Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hillary's Public Diplomacy Rebuked in Pakistan

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's botched attempts at public diplomacy have drawn sharp rebuke from an American in Pakistan. Todd Shea, the head of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services in Pakistan, has criticized Clinton's statements during her recent visit as "insensitive, corrosive, arrogant and flat out wrong". The CDRS is an NGO on the ground in Kashmir and it has been working to provide a field medical center and healthcare services to the earthquake victims in Azad Kashmir since 2005. Like Greg Mortenson's work on building schools, the work done by Todd Shea's relief efforts have engendered positive feelings among Pakistanis toward the Americans. In effect, Greg and Todd have been attempting to fill the vacuum left by the US State Department in practical public diplomacy on the ground in Pakistan.

CDRS says it has worked directly and successfully with nearly every professional organization and major participant working with the earthquake recovery effort in District Muzzafarabad, including The Pakistan Army, Oxfam, Islamic Relief, The Turkish Red Crescent Society, The Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Abbas Hospital, PIMS Hospital, The U.S. Army M*A*S*H, The U.S. Army helicopter forces, The German Army helicopter forces, The Canadian Army DART Team, UNICEF, The World Health Organization, The Canadian Relief Foundation, Concern For Children, SOS Children’s Villages of Pakistan, The Alpine Club, Aid In Emergency, The Cuban Government contingent of physicians, The office of The Federal Health Minister of Pakistan, The Office of the AJK Secretary Of Health and The Federal Relief Commission of Pakistan.

Here is the text of an open letter by Shea addressed to Pakistanis and Americans:

Dear America and Pakistan,

I can't believe how insensitive, corrosive, arrogant and flat out wrong U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was with her statements while in Pakistan on what had been billed as an opportunity for the U.S. to reach out to the Pakistani people in a positive way. Thanks to her corrosive attitude and evasiveness when pressed a bit by fair questions from ordinary Pakistanis, the plan backfired. I can't imagine what she was thinking or what got into her. I had really looked forward to her visit and believed she would use her time wisely to be charming and statesmanlike while encouraging Pakistan's people, acknowledging their suffering and extending a hand of committed friendship and making a pledge that America will never again abandon Pakistan and leave them to clean up the mess. Instead, I feel terribly disappointed and feel as though a great opportunity to improve relations was trashed by ill-timed, ill-tempered and divisive remarks.

As she "scolded" Pakistan, bombs were going off all over the place even as even she disrespected her hosts while sitting in a secure environment, while Pakistani citizens who aren't so lucky are dying in their own streets and the Army is going after the bad guys and their extremist ideology that America planted and then abandoned in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan after the Soviet Union was defeated in the 80s, leaving a poor nation to deal alone with the brutal and destructive aftermath of 3 million refugees in Pakistan (still there) and a severe shortage of schools, hospitals, rehabilitation... and Hope. It's not Pakistan's fault that America didn't live up to its lofty principles and instead made horrible decisions that helped steer the world towards a collision course with disaster. If we could spend enormous amounts of money to rebuild our big enemies of Japan and Germany after World War II, why then couldn't we spend some of our money to rebuild our FRIENDS after they helped the U.S. become the World's lone superpower? It's a question that each and every American who loves their country should think deeply about before they go shooting their mouths off about how Pakistan hasn't done enough to fight the terrorism that we allowed to metastasize into a cancer on the entire world though short-sightedness, selfishness, arrogance and probably some racism too.

Americans should take a hard look at our past foreign policy towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan region with regards to collecting, sending, training, arming and supporting extremists to help fight our ideological battles and then abruptly leaving the scene (once our short term strategic global objectives were met) without repatriating foreign fighters, debriefing and disarming indigenous fighters, aiding heartbroken mothers and traumatized children who had never known anything other than war and sorrow, providing better education, opportunity, infrastructure and healthcare so a wartorn place could start anew and begin building a brighter future. Resources were desperately needed and we ignored our responsibilities and forgot about what we and our founding documents stand for. Americans should see our leader's abandonement of the region in the 90s like someone helping to start a wildfire and then leaving the scene, then coming back later while peoples houses are burning to the ground and human beings are engulfed in the flames of terror to publicly scold the brave firefighters who are putting their lives on the line about how they're not doing enough to fight the fire- and then have the arrogant audacity to criticize the victimized families who live in the neighborhood about fire safety.

Americans who are ignorant of the facts or don't understand them should study their history more closely and be willing to "look in the mirror" with some thoughtful introspection on what Afghanis and Pakistanis have suffered for so many years.

As an American who dearly loves his Country and Pakistan and who has spent most of the last four years working on ground to help Pakistanis rebuild their lives from disasters, I wish to apologize to Pakistan's citizens for The Secretary of State's undiplomatic behavior in your suffering nation.

Todd Shea

Here is a video clip of Todd Shea singing Dil Dil Pakistan:

Related Links:

Comprehensive Disaster Relief Service

Missiles versus Schools

Marshall Plan For Pakistan

FATA Fears

Valuing Life in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taliban or RAW-liban?

The Taliban have mounted major terrorist assaults in Kabul and Peshawar this week, claiming over a hundred innocent lives in just one day. The Kabul bombing targeted the U.N. because of the organization's role in organizing the country's presidential election on Nov. 7 -- a second-round runoff that insurgents have threatened to disrupt by killing election workers. The Peshawar attack targeted the Meena Bazar full of women shoppers, maximizing civilian casualties. As a result, the bulk of the loss of civilian lives occurred on the Pakistani side.

Significant differences in the organizations, objectives, strategies and tactics are beginning to emerge between the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban with the intensification of violence on both sides of the border. The Afghan insurgents generally have shown greater concern about avoiding civilian casualties, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Unlike the Pakistani Taliban who deliberately target to maximize civilian deaths, the main targets of the Afghan Taliban have been the foreigners who they see as occupiers, not the ordinary Afghan civilians.

The long-running insurgencies on both sides of the border usually operate independently. Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders occasionally cooperate, but the differences in their objectives, strategies, tactics and targets point to the possibility of different sources of support and funding for the two organizations.

The Pakistani Taliban movement grew out of some of the Afghan Taliban that took refuge in Pakistani tribal areas on the border following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Organizationally distinct from the Afghan group, Pakistani Taliban rose up in 2002 in response to the Pakistani army's incursions into the tribal areas to hunt down militants. In 2008, Pakistani security forces clashed with pro-Taliban militants in the tribal area near Peshawar, jeopardizing peace talks between the militants and the government. With the recent dramatic rise in horrific suicide bombings in Pakistan this year, the Pakistani military has undertaken a major offensive in South Waziristan to flush out the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militants and stop the daily carnage in Pakistani cities and towns. There is good organization, effective planning, working supply lines, significant funding, and the fierce resistance by the TTP greeting the Pakistani military onslaught in South Waziristan, raising strong suspicions of Indian Intelligence agency RAW's involvement with the Pakistani Taliban in the current crisis.

Here's what Christine Fair of Rand Corporation thinks about Indian involvement in destabilizing Pakistan via its growing presence and influence in Afghanistan:

I think it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan's regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it is unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan's apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar--across from Bajaur. Kabul's motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India's interest in engaging in them. Even if by some act of miraculous diplomacy the territorial issues were to be resolved, Pakistan would remain an insecure state. Given the realities of the subcontinent (e.g., India's rise and its more effective foreign relations with all of Pakistan's near and far neighbors), these fears are bound to grow, not lessen. This suggests that without some means of compelling Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon militancy, it will become ever more interested in using it -- and the militants will likely continue to proliferate beyond Pakistan's control.

Here's another, similar view of India's involvement with the Taliban to foment trouble in Pakistan as seen by Laura Rozen in her article in Foreign Policy Magazine:

The former (American) intelligence official strongly supported the regional approach to Afghanistan suggested by US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. "Afghanistan is a classic power vacuum," the former official said. "Neighbors see it as point of instability to guarantee their own stability or an opportunity to score points."

While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former intelligence official said. "The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the former (US) intelligence official who served in both countries said. "The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there."

"None of this is ever one-sided," he added. "That is why it was so devastating and we were so let down" when India got taken out of Holbrooke's official brief.

There are strong indications that the Indian security and intelligence establishment has finally launched the covert war in Pakistan that they have been planning for about a year. The Indian officials have been seething since last year because of their inability to "punish" Pakistan following the Mumbai terrorist attacks that they blamed on Pakistan. They shelved the idea of lightning air strikes strategy dubbed "Cold Start" against Pakistan for fear of sparking a major war. But they have continued to talk about covert actions by Indian agents to destabilize and balkanize Pakistan. Former RAW chief B. Raman has argued that India appoint a covert ops specialist as the new head of RAW. He said last December that “at this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”

Vikram Sood, another former top spy in India, has elaborated on India's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "Covert action can be of various kinds. One is the paramilitary option, which is what the Pakistanis have been using against us. It is meant to hurt, destabilize or retaliate. The second is the psychological war option, which is a very potent and unseen force. It is an all weather option and constitutes essentially changing perceptions of friends and foes alike. The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."

S.M. Mushrif, former Police Chief of Maharashtra and the author of "Who Killed Karkare?", believes that the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) is up to its neck in conspiring with the extreme Hindutva groups against Indian Muslims and creating trouble between India and Pakistan, and now it is ominous to see one of the former IB leaders K.C. Verma heading RAW as of early this year.

The power establishment that really runs the affairs of India (Mushrif says it is not Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi) does not want to expose the rabidly anti-Muslim Hindutva terrorists.

Verma was appointed earlier this year as the new head of RAW, regarded as one of the top intelligence agencies along with Mossad, ISI, SVR, MI6, and the CIA. This choice appears to have been made at the suggestion of intelligence hawks like B. Raman to appoint an outsider, in spite of significant resistance from within the agency. Mr. Verma has been tasked with rapidly building strong covert ops capabilities within RAW. It is not a coincidence that the terrorist attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Verma took the reins of RAW.

Indians have demonstrated that they have the strong motives and the means to hurt Pakistan. They have established a powerful presence in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan and deployed significant resources to carry out a very violent covert war inside Pakistan, and they appear to have now found the opportunity among the willing allies in the Pakistani Taliban faction in Mehsud tribe.

Given the strong probability of Indian involvement in the current crisis, the Pakistani security and intelligence establishment can not rely on counterinsurgency operations alone to stop the civilian carnage on Pakistani streets. The counterinsurgency operations must be supplemented with serious efforts to cut off support and funding for the TTP, and disrupt the Indian intelligence network operating out of Afghanistan. It will require superior intelligence and significant counter-intelligence operations, as well as an effective diplomatic offensive to put pressure on India to stop its covert war being waged on Pakistani soil.

Here are video clips of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval talking about his 7 years undercover for RAW in Pakistan:

I lived in Pakistan for 7 Years as Spy - Ajit... by zemtv

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who Killed Karkare?

CFR's View of the Taliban

World's Top Intelligence Agencies

Twin Bombings in Kabul, Peshawar

India's Israel Envy

India-Israel-US Axis

India's Covert War in Pakistan

India and Balochistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Pakistan: On the Edge of the Precipice
Obama's Interview with CBS 60 Minutes
Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Taming the ISI: Implications for Pakistan’s Stability and the War on Terrorism

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

FATA Raid Charades

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bloody Revolution in India?

As Pakistan deals with a powerful insurgency and daily carnage, there are calls for backing up the Pakistani army-led counterinsurgency with major social, economic and political reforms to calm the growing social unrest that attracts young men and women to radical causes. These calls are being reinforced by the belief that the Taliban insurgent groups often succeed by exploiting local grievances against powerful landlords, and lack of economic opportunity for the alienated young population growing up under feudal or tribal systems.

Some of these conditions are not unique to Pakistan. Pakistan's neighbor India has bigger issues of landless peasants, the caste-based Apartheid, and the problem of widespread hunger, poverty and desperation, which is worse than most of its neighbors. In addition, there is a known and growing nexus between the radical Hindus and some of the Indian intelligence and military officials, as recently detailed by former police chief of Maharashtra, Mr. S.M. Mushrif in his book titled "Who Killed Karare?".

Here is a report by a Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai after his recent visit to India:

"I fear there will be a bloody revolution in India," a retired Indian military officer remarked to this writer and other guests during a recent visit to New Delhi. It was shocking to hear the comment from a soldier, in a country that supposedly had given a voice to its huge population and was believed to be all-inclusive.

It is obvious that India's much-praised democracy hasn't brought any real change in the lives of millions of Indians. That some of the poorest men and women are now up in arms in parts of India is evidence enough that democratically elected governments must do more to provide rights and justice to the rural poor and ensure even-handed development in different parts of the country.

The Naxalite violence in India has caused pain to most thinking Indians. For them it is a matter of anguish that a growing number of Indians are disillusioned with their country's democracy and see no hope of benefiting from India's steady economic progress. They have picked up the gun to fight for their rights.

The Maoist-linked violence is spreading and engulfing new places. The vast region affected by the insurgency include the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal and runs south through Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is usually called the "Red Corridor" because the leadership for the rebels is provided by communist cadres labelled as Maoists. The Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninists), despite suffering splits, is still the standard-bearer of the rebels.

According to reports in the Indian media, more than 220 districts in 20 or so states are now affected by Maoist-linked violence. Indian intelligence agencies believe the movement has at its disposal 20,000 armed cadres and over 50,000 regular members. Apart from the rural poor, indigenous tribes such as the Girijans in Andhra Pradesh and Santhals in West Bengal have been flocking to the Naxalite movement. The movement has appeal for the dispossessed and the under-privileged. In the words of its present leader, Mupalla Laxman Rao, in hiding somewhere in eastern India and better known as Ganapathi, his party's influence has grown stronger and it was now the only genuine alternative before the people of India.

The Naxalite movement began as a peasants' uprising in May 1969 in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal. It was initially led by 49-year-old Charu Mazumdar and its aim was to seize power through an agrarian revolution by overthrowing the feudal order. Mazumdar died in police custody 12 days after his arrest in Calcutta in 1972 and became a hero to Maoist cadres that have increased in number and strength over the years despite splits in the movement. The Naxalite insurgency has sprouted after every defeat and is now stronger than ever.

India's share of the world's poorest people has increased to 39 percent from 25 percent in 1980. In comparison, the Below Poverty Line population worldwide has decreased from 1,470 million to 970 million. There are reportedly 301 million Indians below the poverty line, just 19 million less than in 1983. The Human Development Report by the UN has been ranking India among the lowest 60 or 65 countries in the list of 193 nations that are part of the annual study. India's poor performance on this score was in spite of the around nine percent growth rate in its GDP. There are reports in the media about farmers committing suicide or selling their wives to pay mounting debts. Though the recorded figures of such cases aren't high in a big country such as India with 1.17 billion people, it still indicates the desperate state of certain communities.

India's poor and marginalised groups have on occasions showed their anger through the power of the ballot. This happened in the 2004 and also in the 2009 national elections. The Hindu nationalist BJP tried to seek votes by coining the slogan, India Shining, in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections as part of its claim that its coalition government had brought prosperity during its five-year rule. But the electorate thought otherwise as the majority, particularly the poor and rural voters, the lower castes and minorities hadn't benefited from the progress that had mostly made the rich richer. Their verdict in the polls was against the BJP-led NDA alliance and in support of the Congress and its allies. The Congress won again in 2009 despite the incumbency factor because it was largely seen as the party that cared more for the rights of the poor and the rural voters and was conscious of the concerns of the minorities, particularly Muslims.

However, it is the ruling Congress now that is confronted with the challenge of responding to the needs of India's restless rural poor and tribal communities. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described the Naxalite insurgency as the single greatest threat to India's internal security. Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress head Sonia Gandhi and the rising star of Indian politics, has been focusing on the vast Indian hinterland, visiting the under-developed rural villages and spending nights at the homes of Dalits, often termed the poorest and most oppressed people in the country. This cannot be enough to calm down the Naxalites, who are convinced that only force could win the Indian people their rights.

A showdown between the Indian government and the Naxalites is now imminent. The Congress-led government is mobilising hundreds of thousands of security personnel, mostly police and paramilitary forces, to launch an offensive against the Maoists mostly likely in November. It has ruled out the use of the military, but the operation will be coordinated from New Delhi as part of a central government initiative. Indian analysts and foreigners knowledgeable about India have pointed out that the country lacked a cohesive strategy to deal with the insurgency. The ruling elites have also been criticised for being slow in responding to the needs of the poorest communities, who were then easily recruited by the Maoists.

Such is the hatred of the Naxalites for the ruling elite that their leader Ganapathi, a former schoolteacher, branded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaran as "terrorists." In a recent interview at his secret jungle hideout with the weekly magazine Open, he said "the people will rise up like a tornado under our party's leadership to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country." At another point, the 59-year old Ganapathi declared: "Those (government) sharks want to loot the wealth and drive the tribal people of the region to further impoverishment."

By threatening to unleash a "tornado" of violence if the Indian government went ahead with its planned large-scale offensive against his insurgent forces, Ganapathi has made the intentions of the Maoists obvious. Already, his men, and even some women cadres, have carried out actions that are now normally associated with the Taliban. They have kidnapped and beheaded government officials, blown up electricity and telephone towers, destroyed roads and railway tracks, killed political opponents and attacked police stations and other official installations. The offensive against the Naxalites will certainly weaken and deprive them of some of their bases and hideouts, but the issue cannot be resolved by the use of force alone. Many members of the Indian intelligentsia sympathise with the cause of the Maoists and objective analysts see it as an economic issue and one concerning lack of justice. The Indian ruling elite needs to tackle the root-cause of the insurgency instead of applying force through the state apparatus to crush the rebels.

I think Mr. Yousufzai, an independent journalist and reporter from Pakistan, has done a good job of reporting what he saw and heard in India and he has put it in context.

But predicting revolutions is hazardous business. In spite of studying historic causes of past revolutions, it's not any more accurate than predicting when and where the next big earthquake or hurricane will hit and what will happen in its aftermath.

Talking about Pakistan, the violence has reached new heights in recent days. The conditions have existed for a while and the triggers have been in place, and yet, it's not certain if what we are seeing now is indeed a revolution. There are still many questions as to whether the nation's political and military leadership can forestall a bloody revolution, by a combination of the use of force and appearance of reform to placate those violently protesting the tyranny of the status quo. After all, terrorism is often defined as a form of violent protest.

In India, too, conditions exist for a bloody revolution. But it's not certain what the trigger will be. It could be the growth of the Maoist movement and its spread from rural to urban India where it begin to be seen by Indian urban middle class and gets the attention of the world media. But it's by no means fait accompli. All depends on the ability of India's political leaders and its military's competency in forestalling it. But the jury is still out on these questions.

Rahimullah Yusufzai is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email:

Here is British Writer William Dalrymple talking about India and Pakistan:

Here's are two video clips about Maoists in India:

Related Links:

Can Indian Democracy Deliver?
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization
The Tornado Awaiting India

Insurgents Violence Reports in India

Countering Militancy in FATA

Political, Economic and Social Reforms in Pakistan

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India
Western Myths About "Stable, Peaceful, Prosperous" India

Taliban Target Landed Elite

Feudal Punjab Fertile For Terror

Caste: India's Apartheid

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Guest Post by Dost_Mittar

A simple solution to a disgusting problem
"The toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene which is critical chapter in the growth of civilization."
[Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak]

Anyone who has seen the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” would remember one scene above all others. I am referring, of course, to the “potty scene” where the young Jamal is shown relieving himself in an open pit. The scene caused a lot of adverse reaction in India as unrepresentative of true India. But according to a joint study conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 665 million Indians, or nearly two-thirds of them defecate in the open. I am not sure if these 665 included people using indoor toilets without plumbing; if it did not, then the number of Indians defecating in an unhygienic manner is even greater.

I love traveling by train when I am in India and have many enchanting childhood memories of such travel. But one of the less enchanting memory is of seeing people relieving themselves in the open whenever the train passed some open areas in the mornings. Some of these people would stand up holding their pajamas or dhotis to protect their dignity at the sight of the approaching train; most would carry on without paying any attention to those seeing them perform one of their most private functions. I never thought of this as anything abnormal and it took a foreigner for me to realize how demeaning this scene was. That was when I read V.S. Naipaul’s “An Area of Darkness”. Naipaul, a Trinidadian of Indian origin, was aghast at seeing such scenes when traveling through India for the first time. I realized then that what I had taken as something natural was somewhat unique to India and Indians. Whereas people in other undeveloped countries may be forced into defecating in the open, they won’t accept it as something normal as we do.

Another thing unique about India is the way we treat those who take care of our excrement. During my childhood in Lyalpur as well as the first decade of my stay in Delhi, our house and, indeed, the street on which we lived did not have indoor plumbing. A woman came to manually scrape our excrement with a pick-up and transfer it to a larger basket -tassla- which she carried outside on her head. Like everyone else, I also avoided her touch as if touching her would somehow make me touch the feces that she just cleaned and carried. She was not allowed to touch our water taps, we would pour water in a bucket reserved for this purpose while she stepped a couple of steps away from us. It never occurred to me that there was something wrong in my behaviour: But it did so to a Brahmin kid growing up in a village in Bihar. Bindeshwar Pathak, a six year old boy, wondered what would happen if he touched such a person. When he did, his mother was hugely upset with the sacrilege he had committed and made him swallow cow dung and urine and bathe in the water of the holy Ganga to purify him from his “polluting” activity. He realized that "If they (scavengers) continue to clean human excreta, they will not be accepted into society."

People who clean and carry human human waste, which we euphemistically call night soil, have been known by various names. We used to call them bhangi or bhangan. In military cantonments, they began to be called jemadar or jemadarni for some obscure reason. Gandhi called them harijan or children of god. But it was the British who coined a term for them for their census purposes which has become a standard expression in Indian English. That term is Scavenger. The dictionary meaning of scavenger is “an animal or other organism that feeds on dead organic matter” or “a person who searches through and collects items from discarded material”. In India, however, the word generally means the person who manually cleans toilets.

Mahatma Gandhi was perhaps the first Indian who recognized the indignity of the job of a scavenger. As anyone who has seen the film “Gandhi” would know, he started the practice of cleaning after himself when he was in South Africa; not only that, the male chauvinist in him forced his wife to do the same, bringing tears to her eyes. Later on, when he started his Sabarmati Ashram, he made it a rule that all inmates of the Ashram would clean their own toilet.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a Gandhian. Gandhi lived among the “harijans” so that he could experience first hand the humiliating conditions under which they lived. Pathak did the same. He lived among scavengers for three years to be able to feel their pain. He realized that the only way to get rid of the unhygienic state of toilets and to improve the lot of the scavengers was to develop a low cost sanitary toilet which was affordable by ordinary households and, at the same time, eliminated the need for scavengers to carry human waste. He then founded a movement called “Sulabh International” and developed a simple, low-cost toilet which cost approximately Rs. 700 and could be installed anywhere, including villages without any plumbing. This toilet uses only 1.5 litre of water for flushing as against 10 litres by a conventional toilet. The toilet “system” consists of two pits: when the first one fills up, it is closed and the other one is used. The closed toilet dries up in two years when it is ready to be used as fertilizer and for conversion into biogas for heating, cooking, and generating electricity.

Sulabh international has succeeded in raising the percentage of rural population with access to a toilet from 27% to 59%. The movement has also installed 5500 public toilets in the cities and places of tourist attraction throughout the country. Anyone who has used public toilets in India knows how filthy and nauseating they are. Public toilets built and maintained by Sulabh charge a nominal amount for their use but they are much cleaner than other public toilets and a boon to visitors with a need to go. The system has since been exported to many developing countries of Asia and Africa. It has been recommended by the United Nations HABITAT and Centre for Human Settlements, as well as by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Sulabh International Social Service Organization has launched operations in Bhutan and Afghanistan. It has, together with UN-HABITAT, trained engineers, architects and others from 14 countries in Africa. It is planning to work in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, and Tajikistan.

The Sulabh system removes the need for scavenger; therefore, Pathak’s organization started training schools to prepare them for alternative jobs. These included a training school for women in Rajasthan to train them in tailoring, embroidery, food-processing and beauty treatments. Some of these women went to New York City to participate in a fashion show held at the U.N. headquarters to celebrate the International Year of Sanitation.

In recognition of his services for efficient water management, Dr. Pathak was awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize. The award was created in 1990 to recognize achievements in water science, water management, water action or awareness building and carries a cash prize of $150,000. If India could produce another 100 Pathaks, it could really begin to shine.

Although the practice of manual scavenging became illegal in India in 1993, there are still 115,000 scavengers working in the country today.

Dost_Mittar, the author, is a Canadian of Indian origin. He is a retired policy analyst with the Canadian government living in Ottawa. He does consulting work, mostly with governments, if and when "I get an assignment without looking for it. My hobby is to get away from Canadian winters as much as possible".

Here's a video clip of Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh saying "if there was a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth, India would win it hands down":

Related Links:

WHO-UNICEF Sanitation Study in India

Sulabh Toilet Museum

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?

Can Slumdog Success Help Poor Children?

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire

Pakistan's Total Sanitation Campaign

Caste System: India's Apartheid

No Toilet, No Bride

Poverty Tours in India, Brazil and South Africa

South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

Bollywood and Hollywood Mix Up Combos

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Pakistani Children's Plight

Poverty in Pakistan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Inaction Against Corruption in South Asia

Under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), all American companies are required to provide details of illegal payments made in foreign countries.

Paxar Corporation, a New York listed company recently acquired by Avery, acknowledged paying $30,000 to bribe Pakistani customs officials in 2008 through its local customs broker. Avery, a California-based company, manufactures and markets various office products in several dozen countries around the world.

In a settlement with the SEC, Avery has agreed to pay over $300,000 in fines, and accepted SEC's cease-and-desist order to stop its corrupt practices.

Here is a list of FCPA violations involving Indian entities reported to the Indian Prime Minister by India's US Ambassador Meera Shanker in Washington:

* On January 9, 2009, Mario Covino of Control Companies allegedly pleaded guilty to making illegal payments of over $ 1 million to employees of state-owned entities, including the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.

* On Feb 14, 2008, Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation’s Indian subsidiary, Pioneer Friction Ltd, settled civil charges in connection with improper payments to employees of Indian Railways. The $137,400-payment was made between 2001 and 2005.

* Subsidiaries of York International Corporation allegedly made improper payments of over $ 7.5 million to secure orders in various countries, including India. Payments were made from 2001 to 2006.

* C Srinivasan, a former president of A T Kearney India Ltd, allegedly made improper payments of $720,000 to senior employees of two partially state owned enterprises in India between 2001 and 2003.

* Textron’s subsidiaries allegedly made improper payments to secure contracts in various countries including India in the 2001-2005 period.

* Dow Chemicals subsidiary, DE-Nocil Crop Protection Ltd, allegedly made improper payments to various officials, including to an official in Central Insecticides Board. Pride International too, may have made third-party payments.

In spite of the well-publicized actions of the US government under FCPA, there appears to have been no government investigations ordered or actions taken against the corrupt officials on the receiving end of the reported bribes from the US companies in India and Pakistan.

It is because of the total impunity for the corrupt politicians and officials in Pakistan that corruption has surged by whopping 400 percent in the last three years, according to the National Corruption Perception Survey 2009 carried out by Transparency International. The return of democracy under a US-sponsored amnesty for the current leadership has not helped in holding the corrupt accountable. On Transparency International survey for 2008, Pakistan fares badly, ranking at 134 on a list of 180 nations surveyed. By comparison, India ranks higher at 85 while Bangladesh ranks lower at 147.

The National Corruption Perception Survey 2009 (NCPS 2009) indicates that the overall Corruption in 2002 has increased from Rs.45 Billion to Rs.195 Billion in 2009. Police and Power maintained their ranking as the top two most corrupt sectors.

There has been remarkable improvement in Judiciary. As compared to 2006 when it was ranked 3rd most corrupt sector, in 2009 Judiciary is ranked 7th, The News reports.

Postscript: According of Professor Mike Koehler of Butler University School of Law, the FCPA does not contain any affirmative disclosure obligation, as the opening paragraph of this post suggests. However, I do believe that there are certain practical benefits of self-disclosure, such as no prosecution for past violations or lighter or suspended sentences etc.

An example is the case involving a Dutch software company, Paradigm, that caters to the oil and gas industry. After the company relocated its principal place of business from Israel to Texas in 2005, it discovered it had either made or promised numerous bribes to officials in five nations. The company pre-emptively confessed to Justice Department prosecutors, instituted remedial compliance measures, and ultimately ended up with an 18-month non-prosecution agreement.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings


Avery Acknowledges Bribing Pakistani Officials

FCPA Violations Involving Indian Entities

The Story of Graft

Anti-Corruption Day, Blagojevich and Zardari

Bhutto Convicted in Switzerland

Corruption in Pakistan

Transparency International Survey 2007

Is Siemens Guilty?

Zardari Corruption Probe

Terror in India--Who Killed Karkare?

SM Mushrif, the author of "Who Killed Karkare?" and former police chief of Maharashtra state, has raised some very serious questions about the role of the Indian intelligence in the increasing violence committed by Hindutva outfits against India's minorities, and how India's Intelligence Bureau diverts attention from it by falsely accusing Indian Muslims and Pakistan's ISI, as was done in Malegaon and Samjutha Express blasts.

While the human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib by the Bush administration have been exposed, documented and condemned by the world, similar abuses of Muslims in India's "war on terror" have gone largely unnoticed. There appears to be a conspiracy of silence by the world media when it comes to the brutality against Indian Muslims practiced by officials and the right-wing Hindu extremists in world's largest secular democracy. The western media, in particular, have completely bought what Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, describes as a "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" India. Even the officially-endorsed anti-Muslim violence and resulting deaths of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have not been able to shake the faith of the Indophile western journalists. Let's see if former Maharashtra police chief Mushrif's book "Who Killed Karkare?" changes any minds:

Review by M Zeyaul Haque,

A new book curiously titled "Who Killed Karkare?"(published by Pharos Media) says a nationwide network of Hindutva terror that has its tentacles spread up to Nepal and Israel is out to destroy the India most Indians have known for ages and to remould it into some kind of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The writer, a former IG Police of Maharashtra, SM Mushrif, has reconstructed a fearsome picture out of former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s chargesheet against alleged Hindutva terrorists like Lt. Col. Purohit, Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur and others.

The chargesheet pointed towards a mind-boggling nationwide conspiracy with international support to destabilize the constitutional order and the secular democratic Indian state that upholds it, to be replaced by a Hindutva state run according to a new Constitution. For that the conspirators were prepared for a massive bloodbath, using bomb attacks on religious places to trigger an anti-Muslim holocaust.

Mushrif, who has over three decades of diligent policing behind him and whose feats include exposing the Telgi scam, has made an elaborate case out of nearly a dozen blasts over a large area of the country conducted by Hindutva terror groups of different stripes. His case: a section of India’s intelligence services, a miniscule group in the armed forces and a section of different state police forces have been compromised and infiltrated by these elements, a development that bodes ill for the future of the country.

In Hemant Karkare’s net (of investigations, of course) many big and small fishes of VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and Sanatan Sanstha (which has been found to be involved in Diwali-eve blasts in Goa last week) had been trapped. Serving and retired army officers, academics, serving and retired officials of India’s premier intelligence service were ensnared in Karkare’s fishing net. The menacing power of the latter groups, inspired by sustained anti-Muslim hate campaigns of the last six decades, gave the plot a sinister and highly destructive character.

Among the plans unearthed by Karkare was a blueprint for the assassination of 70 prominent Indians who could by a hindrance to the project of Hindutva. Interestingly, most of the persons marked for elimination would, naturally, be Hindus because it is they who primarily run the dispensation. The conspirators were also unhappy with organizations whose Hindutva they suspected to be less virulent than desired.

Mushrif, who very well knows the power of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to make or mar lives and careers, says he is prepared to face the consequences of hostility of this power hub. He musters “evidence” to show that the IB has regularly been interfering with regular police investigations to let Hindutva terrorists slip out of the net and replace them with random Muslim youth. To fudge the issues further obliging police officers in the states would not mind exterminating a few Muslim youth to be branded posthumously as “terrorists”.

There are quite a few number of such cases where such extra-judicial killing of Muslim youth has turned out to be false police encounters. All this is done to cover tracks of Hindutva terror. Mushrif says a “Brahminist” network that has its origins in Maharashtra, and is closely knit across political parties, government services, including IB, and other vital sectors of life is behind the terror that seeks to destroy the secular, democratic state. He hastens to clarify that very few Brahminists are Brahmins. Many are from other high Hindu castes, some from middle and lower castes.

Most Brahmins are fair-minded and would not like to associate themselves with hate ideologies. Hemant Karkare, too, was a Brahmin, Mushrif says. So is Mushrif’s son-in-law.

It is pertinent to note that “Brahminism” and “Brahminical order” first appeared in Dalit protest vocabulary in the Dalit uprising movement in Maharashtra towards the turn of the 20th century. Mushrif, who appropriates part of this vocabulary for the present discourse, says that Maharashtra still remains the centre of this ideology that, among other things, has the dubious distinction of killing the Father of the Nation.

The power establishment that really runs the affairs of this country (Mushrif says it is not Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi) does not want to expose the Hindutva terrorists. One example is the blasts in Samjhauta Express, which the IB said was carried out by Pakistan’s ISI. Mushrif quotes a report in The Times of India that said, “the Centre had blamed the ISI on the basis of the IB’s findings.” However, during a narco-analysis test under Karkare, Lt. Col. Purohit had admitted having supplied the RDX used in the blast. The IB, which draws its power from its proximity to the Prime Minister (its director briefs the PM every morning for half an hour), did not want Karkare’s investigation that blew the cover off the IB’s shenanigans, to continue.

Once Karkare was removed from the scene, the IB moved in to fill his position with KP Raghuvanshi, a pliant police officer with extremely low credibility among Muslims for his record of letting off known Hindutva terrorists and implicating innocent Muslim youth even in bomb attack cases on mosques.

There are quite a few interesting vignettes here, like Raghuvanshi and Col. Purohit’s association with Abhinav Bharat in Maharashtra, whose hand was evident in a series of blasts across the country. It has old connections with men like Veer Damodar Savarkar (whose relative Himani Savarkar leads the Abhinav Bharat movement), Dr Munje, who led the Hindu Mahasabha, and other Hindutva luminaries. It is at the Bhonsala Military Academy run by these groups that Purohit trained police officers, including Raghuvanshi. Mushrif asks a pertinent question: Will Raghuvanshi pursue the investigation against Purohit, his guru? A plausible answer is, perhaps no. Already charges have been dropped by a special court under MCOCA against 11 accused, including Purohit, on the grounds of insufficient evidence produced in the court by the prosecution.

This was just the beginning of the undoing of Karkare’s painstaking investigation. Mushrif says slowly the system is working to undo all of Karkare’s work and let off the terrorists who over the years destroyed scores of lives and wreaked irreparable economic damage. The ATS team under Karkare had pointed out VHP leader Praveen Togadia’s role in the blasts. The ATS under Raghuvanshi dropped the investigation against him saying (please hold your laughter) they do not know who Togadia is!

A number of investigations have been thus sabotaged by the powers that be and the tracks of the Hinduta terrorists duly covered. The 319-page book is crammed with such information.

But what about who killed Karkare? Mushrif says two teams were at work on 26/11 – one which did the maximum damage, and was from outside. The smaller team took advantage of the confusion of the moment and acted only on the relatively small CST-CAMA-Rangbhavan stretch that killed Karkare. It was a desi unit that wanted Karkare and his men out of the way.

(Courtesy: The Milli Gazette)

Unfortunately, the Indian government has miserably failed, and continues to fail to investigate the allegations that are very very serious. The author, by raising these issues, adds his heavy weight by virtue of his inside knowledge and the position he held, to the extremely serious allegations.

Related Links:

Radical Hindutva Government in Israeli Exile?

India's Guantanamos and Abu-Ghraibs

Gujarat Muslims Ignored by Politicians

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Hindu Rashtra ideology was driving force for Malegaon conspirators

The Rise and Rise of Mangalore's Taliban

Who Killed Karkare?

Hindutva-Military-Intelligence Nexus

Malegaon Files

Samjhota Express Blast

Muslims Falsely Accused in Malegaon Blast

Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Violence Against Indian Christians

Priest Survivor: Hindu Radicals are Terrorists

Gujarat Pogrom of 2002

Friday, October 23, 2009

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

Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a vocal critic of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform initiated by Dr. Ata ur Rahman, adviser to President Musharraf, in 2002. This reform resulted in over fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The reform supported initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterward. The years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.

Reacting to the recent publication of a report on reform by Dr. Athar Osama, Prof. Adil Najam, Dr. Shams Kassim-Lakha and Dr. Christopher King published in Nature Magazine, Dr. Hoodbhoy wrote a letter to the editors of the magazine that was highly critical of the HEC under Dr. Rahman. Here is Dr. Rahman's response to Dr. Hoodbhoy's latest criticism:

There are four aspects of the comments of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy that need to be considered:

1. Firstly, Dr. Hoodbhoy himself admits that there has been a huge increase in international publications at QAU after HEC came into existence when he mentions the number of international publications in the two time periods. Strangely, he picks a six year period, 1998-2003, and then compares it with the subsequent 4.5 years (?) , 2004 to mid 2008, (the correspondence occurred in August 2008, so he could not possibly have had access to the figures for the entire year) I can only assume that he has mentioned 2003 by mistake in the second “5 year” period as there is no reason to include the publications of the year 2003 in both time periods, which he has done. It is clearly unfair to take two time periods of different durations and compare them.

2. In the first 6 year period (1998-2003), Dr. Hoodbhoy admits that there were only 631 research publications from QAU, but in the second 4.5 year period these had risen to 1482 research publications, a tripling of publications on average per year, even by his own estimates.
3. As the HEC programs began in 2003 and their real impact occurred 2-3 years later, a year-wise comparison is far more relevant than an average over a 5 year period as the dramatic change that has occurred gets partly masked when a 5 or 6 year average is taken, though it is still very visible. Dr. Hoodbhoy ignores the figures that Dr. S.T.K. Naim had worked out that in the year 2004, there were only 84 research publications from QAU (an average of only 7 publications per month), but by 2008 they had increased many fold.
4. The citations argument used by Dr. Hoodbhoy is invalid as citations increase with the passage of time. Dr. Hoodbhoy, therefore, wrongly compares the citations of papers of an earlier period with those of a later period. To clarify this issue further, if two papers of equal quality and in a similar field are published, say in 1998 and 2007, and the citations of both are counted in 2008, then the paper which was published in 1998 will have accumulated more citations by 2008 because of the much longer 10 year time period, than the paper published in 2007, as that would have had only one year for the citations to accumulate. Dr. Hoodbhoy is therefore comparing apples with oranges when he tries to compare citations of papers published in an earlier period with a later time period. In order to fairly compare citations, the same duration of time period must be taken. Thus if one takes 1998 publications and counts the citations till 2008, then one will need to take the 2008 publications and count their citations till the year 2018, before one can compare the figures for the citations of the two sets fairly.

The undeniable fact is that the total number of research publications from universities in Pakistan was only about 600 per year till 2001 but then started rising rapidly, and by the year 2008 it had increased to over 4,300! Brazil achieved such an increase over a 35 year period between 1960 to 1995, which Pakistan achieved in only 6 years. After my appointment in March 2000 as the Federal Minister for Science and Technology in Pakistan, I convinced the government to enhance the budget for science and technology in Pakistan by 6000% between July 2000 to October 2002. After my appointment as Chairman, Higher Education Commission (Federal Minister) the budget for higher education was similarly increased by 2400% during 2003 to 2008. Major achievements during these periods were:

1. Establishing 51 new Universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008,
2. Tripling university enrollment (which had reached only 135,000 from 1947 to 2003) to about 400,000 in 2008,
3. Establishing a powerful Digital Library which provides free nation-wide access to every student in every public sector university to 45,000 textbooks/research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals,
4. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities that allow lectures to be delivered live and interactively to students in Pakistan from technologically advanced countries
5. Enhancing salaries of academics so that salaries of University Professors were increased to a level about five times the salaries of Federal Ministers, with a corresponding reduction in tax from 35% to only 5%, in order to attract the brightest young men and women into academia,
6. Promoting research through a massive research grant program which resulted in a 600% increase in ISI abstracted publications from about 600 per year in 2001 to 4300 research publications in 2008, accompanied by about 1000% increase in international citations in the same period,
7. Placing a satellite in space (Paksat-1) which is now used for distance learning by the Virtual University,
8. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities and initiating a lectureship program, allowing live interactive lectures to be delivered from technologically advanced countries,
9. Providing free access to scientists/engineers anywhere in the country to sophisticated instruments installed in any institute in Pakistan.

The Bottom Line: In the final analysis, it is not what I or Dr. Hoodbhoy think about the developments, but what is the opinion of neutral international experts who have carried out detailed year-long reviews of the developments during the period that I was heading the Higher Education Commission. A few extracts are given below:

1. Prof. Fred Hayward (independent international educational consultant from USA) carried out a detailed analysis of the developments and published an article entitled “Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability,” Date: Number 54, winter 2009 Source: International Higher Education Quarterly. I quote: “The news about Pakistan over the last few years has been dominated by reports of political turmoil, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, economic decline, and the Afghan War. What has been missed is the phenomenal transformation in higher education over the last six years, which represents a critical development for Pakistan and a potential engine for growth and national recovery.”
2. Report of US-AID about HEC states that “We are very impressed with the breadth, scope, and depth of the reforms implemented by the HEC since 2002. No other developing country we know has made such spectacular progress.”
3. World Bank Report is very complimentary of many excellent programs introduced.
4. British Council: The report states: “I have worked in many countries in South America, the Middle East, North Africa, and in Russia and India, over the last six years. None in my view, with the exception of India, has the potential of Pakistan for the UK university sector, largely because of the dynamic, strategic leadership of the Chairman of HEC”.
5. Nature: Several articles and editorials have appeared in the world’s leading science journal “Nature” (the most recent in the issue published on 3rd September 2009) in which the very significant progress made by Pakistan in the higher education sector has been applauded and the need for the new government to built on the solid foundation laid has been stressed.
6. Science Watch (Thomson Reuters) has ranked Pakistan as a rising star in five disciplines, more than in any other country of the world.

Riaz Haq's Note: For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. The number of papers published by Pakistani scientists reached 4300 in 2007 (For comparison purposes, India-based authors published 27000 papers in 2007, according to Science Watch). Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. According to Pakistan Software Export Board, Pakistani IT industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.

Admission meritocracy, faculty competence and inspirational leadership in education are important, but there is no real substitute for higher spending on higher education to achieve better results. In fact, it should be seen as an investment in the future of the people rather than just another expense.

Of the top ten universities in the world published by Times of London, six are in the United States. The US continues to lead the world in scientific and technological research and development. Looking at the industries of the future such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, green technologies, the US continues to enjoy a huge lead over Europe and Asia. The reason for US supremacy in higher education is partly explained by how much it spends on it. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.

In spite of the new education policy promising to more than double education spending from about 3% to 7% of GDP, uncertainty remains about the budgetary situation. Continuing political instability and the deteriorating security situation have created a loss of confidence in government and new questions about the future of higher education. These factors threaten to reverse the phenomenal gains of the last few years, and undermine the prospects for national development toward a knowledge economy. In addition, there is growing uncertainty about the future of the Higher Education Commission, including its administrative and financial autonomy. Thus, one of the few hopeful signs of progress in Pakistan appears to be in jeopardy. While there are many claimants on the national budget in this period of economic difficulty, the failure of higher education transformation would be a devastating reversal for Pakistan and make economic growth, social recovery, and political stability even more difficult than at the present time.

Let us hope that the recent appointment of Dr. Javaid R. Laghari as new Chairman of the HEC will help clarify the situation and restore confidence in the future of higher education in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

President Musharraf's Legacy

Education in Pakistan

Reforms? What Reforms? by Pervez Hoodbhoy

India's New Millennium in Science

Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Nature's Coverage of Higher Education Reform

Asia Gains in World's Top Universities

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy's Letter to Nature

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pakistan's $2.8 billion IT Industry

Pakistan's information technology industry is quite young. It is in very early stages of development compared to the much older and bigger Indian IT industry, which had a significant headstart of at least a decade over Pakistan. During the lost decade of the 1990s under Bhutto and Sharif governments, Pakistani economy stagnated and its IT industry did not make any headway. However, the industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007 period, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. This pales in comparison to over $5 billion revenue a year reported by India's Tata Consulting alone.

Here's some data on Pakistan's IT industry:

"The State Bank of Pakistan for 2007-08 reports the export figures of software and Information Technology-enabled services to be US$169 million which shows a consistent annual growth. State Bank of Pakistan adopted BPM 5 reporting system to report the IT exports revenue, which restricted the export figures to US$169 million only in 2007-08. In India, the Reserve Bank of India follows the BPM 6 (also called MSITS) Reporting System, which raises its exports to billions of US dollars. BPM 6 includes sales to multinationals, earning of overseas offices & salaries of non-immigrant overseas workers to export revenue. Using the MSITS Reporting System, Pakistan IT Industry exports are estimated at US$ 1.4 billion while the industry size is estimated at US$ 2.8 billion. It is significant to note that Pakistan IT exports growth in each of the last few years has been more than 40%."

According to a report by the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), the top five companies that have contributed the most to the IT sector are Netsol Technologies(NASDAQ: NTWK), Ovex Technologies, TRG Private Ltd, Systems Private Ltd, and Elixir Technologies.

The revenue per employee for the top Indian IT firms of Wipro, Infosys and TCS ranges between $40,000 and $50,000 per employee per year...about $20 t0 $25 per hour per employee, according to Gartner. The Indian revenue per employee is quite competitive relative to the US firms IBM Global Services, EDS, ans Accenture whose revenue per employee exceeds $150,000 per year, about $75 per hour. In comparison, the average figure of $28000 per employee per year (or $14 an hour) is extremely competitive for Pakistan's IT industry average. Probably the higher-end firms make more while others make less.

Pakistani colleges and universities produce almost 1.2 million skilled graduates annually. The Musharraf government announced a $1 billion spending plan over the next decade to build 6 additional state-of-the-art science and engineering universities. If the current government follows through on it, then the scheme would be overseen by the Higher Education Commission for completion in a few years time.

In terms of enrollment, the 2005 Pakistan Education Census reported 43,801 students enrolled in 4-yr engineering institutions, another 37,635 students in 3-year colleges offering Information Technology degrees, and 69,719 studying in three-year polytechnic institutes. 53% of the students out of the total 1.16 million enrolled in colleges are girls, according to the 2005 Census.

Over 10,000 of the current 1.2 million graduates are engineers with 4-year degrees. In addition, Pakistan also produces at least 25,000 polytechnic inst graduates with three year diplomas (according to recent news in the Nation newspaper) who have less than 4 years of college.

A number of reports inflate the number of engineering graduates in India, as these numbers includes both 4 years and 2-3 years degrees. While it is claimed that India graduates over 200, 000 engineers a year, a Duke study concluded that half of these are 2 or 3-year degrees.

So, for apples to apples comparison, the number of India's engineering graduates is closer to the US's 70,000 engineering grads. And of course, the quality of US graduates is much much higher because they graduate from some of the best schools in the world. Other than about 5000 grads from IITs , the rest of Indian grads are from second and third tier schools that bear no comparison to engineering schools in the developed world in terms of quality. The cost advantage that India offers will still favor a continuing growth based on outsourcing of business and engineering services from the developed world.

Currently, Pakistan is struggling with a powerful insurgency and a stagnant economy that is taking a heavy toll on the nation. If, however, the political and military leadership succeed in creating a semblance of peace and stability in the nation of 170 million, then there can be an expectation of a bright future ahead for the IT industry in particular, and an innovation-based knowledge economy in general.

Related Links:

ICT: Hope or Hype?

Haq's Musings

Truth About India's IT Revolution

Education in Pakistan

Musharraf's Legacy

Quality of Higher Education in India, Pakistan

Pakistan's IT Industry Takes Off

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Software Successes

Pakistan's Industrial Sector

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Auto Sector in India and Pakistan

Pakistan Textile Industry Woes

Pakistan Software Houses Association

Monday, October 19, 2009

Indian-Americans Face Insider Trading Charges

Two prominent Indian-Americans, along with a Sri Lanka born billionaire, have been charged in what U.S. prosecutors say is the biggest insider-trading case in a generation. The scandal is now reverberating in South Asia, particularly the island nation of Sri Lanka.

It is estimated that billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of hedge fund Galleon Group under arrest in New York on charges of insider trading, has invested more than $150 million in Sri Lankan shares. Even rumors of his trades can send the market up or down. Born in Sri Lanka, he was educated at the prestigious Wharton business school in Pennsylvania and went to set up a hedge fund for boutique investment bank Needham. The hedge fund was spun off with Mr Rajaratnam at its head in 1997. Galleon was well known for its extensive research reports, according to the New York Times, and for having many senior technology executives as its investors.

In 2007, there was a minor scandal involving accusations of insider trading against Pakistani-American Atiq Raza, but it was settled out of court with the SEC when Mr. Raza agreed to pay $3 million fine. Under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Raza was also barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for five years, and he was permanently enjoined from future violations of the federal securities laws.

The Wall Street Journal reports that fears about the future of Rajaratnam's and Galleon's investments in Sri Lanka caused a major selloff Monday. After losing about 3% during early trading, the Colombo Stock Exchange benchmark All-Share Price Index ended the day at 3082.91, down 1.6%. Shares in which Mr. Rajaratnam or Galleon hold major stakes were among the biggest losers.

Mr Rajaratnam is estimated to be worth about $1.3bn by Forbes magazine. Galleon, the hedge fund he founded, had managed up to $7bn in assets. He was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2007 for allegedly funding the Tamil Tiger rebel movement in Sri Lanka, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said on Monday.

He was among several wealthy Sri Lankans who donated to the US-based charity, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which may have been funneled to the Tamil Tigers.

In addition to Sri Lankan Raj Rajaratnam, 52, the accused include two Indian-Americans, Rajiv Goel, 51, of Los Altos, of Intel's treasury department, and Anil Kumar, 51, of Santa Clara, an executive at the global consulting group McKinsey & Co. Both were rising stars in the high-tech constellation of Silicon Valley. Locally established and internationally connected, the two men's work and reputations stretched to India and back, as they moved in the rarified air of global big business, according to a report in San Jose Mercury News. Kumar and Goel are both charter members of TIE, the Indus Entrepreneur, an organization of mostly Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley.

Goel and Kumar supplied information about their portfolio firms or clients to co-conspirators, according to the complaint, who in turn made profitable trades. Kumar was arrested in New York, then later released on a $5 million bond, while Goel appeared briefly before a federal judge in San Francisco Friday before reportedly posting a $300,000 cash bail and a $100,000 bond. Both of them have been put on leave by their respective firms. The investigation is likely to lead to insiders at several other firms beyond Intel, IBM and McKinsey.

In India, where Kumar had been heavily involved in the Indian School of Business, embarrased officials announced he had voluntarily taken an indefinite leave of absence from the board because of the scandal.

And like Kumar, Goel's Indian roots were deep. Before joining Intel, he worked in finance for one of India's largest business house, the Aditya Birla Group. With an MBA from the Wharton School, he also served as a corporate banker with Bank of America in San Francisco and managed a large portfolio of securities for Metropolitan Life out of New York, according to Mercury News.

The lead prosecutor Preetinder S. Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also of Indian descent, said “This is not a garden-variety insider trading case." He alleged that the scheme made more than $20 million in illegal profits since 2006. According to the NY Times, Bharara, 40, was born in Ferozepur, India, and he was an infant when his parents immigrated to the United States in 1970. He grew up in Monmouth County, N.J., and graduated from Harvard in 1990 and Columbia Law School in 1993. A rising star in the Democratic Party, Bharara supervises over 200 lawyers who prosecute high-profile cases in New York City.

There have been other recent white collar crime cases against Indian-Americans. Earlier this month, an Indian-American lawyer in Los Angeles, Sandeep Baweja, 39, agreed to plead guilty to two felony charges relating to a scheme where he took more than $2 million awarded in a class action suit and lost it all on the stock market.

Last year, Vijay Taneja, an Indian-American investor and producer of Bollywood movies, was convicted of mortgage fraud in the United States.

This is, indeed, a sad day for many people of South Asian descent in the United States, particularly in Silicon Valley. Let's hope the accused receive a fair trial amidst the wave of negative publicity surrounding the case.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Atiq Raza Pays Fine, Settles Insider Trading Charges

US Mortgage Fraud Funds Bollywood

Insider Scandal Hurts Sri Lanka Stocks

Murder-Suicide in Silicon Valley

Bigotry Bedevils Silicon Valley Eatery

Pakistani-American: Mr. Thirty Percent of Silicon Valley