A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called 25-Points for a Prosperous Pakistan. Was reading it recently and decided to update the 25-Points for making Pakistan more prosperous. Albeit, there are literally 1,000 of factors, the problem at hand are not too difficult to solve. The need a willing mindset, and patience.
We have a tendency to make play with incompetent players and decisions. You go to a barber to get your haircut don’t you? Would you trust the cobbler with your hair? (as a very crude example). Certainly Not! I hope is your answer.
This is precisely the problem with our politicians, who are absolutely incompetent (majority of them). Those who are competent are drowned in the noise. So many bad decisions come out of the Parliament, The Presidency and the Armed Forces, that we have become a laughing stock for the world. Mere words, promises, submission to God (of your faith) will not resolve the problem by themselves. Instead of finding pragmatic solutions for a very large populous (est. 190+ Million) we squander and waste each day, ruthlessly, without much progress to show for.
There are days when we are on the cover of every major media outlet in the world — and for all the wrong reasons. Our political bikering and infighting has cost this nation bitterly. Slogan Shouting and Party-Flag Waving, does not build roads, make water more cleaner, reduce unemployment, increase agricultural yield or put food on the table.
It is fair to say, we all know where our faults lie, yet, we continue to be guilty by-standers in watching those in power, erode the resources and dignity of this beautiful country, of whatever little we have left.
For months on end, I’ve been thinking (as an engineer and an entrepreneur) on how we can make our country more prosperous. I have been reading countless number of articles from around the globe, to see how government, communities, mayors, elected officials, armed forces, politicians, and the general masses are forging ahead to make life better for themselves, the people around them and more importantly for the future generations. Meanwhile, here in Pakistan, we are actually debating frivolous issue (in my opinion). Just to cite an example of two, we are actually hatching conspiracy theories if Malala Yousafzai was really shot or not. We have youth putting up photos of what looks like some religious inscription – and coercing people into guilt to see if they would actually “Like” a photo on Facebook – to see if a Million people will like and share. We have people who are arguing and debating issues of which they have no inkling of. Yet, anything remotely of value and substance is scoffed upon or is brushed under the carpet.
Two words: Priorities Skewed.
I am by no means an expert in what I am about to write, however, I do so with a bit of background reading, some debating with like minded people of substance and a dash of common sense.
So, here are my 25 Points for a Prosperous Pakistan (Revised – In no particular order):Preface: Before you delve into them. These are high-level points. They are by no means final. There is always room for improvement or even outright flushing the idea. These are not micro points. So don’t even start anything in the comments section that attempts to micromanage them. To blatantly say, it won’t work. I’d rather you just click here and read the Wired Magazine. Its not even worth having a discussion with you. For those of you who will actually stick around and read the whole thing – remember, its just a framework, it can certainly be improved upon and discussed. Its certainly better than putting our heads in the sand and hoping our problems will dissipate as the clouds. Not going to happen. We as a Nation, will need to roll-up our sleeves, take bold steps and forge ahead. We need to learn from our mistakes.
So, here is my list for a Prosperous Pakistan…
- Technocrats To Run The Government: The role of the Parliament should be limited to that of making law to benefit the Citizens of Pakistan and to better their constituencies. The running Government must be made entirely of Technocrats only. These are people who are not politicians or elected parliamentarians from either the Provincial or National Assemblies. These are qualified experts, who are hired by the Government (Prime Minister’s Office) based on their Skills Set, Education, Experience and Qualifications. The nominations for such candidates comes from the PM’s Office, and the Standing Committees in the National Assembly should then either confirm or deny them. Their credentials should match their job. If one is to become a Minister of say Water and Power, they had damn well know something about the business. Expecting your local politician, elevated to the status of a Minister in the Federal Cabinet to serve a particular Ministry, has proved disastrous for us in the past 3 decades. You will not trust a Politician to fix mechanically the Airplane you will fly in, then how can you expect a Politician to do the same for the valuable Ministry assigned to them – this is exactly the case that has been going on. Wrong man doing the wrong job, over and over and over again.
- 3-Years Mandatory Service: Mandatory induction for males into the armed forces upon reaching the age of 18. Same would true hold for women (but for 2 years only). Front-line for 1 year. Saves us massive amounts of money and melts down the different ‘types’ into one – a patriotic Pakistani and not a superficial Pakistani. Countries like Singapore, Israel and South Korea have been doing this for years and look at where their economies are heading – fantastic results. The notion that mandatory service means becoming a soldier – is incorrect. Their are literally 100s of areas where you are utilised, from engineering, planning, infrastructure, manufacturing, operations research, medicine, hospitals, accounting, procurement, etc. The Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) would be tied to this service. Identity card would NOT be made for anyone who has not enrolled into the mandatory service. No one gets exempted or buys his/her way out. No one.
- Armed Forces Reduction: Reduce Armed forces HR count by 20% (this does not have to be done immediately, but can be phased over a 3-Year or 5-Year period). Granted we have our fair share of problems on the borders, but we need to reassess our priorities. What are the given odds of the Indians attacking us on a Thursday evening? General opinion says low, Army says high. Why you wonder? Why do we need to be in the Top 5 or Top 10 largest Armed Forces in the World? – when we are burning money every year. We don’t need a bigger Army/Navy/Air-Force, we need a leaner one!
- Cigarette Tax: Impose a 50% additional tax on cigarettes – this additional tax goes directly towards Education. I’d like to see someone bitch about this.
- Appropriations Budgeting: The current budget is just a mirage. It is by no means accurate or final. The budget passed by the National Assembly is an estimation of things to come. Ground reality is however, very different. We need proper appropriations committees to handle the budget. Monetary disbursements needs to be scrutinised with much detail and enhanced (read: transparent) public reporting of Accounting is required. Whilst we have the Auditor General of Pakistan and the likes, we still have too much fancy and discretionary accounting practices going on, that when added up, show wastage and/or pilferage of Billions of Rupees. Accountability and Transparency is what is required. The Budget itself has so many areas of wasted money. Money that could be better well spent. If you have ever watched the debate of the National Assembly on the Federal Budget, you will literally laugh at yourself as to what is going on. If laughter is low in your body, Shell-shocked is the word that comes to mind. Highly incompetent law makers questioning the budget on frivolous issues — only essentially asking, how their constituency and/or Ministry can see more of those Budgeted Rupees. No one questions the methodology behind the budget and its making. No one questions the historic patterns and the outcome of the allocation in the previous years. Historical trends are ignored, and political trends are remembered. Today, post budget, all we have now resolved ourselves to is to explaining the budget to the common man, and then playing the wait and see game, for the various mini-budget sessions in the National and Provincial Assemblies that put a nefarious spin to all things discussed.
- Education Budget: Don’t ask how – trim other areas you have to – make the education budget at least equivalent to US$ 1 Billion Rupees (approximately 100 Billion Rupees). I am 100% sure we can surely find a way to do this. One recommended method to aid Education is to start an Lottery system in Pakistan, which would fund the Education sector. Almost universally all across the globe, the Lotteries we keep hearing about, are all government/state run and contribute directly towards Education. Please do not lecture on the Halal and Haram part of it. If you look at the Prize Bond Scheme, it is a distant cousin of the Lottery. Besides, there are so many other elements in our society, specifically with respect to money and our interactions with it, that is subject to deep discussions. So heck, if I can help pitch a lotto ticket to improve the overall Education Budget, I will, and financial enticement of the lottery will certainly help this cause. The Education budget should be allocated a yearly growth rate of 10% over the previous year’s budget figure. We owe it to our uneducated — to provide them education.
- State Run Enterprises: We need to revisit and revaluate what does a State run institution means for Pakistan – commercially. Let’s take PIA for example, it is a classical case of all things gone wrong. Every year and every government pollutes this organisation further. It has come to a point of no-return. Let PIA go bankrupt. Steel-Mills is another example. Pakistan Railways yet another. National Bank yet another (take the mandatory money deposits of the Government out of NBP and it will collapse within months). While we are at it, the Government should only own the Post Office if they really need to hold on to anything, everything else, put it under the auctioneer’s hammer. The Government is to govern. Let it do that in a responsible manner. The Government is not yet ready to run a business.
- Government Employment: Abolish permanent service in the Government (Federal/provincial, state, council, etc.) People need to learn to live in a society that is dynamic. Permanent jobs leads to devaluing the very institution and decreases efficiency of which there is a serious lack. In this world, nothing lasts forever, yet somehow we create a utopian environment where your Government job is forever? How messed up is that?
- Basic Hygiene: There is a immense deficiency of basic hygiene in our society. If you are at Sunday Bazaar and you have to go to the toilet, your options are limited. Very limited when you are a woman. In a bazaar or in the commercial districts, etc. there are absolutely no toilets. Go to Smaller Cities and Villages, and the concept of plumbing is still missing. You would have sworn you are back in the Middle Ages. Part and parcel of all infrastructure development, plumbing, running water drainage and sanitation needs to be a priority. All the fecal and defecated matter accumulates in retention ponds and is a breeding ground for diseases. Such retention ponds if not treated, have spill-over effect when such contaminated water comes in close proximity and in contact with under-ground water, water wells and old and leaking water channels. Think about it, 190+ Million people need to do potty everyday. That is a lot of fecal matter that needs to be handled and properly treated. This is not something disgusting, it is part and parcel of life and one that affects every living person on Earth. We need to address large scale problems like this with grass-root level solutions for farm, villages, small-to-mid cities and large metropolises.
- Online & Distance Learning: We need to incorporate and invest in infrastructure, computing and human resources that will enable high-speed content delivery within Pakistan for distance learning. Our Government needs to literally go to the top educational institutions in the world that are excelling in distance learning and forge partnerships with them. We need to talk to universities like MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, et. al., to provide them a national challenge and platform on educating the masses. I wrote a post earlier on, on some of the most authentic sources on the web for distance / online learning. We need to tap into these and develop program that can benefit Pakistan. Let us be an example of mass and quality when it comes to distance learning. Those free laptops being doled out, this is a perfect medium to use it with.
- Education Challenge: Our education is in dismal condition. Anyone who argues IBA, LUMS, etc. I would argue your sample size is very limited and you are looking at the wrong level of education. Pardon the bluntness, but our general education fundamentals are wrong. We have 100,000s of students who graduate from schools every year, who are essentially are undereducated. In scholastic terms, they are malnourished. Their IQ, English, Math, Science and Humanities skills sets are abysmal. On the whole, across the board, basic foundations are skewed, incorrect or out of date. Its not that bad – most people day. No – Its BAD! We are absolutely terrible. We are not churning out young Thinkers, Engineers, Scientists, Writers, Journalists, Artists, Actors, Farmers, Mathematicians, Astronomers, Poets, etc. for tomorrow (given our population size). We are producing all these on a mediocre scale. We are producing what many would term slightly more educated mules or monkeys. We are not providing them the invigorating hope that they need to become someone. We need to address this issue. Students of today are going to be the workforce of tomorrow. Something you and I call far away in time, comes sooner than you and I think. Our human crops are failing as yet, we are not bothered. The syllabus needs to be revised. Our curriculum demands a stringent overhaul. We need to evolve a National Education Policy that is not focused on a political agenda or myopic goals, but one that is long-term, sustainable and prepares our students for the world and its environment of tomorrow. We need to bring the best minds in education together – within our country and from abroad (think Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, Sir Ken Robinson, et. al.) and position Pakistan as a leading candidate country in Education reform. One that prepares its workforce for the information age of tomorrow, versus the industrial age of yesteryears. Consensus on this will be difficult however, there is already consensus that the education system in Pakistan as it stands is seriously flawed and needs revisiting. We are fortunate enough to be in the time of digital information, yet our teaching methods and our students (majority of them) are still using stone-age, scripted, antiquated, out-of-context teaching material and aids. We need to change this. Just as a very crude example, Incentivise higher-education goals. Do your Ph.D, publish a paper in an international journal, get Rs. 5 Million worth of tax-free benefits should you decide to stay and work in Pakistan. You are allowed to sell this ‘tax’ deduction to any business after one year. Incentivise education so brain-drain does not occur.
- Public Transport: One-day of the week – Wednesday, introduce public transport day only. Private cars must pay the equivalent of a very high-carbon tax to be on the road that day. Our society had bifurcated classes, so that high-class or upper-middle class will not use the public transportation system. This needs to change. We have so many cars on the roads today, that it is estimated that in another 15 years time, our infrastructure would not be able to cope with the urban commute and intra city traffic growth. Public transportation deflates this problem to a larger extent. However, we need not limit our thinking and solutions to CNG buses. We need projects like elevated monorails or dual-rails (like they have in Chicago, Seattle and now Dubai). Investments like the elevated intra-city rail systems have proven to be immensely popular, with fantastic ROI (in some cases 6-7 years, averaging 8-10 years). They are the least disruptive large scale transport solutions, occupy small footprints and provide commuting relief to 100,000s of commuters a day. We also need to have corporate policies and incentives for car-pooling and high-tax rates when you bring your car out during peak hours (where idling and commute times are quite high), which leads to more fuel being burned, less passengers per vehicle transported, average driving speed lows and high on environmental damage. Singapore is a prime example of a country that creates a financial road-bump (no pun intended) for those preparing to bring their cars out to the CBDs (Commercial Business Districts) during peak hours. Our public transport policy is one that should include short-term 3-12 month goals in which car-pooling and taxed-avenues are introduced. A slightly longer policy of 6-24 months where more economical buses (think double-deckers where applicable) and bus routes are introduced. It is imperative that such route planning includes better geo-mapping of routes and traffic flows during the day – we hardly every apply science to our forecasting, planning and layouts. Lastly, a 5 year policy to design, fund, build and operate intra city elevated monorails. We need to provide fiscal incentives for foreign direct investments in such turnkey projects.
- FEBC: Reintroduce Foreign Exchange (Non) Bearer Certificates. Whiten your money, 2% tax, no questions asked. There is a lot of black and/or grey money in circulation. FEBC’s have proven immensely successful in bringing that money under a taxed net economy.
- NRP Guaranteed Investment: Introduce a scheme backed by Gold – in a joint-venture with a Swiss Bank with sovereign guarantee or against Notro holding of Inward Remittances to allow NRPs (Non-Resident Pakistanis) to invest their Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Dirhams and Riyals here in Pakistan for up to 1 year will full repatriation of funds allowed. This is inherently better than IMF or World Bank funded loans.
- Commercial Courts: This is an area which I have been reading up a lot on lately. By any given estimate there are between 5,000-to-6,000 total number of Judges in Pakistan (this includes the Supreme Court, Federal Shariat Court, Provincial High Courts and Session Judges). The number of pending cases, (calculations need to be done) is estimated (mean average) of approximately of 1.5 Million cases per province. The actual number is slated to be much higher, but lets take 4 million pending court cases in Pakistan as of today. Having spoken to 3 prominent lawyers, the current average life of a court case is about 1,200-1,500 days (granted this is a very opinionated number but lets use the low end of it). To resolve the 4 Million pending cases with say 10,000 judges (rounding it upwards) and an average case life of 1,000 days, would yield, 400 cases per judge. If each judged handled 8 cases per day, it would be 5 years before the first case would be disposed of, and add another additional year to finish the pending cases. This has a lot of assumptions to it. 10,000 judges. 4 million cases. 8 cases per day. 1000 days for disposal. No additional cases. Uniform distribution of cases. Imagine that, halt everything, double the size of judges, drastically reduce the number of cases, and the time it takes to address each one of them, and you’re looking at 2019 before the backlog is cleared. The ground realities are very different. The total number of pending cases stuck in the entire judicial system of Pakistan is perhaps closer to 6 or maybe 7 million in total. The time for cases in some instances is over 2,500-3,000 days. With an ever growing population and addition of cases every year – it would be a miracle for many to see a decision on their cases in their lifetime. Solution, in my opinion is to initiate two massively parallel programs. (a) Fast track legal aides and simplistic version of judges. Increase admission and graduate pay-scales for judges to make it economically viable for students to pursue law degrees. (b) Initiate a system whereby a panel (of randomly selected people from the group pool) in each court district will review your file – for a commercial fees, and decide in how many days (realistically) does your case need to be settled in. There would be courts named 7-Days Court, 14-Days Court, 30-Days Court, 60 Days Court and 90 Days Court. The review panel will read through the file and within 24-hours assign the appropriate court to your file. Say your file is assigned the 30 Days court, your case will now be decided in its entirety and a verdict given within 30 days. The 30-Days Court will have to decide the case in 30 days. There are no extensions to this rule. 30-days is the deciding period. This again will be a commercial court. You will have to pay, to have the court case listened to. In keeping with the transparency, the Judges will be a panel of 3. Majority vote wins. The plaintiffs and the defendants can be smoke-screen barricaded. This way, the plaintiffs/defendants will not know of the judges and vice versa. The verdict would be final, unless a petition is filed in a higher, commercial court of law. Whilst the idea may seem radical in the law profession (which dates back to 100s of years), it was only a 100 or so years ago, flight to the moon, women’s vote, commercial air-travel, equal rights, etc. were all deemed impossible. For us to be able to break out of the mitigating shell of progress, we need to think outside the box and look at avenues and ideas that one would traditionally scoff upon. The Postal Service was no different. It took bold and radical steps by courier companies to challenge the status quo and infuse into society solutions that were needed at the time. Sign-of-times. Why should the Courts be any different? It is by this very accidental or radical nature of such ideas, that societies have progressed and solutions have been found in corners one was not willing to look into. Commercial courts is a self-funded operation, that creates employment, fast tracks justice, and provides the much needed relief to a society such as ours that simply gives up when facing the courts. A great resource to learn more about the situation of Law/Justice and the cases, etc. is the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan – especially look at their 2010 Statistics Report (PDF).
- Civil Rights: Civil rights in Pakistan are curtailed. There is no denying that. Whilst we may (emphasis supplied) think we have our rights intact, the truth is we are subservient to the whims and qualms of the Intelligence Agencies and LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies). We need to not only redefine what our basic Rights are, but we need to educate each and every citizen on what His/Her Rights are, and more importantly also enact upon them. Various Draconian laws exist in Pakistan. There are Draconian laws embedded in Draconian laws. Some Draconian laws are just not acceptable in their current form. An example that comes to mind is the Fair Trial Act of 2012 (I will be writing a separate post on this issue later on). We need to Establish an oversight committee in the National Assembly to question what the Intelligence agencies are doing, include responsible non-parliamentarians in it. Laws such as the Fair Trial Act 2012 needs Accountability and Transparency. Without these two factors, we will continue to be a nation that is authoritative and a control freak. We cannot cite ourselves as a free and a democratic country if we continue to subjugate the citizens of our country for the benefit of Intelligence Agencies and LEAs, who continue to harbour their old field of dreams of collecting files/intelligence just like J. Edgar Hoover did notoriously when he became the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence. We need to have a better mechanism in place to monitor and keep under surveillance citizens who are tagged as Person-of-Interest, whilst at the same time having proper legal authorisation for it (not a pressured warrant), and complete accountability and transparency to the Intelligence Oversight Subcommittees.
- Disarmament: Remove all forms of Police protection to MNAs, MPAs, Ministers, Judges, Federal Ministers. Only President / Prime Minister can have it. All throughout Pakistan, no person can have any sort of an escort of Police or any other agency. No one. Especially the Police themselves. In addition to this, Section 144 Permits are to be cancelled for all weapons. Any display of weapons publicly and/or in person without a license outside the address of the licensee holder, would result in the weapon being confiscated and 1st offence lock-up time. Personal bodyguards and/or even licensed guards for protection will not be allowed to carry weapons that are visible/concealed in any shape, manner or form. Does not matter if you are a politician, influential land owner or a very important businessman, arms & ammunition in public is a No! A declaration needs to be signed by each CNIC card holder upon renewal of the CNIC cards that they do not have any unlicensed weapons and/or all licensed weapons have been declared. Failing to provide such information or otherwise proving in contravention to the Signed Declaration can result in a hefty fine and/or prison time and your CNIC would be flagged as a “Criminal” thus restricting your rights. Whilst there are areas by which these laws can be abused, the goal here is to set a framework that would enable the disarmament process. It is very unlikely that the unlicensed weapons would ceremoniously be given up. To be very honest, there is much to be learned and worked upon as how to disarm a nation that is armed to the teeth with unlicensed weapons and where such weaponry is easily available in the tribal areas where a very large cottage industry for the same exists.
- Government Working Hours: Reduce the working week for Government down to 5 days. Government employees are underpaid as it is. The half day on Saturday does not churn out much as far as productivity is concerned. We need to have a more efficient government machinery as opposed to one that works longer hours, for the sake of just working longer hours. It is also a great morale booster. One day of holiday in this stress filled country is not enough. A two days break provides for much mental and physical relief, as well as put less burden on the running of the Government on a Saturday which does not get much done on that half-a-day.
- Parliamentary Accountability: Establish an oversight committee – more or less like a People’s Court to find out what your MNA/MPA is doing. Their pay shall be directly proportional to both their attendance in the assembly, availability in their office in their home constituency and their active participation towards the better of Pakistan. They each should have a blog with a ticket order system to lodge complaints and to see the follow up done on those complaints. You would be surprised to know how many Parliamentarians of Pakistan, cannot even describe / explain the Coat of Arms of Pakistan – when asked this question. I have personally asked quite a few sitting Parliamentarians if they can tell me what the Coat of Arms of Pakistan (or State Emblem) is and was appalled to learn that each and everyone I asked this Question – could not answer. Just for the record… it is not referred to as the Logo of Pakistan.
- Alternative Energy: Energy is a serious problem in our country that is prevalent in all cities and districts. With an ever growing electricity dependent population and the demand far exceeding supply, we need to urgently start looking at avenues to harvest alternative (renewable) energy (hydel, wind and solar primarily) and have it connected to our National Grid. The government’s primary role in this can be two folds: (a) Allocate large swaths of rural, unused land that is currently not being farmed, so that mega (very large scale) solar and wind projects can be deployed. Think of these as Industrialised Power Zones. With new advances having been made on the Solar Photovoltaic Cells and Wind Turbine Technology, today, we are able to get more Power (Watts) per Dollar invested then say 5 years ago. With oil, now contributing a very large chunk of Pakistan’s oil payments, not to mention the rising cost of importing oil and our dependency on it, and Coal being horribly bad for the environment and has a cost of raw material attached to it – renewable energy sources are a goldmine that we should be tapping into now. Today. (b) The second role the government can play in alternative / renewable energy, is to have the National Grid extended out to such large swaths of land reserved for Alternative Energy Projects. In addition to extending the grid, the government must make the business environment very attractive, safe and affordable for investment to flow into such projects. Preferably zero import taxation and profit repatriation schemes for companies and investors from abroad who would be willing to setup such projects in Pakistan. Besides the obvious very low cost of per unit (the cost is actually the cost of financing the project + profit) that is sold to the government as a power buy-back agreement, alternative energy projects like Solar and Wind can be deployed within month, versus the years it takes for Hydel or Nuclear projects. Hydel projects are an absolute necessity for our country, which is dam deprived. We need to have more dams constructed for better water conservation (which is another problem we are / will-be facing). It is absolutely criminal that we have politicised issues like Kalabagh Dam which we should have built long time ago. I am not even sure if in its current state the dam is feasible to build any more. If it can be built, we should. The very future of our country and our survival depends on Pakistan having very large water retention bodies for farming/irrigation and as well as hydel based electricity generation.
- Water: Water is the next Oil. Have no doubts about it. This is perhaps one of the most precious natural resources that we need to tackle. Forget about the Thar Coalfield (which is a short term solution as a substitute for Oil) or the Reko Diq Gold & Copper Mines – which I am sure if mined, we would plunder away the wealth, we need investments and massive activity in Water. In the coming years, Water is what wars will be fought over. Our politicians and military strategists have a very short term and low priority view when it comes to Water. We need lots of Water to feed our people. We need water for the crops. We need water for building and industrial usage. We need drinking water. We need large water reservoirs for dry spell days. We, sadly, have nothing positive to show for it. More than now – investment in Water based projects needs to be a priority. Less than 32% of Pakistan has access to drinking water and only 48% of Pakistan has access to Water. Our Water planning is so bad, that we should be having protests on this on a daily basis. Water availability is shrinking fast in Pakistan. We need indigenously designed solution to filter brackish or ground water. Investments in Reverse Osmosis Plants has been disappointing – meddled with corruption (supply agreements and non deliverance. We, as a nation during the recent flooding did not even have the technology to provide for water filtering when billions of gallons of water was all around us. We had to beg shamelessly for the same. Financial incentives by the Government for home-grown water solutions needs to be the priority of the hour. Large scale water projects, examples includes Water Municipalities for Cities needs to be considered where commercially viable water is extracted, filtered, de-contaminated and pumpled into the water supply routes of the citizens of our country to drink. Farming water is again a huge issue by itself, and issue which has affected the Kalabagh Dam. We need to have farming companies better understand concepts like drip-irrigation, or controlled water distribution (which is a way or using pipes and mechanised machinery to pump water where it is needed precisely and not using dug out water trenches, which can soak up to 35% of the water in some porous soil conditions). Sprinkler and mist based spraying techniques, especially those done at night need to be practised (less evaporation) as these are more water and crop efficient. All this sets up stimulus for a growing economy and creates employment. Think Civil engineers (for Dams), soil experts, construction/labor workers, project managers, agriculture engineers, etc. Water is life and we need to take this problem/challenge seriously.
- Farming: Farming is Pakistan’s backbone. All around we have 1000s of acres of land that is not being utilised for farming. The land that is being utilised, has lots of problems. We have a very large spread of Stem Rust, especially Ug99 that should send shivers down our spines. We went from a nation that was negative in food production to one that became a positive one and an exporter too. You can thank a little known gentlemen in Pakistan for it – Mr. Norman Borlaug. Without him, we were doomed for sure. Farming is about science, and in my opinion we are not applying enough science. A lot of excellent work is being done in Pakistan on agriculture research, however, all this never sees the light of day or mass adaptation due to either political reasoning or selfish reasoning by powerful land owners who want the very best for their tilled soil. We need to change that. As much as this population loves investing in Mosque in every wayward rural area, we need to invest in farmer education. We need more microwave sensing satellitel technology to help us better understand our soil and our land. We need to share this with our farmers without any selfish reason or ulterior motive. We need to expriment with alternative crops. We need to impart education and farming techniques on how to double the yield per acreage on our farmlands. We need mechanised and automatic (autonomous) machinery to harvest the crops. More importantly, we need a better platform that is public domain and easily accessible for farmers to understand the soil, precipitation market pricing, demand/supply, etc. in Pakistan. Very few companies and organisations are mapping the agricultural space. Those that are doing so, don’t share the data or it never makes it down to the farmer – for obvious reasons cited – they are ill equipped to understand what it means. Well if we don’t ever teach and invest in our farmers, we will never prosper. Treat them as the Sub-continent equivalent of slaves and you will only have so much time before nature finds a way to repay you back for your ill ways. Whilst this may seem very melodramatic of a statement, I firmly believe in it. If we can amass ourselves at mosques praying for rain, what is the hurdle then in amassing ourselves for a better cause, educating and investing on the labourer who tills the soils and harvests the crops for your daily meal? We need to provide a stimulus to our farmers and to our non-irrigated lands. Such stimulus can come from a variety of sources. Alternative crops is surely one. I am positive someone, somewhere in Pakistan must have done a study on what alternative crops can be harvested in Pakistan for possible export. Farming, especially on non-irrigated fields needs to be encouraged. With the right investment in water, and the proper incentives provided by the Government, more land in Pakistan can come up under cultivation is we properly plan for the next 5 to 10 years without disruption. There is a lot of good being done in the agriculture & farming sector in Pakistan, however, with the proper use of technology and shunning away commercially genetically modified crops, and the giants like Monsanto, we can do a lot of good with our land using our own resources and not relying on patented, time-barred GM seeds.
- Infrastructure: Urban infrastructure in Pakistan has improved a lot, however, there is much to be said about the Rural and Rural-to-Urban infrastructure. Whilst the Government is making Farm to Market roads, there is still a whole lot that can be done to set the equation straight. At present, a lot of the farmers relay on over-loaded trucking companies to ship their goods. Such over-loaded axles destroy the longevity of the roads and create serious road damage. We need to understand and accept that only so much is legally allowed to be loaded onto a truck axle. When we overload, we do ourselves and our society in general a huge disservice. The local railways is another example of infrastructure gone bad. One common denominator in every thriving economy is its excellent transport network. Ours is in shambled. We have a few well monitored motorways, but back-hauling transport network is in a dangerous and dismal condition. Our Pakistan Railways is a prime example of what has gone from bad to worse as each year passes on. 100s of Train Engines are out of service. Our railways tracks are really antiquated and speed capped. Our trains themselves have seen no significant improvement in the last 3 decades, and the over all efficiency of the network has much to be said. We need to launch a project for dual or quad lines for a new railway network (not replace the existing one, but a new one). This would probably be a 10-12-15 years project to be completed all over Pakistan, but one that is very much needed. Just imagine the employment and business stimulus it creates in an economy. We can partially fund this ourselves or have investors to make this project happen on a BOT (Built-Operate-Transfer) basis. We do not even have 100 meters of track where speeds in excess of 200Kph can be achieved. Heck, we don’t even have an engine that can go 200Kph. This is how time and speed capped we are. The nuclear capable Pakistan moves its backbone railways at donkey equivalent speeds. How sad is that. For a more fuel efficient railway engine with a better tonnage hauling capacity on a high-speed railway network, will deflate a lot of the problems with the trucking business (read: mafia) that exists in Pakistan, and the cost of transporting goods/material and people up country and vice versa. Virtually no commercial business in Pakistan relies on the railway system. The one commercial railway service, the Business Class Train has also seen poor results, primarily because of the involvement of Pakistan Railways and the cost of leasing engines and track rights from them. Every single country that is progressing, in investing in high speed rails and tracks. We are doing absolutely nothing about it. Railways to us has become a ground-transportation mechanism for our servants and the labor class. Its iconic Green Engine is now envisioned as a plagued institution with accidents waiting to happen. Delays are part and parcel of rail travel in Pakistan. We need to change this. We need those 1 mile long freight trains with 100s of containers on them. We need fast tracks to whiz commuters inter-city at 200-240 Kph. We need cargo movement and oil movement on our new railway trains/tracks. We need to accept reality that the existing tracks have immense issues with being repaved for high-speed. We need to accept reality that Pakistan Railways is in trouble and to properly turn it around, we need to privatise the institution. Why is it that in the airline sector we have multiple players, but the same is not allowed in the railway sector? Do you know that a private train operator with 100% owned train and terminal has never run its course in Pakistan. Not once. Railways, Bridges, and more Motorways are needed in Pakistan. If we cannot expect the government to foot the bill, then by all means, allow for exclusive toll-roads to be setup. Our airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are in bad shape too. They need further investment. With the way CAA has been running things, it is a wonder airlines are still coming to Pakistan. CAA has absolutely screwed us over as a nation, when it comes to aviation. Not a single airport in Pakistan is ILS for CAT III. The fees charged by CAA is ridiculous by any measure when compared to regional airports in say Middle East, etc. where the infrastructure is a whole lot more advanced. Investment in transport infrastructure is the hour of the day.
- Tourism: Pakistan is a land that has been blessed with beautiful places, and people who have done absolute disservice and injustice to such places. Barring a handful names, there is not much invested in Toursim in Pakistan. All the lodges in Nathiagali or Murree are privately owned. What little we have to show, we have literally littered, polluted and defaced without any deep concern or guilt. How can we have a more robust tourism industry in Pakistan? By investing in it. Investment is not only in the building or lodges or resorts, but also means investment in the community that earns its livelihood from it. It is a shame we do not have a single sea side lodge despite have 100s of miles of coastal areas. Not one. If you were to ever visit the Maldives, who are our distant cousins at the tip of India (West of Sri Lanka), you will be amazed at how they have developed themselves. We have issues with alcohol and yet we want toursim? Now why would a tourist come to Pakistan (where no alcohol is served) versus say Sri Lanka or Maldives where they can go and spend their Dollars in to an economy that will most welcome it. Maldives by the way, is perhaps more Islamic than us, and yet they thrive with their tourism and have no issues with alcohol. Our Northern Areas are perhaps the most beautiful places on Earth, yet not one Spa is operational in such areas. Why? I can cite four reasons (a) Infrastructure (travel is a pain), (b) Law & Order (c) Lack of Tourist focused investment in infrastructure and community (d) alcohol. Whether you agree or not, the fact remains, we have slowly eroded our tourist destinations. We have the ever expanding mosques dictating what is moral and not moral in our tourist hotspots (a few that we have left), and yet, all this pent up frustration is because of unemployment and a low volume business community. Think again, not a single Spa in our Northern Areas. Sri Lanka has over 120+ Spas. India as over 400+ Spas in its hillside areas. Pakistan: 0. A big Zero. Sri Lanka has over 300+ seaside resorts. India over 1,000. Maldives over 100+, Pakistan: 0. A big Zero. If you were to look at our mountains, the Alpine Society of Pakistan is doing wonders for convincing mountaineers from world over to come to Pakistan to scale our mountains. We need to promote them. We need to help them become a better society and more importantly we need businesses to invest in hotels, cafes, Inns, etc. to foster a better tourist attraction. Until and unless the community cannot see the potential as to what can be achieved, we will continue to have this decline (yes, there is a decline in tourists in Pakistan). For a land blessed with amazing mountains, lakes, valleys, rivers, rapids, desert, forests, and a beautiful coast line, it is extremely sad to see that we have a goldmine amongst us, but moral dictation and not willing to shape up out tourist destination and investment in them, is the letting the fish go. We have so much potential in Tourism, that with the proper planning and marketing, we can significantly increase the number of visitors to Pakistan by an order of magnitude if not more in the coming years.
Please forgive all the grammatical and/or non-sensical sentences. I still need to go over this long post again and check it. However, if you do have something constructive to say, please do comment. If you can critique versus criticise again, you are encouraged to leave a comment.