Tuesday, September 23, 2014

India, Bangladesh Most Vulnerable to Climate Change; China and Pakistan Close Behind

Bangladesh and India, along with several African nations, are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the United States, Canada and Western Europe are the least vulnerable, according to a recently-published assessment by Standard and Poor credit rating service.  The rich industrialized nations which have contribute the most to climate change are the least vulnerable to its disastrous effects now. The report says Pakistan and China are relatively less vulnerable than India and Bangladesh.



There are two basic reasons why poor countries are bearing the brunt of climate change: geography and poverty. Most of the red countries on the Standard and Poor map lie near the equator, where climate change-caused storms, flooding, and droughts will be more intense, according to media reports.  India is particularly vulnerable because of its rising population and depleting resources.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

Standard and Poor has ranked 116 nations according to their vulnerability across three indicators: proportion of population living lower than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level, share of agriculture in economic output and a vulnerability index compiled by Notre Dame University.

Standard and Poor's analysts led by Moritz Karemer warned that global warming “will put downward pressure on sovereign ratings during the remainder of this century,” “The degree to which individual countries and societies are going to be affected by warming and changing weather patterns depends largely on actions undertaken by other, often far-away societies.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen recurring droughts and massive flooding in recent years which have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries in addition to property losses. India has seen one farmer commit suicide every 30 minutes over the last two decades.

The fact is that the developing countries facing huge costs from climate change can do little to control it without significant help from the rich industrialized nations most responsible for it.  The World Bank is warning that this could lead to massive increases in disease, extreme storms, droughts, and flooding. Unless concerted action is taken soon, the World Bank President Jim Kim fears that the effects of climate change could roll back "decades of development gains and force tens of more millions of people to live in poverty."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Rising Population and Depleting Resources

Recurring Droughts and Flooding in Pakistan

An Indian Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes 

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia

Friday, September 19, 2014

Does China Seek to Dominate India, Africa and Latin America?

A new study shows that China is now India's top trading partner, edging out the United Arab Emirates—India’s previous top trading partner—and is comfortably ahead of the US and Saudi Arabia. India-China annual trade volume now adds up to about $70 billion, and India is running a massive $40 billion trade deficit with China. China exports high-value, high-tech machines to India while India exports low-value commodities to China.

Chinese Infrastructure Loans to India:

 China's state-owned banks are financing huge infrastructure projects in Africa and India to boost Chinese exports. Leading the effort are China's ExIm Bank, China Development Bank and China Industrial Commercial Bank. Major multi-billion dollar projects being signed by Chinese President Xi Jineng, currently visiting India, and Prime Minister Modi will be financed by loans from one or more of the state-owned Chinese banks.




Chinese Infrastructure Project Financing in Pakistan: 

China is also pursuing strategic Pakistan-China economic corridor which includes several large infrastructure projects worth tens of billions of US dollars connecting China with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. These projects will be financed by China's ExIm Bank and other state-owned banks.

In a report last year, China's State-owned Xinhua News Agency articulated China's motivation to expand land trade in addition to building its navy to protect its sea trade. Here's what it said:

“As a global economic power, China has a tremendous number of economic sea lanes to protect. China is justified to develop its military capabilities to safeguard its sovereignty and protect its vast interests around the world."

China's Global Superpower Ambitions: 

The Xinhua report has for the first time shed light on China's growing concerns with US pivot to Asia which could threaten China's international trade and its economic lifeline of energy and other natural resources it needs to sustain and grow its economy. This concern has been further reinforced by the following:

1. Frequent US statements to "check" China's rise.  For example, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a 2011 address to the Naval Postgraduate School in California: "We try everything we can to cooperate with these rising powers and to work with them, but to make sure at the same time that they do not threaten stability in the world, to be able to project our power, to be able to say to the world that we continue to be a force to be reckoned with." He added that "we continue to confront rising powers in the world - China, India, Brazil, Russia, countries that we need to cooperate with. We need to hopefully work with. But in the end, we also need to make sure do not threaten the stability of the world."

Source: The Guardian


2. Chinese strategists see a long chain of islands from Japan in the north, all the way down to Australia, all United States allies, all potential controlling chokepoints that could  block Chinese sea lanes and cripple its economy, business and industry.



Karakoram Highway-World's Highest Paved International Road at 15000 ft.


Chinese Premier's emphasis on "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" is mainly driven by their paranoia about the US intentions to "check China's rise" It is intended to establish greater maritime presence at Gwadar, located close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and  to build land routes (motorways, rail links, pipelines)  from the Persian Gulf through Pakistan to Western China. This is China's insurance to continue trade with West Asia and the Middle East in case of hostilities with the United States and its allies in Asia.

Pakistan's Gawadar Port- located 400 Km from the Strait of Hormuz


As to the benefits for Pakistanis, expanded trade and the Chinese investment in "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" will help build infrastructure, stimulate Pakistan's economy and create millions of badly needed jobs.

Clearly, China-Pakistan ties have now become much more strategic than the US-Pakistan ties, particularly since 2011 because, as American Journalist Mark Mazzetti of New York Times put it, the  Obama administration's heavy handed policies "turned Pakistan against the United States". A similar view is offered by a former State Department official Vali Nasr in his book "The Dispensable Nation".

Chinese Checkbook Diplomacy: 

China is now the biggest lender to the developing world,  surpassing the World Bank set up as an institution by the West to extend its dominance after WWII. China's checkbook diplomacy is bearing fruit with its growing trade making it the biggest trading partner of a growing number of countries and regions.  As China surpasses the United States as the largest economy and its trade volume explodes, it is very likely that the RMB (Yuan), the Chinese currency, will replace the US dollar as the world's main trade and reserve currency.

Between 2001 and 2010, China’s Export-Import Bank extended $62.7 billion in loans to African nations, or $12.5 billion more than the World Bank, according to Forbes magazine. Over the same period, trade between Africa and China grew by more than 700 per cent with China replacing the U.S. as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009.

Summary: 

History is filled with examples of great powers using trade and exports to extend their power and influence across the world. China appears to be taking a page from their playbook in pursuit of massive trade growth through check-book diplomacy in Africa, South Asia and South America.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

China's Checkbook Diplomacy

Japan to Finance, Build Karachi Mass Transit System

Pak-China Economic Corridor 

Soaring Chinese Imports and Twin Deficits in India

India-Israel Military Relations

Pakistan's Military Production

BRIC, Chindia, and the "Indian Miracle"

India's "Indigenous" Weapons

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

India's Growing Defense Budget

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changing Face of Pak Protests: Containers, Drones, Music, Social Media

PTI's month-long sit-in led by Imran Khan is setting new standards for political protest rallies in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of urban middle class Pakistanis are joining in to enthusiastically listen to the PTI chief's speeches from the top of a shipping container, with pauses filled with music and dance while media drones hover overhead to cover it 24X7. Social media are abuzz with regular tweets and facebook posts from the attendees and their followers keeping millions more updated on the proceedings of PTI's month-long Dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.


Urban Middle Class:

Historically, Pakistani politics has been dominated by feudal politicians who hold political rallies with their peasants in attendance who are guaranteed to cast their votes for their landlords in every election. The growth of the urban middle class in years 2000-2008 and the emergence of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) as a political force is changing all that. For the first time in the last 6+ decades,  Pakistan's middle-class city dwellers are now participating in the political process by voting in elections and attending rallies.

Shipping Containers:

Both the government and the PTI and PAT dharna organizers are making extensive use of shipping containers. The government uses them to try and block people's participation in Opposition marches and rallies while the Opposition uses them to house leaders and the container roofs as raised platforms for making speeches.

It seems that the containers have now become a must-have accessory for the modern politician in Pakistan. The cost of converting such containers into mobile homes and speech platforms can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.


Journalism Drones:

Drones fitted with high-definition cameras are making history in drone journalism in Islamabad.

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a amoth ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.

Music:

Well-timed pauses in Imran Khan's speeches are filled with pre-selected music played by DJ Butt, a professional disk Jockey.  Thousands of attendees dance to the music drawing the ire of conservative right-wingers. Some of them dismiss it as just a concert while others pull out their well-worn fatwas declaring the whole thing "haram" (forbidden) in Islam. The government feels so threatened by it that they have arrested DJ Butt on terrorism charges.

DJ Butt plays national and devotional songs during speeches: from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Junoon to Ataullah Eesa Khelvi to some tracks especially created by Yousaf Salahuddin. Songs played most often at Imran Khan's rallies include "Mein to dekhonga/ tum bhi dekho gai" by Bilal Maqsood, "Tabdeeli aagaye hai yaaro" by Waqqas Qadir Shaikh and Atif Ali, "Jab ayega Imran/ Banega Naya Pakistan" by Ataullah Eesa Khelvi and "Jitna Vi Imran Khan Jitna" by Abrar ul Haq.

Internet Stats Source: World Bank

Social Media:

PTI activists, and to a lesser extent PAT supporters, have dominated the social media in Pakistan for at least a month to get their messages and news out to millions of Facebook and Twitter users in the country and across the world.

Summary:

Regardless of the outcome of the PTI-PAT month-long dharna (sit-in), the protest movement has already broken new ground in terms of the demographics of the participants and the effective use of shipping containers, drones, music and social media. The 24X7 TV coverage has also served to start a  broad public discussion of corruption, nepotism, misrule and abuse of power by Pakistan's ruling politicians.

Here's a video of "Jab Ayega Imran" sung by Ataullah Esakhelvi:


jab aye ga imran by bastichawli

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif Guilty as Charged but Still PM

Pakistan Middle Class Growth

Pakistan's Protest Music

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Al Qaeda Can Succeed in India Only if Aided by Hindu Nationalists

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, successor to Osama Bin Laden as Al Qaeda chief, has announced plans to "raise the flag of jihad" in South Asia, particularly India.  Zawahiri said that the new wing would save Muslims from injustice and oppression, and bring relief for Muslims "in Burma [Myanmar], Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir", according to Indian media reports.


In a video released by Al Qaeda, Zawahiri has made two references to the western state of Gujarat, the home state of India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is widely believed to be at least partly responsible for the 2002 riots in which thousands of Muslims were massacred in Gujarat.

Can Al Qaeda Succeed in India?

Can Al Qaeda succeed in "raising the flag of jihad" in India? Are the conditions in India conducive for Al Qaeda to take root? These are the important questions being raised among south Asia watchers and analysts.  In my view the answer to these questions would depend mainly on how the Modi government reacts to this threat.

What is the State of Muslims in India?

It is not a secret that there is widespread discrimination against Indian Muslims in education, employment and housing.

India's criminal justice system is clearly stacked against Muslims and other minorities.  Muslims make up 13% of India's population but 28% of Indian prisoners.   Similarly, Christians make up 2.8% of India's population but 6% of India's prison population. Meanwhile, the newly elected parliament has just 4% Muslim representation.

There is ongoing ghettoization of Muslims in Indian cities.  Muslims are routinely and systematically excluded from living in nice urban neighborhoods.

Indian Muslims are now worse off than the lowest-caste Hindus, or Dalits, in terms of education and employment. The 2013 update of the Sachar Commission report shows there has been little improvement for Muslims since the original report published 2006.

Will Hindu Nationalists Frame More Muslims on Terror Charges?

Hindu Nationalists and their allies in the Indian government machinery have used the US global war on terror as a convenient cover to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Indian Muslims. Large numbers of Muslims in various parts of India continue to languish in jails on trumped-up terror charges, suffering brutal torture as well as routine insults to their religion by police officials, according to Indian journalist Yoginder Sikand.

In addition, several Hindutva terror groups, and their affiliates, have carried out a number of bomb blasts across India in the last few years, and tried to pin the blame on Indian Muslims or the Pakistan's intelligence service ISI. A retired high-ranking Indian police official S.M. Mushrif has described nearly a dozen blasts conducted by Hindutva terror groups of different stripes. He argues that a section of India’s intelligence services, a small group in the armed forces and parts of different state police forces have been compromised and infiltrated by these elements, a development that bodes ill for the future of the country, and the region.

Summary:

Conditions already exist today, especially after the recent success of the Sangh Parivar in India, for Al Qaeda to succeed in persuading many resentful Indian Muslims to join its "jihad" in South Asia.  If the latest video threat from Al Qaeda chief intensifies framing of innocent Muslims on terror charges by the new Hindu Nationalist government led by Narendra Modi, then the chances of Al Qaeda's success would dramatically increase in India.

Here's a video of just one of many innocent Indian Muslims framed on terror charges in India:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can Hindutva Terrorists Spark India-Pakistan War?

Modi's Pakistan Policy

Indian Muslims Worse Off Than Dalits

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politcians

Are Muslims Better Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pakistan Opposition Indicts But Still Supports Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Contrary to the news and editorials in Pakistan's hyper-partisan media, the fact is that protesters led by PTI leader Imran Khan and PAT chief Tahir ul Qadri have already achieved many of their key objectives, including the following:

1. Going by the speeches of Aitzaz Ahsan, Khursheed Shah, Javed Hashmi and other parliamentarians at the joint session, there is broad agreement that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his ruling clique are guilty of abuse of power, corruption and nepotism, the charges leveled by PTI and PAT against the ruling Sharif family.

2. The speakers at the joint session,  particularly Aitzaz Ahsan, also believe that Nawaz Sharif has violated the constitution by placing shipping containers in an attempt to stop PTI and PAT marches.

3.  They said that the last general elections held in May of 2013 which gave Nawaz Sharif's PMLN party majority in the parliament were massively rigged as alleged by Imran Khan.

Sen. Aitazaz Ahsan's Convoluted Logic 


However, what is most surprising is that the same speakers who indicted Nawaz Sharif also pledged to stand by him and urged the Prime Minister to not resign. They argue that  they are defending Pakistan's constitution and democracy by supporting Nawaz Sharif to remain Prime Minister of Pakistan. This stand by the PPP and other parties, particularly by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, raises the following questions:

1. If Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and some of his fellow parliamentarian truly believe that Nawaz Sharif is guilty as charged, then how is he qualified to hold the office of the Prime Minister?

2. Will they, Aitzaz Ahsan and others, use constitutional means to remove Mr. Sharif from office based on the charge sheet that they have laid out in their speeches to parliament?

3. If they support electoral and governance reforms in Pakistan, how would they go about pushing for it while Nawaz Sharif and his family remain in power?

This is Nawaz Sharif's third term as Pakistan's Prime Minister. Given the history of Nawaz Sharif's behavior in office, is there hope that any serious electoral or governance reforms can take place on his watch? This is the key question that those who oppose his resignation must answer.

Here's a description of a video discussion on this subject: Have PTI and PAT dharnas succeeded in their objectives? Did Pakistan Parliament Joint Session speeches indicting Nawaz Sharif help or hurt PMLN government? Will current crisis lead to radical reforms in electoral process and governance demanded by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri in Pakistan? Is Modi aligning himself with Japan and US against China in the new great game in Asia? Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam (www.politicsinpakistan.com) discusses these questions with panelists Ali Hasan Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://vimeo.com/105405781

http://youtu.be/Enyny6SB150



Pakistan Political Crisis Resolution; Modi's Attack on China from WBT TV on Vimeo.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Neither Democracy Nor Development in Pakistan

Kudos to Qadri

Imran Khan in Silicon Valley

Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Another Lost Decade in Pakistan?

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Elections

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pakistan Under Civilian Rule: Neither Democracy Nor Development

“Na Khuda hi mila, na visaal-e-sanam/Na udhar kay rahay, na idhar kay rahe (I found neither faith, nor union with my lover/And now I belong neither there nor here).”

Pakistan's quest for democracy under civilian rule has produced neither democracy nor development in the Islamic country of over 180 million people. Currently, Pakistan is experiencing 6th consecutive year of  stagnant economy and human development under an elected but highly corrupt "democratic" government run by the Sharif family and their cronies for their own benefit.

Is it a Democracy?

Can one call it a rule-of-law or democracy when the Sharifs illegally order the Lahore police to attack the home of Allama Tahir ul Qadri, kill over a dozen unarmed civilians including women, and then refuse to file a report  (FIR) of the incident at the local police station?  Can you call it constitutional rule when the ruling politicians openly defy the Supreme Court orders to hold local government elections under Article 140 (A) of the Pakistan constitution? Is it democracy when all of the most powerful government positions are held a few members of the Sharif family and their close friends?

Is it Development?

Is it development when Pakistan's human development progress is the slowest in decades? Is it development when Pakistan faces another lost decade like the decade of 1990s under PPP and PMLN rule? Is it development when Pakistan continues to drop in world rankings on social indicators included in the UNDP's HDI index?

Pakistan's HDI grew an average rate of 2.7% per year under President Musharraf from 2000 to 2007, and then its pace slowed to 0.7% per year in 2008 to 2012 under elected politicians, according to the 2013 Human Development Report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”.

Source: Human Development Report 2013-Pakistan



History of Human Development in Pakistan: 

At 0.515, Pakistan's HDI is lower than the average HDI value of 0.558 for South Asia which is the second lowest among the various regions of the world tracked by UNDP. Between 2000 and 2012, the region registered annual growth of 1.43% in HDI value, which is the highest of the regions. Afghanistan achieved the fastest growth (3.9%), followed by Pakistan (1.7%) and India (1.5%), according to the United Nations Development Program.

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

 Who's to blame for this dramatic slowdown in the nation's human development?  Who gave it a low priority? Zardari? Peoples' Party? Sharif brothers? PML (N)? PML (Q)? Awami National Party? Muttahida Qaumi Movement?  The answer is: All of them. They were all part of the government. In fact, the biggest share of the blame must be assigned to PML (N).

Sharif brothers weren't part of the ruling coalition at the center. So why should the PML (N) share the blame for falling growth in the nation's HDI? They must accept a large part of the blame because education and health, the biggest contributors to human development, are both provincial subjects and PML(N) was responsible for education and health care of more than half of Pakistan's population.

Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World
Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.



Acceleration of HDI growth during Musharraf years was not an accident.  Not only did Musharraf's policies accelerate economic growth, helped create 13 million new jobs, cut poverty in half and halved the country's total debt burden in the period from 2000 to 2007, his government also ensured significant investment and focus on education and health care. The annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. In 2011, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including Pakistan Steel and PIA, both of which  continue to sustain huge losses due to patronage-based hiring.

Source: Pew Surveys in Pakistan


Looking at examples of nations such as the Asian Tigers which have achieved great success in the last few decades, the basic ingredient in each case has been large social sector investments they have made. It will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to catch up unless similar investments are made by Pakistani leaders.



Summary:

Civilian rule in Pakistan has delivered neither democracy nor development. The country stands at a crucial juncture with highly energized Pakistanis staging a historic massive sit-in in Islamabad since August 14, 2014. They have shaken up the ruling Sharif family and forced them to seek Pakistani military's help to save themselves from the wrath of the people. Any decisions made by Pakistan's military and politicians now will have long term impact on the health of the country. Let's hope these decisions bring about changes which help accelerate socio-economic development while making Pakistan's rulers more accountable and responsive to the people for their actions.

Here's a video discussion on the current political crisis in Pakistan:

http://vimeo.com/104722439

http://youtu.be/r66ep0WghZU


Pakistan PM Invites Army Intervention; Can Army Chief Save Nawaz Sharif Govt? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Another Lost Decade in Pakistan?

Pakistan Military's Role in Current Crisis

Civilian "Democracy" Vs Military "Dictatorship" Debate in Pakistan

Saving Pakistan's Education

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman Defends Pakistan's Higher Education Reforms

Twelve Years Since Musharraf's Coup

Musharraf's Legacy

Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010

Role of Politics in Pakistan Economy

India and Pakistan Compared in 2011

Musharraf's Coup Revived Pakistan's Economy

What If Musharraf Had Said No?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Did Pakistan Pilots Carry Out UAE AF Air Strikes in Libya?

UAE fighter jets flying from bases in Egypt carried out airstrikes in Libya a week ago, according to US media reports. Question: Did Pakistani pilots working for UAE participate in these missions?

 Targets were hit in the Libyan capital of Tripoli  secretly without without informing the Obama administration beforehand. The first wave of airstrikes hit positions in Tripoli controlled by insurgent militias, including a small weapons depot. The second wave targeted rocket launchers and military vehicles owned by militias, the New York Times reports.

UAE Air Force F-16E Block 60 
It is widely known that the vast majority of pilots working for the UAE Air Force are Pakistanis. The involvement of Pakistan Air Force in UAE began in 1970s with a training mission in the Gulf nation. Some of the serving PAF officers are on deputation, but most are on civilian contracts with the Air Force Headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Officers of other nationalities have also trained UAE pilots, among them Moroccans, Canadians, Jordanians, and South Africans.

After 1998 US-sanctions on Pakistan following its nuclear tests, the United States objected to plans by the United Arab Emirates air force to contract up to 200 Pakistan air force fighter pilots to fly F-16D Block 60 fighters it had ordered from Lockheed Martin. The deal was significantly delayed as UAE threatened to re-open the fighter competition to choose alternate suppliers. It was eventually resolved and the US agreed to deliver the purchased F-16s to UAE.

If Pakistanis indeed took part in these missions, it would raise several serious questions:

1. Were these PAF's serving pilots on deputation with UAE Air Force? Or retired officers on contract? If they were on deputation, did they seek permission from Pakistani government to accept these missions?

2.  Will such missions drag Pakistan into ongoing Middle East conflicts and hurt Pakistan's interests in the region?

3. Will those targeted seek revenge against Pakistanis?

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Army at the Gates of Delhi 

"Eating Grass" Book Launch in Silicon Valley

Demolishing Indian War Myths 

Kashmiris Remain Defiant

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Assessing Pakistan Army Capabilities

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Friday, August 22, 2014

PTI-PAT Protest Coverage Makes Drone Journalism History in Pakistan

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a few days ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.



There are few examples of such mainstream media coverage using drones. One example is when Australia's Nine Networks 60 Minutes program used  an unmanned aerial vehicle to broadcast images of  a vast immigration detention camp set up by the Australian government away from the eyes of the media. Paparazzi, too, use drones but such activity is often illegal and frowned upon by the mainstream media.


The Punjab government banned the use of media drones in Lahore where the PTI and PAT rallies originated before converging on Islamabad. “We have banned the use of helicams/drone cameras after the Ministry of Defence has informed us in writing that the use of such flying devices by anyone except the authorised state agencies is already banned under certain rules and regulations related to civil aviation, etc,” District Coordination Officer retired Capt Muhammad Usman told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

In Islamabad, however, there have been half a dozen drones in the air covering the combined PTI-PAT dharna (sit-in) round the clock for the last several days. “We were stopped from using these machines yesterday to cover the placement of the containers because the authorities have become sensitive about it,” says Nadeem Ihsan, senior manager (technical) of Samaa TV, which says it used the drone camera the first time in Islamabad during the coverage of the PTI’s earlier public gathering at D-Chowk on May 11.

Pakistani authorities remain cautious about the growing use of these new drones. “We are concerned that the number of these drones may increase to an unlimited level and that would be alarming. We need to make rules to control this technology,” a senior administration official said.

Silicon Valley's Venturebeat publication cites the following additional recent examples of drone usage for reporting:

1. In December 2011, a Fair Elections rally in Moscow used a remote-control model helicopter to get government-independent aerial photos of the crowd.

2. In summer of 2013, a drone videotaped a police clash at a demonstration in Istanbul. The drone was reportedly later shot down, apparently by police.

3. In March 2014, a business systems expert shot half an hour of aerial video in East Harlem after a gas explosion demolished two buildings.

4. CNN has an ongoing request for crowdsourced drone aerial footage.

5. Using drone imagery, Wake Forest University created a 3D model of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in North Carolina, independent of the utility-favoring state regulators.

6. Drone maker DJI has demonstrated spectacular video of its Phantom drone flying into a volcano in the Tanna island of Vanuatu.

7. In 2012, a camera drone flying near Dallas discovered blood-red spots in the Trinity River. It turned out that pig blood was being emptied via an underground pipe from the Columbia Meat packing plant, located on a creek that feeds into the river. The company was indicted on 18 criminal counts, and a trial is pending.

The civilian drones are coming. Some drone makers would like to see them swarming the skies soon. But  others are horrified at the prospect of so many drones flying overhead. Before the drone usage becomes widespread, there will have to be reasonable regulations in place to address safety and privacy concerns of the public at large.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pakistani Children Outperform Indian Children on Math and Reading Skills Tests

Recent World Bank report on student learning in South Asia is depressing. Sri Lanka is the sole exception to the overall low levels of achievement for primary and secondary school kids in the region.  The report documents with ample data from various assessments to conclude that "learning outcomes and the average level of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms". The report covers education from primary through upper secondary schools.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014

Buried inside the bad news is a glimmer of what could be considered hope for Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities".  The performance edge of Pakistani kids  over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014


Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:

Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).

In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).


Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014




The report relies upon numerous sources of data, among them key government data (such as Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education; India’s National Sample Survey, District Information System of Education, and National Council of Education Research and Training Assessment; and Pakistan’s National Education Assessment System); data from nongovernmental entities (such as Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report, India’s Student Learning Study, and its Annual Status of Education Report); international agencies (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] 2009+ for India; the World Bank Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project in Bangladesh); and qualitative studies undertaken for the report (such as examining decentralization reforms in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). The study also uses the World Bank Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework to examine issues related to ECD, education finance, assessment systems, and teacher policies.

I hope that this report serves as a wake-up call for political leaders and policymakers in Pakistan to redouble their efforts with significant additional resource allocations for nutrition, education and healthcare.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who's Better for Pakistan Human Development?

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts About Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

PISA, TIMSS Results Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

Monday, August 18, 2014

Promoting Innovation Culture in Pakistan

Culture of innovation has enabled huge productivity increases and major improvements in peoples' living standards since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 18th century. It has resulted in a monumental power shift from the East to the West and led to the European colonization of the rest of the world.

Countries in the East have finally begun to understand the value of innovation since achieving independence which came after a couple of centuries of subjugation by European powers.


Efforts to promote innovation in Pakistan are being spearheaded by several different groups including DICE Foundation and Pakistan Innovation Foundation.  Both DICE and PIF focus almost entirely on higher education institutions.

Before assessing the situation and making recommendations on promoting innovation in Pakistan, it's important to understand the history of innovation by studying the examples of major innovations since the industrial revolution.

James Watt:

James Watt (1736-1819) is credited with the innovation of the steam engine which is believed to have enabled the Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Watt only had high school education. He never studied at a college or a university. His invention enabled a wide range of manufacturing machinery to be powered.  His steam engines could be sited anywhere that water and coal or wood fuel could be obtained and provided up to 10,000 horsepower to run large factories. It could also be applied to vehicles such as traction engines and the railway locomotives. The stationary steam engine was a key component of the Industrial Revolution, allowing factories to locate where water power was unavailable.

Thomas Edison:

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), the man who invented the light bulb, was probably the most prolific inventor since the Industrial Revolution. He had no formal education. He was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to come up with many devices and was awarded over 1000 patents by the U.S. Patent Office. His innovations were transformational in their impact: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures, all established major new industries world-wide. Edison's inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.

Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) invented Apple personal computer. Jobs revolutionized several industries from computing and personal electronics to publishing and entertainment. Jobs, a highly prolific innovator, attended college briefly but did not complete college education. Jobs, too, was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to create things.

These examples clearly establish that some of the most prolific innovators have been people who had little or no college education. It is therefore not wise to limit promotion of innovation to just the college level.

In fact, it is much more important to start promoting innovation during early years in primary and secondary schools. It can be done through inquiry-based learning and provision of tools and training at the K-12 school level. Some examples are as follows:

Inquiry-based Learning:

Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.  Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) are beginning to promote inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age in Pakistan. These skills are essential to prepare Pakistani youngsters to be capable of facing the challenges of living in a highly competitive world in which the wealth of nations is defined in terms of human capital and innovation.

Maker Movement:

The Maker Movement is a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe. It has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.

Maker movement is helping spawn facilities in many different cities around the world. These places have a wide range of both hardware and software tools and classes available to help people to create and "make" things with their own hands.

The only possible example of "makerspace" that comes close in Pakistan is Robotics Lab that was launched in 2011 in Karachi. It was founded by two friends Afaque Ahmed and Yasin Altaf who had previously worked in Silicon Valley. They bought a 3D printer for the lab as a tool to help children learn science. The founding duo is now looking for ways to expand its audience.“Our goal is to push this science lab to TCF schools, a nationwide school network covering about 150,000 underprivileged students,” says Ahmed. The project, however, is currently pending because of funding constraints. “We have asked them to find some big donor for this purpose. Currently, we train these children only through field trips to our labs.”

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

The key to innovation is not necessarily advanced education and training in a certain field. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Major innovations have often come from people working in unrelated fields. Recent examples of such innovations from people of South Asian origin include Zia Chisti's Invisalign and Salman Khan's Khan Academy. Both Zia and Salman came from investment banking background before they revolutionized the fields of orthodontics and education.

Summary: 

Encouragement of the culture of innovation should begin during children's formative years in primary and secondary schools. Innovation requires free out-of-the-box thinking. History tells us that some of the biggest innovators were tinkerers with little or no formal education in the fields of their biggest and most transformative innovations. Groups and foundations promoting innovation in Pakistan need to increase their outreach to the school kids. As a start, they can expand inquiry-based learning and build more makerspaces like Karachi's Robotics Lab in partnership with private industries and foundations in major cities.

Here's a video of my friend Ali H. Cemendtaur's visit to Karachi Robotics Lab:

http://vimeo.com/58856985


Visiting Robotics Labs, Private Limited in Karachi, Pakistan from Ali Cemendtaur on Vimeo.
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Industrial Revolution Power Shift

Steve Jobs' Syrian Father

Inquiry-Based Learning in Pakistan

3D Printing in Pakistan

Zia Chishti's Innovation in Orthodontics

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors