Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Is the flood over in Pakistan? No. Most certainly not! Notwithstanding the massive relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction operations, the devastation from the worst natural disaster in recent times continues to claim lives in scores due to the outbreak of epidemics, lack of health facilities, and shortage of food, shelter and clothing.
How horrendous life has been after the deluge is unfortunately fading away from the focus of the media as Pakistan continues to cope with a natural calamity described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as a slow tsunami, six times bigger than any other catastrophe in the last fifty years. The flood which swept through northern tip of Pakistan to Sindh affected a land mass the size of England and uprooted more than 20 million people.
Reconstruction work is on full swing – thanks to domestic and international agencies. As a resilient nation Pakistanis are doing their best to get back on their feet. No doubt there are gigantic challenges ahead but these floods have opened new opportunities to everyone whether within Pakistan or abroad.
Any student of history will tell you that a recurring feature of 20th century revolutions and civil wars was conflict over land ownership, driven by the resentment of the rural poor against the concentration of agricultural wealth in the hands of the elite. (Cuba and Vietnam, where Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh picked up support by championing farm reform, are good places to start.)
So Pakistan’s plans to sell farmland to rich Gulf investors deserve serious attention, even if land ownership does not have the same ability to grab headlines as its nuclear weapons.
Amid the conventional wisdom that Pakistan’s economy is falling to pieces — a view reinforced inside the country by soaring food prices and frequent power cuts — it’s interesting to see that someone still sees it as a hot market for foreign funds.
The Melchior Selected Trust Pakistan Opportunities Fund, one of the first funds to target Pakistan, believes the country’s problems have been exaggerated and sees its market as having the potential of “India at half the price”, according to this Reuters story.