When travelling to an exotic destination like Pakistan, a country so misunderstood and painted under one light, it is important to open one’s eyes and learn from the host country. This post is just some of my own ramblings and research notes about the social challenges faced by the country. Again, I’m a nobody- just a curious traveller and forever a student of this world and the many fascinating countries that have the heart to let me in to experience the sights and sounds that they could offer.
Political and economical research notes will be dealt with in another post.
Nuclear proliferation/military/army along with more sensitive topics such as Kashmir, terrorism and relations with India+Afghanistan will not be too thoroughly discussed.
Agriculture- is the largest sector of the country’s economy, 24% of total GDP and taking up half of the labour force, some of the most important products are rice, wheat, cotton, rice, sugar cane and corn. These six make up the majority of agricultural crops. With 79.61 million ha of land , only 27.7 % are used for agriculture. Numbers will need to be pushed up for Pakistan to reach her full potentials. It was reported in 2008 that the former PM of Pakistan visited Saudi Arabia and in return for their help with debt, land was leased to Saudi Arabia who have access to profits and production. Foreign investment helps a country but does it trickle down to everyone?
Environmental degradation, over-grazing, deforestation and rising demands for certain crops and mass production with a neglect of the correct agricultural techniques has the potential to add more challenges to this sector. Some say that Pakistan loses one ha of agricultural land every twenty minutes. Regardless of how true this number is, what is certain is that like many other countries in the world, it is always the environment, agriculture and local communities who suffers the most in this world of economy, capitalism and mass production.
With an ever growing population, agriculture will need to be re-organised in order to met both national and international demands. An re-evaluation of land usage and crop planning will only benefit the country. Agriculture is the basic foundation of any country and economic growth- intertwined with ecology, environment and the local narrative, once you do it right in agriculture, things will be easier. It is just one of the many balancing acts that Pakistan needs to focus on.
Water Security and Energy Shortage
Despite a surge in water sources, it does not mean that water is safe to drink. There is a shortage of water in Pakistan and this is particularly true when we paid a visit to Faisal’s village in Larkana. With more mouths to feed, a drop in water availability and more pollution, like many other countries, water allocation, wastewater treatment, sanitation, access, distribution and costs is a lingering issue. Since 90% of water is dedicated to agriculture, many citizens do not have access to safe drinking water ( prone to diseases and pre-mature deaths). Our guides told us that in the Sindh Province where poverty is common, many drink contaminated water. As water has been diverted to Punjab provide for agriculture, Sindh is left with severe water shortage. My mind zapped back to what Faisal said about his village. Back 1000 years ago, Larkana was submerged in the Indus River and with development, an once mighty river that gave birth to top civilisations and communities are now mere canals. Damn- this is that link and yes, don’t start me on global warming (think, present day Larkana used to be part of the Indus River).
Faisal’s village also encounter power cuts and energy shortage. This is all too common in lesser populated regions in Pakistan. The government need to find ways to make proper beneficial investments to once again- ensure adequate access to electricity. Unlike Nepal’s power cuts due to India blockage and other seasonal factors, Pakistan should look into alternative forms of energy to improve livelihood. Wind power in Himalayan region is good with wave power along the coast in the South- maybe solar panels too- whatever it is, avoid coal. Look at China’s dire situation and learn from other peoples’ mistakes. If I’m Pakistan, I’d ask my dear old friend China to pay for everything. China has already invested 46 billion USD in Pakistan and set up the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). I just hope that investments are really being made into infrastructure, water and energy distribution and other beneficial projects so everyone can benefit.
Rural livelihoods, Population and Education
Community organisations, groups and rural settings require support either from government or other bodies. With infrastructure deficits in both rural and urban settings, better facilities will only benefit more isolated and ‘forgotten’ communities.
With close to 200 million people out of which around 40% are urban citizens, population will only grow which will make Pakistan the largest Muslim-majority country by 2030. With great numbers of young people, any country can use this to turn it into a valuable asset- and that comes down to education like Master Ayub’s open air school in Islamabad as well as the efforts made by Faisal’s parents who started a girl and boy school in their local village. More support must be given to these local heroes since grassroots efforts are the most effective.
The constitution of Pakistan requires the state to provide free primary and secondary education. However, many still cannot afford to go to school. Enrolment has gone up and there are quite a large number of institutes. When it comes to education, curriculum and teaching quality must be improved and employment opportunities for a young workforce must be visible and accessible for all. There are still many who see education for girls as something that is useless and dangerous since education gives them the chance for change. More support and money is needed for education which will hopefully result in free fees, free textbooks and free access. This must be promoted and encouraged. Education is important. Education should be free and ongoing. That way Pakistan will thrive.