Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.

Smoker's corner: Are we ready for CPEC?

Updated Feb 05, 2017 10:56am

Email


Your Name:


Recipient Email:


Donald Trump is attempting to make real the obscure nostalgia of an isolationist United States, which before the presidency of F. D. Roosevelt over 80 years ago, was a withdrawn giant, consciously cut-off from the happenings of the world at large.

This insulation did not make America safe. In the late 1920s, its economy crashed; then in 1941 it was attacked by Japanese imperial forces and subsequently, Nazi Germany declared war against it. It too an unprecedented three terms of the Roosevelt presidency, some radical economic reforms and a new, more open paradigm of America’s political, economic and social engagement with the world to actually make America ‘great.’

But this piece is not about the aforementioned observation. Because any attempt to figure out the complexities of what Mr Trump is up to, is bound to start sounding like an unintentional satire on populist politics. Of course, one can stand back and smirk at this self-generated satire, but, at the same time, one is certain to also feel a sense of dread.


Now that the state has realised that CPEC promises positive economic change, to benefit from such a change, our society and polity needs to change too


I’m not sure whether by the time this column goes into print, Pakistan’s name too would be put on Trump’s ban list. But even if it’s not, the state, government and people of Pakistan must seriously become aware of the most recent hypothesis which is predicting the rise of China as a leading superpower in the event of Trump’s (rather belligerent) attempt to isolate the US from a number of countries.

I say this because Pakistan is now at the epicentre of China’s economic influence and growth in the region. China has positively recognised and responded to the many pecuniary openings available in a growing economy such as Pakistan, despite the fact that these opportunities are often overshadowed in local and international media by the perception of Pakistan being politically unstable.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the result of China’s pursuit to utilise these untapped investment opportunities available in Pakistan. China believes that the economic outcome of this investment would have a positive impact on Pakistan’s economy, which, in turn, would result in political stability.

Theoretically this makes sense. And if one is to further stretch this theory, the economic progress and the resultant political stability would attract investors from other countries as well. They are then sure to be followed by non-business visitors (i.e. tourists). Now the question is, is the prevalent social milieu of the country or the cultural ethos prevalent in Pakistan for the past three decades conducive to address the needs of such visitors?

Let’s look at it this way: CPEC produces good results and Pakistan’s economy begins to grow. The economic growth stabilises the country’s volatile political scenario. The stability begins to showcase the economic opportunities that had once been obscured by instability. More and more investors from other countries become interested in investing in Pakistan. The physical presence of investors in Pakistan creates an overall positive image of Pakistan which then attracts tourists.

Consequently, the government and state of Pakistan will have to initiate some drastic shifts and changes in the prevailing cultural milieu and ethos. Ideally, economic progress also boosts the tourist industry, which, though influenced by business tourism, eventually becomes the benchmark that foreign investors use to gauge a country’s economic feasibility.

For the past 30 years or so, the country’s cultural ambiance has become stifling. So, what will a tourist do here? Not all of them are likely to be mountain-climbers. When a country with a stifling ethos becomes a tourist attraction it can create problems. But these problems need to be resolved if that country is to continue being seen as a lucrative economic hub. Especially if that country does not have vast oil reserves like Saudi Arabia.

Travellers from developed countries are the most vital aspects of a country’s tourist industry. A majority of them expect easy availability of certain entertainment avenues in a country they have paid good money to travel to and stay. So let’s say in the next 10 years or so, CPEC empowers Pakistan’s economic growth, which triggers political stability which attracts more foreign investors. This then creates a healthy image and perception of Pakistan which then begins to attract tourists whose entry helps build Pakistan’s tourist industry. This further strengthens Pakistan’s image and the economic growth is thus successfully sustained by even more foreign investment. It’s a circular process.

Such a scenario will require a shift in the way we see ourselves as a nation. To begin with, we will have to bury the following cliché:

“Pakistan is a conservative society.” For years this cliché has been recycled by intellectually lazy western academics and commentators and also by the defeatist and timid mindset of the Pakistani leadership.

Pakistan is not a conservative society. It is not a bastion of liberalism either. Its strength lies in a historically inherent moderate disposition, which, whenever it was given the space to assert itself, exhibited a remarkable aptitude to tolerate a rather fruitful co-existence between conservatism and certain more permissive ideas and antics.

It was the first Muslim-majority country to elect a female prime minister. Twice. And before the 1980s, it was an entirely moderate society where mosques and sufi shrines thrived and so did cinemas, clubs and other vibrant recreational vistas. On most occasions both were at peace with each other, just as they still are in Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and to a certain extent, Egypt.

Unfortunately some political outfits and eventually the state began to explain economic discrepancies between classes as something to do with the society’s and the rulers’ ‘permissive’ attitude. It was a convenient excuse which then became a cynical political ploy.

Ever since the late 1970s, the state concocted and proliferated a simplistic moral narrative to deflect criticism on economic issues from itself and towards abstract notions of ‘obscenity’, ‘immorality’, ‘impiety’, etc. We have all seen the results of this cynical approach. And when things got complicated, we became apologetic: “Oh, Pakistan is a conservative country, y’know.”

Nonsense. For over 30 years, from the day Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah announced the creation of a Muslim-majority state, till the 1970s, we were largely a nation of robust and enterprising moderates.

Many years after the state began churning a moral narrative to explain economic and political issues, we are in trouble. What’s more, what was once a project of the state has become a project of the society. This is why now, when the state wants to alter its course in this context, it is finding it tough. Indeed, it has realised that CPEC promises positive change. But to fully benefit from such a change, society and polity needs to change as well. This is what the Pakistani state and government should now be working towards.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 5th, 2017

Email


Your Name:


Recipient Email:



Comments (32) Closed



RSR Feb 05, 2017 08:36am

Sounds good Nadeem ..Even we Indians want to see Pakistan prosper, for it will ensure peace between two neighbours. All the best

sms Feb 05, 2017 08:39am

The issue with CPEC is not the investment part - that, whatever it's underlying rational is, is fine -- but the it's the way the whole thing is being "sold".

I don't think the authors of the plan know anything about the cost of shipping things by sea vis-a-vis land and sadly no one seems to care either!

DrTK Feb 05, 2017 08:42am

To succeed with the chance that Pakistan is getting with CPEC Pakistan needs GOOD GOVERNANCE ie functional Government Departments such as the Judiciary and the Police, and above all Rule of Law at all levels. Justice must not only be done, but IT MUST BE SEEN TO BE DONE!

ABDULRAHMAn Feb 05, 2017 09:34am

Nice article sir! first change should be your dress - salwar and kurta (national dress? ) not accepted because your costume should be flexible in terms of use, should look socially good and make you look handsome/beautiful. It should make others feel happy. Jeans, t-shirts, pants, shorts, etc. must be used besides kurta and salwar. It is not like you are giving up your dresses but accepting what the whole world has accepted. Is there any country in the world that has its own national dress and 90% population wearing that national dress? I don't think so.

ABDULRAHMAn Feb 05, 2017 09:31am

Secondly-priority should be given to education - objective should be 100% literacy. Provide water to the villages where water is not available. Provide health facilities in all the villages where it is not available. Setup schools in the villages that have no schools. Form a committee, make a survey, take action - get result. Scientific development is another aspect to show how modern and skilful you are! Launch your own satellite and other countries satellites. Create powerful drones and jet fighters. Advertise your development and CPEC in the whole world to attract FDI in order to create more jobs. Keep peaceful situations on the borders. Arrange international sport events, fashion exhibitions etc. Provide all the required facilities to the tourists – make their documentation procedure easy. That will improve your images.

ABDULRAHMAn Feb 05, 2017 09:34am

Secondly-priority should be given to education - objective should be 100% literacy. Provide water to the villages where water is not available. Provide health facilities in all the villages where it is not available. Setup schools in the villages that have no schools. Form a committee, make a survey, take action - get result. Scientific development is another aspect to show how modern and skilful you are! Launch your own satellite and other countries satellites. Create powerful drones and jet fighters. Advertise your development and CPEC in the whole world to attract FDI in order to create more jobs. Keep peaceful situations on the borders. Arrange international sport events, fashion exhibitions etc. Provide all the required facilities to the tourists – make their documentation procedure easy. That will improve your images.

Gopal Feb 05, 2017 10:30am

Am impressed with the good sense in this analysis! Society has to find a place for modern and rational ideas, if it is to progress and find peace and democracy for its citizens... While religion and spirituality has its place, it must be voluntary and non violent in nature and not coercive!!

Tanveer Afzal Feb 05, 2017 10:45am

Excellent piece Paracha Sb. Thanks for a bold and deep analysis.

Brutal honesty Feb 05, 2017 10:50am

Yes if Pakistan will benefit from it and Well i guess not, if only Punjab or more precisely north punjab will benefit from it and the rest will have to wait..Also so far Gwadar port is benefitting Lahore only..

Nazeef Feb 05, 2017 11:03am

Excellent piece!

saudagar Feb 05, 2017 11:04am

paracha sir you are a rare gem among writers who have talent to connect with us readers , . we wait for your articles such a nice one

Sana Azam Feb 05, 2017 11:38am

Excellent. A unique cultural angle to an economic event. Agree with NFP. The current state of the society's cultural ethos will have to change to fully benefit from the economic fruits of CPEC.

Hamza Piracha Feb 05, 2017 11:49am

Couldn't agree more. However I believe as economic prosperity will start to rise the public will automatically start to shift towards a neutral attitude and it will become a natural cycling of balancing the matters. All we need, for now, are some committed people to let CPEC complete and then let the chips fall as they may.

Dr. SalariA, Aamir Ahmad Feb 05, 2017 02:53pm

Yet another well researched and eye-catching article by the one and the only; NFP. He has opened new avenues of brain storming and cool thinking pertaining to much talked about CPEC.

For sure, in order to make CPEC successful in letter and spirit, the policies and strategies in the "land of the pure" must also change. The process could only be started by the "movers and shakers" in Islamabad.

Ahmad Feb 05, 2017 05:45pm

Good and thought provoking articles. Like always, NFP has given a new angle to the situation. I hope that our state, society and institutes with latent interest go back to the moderate way we had been living for centuries.

Arifq Feb 05, 2017 09:30pm

Pakistan going through a feel good factor, this only happens when people like NFP start being light at the end of the tunnel, NFP i pray this is the light of hope and not a freight train heading straight at us, best of luck good man, need more like you

Fried Chillies Feb 05, 2017 10:09pm

I beg to differ - Egypt, Morocco are tourist manna and they may not fit Nadeem's definition of Liberal.

Tourist benchmarks a country on a development trajectory based on its treatment of minority, social parity, economic spread and social justice. This is the real challenge

ga Feb 05, 2017 10:22pm

First they will have to implement a single, progressive and creative education system for all. English medium for the rich, Urdu medium for the middle class and Madrassa for the poor is pulling at the social fabric of Pakistan with 3 different ideologies and dividing the narrative and outlook of this nation.

Parvez Feb 05, 2017 11:28pm

Sensible.

Sensibl Pakistani Feb 05, 2017 11:27pm

Better control of law and order , respect for other cultures and hey ho positive out look for us as InshaAllah!

Raj patel Feb 06, 2017 03:25am

Wishful thinking is good but where do you get the attitude of developed community and how do you change attitude of mass.

Haroon Feb 06, 2017 06:15am

Really good point about state and society. The state once followed an certain mind set and suffered from it, but now it wants to change that, but the society is still the same so it resists any such attempt. I think one should think of how to change the basic fabric of the society once again.

Irfan Feb 06, 2017 11:35am

Nice topic selection. Though too dense for general audience understanding. Maybe NFP should have stuck to his strength in satire and still made the point more effectively. When a master satirist talks serious, it's hard to take you seriously.

Muhammad Arslan Feb 06, 2017 02:01pm

I think, achievement gap is going to stretch. There, certainly, is moderation in our society but not on individual level. One side is too conservative and the other is too liberal. Given equal opportunities, one will accept it while the other may not. The greater obstacle maybe changing the perception. How do we do that? I guess, education, which will require alot of patience. Then, maybe we need to change people who implement the policy instead those who change them.

Muhammad Arslan Feb 06, 2017 02:04pm

The achievement gap is going to stretch. Moderation, certainly, does exist in our society; unfortunately, not on individual level. On one hand we have conservative society and on the other we have a liberal society. Given equal opportunities, one will accept it while the other may not. Hence, a greater obstacle lies in changing the perception. How do we do it? I guess, education, which requires a lot of patience. So we need to replace the people who implement the policy, instead of those who change it.

akram Feb 06, 2017 05:43pm

@ABDULRAHMAn

An interesting and long list of time to spend money on, however all Pakistanis already have lists of what they think the state should spend money on. The problem is that the state has no money!

The root cause of this is the inability of Pakistan leaders to tax the wealthy and the middle classes fairly. In a nation of 190 million less than one million are registered to pay income tax. Its not like the rest are all too poor, estimates of Pakistan's middle class range from 20 - 60 million strong. Until this is addressed no money will be spent on anything.

ps we are already producing Fighter Jets an drones.

SJ Feb 07, 2017 03:30am

Success and progress of any country is judged by it's tourism. Spot on NFP.

dIPANJALI Feb 07, 2017 09:36am

Greetings from this fan/reader from India. I so look forward to read Dawn's e paper and the primary reason is Smoker's corner.

Asif Feb 08, 2017 02:43am

CPEC the game changer. Soon Pakistan will be center of all trade in Asia.

Rah Feb 08, 2017 10:18am

China is going to rule the world through CPAC. Their goods will now reach to africa easily. They have already captured Europe, APAC and USA from its eastern coastlines.

Feroz Feb 08, 2017 01:54pm

All very true but it is easy to overlook the damage that Zia has done and the forces that have since been strengthened. To believe this like a book where when you want to recollect something you skip back a few pages is impossible. Not just conservative but misogynous attitudes have been fanned and the damage difficult to undo. Can it not be seen that the number of horrendous honor killings has expanded both vertically and horizontally as compared to pre Zia. How many acid attacks did one here off in those days ?

ashutosh mishra Feb 08, 2017 03:46pm

Interesting thoughts !!!