New Year – will we have a different way forward?

Khalid Pervez, CEO KPWS Consulting & Chairman IEEEP Karachi Centre

I wish to apologize on the onset for two counts: I didn’t say the proverbial ‘Happy New Year’, and that I’m dwelling on a non-engineering subject. Not saying Happy New Year here is not from any religious considerations [although they do apply and must be respected] but it primarily stems from the fact that when you’re on a continuous declining state, what to be happy about. Again, different people may connect our declining state and the state of happiness in different ways, but when focusing on the national perspective, I consider the two heavily interconnected and interdependent.

Having been born just after a year of Pakistan’s coming into being, fortunately I’m a witness to the wonderful growth and development of our beloved country. We were getting ready to play a very pivotal role in our region through our good education, hard work, dedication, honesty, a fast-growing economy, etc.

Students from the Middle East and Africa studied engineering, medicine, and scientific fields in Pakistan. Our 5-year plans provided guidance to various countries including South Korea. Our banking sector enriched several countries, including those in the Middle East through its advisory roles. And what to say about aviation, in the late 50s we were globally competing with the top European and American airlines. That’s not all – we were the first to launch a rocket in the region, all with the indigenous efforts. In the early 60s we manufactured semiconducting devices in Lahore. And the story goes on.

Pakistan’s downfall started in early 70s when abruptly the nation was forced to accept large scale privatization whose only purpose was to create another class of handpicked elites. The banking sector, shipping lines, steel industry, high performing industrial sector, and many others were all virtually snatched from their owners and converted to national assets for the so-called betterment of masses – something that never materialized. The then existing national institutions [PIA, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Steels, KPT, etc.] became large lucrative places for the political appointees, which continues to date – thanks to the peoples’ prime minister. That’s how incompetence and corruption seeped heavily in our all governance and public sector domains.

The subsequent leadership – both civil and military – grossly lacked vision and statesmanship. They only promoted self-serving designs with incompetence and corruption [in varying degrees] being their primary virtues. There’re many unanswered questions which are never debated but give rise to strong speculations. A highly important being that what stopped the all-powerful Gen. Zia and Gen. Musharraf from constructing Basha and Kalabagh dams having potential capacity of 4,500 and 3,600MW respectively on which billions of rupees were already invested for all sorts of engineering studies. The dams were conceived in 1980 and 1998 respectively. Just imagine the financial gains for Pakistan if the dams were timely constructed. Huge quantum of cheap electricity and avoidance of floods. [Fighting against all the odds of financial arrangements, Imran Khan managed the funding of Basha Dam in 2020 and awarded the construction contract with a construction period of 9 years.]

What we see today in Pakistan is the outcome of such gloomy designs and practices. You’ll not find even a single domain – education, health, law and order, public transport, water supply, electric supply, national economy, human rights, judicial system, governance, etc. to be satisfactory in any sense of the word. Talented and experienced manpower is leaving the country due to the extremely difficult conditions.

A heavily alarming situation has exposed recently, which’s army’s illegitimate role in Pakistan’s political affairs. Most surprisingly, the army has started playing role in Pakistan’s economic affairs as well. This might be due to its economic prowess. Don’t be surprised that it’s the biggest investor or stakeholder of the Pakistan Stock Exchange.

‘Chaos’ is best defined as a state of utter confusion or disorder, a total lack of organization or order. So, by all measures, we’re in a state of deep chaos. Could any society or nation ever sustain or grow if it’s in chaos? Certainly not. You know and I know who’s responsible for this chaos. But the status of illiteracy doesn’t allow masses to take concrete steps to fight out the ailments. But hopefully the conditions will take a sharp turn for the better.[The author could be reached at:]