Pakistan should step up and play its part in the Middle East’s development phase

Pakistan should step up and play its part in the Middle East’s development phase

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A new era of peace and reconstruction is dawning upon the Middle East, as war battered Syria and Yemen return to normalcy even as they have to restore their destroyed infrastructure and the efficiency of their state institutions. For example, huge numbers of Syrian children have not gone to school for more than a decade, electricity and health services have to be resurrected. Libya, another regional example, has to regain its territorial integrity before Tripoli can get its act together. Iraq-- apparently back to normal-- seems still a far cry from what it used to be.

Meanwhile, the GCC countries have already embarked on an exciting new era of economic diversification as they look to reduce their dependence on the export of hydrocarbons. They are investing in tourism, artificial intelligence, renewable energy resources and the entertainment industry. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is a beacon of economic diversification. The successful holding of the FIFA World Cup in Doha last December was a morale booster for the Gulf region and gave a fillip to sports tourism there. Poignant to note, that Pakistan’s armed forces provided a vital security element to that globally important event. Qatar put this occasion to good use by showcasing its culture and Islamic norms to foreigners. GCC nations have shown to the entire region, and indeed to the world, that robust security, a peaceful environment and tranquility are the pre-requisites of development.

GCC nations have shown the entire region that robust security, a peaceful environment and tranquility are the pre-requisites of development.

Javed Hafeez

Of all Arab countries hit by post Arab Spring civil strife, Syria needs immediate attention with half of its population internally or externally displaced. Its recent return to the fold of the Arab League augers well for the impending phase of reconstruction. Syria will require huge external investments to repair and restore its electric grid, roads and telecommunication networks. The Syrian government will have to give liberal loans to citizens, but while financial resources can come from GCC countries, nations like Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan can and should extend much-needed technical support.

Of the four states being discussed for reconstruction, Iraq may be somewhat easy to tackle. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world even before 2015, has gone through a challenging humanitarian crisis. The government’s current capacity finds it hard to absorb funds given by donors. The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program in Yemen (SDRPY) has sponsored 52 development projects. This also means that reconstruction work, particularly in the health and education sectors could soon start there. Enter Pakistani construction companies, who have previously worked in Yemen. That experience could be utilized again.

Development work currently underway in GCC countries has leapfrogged from muscle labour to cutting edge technologies. During the labour era of the 1970’s and 80’s, Pakistani manpower played a role in the development of the Gulf region. However, projects like NEOM are using digital technologies routinely now. Pakistan has a sufficient number of English speaking technical hands to meet the requirements in the Kingdom and  GCC countries. Moreover, it will be an important learning curve for them and for Pakistan’s future development, as they imbibe the latest skills working with technical people from other countries.

Pakistan is in a unique position with regards to the Middle East. It has absolutely no political agendas there and is trusted by all countries. The countries previously ravaged by wars and costly power struggles now want peace and development. Pakistan should step up to play the important support roles and provide its best manpower to nurture development there. Time is of the essence.

– Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst.

Twitter: @JavedHafiz8

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view