STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

The Pakistanis lost at Manchester. Indians won. Commentators and analysts are coming out of your ears. The nation is in shock. Here is my take. Indians played a superior game. We lost because of our weaker resolve, mental strength and work ethic. Team is reflective of our national behavior pattern. This got me thinking. Why are we on a downward trend?

I became aware of my surroundings late fifties onwards. I have attempted to recollect my memories of the sixties. Those were pretty heady days. They coincided with Ayub Khan’s rule. Pakistan was on the up. Population was under control. His Government was the only one that had the courage to tackle this unfettered growth frontally. Since his departure it has been downhill on this front. At 220 million, and same rate of growth we will be close to 500 million in the next three decades! Does anyone give a damn? All subsequent rulers were petrified of a reaction by religious lobby.

I have been recently writing on the Pakistani political events. In this post I will be sharing my international experiences. I find travel is a great teacher. It makes you aware of how confined we are when bound to one’s comfort zone. Allah’s world is so bountiful, so diverse, such a fulfilling experience if you are inquisitive, have a hunger to learn. All hotel rooms are similar around the globe. You have to step out and explore, study and attempt to comprehend different cultures and their way of life.

As a student of politics, economics with an interest in history I will share some aspects of my recent visit to Hong Kong focusing on how, if adopted, it would impact Pakistan. Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of People’s Republic of China, is a leading international financial centre. The population is 7.5 million, GDP per capita is US$48,500. The total area is 1108 kilometers. It is a throbbing, energy exuding centre where fortunes are made and lost.

In the words of my host, Pervez Hussain Syed (Shahji for friends), it is a transient city. It was a small fishing village of 5000 inhabitants in early nineteenth century. The British invaded the Chinese mainland and occupied the island of Hong Kong in 1841, using it as a staging point. China lost the war and ceded Hong Kong to Britain. As a result it became a crown colony until its control reverted to China in 1997.

It is a great harbor like our Gawader. The British developed it into a major trading hub. This opened job opportunities.  Mainland China was populous. Most of the population was laboring as peasants under theautocratic rule of the Emperors of the Qing dynasty. Hong Kong acted as a magnet. This triggered a regular flow of migrants. Largely economic immigrants till 1949. After communist takeover, the flow increased to include those fleeing this system. Stories abound of folks swimming through shark infested South China Sea from Mainland, some losing limbs to the predators.

Economic hardships were severe, especially new arrivals in 50s who ended up as squatters. However opportunities abounded, hard work, strong work ethic led to upward mobility. Many Chinese used Hong Kong as a launching pad. After building a nest egg, they spread all over the world. Many overseas Chinese trace their roots to Hong Kong. During all this Hong Kongers forgot to smile! You can go through a full day walking streets without exchanging a smile!!!

Hong Kong’s economic success is globally accepted. I was intrigued and dug into it. There are multiple reasons. But what jumped out at me was work ethic and entrepreneurship. I visited a number of offices, private and public sector. Whether there were 5 or 50 workers, the staff was so deeply involved in their work, they had no time even to talk to each other. My mind drifted to visualize how offices operate in Pakistan. Work ethic is in the dumps, barring a few exceptions.

Entrepreneurship is another fascinating facet. There are so many stories, it could fill a book. However I am taking one from our community. Seeing one of our new generation breaking through puffs my chest. Shahji, who himself is a success story, invited me for dinner the day I arrived. Venue New Punjab Club, reportedly the only Michelin star Pakistani food restaurant globally. Other than some diplomats, he invited his buddy Michael Caddy. Mike is a fun guy. Formerly a highly placed banker, his love for horses convinced him to switch his banker’s suit to becoming a Stewart at the top horse racing club of Hong Kong.

Reverting to entrepreneurs, Shahji’s sons, Haider and Asim completed their studies, gained some work experience in USA/Canada and returned home. Asim in 2011 and Haider in 2013. Asim joined hospitality field working his way up from ground level position as a server.

After 2 years he chose to go on his own. Dad provided the seed money. Through strong work ethic, intelligent strategizing & networking, offering shares for strategic alliances, he has turned into a juggernaut. In less than 6 years his Company, cheekily called “Black Sheep”, owns and operates 25 successful restaurants including New Punjab Club. The cuisines range from Latin, European, South Asian to East Asian food. He has a work force of a 1000 employees and plans to continue expanding. I wish him luck with a little advice, you don’t learn from success, you only learn from failures. Stay humble. Keep Haider in your corner.

Hong Kong’s history is deeply intertwined with Mainland China. Vast majority came from there. China’s struggle for freedom, both from the yoke of Imperial rule to ousting European colonial powers eating into its territory, has its origins in Hong Kong. Their Quaid-e-Azam is Dr. Sun Yat-sun. Little known in Pakistan, son born to peasants, he commenced the 50 years of intense struggle in late 1890’s from Hong Kong. The struggle culminated in 1949 with Communist takeover in 1949.  He went onto to be the Founding President of Republic of China in 1912. He is the only leader equally revered by Nationalist Chinese Republic of Taiwan and People’s Republic of China on the mainland.

History bears witness that destiny and fortunes of nations are shaped only by a few leaders. The common thread amongst them is unbelievably strong resolve, mental strength that enables them not to quit against overwhelming odds, and a work ethic that consumes their existence. Pakistan lost its Quaid early. We started PTI believing Imran Khan is the person amongst the lot available. He is trying hard. He has the qualities.  Can he do it with his present team? I pray that we can see a change in direction of Pakistan during our lives.

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