Monday, May 26, 2008

Should Pakistanis be Proud of Their Country?

Guest Post By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

On the day of our departure for Jeddah, with our bags packed and goodbyes dispensed with, our group found itself together at the coffee shop of the hotel. There each one of us talked about whether this trip had changed our opinions of Pakistan and its people.

This is a country of about 160 million people scattered about four provinces and Azad Kashmir. As the world's fifth largest democracy, Pakistan has had its share of questionable leadership, but there is enough evidence that the country's progress had not taken a back seat.

We all agreed that the media had been over blowing Pakistan's lack of safety and security. Never once had we felt threatened for our personal safety during our entire trip, and there were many times when individually we would set off on our own to the busiest sections of the cities we had visited.

Nether were our pre-visit ideas about a dirty and poor country justified, for we saw enough to prove otherwise. The infrastructure wherever we went was either intact or in the process of being upgraded.

We also felt that in the context of their internal politics, news of Pakistan's emerging industries and economies were continuously being relegated to the back pages of the media.

Perhaps it has more to do with Pakistan's preoccupation with conflicts at their northern borders over recent times, but little is written on the fact that with more than 100 universities and 150 research institutes, Pakistan produces 100,000 engineering graduates annually, and another 100,000 technically trained graduates.

More than 50 foreign companies have set up R&D facilities in Pakistan recently. Some of these include multinationals such as GE, DuPont, Bell Labs, IBM and Microsoft. In the business of automobiles, Pakistan manufactures and sells engine components to five of the world's largest manufacturers. Suzuki and Hyundai are recent entrants to the manufacturing buzz in Pakistan setting up full-fledged plants, with Pakistan taking its rank as the ninth largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

Along with heavy industry, Pakistan is also one of the world's largest exporters of textiles and related products. Garment exports alone are expected to fetch in $8 billion by year's end.

In its quest for self-reliance, Pakistan is among seven countries in the world that launch their own satellites. It is also among a few countries that have developed and built their own nuclear power capabilities using their own indigenous technology.

New emerging industries in areas of interest include mecha-tronics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and clinical research. And foreign investment has shown a remarkable increase in recent years. Ironically, Gulf countries awash with high returns on the sale of oil have yet to take advantage of an educated labor pool and invest heavily in this growing economy.

And as with the aspirations of the Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, we too wished well for our Pakistani hosts, for they do have a country that should make Pakistanis everywhere proud and more determined to develop their political participation in a positive manner. It is their country, and they should all join hands under the crescent and the star, the symbol of their flag to ensure a secure and stable government, free from personal agendas.

As we settled in our seats for the flight back home, individually we all vowed Insha Allah that we would one day return to Pakistan with our families. We had had but a glimpse into this land of tourism and resilience and all of us wanted more.

Pakistan Revisited — VI: A Time for Reflection
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena,
Saturday 17 May 2008 (11 Jumada al-Ula 1429)


Anonymous said...

Should Pakistanis be Proud of Their Country? NO.

This is a very interesting question coz Pakistan is county of radical Islamic extremist. First of all Pakistan has to be free of these radical Islamic extremist before Pakistani feel proud of their country. It's not fair for Pakistani to kill thousand of innocents’ people in west and feel proud of their country. It's shame.... and it's truth as well.

Riaz Haq said...

To the writer of the last comment:

Your comment clearly reflects your ignorance about Pakistan. Pakistanis have not been involved in any major terrorist attacks in the West. None of the 9/11 hijackers were from Pakistan. The July 7 attackers in London were born and raised in England, not Pakistan. There are some terrorists in the border region of Pakistan's Western provinces. But these criminals victimize Pakistanis rather than Westerners.
The heavy defeat in recent elections of the right wing Islamic parties sympathetic with the Islamic radicals clearly shows Pakistanis reject the politics of hate and terror. This is the truth, not the propaganda you hear in the anti-Pakistan media in the West.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Haq,
I understand your feeling about your country. However you have provided absolutely wrong info about July 7 attacker in London, UK and 9/11 in NY, US. These entire attackers are radical Islamic extremist and most of them were from Pakistan origin, whether born in Pakistan or elsewhere. Their birth place doesn’t matter coz their origin matters. Bad people always do bad things no matter where they were born.
Why most of the radical Islamic extremist in the west are from the Pakistan origin even they may not born in Pakistan?
Unfortunately why radical Islamic extremist hate us?
I disagree with you about anti-Pakistan propaganda, its fact. Entire world know that Pakistan harbor radical Islamic extremist and most of radical Islamic extremist are from Pakistan origin (whether born in Pakistan or elsewhere). We (survivor of innocent citizen killed in US, UK and anywhere else..) never forgive to radical Islamic extremist, whether they are from Pakistan origin or elsewhere…

Riaz Haq said...

To Anonymous who left the last comment:
You say "Bad people always do bad things no matter where they were born". I agree. However, I'd add the following: "no matter where they were born and what religion they profess".
Just think of Hitler, Mussolini, Torquemada,the IRA, the Irgun, the RSS, the VHP etc etc. It is outright bigotry to assign the blame to an entire nation, religion, or ethnic group for the actions of the few.

Anonymous said...

"More than 50 foreign companies have set up R&D facilities in Pakistan recently. Some of these include multinationals such as GE, DuPont, Bell Labs, IBM and Microsoft"... jeez.. are you serious? and here I was working in IBM R & D India instead of working in peaceful Pakistan... FLASH NEWS: There are only 8 IBM research centers in the world.. and guess what.. NONE in Pakistan.. The only ones in South Asia are in Bangalore and Delhi. check this link - . Also, there are only 5 Microsoft research centers in the world.. and you guessed it.. none in Pakistan again.. Again the only one in South Asia is in Bangalore...

I knew most of your countrymen are in denial about things like terrorism - but boy.. misinformation coming from someone of your stature is certainly a surprise...

Asif Rizvi said...

YES, Pakistanis should be proud of their country....
if India with around 20 seperatists moving inside there borders can claim to be a peace-loving country then why should Pakistanis be ashamed of those militants who are not even Pakistanis and are sponsored by Indians and doing acts of violance inside Pakistan and outer world.

Without any prove, one shouldn't blame any country. Somebody born in U.K. lived all his life in London and did something wrong in U.K. why should Pakistan be blamed of that? it's a shame to the comment maker to link this way.

If my forefathers were from Arab, why somebody should blame Arabs for my bad-deeds (if do so)?.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of how Pakistan has changed in this decade by a Ahsan, a blogger on Five Rupees:

In the last decade, this picture has changed dramatically due to three central factors.

The first and most important factor is the explosion of private electronic media. In the 1990s, it was difficult for most Pakistanis -- the vast majority of which cannot or do not read newspapers -- to get information that was not government-sponsored or, less mildly, propagandistic. ....

This picture has changed drastically, as anyone with even a cursory interest in Pakistan will be able to tell you. There are now dozens of news channels in Pakistan, each with their own ideological and partisan bent. Some are national-level, others more regionally and ethnically focused. The trend began in the early part of this decade and has plateaued only recently, as the market gets sated. And while few of these channels will win awards for calm understatement or presciently sedate analysis, the fact remains that the media -- if it can be spoken of as a collective -- has given voice to a mass of the population previously unheard from. It has become a player of truly monumental importance for its ability to shape, mold, and excite the public. It is, at once, sensationalistic, blood-thirsty, xenophobic, conspiratorial, humorous, investigative, and anti-government. And yet its arrival on the scene is more than welcome, first for providing the venue for disenfranchised interests to make themselves known and second because the alternative is much worse.

The second significant factor, related to but distinct from the first, is the rise of communication technologies in Pakistan, particularly cellular phones. In 2002, there were 1.2 million cell-phone subscriptions in the country. By 2008, this number had risen to 88 million -- an increase of more than seven thousand percent. In addition, more than one in ten Pakistanis had access to the internet by the end of the decade; low by advanced countries' standards but an astronomical rise by Pakistan's. These developments in communications meant that political narratives became congealed and disseminated at speeds never heard of before, and that information and the wider "war" for public opinion became incredibly hard to win if a battle was lost at any stage.

The third major factor is the economic growth that took place in Pakistan in the first half of the 2000s. Pakistan's GDP doubled between 1999 and 2007, and more than kept pace with population growth, as GDP per capita increased by almost sixty percent between 2000 and 2008. More to the point, this growth was overwhelmingly powered by expansion of the service sector, which is concentrated, quite naturally, in the urban centers of the country. For the first time since independence, the term "Pakistani urban middle class" was not a contradiction in terms.

This development had two effects. First, and more trivially, the urban middle class did what urban middle classes do: they bought televisions and computers. In turn, that allowed them to plug into the private media explosion in ways simply unimaginable previously. Second, it shattered the elite-only edifice of Pakistani politics, and made challenges to government based on Main Street issues -- the price of flour, the lack of electricity, the selective application of the rule of law -- a viable process. Fifty years ago, Seymour Lipset wrote one of the canonical articles in Political Science on the process of democratization, its relationship to urbanized middle classes, and how the demands and values of the latter lead almost inexorably to support for the former. Here was living proof of Lipset's analysis.