Pakistan’s economy grew as strong as India’s in 2002 to 2006: Indian magazine

ISLAMABAD, Mar 11 (APP): Pakistan’s economy may currently be in difficulties with fast rising inflation and the shortage of gas, electricity and flour, but between 2002 and 2006, it grew almost as strong as of India, a leading Indian magazine said.

Pakistan in many ways is better than India in terms of transport infrastructure and communication means, India’s investigative magazine ‘Tehelka’ reported.

In the report, William Dalrymple, an expert on South Asia who travelled through Pakistan said, “Driving last week along the dual carriageways of Sindh, a week after bumping through rural Rajasthan, there was no comparison between the roads on either side of the border.”

“Pakistan still has the best airports, motorway and road network in the region,” he said.

The writer says many incidents in 2007 including lawyers’ protest, Red Mosque episode, series of suicide bombings and proclamation of emergency led many to predict that Pakistan was looking more like a failed state stumbling towards full scale civil war and, possibly, even disintegration.

“However, the country I saw last week on a long road trip from Lahore down through rural Sindh to Karachi was very far from a failed state…Instead, as you travel around Pakistan today you can see the effects of recent economic boom everywhere,” the writer said.

Dalrymple said Pakistan could not be termed as “the most dangerous country in the world” as being propagated by many. Instead the country is enjoying a construction and consumer boom, with growth approaching 8 percent – “the fastest-rising stock market in Asia”.

As part of economic growth, the writer mentioned new shopping malls and restaurant complexes, the hoardings showing latest laptops and ipods, the cranes at buildings sites, the smart roadside filling stations and the smokestacks of factories, the new 4x4s jamming the roads and also the endless stores selling mobile phones.

The article says the country in 2003 had fewer than three million cell-phone users with rising to almost 50 million by today.  The car ownership has been increasing at roughly 40 percent per year since 2001. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has risen from $322 million in 2002 to $3.5 billion in 2006.

Dalrymple said while going to Larkana, he was asked to beware of dacoits along certain roads ambushing people after dark.

“But by and large, the countryside I passed through was calm and beautiful, and not obviously less prosperous-looking than rural India.”

The cities of Pakistan, in particular, are fast changing beyond recognition in the fashion scene. Also remarkable things are happening in the world of books with a fine crop of major non-fiction writers such as Ahmed Rashid, Zahid Hussain and Ayesha Siddiqa at the front of the pack – there has been an amazing renaissance in English-language fiction, with fine writers like Kamila Shamsie, Nadeem Aslam, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Moni Mohsin, Ali Sethi and especially this year’s Booker short-listee, Mohsin Hamid, all for the first time giving their Indian counterparts a run for their money.

Dalrymple also mentions the incredible new world of media that had sprung up, a world of music videos, fashion programs, independent news networks, cross-dressing talk-show hosts, religious debates, and stock-market analysis.

He gives credit to the Musharraf government for the rise of media sector, which resulted in the flourishing of television, radio stations and newspapers over the past few years.

“Little of this has been reported in the Indian press, and Indians generally seem remarkably ill-informed about the changes which have been quietly but profoundly changing Pakistani society beneath the media image of military stagnation and jehadi horrorism.”