Kodak Moment for Pakistan Survival

Published: 03:05 PM, 22 Aug, 2022
Kodak Moment for Pakistan Survival
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The term “Kodak Moment” has become an allegorical term in the world of organizational theory and practice, businesses and International politics. It is a sign of decadence and economic downturn, a lost cause and a warning of the consequences to come. In the business world, it is used for conglomerates and companies that have failed to adjust, innovate and survive. It signifies that those who do not change, will be changed and eliminated on resistance. Now, many academicians and geo-strategists have begun using the Kodak term for Pakistan and it is now the centre of the debate. Although there are pros and cons to this opinion, the fact remains that is worth studying and deciphering. Has such a moment really come for Pakistan or is it a misconception forwarded by writers who are jumping to conclusions?

In looking at the context of Kodak moment is the company called Kodak which was established in 1888. At one point in time, around the 1970s, it held 80% market share globally when it came to photography. But time went by and Kodak became complacent. It did not innovate. The company reduced its research and development budget and stuck to its old designs. They ignored the idea of obsolescence and the emergence of new technology. As the silicon revolution came, it brought with it the digital age and soon digital cameras arrived which wiped out Kodak cameras. Kodak was unable to meet the quality of Korean and European companies and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Similarly, in the case of Nokia which was founded in 1988, was a pioneer in cellphones. But with the arrival of smartphones with high-quality led touchscreens, Nokia could not keep up with the edge of innovation and its market share shrunk by 70% by end of 2015. The company continues to fight for its survival. Both these companies had their Kodak moments due to static approach, not investing in innovation, new technology and methods.

Now, this approach is being applied to Pakistan. It is being referred to as the failed state. A country that could not change. Since its inception, Pakistan has had four marshal laws. Its eastern wing separated into Bangladesh in 1971. A country that still has the lowest quality of education in the region. With a debt of over 128 Billion Dollars. Pakistan was recently on the brink of default. With power outages across the country, rampant corruption and a rating of 140th in the world, Pakistan has all the signs of a Kodak moment. There are a series of disastrous in the political, economic and social arena of the country and the nation is surrounded by aggressive challenges. The people of Pakistan are losing hope. Even the revolution of change of Governments between military rule and civilian could not ameliorate the situation. Currently, the political landscape is undergoing immense polarization with no chances of national reconciliation, and conflicts arising, one after the other. The country is the lowest on the ease of doing business list and the economy is highly import-oriented while exports are stagnating. It is difficult to argue the opposite, Pakistan is on the brink of becoming irrelevant and there is a lot at stake.

But there is always a flip side to the image. Pakistan started off with a meagre survival ratio. Indians and the British were of the view that Pakistan would not be able to sustain itself beyond a few years. But they were proven wrong. In the 1965 war, the Indian army thought Pakistan would be conquered in a matter of days, but they couldn’t. After 1971, people thought that the two-nation theory died with the creation of Bangladesh, but it the idea was defended with the counter-argument of two nation three country theory. There are still two major nations in the subcontinent that live in three different countries. Pakistan became the centre of attention with the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan where American funding ran the economy for over a decade. There was complacency and the idea that conflict would fuel the economy for the distant future. Pakistan played its part in the defeat of the Soviet Union and was regarded as the rouge state. When India became aggressive and threatened the existence of Pakistan, the nuclear program was unveiled. Pakistan became the only Muslim nation in the world in possession of nuclear weapons and a nuclear energy program. In the decades to come, there was widespread political upheavals as the disruption caused by military interventions destroyed the political fabric of the nation.  After 9/11 Pakistan once again was caught in the cross-fire. War on terror destroyed the economy of Pakistan causing loss of precious lives, infrastructure, tourism and opened the doors of terrorism, narcotics and smuggling. Once again, the nation survived. Militancy was defeated, jawans of the army embraced martyrdom and Pakistan was safe again. In all of this, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, a true leader and a symbol of federation, lost to international conspiracies and vested interests, and yet Pakistan went on. The movements of democracy and the ouster of military leaders continued unabated and General Musharraf had to leave his throne and made it problematic for future army Generals to impose martial law in future. Democracy still thrives and PTI in the leadership of Imran khan is given way to a teeming popular movement in the country. Pakistan and its youth bulge is not ready to surrender and there is no defeat without surrender.

Many nations have successfully reinvented themselves. They have embraced modernity, innovation and new public management. Countries are running their systems like highly efficient corporate bodies. Qatar, U.A.E, Singapore, Vietnam and many other countries have innovated their way to success. Pakistan is clearly lacking in this area. The Government of Pakistan is replete with red-tapism, corruption and inefficiency. With this approach, there is no hope for revival. The nation must innovate and adopt international best practices and learn from the world. A massive turn around is needed. Pakistan has thrived on aid and foreign loan but the complication has come full circle. This is the time to decide and act, otherwise, there might not be another chance for revival.

Pakistan has a plethora of challenges on all sides. But it must be kept in mind that this nation has unique strengths to its credit. First and foremost, it is a young nation. It is capable of achieving anything if the energy is channelled with the right programs. Pakistan is also a thriving economy of small to medium enterprises. There are numerous programs that are incorporating the poor population and the resilience can be seen in the handling of covid-19 pandemic by the country. It was the 4th best performing nation when it came to handling of the covid-19 storm. A sure sign of what it is capable of. In another perspective, Pakistan has become the center of attention of China and its expansion plan in the form of OBOR, CPEC and the prospects of Gwadar, which are being reaped by the country and the economics in the form of direct investment. As more and more countries are joining CPEC, the opportunities are growing day by day. The country has the fastest IT growth in the region and the masses from all walks of life are jumping into the bandwagon of telecommunication, internet, IT services and content-creation, a revolution is at doorstep in the form of the youth. People who are calling Pakistan having a Kodak moment, need to look a little deeper in the heart and soul of the country, its boys and girls, and the energy they hold and now the weapons they have in the form of their smartphones and you tube channels. It seems Pakistan is yet to speak its heart and it is about time…

Categories : Opinion
Imtiaz Rafi Butt

The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.