Global Misperceptions

There’s nothing wrong with the country

Probably the most important challenge for Pakistan is the global misperception about the country and it is also the biggest challenge for the progress of CPEC.  When we meet our friends around the globe, who haven’t yet visited Pakistan, they usually ask us strange questions as if there are hooligans roaming our streets, vandalism is to be commonly observed and people firing on each other is quite frequent.

It is not only limited to international observers. Even when I watch our own news channels it scares me as if there are criminals waiting at the end of my street to snatch everything I have. But fortunately, in a span of three decades of professional life it has never happened that I have noticed a gunshot around me, except during New Year celebrations. Despite extensive social, legal and official engagements, being the elder in the family, I never found a need to bribe anyone even for complex issues. I have worked in different cities of Pakistan with other ethnicities but never noticed any discrimination; rather I made very good friends from Karachi to Peshawar.

Pakistan is a country of 241 million human beings; the history of mankind proves that this planet never witnessed a society free of evil, crime and negativity. Our scriptures authenticate that the criminal mindset existed even in the times of Adam and Eve. Crimes are not strange to any of us around the globe, but howling about such happenings on the mainstream media will certainly damage the reputation of the nation, as it is doing for Pakistan.

Statistically Pakistan is in the bottom nations with incidents of robbery, theft and murders. Reports of World Population Review and The Global Economy are easily available on the internet, which clearly indicate that countries like Denmark, Sweden, Uruguay and Australia are top four countries while the UK is at number six in the world with highest theft rates. Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador are the top five countries with recorded robbery incidents while Pakistan is not among even top 50 countries.

However, if we look at the global media it will give one the image that these nations at the top of the table of life-threatening crimes are less dangerous than Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan is being portrayed by both the national and international media as an unattractive destination. It is this perception which actually haunts Pakistan’s progress on every front, and as a result, the economy bears the downside of misperceptions.

The advent of CPEC exposed the unmatched but generally hidden marine beauty of Pakistan. Anyone who visited Gwadar was left astonished and hypnotized by the crystal clear, blue and calm waters of Gwadar. Coastal tourism can contribute significantly to the economy of the country having natural blessings of beaches such as Kund Malir Beach, Daran Beach Jiwani, Ormara Beach, Sonmiani Beach and Gwadar Beach.

Separatist movements are operating in several countries including India, but it is Pakistan which remains on the radar as a destination for extremists. Pakistan has sacrificed so much to eliminate terrorism from this planet but doesn’t get appropriate international recognition. Pakistan put everything at stake and remained committed to fight against terrorism, and didn’t even spare Pakistani citizens involved in any kind of extremism.

Informal corridors of remittances exist from the Americas to African countries and some Asian nations but it was Pakistan which faced stringent FATF monitoring measures which resulted in a ‘blessing in disguise’ and refined several financial sector services of the country.

Political instability remains a challenge despite completion of the last four democratically elected governments during two decades; but still there is a lot to do to ensure political stability for smooth progress of every sector. Political instability somehow contributes to the fragility of the security apparatus and all these factors eventually shrink the overall productive capacity of the country. It is essential to eliminate false misperceptions about Pakistan if we actually desire to realize the dream of economic progress.

It was anticipated that CPEC, with its excellent connectivity potential, would bring prosperity not only for Pakistani businesses but would also support regional entrepreneurs to conveniently access potential markets beyond regional borders. However, there is not much advancement in this aspect since the inception of the project.

China, being a surplus economy, direly needs shipping and logistic hubs around the globe, which was one of the important reasons for the inception of CPEC. Gwadar, being an aptly located port, provided Pakistan with an advantage over other regional ports to become a shipping and logistic hub facilitating China’s reach to the rest of the world. Logistic sectors in both countries are thriving. China has already unveiled a state-owned logistic giant to improve competitiveness globally. According to a senior official, the company will strive to ensure smooth flow of production factors under the ‘dual circulation’ development paradigm and develop a secure, dependable and highly efficient modern logistic system. Pakistan’s logistics sector is growing rapidly, making it an excellent investment time for Chinese enterprises.

There is a significant rise in religious tourism around the globe, according to a report published this year, “The faith-based tourism market size is projected to grow by $25.85 billion.” Among many historical traditions of Pakistan, Buddhist monuments and art stand out and are known throughout the world.

Some of the regions that now form part of Pakistan were important in the development and growth of Buddhism in the world. These regions were considered among the holiest places in Buddhism and for hundreds of years attracted travelers, holy men and women from everywhere. The road network built under CPEC offers convenient connectivity to several Buddhist religious sites in Pakistan such as Taxila, Mohra Muradu, Jandial, Mankiala, Takht-i-Bahi, Nimogram and Dangram.

The advent of CPEC exposed the unmatched but generally hidden marine beauty of Pakistan. Anyone who visited Gwadar was left astonished and hypnotized by the crystal clear, blue and calm waters of Gwadar. Coastal tourism can contribute significantly to the economy of the country having natural blessings of beaches such as Kund Malir Beach, Daran Beach Jiwani, Ormara Beach, Sonmiani Beach and Gwadar Beach.

China is the world’s most dynamic food and farm produce market. It is a net importer of bulk agricultural products such as grains, cottons, edible oils, sugar, meat and milk. About 70 percent of China’s agricultural imports come from the far-flung corners of the world, including the USA, Brazil, and Australia. Pakistan should utilize the opportunity of China’s increased demand for food which is currently estimated at $1 trillion per annum. However, it will be only possible if all stakeholders from top to bottom join hands to eliminate global misperceptions about the country.

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Dr Abdus Sattar Abbasi
Dr Abdus Sattar Abbasi
The writer is Associate Professor of Management Sciences and head, Center of Islamic Finance, COMSATS University Islamabad, Lahore Campus

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