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National

August 15, 2017

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Something to cheer about

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

Ode to the West Wind -- PB Shelley

Of all the nations in the world, we, the Pakistanis, are perhaps the only one nation that happens to be the biggest critic of its own self. This national tendency, coupled with an international smear campaign underway against the country and the failure of our media to adequately respond and ameliorate the situation, has resulted in low national spirits and pride in our own identity as a nation and a country. Of late, a pall of despondency, despair and disenchantment has descended upon the entire Pakistani nation. Socio-economic, law and order and security related factors for this mood apart, the biggest injustice is that we ourselves have started having a low and negative image of our country and nation.

Pakistan is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and wrongly portrayed countries in the world due to a false propaganda campaign underway to malign it internationally. All this is being done systematically to discredit Pakistan as a country unsafe and unsuitable for foreign investment and trade so as to hurt us economically.

We must not allow ourselves to be bogged down and dispirited by how others view us through their biases and negativity. The fact of the matter is that Pakistani nation is not defined by the enduring or emerging challenges it is, and has been, facing, but more so by its indomitable perseverance that has helped it rise like phoenix from the ashes of despair and despondency.

We must view Pakistan realistically, not through the narrow lens of biased international media and rumor-mills working overtime across border, but in the light of hard undeniable facts that reflect our true strengths, potentials and promise. We may have been down, but we are certainly not out.

It is, therefore, imperative to dispel the wrong impression that Pakistan is a weakling or a socio-economic write off. We are anything but that. There have been many positive development on various socio-economic, international, sports and other fronts, that should elate our national spirits, and strengthen our belief in ourselves, our nation and the country as a force to reckon with.

Much to the dismay of our critics, Pakistanis -- all challenge apart -- still are much happier a nation than many in the neighbourhood. Pakistan has jumped up 12 places from 2015 in the global happiness rankings, indicating a trend towards greater economic and social well-being. According to the World Happiness Report 2017, Pakistan, with a score of 5.269, is ranked at 80 out of the 155 countries included in the report. The 2016 report had ranked Pakistan at 92, with a score of 5.132. Pakistan is now the happiest nation in South Asia, 32 positions ahead of India, and also doing better than all its immediate neighbours, except China.

Pakistan also ranks ahead of several countries that are much more technologically advanced, including Greece and South Africa. Critically speaking, there are a number of reasons that have contributed to this. One factor is the highly ranked contributions in terms of charity and generosity. Furthermore, and particularly in comparison with India, Pakistan does not work around a complicated caste system where social inequalities not just exist, but are forced. Being free from this menace, the Pakistani society is far less segmented and stands way ahead of India in this regard. Another major reason is the 'dystopia' factor across the Pakistani society whereby contentment is relatively easily attained.

Also, there are far less suicides occurring in Pakistan as compared to India. Even though all cases are not reported in both India and Pakistan, it is evident from per 100,000 population data that suicide rate is much less in Pakistan in comparison to India. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the total number of suicide cases from 1st January 2004 till 30th January 2017 is 38,366. In comparison according to the WHO report, 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, with 99,977 women and 158,098 men taking their own lives. About 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India. India is ranked as 47th country in Suicide Ranking, while Pakistan is ranked as 177 out of 183 countries.

The social indicators i.e. primary enrolment, population per doctor, literacy rate and mortality rates of past seven decades also show significant improvement since independence, although a lot needs to be done in health, education and other social sectors.

Also the overall power that Pakistan enjoys at the world stage continues to be much higher than its economic indicators may lead one to believe. In a 2017 report prepared by Statista, Pakistan ranks at the 20th position among the top 21 most powerful countries in the world, despite having the lowest per capita income among all the countries listed. This report by Statista defines power of a country as “A Leader, economically influential, politically influential, strong international alliances and strong military”. As per the report, Pakistan's strong international alliances and strong military allow it to enjoy a high status in the power of the world stage.

Moreover, against heavy hearts and resistance by super powers, Pakistan had been able to establish its foothold among nuclear powers. While some of the critics considered it a luxury or a reason behind poor economic performance, the fact remains that it is one of the greatest deterrent developed against hegemonic designs of India and many other countries. That Pakistan is sailing through highly troubled waters can partly be attributed to this success story.

Whatever the reasons and factors for ranking higher in hard power and happiness, we as a nation, and also our critics, commentators, anchor persons and experts, should refrain from painting a bleak picture of our economy, country and society.

Pakistan's improving Human Development Index coupled with positive and favourable socio-economic reviews and forecasts by Moody's, Fitch, JETRO, Nielsen, Jim O'Neill, Morgan Stanley, Price Water House Coopers (PwC) should dispel any misconceptions about the socio-economic wellbeing of Pakistan. The most favourable and positive ratings given to Pakistan inter alia relate primarily to economic, investment, trade and development sectors.

On Human Development Index front, the country has fared well. Between 1990 and 2015, Pakistan's HDI value increased from 0.404 to 0.550, an increase of 36.2 percent. Pakistan’s HDI value for 2015 is 0.550—which puts the country in the medium human development category—positioning it at 147 out of 188 countries and territories, according to the 2016 Human Development Report launched by the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Earlier, the World Bank had revised Pakistan's growth rate upwards to 5.2% for fiscal year 2017 and 5.5% for 2018, in its report 'Global Economic Prospects; weak investment in uncertain times'. Moreover, World Bank's Pakistan overview states that the country has achieved macroeconomic stability in the past three years.

Also, Moody's expects real GDP to expand by 4.9% and 5.0% in the fiscal years ending June 2017 and 2018, which will be the highest in nearly a decade. Likewise, Fitch Ratings has affirmed Pakistan's Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at 'B' with Stable Outlooks. In the same vein, Pakistan has been recognised among 10 most improved economies in 2015/16. The country has jumped four ranks from its position last year from 148 to 144 out of 190 countries, as per Ease of Doing Business Index. Pakistan has also improved its ranking by four places to 122 from 126 previously, according to the latest Global Competitiveness Report (2016-17).

Moreover, JETRO, or the Japan External Trade Organization, declared Pakistan as likely to be the second choicest place for foreign direct investment. Pakistan ranked second in the world in terms of business growth in a survey conducted by the JETRO in 2014. Also, the consumer confidence index in Pakistan went up by five points from the previous quarter, reaching 106 in the Q4,2016 period, reveals Nielsen's global survey of consumer confidence and spending intentions. This is highest-level since 2008, stated the report.

Similarly, Jim O'Neill, a British Economist, who happens to be former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and former Conservative government minister, has predicted that Pakistan has the potential to become the 18th largest economy of the world by 2050, leaving behind many strong economies. According to his projections for 2050, Pakistan may be the 18th largest economy by 2050 with a GDP of US$3.33 trillion (almost the same size as the current German economy). Currently, Pakistan stands at the 44 largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$225.14 billion.

Price Water House Coopers (PWC) also predicts that Pakistan’s Economy may be 16 Largest By 2050 in terms of GPD at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP); while Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) has included Pakistan Stock Exchange in its benchmark emerging-market index that is likely to attract multimillion dollars of portfolio investment in the Asia's best performing market.

Likewise, Pakistan has also shown improvement on the Logistics Performance Index (LPI), Corruption Perception Index, World Press Freedom Index, and Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

Also the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the conclusion of its last Article IV consultation on 14 June, 2017 predicted a "favourable", outlook for Pakistan's economy, with real GDP estimated at 5.3 percent in 2016-17 and strengthening to 6 percent over the medium term.

In sports too, Pakistan has been showing international level performance that should also add to the buoyancy of national mood and spirits. The recent win of Pakistan team at the World Team Snooker Championship held in Hurghada, Egypt, is a case in point, where the final match of the tournament was played between two Pakistani teams. Pakistan-2 won against Pakistan-1 by 5-4 frames. It is the first time in Team Snooker category that two teams of the same country played the final.

Earlier, Pakistan’s emphatic win in the Cricket Champions Trophy in England brought much needed international recognition and laurels to the country, and infused the nation with proud enthusiasm and euphoria.

All this encouraging progress at home and the world stage vindicates that Pakistan at 70 is a forward-looking, progressive and a vibrant country ready to play a pivotal role for peace, security and development in the region and the world. This important transformation has been made possible as a result of the country's multi-dimensional and broad-based structural reforms policies covering the economic and social sectors.

On our 70th Independence Day, we must join hands to revive and revitalise the spirit of tolerance, liberalism, pluralism, and most importantly, pragmatism that once defined Pakistan during 60s and 70s. Instead of 'dying' for other people's agendas or enforcing our ideas on others within country and abroad, we must accept and face our chronic weaknesses and shortcomings as well as the damage we have caused to our own image by either ignorance or complicity.

  The author is secretary Senate Pakistan

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