In Turbulent Pakistan, Start-Ups Drive a Boom

Posted on September 11, 2007

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By PETER WONACOTT
September 5, 2007; Page A1, Wall Street Journal

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s political scene is growing more clouded, but a clear demonstration of confidence in the country’s future is coming from an emerging economic force: entrepreneurs.

Scores of new businesses once unseen in Pakistan, from fitness studios to chic coffee shops to hair-transplant centers, are springing up in the wake of a dramatic economic expansion. As a result, new wealth and unprecedented consumer choice have become part of Pakistan’s volatile social mix. […]

A new class of entrepreneurs is emerging who, in small but significant ways, have challenged the religious orthodoxy. They provide a stark counterpoint to the rising Islamic radicalism that the U.S. and others view as a threat to Pakistan’s position as a staunch Western ally. And with many importing ideas from abroad, they are contributing to Pakistan’s 21st-century search for itself.

“Can you be modern and Muslim? How is Pakistan going to link into the global economy?” asks Ali Cheema, an economics professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, who has researched Pakistan’s entrepreneurs. “These people are posing important questions.”

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