What Pakistanis thinks about Globalization?
What Pakistanis thinks about Globalization?

What Pakistanis thinks about Globalization?

President Musharraf of Pakistan recently became a civilian president. He has promised that Parliamentary elections will still take place in January, despite the current “State of Emergency” that has suspended Pakistan’s constitution.

Pakistan’s intellectuals and bloggers have written about many aspects of globalization, which can help shed light on how its citizens view the world. There is a wide range of views and perspectives about globalization, the role of technology in society, culture, the role of women, etc. Below are a selection of perspectives on these issues taken from blogs, op-eds, speeches, and academic research. There is a big divide between the educated middle and upper classes and the villagers. Most of the opinions below originate from Pakistan’s elite, who acknowledge this divide.


We keep hearing of globalization, deregulation, market, freedom and privatization. They evoke the image of a world without borders where one does not have to stand in long queues to get state-regulated foreign exchange, an era of the rollback of the state and of people empowerment. In short, a brave new world is conjured up. The central magic word that appeared with globalization was privatization. The reality, however, is that the state has a coercive arm which is becoming stronger while its caring side (the one which gave unemployment and pension benefits, free schools and hospitals, etc.) is being rolled back.

… Freedom and choice have become synonymous with consumerism but not with the freedom to resist the market, to oppose globalization and to oppose the tidal wave of consumerism…

Choice is fine if it refers to Pepsi or Coke but just try telling a poor mother that she has a choice of schools when her monthly income is just enough to live on bread and dal (lentil soup) a day. In short, there is no meaningful choice in the absence of the appropriate income and enabling circumstances…

Let me focus on privatization, one of the sacred mantras of globalization. Privatization was not only a product of globalization since Pakistan has always had privately run religious seminaries (madressahs) as well as elitist English-medium schools. But the state was a bit apologetic about the latter and kept trying to hide them away from the public sight, thus educational reports do not mention them and hope for the best…

Source: Dr. Tariq Rahman. “Globalization and the demise of private education in Pakistan.” OneWorld. November 25th 2005. The author is a linguist historian. http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/122853/1/2223


Musharraf and almost all of the army’s generals embrace globalization not only because most of them are from big cities like Karachi and Lahore, but also because it has brought the army significant benefits since 9/11 — most notably, new helicopters, tanks and weaponry.

They also appreciate the KFC restaurants, the Internet, and the links with the West that have sprung up in the cities of Pakistan over the past few years. However, these leaders are selective in the aspects of globalization they wish to embrace: They are happy to accept certain economic, military and cultural gains but are equally happy to ignore other more important positive aspects that the West wishes to promote, such as democracy and human rights.

To them, globalization presents an opportunity to battle a backward and stagnant form of Islam, represented by the tribesmen, for the future of a prosperous and modern Muslim society…

Unlike tribal relationships, those in the city are based primarily on financial interactions. Neighborhoods are mixed, and there is no way of deciding who should live next door. As people migrate from rural and tribal areas, their original ethnicities begin to blur. Every immigrant to the city quickly learns new ways of dealing with life: how to trade, behave and interact with a mixture of people.

In contrast, tribal life continues along traditionally demarcated lines. Important decisions are still made by tribal leaders. Commentaries published in Karachi and Lahore may condemn their customs and traditions as a barrier to the march of progress, but the tribesmen would argue that globalization is the menace.

With its intrusiveness and unrelenting momentum, it threatens the very core of their traditional identity and way of life. Although tribal codes throughout the Muslim world are changing as they confront the forces of globalization, they still influence behavior.”

Source: Ahmed, Akbar. “Pakistan and Globalization.” The Globalist. June 15th, 2007. http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=6204


There is a severe energy shortage in Pakistan, esp in the urban areas, and most parts of the country are experiencing heavy load sheddings, i.e. periods with no electric power, designed to distribute load and conserve energy. Karachi, the major port city and industrial hub, is experiencing nearly 110 degree weather with 10-12 hours of load shedding a day in some parts. The situation has turned bleak, and even the more skeptical are re-assessing their opinion on renewable, distributed, and localized energy generation for Pakistan major population centers.

… The biggest impediments, of course, remain rather similar to many other developing countries: lack of technological resources, lack of government incentives and support, mistrust of the financial sector for long term financing, inadequate infrastructure (grid quality, transportation, service & maintenance), and a centralized – somewhat corrupt – system of ownership of utilities. It is no wonder that even when utility industry was deregulated, the only thing the population learned about the process was how contracts were awarded to foreign firms without proper financial due diligence. Today, despite the utmost need for entrepreneurial activity in this critical sector for the country, people are scared to enter it fearing the corporate and political behemoths that roam the territories.

… While renewables will not provide the full answer to Pakistan’s energy crisis in the short term, a strong and committed push (and not just lip service to appear enlightened and informed about the direction world is taking) will set the right foot forward for the country’s future. There is no reason why we cannot derive as much or more energy from solar concentrators, tidal waves, and wind farms than we already do from natural gas power plants and large hydro-electric dams.

… But the government will need to systematically remove blockages that have kept the real geniuses away from this industry. Financing/investing, funding, tax/rebate incentives, infrastructure upgrade, and energy buy-back contracts from independent energy providers on the national grid are among some of the things that government can do to promote energy entrepreneurship. The government, having managed energy in the country for so long via a centralized organization (WAPDA), must understand that energy production is a long-term play and any changes to the energy policy can have major ramifications for the investors who may put up their money (and time) into building out an infrastructure.

… The electricity crisis in Karachi, and the rise in the demand of gas-fuel electric generators has shown that the people are fed up with the system as it is is, and are willing to put their money where the mouth (need) is.

Source: Dr. Bilal Zuberi, VP of Product Development, GEO2 Technologies. He was born in Pakistan and moved to the U.S. to attend college. Article: “Renewable Energy and Pakistan.” http://bznotes.wordpress.com/2007/06/25/renewable-energy-for-pakistan-way-forward/


…When it comes to Pakistan, we have only guesswork instead of thorough research. What is known is that the atmospheric pollution is widespread and centres in large cities like Karachi are highly polluted by automobile fumes.

Rivers are polluted by industrial effluents dumped in them all over Pakistan. Even coastal waters around Karachi are polluted by industrial waste and chemicals dumped into the sea which poison the sea life as well.

Places like the Bolton Market, Burns Road and the Empress Market have a high- density of carbon in the air from automobile fumes which is increasing day by day.

But the greater threat is yet to come and that will be from the mining operation of coal for production of power. The Thar coal is set to be one of the largest coalmines in the world if not the largest.

Initially the Thar power project is based on using imported coal, and a coal port is being set up. The imported coal will be initially mixed with the local coal which will gradually replace the imported coal.

The automobile industry in Pakistan has set a target of half a million vehicles within five years. That is apart from the rising imports of cars which are gas guzzlers. All that will add to the pollution in a big way.

Right now an old rickshaw in the city emits more smoke than a medium-sized factory does, and the hope that such hazards would be removed seems remote. It has been suggested from time to time that auto-rickshaws should be banned, but when that would be done no one knows.

Use of gas instead of petrol and diesel oil can reduce fumes though not the heat, but the number of gas stations in the country is too small.

We live in a country where high-priced bottle water is not pure in most cases and even medicines are adulterated, not to speak of food items. That is not the kind of environment in which we can fight pollution which leads to global warming and climatic change for the worse…

We have to begin an entire new chapter of our ecological life and improve it constantly instead of smugly presuming ‘we have lived with fumes so far and can live with some more’, which is a form of slow suicide.

We have a ministry of environment, but nobody knows what it does?

Source: Ahmed, Sultan. “Global Warming and Pakistan.” Dawn: The Internet Edition. March 26, 2007. http://www.dawn.com.pk/2007/03/26/ebr16.htm


…in 1998, Pakistan completed a comprehensive national health examination survey of its 148 million people, using internationally accepted research standards. The survey findings document a double burden for Pakistan. The nutritional deficiencies and infectious diseases of the past continue unabated, while the chronic diseases associated with industrialization and urbanization have grown to epidemic proportions. One third of Pakistani children have stunted growth, while one third of Pakistani adults older than 45 years have hypertension.

There has been much recent talk of trying to eliminate health inequities. The governments that signed the United Nations Charter and the World Health Organization constitution have agreed to equity standards…

The health of a people cannot be separated from the status of its nation in the world. Nowadays, the powerful forces of globalization political, technological, and military—inform health and most other important issues”

Source: Akhter, Mohammad and Gregory Pappas. “Health, Pakistan, and Globalization.” American Journal of Public Health. January 2001. Vol. 91. No. 1. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1446503&blobtype=pdf

Human Rights

Journalists from international newspapers have either ignored or have no idea that even if Musharraf lifts Emergency we will still have no “writ of habeas corpus” because of the new Army Act. They can pick anyone and hold for ever, without producing before a civilian Judge. And to criticise this is a crime also. (The reason all Newspapers are mum). Musharraf did not want to submit to law as you see in the decisions below. So he has made himself a King. I was able to explain this to journalist (Dutch magazine, Vrij Nederland) and in a long article she did put:” Ironically, Imran Khan last week became one of the very few Pakistanis to be charged with terrorism in “the war on terror.”

His crime was to lead a student rally at Punjab University. The sentence could be death. He is in prison and his family says he has been on a hunger strike since Sunday.”So, please, explain the tricks. Because, somehow the Western Journalists do not see the Musharraf doings as criminal acts. A man submits to a court and if the decision is adverse then he terrorises the whole country.

Keep on explaining to them. Without a “writ of habeas corpus” we are finished.

Source: Aziz, Javaid. “Writ of Habeas Corpus and lifting the Emergency.” The Emergency Times: An independent Pakistani Student Initiative Against Injustice and Oppression. December 6, 2007. http://pakistanmartiallaw.blogspot.com/

…Naturally, the primary agenda of the opposition parties is to ensure an atmosphere where free and fair elections are possible. But such elections are impossible without the restoration of the superior judiciary to the status quo prevailing on Nov 2. There can be no transition to democracy without an independent judiciary…

Every stage of the election process is conducted and supervised by the judiciary. Given our electoral system, it is naïve to say that the issue of restoration of judges can be taken up after the elections. There can be no free and fair election unless and until all the superior court judges are restored. You cannot put the cart before the horse. Independent judges supervising the electoral process are the only guarantee of a free and fair election….

The continuing protests, in the legal community and beyond, are taking their toll on the regime. The judicial machinery has come to almost a complete standstill. The growing consensus between the opposition parties is an endless source of concern for the establishment. The desperation of Musharraf’s regime is evidenced by the number of leaks and feelers being sent out in every direction. Despite the Supreme Court’s declaration that the issue of sacked judges is a past and closed transaction; it is being conveyed unofficially that the regime is amenable for a partial restoration of judges.

Source: Muneer Malike. The writer is a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, who is currently hospitalised following renal failure during his detention in Attock jail in Pakistan. http://pakistanmartiallaw.blogspot.com/

International Investment

Foreign lending and direct investment plays a crucial role in countries like Pakistan, where development needs could not be financed due to scarce domestic resources. Before the introduction of economic reforms, foreign investment in Pakistan was restricted. During the 1990s, the government introduced a large number of measures to facilitate foreign investment, including the treatment of foreign investment in the industrial sector as domestic investment in law and regulation, which includes tax and tariffs on imports and specific concession and incentives like tax holidays in many areas. Pakistan attracted $350 million as FDI in the first half of the 1990s. However, the FDI fell in 1998 from U.S$436 million to U.S$296 million, and portfolio investment from U.S$204 million to U.S$4.7 million, given the economic situation imposed in 1998 and partly due to economic sanctions and the country’s dispute with the foreign investors in the power sector.

Foreign direct investment and portfolio investment flows are still meager for Pakistan. While inflows to developing countries have surpassed $100 billion with China, Brazil and Mexico taking the lion’s share, Pakistan has not been able to attract a large amount of foreign investment due to various reasons including political instability, the domestic and regional security situation, and poor implementation of property laws in which foreign investors find that their investments are not as secure. In addition, there is very tough competition around the globe and in Asia in particular with countries like China getting the large chunk of FDI. (Table 1) Pakistan’s share in FDI has almost been stagnant but has doubled over last three years due to upward revision of the country’s credit rating and improvement in its macroeconomic environment; however, it is still very low as compared to other countries in the region.”

Source: Noshab, Farzana. “Globalization, WTO, and Pakistan.” The Muslim World. 96 (2). 2006. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1478-1913.2006.00132.x

International Law

“Time has come to say good-bye to the gun, and if not, then say good-bye to the constitution” – Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim

“For the first time since 1947 we are in the middle of a fresh struggle for independence: independence of civil society and civilian institutions” – Aitzaz Ahsan

“Pakistan has simply outgrown the era of military and civilian dictatorships” – Tanveer Ahmad Khan

Source: Democracy and Freedom: In support of an independent judiciary and democracy in Pakistan. http://free-pakistan.blogspot.com/2007/11/army-invades-supreme-court.html


… The key reason for the migration of rural dwellers to urban centres has been the limited opportunity for economic advancement and mobility in rural areas. Much of this stagnation has been caused by the firmly entrenched feudal practices of landlords in the countryside. They tend to wield an inordinate amount of economic and political control over their domains.

The urban migrant is almost invariably male. Although he has moved to the city, in practice he retains his ties with his village, and his rights there are acknowledged long after his departure. At first, the migration is frequently seen as a temporary expedient, a way to purchase land or pay off a debt. Typically, the migrant sends part of his earnings to the family he left behind and returns to the village to work at peak agricultural seasons. Even married migrants usually leave their families in the village when they first migrate. The decision to bring wife and children to the city is thus a milestone in the migration process.

The next wave of migration has then been the move from urban centres in Pakistan to urban centres overseas, especially the Middle East. The Middle East, with its vast oil wealth, has provided many opportunities for overseas labourers to work and earn a living building and maintaining infrastructure in various Arab states, especially in the Persian Gulf.

… The majority of migrant workers are working-class men who travel alone leaving their wives and children behind. These men are willing to sacrifice years with their families for what they see as their only chance to escape poverty in a society with limited upward mobility. Families generally use the overseas earnings for consumer goods rather than investing in industry. The wage earner typically returns after five to ten years to live at home.

Although this migration has had little effect on Pakistan demographically, it has affected its social fabric. While a man is away from his family, his wife often assumes responsibility for many day-to-day business transactions that are considered the province of men. For the women involved, therefore, there has been a significant change in social role. Psychologists point out that many migrant workers in the Middle East are profoundly affected. They tend to feel a sense of social isolation, culture shock, and are depressed by the harsh working conditions in these countries. They also suffer from a sense of disorientation resulting from the sudden acquisition of relative wealth and from the guilt associated with leaving their families

Source: “Migration and Pakistan.” June 18th, 2002. http://www.yespakistan.com/people/migration_pak.asp

Rich/Poor Divide

The greatest malady afflicting Pakistani today is that educated people like me are in some ways alienated from its own society. Contemporary Education which by far is Western, enlightens only a few, these few do not take the teeming millions with them: they are too poor, too ignorant and too remote to interact with. And this accentuates the division among the classes in Pakistan.

The educated elite is divorced from the realities and lives in isolated but protected islands. They do not feel responsible for the so-called ’others’ for they cannot relate to them nor communicate with them. Society becomes truncated ever schizophrenic.

The only people who reach out and are available to the masses are the religiously inclined. They file the vacuum of ordinary dull and difficult lives with hope, even if it be in the hereafter. They provide succour and support the daily lives as well.

No wonder ordinary folks turn to them. I claim no religiosity, nor do I advocate it but Religion is the Therapy that never fails (it is not to use Popperian terms Falsifiable) and if so when life offers nothing, the desolation and despair turns to the hope in the after life.

Women are doubly disadvantaged. They do all the work in the home but have no authority. They are not consulted even when decisions are taken that affect them directly.

Those who are educated are dubbed as westernized (read alien). They also insulate themselves from the illiterate, hence the divide. (…)

The divide that I mentioned in my last letter is not only between the educated and the illiterate. The schism is between the affluent and the poverty-stricken as well; the “haves” have too much and the “have-nots” have nothing.

It is this striking disparity that characterizes us. Concepts of equality or equity are non-existent.

Sharing of power and resources is unheard of. Exploitation is the name of the game. (…)

To me all humanity also implies humanitarianism. The latter is not the exclusive prerogative of the western outlook. In any case the spectrum of knowledge has had many contributors, each civilization adding to the depth and diversity of the human enterprise. No one can claim it entirely.

Please do not get me wrong: decadence is not being attributed to the west. Neither is exploitation characteristic solely of the west. I would hate to be accused of branding you or the west as ’untrustworthy apostles of humanitarianism’.

Personally I would like humanity to be taken as one without dividing it into the Orient & the west …That, however, seems to be a dream for the present, and therefore distant and remote from reality. (…)

Source: Ghazala Irfan, Associate Philosophy Professor at Lahore University of Management Science in Pakistan. Dialogue of Civilisations: about Women and Globalization between Pakistan and Germany. April 9, 2007. http://www.resistingwomen.net/spip.php?article10


Activists in Pakistan are leveraging technology to organize and support their campaign against the martial law in Pakistan. Using the tools of mobile phones, SMS, Wikis, social networking and blogging, the activists have stepped up to fill the gap left behind by the absence of news and TV channels. I reported about the rising trend of mobile activism in the world in July and I asked a question that if this is something we will see in Pakistan in the short term. The recent turn of events has made mobile activism a sucessful reality in Pakistan…

Due to the low number of Internet users and the very limited broadband in Pakistan, blogs and other Internet based tools are not within the reach of the masses. Text messaging on the other hand has been very popular and with the 70 million plus mobile subscribers, this is a medium which is widely spread in Pakistan. Bloggers report that Saturday 3rd November saw the highest ever number of SMS sent with an average of 10 text messages being sent across the networks per subscriber.

Source: Bhatti, Babar. “Pakistanis Turn to Cell Phones and SMS For Activism.” State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan: A blog about telecommunication marketplace in Pakistan. November 14th, 2007 http://telecompk.net/category/blogging/


In Pakistan the story of a woman’s deprivations start even before her birth, because the girl-child is not a particularly ‘wanted’ child. Her life is a journey of subordination. When she is young her father decides for her on matters ranging from whether she will get any education, to the all important matters of whom she would marry. After marriage, her husband and her in-laws get hold of her reins and decide matters on her behalf; like shall she or shall she not have a child every year, or whether she would produce only boys, or whether she can seek independent employment and so on.

Finally when she becomes old and her husband gets weak or may have gone already, it is her son or sons who decide her fate in the declining years of her life. As if this is not enough, the whole society acts as an oppressor, browbeating her in to obedience. Thus, the word ‘woman’ in Pakistan is synonymous with ‘endurance’. She is simply forced to accept certain bare facts of life once she grows up to be a woman. Be it on streets, or for that matter in restaurants, a woman is first and foremost required to be alert. It is best to try and not notice, women are told. According to Hina Jilani, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, “the right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.”

In addition to that, women in Pakistan face all kinds of gross violence and abuse at the hands of the male perpetuators, family members and state agents. Multiple forms of violence include rape; domestic abuse as spousal murder, mutilation, burning and disfiguring faces by acid, beatings; ritual honour-killings and custodial abuse and torture.

According to a report by Amnesty International released on June 15, 2000, several hundred women and girls die each year in so-called ‘honour-killings’ in Pakistan, in a backdrop to government inaction. She is killed like a bird in family feuds to create evidence of “illicit” connections and cover them under the garb of “grave and sudden provocation” to escape severe punishment.

The practice of Summary-killing of a woman suspected of an illicit liaison, known as ‘Karo Kari’ in Sindh and Balochistan, is known to occur in all parts of the country. Kari’s (the females suspected of illicit relationships) remain dishonoured even after death. Their bodies are thrown in rivers or buried in special hidden kari graveyards. Nobody mourns for them or honours their memory by performing their relevant rights. Karo’s (the males suspected of illicit relationships) by contrast are reportedly buried in the communal graveyards. The promise made by the country’s Chief Executive in April 2000, that all ‘honour’ killings would be treated as murders has yet to be converted into anything nearing reality.

Women who report rape or sexual harassment encounter a series of obstacles. These include not only the police, who resist filing their claims and misreport their statements but also the medico-legal doctors, who focus more on their virginity status and lack the training and expertise to conduct adequate examinations.

Furthermore, women who file charges open themselves up to the possibility of being prosecuted for illicit sex if they fail to ‘prove’ rape under the 1979 Hudood Ordinance which criminalize adultery and fornication. As a result, when women victims of violence resort to the judicial system for redress, they are more likely to find further abuse and victimization. As far as domestic violence is concerned, it is the most under-reported crime because it is generally condoned by social customs and considered as a private family matter.

…Information technology, which has been supported to a great extent by our present regime for the economic uplift of our country has the potential to improve the status of women as this is a kind of technology that is making it easier to be a woman at home than a man…The information technology however, is changing all that. Since it allows people to log on to their work while sitting at home and only coming in to their offices for meetings or for using confidential data that cannot be allowed to leave the office premises. This means that a woman may sit at home and take care of their children and between the naps, feeding and diapers, take breaks to get work done.

But this is only possible when the women in Pakistan have the skills and the necessary expertise to use it. This needs to be started from the grassroots level, as two percent of the country’s elite using this technology would not make much of a difference. The ‘difference’ is badly required in this age of global communication and the competitive 21st century, as who ever will have the access to this knowledge will be the winner.

Unless and until women are given formal education, not only there would be no change in their status but also the country would suffer in terms of social and economic development. Women no doubt are the backbone of any society and according to Amartya Sen; Nobel Laureate Economist, “Sustainable development cannot take place until women of a country get their due rights.”

Source: Najam, Neshay. “The Status of Women in Pakistan.” Lahore, Pakistan. http://www.crescentlife.com/articles/social%20issues/status_of_women_in_pakistan.htm

*Picture Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/6011763/.

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