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Pakistan: Locally underrated, globally misunderstood


Pakistan: Locally underrated, globally misunderstood
Posted By Zahra Mohammed


“Out of all the places in the world, why on earth would you want to go to Pakistan?” 

A question I have heard in various forms by countless people. After six months of living in Pakistan, I imagined the questions and shock would have settled by now. However, I am still continuously asked why I am here. On many occasions, Pakistanis have been just as shocked as anyone else as to why a non-Pakistani would ever want to stay in such a country.
I am not only troubled with the misconceptions and ignorance of non-Pakistanis, yet find it just as upsetting that locals think so poorly of their own nation and people.  I am well aware of the socio-economic and political factors that are hindering the progress, prosperity and full potential of Pakistan, yet do Pakistanis really have nothing to be proud of?
Nonetheless, I can’t ignore the countless problems facing Pakistan. Poverty is widespread and visible on the streets.  It is rare to go out of the house without being approached by beggars. The gap between rich and poor is massive. Poverty levels match up with the extremely low overall literacy rate of approximately 50% and the millions of school-aged children that are not even enrolled in school. It is also linked to a number of other socio-economic factors facing millions of Pakistanis, however most of these issues are ones faced by many developing nations around the world and not specific to Pakistan per se.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has a reputation of being an uncivilized and inherently violent country. I was recently asked:

“So, are there roads in Pakistan?”

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Also, I cannot even keep count of the amount of times I am asked:

“Are you safe there?”

Contrary to popular belief, I have never felt in danger or unsafe while living in Pakistan and it is more developed than the average outsider might think. I have come to learn that a number of years back, quite a few foreigners used to study, work and vacation in Pakistan. Safety was not an issue for locals and foreigners alike and the image and progress of the country was significantly better than it is now. Pakistanis genuinely desire peace and security just as much as anyone else and many even reminisce about the good old days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Yes, the current security and development situation has deteriorated more recently. For example, I have been in Karachi during the horrendous bloodshed and indiscriminate killings going on throughout parts of the city. It seemed that almost every day I was hearing about how dozens of people were killed in the most gruesome ways. The general trend is such that the less privileged communities are most affected by these occurrences.  Sadly, locals seem to be almost immune to such violence and political conflict. Some might take a few moments to discuss, watch or read about such happenings but at the end of the day, life goes on. Can we really blame them?
In my eyes, one of the main causes of this violence and other problems in the country that are hindering Pakistan’s development is politics. Pakistani politics is as dirty as it gets and the average Pakistani is left suffering as a result. Corruption is rampant and the leadership has not shown a genuine interest in the well-being of Pakistanis and the overall progress of the country.
Yet, we can’t deny that similar or comparable problems are happening in different parts of the world; even places you would not expect. The ethnic/sectarian/political conflicts of Karachi are almost mirror images of those in Beirut (past and present). Various forms of violence have occurred recently in the UK and Norway on a relatively large scale. Security is not guaranteed anywhere. Every country has its set of problems. The point is, Pakistan should not constantly be singled out or misrepresented.
With all that said, I genuinely believe that Pakistan has great potential. People severely underrate it and discount all the wonderful things this country has to offer. Living here has made me appreciate the natural and historical beauty found in different parts of Pakistan. I still remember how captivated I was during my bus ride from Lahore to Islamabad. The serenity and greenery of the fields was truly breathtaking, not to mention the mountainous terrain once reaching closer to Islamabad. Also, Karachi’s beaches add character to the city and are enjoyed by all people, regardless of their background. Pakistan definitely has it all; from mountains to beaches, hills to plains and forests to deserts.
In addition to the scenic views, Pakistan is filled with countless historical and archaeological sites from various civilizations and empires dating back approximately 2 million years. Many sites are still intact or being restored and preserved. I visited a number of sites in Lahore such as the Badshahi Mosque from the Mughal empire and was fascinated and engulfed by the picturesque structure. Overall, Pakistan has a rich landscape, history and culture that should be appreciated by locals and foreigners alike.
An interesting observation I have made is that in some neighborhoods of Pakistan the homes are so unique and beautiful that it is difficult to find two that are exactly the same! Each has a particular style and touch to the exterior as well as the interior. Sometimes, I love driving around the streets of Lahore and Karachi just to observe the diversity of homes with their colors, shapes and landscapes. The houses are just lovely!
Since I arrived in Pakistan, I had been anxiously waiting for mango season to arrive as it is one of my favorite fruits. It was definitely worth the wait. Without a doubt, I have never tasted more delicious, juicy and sweet mangoes in my life. I was also unaware of the countless varieties of mangoes available till coming here. Mangoes aside, Pakistan has such an abundant selection of locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables that it could probably get by without needing to import such goods. In general, the natural and agricultural resources are plentiful.
On top of it all, I personally have met some of the most amazing, genuine and down to earth people in Pakistan. For the most part, I have felt welcomed and respected by locals ranging from the modest gatekeepers to the more affluent and educated populations. Even though my Urdu skills are basic, people really appreciate my efforts and are happy when a foreigner tries to use the local language.
For example, the first time I interacted with my friend’s gatekeeper  I said:

“As-salam alaykum, aap kaise ho?”
(Peace be with you. How are you?)

He had the biggest smile on his face and replied by saying:

“ Theek thaak! Wah wah, aap Urdu bol saktee hain? Bohot acha!”
(I am well thank you. Wow! You can speak in Urdu – fantastic!)

Additionally, I find many people from younger generations to have a strong desire to make Pakistan a better place and engaging in various forms of activism. At the same time, I am pleasantly surprised by the spirit of those who are less fortunate. Recently, Pakistanis celebrated Eidul Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. I loved seeing the masses out in the streets enjoying the holiday by dancing, playing music and gathering at the beach with friends and family. Even with all the problems and large poverty levels in Pakistan, people still manage to live their lives and make the most of it.
I have faith that Pakistan can overcome the obstacles hindering its prosperity through proper and genuine leadership. I find that many Pakistanis disregard the positive aspects of this country and my hope is that Pakistanis do not give up on their country but rather actively take on a role in making positive changes.
As for everyone else, I hope there will be a realization that Pakistan is in fact civilized, peaceful and beautiful in so many ways.
Article taken from The Express Tribune Bloghttp://blogs.tribune.com.pk
URL to article: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/8172/pakistan-locally-underrated-globally-misunderstood/

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Why we must support Change : even if we don’t like Imran Khan or Dr Tahir Ul Qadri by Haider Mehdi

Why we must support Change: even if we don’t like Imran Khan or Dr Tahir Ul Qadri

 

 

by

Haider Mehdi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always admired the analysis and commentary of many leading geo political thought leaders and subject matter specialists from within and outside Pakistan, who specialize and voice their views on Pakistan and its current crisis.

Most of them have the masterful ability to analyse and present complex issues with amazing simplicity and powerful facts and logic. 

But of recent many of these thought leaders have unfortunately failed their own usual objective lens test of presenting Pakistan’s current imbroglio. There writings and commentaries are laced with anger, bitterness and acrimony rarely seen in their writings, especially in the manner they address the two protagonists of change, IK and TUQ, or objectively speaking what these two consider as “change”.

While I am not an Insafian or a TUQ mureed and do not in any form or shape endorse any direct or indirect extra constitutional intervention by any internal and or external institution / force, but believe that this time we have to suspend judgement and our personal biases and dislikes for these two.  I personally don’t have anything against the two, but even if I did, I would also suspend judgement for the following reason.

And the reason is simple. For 67 years, our constitutional and extra constitutional inputs have only produced this current and rotten political, social, economic, religious output/environment. So if we want change we have to change the inputs to get a different, hopefully better and more positive political, social, economic, cultural and religious order.

As Alcoholics Anonymous famously say. It’s Insanity to expect different results from the same behaviors. 

Therefore, if all well-meaning Pakistanis, including these genuine pundits referred to earlier, but not the “Raqaam BarhaoNawaz Sharif Hum Thumharay Saath hay Najam Sethi types”  to expect that “THINGS” will change by continuing with the same is, in my opinion, quite frankly extremely juvenile and perhaps even suicidal.

So what are our options. Pretty much two.

 

 

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One. Sit tight, close our eyes, stick our necks in the sand, and pray that when we open them the World and Pakistan would be this heavenly paradise. And in the meanwhile as we live in Cuckooland, these goons and the terrible order, lead by NS and AZ and GOD FORBID, that royal idiot of idiots Bilawal Zardari (can’t call him a Bhutto) and Hamza Sharif supported by their courtiers who are more like Leechees sucking the life blood of this nation, lead us to destruction. 

Two. We finally stand up for our rights, after centuries and thousands of years of abject servility slavery and serfdom, and seek the establishment of a just and fair society which delivers better governance and improves the quality of life of this miserable nation. And in my 58 years this is perhaps the second time after that great and brilliant pretender Zulfi Bhutto, who also let us down so terribly, that we have in IK and TUQ, the symbols, the seeds, the possibility and fragrance of such a change.

So while IK and TUQ may have their Achilles heels and some skeletons in the closets, but they do represent the cry of the hundreds of millions of the downtrodden, once again looking for hope succour, salvation and a better today and a tomorrowfor themselves and their children.  While these two could be the Pied Pipers of Hamelin as some suggest, or the Source of our Salvation, as others hope for, the truth is…only time will tell.

But and it is a BIG BUT, bigger than all the BUTTS put together,  if we don’t make an effort and if in our personal animosities and in our pettiness, and in our prejudices, and perhaps misguided reading of the tea leaves and the stars or misguided by our own frames of intellectual references and our anger towards these two, we try and douse this fire and desire for Change, we are certain to perish or fall to such lows ….God Forbid…perhaps never to rise again.

So let us all support these forces of change and let us also be cautioned that in this desire for Change let us not open the doors to authoritarianism or military dictatorship, while getting rid of this horrible putrid old order.

And also let not the frailties and perhaps imperfections of IK and TUQ (and pretty small compared to the horrors of the Sharif’s, Zardaris, Khans,  Rehmans etc) cloud our objectivity and our judgement. 

We must make a go of it.

For in this imperfect world, we just have to make do with what we have, wherever we are, in the best way we can.

 

Why we must support Change…………….even if we don’t like Imran Khan or Dr Tahir Ul Qadri

 

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NAYA AUR PURANA PAKISTAN

Opinion: Capital suggestion / Sunday, September 28, 2014

 

NAYA AUR PURANA PAKISTAN

Dr Farrukh Saleem

Purana Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purana Pakistan has six characteristics.

One, elected leaders treat state assets as their personal estates.

Two, elected leaders mutate civil servants into their personal serfs.

Three, taxes are collected and then spent to fulfill rulers’ priorities.

Four, monetary rewards of political power are extremely high. 

Five, there is massive under-investment in human capital.

Six, power projects are being inaugurated that would produce power at an astronomical rate of Rs41 per unit.

Here are the proofs of the above six.

One, Rehman Malik had a PIA aircraft wait for him for two long hours.

Two, on June 17, Punjab Police killed 14 unarmed citizens.

Three, budgetary allocation for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is Rs160 million while the annual budget for the PM House is Rs770 million. 

Four, Pakistanis are getting more and more indebted by the minute while assets of the ruling class keep on increasing by the day.

 Five, Nigeria is the only country on the face of the planet with more out-of-school children than Pakistan.

Six, the cost of the Nandipur Power Project has gone up from $329 million to $847 million and if diesel is used to produce power it will cost Rs41 per unit.

This is what purana Pakistan is mostly about.

Admittedly, Imran Khan has no comprehensive blueprint for Naya Pakistan; neither does Allama Tahirul Qadri. What they have done, however, is exposed the purana Pakistan to 180 million Pakistanis. And Pakistanis hate what they see in purana Pakistan.

Here are the proofs that Pakistanis hate what they see in purana Pakistan.

One, passengers threw Rehman Malik off the PIA aircraft – something that has no precedence in our political history.

Two, police high-command has now started demanding written orders from their elected leaders in order to shoot at unarmed citizens.

General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig, for reasons only known to him, may want to call it a foreign conspiracy against Pakistan but, to be certain, throwing Rehman Malik out the PIA aircraft is no American conspiracy against Pakistan. To be sure, police high-command demanding written orders from their elected leaders is no Jewish conspiracy against Pakistan. This is all about Pakistani middle class revolting against purana Pakistan.

NAYA PAKISTAN

 

 

 

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Naya Pakistan has to be a contractual state. Naya Pakistan has to have a social contract between the voters and their elected leaders. The social contract must cover three things.

One, who will pay taxes?

Two, how much taxes will be paid by each taxpayer?

Three, how will these taxes be spent?

Naya Pakistan has to have three things – elections, accountability and a responsive government (purana Pakistan has had plenty of elections but neither accountability nor a responsive government).

Here are four steps to a naya Pakistan.

One, alter spending priorities as per voters’ needs and demands.

Two, invest in education and health.

Three, invest in justice.

Four, privatize all public sector enterprises in a competitive, transparent process.

The constitution is not under threat.

The democratic system is not under threat.

Yes, the old political order is under threat.

And, yes, the custodians of the old political order are feeling threatened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Twitter: @saleemfarrukh

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LUMS Professor and an Imran Khan (IK) apologist. By Mansoor Hamid,Professor at LUMS

LUMS Professor and an Imran Khan (IK) apologist. 

Mansoor Hamid

LUMS

LUMS-Lahore

 


– No matter what happens from here on in, I would always believe that IK is arguably one of the greatest living Pakistanis for what he has done in sports, social work and then politics. His talent charisma, perseverance, integrity and accomplishments outshine all of his peers and he can rightfully claim to have left a lasting impression on a couple of generations.
Supporting IK is not easy. He is definitely obstinate, perhaps not politically shrewd, does not articulate his vision well enough and is most likely not a democrat at heart. Is he the best politician around, most definitely not. Is he the best leader that we have had in a long time, hell yea. And he has proved time again in his career(s) that he will not be the leader you want him to be. Like it or not, he will be the leader than he thinks he should be.

We (IK Supporters) realize fully well his shortcomings and we are not crazy or delusional to support him. We support IK not because of him, we support him because of us. There is not a thought as ghastly as the thought that my son will be ruled by the sons of shareefs, zardaris and maulanas. It absolutely rips my heart out.

And that is why many people like me who had never voted before in our lives, made the effort to support IK by actively going out and voting for him. All of my friends who have their allegiances with other parties, how many of you have gone out to vote? That’s right – Not many. But that is not a problem because these parties are so popular that they are going to win anyways (see something wrong here?). I know thousands of people traveled from Manchester, New York and Dubai to vote for IK because they knew he will need each and every one of those votes. This vote is different because it matters…to us and to IK.

So next time you unleash the keyboard warrior, please also have the moral courage to go out and vote for your party and attend their processions. Sitting on the sidelines will not help anybody and in anycase we need good people in every party if we need to change our fortunes. For all others, get your immigration papers sorted because the future is anything but bright.

The elections do not belong to IK, NS, PTI or PML. I do not care if IK loses more seats in a re-count. Elections belong to the people of Pakistan and specially the tax-payers who funded these elections. And they are demanding justice and reform. So what if they are in a minority, so are the tax-payers.

Can the government, as a beneficiary, provide electoral justice and accountability? With the plethora of political (60+ family members) appointments in ministries, judiciary, police and civil services the chances are bleak. There is still no FIR for the 14 shot dead by the law enforcement agencies.

We need electoral reform and we need expat votes. We also need desperately for 100% of urban population to vote and attend processions of the parties they support. We all know what you oppose? I would like to know what you stand for? And perhaps this would make us realize that the leadership choices are very limited to match our lofty aspirations.
As someone said already: “we keep private guards, drink bottled water, avail private medi-care, send our kids to private schools, buy generators and UPSs to have electricity at homes and offices, the list goes on ”. We do not need IK to tell us that we are not getting good value for our tax money.
Wrong tactics by IK. What guarantee do we have that this march would work out for the better? Well, our future is not pay-per-view and there is no money back guarantee. We can be sure that his agenda will not endear him to the beneficiaries of the status-quo. So yes, he will lack support from the power brokers.
Here is hoping that next time a candidate will think twice before barging into a ladies polling station to dictate how votes should be cast. Here is also hoping that next time when we face an injustice, we will come out on the streets in numbers and demand our right.
They (NS, Z, MFR) will always stand with each other. Will we ever stand for each other? It is clearly more important for us to defend our leaders than defend ourselves.

‘Youngsters dancing to national tunes’ is not zina. And memes showing our leadership as dogs, transsexuals, beggars, etc are not classy.

Mob: a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.

Anarchy: absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal.

Red Zone: what red zone? There is no red zone around White House, 10 Downing Street or Lok Sabha. What use is democracy if common people cannot have access to the Parliament of ‘People’ of Pakistan and the Supreme Court of ‘People’ of Pakistan?

Protests: We might disagree in principle, but must RESPECT the people who have decided to leave their comforts to stand up for their rights. If anything, we do not protest hard enough to demand our rights. Scrap the military parades on Independence Day; we should bring the system to a halt once every year to demonstrate that the people of this country are the source of all power. That would put some fear of God and fear of People in the hearts of our leadership.

I have not seen anyone win an argument or a war on facebook. Yes we are stubborn and yes facebook is not real life.

Mansoor Hamid
LUMS

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May 11 Elections are Landmark

Upright Opinion

 

May 6, 2013

May 11 Elections are Landmark

 

By Saeed Qureshi

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The May 11 elections will herald a genuine democratic era in Pakistan. The holding of elections by itself is a landmark accomplishment and a laudable threshold for the onset of a thus elusive democratic order. While the country  is caught up in spiraling diabolic lawless and violence, it would be after a pretty  long authoritarian spell that the dawn of a representative governance born by the popular vote, would shine at the land and smile at the people of Pakistan.

Powered by the popular mandate, the government in power would be fully competent and legitimate within her right to translate their pledges into concrete outcomes on the ground. The power belongs to the people and that phrase has been truly practiced and reinforced after a lull of long night of darkness and uncertainty. The new era is not going to be “God’s kingdom on earth”. But certainly it is going to be a harbinger and a prelude to a better future for a nation suffering so long at the hands of inept and self-seeking leaders.

By all reckoning there is going to be a hung mandate which means that no single party would be able to form a government. As such one can visualize that the regime coming to the fore would be a coalition government.

The army’s role in these unsettling and fragile times has been sober, modest and detached. Otherwise there always was the enticing bait for the army to step in and capture power. General Kiani has to be genuinely commended for keeping the army away from the trapping of intervention on the pretext of bridling appalling lawlessness and curbing incessant violence that is still rife.

The outgoing PPP regime deserves a genuine credit for holding elections in face of overwhelming odds and the looming specter of army takeover.  The media and judiciary of Pakistan also deserve huge applause and generous approbation for dispensing a pioneering and historic role during most murky times. Both these arms of civil society have been berated and occasionally maligned for demonstrating partisanship. But truthfully they deserve the entire nation’s gratitude for serving their respective role and responsibilities in an aggressive and befitting manner.

The newly saddled government would be faced with some of the most pressing challenges to be addressed. The ideological dissensions, the ethnic malice and bias, the inter provincial rivalries, the danger of disintegration, the broken down system of basic civic services, soaring cost of living are priority issues to be addressed immediately.

Equally indispensable is curbing the epidemic of violence and terrorism. The dire need of good governance with the dispensation of unalloyed justice, an enlightened education system, universal literacy, and the health faculties for all, a clean and pollution free environment would be another set of reforms to be put in place. But most imperative would be the empowerment of the people for making decisions at their local levels, which means creating city governments or universally recognized local bodies system.

The development and creation of a massive infrastructure, boosting the industrial sector to restore the confidence of the business community and the transparency in departments from top to bottom are indispensable ingredients for a new Pakistan to emerge and be respected domestically and aboard.

The contours of the foreign policy have to be redrawn freeing Pakistan from the external hegemony and interference. The national sovereignty and integrity should become an article of faith with the new rulers. Pakistan direly needs to disengage itself from being a crony and hireling of the international hegemonic powers.

 The economic health and prosperity is vital for the nation to come out of the morass of poverty and impoverishment. The culture of human rights, emancipation from taboos and superstition, elimination of sectarian discords and decadent fundamentalism, are priorities issues to be given urgent attention.  Access to inexpensive, prompt and equal justice and availability of abundant basic civic amenities would spruce up and groom Pakistani society and provide a modicum of dignity of life to the citizens.

The list of modernizing Pakistan and putting it on the road to progress, prosperity and stability is not exhaustive. But at least a beginning should be made for a glorious and momentous journey that would gratify the future generations more than the existing one.

The centuries old abomination of feudalism and enslavement of the downtrodden has to be rooted out once and for all. The sway and overpowering influence of parasitical and comprador classes has to be doggedly curbed. The possibility of martial law and attendant cronyism subverting the democratic order has to be decisively obviated.

The rulers and the bureaucracy have to be bound by the ethics of simple living and made accountable to every penny they spend from the tax payers’ money. The ruthless and insidious customs of exploitation of meek and marginalized by the powerful and influential segments and individuals has to be abolished.

We have to watch how after May 11, the new set up unfurls itself and how the formation of governments at federal and provincial levels come up. Would the new government, be humane tolerant and people friendly. Or else it would fall back upon serving the elite and aristocratic classes, feed party interests and filling their personal coffers? Would they earnestly make good their pledges and manifestos splashed during the electioneering campaigns.

Hopefully the upcoming leadership in Pakistan would fulfill their solemn commitments made to the nation and thus earn the honor of being trail blazers of a glorious destiny for Pakistan as well as the forerunners of an ensured resplendent future for its citizens. There is no gainsaying that Pakistan is blessed with enormous resources, immense potential and brilliant manpower to gallop on road to the progress and an all-embracing development in a much short span of time.

The writer is a US-based senior journalist, a former diplomat and editor of Diplomatic Times. His blog is www.uprightopinion.com

 

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