PAKISTAN DAY

The dream of the people, to achieve a homeland where they could live in peace and harmony, has yet to come true

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Mar 28 - Apr 03, 2005

Having a separate homeland with peace and harmony was the earnest desire of the Muslims of South Asia while "Unity-Faith-Discipline" was the clue given by the father of the nation to achieve that cherished goal.

Though the price was too high as millions of the people from all corners of the sub-continent sacrificed the precious life, property and honor during struggle for Pakistan, yet value of freedom cannot be overestimated whatsoever the price paid for our homeland.

Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947 under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-i-Azam, yet the spirit of unity-faith-discipline and dream of the people for peace, prosperity and harmony phased out during the journey of 58 years.

It is perhaps the most painful aspect of the day that we as a nation failed to develop a consensus among ourselves on certain priorities especially related to the integrity and solidarity of the country, hence we do not stand united. Unfortunately, the political forces do not hesitate to declare that country would be disintegrated if they were not returned to power. This claim is usually made by the majority of the political parties. People have developed a tendency to disregard even some good decisions and policies made by others. The good decisions are opposed only for the sake of opposition. The yellow cab scheme introduced by Nawaz government perhaps is the best example of such hatred among political forces.

That was the scheme at micro-level which had provided respectable job opportunities to the educated youngsters besides resolving the acute transport problem especially in the urban areas of the country. However, that scheme was scrapped by the next government by labeling the charge of financial scam.

Usually speaking, the highhanded attitude of the people having some sort of authority has drawn a line between them and the people so that they are paid to serve. Instead of getting a sense of protection, people generally feel a sense of insecurity and avoid coming into their contact. This sort of situation has encouraged the crime rate as 80 percent of the cases go unreported as people have no hope for justice. Instead of getting problems resolved they are entangled in complexities of the cumbersome procedures.

The nation observe the Pakistan Day as an annual feature to pay homage to the father of the nation, yet the guiding principle of Unity-Faith-Discipline which was the soul of the Quaid's will to the nation was missing from all spheres of social, economic and political life in our country.

The dream of the people, to achieve a homeland where they could live in peace and harmony, has yet to come true even after 58 years of inception of this country. Those who were supposed to be a role model on religious, social and political fronts hopelessly failed to deliver. Unfortunately, they served their personal interest, party interest or sectarian interest instead of protecting the basic rights of the people.

The loss of credibility of the leadership in all spheres of life perhaps is the greatest loss. If it is not exaggeration the slogan of serving the people has become the most effective tool to earn money, name and power. Whether it is social, religious, political or trade union leadership all of them have become a trade and people who join these becomes rich with in shortest span of time. They are from shanty hutments to posh areas soon by the virtue of servicing the people!

ECONOMY

Today, an economic turnaround is rightfully claimed by the government which sounds true to some extent.

It is true that the exports have crossed the mark of $12 billion for the first time in the history of this country. The large scale manufacturing sector has started remarkable growth. GDP is well poised to hit the mark of 7 percent growth rate, home remittances are expected to over $4 billion, revenue collections are above the target. The economy has successfully come out of the debt trap and the capital formation at the stock market has attained a height of $40 billion as compared to merely $5 billion in 1996.

Despite all these remarkable achievements, the masses of this country are deprived of the benefits as they were not reaching down to the earth. However, those already have resources were, however, enjoying the sound economic conditions at macro-level. As money begets money, they are using their money and optimizing their resources. There is no harm in yet a balanced and justified distribution of resources is lacking which raises the questions in the minds. It seems to be a pertinent question that why the level of the chronic issue of unemployment is on the decline especially in the face of stronger economic growth. Why poverty, health and education continue to haunt the people of meager resources. Why the street crime is on the rise. The regional, provincial, ethnic and sectarian hatred with its ugly face continue to erode the harmony and keep threatening social and national fiber.

Poverty reduction is one of the top priorities of the economic reforms agenda presented by the government of the day. The government has introduced some good schemes like micro financing, SMEs and initiating huge development projects to achieve goal of poverty alleviation. However, during last 4-5 years the micro finance scheme has made a little headway and only 6 percent of the total poor house holds have benefited of the scheme. This needed to be accelerated at a higher pace. Though these schemes may produce some positive results in the short-term, yet the issue is so serious that it calls for sound steps to achieve concrete results in the long run. And the most effective steps towards that goal could be to allocate national resources for the purpose of spreading education at level. It is the education alone that can cure all social and political ills prevailing in our country. There is no second opinion that it is ignorance that generates disease, crime and other social and political disorders. There are examples set by other countries that they have made education free instead of using it as a commercial venture to mint money as is being done in our society.

It is perhaps the unique achievement of this government to come out of the IMF regime, yet we continue to take advice from that international donor agency which mercilessly recommends imposition of government taxes to hit the revenue collection targets. Revenue no doubt provides fuel to run the government yet it should not be at the cost of the kitchen of the common man. The tax collection policy needed to be enabling the people to pay easily and not to evade and escape from them.

S.H. Hashmi, Chairman Orient Advertisers, while commenting on the recent wave of increase in oil prices which has consequently fanning the high rate of inflation in our country has strongly recommended that the prevailing fashion of revising oil prices at every fortnight needed to be done away immediately by scrapping the Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC).

It is the oil and electricity which plays a pivotal role to make or mar the economies.

A FOREIGNER'S POINT OF VIEW

Recently, Somini Gupta, who is the Bureau Chief of New York Times had visited Karachi where she met people from all walks of life especially in relation with economic social development in our country. On her return, she wrote a piece on the economic and social conditions prevailing in Pakistan which was published in the New York Times recently. She had tried to be objective and has been successful to a great extent:

Following are her views:

Umar Sheikh, 31, British-born, New York-trained and married to a woman from New Jersey, long dreamed of running his own restaurant.

London was too expensive. New York was too risky. Karachi seemed just right. His gamble, in this restive port city better known for its religious radicals than its ravioli, has worked so far.

Limon cello, Sheikh's cozy Italian-inspired fine dining spot with lemon-colored walls and a kebab-free menu that features arugula and Norwegian salmon, is thriving.

Its success reflects an unexpected post-Sept. 11 boon: prompted by a mix of government policy, serendipity and changing global tides brought on by the American campaign against terrorism, Pakistan's economy is booming. The well-off, at least, are living extremely well.

In its first two months, Limon cello has brought in revenue that Sheikh did not expect for several more. Already, three investors have offered to pitch in on his next venture. One recent Friday night, nearly all of the tables were occupied. Dinner for four not including wine, since alcohol is banned at public accommodations came to $70, substantially more than a Karachi housemaid's monthly salary. "I'm getting a lot of corporate heads, a lot of nouveau riche, people who come from abroad who are not necessarily wealthy but are educated about cuisine," said Sheikh, the son of Pakistani immigrants to Britain. "People want high-end products."

The country's economy grew 6.4 percent during the last fiscal year, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive, projects 8 percent annual growth in two years' time. "Pakistan is a country today that has gone through a very intensive five-year reform," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said in an interview in the capital, Islamabad. "We are seeing the results."

There are many factors behind the boom. Remittances that Pakistani expatriates once sent home through informal banking channels are now landing in the banks, lifting the country's foreign reserves to $12.7 billion a year, compared with $1 billion in 2001. As an important ally of the United States, Pakistan has been able to slash its external debts. In the last five years, export earnings have doubled to more than $13 billion, mostly from textiles, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. "There's a lot of confidence in Pakistan's economy," said Ishrat Husain, the state bank chief.

Wealthy expatriates jittery about their futures in the United States and Europe since Sept. 11, 2001, have set aside nest eggs back home or returned.

Despite the current setback mainly due to risk management regulations introduced by Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) the Karachi stock market soaring high. The real estate market has exploded in Pakistan. A residential plot that Sheikh bought two years ago in his mother's native Lahore has tripled in value.

"People are feeling more optimistic," Muhammad Yasin Lakhani, chairman of the Karachi Stock Exchange, said in a recent interview. "People want to put their money in a growing economy any day rather than in a developed economy." Yasin Lakhani had a cause for optimism. That morning, the stock exchange had jumped a record 295 points. Its market capitalization had reached $40 billion, up from $5 billion in 1998. Much of the stock market's rise, analysts say, is a result of the government's moves to privatize state-owned assets.

The big question now is whether such impressive growth can lift a majority of Pakistanis. Poverty grew steadily in the late 1990's, according to the last government study, conducted four years ago. In 2001, 32 percent of Pakistanis lived below the poverty line which remains the most widely cited and reliable barometer of poverty.

A smaller survey done in 2004, Prime Minister Aziz said, showed a decline in poverty, but people outside the government noted that the survey was smaller in scale and therefore not comparable to the earlier studies. "The trickle-down effect has not really taken place," Lakhani said.

In a working-class enclave pressed against one of Karachi's high-toned neighborhoods, small girls filled up big buckets of water from a neighbor's tap and heaved it home on their shoulders. Only some houses here are connected to the city water supply. Those who can get water from their neighbors do so; others pay to have it trucked in.

It is not that people here are unaware of Pakistan's economic boom. "What's the change for us?" said a laconic Ishtiaq Malik, 28. "The house rent has increased. The petrol price has increased. The electricity bill has increased." Like many of his neighbors in the crowded slum of winding muddy alleys, Ishtiaq Malik came from a village in rural Punjab to make a living in the city. Today, as a gardener, he fetches about $85 a month. After rent and food and electric bill, he says, there is not much left to send home to his parents, landless peasants back in the village.

Kaneez Gazar, a housemaid in her 40's who came to Karachi to escape the grinding poverty of her own village, offered a smile when asked about her country's economic growth. "We earn, we eat," is how she put it. Between her earnings and those of her two daughters, also housemaids, the family brings in about $100 a month. Half of that goes to rent. The prices of sugar and butter have gone up. She is buying water from a private tanker. With her heart ailment and her daughter's chronic cough, there are medical bills to pay. Hanging over her head is a $420 debt for an older daughter's wedding. Still, she says, life in Karachi has meant a measure of dignity. "At least I'm feeding myself," she said. "At least we get clothes and shoes."

It is Pakistan's deeply stratified society that makes some analysts skeptical of how and when the spoils at the top will filter down to those among the 150 million Pakistanis who still barely scrapes by. A study last December by the Social Policy and Development Center, a Karachi-based research institute, reported that of every rupee of economic growth, 34 percent went to the richest 10 percent of the population, and only 3 percent to the poorest 10 percent.

It is Pakistanis like Limon cello's owner, Sheikh, who have buoyed and exploited country's economic boom. Some of it, he reckons, has been driven by overseas Pakistanis' concerns about their futures in the United States and Europe. Some of it, as in his case, was driven by opportunity: common sense told him there was money to be made here.

In the last few years, his father-in-law returned and bought up property across the country. A friend from London opened a call center. A woman who runs a bakery in London is now opening a patisserie, called Truffles, down the street. Recalling those who had gone abroad before, Sheikh said, "There were all kinds of people, of all kinds of mentality, who were leaving and taking their money with them."

PRESIDENT

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has called on countrymen to demonstrate "Unity, Faith and Discipline" and work for a prosperous Pakistan having its rightful place in the comity of nations.

He urged the nation in his message on the occasion of 65th anniversary of Pakistan Day that there is a need greater than ever before to demonstrate Unity, Faith and Discipline, the guiding principles given to us by the Quaid-i-Azam.

Pakistan today stands at a defining moment in its history. The prudent and far-sighted policies of the last five years have created tremendous opportunities for the country.

Resultantly, we are in a position where we can truly realize that aims and objectives for which our beloved country was created 56 years ago.

The president observed "if we continue on this path, we will, by the grace of the Almighty, be able to transform Pakistan into a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Welfare State, as envisaged by the father of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

There was a need more than ever before to maintain stability, ensure continuity and stay the course. If we lose direction, we can be overcome by the forces of obscurantism and extremism, which can cause irreparable harm to the country and the people.

The choice, therefore, is very clear. The vast majority of Pakistanis are hardworking, patriotic and moderates who wish to see the country progress and attain its rightful place in the comity of nations. They need to stand up and be counted.

The President was of views that we have the resolve, we have the determination and we will not fall.

"I have complete confidence in the wisdom of greater people and faith in their will to work towards the objective" the President observed firmly.

While feeling honored to greet the nation on the occasion of Pakistan Day, which was a true historic milestone in the nations quest for independence, the President said: "For it was on this day that the Muslims of South Asia resolved to carve out an independent homeland for themselves, a land where they could live in peace and harmony in accordance with the tenets of Islam, free from repression and subjugation".

He recalled that it was the unanimous will of the Muslims of South Asia under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-i-Azam which resulted in the creation of Pakistan. "From those momentous days in 1940 the nation has come a long way".

The President said having attained independence on August 14, 1947 against seemingly insurmountable odds; the country has been confronted with many challenges both external and internal in the post-independence period.

"The problems have indeed been many as well as complex", but added, it most certainly goes to the credit of the Pakistani nation that they have always risen to the occasion and successfully overcome adversity by demonstrating patriotism, steadfastness, resilience and unswerving faith in the Almighty. May the Almighty be our Protector and Guide", prayed President Musharraf.

PRIME MINISTER

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his message on Pakistan Day called on the nation to rededicate itself to attain the ideals of a tolerant and moderate society and transform Pakistan into a modern enlightened welfare Islamic state.

"Let us all rededicate ourselves in attaining the ideals of an enlightened, tolerant and moderate society, social justice and democracy, laid down for us by the founding father and fashion our lives according to our consecrated values."

Today the nation is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the adoption of Pakistan Resolution by All India Muslim League in Lahore on March 23, 1940.

Pakistan Day reminds of the immense sacrifices rendered by the Muslims of the sub-continent to achieve a homeland of their own for living their lives in accordance with their religion, culture and traditions.

The Prime Minister called on the people to express gratitude to the Almighty for blessing them with a separate homeland.

"We pay homage to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and all the freedom fighters and workers of the Pakistan Movement who determinedly march behind their leader to achieve their cherished goal".

He also asked to pay respect and homage to those countless individuals who laid down their lives in the struggle for Pakistan. "Let us on this day pledge to keep our covenant with the Quaid by closing our ranks and transforming the country into a modern enlightened Islamic welfare state which ensures justice, rightful place of women in society, and equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, while discouraging hatred extremism and exploitation in forms and manifestations", he concluded.