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Digital Pakistan Vision and the Challenges

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The world is going digital and countries hopping on the new platform are the ones reaping the benefits most out of it. Pakistani authorities have been working to achieve the goal but there are several challenges in acquiring a digital Pakistan.

Pakistan is among such fortunate countries where the youth population is 60% of the total population. This percentage of regular users of digital services such as digital payments or e-payments, internet access and professionals in smartphone world provide infinite opportunities to succeed in going digital.

It is the gigantic and innovative initiative taken by Prime Minister Pakistan to upgrade digital banking infrastructure and easing the conditions or requirements and exhausting paperwork to avail digital services such as e-payments, online transactions and the issuance of credit cards, and their use at Online stores i.e in-store shopping, Fuel fill-up at stations, online utility Bill payments and Universities Fee Payment  Gateways, but unfortunately, such easy and instant payment facility is currently available to Elite  Business class and involves too much  Paperwork, guarantees and regulations.

Government needs to overhaul the whole banking infrastructure and encourage businesses, retailers, Fuel Stations, PIA, Railways ticketing, superstores, schools, and colleges to introduce payment gateways and banks should offer credit cards to businessmen and especially to government employees since they will use such services when they run short of funds, falling prey to illegal Interest-based lenders who squeeze them financially and socially.

These banks there other banks that are issuing credit cards such as  HBL, MCB, ABL, Faisal Bank, Askari bank and JS banks. The average interest or Mark up charged   40% which is very high as compared to other countries

The innovative digital payments will remove their financial constraints and the funds will be utilized based on a credit limit for 45 to 51 days and the bills can be paid through salaries decreasing chances for collateral damage or any default.

It would be great to boost and promote digital services paving the way for International digital bigwigs i.e. Google, PayPal, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Alibaba Group, Alipay, Stripe and Apple to enter Pakistani financial markets specially the PayPal, eBay and Amazon are strongly required by Freelancers and authors to get their Payments processed.

At Present, only Skrill, Payoneer and Traditional IBAN/Swift code or wire transfers are available to Pakistan which is very costly, Time consuming having inflated fees of 10% to 30% plus  Bank charges of local Bank to process the amount. On the other hand, our neighboring country India has reaped the benefits digital world as the world’s best companies i.e. PayPal, Amazon and Google are serving the country with their innovative digital products and services.

By giving access to these Digital Payment Giants, Pakistan will open doors for  Foreign Direct Investment and it will also reduce the heavily demanded  Paper currency as  People avoid using cash and prefer to use their credit and debit cards at online stores, in-store shopping purposes.

Even Pakistan’s governance Model may go ahead with modernizing and upgrading the Reporting system, Complain Management, Receipts, and Payments, Public Sector spending through an electronic dashboard that will refresh automatically if any Development related or Public sector transaction takes place. Even governance could improve if governance Model is implemented by imparting pieces of training to Staff, Officers and Officials at the Federal, Provincial and District levels so that proper reporting channels may be built to ease the complicated process and ensure transparency.

The Sale and Purchase of properties and estate should be digitized and automated so that revenue records may reflect the history of Property owners to do away with any claim or objection. The Ownership certificates, Heirship certificates, Birth Certificates, Domicile, PRC and all other certificates should be generated online through developing software mobile applications of  Android or ios devices that will reduce the process and improve the productivity of the Public sector Institutes.

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The process of employees’ performance evaluation, superannuation and pension may also be automated so that the entire employment record will be available when they reach their point of promotion, superannuation or drawing pensions. The Personal IDs must be opened online through scale-wise Supervisors i.e. District Accounts Officers, Account Generals of Provinces and Accountant General of Pakistan so that trail may be available to track salary disbursements.

At Present, only Skrill, Payoneer and  Traditional IBAN/Swift code or wire transfers are available to Pakistan which is very costly, Time consuming having inflated fees of 10% to 30% plus  Bank charges of local Bank to process the amount

Furthermore, the process of voter lists should also be automated and Election Commission of Pakistan must make it available to all the citizens to register their vote when they reach at the age of 18 after getting their CNIC/Smart cards or Form B. This will enable district Election Commissioner Offices to enter the data online and consolidate the voter lists.

There should be a central directorate of all the departments so that they may have coordination on digital grounds especially the FBR, AGP, Finance Ministry and Departments, Establishment division, cabinet division, NAB and Intelligence Directorates.  Digital Pakistan’s vision will have a great impact to attract Foreign Direct Investment, strengthening of Rupee against Dollar, stabilization of the economy and discouraging paper currency that usually falls heavy upon rupee and due to substantial pressure, the rupee gets devalued and inflation jumps up.

We are too excited after Tanya Aidrus and Baqar’s statements during Digital Pakistan Vision launch and they were very confident that their sacrifices of higher paychecks for the sake of the country are highly appreciable but they will be facing resistance from the stakeholders who have been misusing the manual system for decades and it is an uphill task to compel such elements to adopt and use this digital Endeavour which will choke their corruption stream but may streamline things for the common people.

The other resistance will be from the provinces where PTI is on opposite Benches especially in Sindh and Baluchistan. It will be a big ask and the challenge that the initiated by  IT and Telecom Ministry will achieve its desired objectives given the challenges of shortage of IT Skilled Staff and messed up the bureaucratic structure.

The government should make digital literacy a compulsory part in every ministry at the Federal, provincial and district levels by setting up IT Skill development centers to train the supervisory and office staff so that digital communication infrastructure may be implemented.

There is no dearth of talent in our youth but they need support and sponsorship to do wonders. Moreover, the Government should establish a venture capital firm to support, incubate, accelerate and fund the Startups that will ultimately develop and accelerate the mushrooming growth of big startups.

The entrepreneurship courses must be introduced with help of  SMEDA, LUMS, IBA Karachi, IBA, Sukkur, SZabist, NUST, FAST, COMSATS, Virtual University and SDPI  so that entrepreneurs may learn to launch their startups successfully to conquer the digital world.

The Startups such as Careem, Bykea, and Rozee.pk are some the great examples of successful Startups. Globally, the Youth after getting their education, start their businesses to create employment but in Pakistan youth after passing Graduation and Masters, start hunting for a job. That is why Pakistan has a high level of Unemployment as youth avoid entering entrepreneurship since they lack skills, training, and financial resources.

Rupee against Dollar, stabilization of the economy and discouraging paper currency that usually falls heavy upon rupee and due to substantial pressure, the rupee gets devalued and inflation jumps up

Punjab IT Board has done a tremendous job by incubating, funding and accelerating startups in the public sector under the Plan9 and PlanX programs but it should be followed by all the Provinces so the proper Startup culture could be developed. Higher Education Commission, IT Boards, Technical Education, Intermediate education boards should promote digital Pakistan vision by introducing governance, payment solutions and fund the Ideas at School and college level.

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It is a good sign that  Online shopping Sites have experienced a mushrooming growth but mostly they accept the traditional Cash On Delivery Model (COD) which often causes losses if the customer returns the product or unavailable or Unwilling to receive the product.

E-payments ensure that the product is shipped to the target buyer or customer who needs it. Though some Online shopping sites such as Popular Daraz.pk and Yayvo.com have started accepting Credit/Debit Cards issued by Pakistani Banks but still the number of transactions is very low owing to hassles involved in getting credit cards from the banks.

At present, Only a few banks are issuing Credit Cards with Online Transactions and Point of Sale (POS) Transactions that include Standard Chartered Bank, unfortunately, limited to big cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Other one include Bank Al Falah which issues Credit Cards on quick processing lasting for 10 to 20 days.

Silk Bank is also the favorite bank of many customers who are interested in digital Transactions. Silk Bank offers a wide range of Credit Cards as per Income Levels of customers. UBL is also offering credit cards but it has too many conditions and terms.

Besides, these banks there other banks that are issuing credit cards such as  HBL, MCB, ABL, Faisal Bank, Askari bank and JS banks. The average interest or Mark up charged   40% which is very high as compared to other countries. The government especially state Bank of Pakistan must direct the public and Private banks to lower the markup ratio and ease the conditions to avail this facility especially suited to salaried class and Businessmen.

In Big cities, credit cards are issued instantly by Commercial Banks to the salaried Employees of Government and Companies but in small cities, the untrained and local managers avoid issuing credit cards to customers since it involves risks of recovery or payment of credit Bill.

I have personally visited many banks where I maintain my bank account, but regrettably, all the managers expressed their inability or forbade to get Credit Cards since it is very costly and you cannot be issued credit cards in small cities.

Punjab IT Board has done a tremendous job by incubating, funding and accelerating startups in public sector under the Plan9 and PlanX programs but it should be followed by all the Provinces so the proper Startup culture could be developed

Well, one will surely experience such embarrassment and inconvenience at the hands of Non-Professional Managers who are picked to only raise the deposits whereas the quality of service is compromised at the hands of such amateurs.

Therefore, Ms Tanya Aidrus head Digital Pakistan Vision and her team at Digital Pakistan Initiative will have to work out to appease the stakeholders to achieve the desired goals set as per the tenure of PTI so that Pakistanis may reap the benefits from this digital world.

To achieve this goal, the portfolio of IT and Telecom ministry must be given to a professional who should be well versed in IT and telecom preferably a Computer science or IT Graduate to pilot this project to achieve the goals in a given clear framework.

There is also a big concern regarding inflated Taxes levied upon the business community which needs to be reduced if they use Digital currency since Digital Currency will enable FBR to track payments and appraise the financial strength of the Individuals.

The e-Currency spectrum will help reduce the crime rate, tax evasion, hoarding of money as People will use credit cards and digital wallets such as PayPal, Ali Pay, Google pays those can easily be tracked and monitored through digital systems.

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Democracy

The Current Situation And The Governance

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It has been almost one and half year of PML (N) led Federal Government to complete but the situation is going from bad to verse. On the  Economic  front  , it has achieved  a  tremendous  success  but on the  Security front, it has been facing  the  constant internal and  External threats  . The Bomb blasts  , extortion and  Communal riots are  on the rise  and  the  whole  country is  going  through the  most dangerous and  critical  security  situation which shows  no sign of  improvement  .

Despite failure of  dialogue  with  Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after  their  conditional  Ceasefire  , So far  no positive  results  have been  experienced  or  observed  as  reported  by the main stream Security analysts . Consequent upon the  Presidential Elections in Afghanistan , the deadline of  NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan  is  fast approaching    and with   replacement of  Karzai Government , Pakistan  will be  facing the  Security  threats  from the  TTP factions  existing in  Tribal Areas  , Punjab and  long bordering  Afghanistan . With aggressive  attitude  of  Armed  forces after the induction of  General Pervez Musharaf  in  the high  treason case  of  suspending the  Constitution and  imposing  emergency  in the  country   .

The Army as an institution  is in aggressive mood  as  Renowned  Analyst and Journalist  Najam Sethi has  predicted  that  Army will resist any  capital punishment  given to Former  Chief of Armed Forces  General  Pervez Musharaf.  As the later himself claimed and still claims that the Army is with him. The Statement of  general Pervez Musharaf  that  he  enjoys the  support  from the  Armed Forces cannot be ruled out as Political parties  have  started consultations over  giving  the  safe  exit  to former Armed Chief to avoid institutional confrontation .

The All of Sudden decision of  Armed  forces  to initiate  major  Offensive  against various factions  of   Taliban militants  under the  operation Zarab-e-Azab in North Waziristan and other  Tribal Agencies clearly echoes  the  “all powerful institutional status”  of  the  Armed  Forces  . The judiciary and  The parliament are being overshadowed  by the  Mighty Institution with the  passage of  Protection of  Pakistan  Act 2014  which could  be  used  against the anti state Actors and security  personnel could  detain  any suspect  or  political  Activist for the  period  of  90 days  without reporting the  whereabouts of  the  Detainee.

On other  hand  , After  serious  incident of  Model  Town Lahore  which claimed  12  innocent lives  and  90 persons got  injured,  has  started  a  tug of  war         between the  Strong man Shahbaz  Shareef  and  Revolutionary  Dr  Tahir –ur-Qadri  as the later  has been  criticizing the  Punjab Government  for  bad  governance  and  demanding the  case  may be  registered against  Punjab CM and Security Personnel considering them  responsible for the  Model town Shootout . To remove the  stain from Shahbaz Sharif , Sharif  Brothers  ousted  the  Provincial Law minister Rana  Sanaullah  making him   Sacrificial  Goat . The Gullu Butt Mystery is yet another issue to be reckoned with. The PML (N) seems to be between devil and deep sea to deal with the issues popping up all of sudden.

ALSO READ:  The Current Situation And The Governance

 

The  PTI’s head  Imran Khan’s Saga  is  yet another pressure tool for the  government to deal  with since  Mr. Khan has  been  demanding  recount of  four  Constituencies of  Lahore  but the  Government  has  not  heeded  to them as  yet  . The Demand  has  been supported  by the  PPP recently which might have  confused  the  already  under pressure  Sharifs  to make some tough decisions  since  PTI’s Announcement for  Freedom March on  14th August  might have  compelled  the  PML (N) government to  make  some  measures  to  cope with the  Freedom March  plan  .

Asif  Ali  Zardari’s recent  statement over  PTI’s  Demand  may have  shaken the  PML (N) leadership since  Zardari’s PPP  enjoys the strong Position  in the  Assembly as well as  in  Senate  which may create hurdles  in the  way of  PML(N)  and  may  create  such a  scenario  where  Midterm Polls  looming  Possibility , may become a  reality  as  with  MQM a coalition partner  in Sindh with  PPP  , both  may force the  Sharifs to accept  the  demands  and  make  some  bitter Decisions which may change the  entire  situation  .

Pakistan has become  the land of   controversies  such as  Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s recent  Blame game  against PTI chief and  challenging  the  Candidature of  Imran Khan and  PTI challenging  the  Candidature  of  Sharif  brothers  has  other  motives  to  disclose since the  parties  have  been  watching the  situation very  attentively and  joint  opposition Alliance  Possibility  could  not be  ruled out as  every Political party has  got some  Common interest and  every party wants to  win the hearts  of  the  people with their  campaigns  against the  government .

Some  mainstream Parties have  initiated  campaigns against  Rigging , corruption and  energy crisis  , some have raised  issues against operation , some has  criticized  the  privatization road map  for the  State  Institutions ,some have criticized  the  Economic and  Human Rights  Policies  . Some have also criticized the nepotism and favoritism in the appointment of heads of various State Institutions. So much so, that almost every Political Party has a bone to pick with the Government. In this connection, Government has been compelled  by the  prevalent  situation has  decided  to  let the  Freedom Marchers  to March  on Independence  since  the  PML(N) think tanks have  advised  the  Government that  if  government  resisted  to the  Freedom Marchers led  by  Imran Khan  , may  have  serious  repercussion which may  change  the entire scenario and  create  such  situation which may further aggravate the  governance and  PML(N) led  Federal government days may be counted .

ALSO READ:  Long March and Thereafter ……………

The recent  Popularity Survey conducted  by  Gallop and  other Organization show that  PTI enjoys  the  First  Position  , PPP  second and  the  PML(N) has  slipped  to  number three  as  PML(N)’s  popularity  graph has  been constantly  maintaining downward trend  which is  not suitable  for already criticized  party by the  leaders  of  mainstream party  . The People of Pakistan has been fed up with “you –n-me” turns and want this to be changed with performance indicators and visionary leadership. The people have become  fatigued to elect same  legislators  from the  same  constituency  for  consecutive  three decades and  want the  old  faces to be  replaced with new ones  .

As  the oldies  have become controversial  due to corruption , nepotism , favoritism , influence on security agencies and other state machineries  and inefficiency and lack of  clear  policy and vision to materialize  the  promise  they  had  made with the people during their  Election campaigns or  those written in their  Election Manifestos .Election manifestos are  written to attract the  voters to cast their votes in the favor  of  Parties candidate  as nobody  takes  any responsibility to review  the previous  manifestos and  update  the  manifestos with clear vision .

For  instance  , PML(N)  had  promised  to end load shedding in six months  but  failed  miserably  and  heavily criticized  for setting  illogical  targets  without any consultation with Power Sector Specialist or  doing any research on any issue since Except the  PTI ,No any party has  any strategic  Policy unit  to address  the  key issues  and  do some research  present and future  issues  related  Human Rights  , Development , Planning , Demography , Social Development , Economic  Development , Natural Resource Management  , Security , foreign Policy  , Democracy and  Governance and  come  up with lasting solutions to those  issues  of  higher importance  and  drafting their manifestos on the basis of  Research and  Situation analysis  rather than  just  exaggerated calculations  and  making illogical conclusion which be the  basis  for  criticism at a time  when  these same  issues  may become the  cause  of  the  Government failure .

So why not take some initiative in advance to address the issues and find out lasting solutions after Research, analysis and consultations. This will change the whole picture of the governance and bring in innovations in Democratic Process rather than just traditional Politics .

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