Monday, March 17, 2008

On Pakistan

William Dalrymple, the historian and popular author has an insightful piece on the recent elections in Pakistan. He's quite optimistic about the country's future. Here's a relevant excerpt:

widespread publicity given to the [recent] crisis obscured the important changes that had quietly taken place in Pakistani society during Musharraf's eight years in power. Pakistan's economy is currently in difficulty, with fast-rising inflation and shortages of electricity and flour; but between 2002 and 2006 it had grown almost as strongly as India's. Until the beginning of 2007, Pakistan had a construction and consumer boom, with growth approaching 8 percent; for several years its stock market was the fastest-rising in Asia.

As you travel around Pakistan today you can see the effects of the boom everywhere: in vast new shopping malls and smart roadside filling stations, in the cranes of the building sites and the smokestacks of factories, in the expensive new cars jamming the roads and in the ubiquitous cell-phone stores. In 2003 the country had fewer than three million cell phones; today apparently there are 50 million, while car ownership has been increasing at roughly 40 percent a year since 2001. At the same time foreign direct investment has risen from $322 million in 2002 to $3.5 billion in 2006.

Pakistan's cities, in particular, are fast changing beyond recognition. As in India, there is a burgeoning Pakistani fashion scene full of ambitious gay designers and amazingly beautiful models. [link]
The trouble with International Media is that, it only reports the most compelling stories about places like Pakistan. The trouble with that is, the compelling stories are chaotic - a bomb, a shooting or something of the sort. So people develop this perception that Pakistan = chaos + Jihad+ bombs + kill. Which is not true for, well, much of the country.

Being Sri Lankan - another country which reminds people of all things Pakistan (minus jihad) - I kept getting ask by my non-Sri Lankan friends about the dreadful situation in the country. Now, the situation is dreadful and there are bombs, but I'm not exactly ducking bullets. I mean, when there is a bomb and you are not dead as a result of it, you kind of avoid that route and get on with life. That's kind of what Pakistan is. Dalrymple relates the story by analyzing the election results where most secular-democratic forces have secured victory over the mullah's and feudal leaders. Read the whole thing.

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