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A walk down memory lane…The case for Pakistan in 2006

“Wrote this piece in July 2006, pissed at the Economist’s attempt to writeoff Pakistan, while a little dated, it is still largely relevant. A conversation at techlahore triggered the desire to dig this out from under the many folders it was hiding under…”


The Economist piece on Pakistan

If you believed the Economist, there is no hope for this country and we should all just sell our stakes short and move out. It is a fairly depressing piece.

It is easy to go out and call the coverage biased and to a certain extent it is. The Economist has always portrayed us as a basket case. If all of its analysis was on the money, we would have stopped existing 50 years ago. That said the questions the magazine raises are not dumb questions and need to be answered or thought through.

But then as the late Eqbal Ahmed used to say, stop complaining and start working. Incase you have read the piece and are depressed, here is some food for thought:

a. The problems the Economist identifies are not typical to Pakistan. There is hardly any country where democracy is representative and responsive to the needs of the electorate. The untouchables in India, social security, medicare and the twin deficits in the US, immigration in Europe, corruption in Japan, birth control in China… If you look deep enough and live long enough you will find enough problem all over the planet that will make ours look like a sand box fight. Democracy like socialism and communism is an idea and its implementation is rarely perfect. Our’s has been less than perfect, so what – we are in good company.

b. The future is where growth is. There are hundreds of thousands of product concepts and ideas that still need to be implemented in this region. From payroll processing to hypermarts (a reality in 2010 with both Metro and Makro duking it out), from mega malls to outlets, from cheap cars to zero percent financing, from lifestyle clubs to business parks, from low budget airlines to free way industrial zone, from express ways to food franchises, from life insurance to middle market banking. You haven’t seen anything as yet. Some of these ideas are in the pipeline, some will be here within the next decade. If you want to they are yours for the taking.

c. There is no place else on the planet where I could possibly call up the people I call up, ask for an appointment and get it the same day. Why, because this is home ground. In the last three years professionally and personally speaking we have done stuff that I would have only dreamt of doing in the US or UK. Yes it takes a while to get there and yes there is a fair bit of trial by fire and trying days. But if you committed and professional and patient, there is no place like home.

d. If you are serious about heading back, don’t come back for a job. Come and work for yourself. You will probably kill yourself in your first but if you survive, you will stay longer that way. It is not paradise. But it is an emerging market that promises and delivers obscene returns.

e. Pakistan’s problems will not get fixed in a day. Our role models got where they are over 300 years. We have only had 50 and we have come a long way in those 50 years. Give us a few more generations and we will be on our way. Don’t let the Economist tell you otherwise.

Remember there is only one country in the world where your skin, the way you speak, the way you dress, the number of guests in your home, the amount of noise you make, the smell of your food, the color of your passport, and your religion doesn’t matter.

Its called home.

(On second thought, your sect may make a difference and if you are not a Muslim, possibly be prepared for a case of really tough and awkward luck).