OPTIMISTIC: THREE REASONS TO KEEP COUNTING ON PAKISTAN

, Business

I have always enjoyed my visits to Pakistan, finding it a fast developing country with emerging modern infrastructure, warm and friendly people and a vibrant culture of diversity.

My recent visits have rendered me hopeful — hopeful of a new political culture that is emerging since the present government came into power.

Despite a lot of pessimism portrayed by the electronic media, the country is on the right track to create business opportunities for those who have the commercial approach. State Bank of Pakistan – the central bank – is under an able and dedicated leadership, especially deputy governor Saeed Ahmed who has worked on an agenda of financial inclusion and promotion of Islamic banking since he assumed change of his special duties.

On the political front, the Imran Khan-Tahirul Qadri saga is over and the government must be appreciated for the mature approach it adopted to deal with the political crisis created then.  There are still some who believe that the government, especially the prime minister, is in gloom; others assert that there is something seriously wrong with the direction the country is moving in. Many worry that the political turbulence will bruise the country’s economy. Dissatisfaction with a number of things is ubiquitous.

Yet as a non-resident Pakistani who is a frequent flyer to Islamabad, there is nothing sinister about all what is happening in the country. It is business as usual. Actually, not as usual as it should have been. At least now my clients do not take out calculators to convert the British pounds into Pakistani rupee to ascertain the likely impact of their custom with me on their balance sheet.

Amid whatever is happening in the country, I see three reasons to remain cheerful. Cheerful, because I love Pakistan and any optimism around the country makes me a happy businessman.

Widespread transparency

Pakistan is definitely an improved country on transparency grounds. Compliance remains the top agenda in every organisations and businesses I have dealt with. Pakistanis are fast learning to respect the law. The federal and Punjab governments are developing clear rules governing almost all aspects of the socio-political and economic structures. Pakistan was ranked 121 among 178 countries on the 2015 index of Economic Freedom. It was ahead of India (128), Bangladesh (131), Maldives (134) and Nepal (152) – its SAARC peers.

Political harmony

Pakistan Muslim League (N), the ruling party, has shown a lot of political maturity after the PPP-led government handed over the affairs to the new winner in a peaceful transfer of power. The political leadership from all the parties, following the PTI’s rhetoric, is now identifying young talents to take the baton from incumbent political leaders. Consequently, there are scores of young, bright, educated and talented politicians into the mainstream. Given these efforts, it will be no surprise to see younger, more dynamic and visionary leaders running political affairs and the future government in Pakistan.

Improved work ethic

Pakistanis are finding a balanced work ethics that has started becoming visible in big cities. Despite competing demands placed upon their time, young Pakistani bureaucrats remain approachable. I am amazed how relatively easy it is now for visitors like me to fix an appointment with the CEO of a bank.

Pakistan symbolises hope for the future of Muslims. It is a country that has maintained its Islamic identity but has not shied away from learning from the west. If history is any indication, Pakistan will ride out the current political turbulence and religious extremism to come out as a stronger nation.

Given this, while the Middle East is facing a plethora of problems, Pakistan provides a viable modern model of application of Islamic teachings in a contemporary context. If any country in the OIC block can bring Islam and the west together, it is Pakistan. Western powers should reconsider its approach towards Islam and start connecting with Pakistan rather than trying to criticise it.

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