Sunday, November 22, 2015

West’s Reaction to Paris Attacks; Gen Raheel Sharif in US; Modi’s World Tour

Will West’s reaction to Paris attacks weaken or strengthen ISIS and other Middle East terror groups? Should Muslim refugees coming to Europe and US be punished for such attacks? Will it make the Syrian refugee crisis much worse? How will further alienation of already marginalized Muslims in France affect security in Europe?

Why is General Raheel Sharif in Washington? Do such visits weaken Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government? Are there any implications for the future civil-military ties in Pakistan?

What does the Badin sweep of Zulfiqar Mirza’s anti-PPP candidates in local elections mean for Sindh politics? Is it a reflection of the power of local feudal electoral politics in Pakistan?

Why has Narendra Modi chosen to focus on foreign relations with 30 foreign visits in just over a year since he became Prime Minister of India? Is it all about photo ops and PR to project himself as a world leader? Can India really become a significant global power with its poorly educated and unhealthy labor force? Shouldn’t Modi pay more attention to India’s serious social, economic and development issues at home?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (

West's Reaction to Paris Attacks; Gen Raheel Sharif in US; Modi's World Tour from WBT 
Productions on Vimeo.

West's Reaction to Paris Attacks; Gen Raheel... by ViewpointFromOverseas

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

I am Ahmad; I am not Charlie

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistan Elections

Growing ISIS Threat

Modi's Superpower Delusions

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel

VPOS Dailymotion Channel

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Diwali Triggers Delhi's "Severe" Pollution Warning

India's capital Delhi has the dubious distinction of being the world's most polluted city and Diwali fireworks are making its air pollution even worse. The smog will be particularly dangerous on Nov. 12 and 13, with the concentration of pollution-related particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — projected to increase by 148% and 170% respectively, according to Indian media reports.

News headlines said US President Obama's 3 day visit to New Delhi last year cut his life expectancy by 6 hours. Why? Because Delhi has the highest level of the airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 considered most harmful to health, with 153 micrograms per cubic meter, 15 times higher than the 10 micrograms per cubic meter considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

World's Dirtiest Cites

Delhi is not alone; Other cities in India claim 13 spots among the top 20 dirties cities in the world. Not far behind  Delhi's 153 micrograms is another Indian city, Patna with 149 micrograms. Other Indian cities among the world's dirtiest are: Agra (88 ug/m3), Allahabad (88 ug/m3), Ahmedabad (100 ug/m3), Amritsar (92 ug/m3), Firozabad (96 ug/m3), Gwalior (144 ug/m3), Khanna (88 ug/m3), Kanpur (93 ug/m3), Lucknow (96 ug/m3), Ludhiana (91 ug/m3) and Raipur (134 ug/m3).  Pakistani cities of Karachi (117 ug/m3), Peshawar (111 ug/m3) and Rawalpindi (107 ug/m3) also count among the world's most polluted.

India's pollution problems are not entirely due to poorly controlled industry and transport. The early winter problems are significantly exacerbated by the burning of the fields by farmers after harvest.

With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).

In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

The Yale-Columbia study confirms that environmental problems in South Asia are growing rapidly. The increasing consumption by rapidly growing population is depleting natural resources, and straining the environment and the infrastructure like never before. Soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land and water degradation are all contributing to it.

It's important to remember that Bhopal still remains the worst recorded industrial accident in the history of mankind. As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up industries to lower their production costs and increase their profits, the lessons of Bhopal must not be forgotten.

It is the responsibility of the governments of the developing countries to legislate carefully and enforce strict environmental and safety standards to protect their people by reversing the rapidly unfolding environmental degradation. Public interest groups, NGOs and environmental and labor activists must press the politicians and the bureaucrats for policies to protect the people against the growing environmental hazards stemming from growing consumption and increasing global footprint of large industrial conglomerates.

There will be severe health consequences for all Indians unless the Modi government acts to legislate and regulate various sources of pollution in the country. Pakistan government, too, needs to act to prevent severe harm to public health by rising pollution.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu Extremism; LNG Pricing; Imran-Reham Split

What message do voters send in local body elections in Pakistan? Are recent results unexpected? What do the results mean for PTI? What impact does Imran-Reham Khan divorce news have on PTI's politics and prospects?

Why is Pakistan government trying to sign LNG contract with Qatar when the spot price is falling and forecast to fall even further? Why not buy at spot prices and wait for a better opportunity to sign a more favorable contract in future?

Why are Indian economists warning PM Narendra Modi of the negative impact of Hindu extremism in India? Why are they so concerned?

Is ISIS gaining strength in Middle East? Could the ISIS terrorists have brought down Russian passenger jet near Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu... by ViewpointFromOverseas

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu Extremism; LNG Pricing; Imran-Reham Split from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Potential Economic Impact of Hindu Extremism in India

Pakistan-Qatar LNG Deal

Growing ISIS Threat

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel

VPOS Dailymotion Channel

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Top Economists Warn Modi's India of Negative Impact of Hindu Intolerance

Top economists have now joined the rapidly growing ranks of Indian writers, historians and other intellectuals warning Modi government of the negative consequences of rising intolerance for the entire nation.

Billboard During Modi's Silicon Valley Visit
The Wall Street Journal reported that India's chief central banker Raghuram Rajan "made an unusual appeal for tolerance in a speech Saturday, triggering a debate about whether he was trying to send a message to the country’s leaders". “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas,” Gov. Rajan told students at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “Without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation.”

Arun Shouri, BJP leader who has previously served as a federal minister and worked as World Bank economist, joined the criticism of the Modi government when he said: "there is clearer belief (in the Modi government) that managing the economy means managing the headlines and this is not really going to work.” He said the NDA government was essentially “the Congress plus a cow”, in an apparent reference to the violence against minorities and killings of Muslims accused by the Sangh Parivar activists of consuming beef.

Ratings agency Moody's has also weighed in with its own warnings saying that "in recent times, the government also hasn't helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members. While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist jibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions.

"Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility," Moody's said.

While the chorus of criticism of Modi's government has been rising in recent weeks, what is different is that the economists' warnings are inspired by practical economic concerns rather than the moral dimensions of the Hindu militancy in Modi's India.

What Mr. Narendra Modi must realize is that it is hard to reverse the real damage to the nation once the forces of bigotry and intolerance are unleashed. The difficulty he faces is the lack of his moral authority with his Hindu Nationalist power base given his own track record as the chief executive of Gujarat for many years that include the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom on his watch.

Related Links:

Friday, October 30, 2015

Will Pakistan Benefit From LNG Glut Pushing Prices to New Lows?

LNG spot prices hit a new low of $4 per mmBTU as the supply continues to significantly outstrip demand. It's creating opportunities for Pakistan to get access to large supply of cheap fuel for its power generation.

With softening demand from China and 130 million tons per year (mmpta) of additional LNG supply set to reach market over the next five years, gas research firm Wood Mackenzie sees continuing downward pressure on global LNG spot prices.

LNG Price History Source: WSJ

“The entire industry is worried because it is hard to tell when China’s demand will pick up again,” said an LNG strategist at a Malaysian energy company who attended the Wood Mackenzie conference in Singapore, according to Wall Street Journal. “Rising demand from smaller countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh is not enough to offset the declining demand from north Asia.”

As recently as two years ago, LNG shipped to big North Asian countries like Japan and Korea sold at around $15 to $16 a million British thermal units. This month, the price has already hit $6.65 a million BTUs, down 12% from September, according to research firm Energy Aspects. It expects prices to fall further in Asia next year, to under $6 per million BTUs, as a wave of new gas supply in countries from the U.S. to Angola to Australia comes on line, according to Wall Street Journal.

Petronet LNG Ltd, India’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), is saving so much money buying the commodity from the spot market that it’s willing to risk penalties for breaking long-term contracts with Qatar.

This is a great opportunity for Pakistan to take advantage of historically low LNG prices to alleviate its severe load-shedding of gas and electricity.  Recently, Pakistan has launched its first LNG import terminal in Karachi and started receiving shipments from Qatar.  Pakistan has also signed a $2 billion deal with Russians to build a north-south pipeline from Gwadar to Lahore. But the country needs to rapidly build up capacity to handle imports and distribution of significant volumes of LNG needed to resolve its acute long-running energy crisis.

Here's a related video discussion:

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu... by ViewpointFromOverseas

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu Extremism; LNG Pricing; Imran-Reham Split from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Twin Energy Crises of Gas and Electricity

Affordable Fuel For Pakistan's Power Generation

Pakistan Shale Oil and Gas Deposits

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor 

Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy Rich Pakistan

Pakistanis Suffer Load Shedding While IPPs Profits Surge

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Uber Planning Pakistan Launch

Uber, the rapidly growing San Francisco based behemoth known for its taxi app,  appears to be getting ready to launch its service in Lahore, Pakistan, according to media reports.

A report in Tech In Asia points to the career page on Uber website that shows openings for “general manager”, “operations and logistics manager”, and a “marketing manager,” for Lahore,  Pakistan's second-largest city.

In fact, Uber has confirmed its plans to launch in Pakistan soon, according to TechJuice.

“We can confirm we are currently recruiting for a team in Lahore, and are very excited about launching in Pakistan as we see huge potential in the way we can help people move around their city safely and reliably,” Shaden Abdellatif, communications manager for Uber’s Middle East and Africa operations told TechJuice. “We are also excited about the opportunity for economic empowerment we can bring to the drivers we partner with.”

It makes sense given the size of the Pakistan's expanding urban middle class with its fast growing mobile broadband subscriptions combined with rising smartphone sales in the country.

Pakistanis are signing up for 3G and 4G services at a rate of 1 to 2 million new subscriptions a month. In September 2015 alone, Pakistan Telecom Authority reported 2.22 million new 3G and 4G subscriptions in the country. There's corresponding increase in demand for smartphones.

With over 18 million smartphones and mobile broadband subscriptions, Pakistan is ripe for a whole range of new businesses from e-commerce to gaming to various online services like Uber that are accessed through smartphone apps.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Mobile Broadband Subscription Growth Accelerates in Pakistan

Pakistan Car Sales Jump 72%; Cement Consumption Up 17%

iPhone 6 and 6S Launched in Pakistan

Pakistan Government Deploys Mobile Apps

E-Commerce Taking Off in Pakistan

Haier Pakistan to Manufacture Smartphones

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pakistan 3G Uptake Doubles: 2.22 million New Subscribers in September 2015

Monthly new subscriptions of 3G and 4G in Pakistan doubled to 2.22 million in September 2015, up from 1.1 million new subscribers in August 2015.  This brings the total number of mobile broadband subscribers to 18.04 million and total of all broadband subscriptions to 21.2 million since 3G-4G launch in May 2014, according to the latest data released by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.
Mobile Broadband Subscriptions in Pakistan Source: PTA

Increasing use of the Internet is now being put to good use to deal with the tragic aftermath of the the earthquake in Pakistan.  Facebook and Google have set up special pages to help people find each other.

Demand for smartphones is also accelerating in Pakistan along with the rise in mobile broadband subscriptions. Forecasters estimate the number of smartphone sales to increase to 40 million by next year.

Overall, 3G and 4G subscriptions in Pakistan jumped 14.43 % during September 2015, the highest sequential monthly increase in the past six months. Among the carriers, Mobilink topped with 878,107 new mobile broadband customers, followed by Ufone with 637,131 new 3G users during September 2015. Telenor is number 3 with 393,969 new 3G users during the month.

Coming on the heels of data indicating 72% jump in car sales and 17% rise in cement consumption, this data on 2.22 million new mobile broadband subscriptions in September is yet another confirmation of Pakistan's ongoing economic recovery.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Car Sales Jump 72%; Cement Consumption Up 17%

iPhone 6 and 6S Launched in Pakistan

Pakistan Government Deploys Mobile Apps

E-Commerce Taking Off in Pakistan

Haier Pakistan to Manufacture Smartphones

Friday, October 23, 2015

US Reaffirms Ties With Pakistan; Obama Pledges Continuing Support

All the speculations about the United States walking away from Pakistan this year have been proved wrong by the joint statement issued by the White House after this week's summit meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama in Washington D.C.

US-Pakistan Joint Statement:

The US-Pakistan joint statement reaffirmed "enduring U.S.-Pakistan partnership" for "a prosperous Pakistan, and a more stable region."  It commits the two sides to work "jointly toward strengthening strategic stability in South Asia".  The statement further said that "President Obama expressed support for Pakistan’s efforts to secure funding for Diamer­ Bhasha and Dasu dams to help meet Pakistan’s energy and water needs."

Referring to the strained India-Pakistan ties, the statement said that both leaders "emphasized the importance of a sustained and resilient dialogue process between the two neighbors aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means and working together to address mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism".

US Assistance to Pakistan:

There are also media reports indicating that President Obama has decided to sell 8 new F-16s to Pakistan.  Mr. Obama has also pledged $900 million in assistance to Pakistan for 2015-16. In addition, both Washington Post and New York Times have reported that the United States wants to negotiate a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan. Pakistan has said it will not accept any conditions that limit its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a civil nuclear deal with the United States.

India's Strong Negative Reaction:

As expected, India has reacted with anger to references to US support for strategic stability in South Asia region, support for Diamer Bhasha dam financing and resolution of Kashmir issue through peaceful means. The reports of F-16 sale to Pakistan and possible US-Pakistan civil nuclear deal have also elicited a strong negative reaction in New Delhi.

The US-Pakistan joint statement and several White House fact sheets have detailed US-Pakistan cooperation in education, energy, trade and investment, defense, cybersecurity and counter terrorism.

US-Pakistan Partnerships:

Under the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, the United States said it "will work with the Government of Pakistan to advance energy sector reforms, improve the investment framework, and make targeted investments that will enable U.S., Pakistani, and international private sector developers to add at least 3,000 megawatts (MW) of clean power generation infrastructure to Pakistan’s national electricity system, benefitting 30 million Pakistanis".

Under the Education partnership, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), committed $70 million to work jointly with the Government of Pakistan and other partners to help educate and empower more than 200,000 additional adolescent girls across Pakistan.

The United States is already funding three centers for advanced studies for agriculture, energy and water under the education partnership. The Center For Advanced Studies in Agriculture is at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, the Center For Advanced Studies in energy at Peshawar University and the Center For Advance Studies in water at  Mehran University. These centers are working with major US universities.

Under Trade and Investment Partnership,  the United States will help upgrade the capabilities of the ready-made garments (RMG) sector through support of vocational centers dedicated to RMG and improvements in industry labor conditions. U.S. assistance will also help scale-up Pakistan’s International Labor Organization (ILO)-International Labor Standards (ILS) Textile program and support the launch of an ILO “Better Work Program.” Also, the United States will support an investment event in New York to highlight opportunities in Pakistan’s RMG industry and other sectors.  The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will assist the Government of Pakistan in identifying and petitioning for additional GSP tariff lines and to obtain eligibility for exports of goods under newly GSP-eligible travel goods tariff lines.


The latest Obama-Sharif Summit in Washington has cleared up any confusion that may have been created by the continuing US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the expiration of Kerry-Lugar Bill. The US-Pakistan joint statement has firmly established continuing US interest in maintaining close ties with Pakistan.   Pakistan's strategic location makes it attractive to both the United States and China, the world's two largest economic and military powers, to maintain close ties with it. What comes out of these ties will ultimately be determined by how well the Pakistani leaders leverage them for maximum benefit for the well-being of the people of Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US-Pakistan Civil Nuclear Deal

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

How Strategic Are China-Pakistan Ties? 

India's Proxy War Against Pakistan

Pakistan Economic Recovery: Car Sales Jump 72%, Cement Sales Up 17%

Renewable Power in Pakistan

Floods and Drought Cycles in Pakistan

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Questioning American Muslim Teen Ahmed Mohammad's Move to Qatar

14-year-old American Muslim kid Ahmed Mohamed is moving to Qatar with his family. His attempt to impress his teacher with a homemade clock put him in jail in handcuffs when his teacher at his school in Irving, Texas, thought it was a bomb and called the police.

The story made headlines in western and international media and brought widespread condemnation of the anti-Muslim bigotry in his hometown.  There was also an outpouring of support for him from Silicon Valley tech titans who invited Ahmed to their campuses. President Obama tweeted his support for Ahmed and invited him to the White House.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that top schools from across the United States had tried to woo Mohamed, but it was the Qatari offer “that most intrigued the family.” The newspaper reported that Mohamed will study at the Doha Academy while his siblings find schools in Doha, the Qatari capital.

The news has intrigued me as well. I have friends and relatives from Pakistan who have been living and working in Qatar and other oil-rich Arab nations for several years. Although they are well educated and probably financially better off than they would be in Pakistan, they resent the fact that they are paid less than their white colleagues doing same or similar work. In the event that they lose their jobs, they would have to pack up and leave Qatar at very short notice. Even their Qatari born children have no rights there; they would have to leave with them. If Ahmed and his family think they are escaping racism in America, they will find much more of it in their new home in Qatar, with no bill of rights or  civil rights groups or independent courts to protect them.

There are several questions that I suggest Ahmed's father ponder as he prepares to move to Qatar along with Ahmed and the rest of the family:

1. When was the last time Qatar's Emir spoke out against wrongs done to the children of foreign-born residents of his country as President of the United States did for Ahmad?

2. Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spoke out for Ahmed when he was subjected to abuse in Texas. Are there any civil rights organizations like CAIR in Qatar?

3. What chance does Ahmed have of realizing his full potential in Qatar as Pakistan-born Shahid Khan, India-born Vinod Khosla and many immigrants or children of immigrants have in the United States?

Even if Ahmed's father persists in his folly, he can have some comfort in the fact that the United States will still go to bat for him and his family because they carry US passports. And they can return to United States as American citizens when Qatar decides to expel them.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Silicon Valley Stands With Ahmed Mohamad

Shahid Khan is the Richest South Asian in America

Steve Jobs: The Son of Syrian Immigrant Father

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans 

Free Speech and Islamophobia in America

King's Hypocrisy

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pakistan Economy: Car Sales Up 72%; Cement Shipments Rise 16.89%

Pakistan auto industry is booming. Toyota, Suzuki and Honda factories are working around the clock in the southern port city of Karachi and eastern city of Lahore -- yet customers can still wait for up to four months for new vehicles to be delivered, according to media reports. At the same time, increased construction activity is visible everywhere in the country.

Local car sales, excluding imported cars, jumped to 54,812 units in the first three months (Jul-Sep) of fiscal year 2016, up 72% from 31,899 units in the same period of last year, according to data released by the Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA).

Pak Suzuki led the pack with 33,770 units followed by Indus Motors (Toyota) 14,767 cars and Honda Motors 6,184 units. Industry analysts at Topline Securities expect local car sales to reach 203,653 units during the current fiscal year.

Car sales (excluding imported ones) in Pakistan grew at a five-year (FY11-15) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just 5.3% to 179,953 units. While volumes surged by 31% in fiscal year 2015 (FY15) on the back of the new model of Toyota Corolla, Punjab taxi scheme and an increase in car financing due to 42-year low interest rates in the country also helped, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “We forecast local car sales to grow at 13% in FY16 to reach 203,653 units,” Topline Securities reported on Monday.

In addition to car sales, domestic cement sales have also jumped by a phenomenal 16.89% to 4.29 million tons during July and August 2015 from 3.67 million tons shipped in the same period last year.

Car sales and construction activity are both believed to be driven by low interest rate financing available from banks and improved security situation across the country. With record low inflation, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the nation's central bank, has cut discount rate to a 42-year low of 6%.

After its September meeting, the SBP said the rise in fixed investment financing in the energy generation and distribution, chemicals and services sectors signal possible increase in their productive activity in coming months. “The implementation of infrastructure development and energy projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will further enhance the improving investment environment. Therefore, there is anticipation of higher economic activity in 2015-16, which is expected to boost credit uptake,” it said.

Per Capita Cement Consumption Source: Global Cement

A dramatic decline in terrorist violence in the country since the launch of Pakistan Army's Operation Zarb-e-Azb and a big drop in international oil prices have helped drive economic recovery in the country in recent months.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Auto Industry

Record Cement Sales Raise Hope Of Pakistan Economic Recovery

Credit Suisse Bullish on Pakistan Cement Industry

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Pakistan Army Acts Against Terrorists

Pakistan Middle Class Larger & Richer Than India's

Top Global Investor Bullish on Pakistan

The Role of Cement Industry in Economic Development of Pakistan