There is a saying that there are three sides to every story: yours, theirs and the truth. Given how polarised our society has become, whatever the government or the opposition parties say is characterised as a biased opinion. The most objective way to assess the performance of a government is by looking at major credible international sources because neither the government nor the opposition parties can influence them. The Pakistan of 2017-18 is happier, prosperous, peaceful and developed as compared to the Pakistan of 2012-13. This is the assessment made over the last four years of Pakistan by well-respected global institutions. Pakistan’s ranking on the UN World Happiness Report has shown improvements. According to the latest report, Pakistan stands at the top of the list among all its neighbours on the Happiness Index. The index is important because it is directly linked with positivity in a nation, which is an important trait for success.
If one is always being critical and self-loathing, one can never achieve his/her true potential. This is not only true for an individual but also for the nation. Unfortunately, a segment of the media in Pakistan and a few narrow vested interests propagate the view that Pakistanis as a nation (especially our elected representatives) are more corrupt, dishonest and incompetent than people in the rest of the world. Although this might temporarily help these narrow vested interests to achieve their petty ambitions, it is potentially hazardous for mental wellbeing of our people.
That is why for last four-and-a-half years, I have been constantly making the following argument at every platform: Pakistanis (including politicians) are as good and bad as any other nation in the Global South. We face similar challenges as other developing nations. We need to be positive about our future to achieve success.
The government of Pakistan has started a non-partisan initiative called ‘Rising Pakistan’, which aims to highlight the positive image of Pakistan around the world. Moreover, the idea is to instil positive energy among our people so that we can celebrate our successes and address challenges. We have facts that give us a reason to be positive as a nation. For example, on the economic front, Pakistan’s economy has achieved turnaround in the last four years and experienced the highest economic growth rates (crossing the five-percent mark) over the last 10 years. Pakistan’s GDP in 2012 was $224.4 billion and has increased to $304.3 billion. Pakistan’s debt-to-GDP ratio is stable and stands at around 61 percent. Pakistan’s stock market index has seen a record high and inflation has been at its lowest over the last 10 years.
Pakistan successfully completed the IMF loan programme through prudent macroeconomic policies. Pakistan’s economic success is testified by international financial institutions such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor. Similarly, World Bank has noted in one of its recent reports: “Pakistan’s economy continues to grow strongly, emerging as one of the top performers in South Asia”. Pakistan does face some challenges on the economic front due to rapid investments in the energy sector over a short span, causing pressure on imports. These are productive investments that are necessary for the economy to grow and address our energy bottlenecks. International institutions are recognising this but our own cynical brigade keeps presenting doomsday predictions.
On the governance side, Pakistan’s ranking has improved by 23 positions on Transparency International’s index since 2012. This is a historical achievement since this is the first time that Pakistan has jumped from the lowest one-third countries on the CPI to the middle one-third countries. Similarly, Pakistan’s ranking on the Global Competitive Index has improved consecutively for the last two years. This implies a reduction in red tape and an improvement in the business environment for entrepreneurs.
Pakistan’s ranking on World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index has improved by three positions. The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI)’s recent report noted that nearly 75 percent of respondents consider Pakistan to be a potential market for fresh investment and are optimistic about Pakistan’s future. Similarly, a research conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that Pakistanis are more optimistic about the future as compared to the past.
Before the PML-N government assumed office in 2013, Pakistan was facing a severe security crisis. International publications were calling Pakistan the world’s most dangerous country. To reverse this situation, the government took substantial kinetic measures. With the full support of the civilian government, the Pakistan Army successfully executed military operations against terrorists. The incidence of terrorism has been reduced by 75 percent since 2012. Karachi, the financial hub of Pakistan, was facing a severe law and order crisis prior to 2013. Today, Karachi is back to normal due to successful security operations. That is why publications like Newsweek are now running stories about Pakistan’s economic successes. The country’s sports stadiums became deserted after an attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009. Today, international sport events are taking place in Pakistan. International footballers like Ronaldinho are mesmerising fans in Pakistan and PSL matches are being played in Lahore and Karachi. International publications are reporting on such signs of optimism. Similarly, domestic tourism has increased over the last couple of years. This shows that not only has the security situation improved, but the purchasing power has also increased.
In 2013, Pakistan was facing power outages of up to 20 hours. In the last four years, more electricity has been added to the national grid than what was added over the last 20 years combined. This government materialised CPEC from a mere MoU to a successful project on the ground. The Financial Times has noted this in the following words: China takes ‘project of the century’ to Pakistan. CPEC is set to positively transform infrastructure and the economic landscape of Pakistan by improving connectivity and economic activity within Pakistan.
The steel, cement and construction industries are already witnessing expansion. On the democratic front, despite our chequered history and numerous contemporary challenges, Pakistan is set to make history by having two consecutive peaceful transitions of power from one elected civilian government to another. In postcolonial states, democracy needs to evolve in an organic way. As long as this is ensured, Pakistan’s democratic transition will continue to yield positive results for the nation. While being cognisant of challenges, the objective material conditions of the country reflect that ‘Pakistan is rising’. All of us celebrated Pakistan Day. But its real significance is that in a short span of seven years we were able to make a difference despite severe resource constraints. And with a positive mind, we can put Pakistan among the top 25 economies of the world in the next seven years.
Therefore, I invite all stakeholders of the country, especially our media, to join hands in the ‘Rising Pakistan’ campaign. This is an age of branding and soft power. When it comes to branding our country, all of us have to set aside our differences and project the ‘Rising Pakistan’ brand as a nation.
The writer is the federal minister for planning, development and reform, and interior.