Authored by: Alina Malik
Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi
STRATEGIC VISION INSTITUTE (SVI), ISLAMABAD
Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) in collaboration with AGAHI held a brainstorming session on ‘Trend Impact Analysis-The Future of Possibilities’ in order to identify unprecedented future events that would have an impact on the future of Pakistan. A broad range of experts from various fields including politics, economics, military, media etc. participated in the event and gave their insight on the future of Pakistan in relation to their respective fields. Topics such as future events, latest developments, trends being followed and their impact on Pakistan were discussed.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) warmly welcomed the Chief Guest Air Chief Marshal (R) Sohail Aman NI(M), and other participants including Senator Musadiq Malik, Lt. Gen. (R) Naeem Khalid Lodhi HI(M) (Former Minister for Defence), and Mr. Khalid Banuri (Advisor to SPD). Dr. Cheema expressed his heartfelt gratitude for their attendance. He appreciated the efforts of Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary (Founder/President AGAHI) for organizing this event and compiling Pakistan’s Future Index Report. He explained that the project was launched in 2017 wherein the Foresight Lab has been instrumental in preparing the Pakistan State of Future Index Report. This report is basically a 10 year study into the future of Pakistan comprising 30 variables that indicate if the future is bright or bleak. He maintained that this project is first of its kind and no such work has been carried out in Pakistan before. He also highlighted the importance of data gathered in the Future Index Report for the decision makers in every walk of life as it can help identify credible future developments.
Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary formally began the session which was followed by introduction of all the participants. She posed two questions to the participants to keep in mind while introducing themselves; first was “who you are?” and second was “why are you here?” All the participants including the Chief Guest gave short answers to the questions. Some of the responses can be seen below:
Mr. Asif Iftikhar (Professor-LUMS, Lahore): I hope to learn something new from this session.
Mr. Hisham Sajad (Business Partner Unilever): It is cool to know new trends and see how they affect lives.
Mr. Aahil Nakhda (Professor IBA, Karachi): I look forward to knowing about the future.
Dr. Samia Raheel (Ex MNA Jammat-e-Islami): It will be an honor for me to learn from the exceptional people and I look forward to incorporating my suggestions about addition of family index in the Future Index Report.
Dr. Tariq Ahmed (Dean-BUITEMS, Quetta): Looking forward to learning about business indexes in this session.
Dr. Saad Khan (Dean Faculty of Science-Dadabhoy Institute): I have worked with AGAHI for two years and have held events in Karachi. Now I am looking forward to attending such events in Islamabad.
Ms. Sadia Tariq (Researcher-Sanjan Nagar Institute): I’m interested in knowing about new interventions to create a better tomorrow for ourselves.
Mr. Saud Bangash (Resident Director, Pakistan Business Council): This is a new concept for me and I’m curious to learn more about it.
Dr. Salma Malik (Assistant Professor Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad): Planning for the future is important and it requires a strategy.
Most of the participants showed interest in learning something new from this session and implementing it to create a better tomorrow. Dr. Samia Raheel, Ex MNA of Jamaat-e-Islami expressed her desire to incorporate family index in the Future Index Report in order to better understand family structures in Pakistan.
Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary gave an insight about the future by stating how the world is progressing and how the definition of everything keeps on changing with time. Each time the definition changes, the way the data is collected also changes. She highlighted the need to gather data in order to predict the future. She further asked “Data is not something new but why are we considering it as the oil of this century?” She responded to this question by stating that when we start to project or forecast data it is not enough because we need to develop a 4 method to collect and organize data to be able to make it useful. There is a need to figure out different ways of looking at ourselves and the way we work.
Speaking as the Chief Guest, Air Chief Marshal (R) Sohail Aman NI(M) gave his views on ‘Trend Impact Analysis’. He stated that the ability to look at the intangible data to predict the future is something very important. He pointed at the missing link at policy levels which results in policies being drafted but not implemented. This issue forms the basis of many problems facing this country.
He expressed his views about the security situation of Pakistan that has increasingly hindered the development of this country. It has led to hindrances in many areas of development and has prevented investments from coming in. Nonetheless, Pakistan has been able to defeat one of the major threats it faces i.e. terrorism. This has been possible because of various operations carried out by the military such as Operation Zarb-e-Azab and Operation Radd-ul-Fasad. Efforts of the military has reduced the threat of terrorism in the country hence a bright future awaits Pakistan.
Referring to the recent clashes between India and Pakistan, Former Air Chief Marshal applauded the capabilities of Pakistan Air Force in responding to Indian air strikes post Pulwama attack. Pakistan’s effective response to Indian military adventures gave a strong message that Pakistan is not a weak country. Shooting down the Indian aircraft shook India and made it clear that it cannot mess with Pakistan anymore. Pakistan will always strike back if its sovereignty is breached. He highlighted the significance of technical expertise especially in terms of aircraft repair inside Pakistan. This has helped the country to become self-sufficient and not be dependent on external powers for help. Linking Air Force with Trend Impact Analysis, he talked about the future of Air Force in Pakistan. Currently, Air Force is witnessing a series of developments owing to advancement in technology. Though Pakistan does not have a lot of aircrafts still it has the ability to strike back if threatened.
He expressed hope in people of Pakistan who according to him have immense potential and talent that needs to be explored and utilized. He suggested that it is high time that we look towards each other for help instead of looking outside. There is nothing that Pakistan isn’t capable of doing. However, it is a fact that the ever changing security situation of Pakistan makes it difficult to focus on development of the country. Stability, security and prosperity go hand in hand. Pakistan has ample opportunities waiting for it but the state institutions need to work together in order to exploit these opportunities. Former Air Chief further implied that leadership is an important variable that needs to be studied. Quoting the example of the West he stated that the West focuses a lot on their leadership as it is a big intangible variable that is useful for predicting the future.
Speaking on the importance of Pakistan State of Future Index, Senator Musadiq Malik stated that future is but a linear continuity of the present. The framework conditions change from time to time which results in drastic changes in our surroundings for which we need to adapt accordingly. He outlined the significance of drawing out a strategy to get things done. According to him, strategy is something that tells how to get to a particular aspiration. He gave example of “Alice in Wonderland” novel where the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat follows:
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don’t much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go. Alice: ….so long as I get somewhere. The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
Similarly, it doesn’t matter what path one takes to fulfill ones dreams as long as there is a will to embark on the journey, it will lead to the desired place. Furthermore, it is not always imperative to have a definite strategy to work things out. Strategies may change with time and situation. Nonetheless, it is an important part of planning as without a strategy one can only imagine what is required but not how to get it.
He further explained two main approaches to strategy: i) ambition driven approach and ii) condition driven approach. The ambition driven approach answers the question “what would it take to do something?” This strategy explores the options one has and allows to choose the most important/viable option. This helps focus on the objectives and eventually in attaining the goals. The condition driven approach provides answers to questions such as “what can we do about it?” This type of strategy helps in carrying out a SWOT analysis of the objectives and helps comprehend the nature of these objectives. According to this analysis a strategy can be devised that is more effective and efficient.
Strategy plays an important role in defining what the future will look like. Based on the plans and the way they are executed, it is quite possible to predict what the future will look like. To devise robust strategies there should be diverse future scenarios to choose from.There is a need to embrace the fact that futures cannot be constructed without the required data. Hence, to make predictions about the future there is a need to have authentic and verifiable data in hand. To forecast a plausible future one can safely assume a linear future for maximum three to four years. This will allow development of a strategy for a particular time period. After this, a new strategy will have to be crafted out in order to address the changes in every sector over a particular time period. He further stated that it is not essential to keep on changing the strategies after every few months or every year. A single strategy can work out well for some years as changes taking place in every sector have a slow momentum.
Senator Malik concluded by outlining three levels that need to be studied in order for Pakistan to move forward. First, the art of possibilities is the strategic space. Opportunities available for Pakistan to develop are numerous in number but we lack effective strategies for effective results. Second, at present, the drivers of success are quite different from the drivers of success in the past. Everything changes if the basis of competition/sustainability changes. As a result, a strategy which is effective to deal with one issue might not be effective for other issues. Therefore, there is a dire need of exploring new options and avenues to resolve our 7 country’s issues. Third, the fewer the variables we have the more productive the study will be. Instead of analyzing various variables to predict future, we should focus on few important variables to get better results.
This talk was followed by an interactive group activity where Commodore Muhammad Azhar (Community Lead AGAHI) conducted a group exercise among the participants. Forms were distributed to list down possible future events or developments that they believed would happen in Pakistan in next five to ten years. Along with this, another document prepared by the Millennium Project and AGAHI was also distributed among the participants. This document contained a list of events and the probability of them happening in the next 10 years. This gave an idea to the participants about the kind of events they were required to list down. Participants were given ten minutes to fill out the form and the results were compiled by Air Commodore (R) Khalid Banuri. Participant’s responses included a high probability of food security threat, high possibility of youth making an impact, increase in population of the country, and improved literacy rate etc.
Air Commodore (R) Khalid Banuri briefly presented a synthesis about the future of Pakistan. Talking about the Future Index Report, he reiterated that collecting data is important in order to understand the future of a country. He believed that home grown solutions can work better to resolve problems of Pakistan. It is not necessary that every time a borrowed solution would work for Pakistan. Our problems are different from other countries hence; we need to resolve them through different strategies. Summarizing the event, he focused on the future of possibilities for Pakistan and stated that there is a need to put aside the conflicts for a while and focus on the competitive areas in different sectors such as trade in order to benefit more. The region in which Pakistan lies makes up one fifth of the world’s population. This means Pakistan has numerous opportunities waiting for it in the future and it has the potential to exploit these opportunities. The future of this country is full of possibilities and if the country wants to excel, it can do so by all means.
He expressed that making comparison of the South Asian region with the European Union might look absurd for now but if not today, may be in the coming time for example in next 50 years both regions can be compared. This is because the countries in South Asia have the potential to develop themselves and be at par with other developed nations of the world.
After his brief talk Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary randomly asked some of the participants about the future of Pakistan in their relevant fields. She asked Dr. Tariq Ahmed (Dean-BUITEMS Quetta) how he views the future of Baluchistan. Dr. Tariq Ahmed focused on the academic development and expressed hope that even though currently the standard of education in the province is quite low but there is room for improvement. There is a high scope for applied research in the province. He pointed to the abundant mineral reserves of the province that need to be exploited. Once fully explored and efficiently exploited, Baluchistan can be developed and be at par with other provinces.
Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary asked Mr. Hisham Sajad (Business Partner Unilever) to shed light on the possible future for Karachi. In response he stated that Karachi has a lot of potential to lift the country up. But when it comes to statistics and numbers, people tend to run away from it. To look at Karachi’s future there can be different matrices and each matrix would give a different future for the city.
Replying to the question about the evolution of family structure in Pakistan, Dr. Samia Raheel (Ex MNA, Jammat-e-Islami) stated that family structure is the least studied variable in Pakistan. This is one of the major reasons why the country’s population is increasing day by day. She emphasized on the need to study the family index along with other variables to resolve Pakistan’s population crises. She recommended the variable to be incorporated in the Future Index Report and also suggested to take help from Islamic principles in order to reform Pakistan’s family structures and resolve the family matters.
Senator Musadiq Malik also deliberated on the future of Pakistan and stated that in order for Pakistan to excel, it needs to change its theatre of operation. Currently, Pakistan is trapped in a security theatre and is somewhat stuck into it. This has shifted the country’s focus from pursuing development related programs to enhancing the country’s security to ensure protection from internal and external threats. Pakistan needs to change its theatre and move towards a peace oriented arena as it would be more beneficial for the country. Changing the theatre would create new possibilities and would enable out of the box thinking.
Lt. Gen. (R) Khalid Naeem Lodhi HI(M) summarized the session by stating important points made in the discussion about the future of possibilities. He noted that predicting the future is not an easy task and authenticity of data is the major requirement. Unless the data is authentic, no one will believe the predictions. Just as while pursuing a certain interest, all the possible means are employed, similar should be the case with data. To acquire data, there is a need to explore all the possible and reliable means of gathering it. However, sometimes even when the data is authentic, it faces difficulty in finding acceptability. The data might contradict with the societal norms of a country and may not be acceptable to a large number of people. Hence, this is to be kept in mind that there is no point in gathering and working on a data that is not in line with the thinking patterns of the relevant society. Such type of activity will go to waste if it is not largely accepted. This is one area where we should also focus when carrying out such activities.
For the future of Pakistan to be bright, it needs to settle down as a normal nation state. He highlighted three main areas that required attention: polity, society, and institutions. He believed that working on these areas would pave way for development in Pakistan. He further stressed on the need to study the behavior and thinking patterns of Pakistani society. How the society thinks and behaves describes the areas that need to be focused on. He concluded by stating that the Future Index Report has a good application especially in the fields of economy, 10 society and governance. He maintained that all these fields are interrelated with each other therefore; one is dependent on the other for wholesome prosperity.
Mr. Ross Masood Husain (Chairperson SVI) was asked by Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary about the kind of Pakistan he sees in the future. To this question he responded that Pakistan had seen a rise during the initial 10-15 years after its independence. Sadly, afterwards there has been a constant downfall of the country. Pakistan has touched rock bottom as many believe. Nonetheless, there is still hope. The youth of this country has the potential to take the country in the right direction.
Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary concluded the session by thanking the Chief Guest Air Chief Marshal (R) Sohail Aman NI(M) for gracing the occasion with his kind presence. She also thanked President/Executive Director SVI; Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema for the institute’s cooperation with AGAHI in organizing the In-house session.
The event was covered by the print and social media as is evident through the following links: