Friday, May 28, 2010

Pakistan Must Defeat Agents of Intolerance

Today's terrorist assault and the resulting tragic loss of life of scores of Pakistani citizens of Ahmedi sect in Lahore warrant the strongest condemnation by all. Pakistan's government and all the right thinking people must now act to stop the repeat of such tragedies by all means necessary, including the use of the national media to educate people, eliciting strong condemnation statements by those who claim to be Islamic religious scholars, enforcing blanket ban on hate speech, and using appropriate force.

I am reproducing here a post I wrote in 2008 to exhort action to stop agents of intolerance everywhere:

Sadly, the news of intolerance, abuse and hate crimes, continue to pour out of various parts of South Asia and the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the threats are issued and crimes committed in the name of religion or tradition or ethnicity. What gets reported is probably only the tip of the iceberg, but here's a sampling of what has caught my attention recently:

Pakistani TV Host Calls for Ahmadis' Murder:

According to Asia Human Rights Commission, the host of the religious talk show 'Alim Online', Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain--also former federal minister for religious affairs--declared the murder of Ahmadis, members of a minority sect excommunicated by fundamentalist Islam, to be obligatory (Wajib ul Qatal) according to Islamic teachings, because its followers don't believe in the last prophet, Mohammad. Dr. Hussain repeated his instruction several times, urging Muslim listeners to "kill without fear".

While on air the host also pressed two other Islamic "scholars" (from two different sects) on the program to support the statement. This resulted in a unanimous agreement among the "scholars", on air during the popular television show, to urge lynching of Ahamdis. This was not the first time Mr. Hussain has done this. On September 9, Mr. Hussain answered a query with the comment that blasphemers are liable to be put to death.

According to media reports, at 1:15pm on September 8, 18 hours after the broadcast, six people entered the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-story hospital at Mirpur Khas city and two of them went to the second floor and asked 45 year-old Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui to come downstairs to attend to a patient in crisis. Dr. Manan left his office and descended into an ambush. He was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard was also shot and is in a serious condition. A woman was also injured by firing. The killers remained at the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, then they walked out of the building's front entrance. Police registered the killers as unknown.

Top Saudi Judge on Satellite TV operators:

According to media reports, Saudi Arabia’s top judiciary official has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV networks that broadcast "immoral" content.

The 79-year-old Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan said Thursday that satellite channels cause the “deviance of thousands of people.” ...

Al-Lihedan was answering listeners’ questions during the daily “Light in the Path” radio program in which he and others make rulings on what is permissible under Islamic law. One caller asked about Islam’s view of the owners of satellite TV channels that show “bad programs” during Ramadan.

“I want to advise the owners of these channels, who broadcast calls for such indecency and impudence ... and I warn them of the consequences,” he said.

“What does the owner of these networks think, when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity?” he said.

“Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it’s permissible to kill them,” he said. “Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but don’t, it is permissible to kill them.”

On September 9, 48 hours after the broadcast, Mr. Yousuf, a 75 year-old rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect was killed on his way to prayer in Nawab Shah, Sindh province. Yousuf was fired on from people on motor bikes, and sustained three bullet wounds. He died on the way to the hospital. The assailants had taken a route past a police station. No one was arrested.

Thackeray Threatens Bollywood's Bachchan Family:

A star-studded premiere for Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's new film, The Last Lear, has been scrapped in Mumbai, India, because of security concerns for guests, after the Shiv Sena chief made threats against the Bachchan family. Mr. Bal Thackeray has vowed not to allow any film starring any member of the Bachchan family from being released in the state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the capital, according to media reports. Mr. Thackeray has rejected repeated apologies from Mr. and Mrs. Bachan over their reported remarks denigrating Marathi language.

So who is Bal Thackeray and why is he so feared? According to a Wikipedia entry, Bal Keshav Thackeray (born January 23, 1926), popularly known as Balasaheb Thackeray, is the founder and chief of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist, Marathi ethnocentric and populist party active mainly in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. He is also referred to as Hindu Hridaysamrat (lit. "Ruler of Hindu hearts") and Sher (Tiger) by members of the Shiv Sena.

Thackeray is very vocal in his opposition to people who migrate to Mumbai, to non-Hindus (especially Muslims), and to Bengali Muslims he believes are Bangladeshis. In the late 1970s, as part of his "Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians" campaign, Thackeray threatened migrants from South India with harm unless they left Mumbai.

Women Buried Alive in Baluchistan:

Baba Kot, a village 50 miles from Usta Mohammad town of Jafferabad district in Baluchistan, is where this recent tale of tribal terror began.
The media reports and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) indicate that it was here that Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, a brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, a Baluchi tribal leader and a serving PPP provincial minister, came with more than six men and abducted five women at gun point. They were transported in a government vehicle to another remote area, Nau Abadi, near Baba Kot. Upon reaching Nau Abadi, Abdul Sattar Umrani and his men took the three younger women out of the jeep and beat them before opening fire with their guns. The girls were seriously injured but were still alive after the shooting. Sattar Umrani and his men pushed them into a wide ditch and covered them up with dirt and stones. When the two older women protested and tried to stop the burial, the attackers also pushed them into the ditch and buried them alive. After completing the burial, they fired several shots into to the air so that no one would come close and left the scene.

According to media reports, the five female victims were Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaiser Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, aged between 16 to 18 years, whose names have not been published. At the moment they were abducted, the women were preparing to leave for a civil court at Usta Mohammad, district Jafarabad, so that three of the girls could marry the men of their choice. Their decision to go to to court for a civil marriage was contrary to the wishes of the elders of the tribe.

The live female burials took place a month ago but the police have neither registered a crime report nor taken any action. There have been no arrests yet. Minister and tribal chief Sadiq Umrani confirmed the incident took place but insisted that only three women had been killed by unknown people.

India 's Guantanamos and AbuGhraibs:

An essay on by Yoginder Sikand describes the deteriorating human rights situation of Indian Muslims. America's 'global war on terror' has provided a convenient cover to the Hindutva lobby and to fiercely anti-Muslim elements within the Indian state machinery to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Muslims. Large numbers of Muslims in various parts of India continue to languish in jails on trumped-up terror charges, suffering brutal torture as well as routine insults to their religion by police officials. Meanwhile, Hindu terrorists, often in league with the police and the state machinery, are allowed to run riot, unleashing violence and bloodshed on a frightening scale, while the state, the police and the courts take no firm action against them. Bomb blasts that are now occurring with frightening frequency, whose perpetrators remain unknown, are automatically blamed on Muslims, while some of these might possibly be engineered by Hindutva outfits or by elements within the state apparatus, or even by foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA or the Israeli Mossad who have a vested interest in demonizing Muslims and thereby driving India closer into the deadly American-Israeli embrace. That, in brief, was what numerous social activists as well as dozens of Muslim victims of police and state terror testified to at a public hearing on brutalities against Muslims in the name of countering 'terrorism' recently organized in Hyderabad by a group of noted human rights' activists. Going by their depositions and the verdict of the jury of eminent social activists, journalists and retired judges, it appears that powerful elements within the state apparatus are deeply implicated, along with Hindu terrorist groups, in a witch-hunt of India's Muslim citizens.

Aafia Siddiqui 11-year old son in detention:

According to media reports and Human Rights Watch, Ahmed Siddiqui, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's 11-year-old son, is being held under inhumane conditions by the Afghan authorities. While considerable doubts remain about the US and Afghan accounts of Dr. Siddiqui's arrest in Ghazni, most human rights activists see no justification for holding her son in custody.

Call For Action:

How can we, as individuals, fight this scourge of rising intolerance, abuse and hate crimes? In addition to supporting organizations that fight for human rights such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Commission, etc, each of us should raise our voice against it through whatever platform is available to us. We can blog about it, write to newspaper editors, join the call-in shows and sign petitions to officials. Whatever it takes, it is important that we speak up for the basic rights of our fellow human beings everywhere in the world.

Related Links:

Daily Carnage in Pakistan

Religious Leaders Respond to Domestic Violence

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

A Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Honor Killings in India

Ms. Nirupama Pathak, a bright young business journalist based in Delhi, was brutally murdered recently by her family for carrying on an inter-caste relationship with a male colleague.

Honor killings in India claim over 1000 lives every year, according to an Indian website reporting such statistics. Last year, there were 100 honor killings recorded in the Indian state of Haryana alone, according to Washington Post.

In 2008, a judge in Haryana and Punjab, Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia, said the number of "couples hiding themselves in the corridors of court" had risen in recent years. In response, the government set up hotlines and opened shelters for the runaway couples.

Honor killings among Pakistanis and Muslims have received a lot of air time and print space in recent years. The unfortunate fact is that such honor killings still happen, and are not limited to specific countries or religions. This heinous practice cuts across faiths, social strata and incomes. A United Nations report says there are 5,000 honor killings every year across the globe. The crime is rampant in India as well as West and Southeast Asia. Even in the United Kingdom, the police contend there is at least one such murder every month among Asian communities.

According to a story in National Geographic, reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda. In countries not submitting reports to the UN, the practice was condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan, and has been reported in Iraq and Iran.

But while honor killings have elicited considerable attention and outrage, human rights activists argue that they should be regarded as part of a much larger problem of violence against women.

In India, for example, more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Here's a video about an honor killing near Delhi:

Related Links:

Status of Women in India

Gender Inequality Worst in South Asia

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Women's Status in Pakistan

A Tale of Tribal Terror

WEF Global Gender Gap Rankings 2009

India, Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Female Literacy Through Mobile Phones

Pakistan's Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in India and Pakistan

Female Genocide Unfolding in India

Honor Killings in India Website

Monday, May 24, 2010

Superfreakonomics on Status of Indian Women

Freakonomics is a series of books by authors Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner who find data points, patterns, correlations and trends that are often missed by mainstream economists and researchers. For example, the authors see how legalization of abortion may have caused significant crime rates decline in the United States in recent decades. They argue with various statistics to reject other possible explanations like gun control, strong economy, three-strikes laws etc. Authors say that the termination of unwanted pregnancies has led to fewer criminals on the streets of America.

In their latest book of the Freakonomics series, Superfreakonomics, the authors cite the findings of two American economists Robert Jensen and Emily Oster that cable TV in 2700 households empowered Indian women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept more girls in school. Here are some highlights from the book about India:

1. If women could choose their birthplace, India might not be a wise choice of a place for any of them to be born.

2. In spite of recent economic success and euphoria about India, the people of India remain excruciatingly poor.

3. Literacy is low, and corruption is high in India.

4. Only half the Indian households have electricity, and fewer have running water.

5. Only one in 4 Indian homes has a toilet.

6. 40% of families with girls want to have more children, but families with boys do not want a baby girl.

7. It's especially unlucky to be born female, baby boy is like a 401 K retirement plan, baby girl requires a dowry fund.

8. Smile Train in Chennai did cleft repair surgery at no cost for poor children. A man was asked how many children he had. He said he had 1, a boy. It turned out that he also had 5 daughters which he did not mention.

9. Indian midwives in Tamil Nadu are paid $2.50 to kill girls with cleft deformity.

10. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound are used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water.

11. If lucky enough not to be aborted, girls face inequality and cruelty at every turn because of low social status of Indian women.

12. 51% of Indian men say wife beating is justified, 54% women agree, especially when dinner is burned or they leave home without husband's permission.

13. High number of unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV infections happen to Indian women when 15% of the condoms fail. Indian Council of Medical Research found that 60% of Indian men's genitalia are too small to fit the condoms manufactured to international standard sizes.

14. Indian laws to protect women are widely ignored. The government has tried monetary rewards to keep baby girls and supported microfinance for women. NGO programs, smaller condoms, and other projects have had limited success.

15. People had little interest in State run TV channel due to poor reception or boring programs. But cable television has helped women, as 150 million people between 2001-2006 got cable TV which gave them exposure to wider world.

16. American economists found that the effect of TV in 2700 households empowered women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughters in schools.

Freakonomics series authors Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner use the above facts to prove what they call the "Law of Unintended Consequences".

They argue that access to cable TV, not originally intended to help liberate women, has done more to improve the lives of Indian women than the many laws and government programs designed to help them.

Cable television is present in over 16 million Pakistani households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009. I am not aware of any studies done on the impact of cable TV on rural women in Pakistan, but my guess is that trends similar to India's are empowering women in Pakistan's rural households with growing cable TV access.

Related Links:

Media Boom in Pakistan

Gender Inequality Worst in South Asia

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Women's Status in Pakistan

WEF Global Gender Gap Rankings 2009

India, Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Female Literacy Through Mobile Phones

Pakistan's Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in India and Pakistan

Female Genocide Unfolding in India

Thursday, May 20, 2010

US Media Leaks Diplomacy to Coerce Pakistan

There have recently been a slew of statements attributed to unnamed American officials reported in the American national media threatening Pakistan with "severe consequences". All of these reports are designed to build pressure on Pakistan Army to comply with the US demands to immediately begin offensive military operations in North Waziristan in the wake of failed bombing attempt at Times Square in New York.

Here are some examples of pressure on Pakistan from New York Times and Washington Post:

"The Obama administration has delivered new and stiff warnings to Pakistan after the failed Times Square car bombing that it must urgently move against the nexus of Islamic militancy in the country’s lawless tribal regions, American and Pakistani officials said."

"General Kayani, with whom General McChrystal has forged a positive relationship, was essentially told, “ ‘You can’t pretend any longer that this is not going on,’ ” another American official said. “ ‘We are saying you have got to go into North Waziristan.’ ”

"The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of continuing diplomatic efforts here."

New York Times May 8, 2010

"There's going to be enough here to trigger a policy debate," predicted one senior official with access to U.S. intelligence on Pakistan and involvement in White House discussions about the bombing attempt. "This is going to really create a new focus on Pakistan, militants in the tribal areas and their recruitment of and connections" to terror operatives recruited in the West, the official said. Like others who agreed to discuss sensitive U.S.-Pakistan relations and the ongoing bomb investigation, this official would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

Impatient with the intricacies of Pakistani politics, its anti-American sensitivities and its fixation on India as its greatest strategic threat, these officials see the Times Square incident as weighing in favor of a far more muscular and unilateral U.S. policy. It would include a geographically expanded use of drone missile attacks in Pakistan and pressure for a stronger U.S. military presence there.

Washington Post May 9, 2010

It is normal Washington practice to use well-timed media leaks in Washington Post, New York Times, CBS and other media, including blogs, twitter and new social media, to effect changes in policies and behaviors within and outside the United States. Such leaks are almost always attributed to unnamed officials, and intended to put pressure to act in ways preferred by the leakers.

In its recent issue, the Newsweek describes how President Obama himself became the target of such pressure tactics during his Afghan policy review last year. Here is how Jonathan Alter explains it in Newsweek:

"In fact, the military, practiced in the ways of Washington, now ran PR circles around the neophytes in the Obama White House, leaking something to the Pentagon reporters nearly every day. The motive for all the leaks seemed clear to the White House: to box the president into the policy that McChrystal had recommended, at least another 80,000 troops and an open-ended commitment lasting 10 years or more.

Admiral Mullen, the son of a Hollywood publicist whose clients included Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart, looked unassuming but knew how to handle himself in the press. Gen. David Petraeus, the CentCom commander, of course was a pro at cultivating reporters. Even before the leaking of the report, McChrystal, working with Mullen's approval, made himself shockingly accessible to the press. He sat for a long, colorful interview with 60 Minutes,appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, and dismissed the Biden plan (few troops, targeting Al Qaeda with drones) to NEWSWEEK.

Mullen dug himself in especially deep at his reconfirmation hearings for chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he made an aggressive case for a long-term commitment in Afghanistan. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was enraged at Mullen's public testimony and let the Pentagon know it. When Petraeus gave an interview to Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson on Sept.4 calling for a "fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign," the chief of staff was even angrier. Mullen and Petraeus thought the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. They said that once they heard the policy was under review, they stopped talking. "Hey, Denis, don't worry," Petraeus told NSC chief of staff Denis McDonough, "I get it."

Will the increased pressure work to achieve US objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan? It is hard to tell, particularly because of Pakistani military's stretched resources and its sensitivity against yielding to US pressure. Similar tactics by Washington against Afghan President reportedly failed badly when Mr. Hamid Karzai threatened to "join the Taliban" rather than yield to American pressure. In the end, Obama ended up making amends for the failed tactics by showing extraordinary hospitality to Mr. Karazi during his recent trip to Washington.

If the US pressure does succeed in pushing the Pakistani military to comply and take on multiple groups the US labels as "terrorists" in various parts of Pakistan, it may end up precipitating a long and bloody civil war in that country. The last thing the world needs is further destabilization of nuclear armed Pakistan. A long and bloody civil war in Pakistan will be far more dangerous for the US, South Asia-West Asia region and the World. A much more deliberate and thoughtful strategy is required to rid Pakistan and the World of the scourge of domestic and intentional terrorism.

Related Links:

Hunger Kills Far More People Than Terror

Cyber Wars in India, Pakistan and China

The War of the Leaks

Is America Losing the Afghan War?

India's Hostility Toward Pakistan

US Afghan Exit: Trigger for India to Talk to Pakistan?

Facts and Myths about Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Stephen Cohen on India-Pakistan Relations

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

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

Is Pakistan's Economic Recovery PPP's Illusion?

Guest Post by Dr. Ashfaque H. Khan, Dean of NUST Business School, Islamabad.

Pakistan's economy has grown at an average annual rate of 5.0 per cent over the last 62 years despite numerous impediments to its growth. By any standard, this has been a major achievement in terms of raising real incomes and alleviating poverty. The economic growth, however, remained uneven and interrupted by a variety of factors for a prolonged period. It was during 2000-07 that Pakistan's economy experienced the longest spell of strongest growth due to sound economic policies, structural reforms and a benign international economic environment.

Economic growth has slowed considerably in Pakistan over the last two to three years owing to a variety of domestic and external factors. What is worrisome is the new development where the growth number is being manipulated to paint a rosy picture. There was a story about the manipulation of growth number for 2009-10 in The News on May 16, 2010. The usual methodology to post a higher economic growth for the current year is to reduce the growth of the previous year. In other words, reduce the base to get a higher growth for the current year.

The growth number for 2007-08 was provisionally reported to be 5.8 per cent. The year 2008-09 was the most difficult year for the world economy as global financial meltdown triggered a full-fledged economic crisis. Strong economies like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand witnessed negative growth. Pakistan, on the other hand, posted a positive growth of 2.0 per cent and outshined the strongest economies of the region in 2008-09.

How was this positive 2.0 per cent growth achieved? The 5.8 per cent provisional growth of 2007-08 was drastically revised downward to 4.1 per cent and as such the base was reduced to arrive at a higher number of 2.0 per cent for 2008-09. Some methodology for the calculation of value-added for some sectors was also changed without bringing to the notice of the National Accounts Committee.

The same process has been repeated according to the newspaper story for the year 2009-10. The Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) – the institution responsible for compiling the country's national income accounts, has revised the last year's (2008-09) growth of 2.0 per cent to 1.1 per cent and that too, by further trimming the growth of 2007-08 from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent. Since the base of 2008-09 was trimmed to 1.1 per cent, the growth for the current fiscal year (2009-10) has risen to 4.1 per cent.

Not only the growth of last year was reduced but also growth of some components of the GDP was outlandishly jacked up in 2009-10. As reported in the news item, the growth of the construction sector was pushed up to an unbelievable level of 15 per cent. Only a lunatic would expect the construction sector to grow by 15 per cent in 2009-10 when the public sector development programme of the federal government has been slashed to one-half and the private sector construction activities are at near standstill. The production of cement adjusted for exports and that of iron and steel has been used as a proxy for calculating growth in value-added in construction.

The interesting paradox here is that while cement production unadjusted for exports, grew by 11.2 per cent and iron and steel registered a high negative double digit growth, the construction industry seems to have thrived and grew by 15 per cent. This is simply unbelievable. Furthermore, the growth of the livestock sector, which accounts for over 11 per cent of the GDP, has been jacked up as well according to the news item.

Though the FBS' staffers are technically weak, they are surely honest. My appeal to them is to do their job professionally as they have been doing in the past. The revision in growth numbers is common in every part of the world but unfortunately the extent of revision has grown significantly in Pakistan over the last few years. The provisional growth of 5.8 per cent in 2007-08 has been revised downward to 4.1 per cent and further to 3.7 per cent – a downward revision of 2.0 percentage points is simply unacceptable and has perhaps never happened before.

Should anyone accept that the economy has grown by 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 in the midst of deteriorating security environment, crippling impact of power shortages and mismanagement, persisting double-digit inflation and a higher interest rate environment? If the growth is really 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 – up from 1.1 per cent in the previous year, then the government and its economic managers will have to answer the following questions. Should we believe that the spate of suicide bombing and heightened political tension have had no impact on economic growth? Should we believe that the long hours of power outages have had no adverse impact on the economy? Should we also believe that the higher double-digit inflation and the higher interest rate environment have had no adverse effect on the economy? Should we re-write our own economic theory?

Economic theory armed with extensive empirical evidence suggests that the declining rate of investment, high inflation and interest rate, large fiscal deficit, armed conflicts, wars, political instability, corruption, absence of rule of law, high poverty rates, rising debt burden, and weak infrastructure will have negative effects on economic growth. How come economic growth accelerated from 1.1 per cent in 2008-09 to 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 in the midst of all the above-listed factors? Economic managers will have to answer these questions.

Related Links:

Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010

Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load Shedding

US Fears Aid Will Feed Graft in Pakistan

Pakistan Swallows IMF's Bitter Medicine

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

India Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised

After Partition: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The "Poor" Neighbor by William Dalrymple

Pakistan's Modern Infrastructure

Video: Who Says Pakistan Is a Failed State?

India Worse Than Pakistan, Bangladesh on Nutrition

UNDP Reports Pakistan Poverty Declined to 17 Percent

Pakistan's Choice: Talibanization or Globalization

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

Asia Gains in Top Asian Universities

BSE-Key Statistics

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

India-Pakistan Military Comparison

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Pakistan Energy Crisis

IMF-Pakistan Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is America Losing the Afghan War?

"We're not going to win this (Afghan) war", Brig Mark Carleton-Smith, the former British commander in Afghanistan's Helmand province, told London's Sunday Times in 2008.

Almost two years later, the NATO and US commander General Stanley McChrystal appears to be reaching essentially the same conclusion as his British predecessor.

Here are a few excerpts from a report about Gen McChrystal's latest admission that "nobody is winning" in Afghanistan:

"The US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who was boasting of military progress only three months ago, confessed last week that "nobody is winning". His only claim now is that the Taliban have lost momentum compared with last year."

"Pentagon officials increasingly agree with the Afghan villagers that the Marjah operation failed to end Taliban control and put the Afghan government in charge. This puts in doubt General McChrystal's whole strategy which also governs the way in which 10,000 British troops are deployed. He is being held to account for earlier optimism such as his claim at the height of Marjah offensive that "we've got a government in a box ready to roll in". Three months later, people in Marjah say they have yet to see much sign of the Afghan government."

"The one development over the past year which has hit the Taliban hardest happened not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. Prodded by the US, the Pakistan army has been taking over the federally administered tribal areas along the border where the Afghan Taliban once had safe havens. Soon the army may assault North Waziristan, one of the last Afghan insurgent enclaves and one which is already under repeated attack by US Predator drones. These find their targets because Pakistani military intelligence provides detailed information.

But loss of these safe havens in Pakistan may not be such a blow to the Afghan Taliban as it would have been three years ago when they controlled less of Afghanistan. It is impossible to seal the 2,600km frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, supposing the Pakistan army wants to do so.

The semi-official Pakistani view is that the US, Britain and Nato forces have become entangled in a civil war in Afghanistan between the Pashtun community, represented by the Taliban, and their Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara opponents who dominate the Kabul government. They expect the Pashtun to go on fighting until they get a real share in power. One Pashtun, a former colonel in the Pakistani army, said: "It will be difficult for the Americans and British to win the hearts and minds of the people in southern Afghanistan since at the centre of Pashtun culture is a hatred of all foreigners."

Many an empires have walked into Afghanistan before the US, which gave them a false sense of invincibility to try and maintain domination. Each has been ejected by the ferocious Pashtuns.

"They should get out as soon as possible. Or they'll be picked off like clay pigeons in target practice."

The above words of warning to America are attributed by the NPR radio to former Soviet Afghan war veteran, Lt. Sergei Maximov, on the 20th anniversary of the humiliating defeat of the Soviet empire twenty years ago.

Because of America's overwhelming economic strength (27% of global GDP, US dollar as reserve and trade currency, etc), unquestioned technological superiority (most innovative people, top universities, etc.), ingrained political power (as architect of the biggest international institutions) and unparalleled military power, the US does have a much bigger margin of error than other previous empires did or currently competing nations or ideologies do.

But the margin of error currently enjoyed by the US is not infinite, however large it may be. It's gradually eroding with out-of-control war spending, mounting debt and deficits, and the emergence of other powerful nations around the globe. A recent book "The Godfather Doctrine" paints the United States as a power in relative decline, and it forecasts the emergence of a new, multi-polar world, with US being one of many power centers. In all likelihood, America will still be quite strong and powerful for a while, but its writ will no longer be unchallenged. It will have to rely on support from other powers to deal with the Solozzos (Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda etc.) of the world, as the authors Hulsman and Mitchell explain in their book.

Related Links:

US Afghan Exit: Trigger for India to Talk to Pakistan?

Facts and Myths about Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Stephen Cohen on India-Pakistan Relations

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

India's Hunger Far More Deadly Than Global Terror

In a recent article "The Distant Thunder of an Unexploded Bomb" discussing the failed terror attack in Times Square and its severe consequences in faraway places, author Ras Siddiqui invokes the memory of "a horrible famine in British India around the time of World War II" portrayed in a film “Distant Thunder” by celebrated Indian director Satyajit Ray. Several million Indians died in the Bengal famine of 1943.

Ray's film focuses on the famine during the British Raj when the colonial rulers diverted food from Bengali civilians to the British forces fighting the Axis powers in Asia and the Middle East. Unfortunately, there is no thunder, distant or otherwise, today when it comes to hunger in India. Most hunger deaths occur in silence, without making any headlines in the Indian and Western media. There is often denial of this unfolding tragedy that claims thousands of innocent, often young, lives every day in India and other parts of the world in Asia and Africa....many times more than the tragic deaths from terrorism in the entire world.

About 3000 Pakistanis died tragically in terrorist attacks last year in various parts of the country, according to government data. Putting it in perspective, however, hunger in India has proved far more deadly than terror in Pakistan. It claims as many Indian children's lives every day as all of the terror related deaths in Pakistan in a year, according World Bank HNP data. About 7000 Indians of all ages die of hunger every day, according

Both tragedies are essentially man-made and preventable, and both need to be condemned and stopped by decisive action by all concerned.

Indian Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen who saw the Bengal famine in his childhood says as follows:

"When India achieved independence, more than 50 years ago, the people of India were much afflicted by endemic hunger. They still are."

As if to reinforce it, the BBC has a story today about little children in India eating mud to fight hunger.

"In Ganne, just off the main road about an hour south of the city of Allahabad, this is a simple fact of life.

It is home to members of a poor tribal community, who live in small huts clustered around a series of shallow quarries.

Inside one of the huts sits a little girl called Poonam. She is three years old, and in the early stages of kidney failure.

Like many children in Ganne she has become used to eating bits of dried mud and silica, which she finds in the quarry. Tiny children chew on the mud simply because they are hungry - but it is making them ill.

When reports first emerged of children eating mud here local officials delivered more food and warned the villagers not to speak to outsiders. But Poonam's father, Bhulli, is close to despair."

The only other country where I know children regularly eat "dirt cookies" is Haiti.

Related Links:

Right to Food

Ambassador Hussain Haroon on Failed Times Square Bombing

Indian Democracy Overrated

Theory and Practice of Right to Food

South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

Food, Shelter and Clothing in India and Pakistan

Amartya Sen on Hunger in India

Haq's Musings

India's Rights Approach

Child Malnutrition India Video

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Right to Food in India Campaign

Escape From India

Social Inequality Threatens India's Economic Stability

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Soaring Chinese Imports and Twin Deficits Worry India

India is continuing to run large current account and trade deficits. India's trade deficit was an estimated $86.6 billion in April- January 2009-2010, according to media reports. The Reserve Bank of India said the nation's current account deficit widened to $29.8 billion in fiscal 2009, compared with a deficit of $17 billion in prior year.

The nation’s capital account continued to be negative for the second quarter in a row. The gauge of investment flows into and out of the country showed a shortfall of $4.44 billion in the three months to 31 March, compared with a net inflow of $26.5 billion a year earlier, RBI said.

India's government has sent letters to the country's telecom companies ordering them not to buy equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and several other Chinese companies due to security risks, according to a report in Businessweek. A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that there was a similar move by Delhi to limit China's growing role in building India's power sector.

Growing Chinese Imports:
India's imports from China expanded 19 per cent and stood at US$ 32.49 billion in 2008-09, while exports were at US$ 9.35 billion. India's trade deficit with China is expected to grow larger this year, a trend India considers alarming given the nature of imports that go into India's essential infrastructure of power generation and telecommunications networks.

Power Sector:

Chinese are now supplying equipment for about 25% of the new generating capacity India is adding to its national grid, up from almost nothing a few years ago. There are thousands of skilled Chinese expatriates at Indian plant sites, along with Chinese chefs, Chinese television and ping pong.

Telecom Sector:
India is already the biggest export market for China's two leading telecom equipment manufacturers, Huawei Technologies and ZTE, as both companies have focused on India in recent years. As India has grown to the world's No. 2 mobile phone market in recent years, its imports of Chinese handsets have soared.

Unlike China, India lacks the necessary industrial and manufacturing base for greater self reliance in infrastructure equipment and defense armaments. India also runs large current account deficits while China is enjoying large surpluses strengthening its economic position in the world.

Defense Equipment:
India is overwhelmingly dependent on foreign imports, mainly Russian and Israeli, for about 70 per cent of its defense requirement, especially for critical military products and high-end defense technology, according to an Indian defense analyst Dinesh Kumar. Kumar adds that "India’s defense ministry officially admits to attaining only 30 to 35 per cent self-reliance capability for its defense requirement. But even this figure is suspect given that India’s self-reliance mostly accrues from transfer of technology, license production and foreign consultancy despite considerable investment in time and money".

On the same theme, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that "India has had little success with military equipment production, and has had problems producing Russian Su-30MKI fighter jets and T-90S tanks, English Hawk training jets and French Scorpene submarines."

On India's perennial dependence on imports, here's how blogger Vijainder Thakur sees India's loose meaning of "indigenous" Smerch and other imports:

"The Russians will come here set up the plant for us and supply the critical manufacturing machinery. Indian labor and technical management will run the plant which will simply assemble the system. Critical components and the solid propellant rocket motor fuel will still come from Perm Powder Mill. However, bureaucrats in New Delhi and the nation as a whole will be happy. The Smerch system will be proudly paraded on Rajpath every republic day as an indigenous weapon system.

A decade or so down the line, Smerch will get outdated and India will negotiate a new deal with Russia for the license production of a new multiple rocket system for the Indian Army.

China will by then have developed its own follow up system besides having used the solid propellant motors to develop other weapon systems and assist its space research program."

India does export some armaments but its modest record of producing and exporting weapon systems is evident from the fact that India’s defense annual exports averaged only US$ 88 million between 2006-07 and 2008-09. By contrast, Pakistan exported $300 million worth of military hardware and munitions last year.


India is looking for alternative sources for critical imports to reduce its dependence on the Chinese and Russians. But it faces an uphill task with Chinese imports in particular. China has become the biggest and the most efficient factory for the world's largest American, European and Japanese companies. Even if it does manage to find non-Chinese sources, India will have to pay much higher prices for such imports. And these imports may still contain crucial Chinese components which dominate the international supply chain for most non-Chinese companies, continuing its dependence on the Chinese.

On the defense side, India has begun to diversify away from Russia. Israelis have become major suppliers to India, and the US and Europeans are now bidding to sell military hardware to India. Both Israeli and Western equipment carries significantly higher price tags than imports from Russia.


In spite of Gandhi's Swadeshi movement and Indian policy of developing self-reliance, the nation remains heavily dependent on imports from China for its critical infrastructure, and its growing appetite for weapons systems on Russia and Israel. These growing imports are fueling India's current account deficits, and adding to its paranoia with regard to the rise of China. In response, Indian government is acting to reduce dependence on Chinese imports, a move that will likely to add further to its trade imbalance because of the higher costs of imports from non-Chinese and non-Russian sources.

Related Links:

India-Israel Military Relations

Pakistan's Military Production

BRIC, Chindia, and the "Indian Miracle"

India's "Indigenous" Weapons

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

India's Growing Defense Budget

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pakistan In, India Out of the T20 Semis

Call it sheer luck. Or unexpected reward for the final desperate bid to stay. The bottom line is that defending champions Pakistan have squeaked through to the semifinals after defeating South Africa in the T20 Super 8 group E match at the Caribbean island of St. Lucia yesterday.

Earlier loss to New Zealand by a single run on the last ball of the Super 8 match may have helped Pakistan in achieving a better net run rate than New Zealand overall. But what finally did it was the expected defeat of the Kiwis at the hands of the English team. If the Kiwis had won against England and collected two points, Pakistan would have been packing up to return home today. Australia and England, both unbeaten so far, remain at top the groups E and F.

India were knocked out of the semis today after losing to the Sri Lankan team in a thrilling contest which the Lankans won by a massive six hit by CK Kapugedera on the last ball of the match. The Indians put up a brave fight but it was just not enough to go through to the semifinals this year. Sri Lankans now move on to the semis after the host team West Indies lost to Australia in the final group F match.

Pakistan made a bad start against Proteas with their top batting order falling quickly, but Umar Akmal's brilliant knock of 51 runs with four sixes helped them in putting up a respectable total of 148 runs for 7. Umar was well supported by his brother Kamran and skipper Afridi who batted well against spin bowlers in building up the score in the second half of Pakistan's innings. Pakistan's superior spin bowling attack and much improved fielding allowed them to defend a fairly unimpressive total by dismissing South Africa 11 runs short at 137 for 7 in 20 overs.

Pakistanis will now face the formidable Aussies in the first T20 semifinal on Friday. Australian appear to be the favorites to snatch the title from defending champions Pakistan. Being one of the most talented but unpredictable sides, it is quite possible that Pakistanis will succeed in retaining the T20 world championship.

Here are the video highlights of Pakistan-South Africa Group E match:

Related Links:

Pakistan Beat India in South Africa

Kiwis Dash Pakistan's ICC Championship Hopes

Pakistan Crowned World T20 Champs

Pakistan's Aisamul Haq Beats Tennis Great Roger Federer

Sunday, May 9, 2010

1999-2009: Pakistan's Decade of Urban Middle Class Growth

The simplest definition of the middle class is a group of people in a society who are neither rich nor poor. The middle class has always been considered vital to a country's stability and growth. The rich and the poor simply distrust each other too much to let the other govern. Nations with large middle class populations find it easier to sustain good, democratic governance.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, the size of the middle class was very small when it came into existence, and the country was dominated by a small powerful feudal elite created by the British rulers to sustain their colonial rule. And the urban middle class remained small for decades. The situation has, however, finally begun to change in the the last decade of 1999-2009 with a combination of increasing urbanization and faster economic expansion that fueled significant job creation in the industrial and services sectors to enable middle class growth.

Pakistan is now more urbanized with a larger middle class than India as percentage of the population. In 2007, Standard Chartered Bank analysts and State Bank governor Dr. Ishrat Husain estimated there were 30 to 35 million Pakistanis earning an average of $10,000 a year. Of these, about 17 million are in the upper and upper middle class, according to a recent report.

Urbanization is not just a side effect of economic growth; it is an integral part of the process, according to the World Bank. With the robust economic growth averaging 7 percent and availability of millions of new jobs created between 2000 and 2008, there has been increased rural to urban migration in Pakistan to fill the jobs in growing manufacturing and service sectors. The level of urbanization in Pakistan is now the highest in South Asia, and its urban population is likely to equal its rural population by 2030, according to a report titled ‘Life in the City: Pakistan in Focus’, released by the United Nations Population Fund. Pakistan ranks 163 and India at 174 on a list of over 200 countries compiled by Nationmaster.

Pakistan has and continues to urbanize at a faster pace than India. From 1975-1995, Pakistan grew 10% from 25% to 35% urbanized, while India grew 6% from 20% to 26%. From 1995-2025, the UN forecast says Pakistan urbanizing from 35% to 60%, while India's forecast is 26% to 45%. For this year, a little over 40% of Pakistan's population lives in the cities.

The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan's gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.

A 2008 report by UN Population Fund says the share of the urban population in Pakistan almost doubled from 17.4 percent in 1951 to 32.5 percent in 1998. The estimated data for 2005 shows the level of urbanization as 35 per cent, and CIA Factbook puts it at 36% in 2008, and it is increasing with 3% of the nation's population migrating to cities every year. With over 5 million rural migrants each year, the population of Pakistani cities in exploding, and Karachi has now become the world's largest city, according to

India's urban residents in 2008 residents accounts for 29% of its population, and the CIA Fact Book estimates it growing at 2.4% of the total population every year.

As to India's much hyped middle class, a new report by Nancy Birdsall of Center for Global Development says it is a myth. She has proposed a new definition of the middle class for developing countries in a forthcoming World Bank publication, Equity in a Globalizing World. Birdsall defines the middle class in the developing world to include people with an income above $10 day or $3,650 a year, but excluding the top 5% of that country. By this definition, India, even urban India alone, has no middle class; everyone at over $10 a day is in the top 5% of the country.

India Poverty Estimates

Unlike poverty which is defined by the World Bank as people living on less than $1.25 or $2 a day, there is no widely accepted definition of who counts as a member of the middle class in the developing world.

In India, for example, a scooter company aims ads at a schoolteacher who earns $2,500 a year and lives in a tiny brick house with no running water. Why? Because that teacher is counted as middle class by Indian marketers, according to MSN Money.

Economist Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development (CDG) is attempting to establish a $10 a day minimum limit in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) as the low end of the middle class, while excluding the top 5% of the population in a country from the middle class. "An upper limit of the 95th percentile, while on the high side, is just about sufficient to exclude the country's richest," Birdsall adds.

In India's case, everyone who makes $3,650 a year is in the top 5% (about 55 million people) of the nation's population. It is on this basis that economist Birdsall concludes that India has no middle class. Over 75% of India's population (versus 60% in Pakistan) lives on less than $2 a day, or $750 a year, according to Human Development Report 2009. The rest of about 20% of India's people falls between $2 and $10 a day.

It is interesting to note, however, that India has been much more successful in sustaining democracy than Pakistan. Perhaps it is attributable to early land reform in India that significantly tamed the power of the feudal class.

Using Birdsall's proposed definition, Pakistan now does have a middle class of tens of millions (at least 10% of the population), as its 30 to 35 million people earning an average of $10,000 a year (well above Birdsall's lower limit of $3,650.00 a year) account for about 17% of Pakistan's population. Another 60% of Pakistanis (vs 75% of Indians) live on less than $2 a day, according to UN Human Development Report 2009. The rest of 23% of the people have incomes between $730 a year ($2 a day) and $10,000 a year, and a significant percentage of them could be classified as lower middle class.

India's official poverty measure has long been based solely upon the ability to purchase a minimum recommended daily diet of 2,400 kilocalories (kcal) in rural areas where about 70 percent of people live, and 2,100 kcal in urban areas. Rural areas usually have higher kcal requirements because of greater physical activity among rural residents. The National Planning Commission, which is responsible for the estimate, currently estimates that a monthly income of about Rs. 356 (about US$7.74) per person is needed to provide the required diet in rural areas and Rs. 539 in urban areas. Factors such as housing, health care, and transportation are not taken into account in the poverty estimates, according to demographers Carl Haub and O.P Sharma.

According to development economist Lant Pritchett, fewer than 25% of the people in the richest quintile in India complete 9 grades of school.

This is a combination both of the depth of India's p overty and its inequality. China had no middle class in 1990, but by 2005, had a small urban middle class (3% of the population). South Africa (7%), Russia (30%) and Brazil (19%) all had sizable middle classes in 2005.

Contrary to popular myths about rich-poor gap often expressed in Pakistani and Western media, Pakistan is more egalitarian than most countries of the world, including nations of South Asia region. According to UNDP HDR report 2009, Pakistan's ratio of expenditures of the top and bottom 10% of the population is 6.7 versus India's 8.6 and China's 13.2. The resource consumption by the lowest 10% of the Pakistani population is 3.9% and highest 10% consumes 26.5%. This compares favorably with 3.6% consumption by the bottom 10% in India and 31.1% by the top 10%.

In spite of the recent growth in Pakistan's middle class, it is still not strong enough to seize power. However, with the recent growth of independent mass media and greater political activism, the Pakistani middle class has begun to exert more influence on how the nation is governed. And the power of the current ruling feudal zamindars' party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, appears to be waning in the face of the new assertive middle class.

Unlike the more urban and middle class voters of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the PPP's voter lives in a different world, a world that has been dominant for decades. It is a feudal world controlled by the rural elite that is much more rural, more deferential, more rooted in tradition. Its nationalism is less marked and its Islam less influenced by the international trends of the last 30 years and thus much less politicized and much more based in centuries-old Sufi traditions. Describing this situation, Jason Burke of the Guardian has argued that "This is a Pakistan that is disappearing". Burke has quoted an unnamed 2008 PPP electoral candidate in rural Punjab who recognized and reportedly said that his party needed to "re-invent itself".

While many rural residents in Sindh and Southern Punjab who voted for the PPP have remained relatively isolated from major developments in Pakistan in the last decade, the urban middle class has grown dramatically in numbers and influence during the military rule of President Musharraf. The New York Times reported on this expansion of Pakistani middle class in November 2007 in these words: "As he fights to hold on to power, General Musharraf finds himself opposed by the expanded middle class that is among his greatest achievements, and using his emergency powers to rein in another major advance he set in motion, a vibrant, independent news media". Acknowledging this fact, William Dalrymple, a British journalist/author considered knowledgeable about India and Pakistan, recently wrote as follows: "It was this newly enriched and empowered urban middle class that showed its political muscle for the first time with the organization of a lawyers' movement, whose protests against the dismissal of the chief justice soon swelled into a full-scale pro-democracy campaign, despite Musharraf's harassment and arrest of many lawyers. The movement represented a huge shift in Pakistani civil society's participation in politics. The middle class were at last moving from their living rooms onto the streets, from dinner parties into political parties."

The future of Pakistan clearly belongs to its urban middle class. The behavior of the members of this rising urban middle class will largely determine if and when Pakistan grows out of the current crises to face the future with greater confidence.

Here's a video clip on Pakistan's middle class:

Here's a video titled "I Am Pakistan":

Related Links:

Comparing India and Pakistan in 2010

Indian poverty

Pakistan Wage Structure 1990-2007

Middle Class Clout Rising in Pakistan

Urbanization in Pakistan

The Rise of Mehran Man

Industr ial Sector of Pakistan

India Has No Middle Class

Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised

Escape From India

Reflections on India

After Partition: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The "Poor" Neighbor by William Dalrymple

Pakistan's Modern Infrastructure

Video: Who Says Pakistan Is a Failed State?

India Worse Than Pakistan, Bangladesh on Nutrition

UNDP Reports Pakistan Poverty Declined to 17 Percent

Pakistan's Choice: Talibanization or Globalization

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

Asia Gains in Top Asian Universities

Pakistan's Industrial Sector

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

India -Pakistan Military Comparison

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Pakistan Energy Crisis