Hope Persists Amidst Gloom in Jinnah's Pakistan
Media reports from Pakistan often portray a picture of doom and gloom, with the IMF bailout of the economy, terrorist training camps, Islamic radicals, horrible governance, and corrupt and inept politicians making the headlines around the world. The adjective of "failed state" is often used to describe Pakistan. Is there more to the story than the big headlines? Is there hope for Pakistanis amidst the doom and gloom? On Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's 132nd birthday today, I think there is. The telecommunication, information technology, higher education, media and the middle class progress started during Musharraf-Aziz years continues to have its impact on the country founded by the Quaid-e-Azam more the 61 years ago. Here are a few things I found posted by a fellow blogger on Tech Lahore blog:
1. Pakistan is the most connected country in South Asia, with the highest teledensity. The Internet penetration in Pakistan is at 10% versus 5% in India, according to ITU.
2. Pakistan’s communications costs are lower than any other country in the region.
3. Pakistan has the world’s largest biometric database (NADRA); this system (not the data) is now being provided to allied countries.
4. Pakistan has the world’s largest WiMAX network.
5. Pakistan has one of the world’s most aggressive Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) rollouts.
6. Pakistan has one of the highest rates of cellular connectivity growth in the world (According to PTA 2007’s report the rate of growth in Pakistan’s mobile sector is fourth highest in the world).
7. Pakistan was the winner of the 2007 GSM industry association award.
8. The US is importing UAVs designed and built in Pakistan to protect America’s borders.
9. With WLL (CDMA), WiMAX, GSM and FTTH, Pakistan is pretty much leading the pack in terms of diversity and breadth of connectivity.
10. According to Gartner, Pakistan is a “first category” offshoring location; this ranking has grown by leaps and bounds.
11. Pakistani companies won several awards at Asia’s APICTA startup/innovation conference and were considered the most “interesting” and cutting edge in Asia.
12. The world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional is a Pakistani and so is the world’s youngest Cisco CCNA professional.
13. Pakistani students excelled in MIT’s global software talent competition.
14. Citations of Pakistani scientific publications are rising sharply.
15. Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics.
The Wall Street Journal did a story in September 2007 on Pakistan's start-up boom that said, "Scores of new businesses once unseen in Pakistan, from fitness studios to chic coffee shops to hair-transplant centers, are springing up in the wake of a dramatic economic expansion. As a result, new wealth and unprecedented consumer choice have become part of Pakistan's volatile social mix."
In the absence of any visionary and pro-active political leadership in the nation, Pakistan will likely continue to be heavily influenced by external factors and events in the foreseeable future. The change in Washington and potential change in Delhi in 2009 will likely have a far greater impact on Pakistan than anything Pakistani leaders say or do.
I am hopeful that people of Pakistan, especially the young entrepreneurial and the professional classes, will continue to do their best to help extend the positive legacies of Musharraf-Aziz years. I believe it can be safely said that the communications revolution (accompanied by dramatic growth in the vociferous electronic and new media) as well as a significant enlargement of the middle class in Pakistan helped sow the seeds of the end of arbitrary actions by President Musharraf. In other words, Musharraf pulled a Gorbachev (a la perestroika that unleashed uncontrolled energies) by enabling powerful resistance to his arbitrary rule. Some of these changes that Musharraf brought are durable and I hope will make our rulers more accountable. There will still be abuse of power but the media spotlight will hopefully shine brightly on it to the detriment of the abusers. Eventually there will be real participatory democracy to serve all Pakistanis with appropriate checks and balances imposed by a much larger and more powerful and aware middle class essential for true democratic governance in Pakistan, or anywhere else.
Here are two video clips of Pakistan's progress in the last few years:
Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised
Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan
Pakistan Conducting Research in Antartica
Pakistan's Telecom Boom
ITU Internet Data
NEDUET Progress Report 2008
Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley
Musharraf's Economic Legacy
Should Pakistanis be Proud of Their Country?