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Pakistan - On The Mend!


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#1
SSAAD

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The glass is half full

The first week back from a holiday brings a fresh perspective and a new impetus to your work. While of course the day-to-day business of diplomacy goes on – as witnessed by the successful visit to Pakistan by the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon – it is a chance to step back and reflect.
From outside Pakistan, you get a clearer view of how the country is perceived by the wider world. There is no point in mincing words: Pakistan is too often seen as synonymous with terrorism and violence. Every diplomat has their own story to tell of being asked “did they make you go to Pakistan?” or “isn’t that a war zone?” and having to explain what a great place Pakistan is to live in. Nevertheless, this perception is deeply embedded and makes it hard for Pakistan to make the most of the global marketplace and the benefits of global opportunities.
There is of course violence in Pakistani society – few countries have seen more terrorism over the last few years. But my experience of Pakistan is much more the story of everyday life – of family picnics, vibrant clothing, welcoming people and an entrepreneurial spirit. Returning to Islamabad, I am struck by the disconnect between the international narrative on Pakistan and the reality here. I hope that will change. For the UK Government, Pakistan cannot just be a country where we discuss counter-terrorism, military cooperation and development: it is a business partner that could become a thriving economic hub, a destination for British tourists and a country that has deep cultural and personal links with the UK.
I am not the only person in Islamabad taking this view. Last week the Managing Director of the World Bank, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, while visiting Islamabad, said a similar thing: “we frame Pakistan purely in form of challenges instead of opportunities”. This outlook is catching: Daniel Runde writing recently in Forbes magazine about the US-Pakistani relationship argued that “in order to participate in the upside of the Pakistan story, the United States will need to view Pakistan not as a problem to be solved but as a potential partner.”
There are two very real challenges for Pakistan. First, creating a new narrative – countries with more violence and more poverty have a better reputation than Pakistan. If the only stories people hear around the world are stories about violence, death penalties and intolerance, then it so much harder for Pakistani businessmen to sell their wares overseas, government to attract inward investment to make the most of the country’s dynamic workforce, and for Pakistan to punch its weight in international diplomacy. So I hope we will see a new, alternative narrative about Pakistan’s place in the world. What the narrative should be – a young, growing, hardworking country in a strategically important position – pretty much writes itself.
I am reminded of the misrepresentation of Islamabad by the TV programme Homeland. While people in Pakistan rightly criticised the programme for its false characterisation of the city, the underlying issue was that the TV producers felt that they could show Pakistan in that way. They could not have done that about many other cities in Asia without a large proportion of their audience complaining about the preposterousness of it all. The challenge for Pakistan is not that the media all-too-often portrays it in a negative light (the UK media does that about quite a few countries!), it is that the orthodoxy is to portray Pakistan in that way. The straight and leafy boulevards of Islamabad would have raised more questions with the average viewer of Homeland than their made-up version of Pakistan.
But, of course, a new narrative will only be effective in changing attitudes with the evidence to back it up – and that is the second challenge for Pakistan. This involves hard work. And that – as Sri Mulyani Indrawati outlined – is what needs to happen next. Investment in education, ensuring individuals, groups and communities have equal access to the marketplace, investing in infrastructure and tackling all terrorists will help Pakistan create a new narrative about itself – and make the lives of everyday Pakistanis better. The UK is doing what it can to help and we will continue to talk up the opportunities in Pakistan. But I would like to see every single person with a connection to Pakistan stand up and sell Pakistan, challenge the negativity and, later this week, celebrate national day with real pride and real hope.
- Philip Barton

Writer is British High Commissioner to Pakistan


Wow. Nice find. A great write by the High Commissioner


Mods: Who removed the other "The glass is half full" piece? At least put a reason why things are being moved around. The idea was to show that even the usual nay-sayers are coming around to the idea of things improving in Pakistan.


Moved them here: http://www.pakdef.or...und-vii/page-19

Try not opening new threads.
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#2
zeeshan

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Assalamaoalukum,

 

 

Pakistani Ambassador rings in opening bell of NASDAQ on the occasion of Pakistan independence day.

 

http://jang.com.pk/j...2015/u59503.htm


And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#3
zeeshan

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Assalamaoalauakum.

My computer keys are not working  but can someone post the Washington post article from todayès edition titled: Pakistan is rebounding.

Thanks.


And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#4
mominkhan

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In Pakistan, a prime minister and a country rebound — at least for now

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reviews an honor guard during an August welcoming ceremony in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Stanislav Filippov/AFP via Getty Images)

By Tim Craig September 8

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — One year after he was nearly bounced from office, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has hung on amid signs the country could be on the cusp of a surprising turnaround.

After years of terrorist attacks, military coups and political upheaval, Pakistan for now has settled into a period of relative calm. Over the past nine months, government statistics show, major terrorist attacks have declined 70 percent, and Pakistanis are flocking back to shopping malls, resorts and restaurants.

The relaxed and optimistic mood here is benefiting Sharif politically, despite the humiliation he faced a year ago when he had to cede a chunk of his power to Pakistan’s military. Still, the arrangement is allowing Sharif to do something that Pakistani leaders have struggled to accomplish for much of the past decade: implement a road map for what a peaceful, stable Pakistan could look like. And in the process, Sharif is winning over skeptics despite his low-key leadership style.

“People are feeling more secure. There are development projects, and the perspective of people is changing to say, ‘Okay, now we can see things are going well,’ ” said Zafar Mueen Nasir, dean of business studies at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. “Of course, there will always be some criticism and always a second opinion, but as far as I am concerned, this government is at least showing some progress.”

Last summer, after Sharif’s first year in office was marked by disputes with political rivals and the country’s powerful military, tens of thousands of protesters camped out near his mansion, demanding his resignation. At the time, there was widespread speculation that military leaders were considering a coup to oust Sharif over his diplomatic outreach to Pakistan’s arch rival, India.

[Protesters march toward Pakistan’s Parliament in sign of deepening crisis]

But as Islamabad slipped into an unusually chilly fall, Sharif outlasted the protesters. To remain in office, he reportedly had to make significant concessions to military commanders, including giving them full authority to make major decisions related to government policy toward Afghanistan and India.


Now, despite his reduced power, Sharif has turned his attention toward trying to rebuild a chronically sluggish economy while also delivering shiny new amenities for residents.

It’s a strategy that has become easier to implement this year, as a military campaign in Pakistan’s tribal belt and its largest city, Karachi, has been credited with reducing terrorist attacks and other crimes.

In the first eight months of this year, 680 civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks, compared with 1,194 in the same period last year and 2,246 in 2013, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which monitors violence in the region.

[Pakistani military says it achieved major victory in mountain assault]

A rapidly growing country of 180 million, Pakistan has plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Energy shortages can keep the lights out for hours at a time, even in wealthy neighborhoods. Tens of millions of children suffer from poor nutrition, unsafe drinking water and sporadic access to medical care. The average Pakistani makes just $1,513 per year; many can’t find jobs. And Pakistan still has unsettled relations with India and Afghanistan, both of which accuse it of using favored terrorist groups as proxies to destabilize its neighbors.

Pakistan’s bare-knuckled political system also remains unsettled. Sharif, who still has 2 ½ years remaining in his term, will continue to face relentless challenges from political foes eager to exploit the next crisis.

But in recent months, speculation about a civil war or an economic collapse has died down. Instead, credit agencies are boosting Pakistan’s bond ratings and large investment firms are advising clients to take a second look at opportunities here.

“It is the best, undiscovered investment opportunity in emerging or frontier markets,” Charlie Robertson, London-based chief economist at Renaissance Capital, told Bloomberg News in late June.

The International Monetary Fund, which has extended a $6.2 billion loan, released a report last month crediting Pakistan for its 4.1 percent growth in gross domestic product this year, with a bump up to 4.5 percent projected for next year.


[Pakistan turns up heat against powerful party in bid to secure Karachi]

Many economists and analysts, however, remain skeptical that Pakistan’s economy and government have truly turned a corner toward happier, more prosperous times. They note that past moments of stability have been quickly disrupted by tragedy, scandal or an investor-rattling political or military crisis.

“I still don’t really see many reasons for real optimism,” said Frederic Grare, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The economic situation is better right now, but the economic situation is better for almost everybody because energy is cheap.”

Sharif, however, has started delivering on his promise to make life a bit easier for Pakistan’s middle class, which for decades has endured substandard transportation, housing and employment options.

A millionaire business tycoon who also served two terms as prime minister in the 1990s, Sharif is promising to build 800 miles of highways and 14 power plants by 2018.

Several of the projects are designed to accommodate a major expansion of Chinese investment in Pakistan. China is hoping to use Pakistani roads and ports to open up new trading routes via the Arabian Sea, which could also help Pakistan expand its manufacturing base.

Although that partnership might take decades to reach its potential, Sharif is also implementing shorter-term goals to improve life for Pakistanis.

In May, Sharif inaugurated a 14-mile rapid-bus system connecting the relatively affluent capital of Islamabad to the working-class town of Rawalpindi. A month earlier, the government introduced new cross-country, deluxe train service featuring air-conditioning, WiFi and televisions.

[A startling sight in Pakistan: Fast, affordable, air-conditioned buses]

The Islamabad airport, consistently ranked as one of the most outdated in the world, has been upgraded with spiffier ticket counters, air-conditioned shuttle buses and its first fast-food restaurant.


“This government is far better, compared to previous governments,” Dilawar Ali, a 43-year-old engineer, said as he shopped at a market in Islamabad. “Look at these Metro bus projects, these roads and bridges. We could only imagine such things when we were in school and college kids.”

But Salman Zaidi, deputy director of the nonpartisan Jinnah Institute, said a closer examination of Sharif’s record still leaves major questions about his leadership style.

The prime minister, who declined to be interviewed for this article, lacks the forceful persona needed to become a unifying leader in a country with eight major political parties, Zaidi said. Sharif’s overall approach to governing, he said, is also outdated.

“He has a mind-set that comes from the 1950s, where large infrastructure projects equal development, and I think we have moved several decades beyond that,” Zaidi said. “A better estimation of a politician’s ability is ability to deliver on the ground in terms of education, in terms of justice, in terms of health care.”

Marvin Weinbaum, a Pakistan expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said there is also broad disappointment that Sharif hasn’t been able to do more to curb the electricity shortage or to overhaul a government bureaucracy that numbers 650,000 employees.

“Yes, Pakistan has stabilized, but it’s stabilized because the military said to Nawaz, ‘Okay, if you want to stay in power, you are going to play by our rules,’ ” Weinbaum said. Sharif, he added, “is not seen as a real reformer.”

In Karachi, which generates a quarter of Pakistan’s GDP, business leaders are also angered by Sharif’s efforts to broaden Pakistan’s tax base — a key demand of the IMF and other creditors. Pakistani farmers are nervous about sluggish exports.

Still, for the broader Pakistani public, the country finally appears to be waking up after a decade-long slumber.

After the Ramadan holiday ended in mid-July, surprising numbers of Pakistanis flocked to Himalayan mountain resort towns, overwhelming highways and hotels.


Last month, the largest crowd in years filled Islamabad’s streets to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day.

In Peshawar, where the Pakistani Taliban killed about 150 teachers and students at a school in December, merchants are also reporting an increase in business as violence waned this year.

“No doubt, business activities are encouraging,” said Haji Khanan, a 50-year-old shop owner in Karkhano Market, on the edge of Peshawar near Pakistan’s once-unruly tribal belt. “You can see for yourself. Look, there are no free spaces available for parked cars.”

Whether Pakistan’s momentum can be sustained, however, is a question most Pakistanis are hesitant to answer.

“It’s 10 p.m., and I am here shopping with my kids and wife, and in previous years I would not be going out at this late hour,” Arif Khaliq, 43, said while buying back-to-school shoes. “Now, will this last? That is to be seen. . . . We can only pray.”


Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


Musalmaan ko musalmaan kar diya, toofan-i maghrib nay
talatum-ha'ay darya he say hai gohar ki sairaabi
--M. Iqbal

#5
Ali Mian

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A lot has been going right recently in Pakistan, but the government does not deserve any credit for this. The operation against terrorists, the operation in Karachi, the China corridor all credit goes to the army. I want to put this out there for the powers to be that the next logical step needed is political reforms. We need a presidential system with a directly elected president. Perhaps its time the constitutional amendments are made and the politicians told to sign on the dotted line.
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Pakistan Zindabad! (S)(*)

#6
zeeshan

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Assalamaoalukum I agree Ali...

If Washington post the most rabid anti Pakistani media paper says that then things must be getting better.
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And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#7
Gaf

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One good thing "Ladooo" ( Sharif ) has done well, is to learn to not pick fights with the military this time around, but to spend his time using the power he does have to improve things, and that is showing some results.

 

A pro-Pakistan article from Washington Post.... what is the world coming to ?


_____________________

Gaf


#8
H Khan

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One good thing "Ladooo" ( Sharif ) has done well, is to learn to not pick fights with the military this time around, but to spend his time using the power he does have to improve things, and that is showing some results.
 
A pro-Pakistan article from Washington Post.... what is the world coming to ?


Well, he has played the game well, he pushes his condoms Khawaja Asif and Saad, Pervaz Rashid, Mushahid ul hassan, Ahsan Iqbal, and Ch. Nisar very well.

H Khan

Pakistanis (irrespective of their standing in society) exult gossip, paranoia, superstition, and conspiracy theories more than the science of history- H Khan


#9
Abd-rehman Ali

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Pakistan has certainly turned a corner & will hopefully stay on this path for a long time. I understand the tendency of many to give all the credit to the military, and a great deal of it is justified; but one also needs to remember that such turnaround would not have been possible with someone like Zardari & the PPP. With individuals like Zardari & Hussain Haqqani and Co. the Saudis were absolutely correct that this clique were the rotten head eating the Pakistani body.

I concur with Ali Main. The political system & the tax system in Pakistan shoukd be reformed to achieve the country's true potential. Anything less is futile. Without a transparent and comprehensive tax collection system in place, Pakistan will continue to experience economic hardships.

#10
zeeshan

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Pakistan In Line For Upgrade to Emerging Market Status

http://blogs.wsj.com...-market-status/
  Index provider MSCI has revealed it plans to consider upgrading Pakistan from frontier- to emerging-market status next year.

Citing “a number of positive developments over the course of the past 12 to 18 months,” MSCI said it would include Pakistan on its 2016 review list.

News that Pakistan is being considered for inclusion in the MSCI emerging markets index will be seized upon by a government desperate for international recognition of what it says are its achievements in stabilizing the Pakistani economy.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who came to power in June 2013, inherited low growth, high inflation, a foreign-exchange reserve crisis and crippling electricity shortages. Since then, inflation has dropped sharply and foreign exchange reserves are more comfortable.

The government is now on a mission to boost economic growth from the anemic 3% that it inherited to around 7% by the end of its five-year term. The IMF expects GDP growth to hit 4.3% this year and rise to 4.7% in 2016.

Pakistan has already achieved recognition among frontier-markets analysts, including Renaissance Capital, which describes the country as “the best undiscovered investment opportunity in emerging or frontier markets.”

However, considerable challenges remain. The country is woefully short of electricity, for example, while plans to seriously boost the paltry tax revenues are also yet to come to fruition.

Tax revenues currently stand at around 10% of GDP.

The IMF, which rescued Pakistan with a $6.6bn loan program in 2013, agrees that progress is being made. The multilateral said last month that “strong implementation of reforms… will transform Pakistan into a dynamic emerging market economy.”

Pakistan is banking on help from China, which has a $46bn investment plan intended to address the country’s energy deficit and put in place other infrastructure for industrialization that it is hoped will change Pakistan’s economic trajectory.

The Karachi stock market has delivered stellar performance in recent years. Since the May 2013 election, it has gained more than 70%. News on the possible inclusion in the emerging markets index—a decision on that will be made by MSCI next year—had little immediate impact on the market on Tuesday.

Pakistan was last in the MSCI emerging markets index in 2008 and brokers said its re-inclusion would be positive.

“Not only size of passive fund flows will increase, many large [emerging markets] funds may return back to Pakistan,” Karachi brokerage Topline Securities said in a note on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Dan Keeler.


And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#11
zeeshan

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The Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF: High Growth, Low Valuation And Decreasing Terrorism http://seekingalpha....asing-terrorism Sep. 6, 2015 5:15 AM ET  |  About: Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF (PAK)

 

 
 
 
Summary

Pakistan's stock market has risen substantially since 2012, yet valuation is still extremely low.

Pakistan's stock exchange has had substantial performance with a YTD return of 8.87%, and a 1-year return 21.18%.

Terrorism has been decreasing substantially in Pakistan, according to a report released by the Department of State.

Inflation has recently improved from the high levels consistently experienced between 2010 and 2014.

Certain industries have displayed substantial growth, such as the cement industry, which grew by 57% this year.

 

The Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF (NYSEARCA:PAK) is an excellent value pick, and a closer examination of Pakistan's economy, stock market, and political risk all verify that the soon to be an emerging market, Pakistan, has an excellent investment climate. The fund's P/E ratio is currently 9.12, which is low for Pakistan, and is also lower when compared to other ETFs in frontier and emerging markets. The ETF was just created this year and its price has consistently been between 14.00-16.94.


And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#12
zeeshan

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Assalamaoalukum,

 

Impressive number of universities in top 300 universities in Asia ranking by QS University Rankings. Pakistan scored 10 and India 17.

 

http://www.topuniver...s=false search=


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And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

No! But you do not honor the orphan

And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

And you love wealth with immense love.

Surat Al-Fajr.(89:15-20).


#13
H Rehman

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Assalamaoalukum,

 

Impressive number of universities in top 300 universities in Asia ranking by QS University Rankings. Pakistan scored 10 and India 17.

 

http://www.topuniver...s=false search=

 

But to be fair their IITs are much stronger and more world renowned, so generally I am not sold on the quantity comparison. One center of excellence like Cambridge can have a quantitatively and qualitatively higher knowledge output than entire countries. There needs to a cultural shift in Pakistan where we go back on the trajectory of the 60s and 70s when Pakistani physicists were training with world leaders in cosmology. The era that produced the likes of Abdus Salaam, his treatment not withstanding. It is not too late to make science part of the culture.  


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"There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means."

#14
Hafeez

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But to be fair their IITs are much stronger and more world renowned, so generally I am not sold on the quantity comparison. One center of excellence like Cambridge can have a quantitatively and qualitatively higher knowledge output than entire countries. There needs to a cultural shift in Pakistan where we go back on the trajectory of the 60s and 70s when Pakistani physicists were training with world leaders in cosmology. The era that produced the likes of Abdus Salaam, his treatment not withstanding. It is not too late to make science part of the culture.


I would add my own discouraging observation that in my opinion is biggest hindrance for scientific culture. The very people who have access to good education, who go to good institutions have zero sense of wonder and curiosity. I am taking about upwardly mobile middle class. I have heard highly educated engineer with a very rewarding professional career saying stuff like " yeh sub tu duniya hai yehain reh jayega iss kay peechay bhagnay main kuch nahi. Hamari mashriqi rohaniyat asal cheez hai". That uncle was talking to bunch of high school kids ( and screwing their brains)
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#15
SSAAD

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Excellence in dunya and the works for the hereafter helped Muslims reach their pinnacle.  Unfortunately many forget that now. 



#16
H Rehman

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I would add my own discouraging observation that in my opinion is biggest hindrance for scientific culture. The very people who have access to good education, who go to good institutions have zero sense of wonder and curiosity. I am taking about upwardly mobile middle class. I have heard highly educated engineer with a very rewarding professional career saying stuff like " yeh sub tu duniya hai yehain reh jayega iss kay peechay bhagnay main kuch nahi. Hamari mashriqi rohaniyat asal cheez hai". That uncle was talking to bunch of high school kids ( and screwing their brains)

 

This is the biggest dilemma with Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular. Islamic emphasis on the hereafter and the spiritual realm is supposed to free you from trivialities in this world but NOT from the reality of this world. However, in my limited experience I have seen exactly the opposite. There is this attitude (like the uncle in your example) of don't worry about the dunya as if dunya will take care of itself. However, these same people are highly active when it comes to keeping-up-with-the-Joneses. The superficial social trivialities created by the illnesses of the society are hard to give up, lets just give up the sciences and knowledge part by labeling it secular or un-islamic. This really chaps my ar$e. These same spiritual kinds don't mind getting their ride to the masjid in a Mercedes; they just like to make sure that people listening to them are never knowledgeable enough to engineer a Mercedes on their own. This attitude is a blight upon the future!   


"There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means."

#17
H Khan

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Interesting discussion.
 
Let me add something. Just the notion that this dunya/world is bad and evil goes against all what has been created by Allaah. Nothing in this world happens by chance and everything moves in the fashioned prescribed by Allaah. If this world was so bad that the Allaah by itself created something which is by default bad and nothing goods is there. At numerous places Allaah challenges human being first by identifying the features eyes, ears, senses, and brains to contemplate the creation of trees, seas, mountains, space, and other aspects.
 
To make it real short: The faalaah (success) is directly related to the attainment of Falaah hereafter (Paradise). Faalaah are the rewards from the good deeds as prescribed and approved by Allaah Alone with message to His last Messenger.
 
Lastly, monasticism in any of its manifestation and ambiguity is not part of Islaam.

 

“Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my Salaah (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen ”

[al-An’aam 6:162]

 


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H Khan

Pakistanis (irrespective of their standing in society) exult gossip, paranoia, superstition, and conspiracy theories more than the science of history- H Khan


#18
SSAAD

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Goats, guns and generosity: How Pakistan stole an Aussie’s heart
Joel Hill — Updated about 5 hours ago

“Don’t go, comrade, they kill cricketers there!” This was the general reaction I received when I told people back home I was going to Pakistan.

They would also ask, “Why?”

I wasn’t entirely sure of the answer to that. All I knew was that when you get a chance to go somewhere that you otherwise would never be able to, you go.

There are some nutters that do it alone. They don’t speak the language and have this bizarre feeling of invulnerability. They come to Pakistan, hitchhike around in blissful ignorance of the possible dangers and almost always survive. I am envious of these people and definitely not one of them.

Luckily, I had a friend on the inside, Madeeha. She promised to show me the true side of Pakistan, and that is exactly what I saw from one entry point, Karachi all the way to the other, Khunjerab.

“Tell your friends back in Australia we are good people.”

The warmth! The people are lovely, that’s just the way it is.

Nobody tried to rip me off, leer at me like I was an alien (well, there was some confusion initially) or generally appear threatening or nasty. People always wanted to say hello, offer us chai, have a photo taken and just chit chat.

Some would say, “Tell your friends back in Australia we are good people.” Which I have.

The pictures I took show breathtaking landscapes, glorious mountains and stunning lakes, but while my phone captured the vista, the people captured my heart.

 

 
Having a chat with a mate at the Khunjerab Festival. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
Holding the breakfast tray with the mighty Passu cones in the background. —Photo by Viviana Mazza.

At Attabad Lake, I did my own version of Australian travel blogger Sophee Smiles' famous photo pirouetting on top of a boat. See below.

The original:

 

 
 

My version:

 

 
Close enough? —Madeeha Syed

I even reluctantly wore the local hat (Pakol) around and people loved it. ‘Reluctantly’ because back home in Australia, we are being taken over by politically correct idiots who are convinced that everything is racist. Wearing a hat like that for them is ‘cultural appropriation’. (For real, Google it.)

But while I was unsure about being ‘racist’ for wearing the hat, I was met only with cheers and welcoming embraces once I put it on; it seemed somewhat typical of the Pakistani spirit. I had left behind the bullying western culture of shutting people down; nobody was trying to tear me down. Everyone was welcoming and I adored that.

 

 
The mate who sold me the hat (Pakol) and put a feather on it so I could look even more handsome. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
All foreigners were required to register at the many checkpoints in the Northern Areas. Here, I am patiently waiting for them to scribble something in their journal and hand my passport back to me. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
I try to man a check post. Madeeha thinks I'm not exactly cut out for the job. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
"Postcards that are never going to leave the subcontinent" ‒ at a post office in Hunza trying to send home some of the Pakistani love. —Madeeha Syed

When it was time to return, a taxi driver rode us to the airport through roads fraught with traffic. We almost missed our flight. I wanted to offer the driver a tip, but he refused. We had been chatting in the taxi (mostly translated by the capably bilingual Madeeha) on the way and, apparently, he considered me a friend and a guest. He would not accept my money. This was typical of the hospitality shown to me during my stay, something I have never seen in my travels anywhere else.

One thing I did take issue with in Pakistan is slavery. You guys might be used to it and you may not even consider it slavery, but there are some people who are just accepted as more equal than others; these 'others' being destined to do nothing but menial work for the rest of their lives, and they, too, accept it like it is meant to be.

I find that hard to swallow. Where I come from, we have a thing called ‘social mobility’, which gives everyone a chance to move up the ladder. I mean, people are born poor everywhere, but man, get a welfare system and rise above it.

Let them go to school. Let unlikely excellence shine. I know this is easier said than done, but ultimately, it must be done.

 

 
Lack of social mobility and welfare is a problem in Pakistan. But I had a hard time saying no to getting pampered by people. In my defense, I did call them 'sir'. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
"Why are you taking photos? There is a Pak-China (and Australia) friendship to be celebrated!" I had told Madeeha. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
Scanning the mountains for ibexes while on the way back to Hunza on Attabad Lake. —Madeeha Syed

Initially, I also found it hard to accept that there was no booze. But as time went on, I learned that it was a blessing in disguise.

In Australia, taking a week off alcohol is an achievement. Until this year, for a decade, I can say I have literally not had a week away from alcohol. But, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t feel the need for it at all. I would have loved to have been able to go to a Pakistani pub to meet people, but we just met people on the street and around the place, who were amazing. And sobre.

Another reason why I was glad that there was no booze was that there were tons of machine guns around ‒ mostly, in the hands of the several different police/paramilitary units that were patrolling the places I visited. But I would never know the difference. On the one hand, I am happy to know that we are being protected. But then, protected from who? That is always a disturbing thought.

One day, as we were walking through Hunza, enjoying the sights and chatting with the locals, Madeeha got a phone call. Some intelligence agency guy was 'just checking' where we were. I thought, okay, well, I guess that is a good thing. But are the intelligence agencies worried about us? Should I be worried? Now I am a little worried. But I felt so safe!

Needless to say, there was no cause for alarm. I don’t know why, but there wasn’t.

 

 
At the stunning Khunjerab National Park trying really hard to fight altitude sickness. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
Water, water everywhere and not a single cup of coffee. It's very early in the morning. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
Trying this suspicious packet that a group of men from Karachi convinced me to have at the Khunjerab Festival. It turned out to be our very own Shahi Supari. —Madeeha Syed

With all of this ‘danger’, though, I must preface: I am Australian. We don’t have guns. People find that hard to understand but we really don’t have guns. They freak us out. Our police have guns and even that is a bit creepy. So we take time to get used to guns.

The food, however, was the most essential part of discovering the country and predictably, Pakistan didn’t disappoint.

To be honest, I think all I need to say is that it was better than my trip to India. Also, I discovered that money doesn’t necessarily buy you great food. Excellent and well-made food comes in all places and at all manners of expense. One of our cheapest meals was clearly one of the best.

Speaking of food, I have a newfound respect for goats now. I’m not sure why, really, seeing as their purpose, for the most part, is to end up in a curry. But they do prance around like champions, taking on rough terrain like it is nobody's business. Pakistani goats are total legends and worthy of much respect. Especially when eaten.

 

 
"Please don't jab me with your mighty horns goat friend," I told this goat. It obliged. Pakistan's goats are noble creatures. And this one is a top goat. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
My friend Madeeha (read: bodyguard) and I against a sunset on the Passu Glacier. —Madeeha Syed

 

 
An Australian, American, Italian, Pakistani, their trusty driver and a random Chinese person pose at the Khunjerab Pass. Everywhere I went, people wanted to get their photos taken with me and then, of course, they would offer me chai. —Madeeha Syed

As a general summary of my trip, I would say that Pakistan is widely misunderstood and very much worth visiting.

The landscape is beautiful and the potential for adventure is huge, but the people are what truly matter. They are hardworking, honest people who would readily give you their last dollar or their last cup of chai.

They have peace in their hearts.

I hope that one day, Pakistan can spend less time defending itself from itself and more time fostering the excellence from within.

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Joel Hill is studying at the University of Sydney. He is a typical Australian. Broke but not poor. Curious but not intrepid. Foolish but not stupid. He likes cats.


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#19
FaisalK

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One of my friends had U.N internships in Bangladesh Nepal and India, and on the way decided (because I imagine he saw enough crazy in BD/Nepal/India that he'd ought to test his mantle further) to visit Pakistan. He did his standard due diligence (i.e. Google) and took a cursory look at how Islamabad looked, and figured, "hmm, not bad, looks promising." Of course, the less knowledgeable folks around him (including those with 10+ years of experience with the U.N in places like DRC) kept trying to portray Pakistan like some war-ridden land with a name. Even if that were true, my friend still wanted to push it and go, and so he did.

 

Landed in Islamabad, and was both impressed but disappointed. Impressed because of the cleanliness and organization compared to Delhi, but disappointed with how boring it was and how many of the locals who were in his midst seemed "bubbled." But he found someone he knew from U.N circles and was able to journey into Hunza.

 

At the end of it he came away very impressed. He has since gone to Pakistan for leisure 2 more times. And when we spoke, he gave a very accurate summary of his thoughts to me, "this country is loaded, to the rim, with potential and energy, but it's like its leaders don't care. In as far as structure and competence go, Pakistan has more of it than India or Bangladesh, but man, the leaders are pricks. Why hasn't the world even heard about what I've seen? You guys could take the ambassadors of key countries to trips up north and probably win at least a 1/3 of them over. But look at how underdeveloped, underreported and underrepresented the messaging is. Invite the CEOs and top employees of big companies, they can go to God-forsaken places such as Mt. Everest or some slum-urb in Dhaka, but not Islamabad? Not Lahore? Not Hunza? Not Gilgit? Not Murree?"


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#20
Hafeez

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One of my friends had U.N internships in Bangladesh Nepal and India, and on the way decided (because I imagine he saw enough crazy in BD/Nepal/India that he'd ought to test his mantle further) to visit Pakistan. He did his standard due diligence (i.e. Google) and took a cursory look at how Islamabad looked, and figured, "hmm, not bad, looks promising." Of course, the less knowledgeable folks around him (including those with 10+ years of experience with the U.N in places like DRC) kept trying to portray Pakistan like some war-ridden land with a name. Even if that were true, my friend still wanted to push it and go, and so he did.

 

Landed in Islamabad, and was both impressed but disappointed. Impressed because of the cleanliness and organization compared to Delhi, but disappointed with how boring it was and how many of the locals who were in his midst seemed "bubbled." But he found someone he knew from U.N circles and was able to journey into Hunza.

 

At the end of it he came away very impressed. He has since gone to Pakistan for leisure 2 more times. And when we spoke, he gave a very accurate summary of his thoughts to me, "this country is loaded, to the rim, with potential and energy, but it's like its leaders don't care. In as far as structure and competence go, Pakistan has more of it than India or Bangladesh, but man, the leaders are pricks. Why hasn't the world even heard about what I've seen? You guys could take the ambassadors of key countries to trips up north and probably win at least a 1/3 of them over. But look at how underdeveloped, underreported and underrepresented the messaging is. Invite the CEOs and top employees of big companies, they can go to God-forsaken places such as Mt. Everest or some slum-urb in Dhaka, but not Islamabad? Not Lahore? Not Hunza? Not Gilgit? Not Murree?"

 

 

Just want to make two points. I have arrived at these conclusions based on my on experiences. 

 

1) I do not think Pakistani leadership can do much. In my opinion nothing could be achieved from top down in Pakistan. A forceful application of top down approach can make things possible, but as soon as the force is gone the results on the ground will disappear as if they never existed and conditions will return to their natural state of being reflecting the general mindset and consensus of society.

 

2) It is not possible to attract CEOs and outside businesses due to extremely weak property laws and their non existent application. In Pakistan, business requires a different type of acumen which is best described by archetype of "seth". A "seth" in Pakistani culture is a rich businessman not known or famous for innovation and adeptness at following rules governing the market but for shady wheeling and dealing to maximize profits. The fastest and easiest approach for maximizing profits involves bribing people and using other means to get undue advantage. It does not involve coming up with best services and products.

 

 

Now one can protest and say #1 influences #2 and that good leadership will fix issues related to property laws and application of rules. But the problem with this argument is that Pakistani society does not look too kindly to absolute control. It is actually a virtue and i think something that might redeem us in the end. But at this juncture, due to this factor, our leadership is going to be from among the people and share their ethos and social outlook. A corrupt leader or a seth in Pakistan is no different from the rest and the only differentiating character for such individuals is that they have actually made it big while the rest couldn't. The minute these individuals stop their gaming of system, they will lose their place and someone else will take their position.

 

I visited a rural area recently. The power outage in that rural town afflicted people 20-23 hours a day. I asked someone why things are so bad and no one is doing anything. My interlocutor told me that people do not pay their bills. I wondered loudly that it must be because they are poor. My interlocutor said that yes they are poor, but just step in any of these houses you will see TV, you will see fridge and electronics worth several tens of thousands of rupees, they have even installed generators, so why can't they pay 500-1000 rs in electric bill? His assertion was that people simply don't feel that paying electric bills is right thing to do, even if it means experiencing extreme inconvenience. In short there was no societal consensus among people that electricity is a service worth paying for. They expected this service to be doled out to them by political agent who they elected in  return for their vote.

 

This is where we are. In fact we are at a worst level than this. There are substantial number of people who not only disagree with the concept of polio immunization for Pakistani children, but feel so strongly about it that they are killing civil servants involved in such immunization campaigns.

 

Going back to the point about property laws and their implementation, its need is not felt by an overwhelming majority of people. An emergent urban middle class perhaps understands what it means and at times would flirt with such concept, but for the most part the patronage system in Pakistan is clan/family based. I took a course on genetics and in one class our teacher discussed dysgenic traits and how they can spread due to inbreeding . He showed a map in which Pakistan had the darkest shade and among the highest percentages of marital consanguinity. IMO, this type of social norm in marriages is a strong indicator that kinship is very important to survive and thrive in society. Property laws that are fairly applied to whole society are not required when patronage can be doled out on clan/relatedness basis.


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