Reflections on Pakistan's Achievements
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, email@example.com
Saturday 17 May 2008 (11 Jumada al-Ula 1429)