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Doing business with Pakistan

Published Oct 04, 2011 02:53pm


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Pakistan is suffering horrendous flooding again – and the world has been once more been accused of ignoring her plight. Meanwhile allegations of dastardly involvement in terrorism in Afghanistan make it to the world’s front-pages, ensuring that one side to Pakistan is not forgotten.

Against the context of flooding, terrorism and corruption, it might seem a strange and somewhat misplaced time to be writing about the benefits of economic investment in Pakistan. But those who know me as a writer, will know my attempts to wring out inspiring news stories and splash a spotlight on a side to life that is uplifting, but no less real.

I was recently sitting amongst a sea of suited businessmen in a swanky club in the heart of London, when an American-Pakistani friend shared the news that Forbes Magazine has produced an article saying that Pakistan was a good place to invest. She delivered the revelation in an excited whisper, and I watched the jaw of another friend drop to the floor. As a British-Pakistani businessman, he of course knew this to be true – but the fact that one of the most respected business magazines in the USA was saying it was an utter delight. What the media says does matter – especially in business.

The writer of the article, Helen Coster, talks much about Lahore, the Indus Entrepreneurs and an internet mogul named Monis Rahman. Coster doesn’t shy away from some of the obvious challenges about doing business in Pakistan, but ultimately insists that “the promise of doing business in Pakistan outweighs the frustration”.

I’m right with Rahman when he says: “You tend to hear the worst 5 per cent of the Pakistan story 95 per cent of the time,” but Coster’s story was so focused on the successful entrepreneur that I wonder whether his experience of the business landscape was unique to him, or at least unique to Lahore.

On closer inspection, I discovered many others are saying the same. In an article in Blue Chip Magazine, another businessman from Karachi claims that Pakistan is “entrepreneurial to the core” – something others I spoke to agree on. The Invest in Pakistan website lists the top five reasons for foreign investment in Pakistan as being: abundant land and natural resources; human resources (huge English speaking population); a large and growing domestic market (a growing middle class); well-established infrastructure and legal systems (road, rail, sea, IT); and geographic location – as principal gateway to the Central Asia Republics and connections to the Middle East and South Asia.

Putting it crudely, the labour and raw materials are cheap, the population is 6th biggest in the world and growing fast with over 50 per cent of the 180 million under the age of 20, and tax and set-up incentives for foreign investment are good.

Business giants, like GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare are increasing investment in what it considers a “high growth market”. Rs2 billion will be invested in Pakistan over the next five years. And it’s not just inward investment that holds potential. Last week the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry announced that despite economic challenges, Pakistani exports had reached $25 billion (against the government target of $20 billion). One export, which may surprise my fellow British countrymen, is bagpipes – in fact Pakistan is the world’s biggest producer of the Scottish instrument (worth $6.8 million in 2010).

I am not ignoring the floods, or the allegations of terror-funding, my Pakistani friends in London wouldn’t let that happen. I have my eye on the tides of disaster, but as I commit professionally to exploring Business with Britain, I can’t help but think that Business with Pakistan should certainly not be forgotten.

Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and diplomacy. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011. More about Caroline’s work and her contact details can be found on and facebook.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and international relations. Her main research interests are in the perception of places and people as presented in the media. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (57) Closed

mianki Oct 04, 2011 01:29pm
Thank you for this optimistic and very hopeful article. It is such a lovely change to read something positive about this country. To add a little story to this, one of the first things I saw recently at Paris de Gaulle airport when I got off thethe airplane was an HSBC advertisement that said in French "Pakistan is the second largest exporter in the world, we see a world of opportunities." It made me gloat a bit :)
Suraiya kasim Oct 04, 2011 02:07pm
What a fantastic read! Gives us Pakistanis expats reasons to play our part as ambassadors for our country and to convince the the World about the positive side of Pakstan. Thank you for writing this
Samir Oct 04, 2011 02:24pm
Thanks for writing something positive about Pakistan ....
Imran Ali Muhammad S Oct 04, 2011 03:17pm
As a writer u are doing great job. keep it high world deserve writers like you. God bless you.
saddybutt Oct 04, 2011 03:21pm
Thank you,its a great hope.
IndividualInvestor Oct 04, 2011 03:51pm
This articles projects a very hopeful view. I would like to add here that there are considerable amount of legal regulations in western countries that prevent seemless flow of investments to Pakistan. e.g. when I want to transfer funds from US investment fund to Pakistan; it immediately get flagged “Why this money is to be transferred to Pakistan?”. Almost on most of the investment platform; whereever Iran is missing, Pakistan is missing as well. This reflects hidden sanctions.
Faran Oct 04, 2011 04:35pm
can express how thankful and appreciative i am for this very insightful and motivating article .. coulnd't have been published at a better time ...
raika45 Oct 04, 2011 04:56pm
Pakistan may be a good place to invest,but your country has an image problem.To many negative stories abound.What you need is a superb public relations plan.If you can find that things will look up.
Jawad Oct 04, 2011 07:08pm
I am a regular reader of Caroline and appreciate her endeavors in projecting a positive image of Pakistan.
RK Oct 04, 2011 07:09pm
Though one might make money in Pakistan but safety of life and capital is not guaranteed. Out of 47 years of my life, I have spent 45 in the country. It used to be a good and tolerant country but the tide is turning now. I would love to go back to my homeland but the conditions on the ground are not safe for living. If safety of life is not guaranteed, who care about the money!!
Qaiser Bakhtiari Oct 04, 2011 07:31pm
The world may have been ignoring Pakitsan's plight but what Pakistan fails to understand is that it has been ignoring the rest of the world when it comes to responding positively to their appeals of working with them. A relationship is all about give and take and must not be taken for granted.
amust Oct 04, 2011 07:37pm
nice to read, but reality is not as promising in the near future, long term, if Pakistan survives the current attack and remain a contigous state, then may be 50 years down the road we will be starting to see real development. we need to get rid of the status quo in our leadership including my favorite Imran Khan. we need locally grown , international exposed new blood, not the likes of bhuttos/chaudaries/legahirs,...we need nadeem, shafiq, Raees, etc....
amust Oct 04, 2011 07:38pm
exporter of clothing , i.e. i pray it is peace, education, equality, and yes technology.
bangash Oct 04, 2011 07:51pm
Thank you for a ray of hope.
Nadeem Oct 04, 2011 08:52pm
You are absolutely right, image problem. Do you think, we are destroying our own image; obviously not. Some countries taking advantage of “Image Problem.” Our neighbor is telling the world, this is the country who trained terrorist and promote terrorism in the world. Come on, if we are training them, then why we are using them on our own people? There are some external elements who are promoting terrorism in Pakistan and taking the advantage of Pakistan Image in their own favor and keeping invsetors away from Pakistan
AK Oct 04, 2011 08:59pm
"Second largest exporter of" what? Cotton, Mangoes, ? $25 Billion does not make it the biggest exporter in total Dollar terms by far.
Nadeem Oct 04, 2011 09:00pm
Nobody denies the fact that Pakistan is a good country and Pakistanis are good people but the problem is it is a good country governed bad. The people are misled by the Mullahs and are held hostage to feudal lordship. There is no doubt that Pakistan has a great potential but the problem is it is not harvest well. What Pakistan needs is a vibrant and dynamic leadership that works for the benefit of the people and the country...not of its own. If somehow Pakistan can put its house in order (i.e. make friendship with all its neighbors and put things back on track with the US) then I strongly believe that for Pakistan the sky is the limit.
ayesha Oct 04, 2011 09:43pm
I can certainly understand how nice it feels to see good articles/news about your country particularly when you are in a foreign land. I feel that way about India and I totally understand why you would feel that for Pakistan. Having said this, I think you must have misread or misunderstood the French sign because by no means is Pakistan the 2nd largest exporter in the world. It is just factually incorrect.India's exports last year were $246 billion (Pakistan's were $25 billion) and India was the 10th largest exporter - so how can Pakistan be the second largest exporter?
ahmed saeed Oct 04, 2011 09:51pm
Pakistan is a country with exceptional potentials. The only phenomena the country is suffering from is leadership. We need someone to drive the nail aright. We as a nation are pinning hopes that some messiah will come and help the wrecked ship. Anyways thanks for injecting optimism.
zulfiqar Oct 04, 2011 11:00pm
guys you are doing great job i special thanks for this article if Pakistan government only deal with power companies then all world will see pakistani talent i m doing business in South Africa and Pakistani guys got very strong network in South Asia all kind of business its mean this Nation got talent then other all nation.
ahmad raza Oct 04, 2011 11:12pm
Many Thanks for writing positive remarks about our Home land. Certainly, We have every natural resources and one day, We will succeed with Positive leader ship such as Imran Khan.
s.khan Oct 04, 2011 11:28pm
A very positive news about Pakistan after a deluge of negative publicity. You do a better job job of explaining good things than the so called spokesman for Pak government. They should hire you a communication consultant- an expertise Pakistan needs badly.
Anon Oct 04, 2011 11:31pm
"Pakistan is the second largest exporter in the world" Your statement is completely false. Also the ad too. Pakistan ranks a lowly 61 amongst other countries. Source:
faraz Oct 05, 2011 01:06am
Thank you so much for writing somthing good about my country! really appreciate everything said here.
Pakistani Oct 05, 2011 02:26am
you are doing well... keep up your good work...keep writing....God bless you Caroline.
A. HAMEED Oct 05, 2011 03:23am
Wonderful pice of writing, thnx a lot Carol. Pakitani Electronic Media must learn something from this article and project the posivtive side of Pakistan.
Imran Oct 05, 2011 03:43am
Thanks to the author to truely portray the ground realities. tha factr is Pakistan is an emerging economy, and even with the challenges it faces, it seems to come out stronger.
Opti Miss Oct 05, 2011 06:06am
Mind you, the figure of $25 billion does not include Pakistan's largest export.
sami Oct 05, 2011 07:57am
Those who see Pakistan on the brink of collapse,can't see it on same time,its standing right on the brink of fastest economical flight, Pakistan has all the right resources for rapid growth & if ignored,its a great loss.
M I Taihan Oct 05, 2011 08:43am
Despite all odds and evils prevailing around, world and its optimistic good people will always refelect, project and carry the truth; Caroline Jaine, you being one in the right cader of optimism, deserve appreciation, prayers and best wishes for the truth that you have spoken through this article ... Remain blessed and God speed !!!!!!!!!
Zeshan Oct 05, 2011 09:04am
But i think, the glass is half filled. The real picture is quiet different.
indian Oct 05, 2011 09:09am
pakistan is the 2nd largest exporter of what?
Sameer Khan Oct 05, 2011 09:33am
This article focuses on one aspect of business, and that is how much money there is to be made. Most of us, and especially people who have commented on this article have failed to ignore some very important facts of business; namely the human involvement and fulfilment, and the difference in society a business can make. Pakistan is a bigoted and unsafe society. Who wants to make a quick buck in exchange for endangering his/her life? One has to be really desperate, or must worship just money to make that decision, IF the whole investment article above holds true.
PK Oct 05, 2011 09:51am
It gets flagged because everyone views Pakistan under the terrorism tinted lens. You may argue that this is a global conspiracy etc etc, but the fact remains that most of the world sees Pakistan as that
an Indian Oct 05, 2011 10:51am
Happy to see some positive thing written about Pakistan. I strongly believe that South Asia has tremendous potential to grow its economy at a very faster pace. Only thing is we need to develop some good habits and instead of playing in the hands of enemy of South Asia, who under the disguise of friendship, poke one against the other in different ways and keen to maintain and/ increase their influence on South Asia, we need to talk to each other. Mr. Gilani said a very right thing- if we don't sort out our problems, no third party can not do it for us. South Asia is our home and I shall be happy to see stable & developed South Asia which is impossible without Pakistan.
Shahzad Oct 05, 2011 11:48am
Well, the facts are true that Pakistan is a natural growing markets due to its population and abundant of resources. But, in today's world security risk is the major deterrant to Pakistan's foreign investment. Very few foreign institutions or multinational are willing to make further investment due to security risk and poor credit rating of Pakistan which is infact lower than Bangladash. By the way, the investment of Rs. 2 billion as an example is not a big amount when converted to US dollar i.e. US$. 23 million only. The same amount is thrown away by big multinational on their small advertisement and PR services. By an international standard it has no value. Charity services gather more money in single event or one musical show makes more than that. All we need is to the corruption and improve law and order to become a successful nation.
Awais Khan Oct 05, 2011 12:00pm
It is unfortunate that the image of Pakistan has been tainted and due to this foreign investors are avoiding the country.
Ali Oct 05, 2011 12:56pm
we need all this to boost the morale and unlock the true potential of our nation
Gupta Oct 05, 2011 01:00pm
It will be great advertisement for Pakistan if peace could be sustained for longer period of time in some of the cities. Suicide bombing, killings are not fiction. Even Caroline will agree to that.
Gupta Oct 05, 2011 01:03pm
Resources are valuable only if these are used. Hope, Pakistan leaders will realise it one day and define priorities.
abdullah Oct 05, 2011 03:24pm
support imran khan......he can lead us he is leading two great institutions shaukat khanum hospital and numl university mianwali............
a pakistani canadian Oct 05, 2011 09:19pm
Hello Caroline Jaine , thanks for whatever you wrote for pakistan.
Muhammad Aamir Oct 06, 2011 01:37am
Good question from India? Pakistan is second largest exporter of what? Well as per my limited knowledge.... Pakistan is 2nd largest exporter of Bagpipes (a musical instrument) Pakistan is 2nd largest Ethanol exporter to EU. Pakistan is 2nd largest exporter of Dates. Pakistan is 2nd largest exporter of yarn. Pakistan is 3rd largest exporter of cotton and clothes. Pakistan is 3rd Largest rice exporter. (later on this year 2011-12) Pakistan is 3rd largest exporter of mango. Pakistan is 5th largest exporter of Cement. (China-Japan-Thailand-Turkey-Pakistan) The list is quite long. I think its enough. AAMIR
AAMIR Oct 06, 2011 01:41am
Please be sensible. Follow the topic i.e. 'Doing Business in Pakistan'. From where Imran Khan came in?....
Muhammad Aamir Razza Oct 06, 2011 02:14am
South Asia is a wonderful God gifted peace of land. It has enormous untapped treasures hidden in its land(Agri-Dairy), mountains(minerals), people(talent) and in its beauty(tourism). I think we have explored not more than 5% of hidden treasures in Pakistan. A Single Thar Coal Reserve Of Pakistan is about 850 Trillion Cubic Feet Which is More Than Oil Reserves Of Saudia & Iran. Baluchistan province in Pakistan is rich in numerous precious minerals. Land of Punjab in both India and Pakistan is famous for wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton and many more crops. About 99609.6 Sq Km land is still available for cultivation in Pakistan. Pakistan has enormous unexplored gas and oil reserves. The land has huge resources of gold (write recodec Pakistan in Google). We have world largest reserves of natural salt. Dairy Business, Pakistan is no 2 in world after our neighbor India in milk production. Our fruits specially Dates, Mango, Orange are highly demanded all over the world. Pakistani brain is well known in world, from IT specialist to Atomic scientists; The nation has the ability to ‘do what they want’. Korea adopted our first five year plan to achieve enormous growth. Only we need is political stability. Pakistan is heaven for foreign investment.
Riffat Oct 06, 2011 10:40am
Nice article :)
Rehan Oct 06, 2011 02:41pm
Finally ... an article that shows the bright side of Pakistan. We can really do with more positive publicity and MUCH less of the dime-a-dozen so called 'analysts'
Sami Oct 06, 2011 04:42pm
I really appreciate you are doing well… keep up your good work.God bless you Caroline
Kathleen McDonald Oct 06, 2011 06:44pm
I had the good fortune of working in Pakistan for a year. That assignment opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities available in Pakistan and a dynamic commercial sector. To capitalize on these opportunities, three areas need to addressed. First, Pakistan must have a stable, transparent government and address corruption at the highest levels. Second, Pakistan must be able to provide reliable sources of energy. And third, Pakistan needs to address its own security breaches. Unless these issues are addressed in a timely manner, Pakistan will loose the chance to become a reliable global partner in the world economy.
Kurt Damsted Oct 07, 2011 12:54pm
Danish Pakistan Business Council wants to create different business clusters covering different technologies under its umbrella with the purpose to transfer the collected knowlegde in the different clusters to Pakistan and create work and export posibillities for the benefit of the ordenary population in the Pakistan.
Maneesh Mohanan Oct 08, 2011 10:17am
Your data is only partially correct... India is the fifth largest exporter in the world as per 2010 est. and its total exports stood at $517 Billion
Azhar Mahmood Oct 10, 2011 07:48pm
I completely agree with you. If you have any further feedback please forward it to me. I am writing an article regarding how Pakistan should tackle its economic problems.
usman Oct 11, 2011 10:36am
well , it great to know there is something in my country to cheer about .. it is so true that pakistan has vast resource and talents and everything else have what an emerging economy need . but if you look at the history there is lot of kingdom who have wealth and resources but they failed . the reason quite simple . no one is coming to our country in kind of foreign investment until our own business man and people do not care about their country .. Pakistan is not a fail state but i am very sorry to say we the proudly people of Pakistan making in a failed one
Irfan B Oct 14, 2011 06:48pm
I totally support this suggestion. I also agree that the media focuses 95% of the time on the problems of Pakistan, rather than on successes. I would like to quote the views of a certain, very noble and well respected OECD Country’s Ambassador to Pakistan (during 1990’s), "Irfan, your country has been mismanaged for the last 50 years; but it still survives - and has not defaulted on its international obligations; imagine if it was managed well''. Point to ponder, indeed.
Rohit Sharma Oct 18, 2011 09:05am
Is this self motivation in the time of crisis? Why don't you people first work on what is fundamentally wrong with you and then the compedition with the rest of the world will take care of itself. The virally spread misconception of Pakistanis being better than anyone else in every field is so juvenile that the contrasting evidences of the country take away plight from the hearts of non-pakistanis
vasan Oct 18, 2011 04:52pm
I would like to add a point here. Two of the weaknesses ie Power shortage and Security problems themselves provide lots of business opportunities. Corruption is the only issue to be tackled on an urgent footing. And this applies to India too.
asiya May 25, 2012 06:38pm
you are right..i lived abroad .....pakistani products are much more popular then india especially in clothing.....every pakistani need to know about our capicity