When American citizens Gary D. LeClair and Mike Mulvihill arrived in Karachi, they had many negatives in their minds. This changed to positive once they got to see the place and meet the people.
When Gary LeClair and Mike Mulvihill visited the fish harbour in Karachi, they opened the car window to smell the breeze outside. This was the signature they were looking for as an authentic token of the reality of the place rather than a protected look through a closed glass window.
Gary LeClair, Mike Mulvihill and their wives were in Karachi recently to attend the wedding of the son of their friend and business associate, Owais Dagra.
During their 10-day stint they were taken across Karachi and its environs by their hosts, thus getting the opportunity to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. They met bankers and stock exchange executives, a tribal chief and the owner of a fishing trawler, textile mill workers and metal crafters, high officials at Sui Sothern Gas Company, doctors at the Aga Khan University Hospital and worshippers at a mosque.
Gary D. LeClair is the founder and Chairman of the national law firm LeClair Ryan which provides securities and general counsel services through some 350 lawyers based in cities all the way from New York to Los Angeles. He has been the lead attorney in private and public financings, joint ventures, strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions and other major domestic and international transactions. He has also served as director of various business entities, including a bank, an independent trust company, a residential developer, an ecommerce business and a retail network.
Although avid global-trotters, this was the first time that the LeClairs were visiting any part of South Asia. Gary said that as far as Americans are concerned, their perceptions about the outside world tend to be limited and that his impressions of Pakistan were influenced by news coverage of the Taliban and the war in Afghanistan which tended to put Pakistan in a negative light. But he said that since Americans are skeptical people, it’s good that they want to hear the other side of the story as well. After he and his friends arrived in Karachi and experienced the country and the people from close, they found everything to be so different – there were so many positives about Pakistan they never knew about.
Gary says Pakistan is like any other young and growing country with the added advantages of a common law that it has inherited from the British, the English language which is the means of official and business communication and a high number of very well-educated professionals.
He is also impressed by the downright kindness of the Pakistani people. In his view, Pakistan should aggressively promote everything good about itself – like its diversity in food, the warmth of its people, its long and beautiful coastline, its vibrant fashion industry and the freedom of the press. This would be an answer to the negative picture of Pakistan that the international media tends to paint.
Gary agrees that Pakistan also faces a number of challenges, like corruption, lawlessness, etc., but he says, it took the United States some 200 years to overcome all this – the various mafias that controlled everything, so this should not worry Pakistan.
In his view, Pakistan should prove to be an attractive destination for foreign investment because the people are hard working and also kind and respectful. He met a wide cross-section during his stay in the country and they all came across as people of dynamism and vitality who had a positive attitude towards everything. What added to this was the country’s intellectual capital – all those Pakistanis who have received education and training abroad. As such, Gary feels that Pakistan must focus on its positives and take
advantage of the many opportunities it has in terms of its young population and its countless attractions in every walk of life.
Mike Mulvihill is Executive Vice President of the major American PR company Padilla/CRT, which is one of the top 10 independent public relations and communications firms in the US. Mike has developed a wealth of experience working with a range of top line clients including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, colleges and universities, banks, associations, professional service organizations, not-for-profit companies and high technology firms.
For Mike and his wife too, this was their first visit to Pakistan and it proved to be a great experience for them. Mike says that when he and his friends were planning the visit, a lot of people asked them why we were going to Pakistan of all places because the State Department discouraged Americans from visiting this particular South Asian country.
However, after Mike and his other associates landed in Karachi, they found it to be a different place altogether and were welcomed by people from across all strata. They say they never for a moment felt threatened in any way. They were impressed by the overall young age of the population as well as by the economic vibrancy that clearly came across.
Mike Mulvihill agrees that since Pakistan is a young country, it is going through its growing pains but he feels that it should take advantage of its best resource – the youth. He regretted that the international news media only show a small and negative slice of what the country really is and compared this to showing crime in the Bronx area of New York rather than showing all the good things about the United States.
Mike is of the opinion that there is nothing necessarily wrong with Pakistan and the country can move towards economic stability with confidence. What it needs is a better infrastructure and improvements at the socio-economic level. Given that, the country has the potential to grow rapidly because it has so much in natural resources that can fetch it good money.
Mike particularly enjoyed his visit to the Stallion Textiles Mills Ltd. in Nooriabad which had about 2,000plus workers and was probably the biggest such mill in the world.
The wedding Mike and Gary attended with their spouses offered the kind of festivities they had never seen before. The women visited different beauty parlours almost every day to get ready for the wedding functions and were amazed by the latest services offered. They loved the complicated patterns of henna (mehndi) that were applied to their hands and feet and also the glass churris (bangles) they wore at the various ceremonies. They found the Pakistani dresses they got to wear very comfortable and the men loved their Peshawari chappals (sandals).
The group attended a loud New Year’s bash, the like of which they hadn’t seen for many years. Their stay was, in fact, a sampling of Karachi life that included sorties to bazaars and shopping malls like the Pak Towers and Dolmen Mall as well as eating sprees at restaurants that ranged from a dhaba in Nazimabad called Café Majestic where they had daal to a roadside tea stall in the same area, a high-end fine dining French restaurant, exquisite Japanese cuisine and everything else in between that served mouthwatering Pakistani food.
Mike says Pakistan has tremendous natural resources, such as one of the world’s largest deposits of copper and its delicious mango and oranges crops. To him what makes Pakistan so important is its size and location because it is the 6th largest country in the world in terms of population and among the 11 developing economies. Pakistan should take advantage of its easy access to China and India and develop business to business contacts, so that consumer goods can move from Pakistan to these markets because this offers a great world of opportunity.
In Mike’s view, Pakistan could be a good investment destination because the stock market here is doing so well, the economy is young and the regulatory setup provides great opportunities. As for the negative factors, he says those are a reality in other countries too and things get done there. These should not be taken as deterrents as a positive culture of business is evolving in the country. He feels foreign investors would soon head to the country because it offers vast physical and human resources.
As for all the concern about safety, in Mike’s view, this would also apply to many other places around the world. He says that Pakistan should make extra efforts to bring about global awareness about its vast natural resources and should act very proactively to promote this to the advantage of the country.
Gary LeClair: Focus on positives, take advantage of opportunities.
Mike Mulvihill: Pakistan could be a good investment destination.