Pakistan, A Bittersweet Homecoming

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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.


Zeeshan Suhail

Communications Officer

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