As a Pakistani, there is a lot to be unhappy about. Terrorism is widespread, our economy is in tatters, governance is an elusive entity and the country is starving for leadership. But viewing these problems out of context is to misrepresent the situation. Sixty-four years into its existence, todays hegemon, the United States, was bracing itself for the most brutal civil war this world has witnessed. The several conflicts we are currently confronting, cloak the slow progress our country is making. We have made catastrophic errors over the course of our brief existence, but we have progressed as well.
In times passed, the only news available on the television was the nine o’clock khabarnaama on Pakistan Television. The media is now an immensely powerful check on the functioning of our government; it is ingrained in the fabric of our society. This oversight has made corruption much harder to cover up. Moreover, other misdeeds by our elected officials no longer go unnoticed.
One measure of the progress of a nation’s economy is the relative ease with which business is done. The computerisation of ID cards and the State Bank’s Credit Information Bureau (CIB) have added to the development of local banking. To supplement that, we have three well-functioning stock exchanges and several powerful chambers of commerce. Venture away from the cities, and you find farmers plying their trade with utmost ease. In several instances, the prices their crops fetch are higher than international averages.
We have also made progress on the judicial front. A few years ago, the country was gripped with a lawyers movement that was internationally recognised. Currently there are bills in the parliament that focus on developing a witness protection program, and improving the law of evidence in judicial proceedings. A much needed system of prosecution is also being developed. Certainly, this is progress.
Security is an area where we have been severely troubled over the last decade. But, as the famous cliché goes, ‘the night is darkest before dawn’. Following what our security agencies have dealt with in this decade, they will be hardened and more efficient in their dealing with future challenges. If handled appropriately, the United States scheduled pullout from Afghanistan should bring stability.
With 180 million people, we have a large labour force. Pakistani labourers constitute the majority of construction workers in the United Arab Emirates; these very labourers are responsible for $11 billion in foreign remittances. Our medical schools produce doctors that are in high demand all over the Middle East. The Higher Education Commission has utilised funds to help several Pakistani universities improve the quality of their education. The civil service examination still attracts Pakistan’s brightest talent.
Undoubtedly, we are facing circumstances that would depress any public and force most populations to outright resignation; but Pakistan and its people are different. We are surviving, our lives are continuing. No matter how many times we are pushed against the wall, we turn around and fight back. Surely, that is an indication that greener pastures and better times are around the corner. The process has just begun, there is still a lot to improve; we are nowhere near the end of the path to progress. But we are a strong nation and we will continue walking. It can get better. And it will.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.