Who wants a country?
The outgoing Programme Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Mr Marc Andre Franche has raised a very scary question; “Want a country or not”? According to him, no one seems interested in nation building. There is an elite capture that thrives on cheap labour for personal comfort. They own properties in Europe while shopping is done in Dubai. Earlier President Putin of Russia also came out with an interesting observation about Pakistanis; “They only like to be buried in Pakistan”. Having personal experience of working with UNDP and UNIDO initiatives in the country, I strongly feel that Mr. Franche’s remarks carry weight. According to him, no one is willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the nation. On his recent visit to Karachi, he was horrified at the lack of basic amenities in the city. He found the economic engine of the country at the point of breakdown which should be a serious cause of concern for policymakers.
Last month, I had the chance to visit a UNDP-sponsored project in Kot Lakhpat of which I was one of the founding engineers. It started in 1976 within Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (PITAC) to upgrade the Foundry Technology in the country. It was named Metal’s Advisory Service (MAS) ably led by an expert by the name of Dr Kamal Hussain who hailed from Egypt. After its launch the operations were expanded to Kot Lakhpat, where a state-of-the-art centre was established. The name was changed to the Metals Industry Research and Development Centre (MIRDC) and then to Technical Services Centre (TSC). Though the scope of services remained the same, the names kept changing. While PITAC continues to be affiliated with the Ministry of Industries and Production (MOIP), TSC is linked with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). As expertise in metals already existed within MOIP, TSC was rendered non-functional despite its noteworthy contribution in the development of the Foundry Industry in the country. I had gone there to develop the metal required to fabricate the Railway Tract needed for the ML-1 Project of the Pakistan Railways. I was shocked and saddened to find the once functional organisation, rendered non-functional. All the good work and efforts of UNDP had been wasted. I am sure several other projects of national importance must have met the same fate resulting in technological regression instead of progress.
As President, Pervez Musharraf posed a serious question which remains unanswered till today, “Where has all the loaned money gone?” No one seems to know or even care. Loan supported luxury is a perfect recipe for disaster that has been ongoing for the last four decades in the republic. While individual empires have been built in the state, its vital institutions have all collapsed. The Armed Forces have survived by the power of their muscles, the rest could not. They surely want a country and are willing to lay down their lives for its territorial integrity but at a very heavy price which has now become unbearable for a country of our size. After debt servicing and a defence expenditure, almost 60 percent resources are consumed, leaving very little for the much needed human development. The menace of corruption continues unabated with failed accountability of the rogue elements who continue to rob the country. After having worked for UN bodies, the government and the private sector I firmly believe that we have all been a party to this unchecked decline. Dissent for course correction is non-existent all around. Even the UN experts do not assert themselves to ensure continuity and sustainability of their efforts. At least in the current scenario, UNDP should see that their vital for the country, ‘Foundry Technology’ project (MAS/MIRDC/TSC) be revived and merged with PITAC from where it was launched. Metals and Minerals are the basic building blocks of the nation, if we want our country to survive and grow then such important UNDP/UNIDO projects should not be shelved. Marc Andre Franche, please hold our hand and lead as I did in Sudan. The people of Pakistan will be ever indebted to you for your courage and concern for them.
Dr Farid A Malik
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakiastan Sciencae Foundation, email: firstname.lastname@example.org