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.
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.
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.
The Current Situation And The Governance
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.
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 .
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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