Dr Atiq ur Rehman


Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad visited Pakistan March 21-23, 2019 at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Dr Mahathir was the Guest of Honour at the Pakistan Day Parade on 23 March. 

Part 1 of the blog was published (www.crvoices.com) on March 21 focusing on what Pakistan could learn  from Malaysia on political stability and consistent policies, law and order, competition among states, independence of institutions, automation and integration of government systems and processes, deregulation of economy, free flow of capital, and integration with regional economies.

Part 2 is focusing on what Pakistan could learn on women economic empowerment, technology and innovation, commercial centres, tourism, and coexistence. 

  • Women Empowerment: Women are socially and economically empowered in Malaysia. More than 90% women are literate. They are very active contributors to the economy. In 2017 female  labor force participation in Malaysia was 50.79% against just 24.93% in Pakistan. About 17% of the business organizations in Malaysia have women CEOs. Now the government is pursuing the goal to increase the share of women in the board of directors of companies to 30%.
  • Technology and innovation:  Malaysia is among the 35 leading countries in the world on account of Global Innovation Index. On Digital Evolution Index (2017), it secured a place at 26th position. Malaysia has made unprecedented advancement in artificial technology, Internet of Things (IOT), fintech, machine learning, and blockchain. The country has established several institutions to implement and monitor policies of the government to accelerate the process of technological transformation. The leading institution is the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), established by government way back in 1996. It had envisioned Malaysia to become a developed country by 2020. It is transforming Malaysia into a digital economy by attracting investors, globalising local tech champions, catalysing industry-driven digital ecosystem, building critical enablers of the digital economy and driving inclusive adoption of technology in all sectors of the economy. The country is fast becoming a paper-cashless economy.
  • Besides, the government has established a new city to enhance IT development. The city ‘Cyberjaya’ hosts world leading IT companies including IBM and HP. Cyberjaya aspires to be known as Silicon Valley of Malaysia.
  • Commercial centres: The state governments have enabled the private sector to establish big commercial centres in almost every part of the country. Production and trade units are facing increasingly tougher competition. This strategy keeps screening out relatively lesser efficient entities. Hence, everyone has to fight hard to make a place and grow.
  • Tourism : Every state in Malaysia has developed numerous spots to attract tourists. In 2017, Malaysia received 25.95 million foreign tourists – equivalent to 82% population of the country. The country earned RM82.2 billion (more than US$ 20 billion) in tourism receipts. This figure is almost equivalent to total annual export earnings of Pakistan. In 2018, the number of foreign tourists was expected to cross the mark of 33 million.  Pakistan has more avenues for foreign tourists – mountainous tourists, desert tourists, aquatic tourists, religious tourists – and what not? So what are we waiting for?
  • Coexistence: Malaysia has emerged as a multi-cultural society. Malays and other indigenous people are 58% of the population, Chinese are 24%, Tamils are 8% and others are 10%. The nation has gained tremendous ability to co-exist. No one is judged based on colour, creed, religion, sect, language or nationality. There is zero tolerance for hate speeches. Religious sermons are issued by the government. In many places you will find worship places of different religions located close to each other. Followers of each religion have learned how to respect others. In this way, diversity has become their core value.  

Concluding remarks : Pakistan can learn from the experience of Malaysia in all of the above ways. I am confident that if we adapt similar strategies, Pakistan can rapidly climb the ladder of social cohesion, economic growth and development. 


Dr Atiq ur Rehman is a Pakistani living in Malaysia. He  has been working as Chief Operating Officer with an IT company in Kuala Lumpur .