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December 31, 2007

How was 2007 for you?

Opinion

December 31, 2007

Karachi

When 2007 began, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture officially announced it as the ‘Visit Pakistan Year’ which was seen as a positive step by the government that seemed serious about promoting the tourism sector to the outside world.

However, as the year unfolded it saw one major political upheaval after another. The year ended on a depressing note with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on December 27 and subsequent political unrest across the country. This uncertain political future, say observers, will have a far reaching economic and social impact and now will keep visitors away from Pakistan at least for the initial few months in 2008.

“Political issues and violence have always dominated media headlines, year 2007 was no different,” laments Mushtaq Zuberi, a 67-year old retired government servant and an avid reader of newspapers when questioned why he was not happy with 2007.

What added to his depression says the senior citizen, is the thought of not being able to meet his children this year who were expected to visit Pakistan from the U.S. in the first week of January but cancelled their trip after news of Benazir’s death spread internationally.

“Benazir’s death shook all of us but why must an apolitical citizen bear the consequences. Reports of her death and political chaos in the media have made visitors more careful who will now think twice before visiting their hometown.” Zuberi, who lives with his wife in his residence in Sindhi Muslim Society, says he eagerly waits this time of the year which makes up for all the disturbances he experiences round the year, but this December clearly did not bring any good news for the old couple.

Despite the disturbances, there are some professionals who believe 2007 brought good news for the economy. Sabrina, an architect employed at Arcop Associates, says her firm got the opportunity to work on quite a few foreign architectural

projects. However, as we enter 2008, not much foreign investment is to be expected after the political turmoil the country faces presently, which is depressing for the economy, she states.

“Business groups want political stability, we all know that. Rationally speaking, after viewing all the destruction caused to the foreign banks and companies and the civil disobedience over the past few days, foreign investors would be reluctant to invest much in the coming year,” believes Sabrina who feels it will take an entire year for the business and trade circles to recover.

There were also others, who were able to fulfil their life-long dreams. For Dr Akhtar Aziz Khan, 2007 was one of the best years when he along with a team of doctors, were able to establish a charity-run hospital cum community care centre on Korangi Crossing, called ‘The Indus Hospital’. The 800-bed hospital is accessible to the public free of charge.

The past year was also particularly busy for peace and human rights activists, who emerged despite all odds and began a movement to challenge the status quo. Triggered by the lawyer’s movement in March this year, a dormant majority of activists attempted to put an end to the cynicism prevalent among the larger masses. “It was a busy year for activism but most of the time, due to lack of unity among the movements, we were not able to achieve much that would enhance the stature of the nation,” Nargis Rahman, a peace activist and president of Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace, says. She is, however, hopeful of a positive change in the coming year with the involvement of more people in a vibrant social movement.

Rahman stresses that the mistakes committed by “political activists” in the past year should not be repeated. “We have to move beyond destruction and learn to differentiate between activism and nihilism.” Clairvoyant Meitra Saigal, who although received depressed clients round the year, hinted that 2008 will prove to be better year than 2007 for the country and its people both.

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