Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lest we Forget by Dr Atta ur Rehman


 

Like any human being, President Musharraf too made some mistakes, the major one relating to the National Reconciliation Ordinance. The period from 2000 to 2008 was also full of certain outstanding achievements.

Let us take the economy first. Pakistan was financially in a very difficult position in October 1999. By 2008 it was included in the N-11 (Next 11) group of countries that were predicted to join the most powerful economies of the world. During 2000-2008, the GDP grew from $63 billion to $170 billion, and there was an annual GDP growth of about seven percent, better than most economies of the world.

Per capita income increased from $430 to about $1000, and the foreign exchange reserves that had slid to $0.5 billion in 1999 grew to $16.5 billion by 2008. The revenue generation grew from Rs. 308 billion in 1999 to about Rs.1 trillion in 2008. The debt-to-GDP ratio improved from 102 percent to 53 percent. The exports grew from $7.8 billion to $17.5 billion. Foreign direct investments increased from $400 million to $8.4 billion.

The Karachi Stock Exchange Index shot up from about 950 points to 16,500 points. The annual development budget increased from Rs90 billion in 1999 to Rs520 billion in 2008, while poverty was reduced from 34 percent to 17 percent. The dollar value was maintained at about Rs60, thereby controlling the rate of inflation.

The communication infra-structure also saw a rapid improvement. The major new roads built in this period were: Coastal Highway Karachi–Gwadar 700KMs, (M1) Peshawar to Islamabad Motorway, (M3) Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad Motorway, (M4) Faisalabad to Multan Motorway, National Highway (N5) dualised Karachi to Peshawar, Quetta-Zhob-D I Khan road, Quetta–Loralai-D G Khan Road, Gwadar–Turbat-Rato Dero road, Chitral linking with Gilgit over Shandur Pass, Gilgit linked with Skardu via Astore – Chillum–Deosai Plains, Lowari Tunnel linking KPK to Chitral, Kaghan Valley linked with KKH at Chilas over Babusar Pass, Kohat Tunnel, Lahore-Sialkot Road, Lahore-Faisalabad Road, Karachi-Lyari Expressway, Karachi Northern Bypass, and Lahore Ring Road.

The strategically significant Gwadar Port was developed with Chinese assistance. A number of airports were developed and expanded. The Lahore airport was completed, the new Islamabad airport was started, the new Sambrial (Sialkot) airport was built, the Multan airport was expanded, the Gwadar airport was developed and the Quetta airport was expanded.

In the agricultural sector a number of important irrigation projects were initiated. The Diamer Bhasha Dam was launched. The Mangla Dam was raised by 30 feet increasing 2.9 maf water storage capacity and 100MW electricity. A number of new dams and canals were built (Mirani Dam for Balochistan, Subukzai Dam for Balochistan and Gomal Zam Dam for KP; Kachi Canal from Taunsa to Dera Bugti and Jhal Magsi to irrigate 713,000 acres of barren cotton producing land, the Thal Canal for Punjab, Rainee Canal for Sindh).

Overall three million acres of barren land were brought under cultivation. The Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) was constructed through Sindh, thereby saving Indus River and Manchar Lake (Sind) from pollution. The steps taken led to an increase in wheat production from 14 million tons to 22 million tons, and increase in cotton production from nine million bales to 13 million bales.

Price control was exercised on essential items. The prices of edible household items (flour, naan, milk, tea, sugar, meat, vegetable oil etc) have tripled or quadrupled in the last five years. A rotational loan system was introduced through banks for poor farmers and loan facility for farmers increased from Rs35 billion through ZTBL only, to Rs160 billion from all other private banks.

Overall 2900MW of electricity was added to national generation capacity. The new energy projects initiated included the Ghazi Barotha hydro electricity project (1600MW), the Chashma-II nuclear electricity plant (300MW). The Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectricity project was initiated (1800 MW), the Satpara Power project in Skardu, and the Naltar power project in Gilgit.

A true revolution was brought about in the telecommunications sector. The number of mobile phones increased from 600,000 in the year 2000 to over 7 crore in 2006. Tele-density was increased from 2.9 percent to over 70 percent, and millions of jobs were created in the telecom sector. The IT sector also saw a phenomenal growth with internet connectivity spreading rapidly, particularly during 2000-2003 from 40 cities to over 2000 towns of Pakistan.

Fibre optic connectivity increased from 30 cities to over 1500 towns of Pakistan in the same period. The bandwidth cost of two megabytes was reduced sharply from $86,000 to $3,000 per month. Pakistan’s first satellite PakSat 1 was placed in space. Industry prospered as never before and industrial growth was in double figures throughout the nine-year period.

A revolution was brought about in the higher education sector with the establishment of the Higher Education Commission. The annual allocation for higher education was increased from only Rs500 million in 2000 to Rs28 billion in 2008, thereby laying the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy. Student enrolment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutes increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008.

This rapid transformation deeply worried India and a detailed presentation was given to the Indian prime minister on July 22 about the dramatic progress in Pakistan.

A number of steps were taken to strengthen democracy at the grassroots. A large number of new TV channels were allowed and the media given full freedom. The local government system was launched to empower the people through a third tier of government. Women were empowered politically through reserved seats at all tiers of government. Minorities were provided with the system of joint electorate.

In the field of defence, the production of Al Khalid tanks for the army and JF 17 Thunder Fighter jets for PAF was carried out. All missiles were tested and proven for nuclear capability and our nuclear arsenal was strengthened and protected through an impenetrable command and control system. The Army Strategic Force Command was created to protect these strategic assets.

The position of president is purely ceremonial. The power lies entirely with the prime minister. The president can only act on the written ‘advice’ of the prime minister. He acted on the advice of the PM and only after wide consultations with his cabinet colleagues and the corp commanders. The guilt, if any, lies with all of them.

The writer is the president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and former chairman of the HEC.

Email: ibne_sina@hotmail.com

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