Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Technological and Global Pakistan

If you haven't read "The World is Flat", I highly recommend you add it to your reading list. It's a great overview of the events that transpired and led to the global economy of today.

Reading a section about India's IT boom I couldn't help but relate Pakistan's current state.

Education: India began it all with a great infrastructure when Nehru established IIT in 1951 and whose graduates claim that its standards are higher than the Ivy Leagues of America. Currently there are 6 of these intellectual "factories" among other private institutions. As an academic institution they are highly competitive for admission (and there is no greater catalyst for innovation and hard work than competition).

Leadership: India has also had good role models and as such a sense of direction and ideals, Gandhi being the most prominent. The nation listened to him and he proved to be an excellent role model by way of example (As an example, the Aga Khani community is also very united because of a common role model and ideal).

Arts and Culture: India is also enriched by the Arts. The Bollywood industry provides them with a sense of self and a rich Indian culture that they can claim their own. It not only gives them an identity but it also gives them an escape--they go to the theatre and watch a movie on the weekends with friends and family but Pakistan has no such escape (in Karachi atleast, Clifton beach is probably the most popular venue for the masses on the weekend and Funland I believe has recently been shutdown). Bollywood caters to the masses and it binds them together the same way cricket brings us together seasonally (and provides us with an excellent past time and to some extent cultivates our competitive spirit).

Economy Policy: Then there is India's socioeconomic policies. Before Manmohan Singh opened up India's economy to foreign investors in 1991, India's economy was suffocating from lack of local competition and much of its intellectual work force went abroad (primarily America). This is currently proving to be a good mishap. These same people who migrated abroad in the 1950s are now well settled and have established jobs and businesses in America. They are able to bring business back home and being alumnis of institutes like IIT are also able to recruit people abroad. They have created a Silk Route between India and America and bound to their country by their sense of culture and unified leadership.

These factors together have put India on the atlas and provided an excellent mix for growth and prosperity. Pakistan in comparison is just beginning to gain some liberty. The Pop culture is mushrooming (having come a long way from the emergence of its first popular pop icons like Vital Signs). We are also opening ourselves up to foreign investment and privatization which is another healthy indicator and in line with the steps India took a decade ago. With a track record of self-serving leaders and the resulting corruption in the ranks, a dictatorship is not so bad after all.

One stifler, however, is PTCL's strong-arming and monopolistic practices. Telecommunications is the most critical industry for global and technological growth--it ingrains a technological mindset in the masses and connects the entire nation locally and globally. In a "flat world", a strong communication infrastucture is what will gain us opportunity in the global economy the same way India achieved it (data punching, call centers and then moving up the intellectual ladder by getting into media, graphics and so on, all of which piggybacked on its rich communications infrastructure for collaboration and management).

Without growth in the telecommunications sector we can't fully participate in the global economy. We need fast broadband, satellite uplinks, redundant connections and so on. A single failure of our Internet pipe (which lasted 10 days no less) shutdown all call center businesses and showed us just how frail our infrastructure is. Our prior leaders lacked any vision of economic growth and prosperity, atleast in the global sphere and the developments right now and the stock market growth are all positive indicators.

As we step into the new year, let's hope for political stability and continue to incubate this growth and prosperity irrespective of the political climate.


Merlinx said...

Good observations but some of these things are more deep-rooted than just policy issues. It simply goes down to who we are in our hearts and what we stand for. Everything else is a manifestation in turn. I know that is somewhat of an over simplification and also a pandora's box at the same time. But that is the truth. If you think about it, and this is just a personal opinion, the vast majority of the people in Pakistan don't really give a rat's ass about coinages like national prosperity and image, making our mark on the atlas, and so on. They're just concerned with how much dough they take home at the of the day. It is all about ideals and interests. Believe it or not, but people actually truly, deeply concerned with national prosperity are very few and far between. "If the price of meat is too high, the government is responsible, if the inflation rate is too high, America is responsible, if girls are wearing jeans on TV and singing, it's a conspiracy against Islam and Musharraf is betraying us to the West, but there are some really cool models of cell phones out there and I need to get one." That about sums up the Pakistani perspective on "globalization". We have very little belief in role models. We may pretend we do, as long as it helps us fit in with a specific crowd or group, or support any self-serving interests.

Everyone talks about living the American dream here. Well guess what? Whether you know it or not there actually is a "Pakistani dream" too and people there want to live it. Know what it goes like? You go to City School or KGS as a kid, do your 'A' levels, get some professional degree in IT or business administration or finance from some university, end up working in a bank, oil company or multi-national, that allows you to afford the latest gadgets, cell phone and car, have some reasonable political, bureaucratic and military connections to flaunt, have a business or be into real estate or stocks even if you lose money so others think you're big (its more prestigious to lose a million than make a thousand), have at least one family member in the West to maintain the family's prestige or have been abroad at some stage, be seen at some hip restaurants and joints about town, take a vacation to some place advertised by your credit card provider (Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and London in vogue these days), attend a few social events and family gatherings where you can discuss the latest gossip and problems with society and show off something (if you have something to show off), tell others your kids bad behavior and spoilt mannerisms is actually a sign of great intelligence and genius, make sure you only go to Agha Khan Hospital even if you have bloody gas from eating too much junk food, visit the upcoming supermarkets in town to do your grocery, and eventually keep living this stereotyped life until your kids take over for you. Even philanthropy is about show and making oneself feel better rather than others. Not all people are like that, but know what? Philanthropy is in style, so many people have to get with it just to keep up. That is what it all boils down to. No matter what people say, this is actually where the majority of people WANT to be. Anyone who deviates from wanting to achieve this Pakistani dream is either misguided, blasphemous or downright crazy. This is OUR model of perfection. Some choose to take shortcuts and underhanded, crooked means of achieving this dream, while others toil and labor for it honestly, but at the end of the day, that is where the majority of our society wants to get to and live like. The most insidious part of this dream is that criticizing it is also trendy but deep down that is what many really want.

And like it or not, all the media exposure and "liberation" is only re-enforcing this image and ideal. Having opened up the media and information realm has done Pakistani society good but more bad. Because very few have capitalized on it for anything constructive. The vast majority and especially the destitute, illiterate classes merely have a role model to look up to in the boob tube of what they want to be in life. Hell, no body wants to grow up and be the next Bill Gates, but everyone wants his job and perks. The majority of people want that top chair and the honors and money that come with it, as long as someone ELSE pulls out the chair for them and asks them to sit in it. So much for entrepreneurship and ingenuity. To the average Pakistani Joe, all this new-age brouhaha about finding our place on the world map is over-rated in reality and misguided although the reasons or perceptions on that vary ranging from Western conspiracies, to self-vested interests of people in government or simply all in a day's work. And most of these Joes will contribute at one level or the other to stopping anyone from changing the status quo, some by voicing their opposition and verbal criticism, while some others through more "conscpicious" means. The status quo has a lot of inertia.

You're correct that national infrastructure including your communications and logistics (roadways, railways, airways) is what makes these Western societies tick. Once you have the roads laid out whether in the real world or the cyberworld, anyone who wants to do business merely needs to set up shop and open his or her doors and see where his or her business vision and efforts take him or her. But our problem is more deep-rooted than putting in the right electronic and physical pathways. I think in time, we'll have better roads and Internet connectivity but I doubt whether that will actually change a whole lot. You have a world class cellular setup in Pakistan today, believe me. But let me ask you has that made your society better? Has it made better people of you? Has it contributed to helping you find this so-called place on the world map? Its spawned a new type of thriving avenue for crime. Its spawned another reason to work harder and make more money to keep up with Jones. Its spawned another thing you have worry about not getting stolen when you are out and about and every time you use a cell phone in public you have to worry about who's looking over your shoulder. How many people get killed per day in Pakistan during cell phone snatchings? The same thing applies for all things modern, ATM and credit cards, portable gadgets, you name it.

The message I am emphasizing here is all the policy changes and technical advancements in the world won't change who we are deep down and that is the main reason for the Pakistani society's problems. You can setup all the businesses in the world with cutting edge connectivity, e-commerce and expensive outlets, privatize all the organizations, but if your business strategy is to rip off people, provided sub-standard services, and simply take home a moneybag in the evening, you won't get anywhere towards your goal of finding your dot on the world map. Every schmuck in Karachi has a cell phone in his pocket today. But how many people bother to not litter and stink up the roads, or break a traffic signal, or give way to the other guy even if simply out of courtesy. I live here in the West and when I walk to work every day, and step on the road, the traffic stops from all four directions out of courtesy until I am across. In Karachi, it doesn't make a difference whether you are an 80-year old granny, people will still run you over with their vehicles when you step on the road. You stop there for someone, people think your are crazy and start honking and swearing at you.

Living the contemporary Pakistani dream simply has no place for the betterment of society or finding its place in the world. It is said that a nation's leaders simply reflect the nation itself. People don't realize or don't want to accept the basic problem that is THE root of ALL our issues -- the fact that the self-serving, corrupt leaders we lament are in fact a crystal clear reflection of who WE are -- a self-serving and corrupt society in general. Reality bites. We hate our leaders because they are a perfect mirror image of who we are. They are a generalization of what we stand for, right down from their outlook on life, manners, professional conduct, ideals, ambitions, everything. In order to understand the Pakistani society all you have to do is take one close look at its leaders and you know it all. I cannot fathom which technical advancement or which policy will fix this and help us find our place on the world map, but I will keep an open mind and a hope.


AleemB said...

We are corrupt to our core, from the PTCL line-man to the law enforcers and keepers of peace who do otherwise. Those are the cards dealt to us. It takes a couple of months to grow your garden, a few years to train your children and a few decades to elevate your nation. That is the discipline.

The pop culture started with one person who decided that he wanted to have a music band and gave up his ambitions of being a doctor or whatever and ran counter to conventional thinking. He got a band together and sang songs of patriotism (Dil Dil Pakistan) and for a moment--however brief it was--we rejoiced and sang along and in doing so praised our nation. It was one man, one band and one song. That is the nature of change--everything can be traced back to a single event. A single policy can change us or a single earthquake or cricket victory can unite the nation and have sociological impacts that might not come to fruition until years later (or might even go unnoticed). It's really not wishful thinking.

You have an idea and you incubate it. You shelter it and nurture it until it gains traction and when it does people notice it and they hop on. The telecommunication sphere in Pakistan is hot right now. Call centers are growing and Pakistanis abroad are beginning to realize the business potential in Pakistan. These are all healthy indicators. At the end of the day I am not hoping for much more than growing the telecommunications industry and unleashing its full potential.

You say greed drives us but that is the human condition. The richest people wouldn't be so if they didn't have a pursuit for wealth and the richest people are all in the West (some in India as well). You say we are superficial but it's just as ridiculous to pay $20 to have some guys name on your underwear, however, these people are percieved as naive victims of marketing. The same ailments plague us as they do the rest of the developing world and people in general.

Our reality is shaped by our thinking. A selfish person thinks everyone in the world is selfish and a humanitarian thinks that all people are good. The question you have to ask yourself is how you perceive the world and your own nation? There in you will find your answer as to which group of thinkers you fall into and only there after can you bring about change (in your own thinking and in those of others).

Merlinx said...

You are correct. I am also a by-product of that society and carry some of those corrupt tendencies too within me. Some I know and some I may not. It is an endless debate with no end, opening a pandora's box as I said at the start.

Many want to see growth and prosperity and the country to have a better name in the world. But many don't really care and have a different set of ideals and ideas. There is a massive philosophical polarization between these different groups. Which way the wind blows eventually and "whose ideas will incubate" into reality for everyone, only time will tell.

farhaN Nocturnal said...

When we compare India with Pakistan, we should keep my few things in mind,

Compare the resourses of India with Pakistan, There is no match.

India earns alot by her's touring sites as well, loads of tourists go to India to see those sights that nature has gifted her.

Its a source of big income and we should consider it as well.

When Pakistan came into being, we had only had FIVE big industries, rest of the infrastructure went in to the hands of India just because of geographical divide. Division of resourses wasn't done properly at the time of partition.

Flow of migrating people towards Pakistan was far more enormous than the flow towards India.

It means we had to accomodate all those people who lost all their wealth and property and that was another burden on the economy in the early years of Pakistan.

In contrast, People who fled to india they were mostly wealthy people, consider MALBAREES who used to live in SINDH, they were all capatilists used to run their businesses, they arrived in India with their capital and they invested their money in India that helped improve indian economy in its early days.

Now I would like to talk about some over mistakes,

We are definitely a victim nation of feudalism, Britain abolished the fuedal culture in eightenth century, NEHRU abolished the fuedal culture in 1947 as he was inspired with communism at some extent.

That is a root cause of our destruction as being a country whose seventy persent population lives in the rural areas and who are being exploited by the fuedals who are definitely not in large numbers, according to some resourses there are only 22 families in Pakistan which are controlling the economy in the context of agricultural growth. Money is circulating in the hands of few people, TODAY iNDIA HAS THE BIGGEST MIDDLE CLASS POPULATION IN THE WORLD, AND NO COUNTRY CAN PROGRESS WITHOUT PROVIDING EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL.


Now lets compare the Indian industries with the Pakistan's.

Firstly look at the indian film industry, compare the budjet of the films and then compare the final production, DO U THINK THOSE FILMS ARE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH THE INTERNATIONAL FILMS, heck no!

With all those massive budgets they are lacking in new ideas, good music and good cinematography.
Have you ever seen IRANIAN movies, THEY ARE FAR MORE BETTER THAN INDIANS that is why the often win the international film awards just because they have got new subjects, commendable acting skills, beautiful camera work.

And sorry to say Indian movies are just REDICULOUS beside all their massive budget.

If we had that much budget for our films we would be making far far better movies than our counterpart.

Compare indian Auto industry with ours, Amreican company Ford engineers told me that Pakistan has got much more skilled people in auto industry than indians, they said quality control facilities in pakistan are better than indian industry.

Could you compare the turnover of Indian Auto idustry with Pakistan's, infact there is no comparison, India is a huge market....and still they are lacking in skills and technlogy...

Compare india's nuclear technology, Every one knows that PAkistan has much better nuclear and MISSILE technology than India.

Comapre india's sports infrastructure, Where ethey are standing, how many sports title india has , We pakistani's at one stage had four world titles in different sports,

snooker.All at a time

Compare our population with theirs, there is no match but still we are bit more better than them.

Another thing india is a secular state officially, know what I mean (I dont wana discuss this matter at this time),

World powers do acknowledge india as a secular state, and they definitely lean towards india just because india is not a muslim state, I don't wanted to discuss that thing, I mean religion, but its a fact we can't shy away from this thing, we fought afghan war, that was a huge burden on our economy, consider that aspect as well, we didnt get enough aid to fight against russian communism as we should have got, Once zia ul haq commented that WHat we had received from USA in terms of aid was like a peanut in the mouth of camel.

We can't even buy military aquipment from other countries, but look at india's millitary power they get what they want because they are............any ways

FULL CREDIT GOES TO NIRSMAHA RAO , who in early 1980, gave permission to foreign companies to invest in th IT sector, and that's really paid back. And that is the only sector where india really rulling.

Where as IT came to pakistan exactly after ten years in early 90's. But still our proffesionals are competing indian's and I think its commendable.

There are lot more things that i could mention but I think thats enough.

falconair78 said...

India is certainly far ahead of Pakistan today in several measures, but I don't believe most of the given reasons hold water.

Pakistan has a long history of art. Our movies from the black and white era, our telivision dramas and our folk singers were always present. Our pop singers, who have existed for at least two or three decades now have been more diverse than those of India. While India's bollywood produces fantastic artists, I believe our artists are more independent (singers at least). If I had to pick between singers having to prove themselves in a single industry versus gaining popularity through different venues, I would certainly prefer the latter.

If Gandhi is Indians' role model, we have Jinnah. There have been strong leaders since: Ms. Gandhi for them and Bhutto for us (strong and charismatic, not necessarily universally liked).

Historically, India has been as corrup as Pakistan.

Economically, Pakistan has had periods where it was much stronger than India (per capita terms).

My point is most certianly NOT jingoistic. India IS doing better. I am merely suggesting that the usual reasons given for the emerging desparity may actually not be true. I don't have the answer.

I don't have the answer but there are some things that seem like symptoms. One of the biggest is the kind of letter one sees in Pakistani new papers almost every day...the kind that ends with "will the concerned authorities please look into the matter." We if we don't have any concerned authorities, are there any concerned citizens? :)

Merlinx said...

Curiosity question, open-ended (not directed at anyone specific) -- why does it matter so much what India is doing? Why is India the yard-stick for everything that Pakistan measures itself by?

SQ said...

Two Reasons

1. Because they are our "enemies". How can you let your enemy be better (or stronger) than you? If they appear to be so, it must only be an appearance, and in reality, they're not. And you must find ways of justifying that. Oh, and they want a piece of land that is ours. How dare they! If they can test 5 bombs, we can test 6! Hmph! Take that!!

2. Because both of us started out in this race together, on the same day. So how the heck did they get so far ahead of us?!

Anonymous said...

Pakistan and Pakistanis should stop worrying about India and see how they can fare better in global community. You could learn a lot from us - why we left you behind in many things? We did not keep Pakistan as our yardstick of measurement. We had much more bigger enitities to compare ourselves with. Anothe thing, though you are part of the Indian civilization, you have forgotten the roots. We haven't. In the hearts of hearts we are a progressive civilization. Jingoism and parochialism does not go well with Indian way of doing things - that is why inspite of our own internal contradictions we have successfully managed to keep our flock together. Join us - you will also flourish!