Written by

Andre Privateer

A distinguished leader in the hospitality sector, he has contributed to introducing innovative technology and travel products across Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia as the CEO of Ascendant. Honored by the HSMAI in 2015, he is renowned for his expertise in hospitality sales and marketing. His global influence is evident from his successful start-up ventures in various regions.

Business & Economy

A Love Letter to Pakistan: A Foreign CEO Reflects on 5 Years

Six months have passed since I waved goodbye to the country that warmly embraced me and changed my life in ways unimaginable. And as I sit to gather my thoughts, I am overwhelmed by the memories and emotion.

From my first taste of lamb achari at Chattha’s… to the Karachi colleague, who interrupted a meeting to serve paaye at his desk… “my wife makes the best paaye, you’ve got to try some!”… To the city that makes the best biryani and the ghee that elevates paratha to perfection — each day felt like a feast.

The silent suffering of the Pakistani driver,
Old men on older bicycles pedalling goldfish,
Candy floss soldiers marching single file through Lahore,
The monsoon and its symphony of unearthed aromas,
And how the rains, too, seem to pause for Friday Jummah.
Pakistan offered volumes of poetry, raw and unbound.

A first Dholki, a second Mehndi, a third Nikah… and that bittersweet feeling of losing some of your best talent to marriage. I read somewhere that Pakistan is the country with the greatest number of doctors who don’t practice.

I once asked a Barrister why she returned to Pakistan after 17 years in Oxford and without missing a beat, she replied “for the humanity” and continued… “Each year my milkman disappears for a few weeks and goes home to feed a village.”

Thank you, Pakistan, for teaching the value of sacrifice, for inviting me to celebrate and mourn, and for revealing that compassion isn’t a choice, but a visceral part of the human condition.

In many ways, Pakistan ought to be a shining example for the rest of the world. Yet, too often, this brilliance is dimmed by an outdated system of entitlement where arrogance and impunity reign. Each year, 800,000 Pakistanis leave, seeking not just higher salaries abroad, but also transparency and the rule of law that are so desperately lacking at home.

As I pen these words, I find myself embroiled in a legal battle I never foresaw. I offered a salary cut for the greater good, only to be denied my last months’ salary, severance, and repayment of promised loans. It’s a bitter pill, but unlike the countless many forced to trade fealty to keep their kitchens running, I am able to afford the luxury of public discourse.

How can those who flaunt philanthropy starve their workers? And how can the progressive voices in our community turn a blind eye to today’s Seths just because their fathers were friends? The week before Eid, a troubled former employee called, distraught… “Boss, they have threatened to hold last month’s salaries unless we reach our target.”

Do they feel no shame?

Several months ago, a talented new economy lawyer said he had floated an idea of public governance that garnered praise, but failed to get momentum. Mubariz, it’s time to take up the mantle.

And I am thrilled to announce my collaboration with Mutaher Khan, Co-Founder of Data Darbar, to launch a new section of the website featuring anonymous employee reviews, including a “Payroll Consistency Score” that measures the percentage of on-time salary payments versus total months worked. This transparency helps shift power to employees and will hold companies accountable for their payroll practices.

This wasn’t the contribution or legacy I had envisioned, but hopefully, this baby step will help guide Pakistan a little closer toward its destiny. It’s a youthful nation teeming with potential, eagerly awaiting its moment to shine. And as I close this chapter, I do so with a mix of sadness and excitement for what the future holds. Pakistan, you have left an indelible mark and for that I am grateful.

With hope and resilience,

Andre Privateer

Discussion

  1. Andre was my shortest term Boss and the who actually taught me the true leadership skills. He is right he spent many years and gave a true hope to society and really lived like a local.

    I was afraid if I speak Urdu and he understands then what language do I use to just let him not know what Im talking about.
    He was a friend more than a boss. And I learned that a “Sales person is 10% evil. And thats it. Loved working with this man and will always admire him on every platform.

  2. Thanks 🙏🏻 for expressing your thoughts about Pakistan.
    I’m personaly feeling grateful to all foreigners entities who are bringing huge investments into my country.
    I’m deeply grateful to them, as they are being providing good workplace atmosphere in their business institution.
    Philip Morris international is one of these organisations.
    Their salaries, wages and workplace atmosphere are at par with all international standards.
    I hope local entrepreneur and industrial big houses will soon follow their foot prints.

  3. Very true exact picture what’s going on with us.
    Good luck 👍🏽for your next assignment.
    Take care

  4. I really enjoyed the article. It depicts the pros and cons of living in Pakistan and its social and governance issues. But I have faith in the youth just like you. They will definitely bring the change for a better Pakistan

  5. I returned to Pakistan after serving abroad for 25 years. After completing 9 years of service in pakistan, I see the potential but hampered by corruption at all levels.

  6. Writeup took a nice & interesting beginning but ended abruptly. Some kind of an unfinished stuff. Gives an impression as if there was an intent to say something but then it was withheld. Anyway wishing the best.

  7. “It’s a youthful nation teeming with potential, eagerly awaiting its moment to shine.”
    Only if the law of justice rules here !! the nation will shine like a star on the globe ( eagerly awaiting this moment to shine)

  8. Thankyou for your attempts to call out what can be a corrupt, greedy, dog-eat-dog culture in Pakistan. It’s not so different in India, or any other 3rd world country struggling with corruption and total ignorance of the word of their religions about honesty and care for others. When those around you behave in this abominable way, most will accede and simply behave in the same nasty, corrupt way. Thus are places like Pakistan stuck in their impoverished past. Then you have culturally/religious law inspired overpopulation. That keeps a country down, to be sure. Who knows what the solution is? Perhaps it’s better to just accept. The 1st world with its relative wealth and non-corruption is an option for people willing to move, though people in these wealthier countries have their limits, and do not want or should accept mass immigration of people escaping their own problems. Religious extremists, or those clinging onto their religion, and expressing their bitterness just wreck it for everyone else from their countries: now you have Western Europe closing its gates to the hordes of young men, some of whom would bring their dangerous views to the Christian West. They want the advantages, but won’t accept the tolerance that makes the 1st world wealthy, and a place they want to move to. Personally, I’d start by saying ‘families only’ can get visas to Europe. That would weed out the chancer young males, unfortunately some of whom are hyper-religious, and dangerous, even though most just want a chance, and need time to adjust to a secular culture where their desires for consistency with the hadiths etc. will refuse to be acknowledged by the majority if it affect their long-held cultural traditions.

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