Interview with Mr Aamir Ijaz Khan — Executive Director, ICMA International
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your organization, please.
Aamir Ijaz Khan: By profession, I am a Fellow Cost and Management Accountant and have on my credit around 20 years of diversified experience in the areas of Client Servicing, Project Implementation, Business Repositioning, Financial Management, and Compliance. I am also a SAP, FICO Certified Consultant. Before joining ICMA Pakistan as Executive Director, I was serving as Head of Quality Assurance at M/s. Innovative Pvt. Ltd. I had also worked as an Audit MIS Expert (Punjab) in a World Bank-funded project named “Project to Improve Financial Reporting & Auditing” (PIFRA) and as Executive Financial Accountant at Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
At ICMA Pakistan, I held several positions including Chairman of the Lahore Branch Council (LBC) during the period from 2011 to 2013. Being a pioneer member of the Quality Assurance Board of ICMA Pakistan, I remained a vocal participant for the first four years of its inception. I also served ICMA Lahore Toastmasters Club as its Founder President. Currently, I am a member of the Management Committee of MENSA International – Pakistan Chapter. As a professional trainer and motivational speaker, I have conducted many training sessions and workshops. I have contributed various papers on national and international forums on themes of Growth Dynamics of the Pakistani Services Sector, Pakistan’s economy, economic sectors’ strategic dynamics, budgetary measures, etc.
PAGE: What is the difference in Independence Day Celebrations nowadays vis-a-vis the 60s, 70s, and 80s, to be precise?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: The Pakistani nation has always been celebrating Independence Day of the country with great zeal and fervor, marked by flag hoisting ceremonies at public buildings and private organizations across the country. Special programs are also arranged by educational institutions and social clubs and societies to observe this historical day. With every passing year, we can witness the increasing enthusiasm and patriotism of the citizens in celebrating Independence Day.
The nationalism of the people of Pakistan has strengthened with time, even though the vested and unscrupulous national and foreign elements have and are continuously trying to create religious and sectarian rifts and conflicts. During the 1960s, the sentiments of the Pakistani nation were very high as the country at that time was progressing well and due to high economic growth, Pakistan was being singled out as a leading industrial country in the world. In 1971, with the partition of Pakistan into East and West wings and then the nationalization of industries, the economic progress of the country retarded. However, despite this, the nation continued to celebrate Independence Day with zeal and enthusiasm.
PAGE: Is Pakistan of today different from the Pakistan of 1947?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: No doubt about it. Pakistan of today is much different from Pakistan at independence in 1947. This country came to birth in unfavorable circumstances and had to experience a plethora of problems, mostly created intentionally by India to fail the new-borne state. The country had no resources and everything had to be built from a scratch. The areas coming under Pakistan mostly consisted of economically backward and under-developed; the agriculture system was obsolete and the entire capital and resources were in the hands of Hindus. There was an acute shortage of skilled labor force and experts to establish and run industries.
Above all, there was the mammoth task for the new Government headed by Governor General Quaid-e-Azam M. A. Jinnah, to settle the huge influx of Muslim refugees migrating from different parts of India to Pakistan. According to sources, almost 65 lac people migrated to Pakistan, out of which 52 lac people migrated to Punjab. It was not an easy task for the government to make permanent arrangements for the resettlement of so many people. Despite limited resources, Pakistan set up refugee camps for the migrants and provided them with food and healthcare.
At independence, the economy was predominately agrarian but has since greatly diversified. The country’s economic performance is superior to that of many other emerging nations, and Pakistan has maintained a consistent annual growth rate since independence, albeit few difficult phases. The industrial base has expanded since independence and our manufacturing sector is exporting quality products worldwide. Our educated and skilled human resource are providing their services to many countries and playing a dynamic role in the economic growth of the country.
PAGE: Have we made headway as a nation?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: This question is similar to the previous one. As a nation, we have progressed in terms of education, living standard, and finance. However, we must admit the reality that the unity among the nation is not as high as it was during the yesteryears of independence. There are divisions among the countrymen based on language and provinces and even political affiliations and this is getting more intense with every passing day. We must inculcate a sense of unity and patriotism in our ranks to thwart the evil designs of our enemies.
PAGE: Is our industry what we envisioned at the time of Independence?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: A quick response to this question would be ‘No’. We must have progressed industrially much more and our founder leaders and policymakers would also have envisioned the same. During the 1960s, we were moving with full force and our economic growth rate was highest as compared to other developed countries at that time. Many large infrastructure projects, like dams, and industries were built during this decade. However, as I had mentioned before, with the breakup of the country into two parts, followed by the nationalization of industries, the economy fell. New investments stopped and many big industrial tycoons left the country.
Nationalization caused great damage to the private sector and created problems of mismanagement of resources, overstaffing, inappropriate and costly investments, poor quality of services, and heavy losses to various public enterprises.
Furthermore, the decision by the successive Pakistani governments to take loans from IMF and other international donor agencies and the mismanagement of these loans led to increasing our debt burden. Since then, we have not emancipated ourselves from the ‘begging bowl’, and our economic growth hinges on the bail-out packages from IMF. There is a need for a national resolve to come out of this debt trap and generate our resources to meet the development expenditures and most importantly to build our engineering and other industrial bases. The government must provide lucrative incentives to Pakistani and foreign investors to establish new industries, especially those which are labor-intensive.
PAGE: Where do you see Pakistan ten years down the line?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: Well, I am quite optimistic that after ten years, Pakistan would be well ahead and would be able to come out of the difficult time that we are facing at present. Having said that, I think that it would not be so easy. There are some big challenges and issues that need to be tackled. The first issue is political stability without which economic progress and stability would not be forthcoming.
The second issue is our dependence on IMF for loans, and unless we do not create sufficient revenue to meet our expenses and repay loans, we would continue to take dictation from them.
Thirdly, we must boost our exports double-fold to eliminate the trade imbalance and ease pressure on the Pak Rupee. There is also a need for an industrial policy that may lead to the creation of new industries across the country.
A Charter of Economy with mutual consent of all stakeholders including the political parties is the need of the hour to pave the way for an economy-reliant Pakistan. We need to find ways to build unity and chalk out an economic plan that could benefit all the provinces. The help of professionals and experts is needed to assist the government in developing the charter of the economy. Ideally, this move for a better Pakistan should be led by young people. We hope to see Pakistan progressing persistently with stable and sustainable economic growth.