Pakistan, rebranded

The Boston Globe

By Imaduddin Ahmed and Kapil Komireddi March 25, 2010


Pop-star Ali Zafar

GOOGLE “PAKISTAN is’’ and you’ll find a host of common searches: “a failed state,’’ “a terrorist country,’’ “doomed’’ and — encompassing all of the above — “the problem.’’ Pakistan’s image is both the effect and a potential cause of terrorism: it scares away business investments, and leaves jobless youth without opportunities, ripe for mullahs who promise riches in the afterlife. In significant ways, however, the actual security risks faced by private enterprises in Pakistan is no greater than the violent threat they face in India.

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It is a testament to India’s public relations success that extraordinary threats, both internal and external, have done little to diminish India’s standing as a favored destination for foreign capital. In 2008, Islamist terrorists killed at least 170 civilians in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, exposing the government’s inadequacy at protecting its citizens.

This was not a one-off occurrence. The same year, Hindu extremists had claimed at least 100 Christian lives in the state of Orissa. In 2002, Hindu extremists slaughtered up to 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat; Human Rights Watch found that the attacks were organized with extensive police participation and in close cooperation with officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling state party.

Meanwhile, minutes away from Hyderabad, India’s answer to Silicon Valley, a Maoist insurgency has taken grip that spreads across nine Indian states and has already cost at least 6,000 lives, according to the BBC. Secessionist movements in the north, west, and eastern parts of India are challenging the Indian state’s endurance, and are often met with extra-constitutional brutality by the state.

Despite India’s travails, it is known by the amicable faces of actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sitarist Ravi Shankar and a string of Ms. Universes. Were it not for their global outreach and the consequent foreign investment it secured, the Indian narrative today would be very different.

So how can Pakistan emulate India’s success?

First, Pakistan must address the major difference between the two countries: their Standard and Poor currency convertibility ratings. India is rated BBB+, Pakistan has a B-, the same as Ukraine and Argentina. Institutions seeking investments would do well, therefore, to direct investors to reputable insurers that insure against currency inconvertibility, as well as against political violence and terrorism.

Pakistan would also do well to emphasize that it has fewer regulatory restrictions on foreign investment than neighboring India and that it ranks 58 places higher than India in the World Bank’s Doing Business’’ 2010 report; that, like India, it has a substantial middle-class population fluent in English; and that until Lehman Brothers and the food and oil price shocks of 2008, its stock exchange was growing at a rapid rate.

Finally, Pakistan and its allies must help Pakistan exert soft-power, as its larger, similarly troubled neighbor successfully has, in order to negate associations with terrorism and failure.

Lifetime human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who stood-up for an independent judiciary, and Aitzaz Ahsan, his lead counsel, are citizen heroes no less worthy of international status than Aung San Suu Kyim, the pro-democracy opposition leader under house arrest in Myanmar. Mukhtaran Mai, a village girl punished to gang-rape and who responded by founding schools in her community, and philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, who set up the largest private ambulance service network in the world and holds the record for the longest time worked without having taken a holiday, are no less noteworthy than Mother Teresa.

The White House is linking Muslim entrepreneurs from around the world with US businesses with which they may have synergy. The US State Department ought to do the same for Pakistani artists. Contemporary English-language fiction writers such as Mohammad Hanif entertainingly narrate stories of Pakistan. The late Sufi tenor Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and pop artists Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar have a following throughout South Asia, but are virtually unheard of beyond.

With a little help from its friends, Pakistan can emulate India by imprinting the face of Ali Zafar over AQ Khan in the minds of foreign investors. Enticing more investment and hence job opportunities, Pakistan and friends will have done their part to lure urchins with constructive, rather than destructive, aspirations.

Imaduddin Ahmed is a global business scholar at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Kapil Komireddi is an Indian writer.

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5 Responses to “Pakistan, rebranded”
  1. I am stunned reading this article but then it is from a guy of pakistani origin. You compared Pakistan to India? You have lost it!! Pakistan is a failed state because its institutions are dysfunctional. Do you forget that democracy doesn’t really work in Pakistan. In India it atleast works to a great extent and judiciary is independent. India doesn’t need celebrity judges. By the way the photo of the actor that you have put up – ‘Ali Zafar’ is earning his livelihood in Mumbai, India. Similar travails of both countries????. Remove your tinted glass. A Fletcher education didn’t really help a pakistani to get rid of his India obsession even though that Pakistani is now a British citizen. —-A Fletch

  2. Forget about branding Pakistan. It was established on the basis of hatred. hatred still rules Pakistan. Read up on sectarian killings.

  3. imadahmed says:

    It saddens to see a fellow graduate spouting hatred, making prejudiced assumptions and getting his facts wrong.
    1) The article was co-authored by me, a Pakistani, and an Indian. It was the India’s value-add in suggesting the comparison with India. The comparison was then co-developed. Every comparison made has been a statement of fact. Ignoring the shared by-line highlights your highly apparent prejudice and your small mindedness in making personal attacks.
    2) I don’t know how you can claim that India’s judiciary is better than Pakistan’s when the genocidaire Narendra Modi walks about freely and few have been prosecuted for mobilising (or not) the state apparatus in Gujarat’s mass killings.
    3) Pakistan’s creation as a state was the result of Nehru’s unfettered ambition. Jinnah had suggested a federation with a weak centre, in order to protect the Muslims of India from atrocities such as those perpetrated by Modi – that is the context of hatred into which it was born. Gandhi supported Jinnah to be India’s first prime minister. Nehru sacrificed the country to get Jinnah out of the scene.

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  1. […] Pakistan, rebranded, co-authored with Kapil Komireddi for The Boston Globe […]

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