February 22, 2015

Never have clichés sounded as true as in the case of Pakistan’s natural resources


Never have clichés sounded as true as in the case of Pakistan’s natural resources. One had to hear the prime minister speak on the occasion of "discovery" of iron, copper and gold reserves near Chiniot, after sitting through a presentation made by some Chinese company, to believe it. Now was the chance for Pakistan to break the kashkol or begging bowl, he said.

The irony of the statement may not have been lost on many.

Other clichés need not be stated again. They start pretty early -- in the Social Studies textbooks in schools. Pakistan is a country rich in natural resources; its mineral deposits are vast and diverse; all it needs is planning and technological resources to tap their full potential; Thar Coal would last us for centuries, at least; foreign companies are here to siphon the resources out of the country, Reko Diq being a case in point. The list of such inane statements is endless.

Truth is that we as a nation secretly wish for a car that runs on water and would bet our lives on a local expert to assure us he could invent one. But a lot of what is said above as clichés is not too wrong either. We owe it to ourselves that we did nothing to make full use of the resources nature endowed this region with.

The priorities were misplaced to start with. There was no serious planning involved in realising the economic potential of these resources. We need customised education creating "a range of skills -- from technical to managerial to entrepreneurial" as Kaiser Bengali aptly says. But we did not invest in that kind of education or modernised the methods of excavation or added value to our products or negotiated well with the foreign companies.

Perhaps the time to do all of this has come. So that this confusion about whether Pakistan is resource rich or resource poor is sorted out once and for all. Trying to reinforce the clichés in today’s Special Report.