“You tend to hear the worst 5% of the Pakistan story 95% of the time.” Pakistani Entrepreneur Monis Rahman
Most of the reviews of Pakistan's Year 2011 fit the above description of how Pakistan's story is told by foreign and domestic media engaged in the 24X7 news cycle.
So let me get the worst 5% of the story out of the way before telling you the rest of the 95% of it.
The Worst 5% of Pakistan's Story in 2011:
Pakistan added to the list of multiple serious crises of energy, economy, education, security and the worst ever governance by adding one more--a civilian-military conflict created by the hubris, incompetence and corruption of the ruling Peoples' Party leadership. This ongoing crisis now threatens to discredit and derail democracy yet again with the rapidly declining popularity of the Zardari-Gilani government and growing favorability ratings of the Pakistani military and its leadership.
Now the Rest of the Pakistan Story in 2011:
1. The current PPP-led coalition reached a key milestone of becoming the longest-serving elected civilian government in Pakistan's history.
2. Deep dissatisfaction with PPP-PML(N) duopoly gave rise to a credible third option with the emergence of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by the popular cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. PTI particularly gained considerable momentum with successful political rallies in Lahore and Karachi.
1. Early childhood education received a significant boost with the launch of Sim Sim Hamara, Pakistani adaptation of the popular Sesame Street TV show for pre-school children.
2. Pakistan continued to be ahead of India in graduation rates at all levels, according to 2011 update published by Harvard researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.
3. Pakistan achieved the distinction of having the world's largest Fulbright Foundation program in 2011, with about 200 scholarships for advanced degrees during the year.
4. Punjab government launched elite Danish School system for high-achieving but poor college-bound students in Southern Punjab region. Public-sector Danish schools are intended as an alternative to the best available private schools which are beyond the reach of the poor rural students. There are currently two schools each in Chistian, Hasilpur and Rahim Yar Khan, and ambitious plans for over 600 such schools in the future.
5. The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a private foundation, continued to expand its network of schools, reaching a total of 730 well-equipped schools as of April, 2011, serving over 100,000 mostly underprivileged students. 71 of these TCF schools have been built are being operated with funds from Pakistani-American donors.
6. The British government announced $1 billion in aid for improving primary education in Pakistan over a four year period. The money will fund education for up to 4 million students, train 9,000 teachers, purchase 6 million new text books and build 8,000 schools by 2015.
1. Pakistan's lady health workers were described as "the best in the world" by a Boston University researcher and author of a community-based health care delivery study in Pakistan.
Women at Work:
1. The year 2011 saw a silent social revolution in Pakistan with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder. "More of them(women) than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations", said a 2011 report in Businessweek magazine.
2. Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.
3. In rural Sindh, the government started granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province. Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.
1. Middle class consumers started spending again in 2011. over 10,000 more units of locally assembled cars were sold in July-November 2011 with sales hitting 62,353 units compared with 52,200 units in the same period of 2010. Auto sales in Pakistan hit a two year high, jumping 61% in July, 2011 to 17,563 units from 10,942 units in the same month of last year. Pak Suzuki Motor Company led the auto sales up with 116 percent rise to 11,997 units from 4,503 seen in the same period last year.
2. Away from the violence and the troubles of the big cities, the economy of rural Pakistan experienced a boom. Flush with cash from bumper crops at record commodity prices, the farmers spent on tractors, cars, motorcycles, mobile phones, personal grooming items, packaged foods and beverage... like never before. Higher crop prices increased farmers’ incomes in Pakistan by Rs. 342 billion in the 12 months through June, according to a government economic survey. That was higher than the gain of Rs. 329 billion in the preceding eight years, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Companies like Millat tractors, Honda Atlas Motorcycles, Pak Suzuki Motors, Engro Foods, Telnor, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, and Unilever have been big beneficiaries of the rural consumption boom.
3. Pakistan's key share index KSE-100 dropped about 5% in 2011, significantly less than most the emerging markets around the world. Mumbai's Sensex, by contrast, lost about 25% of its value, putting it among the worst performing markets in the world.
1. Significant new investments were announced in the renewable energy sector, particular hydroelectric power plants and wind farms. WAPDA announced 28% completion of the 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project, and ADB took the lead financier role in the 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha dam project. Pakistan has about 1000 MW of wind power plants at various stages of planning and construction, and another 498.5 megawatts of wind programs announced, mostly in Jhimpir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Port Qasim wind corridors along the Arabian Sea coast in Sindh.
2. In addition to billions of tons of coal deposits in Sindh, exploration confirmed the presence of upwards of 60 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in Pakistan, enough for 20 years or more.
1. As US-Pakistan relations sank to new lows, there were tentative signs that Pakistan's fight against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is beginning to succeed. There have been no major terrorist attacks in Pakistan since the the Mehran Naval Base siege in Karachi in May, 2011.
2. Death toll from terrorism declined for the third year in row, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. After hitting a peak of 11,704 in 2009, number of deaths fell to 7,435 in 2010 and 6,048 in 2011.
3. Huge political rallies in 2011 passed off without violence, helping boost confidence in the security situation in major Pakistani cities.
While deep concerns remain about Pakistanis' ability to overcome the myriad crises they face today, the year 2011 showed that the people continue to be undaunted and resilient. A significant number of them, like Edhi Foundation, The Citizens Foundation, Pakistan Lady Health Workers and others are showing the way by lighting candles rather than cursing darkness.