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Pakistan, A Bittersweet Homecoming

Zeeshan Suhail's picture
Speaking with colleague Ahsan Tehsin, who worked on the Bank's damage and needs assessment for Pakistan.

I have always had a desire to work in a developing country and have felt a pull towards Pakistan due to my heritage. So after two exciting years in Washington DC, I came across an opportunity to work in the Islamabad office; I went for it.

Within days of accepting the position -to work for the Multi-Donor Trust Fund supporting the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan regions- I was in Islamabad. I had lived in the country for years when I was younger. With family and my fluency in Urdu, this was a homecoming of sorts, but a bittersweet one.

Each day on my way to work I am welcomed by the many checkpoints placed every few kilometers with law enforcement inspecting every vehicle with caution and professionalism (two qualities I once thought they were incapable of possessing!). I encounter at least seven checkpoints. The security situation has deteriorated to such an extent that these barriers to the flow of traffic - and in the mornings, to the flow of thought – bring calm to an otherwise chaotic world.

Never a dull moment

I’ve only been here a few weeks, but am constantly reminded of something a colleague here wrote to me prior to starting: There is never a dull day in a country office. Little did I know how true this axiom would be!

Since coming on-board, I have been in non-stop meetings and am tremendously humbled by the dedication and commitment of Bank staff. These professionals bring not just years of valuable local knowledge and know-how, but optimism and vitality to a city – and country – that is seemingly bogged down with negativity and pessimism.

The Floods

Meetings with bilateral donor representatives
from Germany and Italy to formalize their
participation in the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for
the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan regions.

The recent floods have impacted every single Pakistani – rich and poor, old and young. Entire towns were swept away in hours, livelihoods destroyed so quickly, decades of development efforts vanished in mere days. The media did a great job in covering the disaster initially, but in their wake the victims still remain.

Pakistanis are incredibly resilient people. Civil society has mobilized in a way I’ve never seen before. Public servants are donating portions of their salaries, models and actors are auctioning clothing and youth are organizing concerts and other events.

The Bank’s commitment is historic and unprecedented. Existing Bank programs and projects in Pakistan have been restructured so that $1 billion of IDA funding will be available for rehabilitation work in the years ahead. I hope for tremendous good to come from all the efforts towards building a stronger Pakistan.

People here have realized that reliance on charity will only go so far. Donors and aid groups have indicated that the government of Pakistan needs to implement reforms in many areas which will help in raising the funds necessary to bring normalcy to the millions of people and vast swaths of land affected by the floods. The Vice President for the South Asia region, Isabel Guerrero, has noted that transparency and accountability will be pivotal going forward. Of course, this process will be long and the road arduous, but I hope the Multi Donor Trust Fund will help in a small way. Its success is critical not just for the Pakistani people, but for similar endeavors the Bank undertakes in the future.

In that respect, it gives me peace of mind that not only am I working for a premier international development agency, but that this agency is helping my people, my country. I hope others who come from developing countries have the opportunity to help their people as well. It’s an experience I am certain they will enjoy and recall fondly when they look back.

Comments

Submitted by Akmal on
It gives me genuine pleasure to read and to know that you are being of great help to your country when it is most in need. I wish you the very best in your undertakings.

Thanks, Akmal. Indeed that is the greatest solace I can take from my work. Our projects are getting started and it's heart-wrenching to see the catastrophic effects. They will linger for years. Keep us in your prayers. Thanks.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I share the same sentiment. Lots of memories when I was there many years ago. Best regards!

Submitted by Salman Anees on
It is great to hear from you! I am glad you are seeing positive aspects when all we hear is bad news from Pakistan. I wish you and our colleagues there well. Keep it up!

Salman, thanks! As you can see, im still in some ways attached to our broader DRM family, and im glad I can use some of that knowledge towards enhancing life in Pakistan. Keep me in your prayers!

Submitted by ali ishaq on
Zeeshan, thanks so much for the post. It does indeed seem like a bittersweet homecoming. It is great that intelligent and accomplished people like you are taking an active role in the relief effort. Keep up the great work!

Thanks, Ali! We are all trying our little bit to do what we can. And every little bit does go far - at least one hopes! Thanks for the kind words and comments. Much appreciated!

Submitted by Hamza Ishaq on
Salamalikum Zeeshan. I'm Ali's youngest brother, we met in D.C. a little while back. I'm here in Karachi for the first time in my life. It's been about four weeks now and have seen multiple issues that Pakistani has to face. It's good to know there's kind compassionate people like you who are willing to help out a country in need. You inspire me to come back someday and do the same.

Submitted by Zeeshan on
Walikum asalaam, Hamza! So kind of you to provide feedback on the piece. I remember Ali reached out for some help regarding your current trip. I'll get your info from him and write directly. Thanks again for your comments.

Submitted by Tom Kirk on
Dear Zeeshan, I am a researcher at the London School of Economics and Social Science and would be very keen to know more about the Bank's work in Pakistan. For some years now my unit has been constructing a civil society network in Afghanistan and we aim to extend it to Pakistan. I would be very interested in learning about the type of civil society organisations working with the Bank and the Multi-Donor Trust Fund in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan regions. If you have time, please contact me via email and we can discuss this more. Failing this I would appreciate some direction on who to contact within the MDTF programme or where to find out more about the project. Kind regards, Tom Kirk

Submitted by Tom Kirk on
Zeeshan, I replied to your email, did you get it? Best, Tom

Submitted by Zohaib Ali Khan on
Finally some good news. Please let me know if in anyway I could be of help and Please tell our Fiscal Managers to stop waiting for the political leadership to decide and do something. Discount rate hike can only do so much.

Submitted by Zeeshan on
I'll do my best to convey your message but sadly, our fiscal managers dont have enough vision as yourself. Why dont you serve in the govt and help start a revolution?! Apologies for the delayed response; I just saw your message now.

Submitted by Jawad Ahmed on
My name is jawad Ahmed. I am currently doing Bachelors of Sciences in Accouting and Finance froma reputed University in Lahore. I would like to be a part of your organzation in order to help Humanity. Is there any way that i can contact you?

Submitted by Zeeshan on
Please look for the World Bank on various social media outlets. You can also subscibe to our various newsletters and read our blogs (like this one!). We dont have a "group" as such. Thanks for your interest!

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