Pakistan and its Image Problem: Eric Schmidt

397367-EricSchmidt-1340317565-397-640x480Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, who recently visited Pakistan has expressed his thoughts about Pakistan – based on facts he learned during his two day visit to Pakistan last week.

Without mentioning much about what he achieved or wanted to achieve from this visit, Eric wrote a note on his Google Plus page narrating the potentials and problems of Pakistan.

As mentioned above, Eric decided not to reveal any of the details about his meetings with top leadership of Pakistan during this stealth visit, neither Google has issued an official statement so far – something that Pakistani media has been demanding since he departed.

Eric’s Below note about Pakistan is very constructive and well observed – I would say – which could win him a lot only if Eric was a Journalist/reporter. As an executive chairman of Google, an internet evangelist and top preacher of open web, we had different expectations from him. But that’s okay – what he wrote is worthy as well.

Read below what Eric had to say about Pakistan on Google Plus page:

Pakistan, a Muslim country, has spent about half of its independent life under military governments. Today, Pakistani leadership celebrates the ruling coalitions success in almost finishing the first five year term in history (previous leaders indicted by the courts, assassinated by extremists or brushed aside by the generals.) 

In meetings last week with the senior General, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, they made the case for a new and updated image of Pakistan: one of the largest democracies in the world, with a vibrant and open press, an upcoming demographic dividend of hardworking young people, and a highly educated elite leadership of the country.  Islamabad and Lahore, where we visited, were relatively safe and certainly safer than Afghanistan.  It was clear to us that Pakistan has an image problem.

Pakistan also has a power problem, as in electric power.  Power is now off two hours out of three all day and all night.  Estimates are that the country has enough generation capacity (hydro and oil based) to handle all the load, but corruption, power stealing, poor payment rates and the classic mistake of underpricing power compared to its real generation cost means that industrial production is threatened.  Everyone of means has a UPS, and the air-conditioning seldom works on a 45 Celcius day.   Our meetings often were literally in the dark, a common enough occurrence that people did not even remark about it.

Pakistanis are on their way to full mobile penetration with more than 110 million users, and all effective political communication programs now rely on SMS.  3G licenses are underway and the start of a real software industry can be seen.
Against this backdrop, another side of Pakistan emerges.  The consensus is that the military drives the foreign policy of the country with unforeseen consequences. 

Alleged use of extremist groups to fight in Kashmir enables a criminal element to flourish, and the hosting of the Taliban in the autonomous regions (called FATA) to the north and west in the mountains turned an ungoverned area into a very dangerous area.  The Army Generals explained the difference between fundamentalism (which they support) and extremism (which they fight), and the political leadership explained that the extremism now comes from “seminaries” where youth are indoctrinated, housed and fed in the rural areas where there are no opportunities at all.

Until recently a strong US ally, Pakistan is now on very good terms with China, and has improving relations with India (with whom they have had three wars.)   The development of a nuclear stalemate between India and Pakistan seems to have forced them to pursue accommodation and trade is now increasing rapidly.  The press are generally hyper-critical of the United States policies in the region and take the view that the India-US relationship is driving much of our countries behavior. 

The drone strikes are universally condemned as a violation of sovereignty and their constitution and are subject to much negotiation between the two countries.  The bin Laden raid is viewed with strikingly different perspectives in the two countries.
The son of the chief of the Supreme Court is under investigation for corruption, and the media in turmoil after the appearance of staged interviews. 

In return, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Prime Minister is unable to govern after he was sentenced to a 30 second (yes, that’s right) detention for failing to investigate a corruption case against the President.  The Prime Minister, so proud of the stability of the political system in his comments a week ago, is now the former-Prime Minister.  The lack of trust within the society weakens both the real and perceived effectiveness of the government on security, corruption and good government matters.

We met a number of impressive Pakistanis, none more so than Masarrat Misbah of Smile Again.  Every year, hundreds of young rural women have acid thrown on their faces by men as punishment for some dishonor, including being raped by the men who pour acid on her.  This horrific crime, which often leads to death or blindness, requires painful rehabilitation and rebuilding of the woman’s life. 

Masarrat Misbah’s home in Lahore provides a temporary safe house.  The perpetrators, most often direct family members, are seldom prosecuted and almost never convicted of anything.  I will never forget the faces of these shy, young women so grievously injured in such an evil way.

Much of what people say and think about Pakistan is absolutely true for most of the FATA provinces (autonomous areas) and for Baluchistan. Pakistan’s image problem results from the fact that people outside the country believe the realities of North and South Waziristan and Quetta are reflective of what the larger country looks like. Islamabad and Lahore are certainly safer than people realize, unless you are a politician (many prominent politicians still suffer assassination attempts and threats inside these cities).

Pakistan’s major security challenge comes from having two many fronts. FATA represents a Haqqani network and Taliban problem, threatening the establishment in Islamabad. Baluchistan is a persistent separatist movement. Afghanistan is a threat because Pashtuns are allowed to go back and forth undocumented.  All of this, including India, is simply too much for a government like Pakistan to take on right now.

We ultimately see three Pakistans: 1) The places where the security issues are true (FATA, Baluchistan, parts of SWAT Valley, and Kashmir); 2) the rest of Pakistan for the average citizen, much larger than the first and which is reasonably misunderstood and relatively safe; 3) The politician’s and military’s Pakistan, which whether in FATA or Islamabad, is turbulent, unsafe, and complex.

There is a good case for optimism about Pakistan, simply because of the large emergent middle class (#2).  The country, vast, tribal and complicated, can follow the more successful model of India.  Connectivity changes the rural experience completely.. illiteracy at 43% can be overcome relatively quickly, and providing information alternatives can dissuade young males from a life of terrorism.  The well educated elite can decide to further reform the countries institutions to increase confidence in the government.  The war in Afghanistan, destabilizing to Pakistan in many ways, winds down after 2014 and buys time for Pakistan to address its real and continuing internal terrorism threat (more than 30,000 civilian terror deaths in the decade.)

Technology can help in other ways as well.  The power problem is mostly a tracking problem (tracing corruption and mis-distribution).  The problem of extreme crimes (like acid, or stoning) in poorly policed regions can be mitigated with videos and exposes that shame authorities into prosecution.  The corruption problem can be tracked and traced using mobile money and transparent government finances.  We met with clever Pakistani entrepreneurs who will build large, new businesses in Pakistan in the next few years and global multinational will locate sales and eventually manufacturing in the country.

The emergent middle class of Pakistan won’t settle for a corrupt system with constant terrorism and will push for reforms in a burgeoning democracy.  Here’s to the new civil society of Pakistan, who will use connectivity, information and the Internet, to drive a peaceful revolution that brings Pakistan up to its true potential.

  • Who does he think he is while telling us what OUR problems are ?

    OUR problem is that we love these famous angraiz people just too much. We have absolutely no pride and dignity in ourselves !

    • And your problem is that of a typical Pakistani – too proud to accept your mistakes and be corrected. You just want to vent your frustrations on to Angraiz…Who by the way, haven’t you ever in your life discussed “Western problems” ? Pure childishness. Duh.

      • Not accepting mistakes ? I doubt my comment gives that impression.

        Anyways, people pointing our mistakes is not a helping attitude. We can go to their country and find 100 weird problems of their own. Schmidt wasn’t called here to give his political review of what Pakistan is.

        If they are so smart why do they want us to do the dirty job for them always ?

        Food for thought !

        • I don’t see why you have to flip out! I mean – it’s Eric’s viewpoint. You would probably have your viewpoints on other things, if not politics.

          Why we must look at things from a pessimistic point of view especially when foreigners are TRYING to help us by fixing our image and portraying the story from within Pakistan – beats me. You may have your reasons, but come on! it’s HIS opinion.

          I suggest you never change your username… it does reflect your personality.

    • he can invest more than our total foreign reserves without thinking twice. world listens to him and his remarks have a far bigger audience than zardari. frankly i find his evaluation to be very friendly, ready to overlook governance and fata mess and still ready to consider rest of country as a business worthy place.
      Good job done by those hosting him.

    • You are an imbecile, all he is doing is writing a sort of short biography, expressing about all the inside events happeneing in Pakitan while he was there. He is hardly expressing his personal point of view, but sort of telling a tale of his visit to a foreign land to rest of world.

      I am kind of impressed that he is spot on about all the current affairs in Pakistan and expressed every thing in shortest possible way and concluded it on a hopeful and positive future of Pakistan!

    • Telling us? Who said that. He’s explaining our image problem to the rest of world.

    • Typical answer- he is a man who is honest about what is wrong with Pakistan – if we got rid of the corruption then there is hope for Pakistan.

  • I hope after this visit, Google will have his own office in Pakistan and invest more in IT sector.

    Good news for Badar Khushnood! (or may be otherwise :-\)

    • If you have been following events, Google has been expanding the local office (though Singapore based not Pakistan based). They are hiring at least two more senior level employees. This was before his visit.

  • This is what they always do. Come, comment and let people fight on comments.

    We should not care about the comments and who they are. Let us be proud and united Pakistani.

    • Be united, but not proud. Listen to those who want to help you, his comments are seen by people who can’t imagine let alone telling them your thoughts on the matter.

  • These are our common problems he mentioned out in his post. If you pick some of the words from this post and do a search on google, a lot of same stories will appear on the deck. We are facing all these problems since few years mainly electricity problem and Eric is not the only person who admitted that we have enough resources to recover our faults but the corruption and leaders.

    Pakistan also has a power problem, as in electric power. Power is now off two hours out of three all day and all night. Estimates are that the country has enough generation capacity (hydro and oil based) to handle all the load, but corruption, power stealing, poor payment rates and the classic mistake of underpricing power compared to its real generation cost means that industrial production is threatened. Everyone of means has a UPS, and the air-conditioning seldom works on a 45 Celcius day. Our meetings often were literally in the dark, a common enough occurrence that people did not even remark about it.

  • Eric’s analysis of Pakistan and its true potential may be discounted due to the fact that he probably does not have the essential exposure of our past and current political scenario.

    A prime minister dismissed in our case is not an irony, it could be otherwise. As a Pakistani, I can safely remark that our foundations have always been week right from the begining. We have tried to conceal one crime through another. Now, the only way to start new is having new people on board and fairly prosecute those who deserve, by the new.

    It is true that we are a nation of some of the most capable minds the world has produced who are ready to take over this country’s future.

    Good luck Pakistan.

  • I think this will create a positive image of Pakistan. The Pakistan that people know is different as he state it in his post.

  • military is the mother of all evils in Pakistan. Pakistan’s image i.e an unsafe country is a direct consequence of those who duty is to make Pakistan a safe place i.e Pakistan army.

    • Stop blaming Army. What the nation is doing? We all are dancing dolls, who dance on the fingers of these politicians.What they are doing and what we are doing?
      We fight with each others on there orders. Where we are today? Have you seen a single pakistani in Pakistan?
      We have destroyed our own image on international level because we the Pakistani,s have master degrees in corruption, cruelty, and injustice. Even a small grocery shop keeper always try to deceive his customers so what you are expecting from others?

      • — We all are dancing dolls, who dance on the fingers of these politicians.

        You have a very short memory. When Kerry Lugar bill was introduced to help CIVILIANS why were all the civilian media immediately against it? Every night in the news there were people talking and shouting about how the bill is wrong and inappropriate. And then when the military got what it wanted, finished — nothing in the media.

        So I ask you, are you not dancing to the tune of the military too?

    • yea, true. Gen. Zardari. Brig.(R) Gillaani, Col. Atif Bhai, Brig. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. and etc are the most corrupt army personels.
      Army is the culprit. Right?? Huh

      • One word for you: mehrangate. And yes, the generals have admitted to giving the money.

    • Is Hammam Mn Sb Nangy Hn……….
      This Loot System is the “Joint Venture” of Looter Politicians + Power Greedy Generals + Sazshi Bureaucracy.
      And Now Media is also one of the Stakeholder in this deal………

  • He surely took his time to know pakistan

    I thank as a pakistani for his efforts and surely milliona would read this and visit pakistan

  • Image problem?…JO hum hein wohi to image hay…..we are animals who live in 18 hours loadshedding under 48 c temperature….and yet have the brains left to carry out SO CALLED JEHADI activities….i wish we get invaded by indians or americans…koi or country takeover karegi to atleast Bijli to denge…LANAT esi democracy per

  • my opinion is that the acceptances of own mistakes is starting of a correct future, never say who gives you the right to point out me mistake, learn from your mistakes to teach others

  • what a narrative! I believe he put it better than anyone could have done however all along I was hoping to see the following 3 things.
    1. what should Pakistanis do to change the state of affairs
    2. what should the world do to help
    3. How can companies like Google help

    • Its not the job of Eric Schmidt to tell us what to we have decide and act out what we have to do. Our so called leaders who we vote for are suppose to lead us and tell us what to do.

  • Thanks for Writting, Mr. Eric.
    We wish, Larry Page and Sergey Brin also visit our land some day!!!

    We all use Google many times a day, without spending a penny on it, Its a great service..

    Thanks for creating it…


    • Well Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Jews. Tell me, how much do Pakistanis love rich Jews???

      So there is your answer.

      • Come out of double standards…. If they are Jews then major inventions are also done by Jews…stop using those inventions first and then talk on religious matters….

        Better to open your mind and go back to read history again. Treat people on humanity basis…and bring change. Stop spreading hatred…and specially by using their technology.


  • Mr. Eric I really appreciate your close observation about the Pakistan and its society. Like every society we too have problems but me as Pakistani living abroad is very much optimistic that change is coming and we’ll see a very progressive Pakistan. And I believe right people when they’ll rule Pakistan soon the image problem will be solved.

    Hoping to work in Google in Lahore or Islamabad or in Karachi very soon :)

  • This can help us to understand how people from west think about Pakistan and certainly it can help to pinpoint some image problems.

    I have one disagreement to the, Kashmir is a peaceful area nothing bad is happening there (i mean the AZAD Kashmir) so it should not be counted as the same as FATA or other troublesome areas.

    • Well you are free to visit america and publish your opinion too. Who is stopping you? as our former PM asked.

      Really, no place is heaven on earth, but that does not mean every place is equal. Americans pay for taxes and get army everywhere around the world. We pay taxes and electricity, no water, no dams, streets that fall apart after a few years.

  • Salam, agr glti nhi kro gye to sehko gye kasy ? Kuch do kuch lo police boht zrori hai. Aur eric google ka agent hai aur oc ko yah haq nhi k wo hum ko btaye k hum kc tra k hai. Pahly he hum ko yah kafi nuksan puncha chuky hai

  • You have seen both extremes many things are true our Heritage is more then liberal than any other, So when we ll host the X rural elite then describe your views. Working to achieve our goals. So make them to go in assembly by our votes and our tribe men. So come in November we ll host you desert to show our real rural population who are hard workers of their soil they love their heritage and soil. One is ruling elite of elite beggars and one community who adopted it as a profession. If you looking for your auto translator program it will be best for our rural community to under stand in their own language misconception must be

    • — If you looking for your auto translator program it will be best for our rural community to under stand in their own language misconception must be

      It totally looks like you used an automated translation to produce that comment. Your comment makes no sense!

  • India several years ago invited CEO of GE, made him believe in there youth and technology rest is history, instead of being overly critical or too smitten we should try to build on it… Our leadership should try to start a constructive conversation and see if Eric can put his money where his _____ is….

  • Thank you very much sir Eric Schmidt, we all Pakistanis say Welcome to Pakistan…as your said this is in the mind of every Pakistan but unfortunately over so called media specially News Channels are not the real image of Pakistan…
    So believe in Pakistan
    invest in Pakistan
    it will serve you a lot…

  • He visited secretly and met elite… did he wanna sell social data on possible revolution communications in upcoming years?

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