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Pakistan on the Road to becoming an Asian Tiger
 

March 19, 2005.

By Pervaiz Lodhie

 

Once again I am returning from Pakistan to LA after a successful trip. I now travel to Pakistan a few times a year. I am never disappointed with the progress I see, and I wonder where the negative articles about Pakistan come from. This time I came as a Corporate Board member of US Pakistan Business Council (www.uspakistan.org) with a fifteen member high level US Business Delegation to Islamabad. High level is really an understatement for this delegation because of the total market capitalization of this group exceeded one trillion dollars (Yes, one trillion with a “t”).

The Delegation included executives like Ahmet Bozer of Coca-Cola, Kursat Ozkan of General Electric, Stephen Du Mont & Richard Mach of Cisco, Hassan Tavakoli of Motorola, Mohammed Ghafari of Lucent, Nigel Thompson of Merck Co, Robert Riordan of Black & Veatch, Norman Collins of Citigroup, Edward Jackson of Sweetwater Int’l, and Tom Slone of Touchstone (a recent IT-Call Center-BPO success story in Islamabad I have followed). Pakistani Americans in the delegation included Shoaib Kothawala of Hometex, Rafat Mahmood of Mahmood Investment, Mohammed Tahir of United American Lines, and myself, Pervaiz Lodhie of LEDtronics. Most of us in the delegation are members of the USPBC.

Five years of hard work by the top Pakistani leadership and placement of a good management team is starting to pay fast dividends. All key economic and fundamental indicators show goals are being achieved faster than set time limits. Though twenty years late, if this progress pace continues there is no doubt that Pakistan will be the Asian Tiger of the near future.

There is a major shortage of hotels in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad at this time, but several new hotels are currently being built. The day our delegation started arriving on March 14th at Serena Hotel Islamabad, Islamabad was being visited by the world’s fourth richest man, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who is investing heavily in Pakistan. There were high-level delegations from Malaysia, Europe, Central Asian Countries and other Middle East countries. The only foreign investors clearly missing from this center of the region that will be the highest growth region of the world are investors from The United States of America. Middle Eastern, European, and South Asian companies and investor groups are quickly grabbing the major government entities being privatized in Pakistan.

American administration’s selective overreaction towards Muslims around the world after the tragedy of “9/11” and subsequent uncalled for invasion of the sovereign Muslim nation of Iraq is turning global economies and new money away from America. The signs are becoming more and more clear that America may not be the engine of the world economy of tomorrow. I made this statement couple of years ago. I now read articles in Newsweek, U.S. News stating if America will remain No.1 in future. It will very likely be South Asia, which includes Pakistan. The goal of our fifteen member high level USPBC business delegation was to work towards encouraging foreign direct investment opportunities into Pakistan and improve bilateral investment climate between USA and Pakistan. The strong travel advisory on visiting Pakistan by the U.S. State department and the insurance company’s cancellations of insurance policies of those that travel to Pakistan have done more harm than good. Fortunately, multi-national companies in the US, like Coca-Cola, GE, Cisco, Motorola, Lucent and many others, are taking the lead, and making their own decisions to travel to Pakistan regardless of any travel advisories.  

The US Chamber of Commerce/USBPC delegation met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Senate Chairman Mohammad Mian Soomro, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, Privatization Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Information Technology Minister Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, Minister of State Umar Ahmad Ghuman, and Commerce Secretary Tasneem Noorani. The business delegation repeated the same message at all meetings: “Many good stories are taking place in Pakistan. The reality of Pakistan is lot more positive than the perception being created in the West. How can the USPBC help in telling the true story of Pakistan in the West and turn the wrong perception around?” The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker was not only a great host to our delegation, but truly committed to helping improve the relationship of USA and Pakistan in all sectors.

There is still a lot of work to be done in Pakistan; all is not perfect. Fifty years of country’s rape and gross miss-management by few cannot be fully fixed in five years except by some magic. There are a few politicians, a few bureaucrats, and a few chairmen that are not helping the country. They are bad listeners, and they are arrogant “mister-know-it-alls.” A statement was made to me in passing that, “We don’t care if America comes or not. We are doing great on our own.” Such remarks are uncalled for. For the first time Pakistan is showing poverty reduction in the urban areas. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MGD) and the World Bank are looking for poverty reduction in the rural poor masses in the 1000’s of villages of Pakistan. Only the poverty increase has now been arrested in the rural poor by collective efforts of many NGO’s. The revolutionary poverty alleviation program of National Commission on Human Development (NCHD) and Pakistan Human Development Fund (PHDF) is making major progress in bringing universal primary education and primary health to the most rural villages through volunteering. As one of the active founding directors of NCHD/PHDF, I will be writing a report on their successes and achievements.

Other critical problems that need to be addressed include law and order, corruption, health care, and education. The Transparency International shows that corruption index went up twenty percent in 2004 after declining for four years. This may be due to reduced government focus on corruption. This sudden increase in corruption index should be immediately analyzed, and appropriate, corrective actions should be taken.

Pakistan can become a model country by both individual and collective efforts by all Pakistanis and Pakistani expatriates around the world. Pakistan has a very large number of financially successful individuals and corporations that need to participate in moving Pakistan forward. Together, Inshallah, Pakistan will be a proud nation.

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