Pakistanis are often characterized by stories of "individual excellence" and "collective failures" on the world stage. And there is some evidence to support such a characterization in Pakistan and abroad. However, the recent string of seven T20 international cricket wins, including the 2020 world championship
, by Shahid Afridi's boys demonstrates the potential for collective success under competent and spirited leadership.
Cricket in Pakistan is more than a national obsession; it is a metaphor for life. Pakistani cricket is endowed with tremendous raw talent. But the national team captains have often failed in translating it into significant success in major international events. The last time Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup was in 1992. The T20 cricket has been marked by much improved quality of Pakistani leadership recently. After the seventh straight 2020 win against New Zealand today in Dubai, the energized Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi gave credit to the good teamwork among the T20 squad. Unlike Pakistan's rulers, Afridi is not a feudal prince
. He has not inherited the cricket leadership position. He has earned it by working hard and by showing the ability to lead people to success.
Speaking from my own experience, I have seen some of the brightest and most successful individuals from Pakistan in Silicon Valley. They are top business executives, entrepreneurs
, venture capitalists, researchers and professionals contributing to the success of Silicon Valley. Most came from Pakistan's middle class with good education but little or no money. They attended some of the best universities in America and joined some of the top companies before starting out on their own to become professionally and financially successful. Many have also demonstrated their leadership skills in an environment that promotes meritocracy.
Unfortunately, meritocracy in politics has never thrived in Pakistan, at least in part because landowning remains almost the only social base from which national leadership can emerge. In general, the educated middle class in Pakistan and the talented leaders from urban areas are largely excluded from competing for the top positions in government, and denied a chance to provide the badly needed leadership to achieve collective national success.
In spite of the current and past failures of national political leadership, I am optimistic about the future of Pakistan. With the robust economic growth
averaging 7 percent and availability of millions of new jobs created between 2000 and 2008, there has been increased rural to urban migration in Pakistan to fill the jobs in growing manufacturing and service sectors. The level of urbanization in Pakistan is now the highest in South Asia, and its urban population is likely to equal its rural population by 2030, according to a report
titled ‘Life in the City: Pakistan in Focus’, released by the United Nations Population Fund
. Pakistan ranks 163 and India at 174 on a list of over 200 countries compiled by Nationmaster
. The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan's gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.
With the shifting demographics over this decade and the next, the center of political power is expected to move from rural to urban Pakistan, opening up the opportunities for more competent national leaders to emerge from the educated urban middle class. Combining the considerable individual talent in Pakistan with improved leadership should pave the way for turning Pakistan's collective failure
into collective national success.
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