We have been living with myths or half truths which over time have been recognized as complete facts. As a new decade kicks off with 2020, it is time we look at these partial realities that are often reflected in our discourses. Some of these are as follows:

Truck Art represents Pakistani culture.

Someone sarcastically said that truck art in Pakistan denotes successive rulers’ promises to the nation which is like asking someone to keep following truck lights (a futile and never ending chase of moving destination). This art on wheels originated as a consequence of truck owners’ desire to embellish their vehicles with all possible gaiety and designs.

Since 1960s, foreign tourists started taking fancy to the colourful floral designs and pictures painted on the vehicles and then someone in Pakistan thought of presenting this colorful kaleidoscope to the world as a microcosm of Pakistani culture. Often a Pakistani pavilion in an international expo has the dominant visual theme of truck art.

But, culture is sum total of innumerable elements ranging from folklore to foods, dresses, handicrafts, music and countryside sports. Our rich culture spreads out much beyond truck designs and the truck mosaic should rather be taken and presented as only a fraction of our vast and diverse culture.

Scenic charm and rich culture promote positive image.

In promoting a favorable profile of Pakistan, we have been highlighting our picturesque topography and mesmerizing culture. But these two alone cannot off-set negative perceptions about the country, as a positive image is promoted with several other things including the state of economy and governance, security situation, rule of law, physical and logistical infrastructure, and people’s attitudes in their day-to-day lives, especially towards vulnerable segments of the society. A few countries with more breath-taking geographical splendor than ours and with far fabulous cultures than ours continue to suffer from image crisis.

There is a need to flash across positive traits of our people more than mere scenic glamour. Apart from landscape and cultural heritage, a modern Pakistan with its enterprising professional classes and vibrant civil society must be showcased.

Good songs will revive film industry.

Let’s first make a clear difference between music and songs as the former will remain essential for films while the latter may not. It is time to do away with mantra of associating catchy songs with the success of a movie. Several decades back, Hollywood folks had learnt that a movie gets popular on the basis of its strong subject and gripping storyline. As the world grew more realistic, fantasy-oriented song sequences performed by protagonists were abandoned.

Even bollywood has learnt that cine-goers are now more interested in contemporary subjects. In the age of internet and social media, the songs are seen as unwelcome interruptions in the movement of storyline. For promotion of the movies, a title/ theme track could still be a fine commercial tactic or as background score to enhance emotional impact. Several films in bollywood did badly on box-office despite amazing songs. Songs as background soundtrack still matter, but we have entered an era of songs created solely for social media.

Government patronage will bring about our film industry’s renaissance.

While the government can create conducive environment like cutting entertainment taxation and lowering import duties on materials used in film making, the creation of movies has to be done by private sector consisting of creative people, academics, civil society, and business sector.

The zenith of Lollywood films didn’t witness any government patronage from the public sector. Even the Bollywood wallas constantly complain about their government’s indifference towards their movie industry. But this film industry, only second to Hollywood in the world, has still made a big name for itself on the global entertainment scene. The public sector in developing countries is constantly creating space for private sector which has several-fold more resources for producing films.

Our youth bulge is the most valuable human resource.

For the past two decades or so, our policy planners have been mentioning our youth bulge, over 60 percent of the population, as our most valuable human resource. There is no doubt that young people are the future and potential resource, but a young man or woman becomes productive only after he or she starts contributing to the society, usually at the age of 22 and later. The unemployed youthful population, which is also a reflection of unbridled population growth, can become a liability if not equipped with required vocational skills and is faced with jobs scarcity amid weak economy. It remains to be seen what impact government’s “Kamyaab Jawan” initiative will make. A report by Population Action International published in New York Times found that strife-ridden nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Congo had young populations.

The working population in 40s, 50s and even 60s with their long and rich experience are valuable existing resource that falls on a blind spot of our policy makers. It is quite ironical that when people working in public sector attain age of 60 with rich experience are retired from service. With the view to benefiting from the experience and expertise of senior employees with improved life expectancy, the developed countries have extended the retirement age to 67 or even 70. In fact, the government feels shy in doing so due to soaring unemployment in the country.

The government will have to give equal importance to the youth bulge and senior members of the society as the latter can guide upcoming generations. Opportunities in private and public sector could be created to re-appoint retired personnel. While job opportunities are still awaited by our youth, the best proven human resource is the work force in good health in the ages from 35 to 65.

Exotic templates will rectify our governance issues.

Our policy makers have penchant for toying with foreign models of governance in one sector or another. Every government in Pakistan comes with templates practiced in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Turkey or any other developing or developed country.

While there is no harm in replicating in our country best practices pursued in alien lands but one size doesn’t often fit all. Just after assuming charge the PTI government decided to establish a holding company that replicated Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Berhad. But what the government didn’t see was that such Fund would deliver where there are exchange surpluses which don’t exist in our case.

The truth is that our shortcomings are not due to lack of workable models but societal and systemic issues including corruption, role of ruling elites and work ethics. Instead of frequently replacing the tools or tool wielders, there is a need to learn to use the existing templates that are in fact compatible with our socio-economic and political circumstances.