Changing Pakistan

Published: February 19, 2013
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

I have a serious problem with the cynic brigade that writes and comments on social, developmental and political issues along familiar lines. What is their familiar line? The Taliban are coming, extremism is on the rise, corruption is pervasive and life is miserable. This is a partial truth, not the whole truth. That nothing can change is a viewpoint that conflicts with history and the evolution of societies.

Cynicism in hard times like ours and in a climate of fear, insecurity and violence, sells and viewers and readers readily embrace the dark side of things rather than looking at what is bright and shining. The other issue is the habit of most of my colleagues and columnists to write from the comfort of their offices or homes. They tend to look at the big picture that gives a disturbing spectre rather than examining achievements at local levels, and by dedicated individuals and communities. If there is any meaningful and real change in Pakistan, it is taking place at these levels in every aspect of the social and economic life of this country. By missing details of development and positive change at the smaller scale, we may draw a big picture of a society and country that may not be in agreement with reality. This is what is unfortunately happening.

One of my social beliefs is that only by changing at the local level will Pakistan change for the better at the national level. The national in spatial terms is nothing but local. By often travelling through the villages, mostly in Punjab, I have seen thousands of positive contributions and developments that are neither documented nor narrated. Never has our regular cynic brigade opened its eyes and minds to what this change is and how it is becoming a catalyst for more and larger changes.

Let me share one man’s gigantic contribution at a government agricultural research farm in Bahawalpur. I had heard about Mushtaq Alvi for his collection of berries and date palm trees for some years. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit this fabulous farm, which may not be noticed from outside the walls. Mr Alvi, as a young man with his first job, started the plantation in 1985. He went to every place in Pakistan to collect the best local species of date palms, berries, mangoes, guavas and pomegranates. Today, he has 35 species of date palms, 20 of berries, 20 of mangoes and five of pomegranates, and almost every of guavas. Never has his search for new findings ended.

While the collection continues to expand, the farm has supported thousands of farmers and households that would like to have various species of these trees. Every season, thousands of berry plants and hundreds of date palms are distributed. Then there are private collectors of these trees that have developed their own farms and would like to sell plants to new farmers. Each new tree becomes a source for saplings leading to further proliferation.

Scientists like Mr Alvi and many of his colleagues may move on to other research stations or retire but what they have done is something remarkable. This is just one example of ordinary Pakistanis making a difference to society. Unfortunately, our media, commentators and pseudo intellectuals cannot lift their eyes from what is wrong in society and shift their attention, even for a moment, to what is right and working.

Recognition and celebration of achievements by individuals and communities encourages positive change, positive attitudes and stimulates energies for innovation and more contribution. While grieving about the many things that are troubling us, let us not ignore the pleasing side of changing Pakistan. Go out and see it.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • M Baloch
    Feb 19, 2013 - 1:05AM

    You are right professor… Carnage in Quetta, killing of professional lawyers and doctors in Lahore on sectarian basis, daily target killing of Karaachiites, IMF , the rate of Ruppee against dollar ara all signs of positive changes in Pakistan. Now I understand why LUMS perfers jewels like you and kicks out Hoodbhoy type pessimists because they can’t see anything positive..!


  • Rashid
    Feb 19, 2013 - 1:13AM

    spot on sir..


  • RAW is WAR
    Feb 19, 2013 - 7:59AM

    few and far between.


  • lums99
    Feb 19, 2013 - 8:34AM

    @M Baloch. I think Rasul Bakhsh Rais is right. Every TV channel , every newspaper and social media are flooded with the news of target killings and blasts. Obviously people feel the pain of victims and their relatives but in this situation of chaos and sadness we should also look at the positive side because positive developments can act as a catalyst for more positive developments. That is the way to go. thats where RBR is spot on. Local change will bring change on national level.


  • Raza Khan
    Feb 19, 2013 - 2:56PM

    Be realistic not too optimistic!


  • Battameez
    Feb 19, 2013 - 4:32PM

    From a cushy office with free coffee served by an attentive peon to a lush farm,,,,,yes, indeed, if that was my Pakistan, I would feel exactly like His Lordship RBR does!


  • nadeem
    Feb 19, 2013 - 5:38PM

    Is there any doubt that Pakistan today is struggling with several problems, each problem extraordinary in nature? The correct attitude should be ‘let’s all work together to overcome our challenges (problems)”, instead of “since these problems are big, let’s just ignore them and go find something that will cheer up our dreary mood”.


  • x
    Feb 19, 2013 - 7:41PM

    And what, pray, is the reward financial or otherwise this person gets? Even in positive there is negative as people with talent, abilities. hard work and desire to succeed struggle to make ends meet. Returns are little due to a poor economy and elitist structure. That is the sad aspect, failure of excellent people to have access to opportunities or to get their due. This person would have been a millionaire in some developed country, here at best he will give his kids the necessities of life.


  • Lala Gee
    Feb 19, 2013 - 9:45PM


    Things happen for a reason. Think why our media was so liberalized by a dictator that every other day a new TV channel was being launched having full live coverage facilities. Why the shiny 1122 service – does not provide service to seriously sick or heart stroke patients – was launched while the hospitals were in shambles. Why wearing the helmet was made mandatory and strictly enforced, despite extremely hot weather, while the government showed no interest in implementing wearing of seat belts. Perhaps you get the picture.


  • zafar khan
    Feb 19, 2013 - 10:44PM

    Read the post and a thought prevailed inside; what is reality? If we give a sight to both aspects then everyone writing and speaking on current state of affairs; its his personal approach, but we can bring a sense of prosperity and development by bringing in common man’s notice that the atrocities of time can not stop progress– rather speed up..


  • zafar khan
    Feb 19, 2013 - 11:01PM

    Read the post and a thought prevailed inside; what is reality? If we give a sight to both aspects then everyone writing and speaking on current state of affairs; its his personal approach, but we can bring a sense of prosperity and development by bringing in common man’s notice that the atrocities of time can not stop progress– rather speed up..Recommend

  • S.khan
    Feb 19, 2013 - 11:31PM

    The professor is right. He is not denying that bad things are happening in Pakistan
    but pointing out that there are some positive achievements taking place in the country.
    Media always focuses on the negative. For some psychological reason people pay more
    attention to the negative event- murder, rape, corruption,etc, than the person recovering from
    catastrophic illness or a farmer raising the yield of the crop, new business with potential
    to grow and create jobs and the number of children pursuing education in the face
    of harassment from the dark forces of the religion. No doubt reading the negative
    news make one cynical and it is not surprising that the continuous flow of negative
    news in Pakistan has created so many cynics. It is time for the media to reconsider
    the news they put on their front pages or the headlines read on TV.
    John Reed, former CEO of Citibank of New York, never read the papers because
    he disliked the way they present and even manipulate the news. Also, a good advice
    not to read the newspapers if you want to maintain good mental health.


  • Socrates
    Feb 20, 2013 - 4:08PM

    I can confirm that Moody’s have improved Pakistan’s investment rating fron caa1 to ba1, thanks to this article. Pakistan can now be considered an investment friendly country. Kudos to the author !


  • A Peshawary
    Mar 2, 2013 - 3:53PM

    @M Baloch:
    This is real pathetic approach coming out of realities of life not exaggerated rather over told and oversold.

    A Peshawary


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