A National Car For Pakistan: The Insaf of Transportation
A policy paper for the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
Meinhaj Hussain, Grandestrategy.com
January 23rd, 2012
How long will we watch entire families being driven in a motorcycle? Why cannot a nation of 170 million people build a simple, bare basic car that is 100% manufactured in Pakistan?
These are questions that vex every Pakistani, for the vast majority of whom, owning a car is still a distant dream. Building a simple, bare-basic car is not the impossible affair it seems, the truth perhaps lies in vested interests within the country that seek to support their contracts and deals with foreign car companies. Further, a national car project would require a just and competent government, free of safarish and political meanderings around the interests of individual decision makers rather than the national interest.
But the tragedy of a family on a motorcycle, weathering rain, baking hot-sunshine and suffering a tragic accident needs to be urgently dealt with if there is to be insaf to the average Pakistani family, which is unable to afford today’s automotive options. Let us close our eyes and dream for a minute, of what seems unimaginable, the impossible… A bare basic car that has a 100cc engine not dissimilar to the Indian Tata Nano, yet even simpler: A single door, from the driver’s side. It runs on a 100cc engine, placed behind. The car has a simple manual steering wheel. It has windows that are made of thick plastic and opened and closed as zippers, like those on a jacket. It has no air-conditioning, but simple vents for the hot air inside the vehicle to escape. Our imaginary car has three gears, and when it rains, it relies on a single wiper blade. The horn is a simple brass curly-cue with a rubber ball. The roof is made from a simple, insular material that ensures that the car does not turn into an oven in Pakistan’s hot climate, something Western designs fail miserably at. It is made from steel made from iron ore and coal available inside the country, proudly. The seat covers are made from thick cotton material, and the car handle is wrapped in Pakistani leather.
Like the model T, this car will be produced en mass for the people. No break it production, 24/7/365, the factory will not stop. The factory will be a fully integrated and large-scale affair that will seek to vertically integrate as far as possible. If excess is produced, they will be given to young army officers, civil servants and any the government of the day feels disposed towards. Every foreign consulate will be turned into a showroom and export point for this car. Every nation’s capital in this planet will have a showroom for the car and the government will make agreements with Muslim countries to allow the export of the car under minimal tariffs. Third World markets particularly South East Asia, Africa and Latin America could be targeted.
The impact of such a car would be enormous. Consider the impact of the Ford Model T – over 15 million cars in two decades of production. John Steinbeck's Cannery Row talks of the model T’s impact in the following words:
"Someone should write an erudite essay on the moral, physical, and esthetic effect of the Model T Ford on the American nation. Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than about the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars. With the Model T, part of the concept of private property disappeared. Pliers ceased to be privately owned and a tire iron belonged to the last man who had picked it up. Most of the babies of the period were conceived in Model T Fords and not a few were born in them. The theory of the Anglo Saxon home became so warped that it never quite recovered."
Yet another car that has become a nation-transforming symbol of mass production success is the Volkswagen Beetle. With over 21 million units produced worldwide, it transformed lifestyles and became an integral part of not only German culture, but cultures within various other countries.
Coal & Steel Industry
The basis of any industrial state is really its coal and steel industry. Without being able to create the basic material of industrial development in an efficient manner, an entire nation is doomed to remain uncompetitive in its products. The sad reality about Pakistan is that the basis for such an industry is available in the country – Pakistan possesses ample steel-grade coal and iron ore deposits. In the 1960s, a plan was made to build a railway between the major iron ore and the coal mining areas and to import world-class steel mills, one for each of the two areas. This would have provided a very efficient steel industry in Pakistan that could have the potential of being globally competitive. Unfortunately for this plan, Z. A. Bhutto instead, imported an uncompetitive steel mill from the Soviet Union and placed it near Port Qasim, Karachi. This steel mill has been running in the red and hindering the development of Pakistan ever since. Hundreds of millions of dollars of losses, but this national project seems too big to be allowed to die.
The present global recession is an ideal time for Pakistan to buy and import those two quality steel mills that were originally planned, perhaps at a bargain price. The Chinese on one occasion took such an advantageous bargain from the Germans. The story is one of not only astute understanding of the market but also of home-grown ingenuity.
In China Shakes the World, James Kynge talks about how ThyssenKrupp’s steel mill in Dortmund, one of the largest in Germany was sold to China. The confidence of the Chinese was such that, led by a peasant-worker Shen Wenrong and his team of a thousand rag-tag peasants that they removed the steel mill and set it up in China in less than a year. With that steel mill, China almost instantly doubled its national steel production. The moral of the story is that a little self-confidence and strategic planning can go a long way.
Pakistan must start to build a viable and efficient steel industry. The ingredients for such an industry are already present. A coal and steel industry can serve the nation for many purposes including for building Pakistan’s first national car, mass produced in a scale never before seen in Pakistan, a car that would transform the life of the average Pakistani. Such a car would drastically improve the condition of the people, allowing them to freely move around the country in search of their livelihood or for any purpose they deem fit, creating a vibrant and free society. It would provide employment and an engineering and industrial capacity that would have enormous economies of scale and scope. This insaf of transportation is a revolution that can only be pursued by an honest and determined government, namely the Pakistan of Tehreek-e-Insaf, under the able leadership of Imran Khan.