New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise described the rise of Pakistan's middle class in a story from Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh in the following words:
For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.
Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.
But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.
In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.
“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”
GeoTV is illustrating this welcome phenomenon of upward social mobility in Pakistan with a series of motivational "Zara Sochiey" videos on young men and women who have risen from humble origins to achieve significant successes in recent years. Each individual portrayed in the series has overcome adversity and focused on acquiring education as a ticket to improve his or her economic and social situation.
GeoTV videos feature a number of young men and women, including Saima Bilal, Kashif Faiq, Qaisar Abbas and many others, to inspire and encourage other Pakistanis to pursue their dreams against all odds.
Contrary to the incessant talk of doom and gloom, the fact is that the level of educational attainment has been rising in recent decades. In fact, Pakistan has been increasing enrollment of students in schools at a faster rate since 1990 than India, according to data compiled and reported by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jhong-Wa Lee . In 1990, there were 66.2% of Pakistanis vs 51.6% of Indians in 15+ age group who had had no schooling. In 2000, there were 60.2% Pakistanis vs 43% Indians with no schooling. In 2010, Pakistan reduced it to 38% vs India's 32.7%.
As of 2010, there are 380 (vs 327 Indians) out of every 1000 Pakistanis age 15 and above who have never had any formal schooling. Of the remaining 620 (vs 673 Indians) who enrolled in school, 22 (vs 20 Indians) dropped out before finishing primary school, and the remaining 598 (vs 653 Indians) completed it. There are 401 (vs 465 Indians) out of every 1000 Pakistanis who made it to secondary school. 290 (vs 69 Indians) completed secondary school while 111 (vs. 394 Indians) dropped out. Only 55 (vs 58 Indians) made it to college out of which 39 (vs 31 Indians) graduated with a degree.
Education and development efforts are beginning to bear fruit even in remote areas of Pakistan, including Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that FATA's Bajaur agency alone has 616 school with over 60,000 boys and girls receiving take-home rations. Two new university campuses have been approved for FATA region and thousands of kilometers of new roads are being constructed. After a recent visit to FATA, Indian journalist Hindol Sengupta wrote in The Hindu newspaper that "even Bajaur has a higher road density than India"
Prior to significant boost in public spending on education during Musharraf years, the number of private schools in Pakistan grew 10 fold from about 3000 in 1983 to over 30,000 in 2000. Primary school enrollment in 1983 has increased 937%, far greater than the 57% population increase in the last two decades.
Unfortunately, there has been a decline in public spending on education since 2008, even as not-for-profit private sector organizations, mostly NGOs, have stepped up to try to fill the gap. Last year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.
Clearly, this is not the time for Pakistan's political leadership to let up on the push for universal education. The momentum that developed in Musharraf years needs to be maintained, even accelerated to get to the goal of 100% literacy and 100% enrollment of all children in Pakistan. Nothing less will do if Pakistan is to achieve economic competitiveness on the global stage.
Here are some of GeoTV's Zara Scohiye video clips:
Educational Attainment in Pakistan
Foreign Visitors to Pakistan Pleasantly Surprised
Pakistan's Infrastructure and M2 Motorway
India Pakistan Comparison 2011
Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers
Branchless Banking Responds to Pakistan Floods
Pakistan's Rural Economy Recovering
Pakistan's Growing Middle Class
Pakistan is Too Big to Fail
FMCG Consumption Boom in Rural Pakistan
Pakistan Visits Open Indian Eyes