Friday, August 13, 2010

Disaster Dampens Spirits on Pakistan's 63rd Independence Day

The devastating floods in Pakistan have dampened the spirits of its people on its 63rd independence day this Aug 14, 2010. All official events marking the day have been canceled as the nation mourns the death of at least 1700 of its citizens and finds itself overwhelmed by the monumental relief and rescue efforts aimed at tens of millions of people across three provinces.

As the scope and scale of the disaster becomes apparent, the response from Pakistani government and the international community has been very slow and inadequate. Coming on the heels of continuing terrorist violence and a slow economy, the floods have further challenged even the greatest optimists in Pakistan.



While it is urgent to cope with the flooding crisis at hand as effectively as humanly possible, it is even more important to keep the faith and remain optimistic about the future of Pakistan in its most difficult hour. And I do see some key trends to be optimistic about Pakistan. Here is the list as I see it:

1. Pakistan is well on its way to becoming an urban middle class society. The country is already more urbanized with a larger middle class than India's 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.

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.

2. There is an unstoppable mass media revolution sweeping the nation. It began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.

3. With the popular civil society movement for restoration of democracy and rule-of-law in 2007-2008, political activism by the middle class has been on the rise in Pakistan. The nation has very energetic political talk shows on dozens of TV channels, and a very active blogosphere. With only about 20 million internet users in a population of over 160 million people as of 2010, it is among the most politically active nations online, according to Huma Yousuf, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Pakistan.

4. For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. The extraordinary increase in funding helped establish 51 new universities and degree awarding institutions during 2002-2008, tripling university enrollment (which had reached only 135,000 from 1947 to 2003) to about 400,000 in 2008, establishment of a powerful digital library which provides free nation-wide access to every student in every public sector university to 45,000 textbooks/research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals.

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

5. While Pakistanis are poor, they are still better off than than their neighbors, according to a recent Oxford report on multi-dimensional poverty.

OPHI 2010 country briefings on India and Pakistan contain the following comparisons of multi-dimensional (MPI) and income poverty figures:

India
MPI= 55%,Under$1.25=42%,Under$2=76%,India_BPL=29%

Pakistan
MPI=51%,Under$1.25=23%,Under$2=60%,Pakistan_BPL=33%

Lesotho MPI=48%,Under$1.25=43%,Under$2=62%,Lesotho_BPL=68%

China
MPI=12%,Under$1.25=16%,Under$2=36%,China_BPL=3%

Among other South Asian nations, MPI index measures poverty in Bangladesh at 58 per cent and 65 per cent in Nepal.

6. UNDP publishes the Education Index which is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to read and write, while the GER gives an indication of the level of education from kindergarten to postgraduate education.

On this UNDP education index, Pakistan scores low at 0.665 and ranks 137, but it is still ahead of India's score of 0.638 and ranking of 142nd on a list of 176 nations.

7. Pakistan is blessed with many social entrepreneurs who are engaged in activities ranging from microfinancing to enable small entrepreneurs to providing solutions such as clean water, solar lighting, setting up schools, etc. to help fill the vacuum left by the government. These people believe in lighting candles instead of cursing darkness.

Summary:

While I recognize that Pakistan in its current state faces many difficult crises and falls short of the expectations of many in dealing with them, I do believe that Pakistanis have what it takes to move forward as an urban middle class nation capable of dealing with its problems. Its glass is half full, and all it takes to fill it up is the will to do it....and I expect that when the going gets tougher, the tough will get going in Pakistan to meet the challenges. I'll conclude here by leaving you with the following question: If not now, when? If not us, who?

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



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Decade of Urban Middle Class Growth in Pakistan

Urbanization in Pakistan

Higher Education Reform in Pakistan

High Cost of Failure to Aid Pakistan Flood Victims

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

TEDx Karachi Inspires Hope

39 comments:

anjan288 said...

It is amusing to see Pakistanis like yourself to seek satisfaction out of per capita comparison with India on all issues on earth .... !

Good luck for the coming years .... !

Sam said...

Riaz,

You again started your India bashing :-)

>> Pakistan is well on its way to becoming an urban middle class society.

You should wish that they pay some taxes so that Pakistan can stand on its own feet.

>> There is an unstoppable mass media revolution sweeping the nation.

Yes indeed. Geo, Jang and ARY are all blocked for reporting news articles against the president.

>> Political activism by the middle class has been on the rise in Pakistan.

And so is the frustration against the government.

>> The extraordinary increase in funding helped establish 51 new universities and degree awarding institutions during 2002-2008

Thank you Mr Musharraf !!


You get the irony?

Riaz Haq said...

Sam: "You should wish that they pay some taxes so that Pakistan can stand on its own feet."

Only the middle class carries the disproportionate burden of taxes in Pakistan, while the rich evade taxes both legally and illegally. The farm income of the big feudal lords accounting fr 20% of the economy is exempt from any income taxes.

Sam: "Yes indeed. Geo, Jang and ARY are all blocked for reporting news articles against the president.""

As far as I know the media guys are no pushovers...they are fighting and winning these battles.

Sam: "And so is the frustration against the government."

Frustration catalyzes change...and hopefully positive change.

Anonymous said...

Dear Riaz, you are a patriotic pakistani but pariotism should not make one blind to your country's problems.

Of ALL the Pakistani analysts and pakistani analysts , you ALONE ,always mis-represent The Pakistan
ECONOMIC SITUATION.

Your economy is in much worse shape than what you report
1.Debt trap.2. Stagnant exports.
3.WEAK industrial base resulting in cotton textiles ,rice and other agricultural commodities being , 90 % of your exports.
4.Losses of Public sector enterprises taking away precious resources.5.Unemployment and Inflation. 6. Power shortages And the new very expensive Rental power projects based on oil.

ALL these facts are available in the public domain.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...

@Riaz
"and hopefully positive change."

Riaz - I understand your necessity to keep the spirits up - but hope is just an emotion. I am afraid that even after another decade, you would be talking of hope :-)
I have seen frustration catalyzing positive changes in many countries like ex Communist countries and in Indonesia. In 2020 where would Pk. be?
a. A democracy
b. A military dictatorship
c. Partly under Taliban, partly lawless under a puppet government.
d. Status quo, whatever it is currently

Do you want to answer?

anoop said...

A letter to a Pakistani daily.

It goes:"China has donated $1.5 million while India, our ‘enemy’ (unlike China which is our ‘best friend’) has offered more than three times that amount. Our nation should understand that while China is a good friend they have done nothing for Pakistan except flood our markets with subsidised goods and in the process ruined our domestic industry, especially companies that make ceramics, toys, shoes and garments. While the US may be “evil” they are the biggest buyers of Pakistani exports and have donated a hefty amount – in fact they have given the most so far. China in fact has a massive trade surplus with Pakistan."

http://tribune.com.pk/story/39392/india%E2%80%99s-aid-offer-to-pakistan-ii/

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Your economy is in much worse shape than what you report"

If you choose to look at half-empty part of the glass, Pakistan has a lot of problems, as do many other countries including US, Europe and India.

Take debt for example...Pakistan's debt to gdp ratio is lower than 53 other countries of the world on a list 129 nations.

Japan ranks #2, UK ranks #22, India ranks 34 in debt-to-gdp ratio while Pakistan ranks 54.

Data Cruncher said...

http://www.jewishjournal.com/my_pakistan/item/pakistan_down_and_out_once_again_20100815/

Interesting that china is yet to make a presence. very good 'friend' they are.
and US is topping in aid. very good 'enemy' they are.

Data Cruncher said...

it seems we as a nation can never raise above suspicion of India. taken from nation.com.pk
===========
That India has offered Pakistan $5 million in aid, because of the recent monsoon flooding, is more of a ploy than anything else, and thus should be rejected out of hand. Coming from a Congress-led government’s Foreign Minister, the offer raises once again the spectre of India establishing its hegemony over the region, and also panders to international sentiment by showing it that India can handle the problems of the region. Coming as it did during a telephone call by the Indian Foreign Minister, SM Krishna, to his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while offering his congratulations on Pakistan Day, it was meant to show that the creation of Pakistan was a mistake. The hesitation shown by our Foreign Minister, in replying to this offer, itself shows how the present government is desperately seeking US approval by seeking Indian approval.
Pakistan’s government is trying to fit in with the American plans for the region, which sees India as the regional policeman, and the American bulwark against China. Therefore, Pakistan wants to resume the composite dialogue talks, even if they are devoid of content. Even though they may still be desired by the USA, India keeps on trying to avoid them. No talks with India will have any purpose if they do not tackle the Kashmir issue, the core issue between the two nuclear-armed neighbours; and no talks will have any result unless India changes its attitude, from the present stubborn obduracy, to one that is willing to facilitate a just solution to the region’s problems, which have been created in the first place because of India’s boorish behaviour and hegemonistic methods. This suits the international community, led by the USA, which wants Pakistan to accept India’s regional hegemony. That is why the USA is leading the international community in ignoring the current freedom struggle in Held Kashmir. Accepting the Indian money would indicate that Pakistan is not worried about Kashmir, and is focused entirely on its own problems.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Interesting that china is yet to make a presence. very good 'friend' they are."

Our Chinese friends are mourning the deaths of over 1200 people in floods and dealing with a large number of victims of floods and landslides in China. They deserve our sympathies.

Data Cruncher said...

so, does that mean china can't spare few millions from their trillion reserves for "all weather friends" pakistan.
incidentally check out how much USA shelled out to Haiti during the recent earthquake and how much the next superpower China.
When it comes to giving USA is far ahead of others.

Riaz Haq said...

Zen: "I have seen frustration catalyzing positive changes in many countries like ex Communist countries and in Indonesia. In 2020 where would Pk. be?"

Apparently you have either not read or not understood my post.

Pakistan has change dramatically and continues to change in many positive ways....it's much more urbanized and middle class country than its neighbors, it has a thriving civil society, vibrant media and a professional-entrepreneurial class that has it poised to become a strong middle income country.

Notwithstanding its problems, average Pakistani will still be much better off than an average Indian a decade from now.

Compared to Pakistan's problems, your native India faces much more formidable problems.

Pakistan lost about 3000 people to tragic violence in terror attacks in 365 days in 2009. Over 7000 Indians die of hunger every single day of every year. This would be a major emergency in any civilized country of the world except in India where it's completely ignored.

Instead of addressing its continuing food emergency, India is spending over $30 billion a year on building its war machine to threaten its neighbors. And its war spending is increasing by double digit percentages each year...including 34% increase in 2009.

Some analysts argue the actual Indian spending is much higher because it excludes major items like nuclear force and the cost of military occupation in Kashmir.

India is one of the poorest, most inequitable, most backward, third world countries. India is home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterate people, a place where people in normal times live in such primitive conditions that two-thirds of them have to defecate in the open.

In terms of deprivation of basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, education, health care and sanitation, Indians are far more deprived than Pakistanis, and Indians are far more deprived than even the poorest of the poor Africans in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent Oxford report on multi-dimensional poverty.

anoop said...

Riaz,

I've not seen a more optimistic man than you.

But, its a very different version of optimism. Its a classic "I'll concentrate on all the bad things about my neighbour and all the good thing about myself" kind of Optimism.

India is growing at 9% and in 5 years will be the fastest growing in the world. So, optimism regarding is justified. Pakistan on the other hand is having a tough time to surpass its population growth which means its stagnant. Yet, you concentrate on how poor India is. Lets wait and watch and check how the two countries stand after 10 years.

Also, the brotherly(as opposed to sisterly countries. How much more patriarchal can you get!),oil rich Saudi Arabia gave $ 55 million. I've haven seen so much love between 2 'brotherly' countries ever before.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "India is growing at 9% and in 5 years will be the fastest growing in the world. So, optimism regarding is justified."

Optimism for who? the top 5%?

What about the rest? The history tell us that there is no trickle down in India.

Economic growth is no guarantee of improvement in social indicators.

In spite of rapid economic growth in recent years, India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to Indian government estimates.

Gujarat has been growing economically for many years, and yet Gujarat has a serious hunger problem, according to India state hunger index (ISHI) report.

The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

anoop said...

Riaz,

I dont want to start with you again. I am tired.

If you say 9% growth, which will pretty soon turn into double digits does not bring millions out of poverty every year then you have no idea about economics are willfully ignoring the fundamental aspects.

And, mind you India is growing fast in the last 10-15 years only. Your comment,"The history tell us that there is no trickle down in India. ", ignores this little point.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/4/poverty-around-the-world

The above report says,"While there have been some successes in reducing the number of people living in such areas in recent years by about a tenth (mostly in China and India), numerous problems persist."

http://www.rediff.com/money/2008/aug/27poor.htm

This World Bank report says in the last ten years India has got 1/10th of its people out of poverty. That is the point I want to emphasize. Real growth started 15 years ago and things are rapidly changing. My own life has changed so much since then! My city has improved, better roads, better electricity, better jobs are getting created, more people are migrating from the poorer belts of India,etc. Infact, for some of the jobs there aren't many people to hire!

So, Riaz, there is trickle down effect in India. India is not that different than any other country for which rules of economics have to be changed.

When Pakistan even notches up half the % points that India grows you can atleast save your face.

How much did Pakistan grow last year? Lousy 3% compared to the majestic 8 point something for India.

It is interesting whenever Pakistan goes through a bad phase in International media or otherwise you concentrate your energies on 'exposing' India. Like I expected you have come up with another of your articles that concentrate on India's negatives. Its a case of Head In The Sand Syndrome!

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "India is not that different than any other country for which rules of economics have to be changed."

All of the data about India shows that it is very different in terms of its social structure and forces. It's one of the few countries where Apartheid still exists in the form of widespread caste and religious discrimination. It has a huge gender gap, it leads the world in child marriages, and has the world's largest underclass consisting of Dalits, Muslims and women.

It will take serious and powerful affirmative action to translate economic growth into benefits for its massive underclass.

anoop said...

"All of the data about India shows that it is very different in terms of its social structure and forces. It's one of the few countries where Apartheid still exists in the form of widespread caste and religious discrimination. It has a huge gender gap, it leads the world in child marriages, and has the world's largest underclass consisting of Dalits, Muslims and women."

1/10th population out of poverty in last 10 to 15 years(World Bank report I've provided in my last comment). So, India is an extraordinary country which grows inspite of all the challenges.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "1/10th population out of poverty in last 10 to 15 years(World Bank report I've provided in my last comment). So, India is an extraordinary country which grows inspite of all the challenges."

There is plenty of data, including Indian government's own data, that contradicts this.

anoop said...

Riaz,

Yes it does. There are reports that Pakistan is going down the drain, is already a failed state, etc daily in all kinds of media including Pakistan's own media.

India brings tonnes of people out of poverty, it could be 1/10th or 1/20 or 1/5th. The good thing is there is hope. World bank believes its 1/10th so the actual figure must be close, considering experts,neutral experts, work for WB.

Riaz Haq said...

There is deep cynicism today, particularly among the secular liberals in Pakistan, about the two-nation theory and the whole idea of partition in 1947.

To put the reality of life in Punjab prior to partition, let me share with you some data that clearly shows how the "tangible benefits" were shared between Hindu-Sikh minority and Muslim majority:

From "PARTITION OF PUNJAB" by Dr. Kirpal Singh (1988)

1. Landholdings 65% non-Muslims the remaining by Muslims

2. Electrical Connections: Muslims 74,790 and non-Muslims 81,525

3. Tax paid for urban immobile property:
Rs. 924, 358 by non-Muslims &
Rs. 396,189 by Muslims

4. Sales Tax :
Rs. 519, 203 by non-Muslims &
Rs. 66,323 by Muslims

5. Out of the 97 banking branches only 7 were run by Muslims.

6. Of the Rs. 100 crore bank deposits only 1 crore belonged to Muslims

7. Out of 215 factories in Lahore 167 were owned by non-Muslims

8. Total investments Rs. 6.05 crores Rs. 4.88 crores by non-Muslims

9. OUT OF 16 COLLEGES ONLY 3 WERE RUN BY MUSLIMS

10. Out of the 40 High Schools only 13 were run by Muslims

11. Candidates appearing for University examinations only 28.51% were by Muslims.

12. Several Public libraries and hospitals established in the Lahore were by non-Muslims

13. Of the 5332 shops in Greater Lahore 3501 were owned by non-Muslims

14. Of the 80 Insurance offices, only 2 were owned by Muslims

15. Of the 12 Arts & Science colleges in Lahore only 1 was run by Muslims

16. Of the 15 professional colleges, excluding 3 run by the Govt, all were run by non-Muslims

17. Of the 12 hospitals NOT EVEN ONE WAS RUN BY MUSLIMS.

18. Rationing enumeration: Muslims (53.9%), Hindus (34%), Sikhs (10%) & others (2%).

Muslims in undivided Punjab had very low standards of living relative to Hindus and Sikhs, they were poor and backward, and there was no Muslim professional or business class as there is now.

Although I haven't seen any data on it yet, I bet similar situation prevailed in Bengal and Sindh as well. And I can bet development never touched the lives of the Muslim provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan either.

Riaz Haq said...

The Aug 23 & 30 issue of Newsweek has a cover story titled "The Best Country in he World is...". It ranks top 100 nations of he world based on education, health, quality of life, economy and politics.

As expected, the top nations are the industrialized OECD member nations, followed by the nations of Eastern Europe, Middle East, Latin America, North Africa and South East Asia. Bottom of the list includes South Asian and sub-Saharan African nations.

The top nation in South Asia is Sri Lanka at #66. Afghanistan and Nepal are not included in the list.

Here are the rankings for India and Pakistan:

India...Pakistan

88........86........Education

82........85.......Health

87........85.......Quality of Life

38........62.....Economic Dynamism

48........99.......Political Env.

78........89.......Overall

Pakistan is ahead of India in education and quality of life, as judged by Newsweek.

Obviously, Newsweek rankers have a bias for democracy, no mater how flawed, that puts India significantly ahead of Pakistan in political environment and helps its overall ranking. And the fact that Pakistan has been hugely demonized by the western media has also hurt its standing.

But the killers for Pakistan rankings are its corrupt and incompetent politicians and the economic ruin they have wrought over the last two years.

Riaz Haq said...

A pre-requisite for a responsive and accountable democracy is a substantial middle class population.

An ADB report on Asia's rising middle class released today confirms that Pakistan's middle class now is 40% of the population, significantly larger than the Indian middle class of about 25% of its population.

The other significant news reported by Wall Street Journal today says the vast majority of what is defined as India's middle class is perched just above $2 a day.

Most of this middle class growth in Pakistan occurred on Musharraf's watch.

Riaz Haq said...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riaz Haq said...

As the world recognizes the enormity of the flood disaster in Pakistan, the donors are beginning to increase pledges.

Here's today's BBC report:

Donors have pledged more money for flood-stricken Pakistan following appeals at an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had been assured that the UN's target of $460m (£295m) goal would be "easily met".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the emergency session that the floods were like "a slow-motion tsunami".

The monsoon-triggered floods have affected about one-fifth of Pakistan.

An estimated 20 million people are affected and experts say shelter, food and clean water are urgently needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Before the meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Mr Ban said not even half of the $460m target needed for initial relief had been raised, and the response remained slow.

The US - already the biggest donor - announced it would contribute another $60m, bringing its total to more than $150m.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about $92m would go to the UN's appeal.

The EU has also increased its pledge to more than $180m and the UK is nearly doubling its contribution to almost $100m.

Germany has raised its aid to $32m and Mr Qureshi said Saudi Arabia was pledging more than $100m.

China is expected to announce its donation during the second session of the UN meeting on Friday.

"If you put this all together, it's substantial," said Mr Qureshi.

Addressing the UN earlier, Mr Qureshi warned that unless his country received adequate assistance, hard-won gains in the government's war against insurgents could be undermined.

Pakistan is a key ally in the US-led war against militants in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Islamabad has assured Washington and its allies that troops fighting the insurgency in the north-west of the country have not been redeployed to the relief efforts.

But correspondents say suffering and social chaos caused by the floods could play into the militants' hands.

At least 1,500 people have died in the floods, which began in the north and have swept south towards the sea, destroying roads and bridges, flooding farmland and knocking out power stations.

Tens of thousands of villages remain underwater.

Aid agencies say there are signs that the crisis is growing worse, as new flood waters continue to surge south along the Indus river and more flood defences collapse, forcing people to flee their homes.

anoop said...

As expected Religious nutcases in Pakistan have even blamed this natural phenomena on India.

http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=47850

It would have been a extremely funny read had it not killed many hundreds of people and that particular line of thinking could falsely accuse a fellow neighbour of sabotage.

Riaz Haq said...

It is clear that Pakistan has the most incompetent and corrupt political leadership at the helm right now.

However, the response from the Pakistani military and the people has been very good. Over 60,000 soldiers well equipped with transport planes, helicopters, hovercrafts, boats, trucks, etc have been running rescue and relief operations 24X7 for days now.

A whole range of Pakistani non-profits and urban middle class individuals have been working hard to try and alleviate the suffering of their fellow citizens.

We must acknowledge that this flooding is like no other in recent history...it's part of the accelerating climate change phenomenon that will require a robust world response to tackle it.

Instead of treating as just another flooding disaster and start bickering, we must push the following actions:

1. Boost rescue and relief efforts with international help to meet the current challenge in Pakistan.

2. Start planning and funding the second and third phases of reconstruction and rehabilitation in Pakistan.

3. Set up an international body with adequate funding under UN to prepare to address this and similar or more deadly deluges and droughts that are likely to afflict many more people around the world....crop failures, famines, etc.

4. Get serious about new technologies to limit carbon emissions in both developing and developed nations, starting with the biggest carbon emitters in North America, Europe, China and India.

The cost of failure to aid Pakistan and prepare for similar other coming disasters will be so high that the world can not afford it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from NY Times story about declining power of Pakistan's feudal class:

For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29feudal.html?_r=1&hp

Riaz Haq said...

There have been widespread allegations that Pakistani feudals, including many powerful politicians, deliberately flooded the poor peasants villages to protect their own crops and farms in recent monsoon rains. Here's a BBC report that says Pakistan's US ambassador is calling for an investigation.

A senior Pakistani diplomat has called for an inquiry into allegations that rich landowners diverted water into unprotected villages during the floods to save their own crops.

UN ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said there was evidence that landowners had allowed embankments to burst.

This led to waters flowing away from their land, he said.

More than 1,600 people have died in the floods, which have affected about 17 million people.

"Over the years, one has seen with the lack of floods, those areas normally set aside for floods have come under irrigation of the powerful and rich," Mr Haroon told the BBC's HardTalk programme.

"It is suggested in some areas, those to be protected were allowed, had allowed, levies to be burst on opposite sides to take the water away. If that is happening the government should be enquiring."

At the height of the floods, it is estimated that one-fifth of the country - an area the size of Italy - was underwater.

The flood waters are beginning to drain away to the Arabian Sea but inundations continue in parts of Sindh province.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11160995

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report about wheat situation in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The government has shelved plans to export two million tons of wheat because of an estimated loss of about one million tons in the floods.

An official told Dawn on Wednesday that Punjab had asked the federal government not to consider its earlier wheat export proposal.

He said Punjab’s three major wheat producing districts — Rajanpur, Rahimyar Khan and Muzaffargarh — had been badly affected and stocks in government warehouses had been inundated. Private stocks of producers have also been damaged.

The provincial food department has reported a loss of about 550,000 tons of wheat, although final estimates are still being worked out.

Another 80,000 tons have been washed away in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The official said the estimates of stocks lost in Sindh had not yet been prepared because several areas in the province were still inundated, but the overall losses were likely to be around one million tons.

Officials said there was no cause of concern in the local market because the government had sufficient stocks to meet domestic requirements.

The nation consumes about 23 million tons of wheat a year and it has about two million tons of surplus even after the estimated loss of one million tons.

For the past couple of years, the government has been maintaining about one million tons of buffer stocks to meet any shortage.

“Even after keeping the buffer stock, the government still has around a million tons in surplus, but it cannot take the risk offloading it, just in case there is a bad crop next season,” an official said.

He, however, expressed the hope that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would reap bumper crops next season because of fresh fertile layer brought in by the floods. “The floods may be a blessing in disguise for the wheat crop in Punjab, the country’s food basket, which will more than compensate for a lower output in Sindh.”

The government had decided in July to export two million tons of wheat, but rescinded the decision because of lower international prices. The exports required about Rs15 billion subsidy and the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet vetoed the export proposal, saying the amount should be passed on to consumers.

The next wheat sowing begins in October.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the story of how Acumen's Jacqueline Novogratz got into microfinance, as published by Businessweek:

I was an accidental banker. To please my parents, I went for an interview with Chase Manhattan Bank in 1983. They promised to send me into their offices in more than 40 countries and essentially audit the practices. It was an extraordinary job.

I had an epiphany in Brazil. We had made a $100 million loan to an airline owner who immediately moved the money to the Cayman Islands. Yet I saw all these people in the favelas who were incredibly productive but had no access to capital. I decided to leave Chase to work with a group that wanted me to help create credit systems in Africa.

As I was preparing to leave, though, the COO offered me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work directly with him. He made it clear that, in a few years, I would be able to write my ticket on Wall Street. I was torn. No one wanted me to go to Africa: not my family, my friends, or my employers. But I thought, "If I don't go now, I might never go." So I quit.

I ended up going to Rwanda in the late 1980s to set up a microfinance institution and a bakery. I came back to the U.S. to get an MBA and work at the Rockefeller Foundation before returning in 1996. When I got back to Rwanda, all the women from the bakery had been killed. Of the other women I'd worked with, one was killed in the genocide, another saw her family killed, and another was a perpetrator who was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The aid system was broken. The financial markets alone weren't going to solve the problem. I wanted to invest in entrepreneurs who could see the potential of the very poor. The poor want to produce and consume and solve their own problems. In 2001, I started Acumen as a nonprofit venture capital fund. Instead of giving their money away, philanthropists could invest it in businesses. Now it's a $50 million fund that has leveraged another $200 million of capital and created 35,000 jobs. My dream is to build this into a more powerful asset class. Everything comes at a price. I have to say no to a lot of things I love to do. But we have the potential to help build businesses that change lives.

Riaz Haq said...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This way, the world can change.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an Op Ed by Ambassadors Ayaz Wazir (from FATA) published in The News:

The war in Afghanistan has not only ruined that country but has badly affected its neighbours and the world at large. The overall security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated considerably. The year 2010 has been the deadliest since the occupation of the country by foreign forces. While the insurgency continues unabated, elections to the lower house were held last month, which is a step in the right direction. It can strengthen President Karzai provided those supporting peace efforts are elected to parliament. If those who prefer the status quo or oppose the peace process are elected, it will make Karzai's efforts much more difficult.
As far as the international partners in the war on terror are concerned, one can see the unease, particularly amongst the European countries, due to the public resentment against an "open-ended" military presence in Afghanistan.
The growing realisation that the war is not winnable militarily forces them to activate the tracks for reconciliation within Afghanistan. They seem to have realised that Pakistan's role in finding a peaceful solution to the problem is not only important but crucial.
Pakistan has suffered most of all – but what has it gained in return? Its losses in terms of men and material are far more than those of the US and NATO. Its economy is nosediving and is now dependant entirely on foreign help. Foreign investment has stopped and capital outflow is on the rise. Inflation is sky-high, corruption is rampant, institutions stand destroyed and accountability is a closed chapter. Relations with the neighbours are not as cordial and the trust deficit with the West is widening.
In his book 'Obama's Wars', Bob Woodward has quoted Mike McConnell, the former US national intelligence director as having said that Pakistan is a dishonest partner, unwilling or unable to stop elements of its intelligence service from giving clandestine aid, weapons and money to the Afghan Taliban. On the one hand the US lauds Pakistan for playing a vital role in the war on terror and on the other it accuses Pakistan of helping the Taliban.
The US says it wants to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans but at the same time it does not hesitate in using force to force opponents to agree to its terms and conditions. Washington needs to reconsider its policy options. It should avoid setting conditions on the future dispensation that is to emerge in that country and stop changing goal posts or having double standards - if it wants to attain peace in Afghanistan. The readers would recall that during the Taliban period the US insisted on the formation of a broad-based government but the same principle was thrown to the winds in the Bonn Accord when an extremely narrow-based government was installed in Kabul. Similarly while it castigates Pakistan for not carrying out a harsh military offensive against Haqqani elements, it has quietly opened up lines of communication with that faction, according to Guardian.

Riaz Haq said...

The floods that swept across Pakistan since July caused an estimated $9.7 billion in damage to infrastructure, farms, homes, as well as other direct and indirect losses, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank said today.

The estimate was presented in the Damage and Needs Assessment (DNA), a survey conducted nationwide by ADB and the World Bank to assess the extent of the flood damage. The concluded survey was earlier submitted to the Government of Pakistan and today made public at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Bloomberg-Businessweek on Pakistani companies prospects after floods:

Toyota Motor Corp. and Unilever affiliates in Pakistan said the worst floods in the nation’s history may sap growth and force production cuts as consumers struggle to cope with the destruction of crops and houses.

“The economy is fragile,” Parvez Ghias, chief executive officer of Toyota-backed Indus Motor Co., Pakistan’s largest automaker by market value, said by phone yesterday from Karachi. “The prices of food and essentials have gone up significantly.”

“The overall impact of the floods is going to be very serious for the economy,” said Nasim Beg, who helps manage $200 million at Karachi-based Arif Habib Investments Ltd. “In the long term, something like cement might look alright, but in the immediate term, I think everything will be under stress.”

“The damage is going to be significant,” said Muhammad Adil Ghani, plant operations head at Lahore-based Nishat Mills. “We have to reevaluate the forecast for the coming year.”

One of the group’s power plants, in Punjab province, northern Pakistan, was closed for at least five days because of floods, he said. The company’s four textile factories around Karachi, Faisalabad and Lahore haven’t been directly affected.

Nationwide car sales may fall as much as 25 percent this quarter because of the floods, said Indus Motor’s Ghias. The automaker, 38 percent owned by Toyota and an affiliate, may cut output in October because of the expected slowdown, he said. The company has enough orders to maintain its 200 cars-a-day production rate until then, he said.

Pakistan’s major cities and industrial areas, such as Karachi and Faisalabad, have escaped the flooding, which has limited damage at factories and may also curb the impact on earnings. Unilever’s local unit gets about 8 percent of revenue from the worst affected areas, CEO Malik said.

“So far there hasn’t been a major impact on sales,” he said. A reduction in costs may offset any decline in revenue, safeguarding profit, he said.

Mark Mobius, who oversees about $34 billion in developing- nation assets as executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management Ltd.’s emerging markets group, is also buying Pakistani shares in anticipation of a rebound from the floods. Local stocks’ valuations are “very, very attractive,” he said earlier this week.

Unilever Pakistan has maintained production through steps including re-routing shipments of goods, Malik said. Nestle Pakistan Ltd., a unit of the world’s biggest food company, has continued operations at its factories, which are concentrated in Sheikhupura, Kabirwala and Islamabad.

The full impact of the disaster on foodmakers will become clearer over the next week or so as they work through inventories of goods such as fruit pulp, used to make juices, said Syed Fakhar Ahmed, a spokesman for Nestle Pakistan.

Engro Foods’ milk tankers have been unable to reach areas of Sindh and Punjab provinces because of the floods, CEO Rehman said. Retail milk prices may eventually rise by as much as 4 rupees (5 cents) a liter, he said. In the short term, the effect on food prices has been mitigated by Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims that began on Aug. 11, he said.

“After the people return and transportation resumes, the supply chain will recover but not completely,” Rehman said.

The country will need to import 1 million head of livestock within five months to replenish stocks, according to the nation’s Meat Merchants Welfare Association. Livestock accounted for 11 percent of gross domestic product in the year ended June 30, according to the government’s economic survey.

“Agriculture is a very significant part of the economy,” Indus Motors’ Ghias said. “If we’re going to see negative growth there, other sectors will be impacted.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a New York Times report filed Sabrina Tavernise on Pakistan:

In Mr. Dasti’s area, one of the hardest hit by the recent flooding, the state has all but disappeared. Not that it was ever very present. In the British colonial era, before Pakistan became a separate country, the state would show up a few times a month in the form of a representative from the Raj dispensing justice.

Later, the local landowner took over. For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”

Mr. Dasti, a young, impulsive man with a troubled past, is much like the new Pakistan he represents. He is one of seven siblings born to illiterate parents. Despite his claims of finishing college, he never earned a degree, something his political opponents used against him in court this spring. One of the 35 criminal cases against him is for murder, a charge he said was leveled by his political opponents. Detractors accuse him of blackmailing rich people in a job at a newspaper. He said he was writing exposés.

“I have more enemies than numbers of hairs in my head,” he said, bouncing down a road in a borrowed truck. “They don’t like my style, and I don’t like theirs.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a quick comparison of different sectors of the economy in India and Pakistan in terms of employment and GDP contribution:

Country....Agri(emp/GDP)..Textiles..Other Mfg..Service(incl IT)

India........60%/16% ...........10%/4%.....7%/25%...........23%/55%

Pakistan......42%/20%...........12%/8%......8%/18%...........38%/54%



Assuming India's PPP GDP of $3.75 trillion (population 1.2 billion) and Pakistan's $450 billion (population 175 million), here is what I calculated in terms of per capita GDP in different sectors of the economy:

India vs. Pakistan:

Agriculture: ($833 vs. $1,225)

Textiles: ($1,242 vs. $1,714)

Non-Textile Mfg ($11,155 vs $5,785)

Services ($7,246 vs $3,654)

It shows that Indians in manufacturing and services sectors add more value and produce higher value goods and services than their Pakistani counterparts.

The income range in India is much wider from $883 to $11, 155 accounting for the much bigger rich-poor gap relative to Pakistan's range from $1225 to $5,785.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the transcript of a recent NPR radio show on how Brazil has emerged as a major exporter of food:

Next we're going to explore how Brazil became an agricultural superpower. It is the world's biggest exporter of beef, poultry, orange juice and sugar cane. And it also supplies a quarter of the worlds soybeans. The credit goes in part to Brazilian scientists who've been working since the 1970s to make what was once an agricultural wasteland bloom.

And Brazil, which elects a new leader Sunday, promises to become even more productive in years to come. NPR's Juan Forero has the story from Brazils grain belt.

JUAN FORERO: Slowly, a powerful New Holland harvester advances over rolling hills here in Brazils dry, hot savannah, the Cerrado. In the cab is farm worker Luiz Tavares, who marvels as he cuts through golden stalks of wheat.

Mr. LUIZ TAVARES: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: This is a wheat thats resistant to plagues, he says, a wheat that has an especially high yield and is excellent for flour. Its wheat that Brazilian scientists created for this tropical climate and acidic soil. Paulo Kramer is the owner of this farm and he gives the credit to Embrapa, the government-run agricultural research institute.

Mr. PAULO KRAMER: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: When we started planting here, he said, we never thought wed be planting wheat. Wheats a cold-climate crop, Kramer said, usually found in places like Iowa or Argentina.

Barely two generations ago, many considered this 1,000-mile swath of low-lying trees and scrubland good only for raising cattle. The military government that ruled Brazil then decided, with unusual foresight, to create Embrapa. The head of its international wing is Francisco Souza, a tropical seed expert.

Mr. FRANCISCO SOUZA (Embrapa): Back in the '70s, Brazil imported most of the food. We had food crisis, the government at that time decided to really invest in modern agriculture.

FORERO: The nationwide system of laboratories that made up Embrapa was entrusted with improving Brazils soils. They also work on new crop varieties and find more efficient ways to fatten up cattle and hogs. Embrapa started by developing its know-how. And it did that by sending hundreds of young scientists to earn their doctorates in American universities. Among them was Thomaz Rein.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

Rein, a soil scientist educated at Cornell University, walks through experimental fields of sugar cane and beans. He stops in a stand of corn, the leaves of which look yellow and easily crumble in his hands.

Dr. THOMAZ REIN (Soil Scientist): So you see here the bottom leaves are necrotic, already dry, at this time, so this is a sign of nitrogen deficiency.

FORERO: The corn with the greener leaves, he said, was inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Such is the work of Embrapa scientists trying to resolve problems particular to Brazil.

Mr. REIN: So the soil are very poor in terms of nutrients that are required by the plant like phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and what are called also micronutrients. And also the soil are very acid.

FORERO: The soil in the Cerrado, in fact, is so naturally toxic that roots cant grow well. Embrapa added just the right mixture of limestone and other nutrients to make the soil fertile.�And Rein said scientists determined that gypsum helped correct the acidity, permitting roots to reach deep for water.

Embrapas advances are important well beyond Brazil - in the tropical countries of Africa, which struggle to feed their people. As wind whips through a test field, Rein said Embrapa continues to tinker.

Some of its most recent advancements come with wheat. Wheat wont ever become a big export for Brazil, Rein said. But Embrapa is always looking to find ways for all crops to bloom.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:

Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.

This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.

This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
---------
The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.

Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.

Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”

Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
---
With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall St Journal report on World Well-being Gallup survey that puts Pakistanis ahead of Indians:

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveals that only about 21% of people consider themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Around 1000 people over the age of 15 were asked whether in their lives they felt they were “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering,” measured on a scale from zero to 10. Anything seven or above was considered as thriving, according to the methodology used in the study.

India fared worse than average. Based on the findings, it ranked 71st in the list, with only 17% of respondents reported as thriving. (This was in line with the broader Asian average).

India’s neighbor Pakistan, despite its more volatile political and economic situation, ranked 40th, with 32% of the people describing themselves as thriving.

This category means more than just general wellbeing, and includes better overall health, measured in terms of fewer sick days, less stress or sadness, and more happiness and respect.

Alarmingly, in India 64% of people saw themselves as struggling. The survey describes people who fall into this category as being more stressed, more concerned about their economic wellbeing and less healthy, in terms of their lifestyle and eating habits.

The Danish lead the wellbeing list with 72% falling into the thriving category, while Chad ranked lowest, with only 1% describing themselves as such. Americans ranked average, with 59% of them thriving and only 3% suffering.

China, despite its impressive GDP figures, didn’t do that well, with only 12% of people describing themselves as thriving.

While there were gaps between developed and developing countries, a lot also depended on a country’s political situation and natural disasters, the survey shows. For instance, Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake claimed the lives of up to 250,000 people, those in the thriving range are only 2%.

Overall, the survey findings reveal how GDP figures alone are not sufficient to measure a country’s wellbeing. (This comes close to Gross National Happiness, which the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously adopted in the 1970s.)

“As the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed earlier this year, leaders should not rely on GDP alone as an indicator of how well their countries and their citizens are doing. Monitoring and improving behavioral economic measures of wellbeing are important to helping leaders better the lives of all their residents,” the survey reveals.

Consultant of psychiatry at New Delhi’s Moolchand Medcity, Dr. Jitendra Nagpal held a similar view. In an emailed response to India Real Time, Dr. Nagpal also agreed that nations whose people claim to be happy may or may not be economically sound. Dr. Nagpal added that happiness is more about the ability to do what you want to do, rather than fulfilling life’s basic needs.