitate the diversification of the rural economy through modernization of the production processes in agriculture and provide employment opportunities to rural youth.
Let’s use our imaginations to see how extreme poverty is addressed by creating employment opportunities for all.
Pakistan can compete through its capable and hardworking human resources, raw materials, hydrocarbons, and agricultural products.
Yet it also must fast industrialize, and incentivize new industries like petrochemicals, food processing, steel production, textiles and apparel, pharmaceuticals, etc, that can generate employment and exports.
We may leverage and remove bottlenecks for the budding IT base so that new service industries, including tourism, telemedicine, e-commerce, and mobile banking can fast develop.
We need to learn from our neighbouring countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Iran to identify selective interventions in certain priority sectors that can be promoted through greater forward and backward linkage effects.
To achieve all this, it is expected that the leadership should be transformational, pragmatic, bold, efficient and yet flexible to improve and benefit from what already exists before attempting to build new realities and help us achieve the path that the great Quaid had set for us when he said “We have undoubtedly achieved Pakistan, and that too without bloody war, practically peacefully, by moral and intellectual force, and with the power of the pen, which is no less mighty than that of the sword and so our righteous cause has triumphed.
Are we now going to besmear and tarnish this greatest achievement for which there is no parallel in the history of the world? ”
—The writer is a Projects Management specialist and is a faculty member of the Projects Management Depts at various institutes/universities and has also served as a diplomat in China and Vietnam.
He is the Honorary Director at Global Governance Institue, China.