Only the worst makes news in our country. Gruesome stories of domestic violence and sanctioned murders, natural calamities rendering countless people homeless, criminals, suicide bombers or insurgents performing daring acts of terrorism, juicy confrontation among institutions or political opponents are instantly splashed by the news media. One is led to believe nothing good is ever happening. However, that is not the impression as one trots along or drives on the beautifully paved roads of the cosmopolitan cities or the semi-metalled roads of the rural areas or visit places of entertainment, recreation or leisure. Life goes on merrily, perhaps better than in many other parts of the world. It may be our people’s faith, contentment, resignation to our fate or a compromise with the events; but life does go on - quite well for more than a few, making ends meet for some and not quite so well for the rest. Our politicians, civic society and the media remain buried under the rubble of our woes, spreading despair rather than hope.
Our people deserve credit for their remarkable resilience that have readily absorbed and survived shocks of all kinds of turmoil. We lost half of the Quaid’s Pakistan within a quarter of a century through an international conspiracy facilitated by our own people. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) formed the first government of the present Pakistan and is back in the saddle for the fourth time. The most remarkable accomplishment of the first PPP government was to bring all political parties on board to compile a Constitution by consensus, which has stood like an anchor that has been indestructible both by the dictators and the miscellaneous forms of governments that have since come and gone.
Inspired by socialism, it radicalised the existing health, education, bureaucratic and industrial systems and revolutionised the mindset of the common folk (based on promises that still remain unfulfilled). However, poor governance leading to a faltering economy paved the way for the third martial law. The following two PPP governments were short-lived and were also ousted under charges of corruption and mismanagement. The present will make history by completing its term and also by surpassing all records of corruption, mismanagement and weakening the institutions.
Two martial laws and five democratic governments later, many people are calling Pakistan of today a failed state or a banana republic. Both accusations are grossly exaggerated and based on ignorance. A country sandwiched between an imposed war and ideological conflicts cannot be equated with any other country at peace with opportunities of growth. Yes, one third of our people are poor, but we have no shortage of food and some kind of shelter is available for everyone. Our joint family is an unparalleled cooperative system in which all members pool together their resources and support the weaker link. The tribal areas have their own traditions of minimum subsistence for all, however, modest they may be. In times of natural calamities, every citizen feels the pain and strives to assist the affected in whatever way they can. Our Zakat system is a parallel private welfare programme for the needy. Not all religious seminaries breed terrorists and preach extremism. Most comprise devoted workers dedicated to welfare projects for the downtrodden.
Surely, we have political rivalries that become violent in their confrontations. Surely, the same corrupt and non-performing politicians of wealth and influence in the area keep returning to power due to the prohibitively costs of the electoral process and caste system that have prevented candidates of merit, but with meagre means to come forward. Surely, our bureaucratic system is riddled with corruption. But we forget to highlight that we have excellent systems in place that just need to be followed. Our social structure is at a stage of rapid evolution assisted by our fiercely independent media and the active judiciary that are second to none in the whole world. Our people are becoming more aware of their strengths, weaknesses and responsibilities, as demonstrated by the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner of undisputed integrity that should clear the way for a more transparent election process.
Democracy is slowly but surely taking its roots, as exhibited by open political and cultural debates (however frivolous or repetitive), and the (grudging) tolerance of opposing views. There are no political prisoners and it will be for the first time that a loose coalition of political parties of regional and national levels of varying ideologies stuck together for the full statutory term of office. The opposition, military and the civil establishments have shown maturity by not conspiring to derail the democratic system, despite the poor governance and a host of other issues.
We have in excess of 180 million people intelligent human resource, out of which 65 percent (118 million) are below the age of 25. This young crop does not carry the baggage of the older generations and is a great hope for the bright future of the nation. It is the computer, internet, Facebook and Twitter age generation that will compete and will not allow itself to remain isolated in the world, as already proved by numerous young geniuses. Our country needs just a single breakthrough to take the nation to the heights it deserves (like India got with the Information Technology boom that is now on the decline). We have a great cuisine. Our fashion designers are a great roar when they visit overseas. Our singers, composers, musicians, writers and artists are welcomed with open arms in the movie industry and generally in India and wherever else they go. Our historic monuments and landscape are breathtaking for tourists. We have a variety of fascinating cultures, languages and costumes, as one travels across the length and breadth of our country. We have a huge network of educational institutions and healthcare units.
Pakistan is a substantial market for consumer products. Several multi-nationals have reported growths in excess of 30 percent per annum that in some cases is the highest figure for their companies anywhere in the world. Their expansion programmes of hundreds of millions of dollars are underway. Our own domestic corporate entities have reported phenomenal growths domestically and in exports. Surely, our energy generation and distribution systems are poorly managed causing severe production losses and hardships to citizens. The rulers will be answerable for this to their electorate a few months later. Our country is blessed with far more than our needs, if only we concentrated and worked on the little that we have, rather than imitating the glitter of others that have made it good by single-minded toil over decades. We need to report more on our brighter sides and small achievements and instil hope than despair by the frivolous acts of the few demented among us.
The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.