Pakistan: Vision 2030 by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

There is so much bad news coming out of Pakistan that any suggestion of a future vision sounds comic to many people. But we must not forget that we are not the first nation that has to deal with a crisis of survival. Our neighbor Afghanistan has experienced repeated invasion by foreign armies for many centuries. Vietnam was destroyed in the US invasion of 1960s. China went through occupation by foreign powers. Singapore went through a painful divorce from mainland Malaysia. Korea experienced division of their nation by world powers which are still hurting them. Despite these set backs human spirit shines brighter under duress. In last 10 years Pakistanis have shown extraordinary resilience to deal with natural disasters of historic proportions i.e. 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods. We have also sustained man-made disaster of terrorism. So we should be optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future of Pakistan. The vision I am presenting here is achievable if only we could get a handle on our destiny.

Despite target killing and frequent business shutdown in strikes the mega city Karachi is thriving as it has become Mecca for freelance software developers working from home. Karachi has an abundance of banking and investing talent available that can be utilized to develop regional stock & bond markets, investment banks and trade finance institutions. By 2030 we can develop the city to become the financial center of South Asia just like London is serving in that role for Europe and New York for world markets. Karachi can become a regional trade center as an international gateway for flow of goods in and out of landlocked Central Asia and South Asia. This can be facilitated by the Pakistani exporters expertise in finding buyers in Europe and North America. Karachi can attract foreign visitors by becoming a hub for higher education, health tourism and software development.

Lahore is one of the oldest cities in the world and home to historical monuments from Mughal era. The city should be able to earn billions of dollars of revenue from tourism alone. But to achieve this objective the city has to develop diversity in cuisine; increase number of hotel rooms to offer good accommodations and create number of events that can be attractive for foreign visitors like basant and horse & cattle show. As an art and cultural center the city should develop a Broadway NY or Piccadilly London style theater district. Lahore can become a hub for industries like processed food, textiles, and light engineering due to its proximity to regional agricultural and industrial centers. Multinational companies can develop their head offices in Lahore to manage production centers in Sialkot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Wazirabad.  The city has made good progress in developing a deep pool of Information Technology talent and software development. But it has to develop project management and quality assurance expertise that are critical to compete in international markets.

Sialkot and Gujranwala have been two cities that have traditionally led the light engineering products manufacturing in Pakistan i.e. washing machines, fans, motors, sports goods and surgical instruments. Government should offer fiscal incentives to encourage these industries to allocate resources to R & D, branding and developing new markets. The opening of land route to Eurasian region and improvement in trade ties with Sub-Saharan Africa offer good export potential. Joint ventures with Chinese industries should enable talent in these cities to acquire manufacturing, engineering and marketing expertise. Through proper planning and execution the export potential of these two cities could easily top $50 billion a year.

Just like Lahore, Peshawar as a historic city can become a tourist attraction. Peshawar can also become a hub for companies that are interested in reconstruction work in Afghanistan. The city can also become a major trade gateway to Central Asia. Peace in Swat could help increase international flights to Peshawar airport so that tourists and expeditions can land there for onward journey to Himalayan mountain ranges.

The mineral riches of Baluchistan are still largely untapped. Quetta can become a hub for mineral exploration and processing companies that are interested in working not only in Baluchistan but Afghanistan as well. Gwadar can earn substantial revenue from the containerized ships served at this deep sea port. Mineral processing and special industrial zones can be developed in the proximity of Gwadar with help from China, Russia and Brazil.

Thar coal offers a tremendous opportunity for Pakistan to meet its energy needs. But one of the hurdles to cross is the environmental impact of coal as a fuel. Pakistan can take a lead in overcoming this hurdle by creating a coal research center in Thar that develops new burning processes that can be patented and licensed to earn foreign exchange.

Pakistan’s agricultural potential is not fully exploited. Our yield per hector is still much lower than many other countries. We are ranked among the top five dairy producing countries in the world although our cows produced just 25% of which a Dutch or an Australian cow produces. Instead of relying on foreign seed and other implements, we should develop our own varieties that are organic and disease resistant. We have to improve efficiency of our irrigation system to reduce water wastage and introduce drip technique to bring more land under cultivation. We need to corporatize the agriculture. These corporations can then lease large tracts of land from renter landlord as well as provide capital for crop financing to achieve higher economies of scale. Local farmers perform the work under supervision of experts to improve yields. These farmers are compensated based on traditional systems of production sharing. Success of Nestle provides a good case study in this regard.

Success of Bollywood has opened opportunity for Pakistani media. Almost all Bollywood songs are in Urdu language which is now understood by people of Middle East and Africa. Vulgarization and Westernization of Bollywood has annoyed viewers as most of these populations are Muslims and conservative. This is an opportunity for Pakistani drama, movies and news to expand its distribution to these regions to earn foreign exchange for the country as well as develop soft power. Success of movies Bol, Khuda Kay Liya and Waar among international audience is an indication that the opportunity is there. Pakistani media houses have to develop their expertise in international distribution and develop joint ventures to learn modern production techniques from developed countries. Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt have good entertainment industries that can collaborate with our talent.

To achieve the above outlined economic potential we need to overcome many domestic challenges. Improvement of law & order is at the top of the list. Development of infrastructure i.e. internet, smartphones, international banking, roads, ports, international flights and railways is another challenge. Amendments in regulations to protect investors, intellectual and private property will help in attracting foreign investment. Efficiency of courts to quickly dispose of commercial disputes will develop goodwill to attract joint venture partners. Ease in company formation and repatriation of capital will increase confidence of investors. We have to resolve our ethnic and sectarian differences to evolve a stable social order that is tolerant and moderate. But the most important ingredient for success is to allow emergence of a leadership that is capable, honest and passionate about the country.

The opportunity is in front of us but there is no evidence that a well has walked up to the thirsty person.

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