Monday, 20 May 2013

Sharif’s enviable tasks for Pakistan

With Pakistan's elections out of the way, Pakistanis are eagerly anticipating two things sorely missed during the last five years of democracy: governance and leadership.

One would expect democracy – with its large quotient of accountability to the people – will have provided large doses of both governance and leadership to Pakistan.  Not so. Since the removal of President Musharraf's regime, the only aspect of democracy visible to most Pakistanis has been an unmistakable slide towards anarchy.

The military, still smarting from the ignominies associated with the final few years of Musharraf's rule, stayed away from active politics. Moreover, the military is busy fighting Taliban militants bent on undermining the Pakistani state. It was left to an activist judiciary to try and maintain some semblance of control over an inept civilian government. The judiciary's controversial efforts unseated Prime Minister Gilani but failed to galvanize the government to implement any meaningful policy reforms.

Imran Khan, the white knight ever-ready to save Pakistan, made some electoral inroads in Election 2013. Khan's party was helped by the 'protest vote' against Pakistan's two mainstream political parties (vehicles for Zaradari and Sharif). Having won the most seats in the Khyberpukhtoonkhwa (KPK) provincial assembly, Khan has the opportunity to prove himself by forming the KPK government. Voters will be watching closely to see how his party fares in the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics.  

Nonetheless, Nawaz Sharif won a handsome victory in Election 2013. People expect him to put his mandate to good use. Top of the nation's wish list are security and reliable electricity. Sharif has the reputation of being pro-business. Surely, a businessperson understands that electricity is a prerequisite for a modern economy!

Additionally, people outside of Sharif's stronghold of Punjab province will scrutinize his focus on Pakistan's three smaller provinces. Will he abandon the likes of Karachi, rural Sindh, KPK and Balochistan or will the federal government help to provincial governments' resolve pressing issues? If Sharif acts as the Prime Minister of Punjab, the strategic repercussions for the federation may be severe. Already, separatist forces are clearly at work in Balochistan. It will not take much for disgruntled elements to undermine the federation in the other provinces.

Zardari's government chose to compromise national interests in favor of competing personal interests. Sure, Pakistanis can vote out Sharif's government in five years if his party too fails the country. However, the country is fast running out of time; and five years is a long time in today's wired age.

Pakistan rightly expect Sharif's incoming regime to make progress in stemming the country's decline. Pakistanis may not tolerate another five years of supporting a political elite which does no more than attend the National Assembly a few times a year, while keeping themselves isolated from national consciousness behind multiple layers of state sponsored security.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at

Monday, 13 May 2013

Pakistan’s 2013 General Elections: some positives and negatives


1.   Largest voter turnout in three decades drowns out Islamic militant extremists;

2.   PPP candidates suffer a drubbing! Electorate demonstrates unhappiness with disastrous five years under Zardari and his people. Bhutto aura appears to be fading;

3.   Imran Khan's party goes some way to break the traditional two-party stranglehold on Pakistani politics;

4.   Clear mandate to PML-N;

5.   All politics is local – province's voted according to local issues;

6.   Imran Khan's PTI to most certainly be part of new KPK government – will provide opportunity to party to demonstrate practically PTI's effectiveness at governance;

7.   Many first time voters across the country. The power of the ballot seeps into national consciousness.


1.   Imran Khan's party splits electorate;

2.   Clear mandate to a party with a dubious /mixed historical track record in governing Pakistan;

3.   Clear divide in voting patterns across the four provinces – national versus provincial politics;

4.   Other than Punjab, likely that governments of three smaller provinces will not be from party forming federal government – will most certainly lead to tensions between Centre and Provinces;

5.   Islamic militants and 'gangster' elements demonstrate ability to carry out violent acts almost at will throughout the country. Law enforcement agencies appear helpless;

6.   Likely that PML-N will soften stance against religious extremists thus setting country back socially. Women's rights and cultural environment to particularly suffer;

7. Secular ANP party virtually wiped out from KPK assemblies.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at

Singapore’s future social mix and today's immigration policies

Until recently, population growth through immigration was a major part of the Singapore government's economic growth model. During the last two decades, the island's population has grown by over 60 percent. From a population of approximately three million in 1990, Singapore entered the 2010s with a population of five million.

Prima facie, the population growth policy appears to have worked and generated economic growth on the island. From 1990-2010 (inclusive), the Singapore economy grew at an average GDP growth rate of 6.6 percent. During the same period, the economy contracted only twice: 2001 and 2009.

Nonetheless, there have been some unintended consequences of the government's 'open door policy.' Politically, the People's Action Party (PAP) has seen support amongst Singaporean voters plummet from historically high levels. The last general elections saw several senior PAP personalities lose 'safe' constituencies. While not yet a threat to the PAP's ability to form a government, the opposition has significantly increased its parliamentary representation, including controlling a Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Another effect of Singapore's liberal immigration policies has been the skyrocketing of domestic real estate prices. Not only have prices of high-end properties in premium districts risen to record highs but resale prices of public housing built by the Housing Development Board (HDB Singapore) has soared.

There has also been a general outpouring of discontent about the impact of 'extra' people on Singapore's limited land mass. The Republic's resources and infrastructure is groaning under the weight of additional persons – literally in the case of the city's subway system. From being unheard of a few years ago, train breakdowns and system delays are now considered 'normal.' Much of the blame lies with the increased load factor and poor maintenance.

There is another side to immigration which Singaporeans have yet to fully experience: the osmosis of new and different cultures into the mainstream of the city's daily culture. The mass of new immigrants from mainland China and India – along with the odd few from 'out of the ordinary' countries like Pakistan – bring with them a different way of seeing the world.

'Mainland' Indians have different dietary habits. Their experience of the caste system's role in society is distinct from the locally born Indian. Likewise, for non-Malay Muslims, the different lens with which they view the world often provides a different interpretation regarding the traditions of Islamic faith and practice.

To be sure, contemporary Singaporeans have every right to express displeasure with any number of government policies. It is their island – they have successfully moved from Third World to First World within one generation. However, from a historical perspective, the recent wave of immigration into Singapore is just a part of the island's centuries old tradition of welcoming economic migrants onto its shores. In the process, the newcomers help transform and rejuvenate Singapore, often in ways which cannot be easily anticipated. At the very least, future Singaporeans can look forward to some interesting fusion food dishes as the most recent mass of migrants build a home for themselves.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at