Friday, February 27, 2009

Solar Energy For Sunny Pakistan



Sunny California is leading the way to tap solar energy. Can sunny Pakistan follow to deal with its crippling energy crisis?

California based BrightSource Energy, which already has a deal to build a series of huge solar power plants in the Mojave Desert for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), announced an even larger project recently with Southern California Edison. Brightsource, with its roots in Israel, launched its first big solar project last year in the Negev desert.

The World Economic Forum voted BrightSource as a 2009 Technology Pioneer. It was the only solar company to win this year's award, and is recognized for helping industrial customers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

By 2016, the two companies said, BrightSource will build a series of solar-thermal power plants that will generate 1.3 gigawatts of electricity for Southern California Edison's customers. That's enough power for 845,000 homes, said Stuart Hemphill, the utility's vice president of renewable and alternative power. Talking with SiliconValley.com, he characterized the deal as "the largest set of solar agreements ever signed."

Photo-voltaic solar power panels are often used for local and distributed power generation capability, such as on rooftops of homes and buildings. It is generally on-grid but it can be off-grid for remote places. Unlike the solar panel's relying on photo-voltaic cells, solar thermal power is centrally generated from thousands of curved mirrors in the desert focusing sun's light on to water pipes to generate superheated steam which is then used to generate electricity. It is then connected to the grid and transmitted to major population centers. The first such experimental power plant was set up in California's Mojave desert in the 1980s and many of its pioneers are now helping Brightsource to go big with solar thermal.

The deal is another step toward meeting California mandates for renewable-energy generation. Investor-owned utilities such as PG&E are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by the end of 2010, and 33 percent by 2020. Even before this latest development, the state's Energy Commission was reviewing seven solar-thermal projects that could generate nearly 2.6 gigawatts worth of electricity.

California is very sunny, but so are other places such as Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan is an exceptionally sunny country. If 0.25% of Balochistan was covered with solar panels with an efficiency of 20%, enough electricity would be generated to cover all of Pakistani demand.



Solar energy makes much sense for Pakistan for several reasons: firstly, 70% of the population lives in 50,000 villages that are very far away from the national grid, according to a report by the Solar Energy Research Center (SERC). Besides, the country's creaky and outdated electricity infrastructure loses over 30 percent of generated power in transit, more than seven times the losses of a well-run system, according to the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank; and a lack of spare high-voltage grid capacity limits the transmission of power from hydroelectric plants in the north to make up for shortfalls in the south.Connecting these villages to the national grid would be very costly, thus giving each house a solar panel would be cost efficient and would empower people both economically and socially.

Pakistani blog Pakistaniat has reported practical examples of the use of solar energy as seen in some villages of Pakistan where each house has been provided with a solar panel that’s sufficient to run an electric fan and two energy saving bulbs. Prior to this arrangement, the whole village used to be plunged in darkness at night. In Narian Khorian, a village about 50 kilometers from Islamabad, 100 solar panels have been installed by a local firm, free of cost, to promote the use of solar energy. With these panels, the residents of 100 households are enjoying light and fan facilities. This would not have happened for decades as the supply of electricity from the national grid would be difficult and costly due to the mountainous terrain.

Pakistan Solar Map  Multi-year mean (2000-2012) of daily Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) for Pakistan in kWh/m2 [Note: preliminary, unvalidated results] Source: World Bank


In addition to renewable energy from the sun, Pakistan is also fortunate to have something many other countries do not, which are high wind speeds near major centers. Near Islamabad, the wind speed is anywhere from 6.2 to 7.4 meters per second (between 13.8 and 16.5 miles per hour). Near Karachi, the range is between 6.2 and 6.9 (between 13.8 and 15.4 miles per hour). Pakistan is also fortunate that in neighboring India, the company Suzlon manufactures wind turbines, thus decreasing transportation costs. Working with Suzlon, Pakistan can begin to build its own wind-turbine industry and create thousands of new jobs while solving its energy problems. Suzlon turbines start to turn at a speed of 3 meters per second. Vestas, which is one of the world's largest wind turbine manufacturers, has wind turbines that start turning at a speed of 4 meters per second. In addition to Karachi and Islamabad, there are other areas in Pakistan that receive a significant amount of wind.

Pakistan Wind Map Source: USAID


In only the Balochistan and Sindh provinces, sufficient wind exists to power every coastal village in the country. There also exists a corridor between Gharo and Keti Bandar that alone could produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity, about twice the current installed capacity in Pakistan, says Ms. Miriam Katz who has studied and written about alternative energy potential in South Asia. Given this surplus potential, Pakistan has much to offer Asia with regards to wind energy. In recent years, the government has completed several projects to demonstrate that wind energy is viable in the country. In Mirpur Sakro, 85 micro turbines have been installed to power 356 homes. In Kund Malir, 40 turbines have been installed, which power 111 homes. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) has also acquired 18,000 acres for the installation of more wind turbines.

The village of Ghulam Muhammad Goth, north of Karachi with population of 800, about 10 km from the national power grid, now receives power from a small windfarm consisting of 18 wind turbines each capable of generating 500 watts of electricity. Installed by the state-run Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy and Technologies (PCRET), the farm produces enough to power for each home to have two low-energy bulbs, a fan and, most importantly, a television set.

In addition to high wind speeds near major centers as well as the Gharo and Keti Bandar corridor, Pakistan is also very fortunate to have many rivers and lakes. Wind turbines that are situated in or near water enjoy an uninterrupted flow of wind, which virtually guarantees that power will be available all the time. Within towns and cities, wind speeds can often change quickly due to the presence of buildings and other structures, which can damage wind turbines. In addition, many people do not wish for turbines to be sited near cities because of noise, though these problems are often exaggerated. Wind turbines make less noise than an office and people comfortably carry on conversations while standing near them.

Finally this year, Pakistan awarded a contract to a Turkish company to set up a wind farm near Hyderabad. President of Zorlu Enerji (Pvt) Ltd., Murat Sungar Bursa, who signed the agreement with HESCO (Hyderabad Electric Supply Company) in Pakistan, said that the estimated cost of 50 MW project was 120 million dollars. He added the company was also considering to further expand the project up to 250MW. He said incentives offered by Pakistan’s renewable energy policy was a major factor in the company’s decision to invest here. He said that capacity of the wind farm will be enhanced upon successful completion of 50 MW phase. Zorlu Enerji has become the first company to establish wind farm for power generation in Pakistan after signing Energy Purchase Agreement with Hyderabad Electric Supply Corporation for purchase of six MW electricity generated at the company’s facility in Jhimpir. NEPRA (Pakistan's power regulator) has awarded tariff of US cents 12.1057 Per KWH, which is cheaper than the electricity generated from thermal sources. The power generated from the first phase would be routed to the Jhimpir gird station by HESCO and would be sufficient to electrify 6,900 homes in Hyderabad region. Harnessing the strong winds coming from South West, the wind farm is first major commercial wind power project of the country, comprising five towers in the first phase with an installed capacity of 1.2MW wind turbine generator per tower.

The slowdown in the renewable energy sector is likely to be temporary. President Obama is expected to get the US Congress to approve $150b to support the US renewable energy sector with large government incentives. The US policy will likely boost the global renewable energy market as well.

As Pakistan grapples with its crippling energy crisis, it is important for the country to take advantage of its precious natural resources such as the high winds and the bright sunshine, and biofuels as byproducts of its sizable sugar-making industry. Such a strategy will lead to lower costs of generation by reducing the need to import oil. It'll also help reduce carbon emissions, a major environmental concern.

Related Links:

Huge Solar Power Project in California

Renewable Energy in Pakistan
Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Using Solar Energy in Pakistan

Pakistan's Sugarcane Biogas Plant

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Zardari Government Survives Turbulent Year in Pakistan


Although recent polls indicate it is deeply unpopular, Pakistan People's Party's government appears to have survived a very turbulent first year in office. The future of this government, however, remains uncertain with the latest Supreme Court ruling making the opposition PML(N)'s Sharif brothers ineligible to hold office. Just prior to this Court ruling, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis said the country was moving in the wrong direction and nearly 60 per cent would rather prefer PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif as President than Asif Ali Zardari, according to a survey conducted by International Republican Institute in December, 2008.

A lot has happened in a year since the PPP government took office. Here's a brief run-down:

1. President Musharraf was forced out of office and replaced by Asif Ali Zardari who won the parliamentary approval by an overwhelming majority.

2. With rising militancy in all parts of the country, suicide bombings in 2008 surpassed 2007 figures, with 61 attacks killing at least 889 people and injuring 2,072 others, according to Pakistan's investigation agencies.

3. Pakistan's economy suffered greatly as the confidence of consumers, businesses and investors in the country plummeted to new lows. Pakistan was forced to seek and accept an IMF bailout with stringent conditions and close scrutiny.

4. Barack Hussein Obama was elected first African-American president of the United States in a historic landslide. Obama signaled a renewed focus on the Afghan war and South Asia as his priority, and appointed Richard Holbrooke as America's special envoy to the region. With the continuation of Robert Gates as defense secretary, the CIA continued Predator strikes in FATA and the Pentagon started beefing up the US troops strength in Afghanistan.

5. With deepening distrust of the US and Karazi government among Afghans, increased funding from poppy cultivation and rising civilian casualties, the Taliban insurgents made significant gains in Afghanistan, controlling 72% of the territory and tightened their ring around Kabul, the capital of the country.

6. The US blamed Pakistan for providing sanctuaries to the Taliban in FATA region. The American forces in Afghanistan intensified air strikes and made ground incursions inside Pakistan to target the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, killing many innocent civilians. The US military supply lines were repeatedly hit by the militants in Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to make peace with the Taliban in Swat valley by agreeing to implementation of Shariah law.

7. A British commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan told the press that "we can not win this war" in Afghanistan.

8. Pakistan's stock markets took a nose dive along with the major markets around the world. KSE-100 dropped to 5400 level, far below the peak of 15085.18 achieved while Musharraf was still in office.

9. The telecommunication, information technology, higher education, media and the middle class progress started during Musharraf-Aziz years continued to have its impact, in spite of horrible governance, lack of vision and absence of real leadership by corrupt and inept politicians.

10. Pakistan's food and energy crises took a turn for the worse as the prices soared. There were widespread blackouts and brownouts. Wheat shortages forced the expensive imports and the government had to cut back on subsidies as the foreign exchange reserves dwindled and the rupee rapidly lost its value.

11. History was made when Pakistan elected its first woman speaker of the National Assembly in 2008. But Pakistan's human rights and social justice situation continued to shock the conscience of the civilized world with the live burial of women by the tribesmen in Sind, the murder of Ahmadis encouraged by a fanatic TV host and the inclusion of some of the perpetrators as federal ministers in Prime Minister Gillani's cabinet.

12. Peaceful Kashmir protests erupted again after several years of quiet while President Musharraf attempted to settle the core issue between India and Pakistan. As usual, Indian security forces responded with lethal force, killing dozens of peaceful protesters.

13. People of Baluchistan continued to suffer as an earthquake struck and the local insurgency continued. Women and children were the worst affected among the victims. The Baloch insurgency still continues.

14. India blamed Pakistan as terror struck Mumbai, driving India-Pakistan relations down to a new low. War rhetoric pushed the solution to the major issues dividing India and Pakistan into the background. The Indian media whipped up the anti-Pakistan frenzy with the demands for "doing a Lebanon" in Pakistan. Some in India started talking about a limited war under "Cold Start" doctrine with "surgical strikes" inside Pakistan. In response, Pakistan put its military on alert with troop movements on the ground and fighter jets in the skies.

In a December, 2008 poll conducted by the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI), 88% of the respondents said Pakistan is moving in the wrong direction, while 73 per cent said the economic situation had worsened in the past year.

A total of 76 per cent rated the PPP-led government's performance on key issues as poor, up from 51 per cent in a survey conducted by IRI in June.

67 per cent replied in the negative when asked if things would be better now as there is a democratically elected Parliament and President in Pakistan.

While 59 per cent of Pakistanis surveyed said they would prefer Sharif as President, only 19 per cent backed Zardari for the job. 63 per cent also said they disapproved of Zardari's performance while only 19 per cent approved it.

In the wake of the court order barring Sharif brothers from holding elected office and the subsequent dismissal of the Punjab provincial government, the confrontation between Zardari and Sharif is likely to increase distraction from the nation's ailing economy, energy crisis and escalating insurgency of Al Qaeda and the Taliban that Washington was trying to persuade the government to focus on. It seems that Pakistan's political leaders lack any vision to see beyond their noses. Last year, Sharif was so consumed by his desire for revenge against President Musharraf that he joined forces with Zardari to oust him. Zardari took Sharif along for the ride when it suited him. Musharraf's presence as president stood in the way of absolute power for Zardari. However, the departure of Musharraf ensured that Zardari would now turn his attention to destroy PML(N) and Sharif brothers to consolidate his own power. Even Zardari's hand-picked prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani is reportedly frustrated with his autocratic and divisive style. The sad truth is that if Zardari and Sharif had their roles reversed, the results would not have been any different. Their attitudes and actions are very short-sighted and reinforce those who believe Pakistan's politicians are too selfish, incompetent and corrupt to govern the country for the benefit of its people. Unfortunately, the people of Pakistan and the region are in for a continued rough ride for the foreseeable future. I do hope, however, that the people of Pakistan are sufficiently resilient to withstand the ongoing crises and emerge stronger as a nation.

Related Links:

IRI Pakistan Poll December, 2008

Pakistan Year 2008 in Review

Pakistan Accepts Indian Charges?

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

President Bobby Jindal?


Republicans chose their rising star, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the first Indian-American governor of a US state, to respond to President Barack Obama's first address to the joint session of the United States Congress last Tuesday. The expectations were high, but the reviews of his performance have been swift and scathing: Amateurish. Disastrous.

Clearly, the 36-year-old GOP governor was tasked with a big challenge: Be charming and persuasive in a seemingly critical response to the highly articulate and charismatic new President riding a wave of popularity.

While the president had the benefit of the ornate halls of Congress as his speech setting and numerous camera angles to give a sweeping view of the grand House Gallery and repeated, vociferous applause providing the soundtrack, Jindal had to deliver his speech in a solitary room amid an almost total silence.

But Mr. Jindal has been criticized on both style and substance.

Fox News commentator Juan Williams focused on Jindal's delivery. "It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was singsongy," Williams said, adding that the content of the speech was "very simplistic and almost childish."

His criticism of government spending for emergency economic relief has been widely derided, given his state has been the biggest beneficiary of billions of dollars in federal aid after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Jindal has not been spared even by his conservative Republican supporters. David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist who has criticized aspects of the stimulus plan, nonetheless called Jindal's arguments "insane" and tone-deaf given the dire economic challenges the country faces.

"To come up in this moment in history with a stale, 'Government is the problem, you can't trust the federal government' is just a disaster for the Republican Party," Brooks said on PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "It's not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is."

By all accounts, Jindal's debut on the national scene has been a disaster. Can he recover from it and still pursue his ambition to be the first US president of Indian-American descent? I think it's still possible. He is young and ambitious and he has the time on his side. If he learns from his recent experience and does dramatically better at a future Republican party convention, his recent disastrous performance will be forgotten. Jindal should continue to pursue his dream of becoming the first India-American to sit in the Oval office as the commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful nation.

Related Links:

Transcript of President Obama's Speech to US Congress

Transcript of Gov. Jindal's Response

India's Washington Lobby Emulates AIPAC

Indo-American Council

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

K Street Booms Even As Main Street Suffers


With Washington on an unprecedented spending spree to stimulate the economy, President Barack Obama has repeatedly promised unprecedented transparency. "Instead of politicians doling out money behind closed doors, the important decisions about where taxpayer dollars are invested will be yours to scrutinize," the President said in a video announcing the opening of the site called recovery.gov.

While polls indicate that most Americans support their new president in his sincere efforts to revive the US economy, it is clear that President Obama is up against the massive power of Washington's corrupt political-industrial elite that has brought American economy near collapse. And many of the same people are still in charge on the Hill.

As the stimulus package is getting the nod from the US Congress, the lobbyists on K-street say that their phones are ringing off the hook. "There was this unique opportunity that government was handing out money and anytime that happens, companies will spend what they must to get in line to get a piece of the pie", said Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of Center for Responsive Politics in a report aired on NPR Radio today.

Washington lobbyists earned a whopping $3.2 billion last year. That's the highest amount in the decade tracked by the nonpartisan watchdog group's Sheila Krumholz. She said interest groups spent $17.4 million on lobbying every day Congress was in session last year. And with Washington on a spending spree, companies are boosting their influence on Capitol Hill.

The situation is no different on Wall Street, one of the largest contributors to the powerful politicians in America. Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.

Massive loss of confidence in many of the US public and private institutions is largely responsible for the current global economic crisis of historic proportions. It is in the best interest of America's political-industrial elite to reform themselves in the larger interest of the nation and the world. I hope our new popular new president can get the people on the Hill as well as those on Wall Street and K Street to behave themselves in their own best interest. To accomplish this challenging task, Obama should be willing to risk going directly to the people, over the heads of the Congressmen, including his fellow Democrats, early and often to maintain his own credibility with the people.

Here is an Obama video clip promising complete transparency:



Related Links:

Will American Capitalism Survive?

China's Nuclear Option

Senator Schumer: The Champion of Wall Street on the Hill

Pay to Play is the Name of the Game in Washington

Are Jews Culprits of Collapse on Wall Street?

Keynes on Jews

Democrats and Republicans Share Blame for Financial Collapse

Jewish Network in US Congress

Jewish Power Dominates at Vanity Fair

From Haryana With Love


The story of Chand and Fiza Mohammad in Haryana, India, appears to have all the elements of a Bollywood Masala movie, except the as-yet undetermined ending.

Mr. Chander Mohan aka Chand Mohammad, Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, whose overwhelmingly Hindu state of 23 million people is among India's most prosperous, announced that he had converted to Islam. The 43-year-old father of two added that he had also just wed his second wife, Anuradha Bali aka Fiza Mohammad, another Muslim convert, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Serving his fourth term in Haryana's legislature, Mr. Mohan was widely touted by his supporters as a future chief minister. But soon after the conversion announcement, he was removed from his job and relieved of his security guards. The Haryana government also dismissed his new wife, 37-year-old lawyer Anuradha Bali, from her position as the state's assistant advocate-general.

The official reason for both sackings was that Mr. Mohan, now known as Chand Mohammad, and Ms. Bali, who now goes by the Muslim name of Fiza, failed to perform their government duties. Both dispute this assessment. "This was all just because we became Muslim. There is no other good reason," Fiza told the media recently.

Piecing together different accounts and the unfolding events, it appears that Chand was primarily motivated by love for Fiza. But he faced many obstacles. As a Hindu, he could not have two wives and divorce under Indian law would be a long and complicated process. He had the option of having Fiza as a mistress like many other politicians but the couple decided against it. So they chose to convert to Islam and marry in a religious Muslim ceremony recognized by Indian law and went public with it. The shocking announcement came as India was reeling from the Mumbai terrorist attacks in December.

What Chand underestimated was how crucial religious identity remains in a country that bills itself as the world's largest secular democracy. Mr. Mohan's supporters, who have followed the twists and turns of the case reported by the Indian media, largely agree that religion played a huge role in the drama as it unfolded. Their logic: It was politically untenable to have a Muslim deputy chief minister in a state like Haryana, which was the scene of some of the worst violence between Hindus and Muslims during partition along religious lines in 1947.

Mr. Mohan "has lost his Hindu vote bank, and he would lose the next election here if he stays a Muslim," says 52-year-old engineer Jeevan Singh told the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Singh resides in the politician's Panchkula constituency and voted for Mr. Mohan in previous elections.

The Haryana government's information secretary, K.K. Khandelwal, denied that religion was a factor. He said that Mr. Mohan and Ms. Bali had been fired simply for not doing their jobs. Yet, he added: "In public life you have to maintain certain standards and cannot behave like Romeo and Juliet. This became a matter of jokes. The government -- and the chief minister -- had to save their image."

As a result of the tremendous social hostility and family pressures and extreme stress, both Chand and Fiza are now apparently estranged and physically separated from each other. Fiza has been hospitalized after an overdose of sleeping pills and Chand's whereabouts are unknown.

This story is still unfolding. How it will end remains a mystery. But it does raise serious questions about the reality of the secular nature of India's democracy.

Here's a video clip of Fiza sharing the amorous text messages Chand sent her in his pursuit of her as a devoted suitor:



Related Links:

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

What Irked Purohit?

Hindu Rashtra ideology was driving force for Malegaon conspirators

The Rise and Rise of Mangalore's Taliban

Malegaon Files

Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Priest Survivor: Hindu Radicals are Terrorists

Monday, February 23, 2009

Can Slumdog's Success Improve Lives of Poor Children?


Not only has the low-budget movie "Slumdog Millionaire" drawn big crowds in the West and taken in more than $ 100m at the box office, the movie has won eight Oscars last night, including the Academy awards for the Best Picture and the Best Director. The Best Music and Best Song awards went to India's musician A.R. Rahman, known as the Mozart of Madras. Rahman enthralled his celebrity audience at Kodak theater as well as the international viewers with his live performance of the popular songs "O Saya" and "Jai Ho" from Slumdog.

Half the world away in the early morning hours in Mumbai, the Garib Nagar crowd was particularly excited because several children from the area, including Rubina Ali, 9, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, starred in "Slumdog Millionaire," playing the roles of "young Latika" and "young Salim" respectively. "Woo-hoo!" they screamed, alternately chanting, cheering and bursting into singing "Jai Ho" the theme song of the film, according to ABC News.

After the well-deserved success of the well-made Slumdog movie, will the lives of poor children in Mumbai improve? Can this extraordinary focus on child poverty translate in to positive actions to reduce poverty around the world? These are the most important questions on the minds of many after the euphoria in Los Angeles.


Decried by many as "racist poverty porn" and condemned by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan in his blog for showing India as "a third world dirty under belly developing nation (sic)", the movie Slumdog Millionaire has been greeted by howls of protests in India. But it has been widely acclaimed in the West. It is sparking international interest in the vast slums of Mumbai. With the box office success of the film, there have been charges of child exploitation against Slumdog producer and director which have been denied by Danny Boyle. “The actors were paid very well. We have not released any figures — either what they were paid or what they will receive when they complete their education — because it would make them vulnerable to certain elements, because they are quite large sums of money.”

Reports suggest the stars are entitled to a trust fund if they have remained in education for a certain length of time. The production company wanted to make sure the child actors would benefit from a decent education as well as the money, he said.

Slumdog was not the only Academy Award contender focusing on poverty, squalor and its effects in India. Another documentary "The Final Inch" -- also nominated for an Academy Award -- takes a real-life look at India's slums. The film explores the final battle against polio, a largely forgotten disease that continues to ravage the world's poorest areas -- areas that the Hollywood feature so graphically depicts.

Poverty tours in India, Brazil and South Africa are not an entirely new phenomenon. Favela tours in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil and South African shanty town tours have attracted tourists for years. It is primarily the popular Slumdog Millionaire, nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture award, that is translating to more rubberneckers in the Mumbai, India, slum where it was filmed — and is re-igniting a debate over the ethics of "poverty tourism", according to USA Today. Chris Way, the co-founder of Reality Tours that operates the poverty tour of the Mumbai slum, estimates that sales are up by about 25% since Slumdog Millionaire's release. Though he credits some of the increase to a gradual rebound in tourism after terrorist attacks in Mumbai killed more than 170 people in November, publicity surrounding the film has played a big role.

The tours have come under criticism for exploiting poverty. But Way defends his tours as a way to help the poor in Mumbai. In India, "a lot of people think the movie is 'poverty porn,' " says Way, a Brit who has lived in Mumbai since 2004. But any criticism of his tours "comes from misunderstanding what we are trying to do … break down the negative image of slums, (and) highlight the industry and sense of community." Reality Tours charges $10 or $20 a person, depending on length of the tour, and pledges to donate 80% of after-tax profits to local charities. Though the business hasn't yet cleared a profit, it paid for a community center.




Child poverty is not unique to India. MSNBC recently reported that the worsening economy in Pakistan is especially taking its toll on children and some are being abandoned by their parents. The report highlighted the case of three mothers who could not afford to feed their children. "The three women came together to my center," Bilquis Edhi of Edhi Center said. "They asked me to please take their children; they could no longer feed them."

"The mothers were sobbing as they tried to leave the children and the children were crying clinging to their mothers," Edhi said. "It was heart wrenching to watch."

While the news of abandoned or begging children offers only a small anecdotal evidence of the sorry state of Pakistani children, the official data paints an equally grim picture. Ranked at 136 on a list of 177 countries, Pakistan's human development ranking remains very low. Particularly alarming is the low primary school enrollment for girls which stands at about 30% in rural areas, where the majority of Pakistanis live. In fact, the South Asia average of primary school enrollment is pulled down by Pakistan, the only country in all of Asia and the Pacific with the lowest primary enrollment rate of 68 per cent in 2005. This is 12 percentage points lower than that of Maldives, which, at 80 per cent, has the second lowest rate in Asia and the Pacific. Low primary enrollment rate and poor health of children in Pakistan raise serious concerns about the future of the nation in terms of the continuing impact of low human development on its economic, social and political well-being.

According to Asia Children's Rights report, about 8 million Pakistani children, or 40 percent of the total population of children under the age of 5, suffer from malnutrition. About 63 percent of children between 6 months and 3 years have stunted growth and 42 percent are anemic or underweight. Poor nutrition leaves these children vulnerable to diseases. Pakistan is among the few countries of the world where Polio is still endemic. Poor conditions extend to the education sector as well. Over 23 million children in Pakistan have never been to school. The International Labor Organization data shows 3.3 million children, between the ages of 5 and 14 years in Pakistan, are forced to work rather than attend school. A quarter of a million of them work as domestic servants. The most recent United Nations Human Development Report indicates that the youth literacy rate in Pakistan is an abysmal 58 percent, among the lowest in the world. Sexual abuse is another problem. Homelessness of children is quite common. Over 10,000 children below the age of 15 live on the streets and sidewalks of Karachi alone. Many of them are forced to beg for survival. Most of these children say they left home because of domestic violence and family financial problems, according to Edhi Foundation which cares for some of them. According to a report by Amnesty International, there are more than 4,500 juvenile prisoners in Pakistani jails and 66 percent of them are being tried. Juvenile detainees are kept with adults, leaving them vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse.

I hope that the growing interest in Mumbai slums goes beyond a temporary fad and a fleeting voyeuristic exercise. This extraordinary interest should translate into action to help the people of the slums escape the abject poverty and squalor that define them and their daily existence. Jeff Greenwald, executive director of EthicalTraveler.org, put it well when he spoke with USA Today. "If one takes such a tour out of a genuine desire to learn and a passion for social justice, the experience can be valuable, eye-opening, even life-changing. If one goes as a spectator, it's little different than a visit to the zoo," he said.

This opportunity of global interest in child poverty should not be wasted. Instead, it should spur the Slumdog director to set up a foundation with some of the proceeds from the film to champion the cause of poor children with UNICEF in South Asia and the rest of the world.

A recent issue of San Jose Mercury News has a pictorial about grinding poverty in India done by John Boudreau and Dai Sugano. This heartbreaking pictorial illustrates the extent of the problem that India faces, a problem that could potentially be very destabilizing and put the entire society at the risk of widespread chaos and violence.

Here's a video clip from the Mercury News story:



Here's a video clip on world poverty:



Slumdog child actors at the Oscars:



Please make your contribution to the Hunger Project or Hidaya Foundation or Edhi Foundation or UNICEF to help alleviate child hunger and poverty in South Asia.


Related Links:

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire

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

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Poverty Tours in Resurgent India


Decried by many as "racist poverty porn" and condemned by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan in his blog for showing India as "a third world dirty under belly developing nation (sic)", the movie Slumdog Millionaire has been greeted by howls of protests in India. But it has been widely acclaimed in the West. It is sparking international interest in the vast slums of Mumbai. “Slumdog” may take in $100 million during its run in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. The low-budget movie had $43.9 million in receipts before collecting 10 Oscar nominations on Jan. 22, 2009. There have been charges of child exploitation against Slumdog producer and director which have been denied by Danny Boyle. “The actors were paid very well. We have not released any figures — either what they were paid or what they will receive when they complete their education — because it would make them vulnerable to certain elements, because they are quite large sums of money.”

Reports suggest the stars are entitled to a trust fund if they have remained in education for a certain length of time. The production company wanted to make sure the child actors would benefit from a decent education as well as the money, he said.

Slumdog is not the only Academy Award contender focusing on poverty, squalor and its effects in India. Another documentary "The Final Inch" -- which has also been nominated for an Academy Award -- takes a real-life look at India's slums. The film explores the final battle against polio, a largely forgotten disease that continues to ravage the world's poorest areas -- areas that the Hollywood feature so graphically depicts.

Poverty tours in India, Brazil and South Africa are not an entirely new phenomenon. Favela tours in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil and South African shanty town tours have attracted tourists for years. It is primarily the popular Slumdog Millionaire, nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture award, that is translating to more rubberneckers in the Mumbai, India, slum where it was filmed — and is re-igniting a debate over the ethics of "poverty tourism", according to USA Today. Chris Way, the co-founder of Reality Tours that operates the poverty tour of the Mumbai slum, estimates that sales are up by about 25% since Slumdog Millionaire's release. Though he credits some of the increase to a gradual rebound in tourism after terrorist attacks in Mumbai killed more than 170 people in November, publicity surrounding the film has played a big role.

The tours have come under criticism for exploiting poverty. But Way defends his tours as a way to help the poor in Mumbai. In India, "a lot of people think the movie is 'poverty porn,' " says Way, a Brit who has lived in Mumbai since 2004. But any criticism of his tours "comes from misunderstanding what we are trying to do … break down the negative image of slums, (and) highlight the industry and sense of community." Reality Tours charges $10 or $20 a person, depending on length of the tour, and pledges to donate 80% of after-tax profits to local charities. Though the business hasn't yet cleared a profit, it paid for a community center.

With the expected attendance of the slum child actors of Mumbai at the Oscars tomorrow in Los Angeles, Way's company and Mumbai tourism are likely to get a further boost in the coming months. There is speculation that Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, and Rubina Ali, 9, both of whom were plucked from their homes in a Mumbai slum by director Danny Boyle and his team, will steal the show from the big glamorous stars of Hollywood.


Child poverty is not unique to India. MSNBC recently reported that the worsening economy in Pakistan is especially taking its toll on children and some are being abandoned by their parents. The report highlighted the case of three mothers who could not afford to feed their children. "The three women came together to my center," Bilquis Edhi of Edhi Center said. "They asked me to please take their children; they could no longer feed them."

"The mothers were sobbing as they tried to leave the children and the children were crying clinging to their mothers," Edhi said. "It was heart wrenching to watch."

While the news of abandoned or begging children offers only a small anecdotal evidence of the sorry state of Pakistani children, the official data paints an equally grim picture. Ranked at 136 on a list of 177 countries, Pakistan's human development ranking remains very low. Particularly alarming is the low primary school enrollment for girls which stands at about 30% in rural areas, where the majority of Pakistanis live. In fact, the South Asia average of primary school enrollment is pulled down by Pakistan, the only country in all of Asia and the Pacific with the lowest primary enrollment rate of 68 per cent in 2005. This is 12 percentage points lower than that of Maldives, which, at 80 per cent, has the second lowest rate in Asia and the Pacific. Low primary enrollment rate and poor health of children in Pakistan raise serious concerns about the future of the nation in terms of the continuing impact of low human development on its economic, social and political well-being.

According to Asia Children's Rights report, about 8 million Pakistani children, or 40 percent of the total population of children under the age of 5, suffer from malnutrition. About 63 percent of children between 6 months and 3 years have stunted growth and 42 percent are anemic or underweight. Poor nutrition leaves these children vulnerable to diseases. Pakistan is among the few countries of the world where Polio is still endemic. Poor conditions extend to the education sector as well. Over 23 million children in Pakistan have never been to school. The International Labor Organization data shows 3.3 million children, between the ages of 5 and 14 years in Pakistan, are forced to work rather than attend school. A quarter of a million of them work as domestic servants. The most recent United Nations Human Development Report indicates that the youth literacy rate in Pakistan is an abysmal 58 percent, among the lowest in the world. Sexual abuse is another problem. Homelessness of children is quite common. Over 10,000 children below the age of 15 live on the streets and sidewalks of Karachi alone. Many of them are forced to beg for survival. Most of these children say they left home because of domestic violence and family financial problems, according to Edhi Foundation which cares for some of them. According to a report by Amnesty International, there are more than 4,500 juvenile prisoners in Pakistani jails and 66 percent of them are being tried. Juvenile detainees are kept with adults, leaving them vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse.

I hope that the growing interest in Mumbai slums goes beyond a temporary fad and a fleeting voyeuristic exercise. This extraordinary interest should translate into action to help the people of the slums escape the abject poverty and squalor that define them and their daily existence. Jeff Greenwald, executive director of EthicalTraveler.org, put it well when he spoke with USA Today. "If one takes such a tour out of a genuine desire to learn and a passion for social justice, the experience can be valuable, eye-opening, even life-changing. If one goes as a spectator, it's little different than a visit to the zoo," he said.

This opportunity of global interest in child poverty should not be wasted. Instead, it should spur the Slumdog director to set up a foundation with some of the proceeds from the film to champion the cause of poor children with UNICEF in South Asia and the rest of the world.

A recent issue of San Jose Mercury News has a pictorial about grinding poverty in India done by John Boudreau and Dai Sugano. This heartbreaking pictorial illustrates the extent of the problem that India faces, a problem that could potentially be very destabilizing and put the entire society at the risk of widespread chaos and violence.

Here's a video clip from the Mercury News story:



Here's a video clip on world poverty:



Please make your contribution to the Hunger Project or Hidaya Foundation or Edhi Foundation or UNICEF to help alleviate child hunger and poverty in South Asia.


Related Links:

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

FATA Raid Charades Endanger Pakistan and World


Is there a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on US Predator strikes inside Pakistan? Has Pakistan assured United States that any Pakistani protests against US drone attacks are meant for public consumption inside Pakistan? Are the reports of mistrust between US and Pakistani military a figment of of the US media imagination to defame Pakistani military? Has the policy of secrecy recently been violated by Dianne Feinstein when she revealed that the Predator drones attacking in FATA are flown from a Pakistani airfield? Do Pakistanis believe the farce of Pakistani government's public statements of protest, anger and dismay at the US policy? Are there any lines agreed between US and Pakistan differentiating direct ground incursion by US special forces and Predator attacks from the sky?

Let's try and answer the above questions by examining the events on the ground.

In September, 2008, a team of US Navy Seals was dropped by helicopter in the area of Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. There was a reported firefight between the US commandos and Pakistani soldiers on the ground. It was followed by an air strike which killed several Pakistani soldiers and civilians that the US said were militants.

The Angoor Adda raid by the US Navy Seals brought a stern warning to the US from Pakistani military. "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost and no external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan," said Pakistan's Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in a strong statement after the incident.

The US commando raid was a surprise to Pakistanis and Kayani's warning was genuine. It was conveyed to the United States by Pakistan loudly and clearly in both public and private. As expected, it was heeded by the Americans. Since the September 2008 incursion by the US Navy Seals, there have not been any more reported ground attacks in FATA by American commandos.

However, the Predator strikes inside FATA and Pakistan's public protests present a different story. The frequency of Predator air-strikes on suspected Taliban and Al-Qaida targets has dramatically increased recently. Hardly a day goes by without reports of such strikes by US drones operated by the CIA. And Pakistani government led by Zardari routinely protests strikes by US armed drones that reportedly take off from Shamsi airfield near Jacobabad in Pakistan, as visible on Google Earth until very recently.

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the American drones knows that these machines fly low and slow making them easy targets for any military with a minimally sophisticated air defense system. Even if one disregards the Feinstein revelation and assumes that such contraptions fly out of Afghanistan, Pakistani military is clearly conveying the message that such drone strikes are deliberately tolerated by choosing not to shoot them down. In fact, it is easy to conclude that Pakistani military not only knows but approves Predator missions in FATA. And people who suggest that CIA does not trust Pakistani military and does not share information about drone flights and strikes are either being deliberately disingenuous or just smoking Afghan poppy.

Why is this game of Charades being played by US and Pakistan? Who are they fooling? Measured by the flagging support for war on terror, they are certainly not fooling the people of Pakistan. And the situation next door is not any better. Rising casualties of Afghan civilians are turning the Afghan people against the US military and the Karzai government and strengthening support for the Taliban. After seven years of US presence, many Afghans now believe that the Taliban offered them a much better sense of security and law and order when they ruled the nation until 2001. Last October, Christian Science Monitor reported on how the Taliban handled complaints from villagers near Kabul about a gang of thieves. The Taliban's parallel government in Logar Province – less than 40 miles from Kabul, the capital – tried and convicted the men, tarred their faces, paraded them around, and threatened to chop off their hands if they were caught stealing in the future. The thieves never bothered the locals again.

A serious but unintended and extremely dangerous consequence of the US air strikes in FATA is that the militants are moving further inland from FATA in to Pakistan's settled area such as Swat and threatening to destabilize the entire country. A destabilized, nuclear-armed Pakistan will be far more dangerous to the US, the region and the world than anything we have seen in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The Obama response to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan is to order more Predator strikes and thousands of more US troops. This assumes that the problems are mainly the lack of firepower and of troop strength. But it's likely to have the opposite effect. More Predator strikes and more troops mean more fighting which will lead to more American and Afghan civilian casualties. And it will only increase the public opposition to the US presence there, and make the entire region a much more powerful magnet to draw more global Jihadists from around the world. These "holy warriors" love nothing better than to kill the American soldiers and achieve "martyrdom" for themselves.

It is clear from the developments over the last several months that the US needs a complete overhaul of both its overall strategy and tactics. Just the planned troops surge alone will not suffice. There has to be a comprehensive new strategy for political dialog, reconstruction and smart counterinsurgency tactics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Related Links:

WorldFocus on Afghanistan

Pakistan's Prospects

Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama's South Asia Policy

Military Occupation of Kashmir

Bruce Riedel Interview

Clues to Obama's South Asia Policy

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beheading in Buffalo: Domestic Violence or Honor Killing ?


Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan, founder of a Muslim-American TV network, is accused of beheading his wife, Aasiya, last week in Buffalo, New York, days after she filed for divorce, according to media reports.

The incident has shocked the Muslim-American community in upstate New York and the rest of the United States. The allegations against Mo Hassan are particularly devastating for the Muslims in North America because Hassans had founded Bridges TV network to fight negative stereotypes of Muslims after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

The reports have triggered frenzied speculation as to the motives behind this murder. Was it an extreme case of domestic violence? Or was it an honor killing which sometime occur in couple's native Pakistan? So far, it seems the answer depends on the preconceived notions of the speculators. The well-known strident critics of Islam and Muslims in America have already concluded that it was an honor killing perpetrated by the husband, and they cite the beheading as method of killing as proof.

Rabbi Hirschfeld, a friend of the Hassans, said that Ms. Hassan had confided in him a few years ago about incidents of domestic abuse, but at the time she insisted that her husband was getting counseling. She later told Rabbi Hirschfeld that the counselor had told her she was safe, according to the New York Times.

“I knew there were issues in the marriage,” Rabbi Hirschfeld said. “I didn’t know it was this bad. My immediate response is horror and incredible sadness.”

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the police had responded in the past to domestic dispute calls at the Hassan house.

Unfortunately, the issue of domestic violence among Muslim-Americans is not unknown. Last year, International Herald Tribune talked with a Muslim-American woman who looked into this problem. "The Muslim community is under a lot of scrutiny, so they are reluctant to look within to face their problems because it will substantiate the arguments demonizing them," said Rafia Zakaria, a political science graduate student at Indiana University who is starting a legal defense fund for Muslim women. "It puts Muslim women in a difficult position because if they acknowledge their rights, they are seen as being in some kind of collusion with all those who are attacking Muslim men. So the question is how to speak out without adding to the stereotype that Muslim men are barbaric, oppressive, terrible people."

According to Dawn newspaper, the 2008 report of violence against women in Pakistan makes horrific reading. In that year alone, 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the media. What is shocking is the large number of women who lost their lives in this period — 1,516 were murdered while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honor’.

A number of women organizations are offering shelter and counseling in response to the growing but hidden problem of domestic abuse among South Asian and Muslim families. Maitri and Nisa are prominent in this effort.

But it's not just a Muslim or Pakistani problem. It occurs in people of every class, race, religion, ethnicity and nationality. A woman is beaten up every 9 seconds in America. Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence, the euphemism for murders and assaults by husbands and boyfriends. That's approximately 1,400 women a year, according to the FBI. The number of women who have been murdered by their intimate partners is greater than the number of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. The problems of domestic violence tend to get worse during times of economic hardship. In the latest stimulus budget package, President Obama has allocated additional funds to stop violence against women. Specific Office on Violence Against Women investments in the Act include $175 million for the STOP (Services • Training • Officers • Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program and $50 million for the Transitional Housing Assistance Grant Program.

The use of specific incidents of violence and murder to demonize any particular religion or ethnicity does not help the victims. On the contrary, it can have the opposite effect of attempts to cover up the problems that lead to extreme violence like the tragic murder of Aasiya Hassan. It is important for those of us who genuinely care about the helpless victims to focus on understanding and dealing with the real causes of violence. Organizations such as NISA, Aurat Foundation and Maitri also deserve support in their noble effort to help the unfortunate victims.

Related Links:

Religious Leaders Respond to Domestic Violence

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

A Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wireless Broadband Access Growing in Pakistan


Motorola announced in 2006 that Pakistan planned the world's largest WiMax roll-out. "The deployment is a milestone in the spread of WiMax, a superfast wireless technology that has a range of up to 30 miles and can deliver broadband at a theoretical maximum of 75 megabits per second. The 802.16-2004 standard, which is used in fixed WiMax networks, is being skipped in favor of a large-scale introduction of 802.16e, which was only recently agreed upon by the WiMax Forum," the 2006 announcement said.

Let's examine the state of WiMax deployments and subscriber growth around the world since the Motorola announcement more than two years ago.

The broadband wireless access (BWA) industry has grown significantly in the last few years due to increased availability of spectrum for commercial services and the desire to close the digital divide, according to Wimax.com. A major shift from the industry has been the migration towards standards-based products.

The largest wireless ISP in the world, Clearwire, has more subscribers than the next four BWA/WiMAX operators combined. The majority of its user base relies on the desktop modem from its former equipment subsidiary, NextNet, which is now part of Motorola's operations. PC Cards and VoIP services are now part of the portfolio. The operator is expected to launch its first commercial WiMAX network (using Motorola's 802.16e-2005 radios) in Portland, Oregon before the end of the year. Regulatory approval to form a joint venture with Sprint Nextel to launch a nationwide WiMAX service in the US is eagerly anticipated. A successful joint venture would catapult Clearwire into a unique position as the only fixed wireless network operator to transition into a mobile carrier.



According to Fierce Broadband Wireless, the largest mobile WiMAX deployments reported during first-quarter 2008 were from Korea Telecom with nearly 150,000 subscribers and Wateen Telecom (Pakistan) with more than 10,000 subscribers at the end of that quarter. Wateen is today the largest mobile WiMAX Motorola deployment. In June 2006, Wateen placed an order for 198,000 CPEs from Motorola. Motorola has shipped 60,000 CPEs so far. Wateen has told Fierce that they had 25,000 subscribers by the end of June 2008. The operator expects to complete the order of 198,000 CPEs by this year. It is expected that the gap between mobile "16e" deployments and "16d" will narrow once trials of 16e equipment are complete and certified equipment becomes widely available.

The liberalization of Pakistan's telecommunications industry started in 1997 and accelerated under former President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. In 2004, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) introduced two types of licenses for ISPs – regional and nationwide, and also exempted them from Central Excise Duty. Over the past four years, the Pakistani telecom sector has attracted more than USD 5.6 billion in foreign investments. During 2007/08, the Pakistani telecoms sector alone received USD 1.44 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) – about 30 per cent of the country’s total FDI. The pace of investment is likely to slow down this year because of the global financial woes.

Pakistan's network operators are offering wide range of technologies like DSL, Cable, FTTH and WiMax. They have added 25,500 new broadband connections in the financial year 2007-08, which is around 150 percent increase compared to the previous financial year, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) statistics reported.

At present Digital Subscriber Link (DSL) is the leading broadband service in the county with 65 percent of the market share. Major DSL providers in Pakistan are Micronet, LinkDotNet, CyberNet, MultiNet and PTCL.

Wateen is likely to see growing WiMax competition from operators including Wi-Tribe, Mobilink and LinkDotNet in Pakistan. Wi-Tribe is jointly owned by Qatar Telecom, ATTCO group and Clearwire. Motorola has signed a multi-year WiMAX contract with Wi-Tribe. Motorola has commenced deploying Wi-Tribe’s WiMAX network in the 3.5GHz spectrum. Commercial launch is expected during 2009. LinkDotNet, a subsidiary of ORASCOM Telecom, is working with Alcatel-Lucent for their WiMax deployment.

According to WiMax.com, Bharti TeleVentures, Reliance, SIFY, BSNL and VSNL (Tata Group) have all acquired licenses in 3.3 GHz range and are in various stages of trials. VSNL has announced Phase 1 pre-WiMAX deployment of Aperto gear in 60 locations, extending to 200 locations within the year. Although there is clearly insufficient spectrum to offer DSL-like service, several operators have indicated that there is still a huge market for 64 and 128 kb/s connections, which should alleviate the lack of spectrum.

Once the trials are over, analysts expect WiMax subscribers to grow to about 19m in India by 2012.

How is Wimax doing in the United States? Jon Fortt of Fortune Magazine recently visited Portland, Oregon, and saw a demonstration of it in a Lincoln Navigator while a "Knight Rider" episode streamed over the Internet to a screen mounted to the car's dashboard. Here's how Fortt sums up his findings:

"The good news is that WiMax appears to work pretty well (no latency or jitter as the KITT car was taking down bad guys), making it a potential competitor to telephone and cable companies' broadband offerings. The bad news is that most American cities may never get post-wired like Portland and Baltimore, the other city now boasting a full-fledged WiMax network."

Fortt believes that WiMax, with its ability to serve up broadband on the go, certainly could spark a fresh wave of innovation. The Obama administration's broadband measures in its latest stimulus package should help give a boost to WiMax deployments in the United States.

While the potential for Wimax in the US market looks very good, I believe the really big opportunity is in the emerging markets, such as India and Pakistan, where the mobile phone has achieved greater than 50% penetration and the PC/Internet penetration remains in single digits. South Asia is witnessing some of biggest planned deployments of Wimax with a lot of consumer interest in both fixed and mobile broadband.

According to Juniper Research, South Asia will be the driving force behind the growth of Mobile WiMax, or the 802.16e standard. The Asia and Australia regions are expected to account for more than 50% of the total WiMax deployments by 2013.

Pakistan, being among the first countries in the world to roll-out a functional WiMax service, is experiencing tremendous growth in demand after Wateen Telecom’s launch of its WiMax service and roll-out plans announced by Mobilink.

India's state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is rolling out a Wimax network for broadband access in response to government requirement that 20 million broadband lines be in service by 2010.

Given the growing demand for the Internet access and the ubiquity of mobile phones, Wimax roll-out will likely spur the largest adoption of mobile Internet in South Asia in not too distant future.

Related Links:

Pakistan Broadband Overview

Broadband Internet Access in Pakistan

WiMax in Pakistani Cities

WiMax Launch in Pakistan

State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan

Mobile Internet

Pakistan's Broadband Stakeholders Group

Google and Intel Boost Mobile Internet

WiMax Continues to Evolve in Pakistan

Motorola to Deploy Mobilink WiMax in Pakistan

WiMax's Last Best Hope

Monday, February 16, 2009

Will American Capitalism Survive?


As the modern system of capitalism faces the most serious challenge of its existence since Adam Smith, the name of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is being regularly invoked by economists, politicians, bankers, and the media. And with good reason. Born in Cambridge, England, in 1883, the year Karl Marx died, Keynes probably saved capitalism from itself and kept Communists at bay. Keynesian Economics advocates the use of government monetary and fiscal policy to maintain full employment with low inflation.

Keynes described Capitalism in the following words: "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."

A well-known anti-Semite, Keynes once said, "It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains." As in the past financial crises, powerful Jews on Wall Street and in Washington are being held responsible by many as the culprits of the current economic collapse.

In response to a severe recession or possible depression, Keynes suggested: "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." He advocated massive spending by government to stimulate demand when all else fails.

Who was Keynes? Here is how UC Berkeley's Robert Reich described him a few years ago: "A Cambridge University don with a flair for making money, a graduate of England's exclusive Eton prep school, a collector of modern art, the darling of Virginia Woolf and her intellectually avant-garde Bloomsbury Group, the chairman of a life-insurance company, later a director of the Bank of England, married to a ballerina, John Maynard Keynes--tall, charming and self-confident--nonetheless transformed the dismal science into a revolutionary engine of social progress."

Keynes was clearly a very smart man. His ideas of modern Capitalism have created unprecedented wealth and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And his ideas may still help save capitalism yet again. At least, that is the hope of the Obama administration and the backers of the massive stimulus package of about $800 billion recently passed by the US Congress. However, what Keynes couldn't have imagined are the new heights of avarice and wickedness of the modern political-industrial elite in America that has threatened the very foundations of the system that brought them wealth and power. During the last decade, the behavior of American capitalists and politicians has been unbelievably self-destructive.

Even Alan Greenspan, the icon of modern US capitalism, was forced to show contrition in October, 2008. The former Federal Reserve Chairman told a House committee that the banking and housing crisis is a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami." When asked if his ideology pushed him to make bad decisions, Greenspan said he found a "flaw" in his governing ideology that has led him to re-examine his thinking. There has, however, been no acceptance of any responsibility for the current crisis by the members of US Congress and powerful finance, banking and appropriations committees responsible for overseeing the US finance and economy.

The American economy continues to deteriorate rapidly with the devastating credit crunch and major loss of confidence by consumers, businesses and investors. At this point, tax cuts or just handing out cash to banks or big infrastructure projects or re-regulation are not likely to help hasten economic recovery. The Obama administration will need to take more drastic measures, including nationalization and recapitalization of major banks to ensure that the much needed credit to businesses and consumers starts flowing again. Ideological aversion to nationalization will only delay recovery and take a much heavier toll on ordinary Americans in terms of job losses, home foreclosures and loss of other basic necessities of life.

The problem that some of the the critics of the Obama economic team and their Congressional overseers, derived mainly from the Clinton administration and the hold-overs from Bush-era, point out is articulated well by Nassim Taleb, the author of Black Swan. “We have the same people in charge, those who did not see the crisis coming,” he said recently on CNBC.

The roots of the current crisis can be traced to the Reagan revolution. Beginning in the early 1980s, Reaganomics transformed the United States in fundamental ways. Since the world saw the fall of the Soviet Union and collapse of Communism, the Conservative Republican ideas of less government and more deregulation have continued to change the economic landscape in America and the rest of the world. This revolution has now lasted almost three decades under various US administrations including Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43. The Reagan ideas have also been adopted and preached by international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The continued wave of deregulation engineered and supported by America's predominantly Jewish political-industrial elite has led to the creation and trading of what Warren Buffet describes as "financial weapons of mass destruction". Such newfangled, unregulated financial derivative products as some mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps and other wildly speculative futures and commodities contracts have produced hundreds of billions of dollars worth of personal gains for the financial industry executives and hundreds of millions of dollars in political contributions for American politicians who are now grand-standing as saviors of the American and the world economy.

The fate of many new-comers from the emerging economies of the world is closely tied to the success or failure of capitalism in America. It appears that some of the countries such as Brazil, Russia, China and India, who embraced the conservative American ideas of "economic reform" and "deregulation", may already be too late for the party. However, the European and Asian nations with substantial population of savers and entrepreneurs will recover rapidly and thrive again, as long as they keep their banks and financial institutions on a tight leash. In particular, the world's top creditor nations such as China , Japan and Germany with high savings rates, massive trade surpluses and large central bank cash reserves are likely to come out ahead at the end of the current crisis. Others may not be so lucky. But all the follower nations that have essentially been copying the US model will have to develop their own original ideas with financial systems and economic models to move forward in uncharted waters. Clearly, any new models will require a deep understanding and introspection of what has worked and where has the American capitalism gone wrong.

Related Links:

China's Nuclear Option

Senator Schumer: The Champion of Wall Street on the Hill

Pay to Play is the Name of the Game in Washington

Are Jews Culprits of Collapse on Wall Street?

Keynes on Jews

Democrats and Republicans Share Blame for Financial Collapse

Jewish Network in US Congress

Jewish Power Dominates at Vanity Fair