Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness


"It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Adlai Stevenson, 1962

It is important to repeat these golden words to exhort people to positive action. But it takes more than words to make social service and volunteerism become normal part of every day life for ordinary citizens. The message to be proactive to solve society's problems has to be combined with early education of our children, and followed by appropriate rewards for good behavior. The school curricula need to teach civics and social science lessons by demanding that students participate in specific civic activities to receive credit. Volunteering for charity organizations such as Edhi Foundation should be encouraged. Extra credit should be reserved by teachers for those students who go out of their way to volunteer to teach the illiterate or raise funds to feed the hungry. Parents and teachers should act as role models for their children by voluteering their own time for these activities.

The incentives for social and community service must continue beyond high school. Beyond good grades, the college admission criteria should include demonstrated service to community. Programs at colleges should encourage students to perform specific community services as a requirement for graduation. Such programs can be modeled after Americorps or Peace Corps in the United States. National Volunteer Movement in Pakistan appears to be an attempt to create such a program.

As the young people join the work force or start their own businesses, they need to continue to help their communities with the support of their employers and businesses. Private businesses should do their part as good corporate citizens to support the communities they do business in. Various civil, business, religious and political leaders, popular celebrities, and wealthy individuals can and should become role models to inspire citizens to do their part in making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate in society. This kind of leadership is particularly crucial as we see increased suffering of daily wage earners in Pakistan's current economic downturn.

As people clamor for democracy in Pakistan, they need to clearly understand what it means to be citizens of a democratic nation. Just voting and selecting the rulers by free and fair elections is only the beginning. While civil society advocates, human rights and citizen watch-dog groups, and various other NGOs are helpful, they are no substitute for organizations and individuals providing direct, tangible services to the most vulnerable members of society. True democracy requires active participation by its citizens, willingness to contribute time and money to organize volunteer efforts, and to help fellow citizens in need, rather than reliance on the government to solve all of the problems. Instead of complaining about dirty neighborhood streets, petty street crime, or under-performing schools, neighbors should get together and volunteer to solve these problems. On the continuing power cuts, people in various neighborhoods should find local solutions using alternative clean power as a community. Pakistani financial institutions and foundations should support social entrepreneurs to help solve the problems of lack of microfinance, clean water and clean air.

Having lived and raised a family in the United States during the last thirty years, I have had the opportunity to see the American society and democracy in action. I have observed how ordinary people get involved to tackle issues of education, poverty and crime. It is not uncommon to see active participation by Americans in PTAs (Parent-Teacher Associations), neighborhood watch or the food bank for the poor. I have seen how companies participate in helping communities by offering money and their employees' time. Annual United Way campaigns, with matching corporate contributions, are a common feature at many major US companies. In this post, I have shared some of what I have seen in the hope that others can learn from my observations.

As a member of the Muslim community in Silicon Valley, I have seen how people come together to build mosques, community centers and schools. And how they offer time and money to complete and run these projects, in spite of their busy lives with their regular jobs and the needs of their families.

Here are a couple of quotes from Alexis De Tocqueville, a French philosopher who traveled across America in the 19th century and captured his observations in his book "Democracy in America":

"The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens."

"Americans of all ages, all stations of life and all types of disposition are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand types-religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute."

Here are some examples of self-help in Pakistan I can highlight:

Greg Mortenson, an American, has been working with the local villagers to help build schools and promote education in northern Pakistan. While he has raised funds from various sources, Mortenson has insisted on community involvement in his efforts. Because of community 'buy-in', which involves getting villages to donate free land, subsidized or free labor ('sweat equity'), free wood and resources, the schools have local support and have been able to avert retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls education.

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan is the force behind Orangi Pilot Project to help residents of Orangi Town, a katchi abadi (shanty town) in Karachi to help themselves. It has helped in a number of projects to build better low-cost housing, improve sanitation and establish schools with the participation of the community. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Acclaimed social scientist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan used to reference this well-known proverb (according to his son, Akbar Khan), as it quite fittingly represents his philosophy on community development.

While the problems faced by Pakistan are huge, I believe that a serious and organized initiative by a tiny percentage of Pakistan's large middle class of at least 40-50m people can begin to make a difference. Pakistanis owe it to themselves and their poor brethren to step up and take responsibility for improving the situation of the most vulnerable citizens of their country. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But we must persevere by taking one step after another until we see results.

Here is a Skoll Foundation video on social entrepreneurship:



Related Links:

Orangi Pilot Project

Three Cups of Tea

Volunteerism in America

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision

33 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in today's NY Times about deep discontent among Pakistani youth:

LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan will face a “demographic disaster” if it does not address the needs of its young generation, the largest in the country’s history, whose views reflect a deep disillusionment with government and democracy, according to a report released here on Saturday.

The report, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Nielsen research company, drew a picture of a deeply frustrated young generation that feels abandoned by its government and despondent about its future.

An overwhelming majority of young Pakistanis say their country is headed in the wrong direction, the report said, and only 1 in 10 has confidence in the government. Most see themselves as Muslim first and Pakistani second, and they are now entering a work force in which the lion’s share cannot find jobs, a potentially volatile situation if the government cannot address its concerns.

“This is a real wake-up call for the international community,” said David Steven, a fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, who was an adviser on the report. “You could get rapid social and economic change. But the other route will lead to a nightmare that would unfold over 20 to 30 years.”

The report provides an unsettling portrait of a difficult time for Pakistan, a 62-year-old nuclear-armed country that is fighting an insurgency in its western mountains and struggling to provide for its rapidly expanding population. The population has risen by almost half in just 20 years, a pace that is double the world average, according to the report................
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The findings were sobering for Pakistani officials. Faisal Subzwari, minister of youth affairs for Sindh Province, who attended the presentation of the report in Lahore, said: “These are the facts. They might be cruel, but we have to admit them.”

But young Pakistanis have demonstrated their appetite for collective action, with thousands of people taking to the streets last spring as part of a movement of lawyers, who were demanding the reinstatement of the chief justice, and Mr. Steven argued that the country’s future would depend on how that energy was channeled. “Can Pakistan harness this energy, or will it continue to fight against it?” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/world/asia/22pstan.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=pakistan%20youth&st=cse

Riaz Haq said...

Here's traveler-blogger Sean-Paul Kelly talking about lack of sanitation in India:

In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. I don't know how cultural the filth is, but it's really beyond anything I have ever encountered. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump. Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to a lesser degree were so very polluted as to make me physically ill. Sinus infections, ear infection, bowels churning was an all to common experience in India. Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter was common on the streets. In major tourist areas filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways, you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road, men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight. Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked by it. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road. The measure should be how dangerous the air is for one's health, not how good it is. People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads. The only two cities that could be considered sanitary in my journey were Trivandrum--the capital of Kerala--and Calicut. I don't know why this is. But I can assure you that at some point this pollution will cut into India's productivity, if it already hasn't. The pollution will hobble India's growth path, if that indeed is what the country wants. (Which I personally doubt, as India is far too conservative a country, in the small 'c' sense.)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of how Pakistan has changed in this decade by a Ahsan, a blogger on Five Rupees:

In the last decade, this picture has changed dramatically due to three central factors.

The first and most important factor is the explosion of private electronic media. In the 1990s, it was difficult for most Pakistanis -- the vast majority of which cannot or do not read newspapers -- to get information that was not government-sponsored or, less mildly, propagandistic. ....

This picture has changed drastically, as anyone with even a cursory interest in Pakistan will be able to tell you. There are now dozens of news channels in Pakistan, each with their own ideological and partisan bent. Some are national-level, others more regionally and ethnically focused. The trend began in the early part of this decade and has plateaued only recently, as the market gets sated. And while few of these channels will win awards for calm understatement or presciently sedate analysis, the fact remains that the media -- if it can be spoken of as a collective -- has given voice to a mass of the population previously unheard from. It has become a player of truly monumental importance for its ability to shape, mold, and excite the public. It is, at once, sensationalistic, blood-thirsty, xenophobic, conspiratorial, humorous, investigative, and anti-government. And yet its arrival on the scene is more than welcome, first for providing the venue for disenfranchised interests to make themselves known and second because the alternative is much worse.

The second significant factor, related to but distinct from the first, is the rise of communication technologies in Pakistan, particularly cellular phones. In 2002, there were 1.2 million cell-phone subscriptions in the country. By 2008, this number had risen to 88 million -- an increase of more than seven thousand percent. In addition, more than one in ten Pakistanis had access to the internet by the end of the decade; low by advanced countries' standards but an astronomical rise by Pakistan's. These developments in communications meant that political narratives became congealed and disseminated at speeds never heard of before, and that information and the wider "war" for public opinion became incredibly hard to win if a battle was lost at any stage.

The third major factor is the economic growth that took place in Pakistan in the first half of the 2000s. Pakistan's GDP doubled between 1999 and 2007, and more than kept pace with population growth, as GDP per capita increased by almost sixty percent between 2000 and 2008. More to the point, this growth was overwhelmingly powered by expansion of the service sector, which is concentrated, quite naturally, in the urban centers of the country. For the first time since independence, the term "Pakistani urban middle class" was not a contradiction in terms.

This development had two effects. First, and more trivially, the urban middle class did what urban middle classes do: they bought televisions and computers. In turn, that allowed them to plug into the private media explosion in ways simply unimaginable previously. Second, it shattered the elite-only edifice of Pakistani politics, and made challenges to government based on Main Street issues -- the price of flour, the lack of electricity, the selective application of the rule of law -- a viable process. Fifty years ago, Seymour Lipset wrote one of the canonical articles in Political Science on the process of democratization, its relationship to urbanized middle classes, and how the demands and values of the latter lead almost inexorably to support for the former. Here was living proof of Lipset's analysis.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a news brief from the BBC about honors for the founder of BRAC, which also operates in Pakistan:

The founder of one of the world's largest non governmental organisations, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, has been honoured in the UK.

Fazle Hasan Abed - who holds dual British and Bangladesh citizenship - will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2010 for services in tackling poverty.

He has also been awarded for empowering the poor in Bangladesh and globally.

Mr Abed's name was included in the Queen's New Year's Honours List released on Thursday.

'Multi-dimensional approach'

"I feel very humbled to receive this award," he told the BBC from his office in Dhaka, "which I am delighted to accept on behalf of all Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (Brac) workers across the world.

"I now want to build on this success to continue Brac's fight against poverty not only in Bangladesh but in eight other countries in the world where we are involved - Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Sri Lanka."

Brac also has plans to expand into Haiti.

Mr Abed says that Brac's success was because of a "multi-dimensional approach" to fighting poverty such as improving education, healthcare and financial services.

Riaz Haq said...

Moderated by Saad Khan, a partner at CMEA Capital, there was a social entrepreneurs panel at Open Forum 2010 that featured Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Leila Janah of Samasource, Tabreez Verjee of Kiva, and Misbah Naqvi of Acumen Fund.

The panelists described what they do as social entrepreneurs and what led them to it. Salman Khan started at a hedge fund before he was inspired by a cousin and her friends to create Khan Academy for tutoring math and science via his Youtube channel.

Leila Janah of Samasource went to work for the World Bank in Washington to fight poverty, but she was soon soured by the bank bureaucracy whose focus was on self-interest rather than the interest of the world's poor which it is supposed to serve. Her first day at the World Bank was spent at a seminar advising bank employees on financing a second home. She quit her job to found Samasource, which is a non-profit service that seeks contracts from companies in the West, and slices large contracts into microwork tasks like data entry, software testing, transcription and research outsourced to the poor, but educated, workers abroad.

Tabreez Verjee serves on the board of Kiva, a Silicon valley startup that combines microfinance with the Internet to create a global community of people connected through lending. The company allows lenders to lend amounts as small as $25 and choose who to lend to via the Internet. The funds are disbursed to small entrepreneurs and loans repaid using existing microfiance companies operating in different parts of the world. Kiva is working with Asasah microfinance in Pakistan.

Misabah Naqvi is the business development manager of Acumen fund which invests in social enterprises. She was originally a banker in Pakistan before joining the Acumen Fund. The fund is a business rather than a charity, and puts all of its returns back into the fund to support more social efforts based on sustainability, scale and social impact. In addition to investing in microfinance, the Acumen fund has invested in Saiban which is building low-cost housing in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on philanthropy doubling in Pakistan in the last decade:

KARACHI: Inflation is not the only thing that is on the rise. The amount contributed towards philanthropy in Pakistan has almost doubled over the past decade, said Anjum R Haque, Executive Director, Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), an Islamabad-based organisation focussed on streamlining social development.

While a total of Rs70 billion had been donated in 2000, she said that the figure was likely to reach Rs140 billion this year. With donations carrying such a massive potential, she said, there is a growing need to make direct cash flows strategically.

She also spoke about the PCP certification programme under which 162 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been certified.

The PCP’s aim, she said, is to create awareness and sensitise society about current issues affecting growth in the social sector and create an enabling environment for the certified NGOs.

“Regularisation of NGOs is a very sensitive issue and the PCP tries to promote this culture through a voluntary approach,” she said.

Certification Manager Malik Babur Javed said that the certification programme was recognised by the government and was the country’s only system that reinforced and promoted internal governance, financial transparency and programme delivery in the non-profit sector.

He said that civil society organisations (CSO) certification not only created sector-wide standards but also promoted the government’s agenda of strengthening the civil society in terms of administration, documentation, disclosure, transparency, accountability and effective service delivery.

With additional information from APP

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Businessweek story on microfinance in India:

Savita Ramesh Rathore stands at the door of her dimly lit workshop in Mumbai's Dharavi slum, filled floor to ceiling with bundles of old clothes, and talks about the cost of her son's wedding last year. "Jewels, clothes, food, the town hall," says Rathore, 50, who makes towels from discarded clothes. She borrowed 30,000 rupees ($647) from moneylenders charging 60 percent interest and took additional loans from friends. Three months ago she got a 10,000-rupee loan from urban lender Hindusthan Microfinance at an interest rate of just over 20 percent to repay some of that debt.

Rathore is one of 25 million Indians who have taken so-called microfinance loans, often without adequate documentation or collateral, according to research firm Micro-Credit Ratings International. As Hyderabad-based SKS Microfinance plans to become the first microlender in the country to go public, an industry credited with helping alleviate poverty is suddenly provoking comparisons to subprime lenders in the U.S.

"Globally, microfinance is showing characteristics of the Western financial markets before the collapse," says Sanjay Sinha, managing director at Micro-Credit Ratings in Gurgaon. "In the U.S., homeowners were given loans at 120 percent of the value of their properties. In rural India, people are being lent to at 150 percent of the value of their enterprises."

Microfinance firms make loans in poor areas largely shut off from traditional banking services. The past two years have been marked by surging defaults in some countries. Microfinance markets in Nicaragua, Morocco, and Pakistan have seen default levels climb to more than 10 percent, the threshold that marks a "serious repayment crisis," according to a February report from policy and research firm Consultative Group to Assist the Poor.

India, where more than 600 million people live on less than $1.50 a day, is the world's largest microfinance market. Most microfinance loans in India range from 5,000 to 20,000 rupees ($108 to $431), with interest rates ranging from 18 percent to 33 percent. Although Indian microfinance firms have reported bad-loan ratios of about 2.5 percent on average, levels may be higher because some lenders roll over loans to struggling borrowers to avoid defaults, says Micro-Credit's Sinha.

Microfinance lending in India may surge by about 40 percent annually over the next few years, says Sinha. SKS, betting the potential for growth will attract investors, is seeking regulatory approval for an initial public offering. Basix Group, which focuses on poor households in rural areas and provides loans averaging about 3,000 rupees, may sell shares in an IPO next year, says Chairman Vijay Mahajan. Others are likely to follow. Until now, microfinance companies have relied on loans and grants from banks, insurers, and foundations for funding, he says.

Micro-Credit's Sinha worries that growth in the microfinance market is masking an erosion of lending standards that may spark rising defaults. India doesn't have a nationwide system for tracking borrowers' credit histories, making it hard for lenders to check whether clients have multiple loans. "There is significant investor interest in microfinance companies' public issues, but it's being driven by irrational exuberance," says Sinha.

Riaz Haq said...

I encourage every one to read and draw inspiration from Nadeem Akram's article "From Umarkot with Love" on Chowk.com, particularly the following paragraph that inspires hope in the future of Pakistan:

Our driver took us as close to the building as he could and we walked rest of the way. To our surprise we were greeted by a Sindhi teacher of Balochi persuasion and the hut was jam packed with over thirty students of the adjoining goth studying under the tutelage of the Mr. Ghulam Ali, the teacher.

It was an inspiring story. The teacher had, on his own initiative and of course with the help of the community, built this hut some twelve years ago and since then he has been imparting primary education to thirty-five students every year. Several of his students have gone on to attend the high school and some of them made it to the college. He has had little or no support from Sindh Education Department, and all these years he has managed to operate this school with the help of the village elders. My eyes welled up as he concluded his narration duly supported by a village elder that conveniently appeared and joined us. All my pre-conceived ideas about patriotism, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and lack of civic will were taking their last breaths in the puddle next to the school as we bade farewell to the teacher, the students and the benefactor!


People like Ghulam Ali sahib are lighting candles to show the way to a brighter future...rather than cursing darkness as many do here on Chowk and elsewhere!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent HBR article on social entrepreneurship, arguing that US is lagging in this field:

In 2009, William Kamkwamba, a teenager from Malawi, made the rounds on American talk shows and coauthored a best-selling book. The source of his notoriety? A homemade windmill that provided power and running water for his family. Kamkwamba built it from trash, using an old textbook as his only guide.

In the United States, the idea of deploying small-scale windmills had been abandoned as too expensive and horribly inefficient. In Malawi, a teenager had built one spending less money than the average American eighth-grader's weekly allowance.

Kamkwamba's story points to an unrecognized truth of social entrepreneurship and innovation. The United States isn't a leader; it's a laggard.

Consider some of the most important social innovations of the past 20 years. The modern microfinance industry was pioneered in Bangladesh and has spread to virtually every country in the world. The business model that allowed the near-universal penetration of cellular phones into poor communities was born in Bangladesh, as well.

Meanwhile, two innovative ways to use cell phones' ubiquity in poor communities to change the world have emerged from Kenya: M-Pesa, a mobile-to-mobile money-transfer service, has become a model worldwide. And Ushahidi, a technology platform that relies on text messages to guide crisis response, became an important part of the rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes there. It's currently being used to track the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

India is the home of world-class innovators like Aravind Eye Hospitals and the education-focused NGO Pratham. The latter has had such success that its teaching approach is being adopted in several African countries.

So how does the U.S. stack up? Compare the negligible impact of One Laptop Per Child to the pioneering role of GrameenPhone in the global mobile phone revolution and the attendant gains in real income. Meanwhile Voxiva, a U.S.-founded social entrepreneurial firm, offers a complex, proprietary system to gather information from the field — a system that can cost more than $1 million to operate. But Ushahidi boasts a simple, nearly free (I just contributed to the $600 fund needed to deploy Ushahidi in Kyrgyzstan) open-source platform that was up and running in Haiti in less than 48 hours after the earthquake there. Finally, a recent report has shown that the most profitable microfranchise operations all originated in the developing world

Sure, there are examples of impressive and effective American social entrepreneurship. But, as these comparisons make clear, most world-changing innovations aren't coming from the United States.

Why? Well, for one thing, we haven't figured out how to train entrepreneurs successfully. The rates of entrepreneurship (measured by self-employment and age of operating businesses) are lower in the United States than in most other countries (even OECD countries). Despite all the money poured into various entrepreneurship-training programs, the failure rate of U.S. entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, has held largely constant for decades.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's how Pakistani middle class is helping the flood victims in Pakistan, according to Christian Science Monitor:

Ain-ul-Ghazala, a local Pakistani doctor, says what motivated her to take matters into her own hands came down to what she saw on television. Images of immense misery and destruction brought about by the worst floods in Pakistan in recent memory unfolded before her eyes, and she says she couldn't sit still.

She had noticed hundreds of tents setup on the streets of her hometown, where various groups sought funds and materials. But despite hearing repeated calls for more aid, tales of corruption deterred her from donating to the government or aid organizations, and she didn’t want to give her money to Islamist groups like Jamat-ud-Dawa.

“No one trusts the government anymore, so I wanted to see the situation for myself and do what I could to help,” she explains. As the effects of the disaster wound into a third week, the gynecologist, who works at a private hospital owned by her husband, decided to set off to the flood-afflicted southern Punjab region along with her three adult daughters and one of their friends, also a female medical doctor.

Over the course of two days, they distributed, tents and food, while the two doctors checked in on some 200 patients in Kot Addu, near Muzaffargarh. “There were a lot of people suffering," she says. On top of the health problems, "some didn’t have anything to wear - they were without any clothes,” she says. “We gave iron and calcium supplements to the pregnant women, and ended up seeing a few male patients, too.”
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According to Rasul Baksh Raees, head of social sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the reach and influence of civil society has grown as Pakistan’s middle classes have become more affluent, organized (thanks in no small part to the Internet age), and confident.

In recent years, Pakistan’s civil society has made headlines for its activism. Indeed, students and middle-class professionals joined lawyers in a movement to restore the country’s popular Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was removed from office twice in recent years by former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Ms. Ali says she used Facebook to solicit contributions from relatives, friends, and friends of friends both at home and abroad. She raised some $2,300, transmitted either to her mother’s bank account or via Western Union transfers, to spend on "family packs" (food items, flour, cooking oils, sugar, lentils, and candles) for the victims of the flooding in Swat. Mr. Khurram and half-a-dozen friends, meanwhile, organized a couple of truckloads of meals and traveled to Swat to hand over supplies to the Army for distribution.

The group was stranded for three days by landslides but then traveled to the village of Solgarah in Pakistan’s northwest to setup a Tandoor kitchen that would feed 50 families for 10 days.

“Naturally we don’t have enough donations for everyone,” says Khurram. “So we tried to make sure the same families aren’t getting the same stuff again and again.”
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The open-source platform was originally created in Kenya and called Ushahidi, Swahili for "testimony." It maps user reports of events sent via text message, e-mail, the Web and Twitter. Explains Mr. Chohan: “We believe the mobile [phone] is the best way to communicate with people in normal conditions as well as disasters. This was tried and tested in Kenya and Haiti. Why not put all this first line of reporting on mobiles in Pakistan?” With more than 90 million mobile phone users, he says, it has the potential to become the largest deployment of Ushahidi anywhere in the world.

Riaz Haq said...

A wealthy Pakistani real estate developer has pledged to help the flood victims in Pakistan in a massive way. Here's a report by UAE paper the National:

ISLAMABAD // Malik Riaz Hussain, a billionaire Pakistani developer, has responded to the misery of millions of his flood-stricken compatriots by pledging to spend 75 per cent of his fortune on rebuilding their lives.

The extraordinary offer was made in a television interview in which he told how he had sent a letter before the floods to 100 of Pakistan’s most wealthy and powerful people asking them to pool money into a fund to repair homes, provide vocational training and extend microfinance loans to impoverished Pakistanis.

Mr Hussain is the chairman of Bahria Town, a US$6 billion (Dh22bn) urban development enterprise that has built gated communities for a million people in the central cities of Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Bahria Town has already responded to the current floods by vastly expanding a corporate social responsibility programme called dastarkhwan, or dining spread, to provide two meals a day to more than 150,000 flood refugees in inundated areas and free medical care at mobile hospitals.

Its housing projects, unrivalled in Pakistan as models of highly desirable but affordable suburban living, have revolutionised Pakistan’s real-estate sector over the last decade by targeting the previously untapped middle class, rather than the rich.

The huge popularity of the Bahria Town brand has made Mr Hussain, at the age of 62, one of a handful of Pakistanis believed to be billionaires in US dollar terms, although this cannot be verified as he has never released his tax records.

A man of unremarkable origins, Mr Hussain espouses traditional family values, and has expressed them in the modern family-friendly suburbs he has built.

Reproductions of famous landmarks, such as London’s Trafalgar Square, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, point to his aspirations for Pakistan, while beautiful mosques and Quranic calligraphy suggest that modernity is in harmony with Muslim beliefs.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Jacqueline Novogratz saying Pakistan needs more servant leadership:

I'm in the office of Dr. Sono, one of Pakistan's most extraordinary social entrepreneurs. Born a Hindu Dalit or "untouchable," he has worked for his country since his youth and emerged as one of the most important grassroots leaders in Sindh. He runs the Sindh Rural Support Organization, a nonprofit company that has emerged as the leading coordinator of local relief during the floods, providing food, sanitation, water and healthcare to six provinces, and serves 60,000 individuals two hot meals a day. With him are Sabiha Bhutto and Asma Soomro who Dr. Sono introduces as his "commandants." Both women carry serious expressions that give them gravitas and weight. Asma wears a black shalwar and an olive-and-rust-colored tropical print shawl over her head. Saibiha wears red-and-white narrow striped cotton. These two women led others to mobilize 80,000 people during the flood emergency.

I ask what they learned from the experience. Asma responds, "We learned to really go to their level, speak their language, feel what they would feel, and build trust." This is classic social-organizing language. "During these three weeks, I met a 90-year-old woman. She wanted to see how other people were coping in the disaster because she herself had gone through crises and was herself prepared for what might come. This inspired me a lot."

Sabiha speaks as much with her eyes as her hands. She remembers the sense of panic among people in Shikarpur who were understandably terrified by the threat of floods. "I spread calm to the people, and promised that Shikarpur would make it through the floods. I urged them to help those who were really in need." When local residents wanted to cross the river, she stopped them. She could see what others could not -- buffalos flying through the churning rapids, most of them drowning. Her neighbors trusted her, and lives were saved. I ask what she had learned. "I realize what it means to be brave," she answers.

Neither Sabiha nor Asma consider being a woman a hindrance, even in conservative parts of Pakistan. "People know that we are here for them," says Sabiha. "We've earned their trust." Between them, they've delivered sixteen women to the hospital to enable them to give birth during the crisis period.

Dr. Sono jumps in and says, "Last week, I received a phone call from a nearby village. The caller said people were drowning. And you know, I love that village." His eyes twinkle so that you can feel that love. I adore Dr. Sono for being so exquisitely alive and caring. He continues:

I called Sabiha and Asma and told them to go to the village and help people escape before the flood waters came. It was 10:30 at night, and still they went. This is a dangerous area, and women especially can be killed going out at night. But they went. And by midnight, the village was empty and there was not a single drowning.

The conversation turns to Pakistan's future, and what can be done about corruption.

Corruption is a big problem here. But we are seeing changes. We have minimized corruption at the district level, and now we have to translate that to the top level. We also have to focus on educating people at the grassroots, too, so that they begin to question government. This way, we can start to end corruption.

This way, the world can change.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from BBC.com's Soutik Biswas's blog about Azim Premji's $2 billion donation for rural education and development in his native India:

Mr Premji remains an exception in the world of Indian business. India has some 60 billionaires. The wealth of its top 10 billionaires equals 12% of its GDP, compared to just 1% in China, 5% in Brazil and 9% in Russia. The combined net worth of India's 100 wealthiest people is about a quarter of its GDP. But the philanthropic record of India's rich is spotty.

A few like the Tatas - who built and run the city of Jamshedpur and have a decent record in what is called corporate social responsibility - appear to have been more generous than the others. In recent years, India's billionaires have given away money to their alma mater, mostly foreign universities. A mobile phone giant has set up a foundation for underprivileged children; a tyre company has invested in containing HIV/Aids. The chairman of a leading software company has said he would set aside 10% of his wealth for philanthropy. A tea company has adopted several hundred villages. But one suspects that it all does not add up to much, considering the enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of India's rich and the power they wield.

Are Indians then too greedy to be philanthropic? Americans, for example, are known to be generous, giving away some $300bn - or 2% of the nation's GDP - to charity. There are no figures available for India - a much poorer country - but I am sure they will not be anywhere close.

I don't think some people are hardwired for altruism and others aren't - an act of charity is often spurred by an incentive of publicity and media coverage. Readers always responded handsomely whenever a magazine I used to work with launched a donation drive following a devastating flood or an earthquake. "You give not only because you want to help but because it makes you look good, or feel good, or perhaps feel less bad," write economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner in SuperFreakonomics. So, traditionally, India's businessmen have felt that they have contributed enough to society by giving away a lot of money towards building of temples.

Many believe that India's rich are not generous enough and flaunt their wealth vulgarly in a country where the majority are poor. One reason could be that most Indian businesses are run by families and have mercantile origins. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once appealed to businessmen to share their profits with the common man, maximise profits "within levels of decency" and refrain from ostentatious display of wealth because such "vulgarity insults the poor". Gurcharan Das, a writer and management guru who has worked with some of India's top companies, believes that Indian capitalism has begun to flower in the past few decades and wealth is "now being created" in plenty. He believes that the rich will begin to contribute to social causes in a big way soon, and Mr Premji's $2bn charity for education sets an "important" precedent. Time will tell whether Mr Das is being too optimistic.

Anonymous said...

What is the track record of Pak Muslim tycoons in charity?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "What is the track record of Pak Muslim tycoons in charity?"

Recently, a Pakistani billionaire real estate developer Malik Riaz Husain committed to spending 75% of his wealth on helping the flood victims.

And Pakistanis gave Rs. 140 billion to charity in 2009, according to Pakistan's center for philanthropy in Islamabad.

Rs. 140 billion is about US $1.7 billion...nearly 1% of Pakistan's GDP for philanthropy. Obviously, this money is spent in Pak rupees, not US dollars. Examples include Edhi's ambulance service...the largest non-profit ambulance service in the world.

$1.7 billion is about half of the US philanthropy of 2% of GDP, which is not bad given that there are no tax or other incentives for philanthropy in Pakistan

Zakat and Charity are key pillars of faith in Islam to ensure that the poorest and weakest members of society are well looked after.

One of the key reasons why there is less hunger and poverty in Pakistan than in India is the generosity of Pakistani philanthropists

In India, too, the biggest philanthropist is a Muslim, Azim Premji, who recently announced
a $2 billion donation for rural education and development in his native India. Other, richer Hindu and Parsee billionaires, have done nothing like this so far.

The rich in Pakistan cheat on their taxes, but not on zakat (poor due) and sadaqa (charity).

Riaz Haq said...

Much of Haiti still looks like the earthquake struck yesterday, according to the Daily Mail. Here's what happened with all of the aid and NGOs:

Many of them quickly ran into trouble - and then went to the UN for help. Often those without experience found the environment too tough to manage, so they became 'part of the caseload' and had to be shipped home. Harassed UN officials were forced to direct their energies towards rescuing those who were supposed to be helping.
This was an extreme example of a wider problem identified by Linda Polman, the author of The Crisis Caravan: What's Wrong With Humanitarian Aid.
She describes a new phenomenon flourishing in the market free-for-all of the aid sector which she calls MONGOs, or My Own NGOs. She cites cases of doctors who arrive on their own in countries such as Sierra Leone, inspired by the scenes of suffering they have watched on television, only to pull out when they run out of money.
Patients are abandoned with no aftercare, sometimes with infected post-operative wounds.
In the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in 2004, the UN tried to develop what is known as its 'cluster system' to co-ordinate the efforts of individual agencies. It has certainly resulted in some significant improvements, but in Haiti the system has been creaking at the seams.

Imogen Wall says coordination there often comes down to 'hundreds of organisations, not all of whom speak English, meeting in a shack with a tin roof down by the airport . . . and then it starts raining', so no one can hear anything anyway.

She says that at one stage the 'health cluster' included no fewer than 600 different NGOs. And the UN has no power at all to compel aid agencies to join the cluster system. In theory, NGOs have to register with the Haitian government, but in practice that does not always happen - not least because the government has itself been in such a mess since the earthquake.

The result is a very patchy provision of assistance. The good camps work well. Actor Sean Penn, who has earned widespread admiration for his dedication to Haiti's cause, has established a well-run camp in the old Portau-Prince golf club; it has good security, professional camp manage-ment and an efficient water and sanitation system provided by Oxfam. But it is known as 'the VIP camp' because it is so atypical of the way most earthquake victims live.
On the outskirts of the desperately poor Cite Soleil district of Port-au-Prince I visited an informal camp that is home to 300 families. They receive a weekly delivery of water from a Norwegian NGO and they have access to just three latrines between them.
That is pretty much it. There is no real security, and in camps like this rape and violent crime are a constant threat. I asked a group of women at the camp water tank what they thought of the foreign aid agencies. 'We have no opinion,' said one woman, 'because we haven't had any aid.'


The Haiti experience has been an object lesson in the limits to what aid can achieve.

Riaz Haq said...

A quick comparison of the figures from Pakistan Center for Philanthropy and Bain and Co confirms the fact that the rich in India are only half as philanthropic as their Pakistani counterparts.

Here's an excerpt from a report by Arpan Seth of Bain:

In 2006, India’s giving totaled close to $5 billion. That would translate into $7.5 billion in 2009 based on gross domestic product (GDP) figures if the rate of giving remained steady. According to Bain analysis, philanthropic donations
would amount to 0.6 percent of India’s GDP. In Brazil, the rate of giving is 0.3 percent and in China, just one-tenth of 1 percent, so we are faring well when
compared with other emerging nations. But this is cold comfort given the enormous needs of the poor and disadvantaged in India."

The fact is that the lack of philanthropy by the rich in India is common knowledge, and it has come under criticism in the media recently.

Here's an excerpt from a recent news story in London's Daily Telegraph:

"Azim Premji, the founder of Wipro, a software and call centre to cooking oil empire, is India's second wealthiest man, and one of the world's richest 50 tycoons with a personal fortune of $18 billion.

The donation means he will succeed the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has given $1.6 billion to charitable projects in India, as the country's largest individual donor.

The announcement of his gift came amid criticism that too few of India's growing number of millionaires and global billionaires take philanthropy seriously or give enough of their wealth to charitable causes.

The Prince of Wales sought to bridge the gap in charitable giving on the Indian subcontinent when he hosted a dinner for some of the regions wealthiest businessmen and sought to persuade them to set an example by giving to well-run charities. He invited Ratan Tata, owner of Jaguar Land Rover, steel baron Lakshmi Mittal, property magnate K.P Singh and Mukesh Ambani, the world's richest Indian, to launch the British Asian Trust to encourage Asian billionaires to give more. "

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a sobering assessment of the education crisis in Pakistan, as reported by the BBC:

The Pakistani government says the country is in the midst of an educational emergency with disastrous human and economic consequences.

A report by a government commission found that half of all Pakistani school children cannot read a sentence.

The commission found funding for schools has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the national airline gets in subsidies.

It describes the education crisis as a self-inflicted disaster.

The report says 25 million children in Pakistan do not get primary education, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution.

Three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson.
'Crumbling infrastructure'

The report says that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.

"Millions of children are out of school, there is a crumbling infrastructure and education budgets are constantly shrinking but... the situation can be improved in a matter of years if there is a political will for change," the report says.

It says that at the current rate of progress Punjab province will provide all children with their constitutional right to education by 2041 while Balochistan province - the worst affected area - will not reach this goal until 2100.

The report says that only 6% of children in the country get their education in religious schools or madrassas.

The commission found that:

* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan who still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity

The report said that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.

The findings also affect population growth - because educated women have smaller families with children who are healthier and more inclined to use their own education to nurture the next generation.

The report concludes that if the government doubled its present spending on education, significant progress could be made in just two years.

Riaz Haq said...

One of the measures of the goodness of a nation, particularly its middle class, is its level of civic engagement.

By this measure, advanced western nations lead the pack with the United States in #1 position, followed by Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Holland, Canada, and lo and behold! Sri Lanka.

In South Asia, Pakistan is a distant second to Sri Lanka's 51% participation rate. Pakistan's participation rate of 42% ranks it at 27, the same as Israel.

India lags far behind with the participation rate of only 28% ranking it at 48 among 130 nations, according to a recent Gallup poll on civic engagement that included 130 nations.

While 53% of Sri Lankans gave money to charity and 53% volunteered time, 51% of Pakistanis contributed money and 27% volunteered time. In India, 28% donated money and 18% volunteered time. Comparable figures for the top-ranking United States are 65% and 43%.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/145589/civic-engagement-highest-developed-countries.aspx#2

Riaz Haq said...

The popular CBS 60 Minutes investigative journalists have accused Greg Mortenson of inaccuracies in his claims and of personally benefiting from his charity. Here's a BBC report on CBS claims and Mortenson's response:

The best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, which follows the author Greg Mortenson's mission to build schools across Central Asia, is filled with inaccuracies, a US documentary says.

The CBS 60 Minutes report alleges that his charitable foundation took credit for building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan which do not exist.

The documentary also says Mr Mortenson uses the charitable group as a "private ATM machine".

Mr Mortenson denies the allegations.

In an email he sent out to supporters and news organisations on Sunday before the programme was due to be aired, Mr Mortenson said the documentary based its claims on a single year's tax return to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The report "paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year's (2009) IRS 990 financial," the statement said.

He also posted a statement on the website of the Central Asia Institute, the charitable organisation set up to finance and build schools across the region.

"I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's [Central Asia Institute] work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students," the statement says.
Claims disputed

Three Cups of Tea was released in 2006 and became a best-seller through word of mouth.

The book describes how Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer, got lost while trekking in northern Pakistan, only to be rescued by the residents of a remote village. In the book, he says the kindness of those he encoutered inspired him to build a school.

The 60 Minutes investigation says that porters who accompanied Mr Mortenson dispute his claims of being lost.

The documentary also alleges that a number of the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that were said to have been established by the CAI do not exist or were built by other people.

Some principals said they had not received funds from the group for years, the report claims.

The CAI's website says it has established more than 170 schools and helped educate more than 68,000 students.

The programme also questions Mr Mortenson's financial relationship with the charity.

The charity has answered the questions put to it by the programme in a statement posted on its website.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:

For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......

As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
-----------
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.

... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
-----------
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from Asif Noorani's Op Ed published in Pakistan Link:

.....the Edhi Foundation is doing in different spheres – from running cancer hospices and ambulance services (Edhi Foundation has the largest fleet in the world, as the Guinness Book of Records mentions) to providing shelter to battered women and education to poor children. ...

The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore is doing a remarkable job too. Most of its patients are poor and unable to pay for the long drawn and expensive treatment provided by the hospital. The model is being replicated in Peshawar.

A state-of-the-art health institution, the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation) and the Indus Hospital are both providing excellent services in the health sector. What is more they don’t charge anything. That goes for the LRBT (Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust) as well. I remember an affluent lady who could have got ophthalmic treatment in any country in the West but she opted to have her surgery done at the LRBT, which is cleaner than most private hospitals in Karachi and where treatment can be described as state-of-the-art. Cured and satisfied, she gave a hefty donation to the institution and continues to pay from out of her zakat to the institution every Ramadan.

LRBT has 16 hospitals all over Pakistan, two of which – one in Karachi and the other in Lahore – are the best equipped ophthalmic institutions in the country. There are also 41 community centers where ophthalmic technicians examine patients and decide whether they can be treated as outpatients or are in need of surgery. As many as one-third of all OPD patients with problems of vision in the country are treated in one of the LRBT institutions and one-fourth of ophthalmic surgeries are done in the 16 eye hospitals run by the not-for-profit organization.

There is no institution that I have watched more closely than The Citizens Foundation. Fifteen years ago, five or six friends from affluent families, who met every weekend, grumbled about the flaws in our country. Finally, one of them said, “OK, enough is enough. Either we make a positive contribution to alleviate the miseries of the unprivileged people in Pakistan or we just shut up.” There was a pause and then everyone was convinced that they ought to join hands and work in one field. The one they chose was education, for the lack of it was the main cause of many ills that the country suffered from. They agreed on a target of setting up five schools for children of economically underprivileged parents in the first year.

The goal was achieved and the bar was raised. Today they have as many as 731 schools in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir (also Northern Areas). The fee structure is incredibly low because Pakistanis in and out of the country have been donating generously to TCF. Non-Pakistanis are also impressed with the institution and try to help it in many ways. The well known Indian novelist and columnist Shobhaa De donated more than Rs 50,000 that she had earned through her weekly columns for Dawn, when I wrote to her about the great job TCF has been doing for so many years.

Partnering TCF is the Honehar Foundation which provides vocational training to young men in Karachi. But that’s not the only place that they want to professionally help our youth. Construction on four such projects in smaller towns is on at a rapid pace. My friend, Nighat Mir, who is a member of the foundation’s steering committee, informs me that very soon work will commence on an institute meant exclusively for young women in Karachi.

Moreover, I recently learnt about the Aman Foundation and the excellent work that it is doing. It provides nutritious food to students at lunch time at 10 schools in Khuda ki basti.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on community service requirement at elite schools in Pakistan:

The Social Service Society of Foundation Public School’s (FPS) A-Level campus is working on making this kind of work mandatory for all A-Level schools in the city.

According to Muneer Iqbal, the chairperson of the society, he and his peers are already in touch with students from other schools to push for this demand. Meanwhile, the school’s society plans to publicise the cause at events in different schools. “As youngsters, we should contribute to the society by helping those who are in need,” Iqbal said.

At the FPS A-Levels campus, all of the 120 first-year students have to do mandatory community service of 30 hours to be able to pass to the second year. They are free to choose what kind of work they want to do.

They can, for example, teach at government schools, tend to the elderly at shelter homes, or spend time with the mentally or physically challenged or those suffering from life-threatening diseases.

“Community service is greatly needed at government schools because they are in a deplorable state,” said Iqbal. “If educated people like us step forward, we can make a huge difference.”

Another student, Hamza Masood, also at FPS, believes that community service also gives students applying to universities abroad an edge. “Foreign universities prefer students who have done social service,” he said. “Even the top universities in Pakistan, like the Lahore University of Management Sciences, give credit to social service.”

But Masood does not do charity work because it will get him admission to a foreign university. According to him, at the end of the day it is satisfaction that one gets from helping the people that matters.

“I went to Dar ul Sukoon five months after I did community service there,” he said. “I was delighted when two children recognised me and called me by my name. They made me realise that our visits meant a lot to them.”

It seemed like students of other A-Level schools feel the same way. Saba Basit, who studies at Nixor College, believes that students should be made aware of how important serving the community was.

“Community service should be made mandatory but students should know what they are doing is important for the community rather than it being imposed upon them,” said Basit. “Social service does not only mean going to hospitals or old homes. It means that we can also help others in our neighborhoods as well.”....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/323138/small-ideas-big-impact-foundation-public-school-wants-mandatory-charity-at-a-levels/#comment-520994

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent Boston Globe Op Ed on US-Pakistan relations:

Pakistan is a country in which social entrepreneurs and businesses fill urgent public needs. As one Pakistani told us, “We are a culture of problem solvers, and we are a country of entrepreneurs.’’ Despite violence, corruption, weak governance, and many social challenges, this country of more than 180 million has moved forward in growing its economy. Many Pakistanis are investing in their own and their country’s future - small business owners, industrialists, social entrepreneurs, and investors - under deeply challenging circumstances and not without risk.

In a country where public services are in shambles, private-sector innovations are abundant - in agriculture, education, health, social services delivery, and IT. We met middle-class families running schools, philanthropists building universities and hospitals, investors increasing their investment inside Pakistan, and CEOs whose businesses are thriving. Nestle has one of its largest dairy production facilities in the world based in Pakistan. And as Pepsi notes, the second-largest consumer of Mountain Dew in the world after the United States is Pakistan.

The US Chamber of Commerce and the Pakistan Business Council could promote dialogue, explore business ventures, and identify opportunities for mutually profitable market development. Our networks of entrepreneurs and businesses can forge relationships with counterpart networks in Pakistan to find opportunities for collaboration and joint investment, information exchange, and mentoring.

Another area that offers great potential is the opportunity to support Pakistanis in deepening their ongoing democratic transition. Parliamentary elections tentatively set for next year offer an opportunity for Pakistan to hold the second legitimate democratic elections in a row for the first time since the country was founded in 1947. The opportunity for citizen engagement and cooperation comes as US and Pakistani civil society organizations work together to address a wide range of challenges in Pakistan, including good governance, religious pluralism, and women’s rights.

Pakistan’s media - increasingly free and vocal – are interested in exchanging views with American counterparts on how to better educate the public and hold those in power accountable.

For the past two years, the United States has engaged the Pakistani government in several rounds of a strategic dialogue, and tripled the funding for non-military assistance to Pakistan. But because of the Afghanistan war and the threats posed by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the US government also adopted a more aggressive military strategy in Pakistan, including the controversial drone strikes.

The efforts to move beyond a transactional relationship with Pakistan fell short, however, not just because of what the governments did or did not do. They fell short because governments are constrained in what they can achieve given how they view the threats posed to their citizens.

Without greater citizen involvement to deepen our ties, the United States and Pakistan will remain trapped in mutual mistrust.


http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/02/25/shock-absorbers-for-pakistan/7baJKG7N3rwKnzkumED2HK/story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a MSNBC story on charges of theft of charity funds against Greg Mortenson:

n a 44-page report, Attorney General Steve Bullock said a yearlong investigation by his office concluded that Mortenson mismanaged his nonprofit, the Bozeman-Mont.-based Central Asia Institute, and personally profited from it.

“Mortenson’s pursuits are noble and his achievements are important. However, serious internal problems in the management of CAI surfaced,” Bullock said in the report.

Mortenson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment through the Central Asia Institute. Interim director Anne Beyersdorfer told The Associated Press that the author will continue to be a paid employee, promoting CAI and building relationships overseas, but will no longer be on the board of directors.

“While we respectfully disagree with some of the analysis and conclusions in the OAG’s report, we look forward to moving ahead as an even stronger organization, focusing on CAI’s vital mission,” Beyersdorfer said in a separate statement on the CAI website.

“CAI has always been a small group of dynamic, mission-centric individuals doing extraordinary work. Mistakes were made during a rapid period of growth, and we have corrected or are in the process of correcting them.”

Mortenson became a huge name in philanthropy – and quite wealthy – after his 2006 book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time,” became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He followed up with another bestseller, “Stones into Schools,” in 2009.....


http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/05/11041376-three-cups-of-tea-author-greg-mortenson-must-pay-1-million-to-charity?lite

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a David Brooks' NY Times column on why political participation is important for idealistic youth:

Often they are bursting with enthusiasm for some social entrepreneurship project: making a cheap water-purification system, starting a company that will empower Rwandan women by selling their crafts in boutiques around the world.

These people are refreshingly uncynical. Their hip service ethos is setting the moral tone for the age. Idealistic and uplifting, their worldview is spread by enlightened advertising campaigns, from Bennetton years ago to everything Apple has ever done.

It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.

That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much.

Furthermore, important issues always spark disagreement. Unless there is a healthy political process to resolve disputes, the ensuing hatred and conflict will destroy everything the altruists are trying to build.

There’s little social progress without political progress. Unfortunately, many of today’s young activists are really good at thinking locally and globally, but not as good at thinking nationally and regionally.

Second, the prevailing service religion underestimates the problem of disorder. Many of the activists talk as if the world can be healed if we could only insert more care, compassion and resources into it.

History is not kind to this assumption. Most poverty and suffering — whether in a country, a family or a person — flows from disorganization. A stable social order is an artificial accomplishment, the result of an accumulation of habits, hectoring, moral stricture and physical coercion. Once order is dissolved, it takes hard measures to restore it.

Yet one rarely hears social entrepreneurs talk about professional policing, honest courts or strict standards of behavior; it’s more uplifting to talk about microloans and sustainable agriculture.

In short, there’s only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality and disorder head-on. So if I could, presumptuously, recommend a reading list to help these activists fill in the gaps in the prevailing service ethos, I’d start with the novels of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or at least the movies based on them.

The noir heroes like Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” served as models for a generation of Americans, and they put the focus squarely on venality, corruption and disorder and how you should behave in the face of it.

A noir hero is a moral realist. He assumes that everybody is dappled with virtue and vice, especially himself. He makes no social-class distinction and only provisional moral distinctions between the private eyes like himself and the criminals he pursues. The assumption in a Hammett book is that the good guy has a spotty past, does spotty things and that the private eye and the criminal are two sides to the same personality.

He (or she — the women in these stories follow the same code) adopts a layered personality. He hardens himself on the outside in order to protect whatever is left of the finer self within.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/opinion/brooks-sam-spade-at-starbucks.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Daily Mail report on Dr. Hasnat Khan who dated Princess Diana now volunteering in Pakistan:

The backwater in Pakistan for which Hasnat Khan will leave Britain couldn’t be further removed from the glamour of his London life and his Kensington Palace liaisons with Princess Diana.

But his work there will at last fulfil a dream that he and Diana once shared – to help those in need.

As head of cardiac surgery in the first charity-run hospital of its kind in Pakistan, Dr Khan will transform lives and communities.

The Abdul Razzaq Medical Trust hospital, in Badlote village, will treat for free rural patients too poor to afford even the transport fares to a hospital in the nearest town, let alone surgery costs.

Those patients will include children suffering rheumatic fever, which leaves many with narrowed arteries to the heart which become fatal if untreated.

Even for the few families who can afford surgery, waiting lists for treatment at the nearest heart hospital are two years. Most have no choice but to watch their children weaken and die.

Every time Dr Khan visits his parents in the nearby town of Jhelum, a queue of patients forms outside the house to seek his help, many of them poor families with desperately ill children.

‘They ring my mother to find out when I am coming home,’ he said.

He recalled a nine-year-old boy who came to see him with his father, with arteries so narrowed Dr Khan realised he would not survive long.

‘I said to his father, “I can’t believe he has got to this stage and you haven’t taken him to hospital,” ’ he said. ‘He told me he had taken him to hospital but it was going to cost 250,000 Rupees (£171) for an operation and there was no way he could afford it.

‘So he just left it, knowing the boy was going to die soon. He was such a happy kid. He was still running about and he had no idea what was going on.

‘I felt helpless. All I had was a stethoscope. I couldn’t even give him the money for the operation because it was too late for him to be operated on. He wouldn’t have survived the surgery.’

As he recounted the case, Dr Khan phoned a friend in Jhelum to find out if the boy was still alive. An hour later, the call came back with the news that first the boy and then his father had died.

The hospital where Dr Khan’s heart unit will be based is the first charitable cardiology unit in Pakistan. He is setting it up with fellow cardiologist Dr Azhar Kayani, director of medicine for the Pakistan Armed Forces and the Pakistani president’s personal physician.

Dr Kayani, who grew up in Badlote and studied with Dr Khan in Lahore, said the hospital would cost the equivalent of £1 million and should open before the end of the year. It is named after his father.

Volunteers from Basildon Hospital in Essex, where Dr Khan works, are helping the fundraising drive for the unit and will help train doctors and nurses. They have also helped find donated equipment from other NHS hospitals.

Describing the life that awaits him in Pakistan, he said: ‘If you look out from the hospital you see open countryside with cows and camels. There are no taxis or cars or buses. People walk for miles and miles just to see someone.

‘It is very simple to live here. My [family] home is just down the road so I will have no rent to pay.

‘This unit is a dream come true. It is very satisfying. Of course I find my work in England satisfying but my work there is also routine. To come here and to build something from scratch is very different.’

Dr Khan will take unpaid leave of 12 to 18 months to go to Pakistan, but he says he may stay if the project is a success..


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2143555/Phone-hacking-Princess-Dianas-lover-Hasnat-Khan-victim.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a special CNN report on a Pakistani village by Wajahat Ali:

This is a story affecting millions of Pakistanis — and it does not involve suicide bombings, honor killings, extremism or President Zardari's mustache.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked Sakafat, a boisterous 12-year-old girl, while visiting a remote Pakistani village in the Sindh province.

"A scientist!" she immediately replied. "Why can't we be scientists? Why not us?"

The confident Sakafat lives in Abdul Qadir Lashari village, which is home to 500 people in Mirpur Sakro. It is in one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

There was a characteristic resilience and optimism in this particular village. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pakistan's often dysfunctional, surreal yet endearing daily existence.

The 500 villagers live in 48 small huts, except for the one "wealthy" family who recently built a home made of concrete. The village chief, Abdul Qadir Lashari, proudly showed off his village's brand-new community toilets, paved roads, and water pump that brings fresh water to the village.

These simple, critical amenities, taken for granted by most of us in the West, resulted from the direct assistance of the Rural Support Programmes Network, Pakistan's largest nongovernmental organization. RSPN has worked with thousands of similar Pakistani villages to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

I visited the Sindh village with RSPN to witness the results of using community organizing to alleviate poverty. The staff told me its goal was to teach villagers to "fish for themselves."

Every household in the Abdul Qadir Lashari village was able to reach a profit by the end of 2011 as a result of professional skills training, financial management, community leadership workshops and microloans.

Specifically, a middle-aged, illiterate woman proudly told me how she learned sewing and financial management and was thus able to increase her household revenue, manage her bills, and use a small profit to purchase an extra cow for the family. She was excited to introduce me to her cow, but sadly due to lack of time I was unable to make the bovine acquaintance.
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Asked what single thing she felt was most important most for her village, she replied education. Upon asking another elderly lady what she wishes for Pakistan, she repeated one word three times: "sukoon," which means peace.

When it was time to depart, the people of the village presented me with a beautiful handmade Sindhi shawl, an example of the craftwork the villagers are now able to sell for profit.

As I left the village with the dark red, traditional Sindhi shawl adorned around my neck, my thoughts returned to the 12-year-old girl, Sakafat, who passionately asked why she couldn't become a scientist.

I looked in her eyes and could only respond with the following: "You're right. You can be anything you want to be. And I have every confidence you will, inshallah ("God willing"), reach your manzil ("desired destination").

By focusing on education and local empowerment to lift the next generation out of poverty, Sakafat's dream could indeed one day become a reality for all of Pakistan.


http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/13/world/asia/pakistan-empowerment/index.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of India's Economic Times story about Edhi Foundation:

The name Edhi is omnipresent in Karachi with his eponymous ambulances parked every few kilometres in this bustling metropolis but the man himself is elusive. While the ambulances may just be a call away, it takes several calls over seven days to reach the person whom all of Pakistan reveres — Abdul Sattar Edhi. "Edhi saab, has left for a far-flung village in Baluchistan half-an-hour ago. There has been a disease outbreak with some deaths reported. Call later," says the operator from an Edhi centre. Another try, three days later, gets a response that they had lost touch with Edhi.

Next day, thinking that the renowned social worker was probably trying to avoid an Indian reporter, I rope in a local to get an appointment. Even this ploy fails as he gets a worrying answer: Edhi saab was untraceable and the coast guard had been roped in to look for him. On my final day in Karachi, I make a last ditch effort. This time, I was directed to another office.

And a call later, Edhi is on the line, "aap aafice mein aa jayen, main yahin hoon." I scramble to his small nondescript office in the crowded Boulton Market,a part of the Mithadar area in Karachi, police escort in tow, knowing fully well that a single call from any emergency anywhere in Karachi can take away my subject for good. "I am a sahafi (journalist) from India.

I have an appointment with Edhi Sahab," I tell the receptionist-cum-office girl. She points to the frail bearded old man sitting alone on a worn out sofa next to her table, wearing a well worn brown Pathani suit and a pair of black plastic slippers. It's humbling to watch the man who single-handedly changed the concept of social service in Pakistan, and in doing so, touched millions of lives, sit alone in his office without any pretensions, recouping from his arduous journey from Baluchistan.
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What started out in 1951 in a small room in Mithadar, with a capital of just Rs 2,300*, has over the years transformed into Pakistan's biggest and most respected welfare operation. Today, the Edhi Foundation and Edhi Trust run a whole gamut of welfare services for the poor and the downtrodden across Pakistan. Services ranging from ambulance services to burial of the dead to maternity to shelter for homeless and abandoned children, are rendered through a network of welfare centres, hospitals, laboratories and clinics, mostly free of cost. .

"My services run from Siachen to Nagar Parkar," says Edhi. On any given day, 2,000 Edhi ambulances run on the streets of Pakistan, 8,000 employees provide a plethora of welfare services, and 26,000 homeless reside in the Edhi centers totting up expenses of more than Rs 5 lakh daily.

Edhi has also crossed boundaries: Abdul Sattar Edhi International Foundation provides regular services, like burial, in New York, and will start hostels and medical services in London and many more countries. Another ambitious project Edhi has undertaken is the Edhi 50 Kilometer Project, wherein 500 centers will be constructed on all highways and major link roads of Pakistan. For a man who now uses a chopper, air ambulances and Chinese boats for relief work, the journey started with an old Hillman van five decades ago.
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Having such a well oiled set up in Pakistan why doesn't he turn to next door neighbour India that could do with some of his good welfare work? "India is the only country that stopped me from helping the poor. I wanted to go and help during the Kutch earthquake. The Indian government didn't allow me," he rues. But now, he says, its too late, he will have to start from the scratch. It's India's loss, Mr Edhi, completely our loss.


http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-12-23/news/30551210_1_karachi-abdul-sattar-edhi-ambulance

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of informal evening schooling for children of Islamabad:

ISLAMABAD, 9 October 2012 (IRIN) - As evening approaches in the centre of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, children gather at a small playground, chatting and laughing. It is a scene played out in countless parks across the country, but the children are not here to play after school - they are here to attend one.

For three hours every evening, free classes run here for anyone who wants to attend, with the idea being that some of the many children who live on Islamabad’s streets, or work in its markets and houses, might benefit.

Mohammad Ayub, who runs the unofficial school, began teaching children whose parents could not afford to send them to school in 1988.

Despite the fact that state-run primary schools do not charge fees and many provide free textbooks, other expenses (such as stationery, uniforms and transportation) mean that for many poor families, schools are unaffordable.

“It became quite popular and many parents who couldn’t afford a meal - forget education - would send their children to my little school in the evenings,” Ayub said.

The school, which relies on volunteers and donations, is one of dozens of informal institutions in the capital which are helping to educate children.

Pakistan has made limited progress in improving the quality and reach of its education system, and millions of children are missing out on schooling altogether in what the governments of Pakistan and the UK have termed an “education emergency”.

Despite making education a fundamental constitutional right in 2010, Pakistan has no chance of fulfilling its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education by 2015.
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Many of those who have finished Ayub’s informal school in Islamabad have gone on to complete high school and college, and today have jobs they could never have dreamed of. Ayub estimates that 20 percent of the students finish grade 10, with around 10 percent going on to complete degrees at colleges.

Many, like Yasmin Nawaz, a 30-year-old mother of three who graduated from the school in 1994, became teachers themselves.

“I finished middle school, grade 8. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to high school, but Master Ayub said I must,” Nawaz said. “He paid for my textbooks and my exam registration fee, and in return, I taught here at the school. I then taught elsewhere as well.”

Despite the clear return on this investment and Pakistan’s pledge to spend at least 4 percent of its GDP on education, that figure has been decreasing. Education spending today stands at less than 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, according PETF (Page 67).
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There is the issue of governance, there are no accountability mechanisms. For example, even if you do have sufficient teachers - which we don’t - if they are not in school, it is not possible to achieve anything.”

The LEAPS (Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools) project and PETF estimate that teachers in government schools, despite being paid more than their private sector counterparts and having greater job security, are not present one-fifth of the time. Government school teachers often use political connections and union action to protect themselves.

“Even if a senior officer reports a teacher that is not performing or not even attending school, it is very difficult to take action because they will involve the unions or go to an MNA [member of the National Assembly],” said Zafar.

“Even if you get that [teacher accountability], the quality of education, of textbooks, is an issue. So all of this needs to be considered, not just what is spent on education, but how.”


http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96497/PAKISTAN-Quality-education-still-a-long-way-off

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of Pakistan's Rural Support Network Program:

In the global search for poverty alleviation and sustainable development, Pakistan’s ‘Rural Support Programmes Network’ remains little known, yet offers enormous potential for the eradication of rural poverty across the world today.

The power of a collective community vision is what Pakistan's little known 'Rural Support Programmes Network' (RSPN) has used to empower rural communities to alleviate poverty. RSPN, Pakistan’s largest rural development NGO, is one of the most effective rural poverty alleviation models of the previous three decades. Yet its secret is surprisingly simple - community organizing.

The Network consists of eleven Rural Support Programmes, or RSPs. Founded in the early 1980’s, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) was created to improve agricultural productivity and raise incomes in poor, remote northern regions of Pakistan. Building on the success of AKRSP, other RSPs spread across the country, out of which came the birth of RSPN in 2000.
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Since its inception, the model has received widespread international recognition. The World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group noted the RSPN's "impressive record of performance”. It has also been described as the NGO encapsulating one of 13 development ‘Ideas That Work’. Founding RSPN Chairman Shoaib Sultan Khan was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for his work in "unleashing the power and potential of the poor". He has addressed the UN General Assembly to showcase RSPN's proven model of sustainable development.

Yet if the model is really so effective why has there not been an even greater transformation across rural Pakistan, especially given the high concentration of rural poverty? After all, the RSPN model has been widely replicated outside of Pakistan. In 1994, the UN Development Programme requested that RSPN Chairman Shoaib Sultan Khan set-up demonstration pilots of the model in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The success of those pilots led India to subsequently launch a similar countrywide programme that benefited over 300 million poor.

One reason for this discrepancy lies in the very secret of RSPN's success; the RSPN model is an effective but long-term one, where significant results can only be gauged in the long-term over periods of more than a decade. As such, international aid agencies fail to provide the level of support RSPN needs to kick-start the crucial early stages of new programmes across different regions. These agencies have also failed to continue servicing current programmes before rural communities achieve some semblance of self-sufficiency.....


http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/blog/view/603

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on 30th anniversary of rural support network in Pakistan:



ISLAMABAD - The Rural Support Programme (RSPs), the largest development network in Pakistan, mark their 30th anniversary on Thursday across Pakistan.

On 7th December 1982, the Nobel Peace Prize nominated development guru Shoaib Sultan Khan initiated the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in northern Pakistan as a project of the Aga Khan Foundation. Since then, the RSP movement has grown across Pakistan, touching the lives of 32 million people.

This model has been replicated in development programmes of India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

The RSPs will kick off their 30th anniversary celebration in January 2013 with renewed commitments and organizing series of events of which the most significant will be a large community convention and Book launch event of Shoaib Sultan Khan.

In Pakistan, there are now 12 RSPs nationwide, which have fostered almost 300,000 community organisations. These have demonstrated that poor Pakistanis are willing and able to improve their own lives. These 12 RSPs come together at the RSP Network (RSPN), a national level network of which they are all members.

The approach of the AKRSP has led successive governments to replicate this approach across Pakistan. The commitment of government and donors has enabled the RSPs to reach so many people who are engaged in the largest self help movement in Pakistan.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/islamabad/07-Dec-2012/rsps-mark-30th-anniversary-with-renewed-pledges

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Telegraph report on rural support program in Gilgit-Baltistan:

We were on the road from Gilgit to Sost, in the far north of Pakistan, a journey that follows the Silk Route taken for millennia by merchants on the road to China.

We passed the site of the battle of Nilt, where three Victoria Crosses were awarded after a desperate fight in 1891 between British forces and local tribes.

We reached a great gorge where, according to geologists, the subcontinent of India crashed into Asia, the catastrophic event that threw up the Karakoram mountain range through which we were travelling. Around us were glaciers and great snow-packed mountains of 25,000ft or more.
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My travelling companion, 79-year-old Shoaib Sultan Khan, was taking me back to where the final stage of his awesome life story had begun.

Exactly 30 years ago, when General Zia-ul-Haq was in power in Pakistan, Khan was commissioned by the Aga Khan to combat the endemic poverty and backwardness of Pakistan’s northern areas. Khan, who was working in a Sri Lankan forest village when he was hired, had spent his life in development work. He was already convinced that democratic village institutions held the key to releasing the rural masses from poverty. He set up the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme to put his insights into practice.

Khan stayed for 12 years in Gilgit and Chitral, a town 100 miles to the west, moving from village to village and living among the people. The only money he had at his disposal came at first from a $400,000 annual grant from the Aga Khan – a pinprick in such a vast area. Though other donors (including Britain’s Department for International Development) followed, the small sums involved meant the only way he could bring about change was by persuading local people to do it themselves.

Yet during this period living standards improved more than twofold, according to World Bank figures. Literacy rates soared from a negligible three per cent in 1982 to 70 per cent or more today. Women – hidden from view across much of the rest of Pakistan – have obtained a fuller and more confident economic and social role.
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This model subverted the conventional model of social development, which assumed that either central government or outside agencies would lift people out of poverty. Years of experience had taught Khan that this method never worked, and that only the villagers themselves understood what they needed. Central to his vision were the community activists.

'The basis of our system is to identify leaders,’ he told me. 'I had no more than 200 of these at most at the start. Now we have 10,000. These were the ones who developed this area. I used to say these community activists are our diamonds. They gave the shine, glitter and permanence to our organisation. The qualities we looked for were twofold. First, they needed to be honest, because they had to do the work themselves and, second, they should be prepared to act for others besides themselves.’

It was the activists in Sost who came to Khan and told him that they wanted to build an irrigation channel deep into the mountain to reach the glacier.

'Our engineers had a look and said that it was not possible,’ he said. 'But when we came back three months later we found that they had started work by themselves and dug 200m without our help.’

Incredibly, no machinery of any kind was used. The villagers had hacked into the mountainside with the aid of nothing more than rudimentary equipment: shovels, pickaxes, digging bars and hammers of various sizes. 'We thought, if they can dig 200m then they can dig for a kilometre and a half,’ Khan said. 'So we gave them assistance.’ ...


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9897739/Escaping-Pakistans-poverty-trap.html