Saturday, May 7, 2011

Can Bin Laden Raid Ignite Twitter Revolution in Pakistan?

Live tweets of the Abbottabad raid have brought instant fame to Pakistani blogger Sohaib Athar, and shined new light on the role of Facebook, Twitter and other social media in the country.

Dramatic expansion of the nation's middle class in the last decade has spawned telecom and media revolutions in Pakistan. Number of radio stations, television channels, mobile phone subscribers and Internet users have all experienced unprecedented growth since the turn of the century.



The level of Internet penetration is Pakistan is still low. In a population of 177 million, only 18.5 million (10.4 percent) are connected to the Internet, though government officials quote a slightly higher figure of 20 million. Although it's twice that of India's Internet penetration of about 5%, Pakistan's penetration percentage is less than those in Tunisia (33.4 percent) and Egypt (21.1 percent). However, Internet use in Pakistan is growing at a rapid rate, particularly in urban centers where 40% of the population lives, which are also home to the middle class which often forms the backbone of mass-scale uprisings. Mobile Internet use shot up 161 percent in 2010 alone.

Pakistan figures prominently in the population of users of Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networking sites.

In terms of Facebook users in Asia, South Korea saw the largest increase of 65%, between March 01 2010 and June 01 2010. Other countries with double-digit growth rate are Thailand with 28.3%, India 27.7%, Japan 21%, Pakistan 12.9%, Malaysia 12.3%, and Vietnam 10.4%. Compared to figures extracted in March 2010, total Facebook users in Indonesia and Taiwan have shown decline, according to Grey Review.

According to Alexa, Twitter.com is the number twelve website in the world. It also ranks at number twelve in the United States. Outside the United States, Twitter is the eighth largest website in South Africa. The United Kingdom, Pakistan, and the Philippines all have Twitter as their tenth largest website, according to The Next Web.

Pakistan saw the beginnings of online civil and political activism in 2008-2009 when the lawyers, according to Woodrow Wilson Center's scholar Huma Yusuf, "used chat forums, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, and blogs to organize the Long March, publicize its various events and routes, and ensure that citizen reporting live from the march itself can be widely circulated to counter the government-influenced coverage of the protest on mainstream media outlets (such as state-owned radio and private news channels relying on government-issue licenses".

With Pakistan's youth bulge and rapid growth in online user population, it is natural to ask if an Egyptian or Tunisian style youth-led revolution is on the horizon in the South Asian nation? Can the current disgust with the the failed political, military and intelligence establishment catalyze a mass youth uprising against the established order?

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



Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's 50Mbps Broadband Rollout

Daily Carnage and Intelligence Failures in Pakistan

Pakistani Online Social Network

Telecom and Media Revolution in Pakistan

Middle Class Growth in Pakistan

Geo Sports Ban Amidst Youth Bulge

US Mining Twitter Feed Urdu Content

Obama's Success With Social Media

Obama on Urdu Poetry, Cricket, Daal, Keema

Case Against Wikileaks' Assange

PakAlumni-Pakistani Social Network

Media and Telecom Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

Pakistan Tops Text Message Growth

WiMax Rollout in Pakistan

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

With Pakistan's youth bulge and rapid growth in online user population, it is natural to ask if an Egyptian or Tunisian style youth-led revolution is on the horizon in the South Asian nation? Can the current disgust with the the failed political, military and intelligence establishment catalyze a mass youth uprising against the established order?


The cure may be worse than the disease.In Iran 1979 was a secular uprising against an autocratic and megalanomanic shah.However the islamists quickly usurped it and ruined Iran from a rapidly developing country to a mullahcracy economically kept afloat by oil revenues.

Pakistan doesn't even have oil.If it gets the sunni equivalents of the ayatollahs it will resemble Taliban ruled afghanistan.

Just look what is happening in Egypt with the massacre of Christians and the islamists of all shades coming out of the woodwork...

Riaz Haq said...

The killing of Osama bin Laden is a positive event for Pakistan's economy and stock market, according to an Asia based equity strategist's interview with CNBC.

Mark Matthews, equity strategist at Macquarie, said the positive comments from top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Pakistan's role against terrorism would eventually lead to the release of much-delayed financial aid for the country. That, in turn, would help the government lower its fiscal deficit and boost the economy.

"For about 5-6 months now, the American's and coalition money have not been released into Pakistan. And Pakistan has a very wide fiscal deficit. It's 6.1 percent of GDP and it is the major issue overhanging their stock market," Matthews added.

The aid package worth $7.5 billion over 5 years has been promoted by Democrat Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Dick Lugar. But it's been in limbo because of U.S. concerns about corruption in Pakistan.

Once, that's resolved, Matthews expects the stock market to benefit. "There are lots of gems in that country. There are probably more gems there, stock-wise, than any other country in Asia," Matthews told CNBC's Bernie Lo.

The Karachi stock index rallied late last year along with other emerging markets, but so far this year it has dropped 6 percent because of rising fuel prices and a growing budget deficit. According to Macquarie, Karachi's stock index not only offers value, but also many well-run companies.

For investors looking for stocks with volume, Matthews suggests looking at Pakistan Oilfields [PKOL.KA 328.05 -0.47 (-0.14%) ]. He likes this company as it has a daily turnover of $5 million and trades on about 5x earnings, with a 9.5 percent dividend yield.

And for investors who can stomach the illiquidity in the small-cap space, he recommends Askari Bank [ASBK.KA 11.53 0.14 (+1.23%) ].

"If you annualize that (the bank's first-quarter results), that is on 4x PE and their asset quality has held up remarkably well, NPLs are very low and its at a 40 percent discount to book," noted Matthews.

Riaz Haq said...

I think it was Kissinger who reportedly said that there is only one thing worse than being a US enemy; it's being a US ally!

Singling out the Pak Army and the ISI for their obvious failures as "US allies" may be satisfying to many as they are brought under extreme US pressure to yield to all of US whims, but the fact is that the civilian leaders are just as self-serving or more so than the Army and the ISI.

They are all part of the farce being perpetrated on Pakistani people.

And they are all beholden to the United States regardless of their public rhetoric on drone strikes or any other US intrusions into Pak sovereignty....just look at the Wikileaks revelations.

Don't forget: It was Benazir Bhutto who promised that US will be allowed to pursue any one they wish in Pak territory...and it was Gillani and Zardari whose first reaction was to welcome the US violation of Pak airspace to hunt down bin Laden.

Data Cruncher said...

riaz, for a person who has called spade a spade (by correctly pointing out that even Political parties gave US the carte Blanche), you don't seem to readily acknowledge the reason behind it.
Aid from US is barely keeping our economy afloat. Until that situation is corrected, US will treat as like a vassal state only.
For that Pakistanis have to get educated, get less religious and work hard - Just like Indians. No wonder can show middle finger to USA. Recently India decided to not buy fighter aircraft from USA and buy from Europe. This at a time when US arms industries was sucking up to India smelling dollars. When was the last time our govt had this spine.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s imports of mobile handsets have swelled to reach Rs 33.5 billion during the July 2010 to March 2011 period, according to The Express Tribune:

According to figures released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS), mobile handset sales increased to Rs 33.5 billion ($392 million) from July 2010 to March 2011 as opposed to Rs 18 billion in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal year, showing a growth of 85 per cent in the third quarter of the current fiscal year.

On an average, imports worth Rs 3.72 billion were carried out every month in the period under-review. Handset imports in the month of March were recorded at Rs. 4.75 billion ($55.76 million), up 48 per cent from last year.

The sale of handsets increased to more than 9 million in the said period if average monthly sales are evaluated at 1 million in the nine months in accordance with data shared by market experts.

As per estimate, if 1 million handsets having an average cost of Rs 4,000 are sold every month, it translates into Rs 4 billion overall sales. Therefore imports and sales costs are almost the same.

The little difference in numbers of imports and sales figures shows the high demanding trend in the local market owing to change of technology and introduction of new designs of handsets.

Market experts said that more than 60 per cent of the market consists of handsets falling in the Rs 4,000 to Rs 9,000 price range. Pakistan’s market has a solid demand of high cost handsets that exceeds the Rs 50,000 benchmark.

Imports and sales are constituted of more than 70 per cent Chinese-made handsets whereas different brands such as Nokia, Sony Ericson, LG and Samsung have retained their 25 -30 percent share in the local markets.

Importers and dealers forecast that import and sales may be affected as the telecom authority has come up with strict regulations, which could slow down the inflow of Chinese-made handsets in the local markets.

Sales of Chinese brands with International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) are also expected to increase in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

^^

So Pakistan doesn't manufacture handsets?

how sad!

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "So Pakistan doesn't manufacture handsets?"

Neither does India, except for very very small numbers.

Almost all of the cell phones in India are imported...mainly from China.

Here's the link:

http://www.cybex.in/mobile-phone-imports.aspx

One of the reasons why India runs huge trade deficits is because of its heavy reliance in imports of telecom, power, and other machinery from China and elsewhere.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/05/soaring-chinese-imports-worry-india.html

Jai Singh said...

India manufacturers around 5 million mobile handset, far less than the 15-20 million sales and hence the import.
India also exports mobile handset to africa. India also exports cars to Europe, railway locos to east asia and africa.
I am sure Pakistan betters india in all this.

regards

Riaz Haq said...

Here are summary and salient points of Anatol Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country:

In the past decade Pakistan has emerged as a country of immense importance. Large, heavily populated, strategically placed between Iran, Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has since its creation just over sixty years ago been pulled in several different, irreconcilable directions.

In the wake of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons, Osama Bin Laden's presence in its unpoliceable border areas, its shelter of the Afghan Taleban, and the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan to London, Bombay and New York, there is a clear need to understand this remarkable and highly contradictory place.

Far from seeing Pakistan as the failed state often portrayed in the media, Lieven's extraordinary new book instead treats it as a viable and coherent state that, within limits and by the standards of its own region rather than the West, does work. Lieven argues strongly against US actions that would risk destroying that state in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.

This work is based on a profound and sophisticated analysis of Pakistan's history and its social, religious and political structures. Lieven has interviewed hundreds of Pakistanis at every level of society, from leading politicians and soldiers to village mullahs and rickshaw drivers. In particular, his examination of the roots of popular sympathy for the Taleban in Pakistan draws on the testimony of people whose views are rarely consulted by Western analysts.

1. For most of the years since 1947, Pakistan has had higher economic growth rates than did India. Pakistan does not have the same pockets of extreme poverty, or for that matter the extreme wealth. The level of economic equality in Pakistan is relatively high.

2. Charitable donations run almost five percent of gdp, one of the highest percentages in the world and this reflects the emphasis on alms-giving in Islam.

3. A good quotation from a businessmen: “One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats.”

4. Agriculture pays virtually no tax and the government lends lots of money to businesses and doesn’t seriously ask for it back. As a result Pakistan collects far less revenue than does India, even comparing areas of comparable per capita income. If Pakistan were a state of India, it still would be considerably richer per capita than India’s poorest regions, such as Bihar.

5. The Pakistani state is nonetheless a lot more stable than most people think. In part this is because of the conservative structure of kinship and landholder power in the country.

6. The main threats to the future of Pakistan have to do with ecology and water, not politics.

7. The end of the book has a very interesting discussion about how U.S. actions in Pakistan affect different coalitions, feelings of humiliation, relative status relationships, etc.

Definitely recommended, as are Lieven’s books on the Baltics and Ukraine.


Sources:

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781846141607,00.html

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/05/pakistan-a-hard-country.html

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why India runs huge trade deficits is because of its heavy reliance in imports of telecom, power, and other machinery from China and elsewhere.

1.CAD is 2.5% of GDP in FY11.Very much under control.

2.We manufacture most of the equipment ourselves unlike Pakistan however the growth has been so much that capacity additions in capital goods have not been enough hence the imports.These imports will cease by end on 2012 except perhaps very high end items.

3.This year we have probably grown faster than China according to Economist,FT and many other publications.I know you think they are all biased,as opposed to your blog :) but as they say numbers don't lie....

Anonymous said...

Pakistan is the Best country in the world.
Pakistan Zindabad!

Rahul said...

Well, there is a Nokia factory at Chennai..

There is a samsung factory at Pune...

There is a Dell Factory at Chennai.It exports 1 million PCs every year.

You can come and visit them if you like...

rksingh2002 said...

Riaz Haq said...
"Anon: "So Pakistan doesn't manufacture handsets?"

Neither does India, except for very very small numbers.

Almost all of the cell phones in India are imported...mainly from China."

Dear Mr.Haq, i just now saw this link while browsing around. India has a very huge manufacturing capacity for mobile phones, maybe second in the world after China. Nokia, Chennai has manufactured 1/2 billion (you are right, three times the population of pakistan) phones in the last 5 years. These mobiles are exported to more than 100 countries from this location (except Pakistan). India also is major manufacturing hubs for LG, Samsung, Motorola, ELCOTEC and some indian brands like Carbonn.

My point is, India and Pakistan should be good trade partners. Oppertunities are un-limited. Both can be winners and u may not even have to look at USA.

As early as 2040, India is expected to be no-1 economy of the world (like it was 300 years back before east india company came here).

Anonymous said...

My point is, India and Pakistan should be good trade partners. Oppertunities are un-limited. Both can be winners and u may not even have to look at USA.

no sir,close trade also means any problems in pakistan will economically severely impact India.

Do you want that? I think the current situation is the best.Pakistan in flames doesn't effect India economically in any way regardless of deluded Pakistanis who think India can't progress with a failing Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are ITU Internet stats for South Asia:

Pakistan:

20,350,000 Internet users as of Jun/10, 11.5% penetration, per ITU.

3,145,840 Facebook users on December 31/10, 2.2% penetration

3,992,500 Facebook users on March 31/11, 2.1% penetration

India:

100,000,000 Internet users as of Dec/10, 8.5% penetration, per IWS.

17,289,020 Facebook users on December 31/10, 1.9% penetration rate.

23,042,800 Facebook users on March 31/11, 1.9% penetration rate.

Bangladesh:

1,429,200 Internet users as of Mar/11, 0.9% penetration, per FB.

995,560 Facebook users on August 31/10, 0.6% penetration rate.

1,429,200 Facebook users on March 31/11, 0.9% penetration rate.

Afghanistan:

1,000,000 Internet users as of Jun/10, 3.4% penetration, per ITU.

52,980 Facebook users on August 31/10, 0.2% penetration rate.

165,120 Facebook users on March 31/11, 0.6% penetration rate.

Anonymous said...

17,289,020 Facebook users on December 31/10, 1.9% penetration rate.

Till 2010 Orkut ,another social networking site had more indian users than facebook therefore the number of unique indian users who use social networking will be greater than Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Dawn report on two young Pakistani girls who won Intel Science Award:

LOS ANGELES: Young Pakistani students used Nanotechnology to clean polluted water and won Third Place Grand Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the United States.

An announcement here on Saturday said that Ambreen Bibi and Mehwish Ghafoor of Islamabad won a Third Place Grand Award in the field of Environmental Sciences.
It said that they received the award and $ 1,000 for developing a treatment that utilizes nanotechnology to make polluted water drinkable.

Matthew Feddersen and Blake Marggraff from Lafayette, California were awarded the top prize. They received $ 75,000 and the Gordon E. Moore Award for developing a potentially more effective and less expensive cancer treatment that places tin metal near a tumor before radiation therapy.

Taylor Wilson from Reno, Nevada, was named an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winner and received $50,000. Taylor developed one of the lowest dose and highest sensitivity interrogation systems for countering nuclear terrorism.

‘We champion the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair because we believe that math and science are imperative for innovation’, said Naveed Siraj, Country Manager, Intel Pakistan.

‘This global competition features youth trying to solve the world’s most pressing challenges through science’.

This year more than 1,500 young entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists were selected to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science research competition.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/15/pakistani-students-win-prize-in-intel-science-fair.html

http://www.societyforscience.org/document.doc?id=308

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's first Hindko language film festival has been launched in the city of Abbottabad, in an attempt to restore its image after the Bin Laden raid, according to the BBC:

The quiet hill resort achieved global notoriety after US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was hiding there, in a covert mission.

As tourism has taken a hit, a group of amateur film-makers decided to launch the cultural event.

Hindko is the language of the Hazara region, in which Abbottabad is located.

"We wanted to show the world that Abbottabad is not a terrorist haven, but a centre of culture and creativity," said one of the festival organisers, Amjad Khan.

He told the BBC that the decision to hold the festival was taken two days after the killing of Bin Laden.

The six-day festival features six of more than 20 Hindko films so far produced.

The movies being shown are produced by Hazara Productions, a company set up by a group of local actors and directors in 2005.
'Clean entertainment'

The Bin Laden operation shocked the residents of this peaceful town and there is a fear that it will scare away the seasonal tourists who fuel the local economy.

The festival began with a showing of Night on the Stonemill, a 2005 production that tells the comic story of two errant college students who get into trouble with the police, and finally with their parents.

The festival opened with music and dancing to attract the crowds, but they have had mixed success.

During the week, the audience only filled half of the 400-seat auditorium.

"Cinema is dead in Pakistan, and the current generation doesn't know what it's like to watch a good quality film in a proper theatre," explains Amjad Khan.

Women and children have been turning up at the festival because, he says, many see these movies as "clean family entertainment, as opposed to the largely vulgar Pakistani cinema".

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Prof Anatol Lieven's "Pakistan- A Hard Country" as published by the National newspaper of UAE:

Until now there has never been a military mutiny from below. Every military coup has been carried out by the serving chief of the army staff, including Musharraf, backed by a solid majority of the high command. The loyalty of the military to its commanders is cemented by the material benefits of military service, but also by a deep conviction that it is the discipline and unity of the army that preserves Pakistan as a country.

The further down one goes in the officer corps, the more its members are lower middle class, less westernised and more religious - not surprising because the vast majority of Pakistanis are conservative Muslims. However, in the words of Tanvir Naqvi, a retired lieutenant general: "Officers suffer from the same confusion as the rest of our society about what is Islamic and what it is to be Muslim. The way I have read the minds of most officers, they certainly see this as a Muslim country, but as one where people are individually responsible to God, for which they will answer in the life hereafter, and no one should try to impose his views of religion on them. Very few indeed would want to see a Taliban-style revolution here, which would destroy the country and the army and let the Indians walk all over us."

This is a critically important point. Along with discipline and loyalty, fear of India is drummed into the Pakistani soldier from the first day he enters the military. Quite apart from the hideous internal consequences of revolution and civil war in Pakistan, fear that India would use this to crush the country is deeply felt and deeply credible.
------------
Given these constraints, for significant parts of the Pakistani military to mutiny, a situation would have to be created in which their obedience to the high command came into direct conflict with their feelings of personal and collective honour as Pakistani Muslim soldiers. The US raid to kill bin Laden would be such a scenario - if US troops were to turn raids into Pakistan into a regular strategy. Were that to happen, then, or so I have been told by officers at every level, sooner or later Pakistani troops would open fire on their US counterparts - and if ordered not to do so, might very well mutiny."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on terror attack on the Pakistan Naval Station Mehran in Karachi:

The deadly 15-hour siege on Pakistan's Mehran naval airbase in Karachi on Monday was carried out by attackers with military-level training, raising suspicions they had inside help.

Questions are being asked about the security of Pakistan's vital military installations after a well-organised group of gunmen held off Pakistan's equivalent of the US Navy Seals - the Special Services Group - Navy (SSG-N) - for 15 hours.

This SSG-N is said to be the most formidable fighting force in Pakistan, but - for a few hours at least - they appeared to be at the mercy of a brazen group of fighters.

"They weren't any ordinary militants - certainly not the Taliban," said one security official, who wished to remain unnamed.

"The aim of all Taliban attacks is maximum death and destruction - these men were very focused on what they were after."
Speed and organisation

From the beginning it was clear the attackers had an intricate knowledge of the base and its vulnerable areas. They were tactically assured and the operation had clearly been long in the planning.

"They came over the wall cutting the wire on the eastern side of the base," one official told the BBC, adding that it was one of the weak points. The militants knew and exploited this - just one piece of inside knowledge they had.

"That side is just next to the runway - and the guard tower is at a distance because planes land regularly."

The first time the militants were seen was when they appeared on the runway, weapons at the ready. "The [navy] men couldn't believe their eyes," says an official.

A number of officials listed to me their observations, which reinforced the conviction that they were being confronted with a totally different kind of militant, possibly hitherto unseen:

* Military formation: One injured sailor told an official that the attackers "moved and dressed like us". The militants moved in tactical military formation and spoke in military parlance. They spoke between themselves in Urdu, as well as a foreign language.
* Clothing and equipment: The militants wore combat fatigues, according to officials - and had night vision goggles, carrying rocket propelled grenades [RPGs]. "It takes months of training for ease with the goggles, and years to be expert," one official told me.
* Tactics and a plan: One witness said that even though the militants had clear sight of them, "they ignored us... Instead, they just aimed RPGs at the two Orions [planes] parked on the tarmac." They were clearly under instructions to destroy military hardware. They also changed tactics easily and broke away in groups, which clearly had different aims.
* Crack shots: "They were excellent shots - as good as any we have," said one security official involved in the operation. They used their night vision goggles to maximum effect, witnesses say - and that was an advantage they had until the SSG-N team arrived at the scene. When the gun battle began, one security official said, it was clear that these men could "hold their own" in a firefight. The fact that they had M16 carbines and sniper rifles also set them apart.

Officials says all of this is in strong contrast to the Taliban, who adopt an equally brutal but more chaotic mode of attack. "Their best weapon is the suicide bomber - they are notoriously poor shots," one official told me.

"They were the exception to every rule of Pakistan militant tactics."

"They were also not about killing people," one official said. "It was clear they were interested in the destruction of equipment, a much more 'military' aim..

Riaz Haq said...

As Pakistani Army comes under unprecedented sharp criticism by the politicians, the public and the media, here's an excerpts from an interesting piece by Vir Sanghvi on how the Indians treat Indian Army:

Equally, we will never blame the Army for anything. In 1962, we were thrashed by the Chinese but the consensus was that politicians had lost the war while our brave soldiers had done their best. The 1965 war was at best a stalemate (the Pakistanis also claimed they had won) but we treated it as a glorious victory for the Indian Army. Operation Blue Star was a fiasco. But even today, it is Blue Star we remember favourably rather than Black Thunder (conducted by the paramilitary forces to clean up the mess left behind by Blue Star), a bona fide success.

By and large, the social contract has worked. The Army has nearly always got us out of jams when we need its services. Whether it was Delhi in 1984, Bombay in 1993, or Gujarat in 2002, we needed the Army to restore order. And during the Kargil War, young officers led from the front, sacrificed their lives and displayed astonishing bravery in the service of their country.

Consequently, the army sometimes appears to live in a state within a state. Visit a cantonment and you will be struck by the contrast with the civilian part of the town or city where it is located. The roads will be broad and well-maintained, the buildings will be freshly painted, the surroundings will be clean, and an air of good manners and civility will prevail. Visit an army town (Wellington, for instance) and the contrast will be even more striking. The order and cleanliness of the cantonments serves as a contrast to the chaos and filth of modern India.

There is, however, one important aspect of the social contract that now seems to be failing. As corruption has spread in modern India, we have reluctantly accepted that most parts of our society are tainted – civil servants, the schools and even the lower judiciary. But somehow, we have always believed that the army is different.

Oh yes, we hear the stories. We hear about Generals who take kickbacks on arms deals and about officers involved in canteen purchase scandals. But because this corruption appears to be restricted to the Army itself and because we believe that it is not widespread, we are happy to look the other way.



The problem with the Adarsh scandal and the controversies over other land deals that have erupted recently is that they encroach into the civilian space. Senior army officers are seen to be conniving with politicians, bureaucrats and contractors to make millions.

Worse still, at least in the case of the Adarsh scandal, there is a cynical abuse of the social contract. When we say that we will respect and pamper the army, we do not expect senior officers to grab flats for themselves in the name of Kargil martyrs.

Earlier this week, the Army chief spoke about his resolve to cleanse his force. I am not sure he fully grasps how serious the situation is. The problem is not just that there are ‘a few bad apples’ in the army. It is that Army corruption has now spilled out into the civilian space and that Generals are making big bucks by exploiting the regard we have for the heroism of the Army and the sacrifices made by its soldiers.



If more such instances come to light, then the press will begin looking critically at the Army. The politicians will have an excuse to delve deep into the workings of the officer corps. This will give them the opportunity they need to play favourites. And the public, regretfully recognising that the Army has breached the social contract itself, will reluctantly acquiesce in the muck-raking by the press and the interference by politicians.

Once this happens, the social contract will not survive. The image of the Army will not recover. And the perfect balance we have built between the Army and the Indian people will topple over..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story of Gen Kayani vowing to clean house:

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who like the civilian government has publicly expressed anger over the secret U.S. raid, was so shaken by the discovery of bin Laden that he told U.S. officials in a recent meeting that his first priority was “bringing our house in order,” according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official, citing personal conversations with Kayani.

“We are under attack, and the attackers are getting highly confidential information about their targets,” said the official, who, like others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Pakistan’s top military brass claimed to have purged the ranks of Islamists shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, the nation’s top officials have made repeated public assurances that the armed forces are committed to the fight against extremists and that Pakistan’s extensive nuclear arsenal is in safe hands.

But U.S. officials have remained unconvinced, and they have repeatedly pressed for a more rigorous campaign by Pakistan to remove elements of the military and intelligence services that are believed to cooperate with militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a previously unannounced visit to Islamabad on Friday, emphasized U.S. demands for greater cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent Islamist organizations that have taken root in Pakistan. Standing beside Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clinton said the United States would be looking “to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.”

It is unclear how authentically committed Kayani and other top military leaders are to cleansing their ranks. U.S. officials and Pakistani analysts say support by the nation’s top military spy agency for insurgent groups, particularly those that attack in India and Afghanistan, is de facto security policy in Pakistan, not a matter of a few rogue elements.

But Kayani is under profound pressure, both from a domestic population fed up with the constant insurgent attacks and from critics in the U.S. government, who view the bin Laden hideout as the strongest evidence yet that Pakistan is playing a double game.

U.S. officials say they have no evidence that top Pakistani military or civilian leaders knew about bin Laden’s redoubt, though they are still examining intelligence gathered during the raid. Some say they doubt Kayani or Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, had direct knowledge; others find it hard to believe they did not, particularly because Kayani was head of the ISI in 2005, when bin Laden is believed to have taken refuge in Abbottabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal report on insider involvement by Pakistani military personnel in terror attacks:

ISLAMABAD—Pakistani investigators probing last week's attack by the Taliban on a naval base in Karachi have detained a former navy commando and two other people, in further signs of concern about the infiltration of radical Islamist groups into the country's armed forces.

Pakistani investigators Friday picked up Kamran Ahmed Malik, 36 years old, along with his brother, Zaib Ahmed, from a middle-class neighborhood of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, according to security officials in the city.

Another person was earlier detained in Faisalabad, an industrial town near Lahore, and held for questioning. None of the men have been formally charged.

Mr. Malik, a former commando, was dismissed from the navy in 2003 on disciplinary grounds after serving in the force for almost ten years. He had been treated for mental disorders before being dismissed, security officials said.
-----------
Investigators are looking into whether Mr. Malik developed a network inside the Mehran base, where he was stationed while serving in the navy.

"We are probing whether he helped the terrorists in providing the details of the base or if he was in touch with any of his former colleagues inside," a Lahore-based security official said. "We are also investigating about his possible contacts with extremist and militant groups."

Mr. Malik was suspected by Pakistani officials to have links with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Punjab-based sectarian group linked to the Pakistan Taliban. Mr. Malik couldn't be reached for comment.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the investigations are focusing on whether the militants had been provided help from inside.

Pakistan's navy is generally regarded as less permeated by conservative Islamic groups than other branches of the armed forces.

The push by radical groups to indoctrinate members of the armed forces with Islamist teachings, begun in earnest in the 1980s during the military rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, was centered largely on the army.

Other security services have been dealing with mounting radicalism. In January, the governor of Punjab province was shot dead by a member of his elite police bodyguard, who was a member of an Islamist group.

"I believe that the lower cadre of the armed forces has been infiltrated by Islamic militant groups, though at a small level till now," says defense analyst, Saad Mohammad, a retired army brigadier. "There is an urgent need to carry out screening of lower cadre and change recruitment policy."

The latest attack was the biggest yet on Pakistan's navy, which isn't on the front lines of Pakistan's war against Taliban militants, although it takes part in a U.S.-led antiterrorism naval task force in the Arabian Sea.

In the weeks before the Mehran siege, the Taliban had targeted naval buses in Karachi with roadside bombs, possibly because they provided a soft target. More commonly, militants have struck at army targets, sometimes using insiders to help carry out attacks.

The army for three years has been fighting the Pakistan Taliban in the country's mountainous northwest border regions with Afghanistan.

In October 2009, Islamic militants attacked the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, leading to a 22-hour commando operation. It was masterminded by a militant commander who had served in the army medical corps.

Former President Pervez Musharraf twice escaped assassination bids in 2003 planned by Islamic militants in which serving army personnel were implicated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a BBC report on the killing of Pak journalist Saleem Shahzad:

The funeral has taken place in Karachi of murdered Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose body was found on Tuesday two days after he went missing.

The 40-year-old father of three vanished after leaving home in Islamabad to appear on a television talk show.

He had recently written an article about al-Qaeda infiltration into Pakistan's navy.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the murder.

Earlier a Human Rights Watch researcher said he had "credible information" that Shahzad was in the custody of Pakistani intelligence.

Mr Shahzad made a career writing about the various Islamist militant networks operating in Pakistan and warned human rights campaigners before his disappearance that he had been threatened by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It has denied any involvement.

Journalists have held protests across Pakistan to condemn the killing, with sit-ins and marches held in Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.
---------
He reported that the militant group had launched the deadly assault on the Mehran base in Karachi, the headquarters of the navy's air wing, on 22 May because talks had failed over the release of several naval personnel arrested on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda affiliates.

At least 14 people were killed and two navy warplanes destroyed.

On Monday, a former navy commando and his brother were detained for their alleged role in helping plan the raid, which embarrassed the military.

Mr Shahzad's body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan's northern Gujarat district.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan said Mr Shahzad had recently complained about being threatened by the ISI.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the Associated Press it was "absurd" to say that the ISI had anything to do with his death.

Mr Shahzad worked for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) and was Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report about Indian military owning land and running golf courses:

NEW DELHI — The Indian army has developed a sideline in running golf courses using government land but returning no revenue to the state, the nation's auditor claims in a damning new report.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that at least 32 square kilometres (12 square miles) of rent-free land had been handed to a privately-run company, Army Zone Golf, which operates 97 luxury golf courses.

The defence ministry is the largest state landowner, holding 80 percent of the 7,000 square kilometres of government land, much of it now prime real estate, according to the CAG report released Friday.

Golf memberships are being sold to present and past service personnel as well as civilians and foreign nationals, the report said, with revenue credited to a private regimental fund which could not be accessed by the auditors.

Army authorities "earn large amounts of revenue by allowing persons other than service personnel to use these facilities," the report said.

"Heavy amounts of revenues were being earned without paying any lease rent and allied charges for use of government assets," it added.

The CAG's account of the misuse of public land will add to growing worries about the military's slide into corruption following a string of recent scandals.

In January, the government ordered a 31-storey apartment block in Mumbai to be demolished after it emerged army officers and local politicians had usurped apartments originally meant for war widows.

Army Zone Golf claims to promote the sport in the armed services and runs "some of the most spectacular golf courses of India," according to its website. No one at the company responded to calls for comment from AFP.

The company's organising council includes several retired army officers, and was once headed by Joginder Jaswant Singh, former army chief of staff and now the governor of the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The CAG has been instrumental in exposing mismanagement and possible fraud in the sale of telecom licences in 2008 which it said had led to a loss to the state of up to 39 billion dollars.

The telecom minister at the time, A. Raja, has since been arrested and awaits trial.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post Op Ed on social media in Pakistan:

“Social media has actually created a dialogue of opposing thoughts and tries to bring them together to some sort of understanding,” said the Teeth Maestro, a 36-year-old whose real name is Awab Alvi.

There’s no revolution in the works like in Egypt, where young people used Facebook, Twitter and other web tools to organize protests.

But the use of such Internet tools is rising so rapidly in Pakistan that even U.S. officials have taken notice, recently co-sponsoring the country’s first international social media summit. Held in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, it attracted some 200 people.

Pakistan, a country of roughly 187 million, has roughly 20 million Internet users. Its penetration rate is a bit higher than neighbor India but a bit lower than fellow Muslim country Indonesia, according to http://www.internetworldstats.com.

There are at least 4.3 million Facebook users in Pakistan, while Twitter is the ninth most popular web site in the country, according to statistics presented Saturday at the summit.

To be sure, plenty of Pakistan’s bloggers promote anti-U.S. conspiracy theories and Islamist, even pro-militant agendas. One group created an alternative to Facebook catering to Muslims, unhappy with what they say was offensive material on the regular site.

The overall numbers are skewed toward wealthier, educated city dwellers, and most of the Pakistani blogosphere is in English, though Urdu-language use is growing, experts said. But although social media lovers don’t represent Pakistan’s masses, they do represent many of “the elite” who hold the levers of power.

In many small ways, Pakistan’s social media activists already have been making their presence felt.

One of the more famous social media users in Pakistan is Sohaib Athar, the man who unknowingly live-tweeted the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, gaining tens of thousands of new followers and providing witty insight into a stunning news event.

There also have been videos posted on the Internet showing the alleged brutality of the armed forces in Pakistan, outraging civilians and leading to investigations (though rarely with any publicized results). And during nationwide floods in 2010, social media activists helped raise money.

The blogs in particular give Pakistanis a chance to vent, no matter what their philosophy.

Alvi, the dentist, recently posted an entry about the shooting of an unarmed young man by security troops in Karachi. The incident was caught on tape, posted to YouTube and played on television, making him wonder what it would take for the masses to rise up and end such brutalities.

“Could this blatant killing of a young individual (regardless of his innocence or guilt) be the trigger?” he wrote. “Or are we still too occupied at allowing these political and military crooks run our country to smithereens?”

Pakistan’s TV and radio stations remain the dominant force in shaping public discourse, followed by newspapers — especially Urdu-language ones. But employees of mainstream outlets note they still have to worry about some restrictive laws that are less likely to affect social media users.

“We have buildings and offices — we can get burned, we can get bombed,” said Kamal Siddiqi, editor of The Express Tribune newspaper.

He said blogs were a very popular part of his paper’s online edition, a sign of how the mainstream media and the social media are blending.

Pakistani social media activists said they too worry about their security, with some noting wryly that the Internet is also a place for militants to recruit suicide bombers and post tapes of beheadings.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed by Bilal Baloch published in The Guardian:

China's trade presence in Pakistan has been growing for decades. The steady, indirect approach is something either to marvel at for the emerging superpower's foresight, or to note down for its good fortune. In 2010, trade between the two countries reached a whopping $8.7bn: not bad for a nation wrestling with militancy. Above all else, the Chinese have come to represent reliability in Pakistan in a way that the Americans simply have not – despite the fact that the US, too, pumps billions of dollars into Pakistan every year.

The Americans, clearly, are not getting the right kind of bang for their buck. China has truly won the hearts of the populace, if not minds; this, in turn, has cultivated trust between the two countries. Yet, for the Chinese to nurture and build connections in Pakistani civil society may be a long way away, as the hyper-politicised people of Pakistan are far removed from the political leanings of the Chinese. Enter, America.

For both legal and security reasons, the US does not carry out extensive trade in Pakistan. After all, without the necessary security for Americans, Pakistan represents a high-risk destination; and of this Pakistanis themselves are perhaps most disadvantaged. But this does not mean that trade relationships in the future should be discounted. Looking at the success of the Chinese approach, a long-term strategy to create jobs and business opportunities for Pakistanis and Americans is plausible. Currently, however, Pakistanis are disenchanted by American foreign policy.

Pakisatani anti-Americanism has always been interpreted as ideological abhorrence of the US. This may be the case for the militant minority that causes the biggest headache, but, in fact, that anti-Americanism may be driven more generally by an asymmetry of information – and what Pakistanis perceive as US support for a government that does not cater well to the needs of its own people. But the current most significant American exports to Pakistan – Facebook and Twitter – have changed the face of communication opportunities available to regular Pakistanis. Some 20 million Pakistanis are frequently online: that's 10-15% of the population. This incidental creation of a virtual civil society has not gone unnoticed: last week, the American consulate organised an international social media summit in Karachi, where internet-savvy journalists and bloggers came together from neighbouring countries and throughout Pakistan to discuss ventures such as "Harass Map" in Pakistan. It's these citizen connections, enabling Pakistanis themselves to build civil society in Pakistan, that can overcome security concerns both locally and internationally.

China may have discovered trade as a key to Pakistan's strategic value; but the US is better-placed to make the relationships that will count.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/19/pakistan-china-us-social-media

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report about social media summit in Karachi:

KARACHI: Over 200 bloggers from across Pakistan interacted with their fellows from Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, USA and Netherlands at Network Pakistan’s first-ever international social media summit.

The event began with a panel discussion on ‘Education and Good Governance, Women and Social Activism in New Era of Media’, and ‘Monetizing Your Social Media Space’.

These discussions were followed by 20 different breakout sessions with five sessions underway simultaneously on different aspects of social media. The bloggers also interacted via Skype with WordPress and Twitter representatives. “I am thrilled to be here today and see so many people here who actively blog and use social media for bringing about a positive change. Pakistan has a lively and active blogging community, where over three million citizen journalists can freely report on and discuss any topic,” stated US Consul General William Martin in his keynote address. Express Tribune Editor Kamal Siddiqi and Intel Pakistan Country Manager Naveed Siraj welcomed the participants and expressed the hope that the summit would become an annual event. The daylong interactive summit was sponsored jointly by PC World, Google, Intel, Raffles (Pakistan’s Authorized Apple Distributor) and media partners, including Newsweek Pakistan, Express Media Group, City 89 FM and the US Consulate General in Karachi.

International participants included Mohamed El Dahshan (Egypt), Hanny Kusumawati and Anandita Puspitasari (Indonesia), Rebecca Chiao (Egypt), Ong Hock Chuan (Malaysia), Claire Diaz Ortiz (US) and Karim Osman (Netherlands). Prominent bloggers from Pakistan included Raza Rumi, Awab Alvi, Sana Saleem, Naveen Naqvi, AJ Shirazi, Imtiaz Muhammad, Ali Abbas Zaidi, Shehrbano Taseer and Yasser Latif Hamdani. Showcasing Pakistan’s active social media community, bloggers traveled from Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Hala, Gujranwala, Wah Cantt and Quetta for the summit.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of an Op Ed by William Martin, US Consul General, published in The Express Tribune:


Perhaps showing the generation gap, I did not know that Pakistan has such a lively and active blogging community, with over three million citizen-journalists freely reporting on virtually every topic under the sun. Pakistan has one of the fastest-growing Facebook and Twitter-using populations in the world, with over four million Facebook users. Remarkably, the per capita internet access in Pakistan is between 10-15 per cent of the total population — more than double that of neighbouring India. Using even the most conservative estimates, 20 million Pakistanis are regularly online, or the equivalent of the population of four Singapores.

Pakistan enjoys tremendous freedom of information and online expression. As a representative of the United States, I am keenly aware of the vibrancy of that free speech every time I log in to my computer or pick up a newspaper. Although a bit bruised sometimes, I welcome it! By amplifying the diversity of voices, social media is making life a richer experience for us all. And this is possible because Pakistanis are using their freedom of expression every day, online. Blogging is reinforcing the backbone of democracy – freedom of speech – a freedom that is enshrined in the US Constitution.

In Pakistan, the freedom of the press was earned over time, through the sacrifices of its people, especially the sacrifices of those in the media community. Journalists and bloggers now play a central role in the effort to institutionalise these hard won freedoms.

We must never forget, the many journalists who have been killed or injured as they sought to report on the challenges facing us today. They take extraordinary risks to enlighten us with the truth. Nobody embodied this commitment more than Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was senselessly murdered trying to pursue this truth. All of us are diminished by his passing. But, there is no doubt that his work will continue and others will pick up the baton and carry on. It is up to each of us to honour his legacy and do all we can to support press freedom as a fundamental right to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. Blog on.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fatima Bhutto

Here's a link to an interesting video of Fatima Bhutto speaking at Sydney Writers Festival:

http://blip.tv/slowtv/pakistan-nation-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown-fatima-bhutto-5236151

About this episode
TV-UN

Pakistan is a country plagued by natural disasters, endemic political corruption, religious fundamentalism and is claimed by many to be the central headquarters of Islamist terrorism. And it’s a nuclear power. Fatima Bhutto, scion of the Pakistani political family, addresses the current state of her country in her Opening Address at the Sydney Writers' Festival 2011.Fatima Bhutto is an Afghan-born Pakistani poet and writer. She is the granddaughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir Bhutto (both assassinated). She is active in Pakistan's socio-political arena but has no desire to run for political office. She currently writes columns for ‘The Daily Beast’, ‘New Statesman’ and other publications.May 2011

Riaz Haq said...

McClatchy's Saeed Shah reports that according to anonymous U.S. officials, evidence seized at Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound reveals that the terror leader was not directly controlling al-Qaeda, and that younger al-Qaeda commanders, "did not take everything he said as right" (McClatchy). Shah also reports on the many Pakistanis arrested and quietly released after the bin Laden raid, and the AP notes the impact the incident has had on exchange programs between Pakistani and American students (McClatchy, AP). And Pakistani officials indicated that the military may soon free Brig. Ali Khan, who was arrested May 6 on suspicion of having links with the banned extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Tribune).

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Telegraph story on CIA's use of vaccination to confirm bin Laden presence in Abbottabad:

Having traced a bin Laden courier to a walled compound in the town of Abottabad, agents wanted to confirm the al-Qaeda leader was living there before raiding it.

They began a complicated ruse by recruiting a senior Pakistani government doctor to offer Hepatitis B vaccinations to local people, according to the Guardian and American newspapers.

A nurse working for the program was then admitted to the compound to give vaccinations to the children there.

The CIA hoped to obtain DNA from the children and match it to that of bin Laden's sister who had died at a hospital in Boston last year. It is not known how successful the scheme was.

The doctor involved was reportedly detained by Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency weeks after the US raid on the compound in early May, in which bin Laden was killed.

Officials in the US are said to have intervened in an attempt to secure the doctor's release.

The Pakistani authorities and the CIA did not comment on the report.

Relations between the two countries — awkward at the best of times — have hit new lows after American special forces launched a covert raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May.

Pakistan has expelled US military personnel and delayed visas for diplomatic staff.

The US has now halted $800 million (£500 million) in assistance in protest at Pakistan's decision to expel military trainers, and in frustration at the perceived slow pace of hitting militant hide-outs in North Waziristan.

Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI, said withholding aid would simply turn public opinion more "caustic" and delay any large-scale campaign against militants.

“Why should they go into North Waziristan now? They were making commitments to do it, but these threat, master and slave treatment, this arm twisting, will not work,” he said.

Pakistan has long promised to launch a major ground offensive in North Waziristan, a rugged tribal area home to militants with the Haqqani network, from where they launch cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

US officials have raised the issue repeatedly with their Pakistani counterparts, who say they are still trying to put down insurgencies elsewhere and are not ready to deal with a terrorist backlash likely to result from opening a fresh front.

Holding back aid is unlikely to increase co-operation and could strengthen those in the government who argue that Washington is a fickle ally who can’t be trusted, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US.

“If you still need the relationship, which clearly the United States does, then it really doesn’t make sense to take action at this time because it leaves the United States with less, not more, influence with the Pakistani military,” she said. “Co-operation cannot be coerced by punitive actions.”

For its part, the Pakistani military has played down the cut in aid.

Military figures insist it will make no difference to their ability to take on militants or delay their long-standing promise to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan.

“We will continue to fight this war with or without them,” said a senior security official. “Without them we will do it in our own sweet time.”


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8631420/CIA-set-up-fake-vaccination-programme-to-capture-Osama-bin-Ladens-DNA.html

Riaz Haq said...

PM says Abbottabad and Mehran base attacks raised false concerns about safety of nukes, according to Dunya News:

He pointed to the simultaneous propaganda onslaught against Pakistan and its nuclear programme.

Chairing the 19th meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA), Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani reviewed issues of national importance and developments in the regional and global security environment.

The NCA expressed satisfaction at the security and safety of Pakistan’s strategic programmes and facilities, besides approving the National Nuclear Programme 2050 and the Space Programme 2040.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in his statement expressed government’s firm resolve to protect the country’s strategic and nuclear assets at all costs. “Such baseless, and certainly motivated, campaign against Pakistan will neither deter us from proceeding ahead.”
He said the strategic programme forms the core of Pakistan’s national security paradigm.

The Pakistan Armed Forces, and in fact the whole nation, takes its responsibility for national defence as a sacred duty. No one should ever under estimate our capability and resolve in this regard.

He said concerns have also been expressed internationally over potential threats from non-state actors to the security of strategic assets and facilities. While media reports have speculated on the possibility of sabotage and existence of contingency plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

“Any such nefarious designs shall be thwarted effectively by the armed forces with full support of the people of Pakistan.”
The PM also pointed to the several developments that have taken place at the national, regional and international levels in the last few months.


http://dunyanews.tv/index.php?key=Q2F0SUQ9MiNOaWQ9MzA1NDc=

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wired.com article describing US Navy Seals raids in Pakistan as routine:

U.S. special operations forces have regularly and “surreptitiously” slipped into Pakistan in recent years, raiding suspected terrorist hideouts on Pakistani soil. The team that killed Osama bin Laden — those guys alone had conducted “10 to 12″ of those missions before they hit that infamous compound in Abbottabad.

In a remarkable story for this week’s New Yorker, Nicholas Schmidle puts together the most detailed picture so far of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But the most combustible component of the explosive article might be the disclosure that U.S. commandos sneak into Pakistan on the regular.

Over the last week, current and one-time top officials have debated the wisdom of the U.S. launching unilateral strikes in places like Pakistan. Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a gathering of security professionals in Aspen that the attacks weren’t worth the local antipathy they generated. Retired Gen. Doug Lute, who oversees Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy at the White House, admitted that there was a major “humiliation factor.” But he told the conference that now was the time to “double down” on the raids, with al-Qaida in disarray. “We need to go for the knockout punch.”

Most people in the audience assumed Lute was talking about additional drone attacks. Perhaps Navy SEALs would deliver the hit, instead.

In many minds, that decisive blow landed last May, when Navy SEALs took out the world’s most wanted terrorist. Schmidle’s piece confirms much of what we already knew about the bin Laden raid: yes, they used a stealthy spy drone and a radar-evading Black Hawk and a particularly ferocious dog; yes, bin Laden was unarmed; yes, the SEALs found his porn.

But Schmidle reveals tons of new details, too. One SEAL bear-hugged bin Laden’s wives, to keep them from detonating suicide vests (an unnecessary precaution, it turns out). The commandos considered tunneling into the compound — until overhead imagery showed that the water table would prevent any digging. At least three of the SEALs were part of the operation that rescued Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates.

Since the bin Laden raid, the government of Pakistan claimed it was kicking dozens of U.S. military trainers out of the country. Islamabad made noises about shutting down a base from which U.S. drones took off. Generally, relations between the two countries have gone into the toilet.

But the drone attacks haven’t let up. Will the special operations raids continue, as well? Or was the bin Laden operation the final mission?



One side note: at last week’s Aspen Security Forum, Special Operations Command chief Adm. Eric Olson refused again and again to answer questions about the bin Laden raid. Too much had been disclosed already. “For the special operations community, the 15 minutes of fame lasted about 14 minutes too long,” Olson said. But the admiral – who oversaw the mission, is responsible for all special operations forces, and almost certainly approved Schmidle’s access to his troops – did offer one thought: the raid was routine. A “dozenish” of these kill-or-capture missions were launched every night, mostly in Afghanistan. “Eleven went left,” Olson noted, “one went right.”

Interestingly, a senior Defense Department official talking to Schmidle used almost identical language. “Most of the missions take off and go left,” he said. “This one took off and went right.” Perhaps it’s not so bad if those 15 minutes last another second or two longer.

Riaz Haq said...

While Bin Laden is said to have lived undetected in Abbottabad, Pakistan for 5 years until his killing by the CIA in May, Whitey Bulger, another man on FBI's 10 Most Wanted, lived undetected in the United States for 17 years until he was arrested in June, according to UK's Telegraph newspaper.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington, compared the two situations in a conversation with The Atlantic:

I just got off the phone with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, who was adamant that Pakistan assisted the U.S. in locating Bin Laden, and who responded to criticism that Pakistan should have been able to locate Bin Laden by noting American law enforcement's difficulty in capturing wanted criminals inside the U.S. He made specific reference to the notorious Boston gangland figure James J. "Whitey" Bulger: "If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can't Osama Bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?" Haqqani asked. Bulger, the former head of Boston's Winter Hill gang, was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List in mid-1999, two months after Bin Laden himself first appeared on the list. Haqqani continued, "The fact is, Mafia figures manage to do this sort of thing in Brooklyn, and Pakistan is a country that does not have the highly-developed law enforcement capabilities that your country possesses."

Haqqani went on to say, "President Obama has answered the question about Pakistan's role. It wouldn't have been possible to get Bin Laden without Pakistan's help. People are piling on this one, but the fact is, it is very plausible for someone to live undetected for long periods of time."


http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/05/pakistani-ambassador-america-cant-find-whitey-bulger-so-why-do-you-expect-us-to-locate-bin-laden/238156/

Riaz Haq said...

US sources say the special forces soldiers killed by the Taliban today were from the Navy Seal unit which killed Osama Bin Laden, but are "unlikely" to be the same personnel, according to the BBC:

Thirty US troops, said to be mostly special forces, have been killed, reportedly when a Taliban rocket downed their helicopter in east Afghanistan.

Seven Afghan commandos and a civilian interpreter were also on the Chinook, officials say.

US sources say the special forces were from the Navy Seal unit which killed Osama Bin Laden, but are "unlikely" to be the same personnel.

This is the largest single US loss of life in the Afghan conflict.

The numbers of those killed have now been confirmed by the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan.

The Chinook went down in the early hours of Saturday in Wardak province, said a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office.

It was returning from an operation against the Taliban in which eight insurgents are believed to have been killed.

A senior official of President Barack Obama's administration said the helicopter was apparently shot down, Associated Press news agency reports.

An official with the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan told the New York Times the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says it is rare for the Taliban to shoot down aircraft.

The Taliban say they have modified their rocket-propelled grenades to improve their accuracy but that may not be true, our correspondent says.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14430735

Riaz Haq said...

Radio Pakistan has archived a treasure trove of 3.5 million minutes of its broadcast, including historic speeches and interviews of national leaders, that are now available on the internet, according to Pakistan Today:

Broadcast transmissions of Radio Pakistan could be accessed via the internet and mobile streaming throughout the world and all past archives would be available on Youtube. The websites are available both in Urdu and English languages but they also give access to different programmes in 22 regional languages. The director general of the PBC said the new web portal, mobile streaming, video streaming and the Youtube project were aimed at connect the country’s youth to Radio Pakistan, which had been the most reliable medium of information. The new website www.radio.gov.pk is a dynamic site and all data is linked to Twitter and Facebook, Solangi said.
The new website was developed by the staff of the Radio Pakistan without any external funding and technical help. The website has a separate page for the programme side that contains online access to different programmes. The website covers sports, business, showbiz, and daily weather reports. The website also provides links to FM 101, FM 93, PLANET 94, FM 93 and some of the regional stations. The site could be accessed via cell-phone as well.
The archives include speeches of the foreign heads of state, speeches of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-i-Millat Liaqat Ali Khan, Mather-i-Millat Fatima Jinnah, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhuttoo, dramas and documentaries.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/07/radio-pakistan-goes-online/

http://www.radio.gov.pk/newsdetail-1386

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India story on "Aalu Anday", a satirical music video gone viral on Youtube:

NEW DELHI: When the music video of "Aalu Anday", an unsparing song that lampoons Pakistan's top politicians and generals from Ashfaq Kayani to Zia-ul-Haq, from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan, was released last month, it immediately became an internet sensation.

But the bitingly satirical number was merely the latest in a long chain of similar popular anti-establishment tracks by other well-known Pakistan singers and groups such as Shehzad Roy, Junoon and Laal who have laughed at and lambasted the high and mighty across the border.

"We are the silent majority of Pakistan who are speaking up now. We are not trying to give solutions, but only trying to create an environment where things can be discussed openly," says 27-year-old Ali Aftab Saeed, a band member of Beygairat Brigade, the Lahore-based 'political rock' band who created Aalu Anday. Incidentally, the three band members (Daniyal Malik and 15-year-old guitarist Hamza Malik being the other two) are self-confessedly 'hardcore' RD Burman fans and Anurag Kashyap admirers.

A little courage in the heart and a guitar in hand go a long way in expressing notes of dissent across the border. The Beygairat Brigade's act is the latest in a tradition where singers and satirists have routinely ridiculed and castigated politicians in their music and lyrics. In 2008, singer Shehzad Roy courted controversy with Laga Reh, a hard-hitting track attacking the establishment.

Earlier Sufi-rock band Junoon faced censorship for songs like Ehtesaab, which hit out at political corruption and was banned by the Pakistani state TV. Now, bands such as Laal have joined the party providing music to the fiery protest poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, known for producing art out of defiance. TV channels refused to play their song, Jhooth ka uncha sar, said to be "too anti-army" in sentiment.

"In the beginning Pakistani bands used music to express dissent because other avenues of communication were closed to them. When you are in a repressive environment you naturally find other ways to communicate and music became that outlet. Nowadays things are much more open, but I think the association between music and free speech remains," says satirist and stand-up comic Saad Haroon.

In a country racked by terrorist violence and extreme disillusionment with the state, humour not only works as a form of subversion but also as relief and release.

The identity of Beygairat Brigade is constructed as an antithesis to what they call the "ghairat brigade" (honor brigade): political analysts and TV show hosts who have taken it upon themselves to uphold the honor of the Pakistani state as they understand it.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-Pakistan-protest-music-is-a-tradition/articleshow/10562389.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP story about a Pakistani rapper Adil Omar:

...That was four years ago, and Omar has now recorded songs with several other American rappers, including Everlast from House of Pain, Xzibit and one of the members of Limp Bizkit.

He plans to release his first album next year and has established himself as Pakistan's biggest - and perhaps only - rap star. His rise illustrates a side of Pakistan that is often obscured by the steady stream of news about the Taliban and Al Qaida that comes out of the country.

Many Pakistani cities have thriving subcultures that get little attention in the West. Pakistan has a rich musical tradition, including the performance of Urdu-language love poems called ghazals and mystical Sufi music called Qawwali.

Pakistani rock bands have long been popular, as have songs from Bollywood movies. But hard-core rap like Omar's laced with profanity and sexual innuendo is almost unheard of, and could even be dangerous in a society plagued by militants.

"Violence seems to be totally acceptable in this culture, but sex and bad language in music and art seems to be totally unacceptable," said Omar, a clean-cut looking 20-year-old with short black hair who favors black sunglasses and T-shirts with half-naked women.

Omar, who sings in English, insists he is not a political rapper, but his latest song, Paki Rambo, is about a vigilante who hunts the Taliban. "Ambush your camp, my inglorious crew. Straight bastards, brawny and stronger than you," sang Omar. "Take classes, learn how we got em on wax. Hit the base with a bag full of Taliban scalps."
-----------
"It's the P to the A to the K to the I. Armed to the teeth till the day that I die," sang Omar. "R to the A to the M B O. Paki Rambo in the place." The song is part of the soundtrack for an upcoming Pakistani movie, Gol Chakkar, and the directors helped Omar produce a slick music video that has been released on YouTube.
----------
A young boy walks around with a mink stole around his neck. The market for Omar's music in Pakistan is small, limited mainly to elite Pakistani kids like himself who speak English and live lifestyles closer to their Western counterparts than the country's conservative majority.

Extremists who believe music is a violation of Islamic law have bombed CD shops in some parts of Pakistan. The upmarket crowd was on display at a rare concert Omar held this past weekend at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.

Well-coiffed women in tight jeans and young hipsters in velour jackets held up iPhones and Blackberries to record the show. "We really enjoy Adil's music because it represents the young generation," said Faizaan Bomassy, a 23-year engineer wearing a white Playboy hoody.

Even among Omar's friends and fans, some were surprised by the swearing and sexual references that flow through his music. "I think it's a little explicit sometimes, but I think it's good music," said Waleed Ali Khan, a 20-year-old student. "I think he is breaking new ground and paving the way for new artists."

Omar was born in London but moved to Islamabad when he was very young. He began writing lyrics at the age of 10 when his father died and his mother was bedridden for several years with a serious illness.
---------
Paki Rambo and Omar's collaborations with American rap stars will appear on the album he plans to release next year, The Mushroom Cloud Effect. About a third of the songs were recorded in Los Angeles, and the rest in Omar's bedroom in his mother's house in Islamabad...........


http://gulfnews.com/arts-entertainment/music/rapper-breaks-new-ground-in-conservative-pakistan-1.921804

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjlYGzVk-6o&feature=related

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story about anger in Pakistan after the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO troops:

Readers of Dawn newspaper, commenting online, were in no doubt how the Pakistani government should respond to Saturday's killing by US forces of 24 soldiers on Pakistan's side of the Afghan border. "Pakistan should acquire anti-aircraft defence systems ... so that in the future Pakistan can give Nato forces a proper reply," said Ali. "This is outrageous," wrote another reader, Zia Khan. "We should cut off all ties with the US. As long as we are getting US [anti-terror] aid ... Pakistan will be attacked in such a manner. They can never be trusted." Another, Obaid, turned his wrath on the Pakistani authorities: "Our self-centred establishment with their fickle loyalties can't even demand that the killers be tried in a neutral court ... What is the ability of our armed forces? If they can't repel or intercept an attack of this intensity, then what's their purpose? This is not a time to get mad. It's time to get even."

The fury of these respondents comes as no surprise, but Washington should treat it with deadly seriousness all the same, for this latest outrage is another fateful signpost on the road to a potential security and geostrategic disaster that may ultimately make Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

The 10-year-old Afghan war, neither wholly won nor lost, is slowly drawing to a close – or so Washington postulates. But what has not stopped is the linked, escalating destabilisation of the infinitely more important, more populous, and nuclear-armed Pakistan. If Washington does not quickly learn to tread more carefully, it may find the first US-Pakistan war is beginning just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.
-------------
Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon top brass have responded to Saturday's killing with the usual expressions of regret and of determination to "investigate", without formally admitting responsibility. Their pronouncements are worthless, transparently so.

The belief that weak, impoverished, divided Pakistan has no alternative but to slavishly obey its master's voice could turn out to be one of the seminal strategic miscalculations of the 21st century. Alternative alliances with China or Russia aside, Muslim Pakistan, if bullied and scorned for long enough by its western mentors, could yet morph through external trauma and internal collapse into quite a different animal. The future paradigm here is not another well-trained Indonesia or Malaysia. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/27/pakistan-strategic-error?newsfeed=true

Riaz Haq said...

Imran Khan attends blog awards in Karachi, talks about revolution:

To the audience’s delight, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan made a surprise entrance at the second Pakistan Blog Awards that kicked off Friday evening at the Regent Plaza hotel.

Acknowledging bloggers in Pakistan, Imran said that a silent revolution is building up in Pakistan and that the bloggers are a vital part of the revolution.

“Political class is in a state of shock due to this revolution,” the PTI chief said. Stand-up comedian Sami Shah had his reservations about Imran’s presence, saying, “It turned political all of a sudden”. However, Shah said that the event was a positive step.

The awards were attended by prominent, as well as the not-so-prominent faces of the Pakistani blogosphere and cyberspace. The popular opinion remained that the blogosphere has shown an exponential growth.

“This year around, it is great,” blogger Sana Saleem said. “You can gauge the importance of media from the fact that almost every news organisation’s website has a blog now,” she added.

Applause roared across the hall, which housed around 300 people, as Rabia Gharib, the host for the event started to announce the winners.

“Each nomination represents a different hue of Pakistan,” Gharib said.

“The environment is electric,” remarked CEO P@sha Jehan Ara. “Blogs are definitely going to go a long way.”

Jehan Ara, who began blogging a few years back, said that there were about 25 blog nominations in every category.

However, prominent talk-show host Faisal Qureshi said, “Pakistani blogs have quantity, but don’t have quality. We are a nation of complainers, not advocacy. We should be more responsible about our content,” he added.

“Internet usage is converging in Pakistan, which is helping new and social media,” said Badar Khushnood, the Google Pakistan’s country consultant. “There is always a certain level of noise and hype, but in my belief, blogs have done a lot of good to citizen journalism.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/311277/internet-advocacy-blogs-in-pakistan--no-more-a-silent-revolution/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post titled "A Pakistani Spring?" by Huma Yusuf in NY Times:

KARACHI – While I was living in Washington on a research fellowship last year, Pakistanis often urged me to use the opportunity to promote Pakistan’s “positive aspects” to Americans. With the country steeped in ethnic and sectarian violence and regressing along the Human Development Index, this seemed like a challenge, and I’d struggle to muster compelling examples.

No longer. An exciting shift is now underway in Pakistan: the young are becoming politically engaged. In coffee shops, beauty salons and workplaces, instead of gossiping or deconstructing the latest televised drama, youngsters are arguing about the merits of various politicians. As a journalist, I can’t walk into a social gathering without getting grilled by my peers and their younger siblings about this policy or that. Older Pakistanis who have long bemoaned the apathy of the country’s educated, middle-class youth are sighing in relief at this newfound activism. As one elderly family friend put it, “Your lot has finally woken up.”

Unlike their counterparts in the Arab world, young Pakistanis are less inspired by revolutionary rhetoric than in producing results through the existing system. They are demanding issue-based politics and sound government policies to reduce corruption, create jobs and recalibrate U.S.-Pakistani relations. Blogging in the Express Tribune, Muhammad Bilal Lakhani describes the evolution, “A visible and growing number of young, educated professionals in Pakistan are channeling their energies to incrementally improve the system by engaging with the current set up.”

Pakistani youngsters’ desire for change and a greater stake in their country’s future has fueled the unexpected success of the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. He boasts more than 150,000 followers on Twitter and more than 330,000 Facebook likes. The student wing of his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) party counts over 4,000 members in Karachi. A P.T.I. rally in Lahore in October attracted more than 7,000 students and thousands of young voters; with so many fresh faces in the crowd, the line between political gathering and rock concert seemed blurred.

And this energy goes beyond P.T.I. supporters. Several social media sites have hosted online voter-registration drives for the 2013 general elections. Many of these are not affiliated with any political party; they are simply seeking to boost youth participation at the polls. Pakistan’s mainstream political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (P.P.P.) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (P.M.L.N.), are launching youth-oriented campaigns and showcasing a new generation of politicians. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, of the P.P.P., is encouraging private media outlets to emphasize youth-oriented programming. The opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads the P.M.L.N., recently drafted a new strategy to revamp his party’s Facebook presence and, in a bid to entice young voters, promised to distribute 300,000 laptops to students if he is elected.

The heightened political engagement of Pakistan’s youth is especially significant these days as judicial activism and military interference in the political arena threaten the country’s democratic foundations. Now that’s a positive aspect of Pakistan I’m happy to highlight to Americans or anyone around the world.


http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/a-pakistani-spring/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on Pakistanis on Facebook:

According to latests statistics, over six million Pakistanis use Facebook, putting the country on number 26 in the list of countries where Facebook users are based.

The figure, which social media researchers put at 6.08 million people, includes 4.14 million men and 1.94 million women.

Although that sounds like a lot of people, the figure is significantly less than half of the Pakistan population that has access to the internet. According Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, more than 20 million Pakistanis are online, which means that the number using Facebook is only 32.86% of the total online population.

While this is a significant indication of the potential that Facebook can still exploit in Pakistan, what is an even more important fact that comes out of the research is that the number of new users who signed in for a Facebook account increased by one million in the six months between August 2011 and January 2012.

The research shows that 5.19 million Pakistani Facebook users are over the age of 18 years. The appeal continues to be more for men, as 3.57 million of these users are men while 1.59 million are women.

The research shows that the greatest number of Facebook users (55.4%) is between the age of 18 and 24 years. The number of people in this age group who use the website is 3.03 million. The lowest number of users is, not surprisingly, in the age group of above 65 years which constitutes barely 1% of the total internet population.

Out of the users whose relationship status is single, 617,900 are women and 87,600 are men. More than 12,000 men are in a relationship compared to 71,680 women. The number for women is once again the highest, with over 95,720 married as compared to 15,120 men.

Among the users, 2.02 million people are college graduates, 1.46 million of whom are men while half a million are women.

Facebook, which was launched in 2004 but opened its doors to the public in 2006, has over 800 million active users worldwide.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/330906/over-6-million-pakistanis-on-facebook/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post blog about Internet censorship attempts in Pakistan:

... government ad in Pakistani newspapers Thursday calls for bids for a national firewall for “filtering and blocking” of content on the Web, the technology and culture blog Boing Boing reports.

For many Pakistanis, the ad — posted by the Ministry of Information Technology’s R & D department — prompted flashbacks to the last major incident of Internet censorship in the country, on “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last May. The cartoon contest spurred Pakistani authorities to order that Internet service providers block access to Facebook and other social media sites, later adding YouTube to the list. Cellphone company Mobilink said access to other sites with “blasphemous content” were also blocked, and a Post reporter said Wikipedia was not working.

The day after the cartoon contest, those sites went back up, but the incident had a lasting impact on Pakistan’s Internet censors.

The following month, a petition presented to the Lahore High Court called on Pakistani Internet service providers to filter content labeled as “smut.”

Also in June, users of Mobilink reported that they were unable to search for several politically sensitive keywords, including the name of the country’s president, according to Opennet.net.

And now this. More information about the proposed filtering and blocking system is on the Ministry of Information Technology’s Web site (here and here.) The site says the content to be blocked is anything deemed “undesirable” by the ministry “from time to time.”

Each hardware box, the ministry also says, “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs ... with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/pakistan-calls-for-bids-for-national-internet-filtering-and-blocking-system/2012/02/23/gIQACuOAWR_blog.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on Indian govt blocking or censoring social media following panic exodus on NE migrants from Bangalore:

Indian authorities have cracked down on social networking sites following unrest and an exodus of migrant workers fearing revenge attacks.

The government threatened legal action against the websites if they did not remove "inflammatory" content.

Facebook and Google have removed some material, but only in cases where it broke rules on hate speech and inciting violence.

The government said Twitter's response had been "extremely poor".

However, it acknowledged this "may be in part because they don't have an office in India".

Twitter could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Doctored videos

Authorities claim that threatening messages and pictures - which they allege have mostly originated in Pakistan - have been sent over the web to migrant workers following clashes between tribes in the north-east Indian state of Assam last month.

Fearing more violence against ethnic minorities, thousands of people have fled the cities of Bangalore and Pune in recent days.

The government has said social networking sites were used for scaremongering.
----------
It is an unwelcome distraction as India tries to position itself as a developing hub for hi-tech business and commerce in Asia.

Google has said that between July and December 2011 there was a 49% jump in requests from India for content to be removed from its services, compared with the previous six months.

In 2011, the government sought greater access to the tight security system used on Blackberry smartphones.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19343887

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on derogatory film "Innocence of Muslims" mocking Prophet Muhammad:

For Google last week, the decision was clear. An anti-Islamic video that provoked violence worldwide was not hate speech under its rules because it did not specifically incite violence against Muslims, even if it mocked their faith.

The White House was not so sure, and it asked Google to reconsider the determination, a request the company rebuffed.

Although the administration’s request was unusual, for Google, it represented the kind of delicate balancing act that Internet companies confront every day.

These companies, which include communications media like Facebook and Twitter, write their own edicts about what kind of expression is allowed, things as diverse as pointed political criticism, nudity and notions as murky as hate speech. And their employees work around the clock to check when users run afoul of their rules.

Google is not the only Internet company to grapple in recent days with questions involving the anti-Islamic video, which appeared on YouTube, which Google owns. Facebook on Friday confirmed that it had blocked links to the video in Pakistan, where it violates the country’s blasphemy law. A spokeswoman said Facebook had also removed a post that contained a threat to a United States ambassador, after receiving a report from the State Department; Facebook has declined to say in which country the ambassador worked.
-----------
mpany said, “Facebook’s policy prohibits content that threatens or organizes violence, or praises violent organizations.”

Facebook also explicitly prohibits what it calls “hate speech,” which it defines as attacking a person. In addition, it allows users to report content they find objectionable, which Facebook employees then vet. Facebook’s algorithms also pick up certain words that are then sent to human inspectors to review; the company declined to provide details on what kinds of words set off that kind of review. ...


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/technology/on-the-web-a-fine-line-on-free-speech-across-globe.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on free tweeting in Pakistan:

Whenever a country that has a history of internet censorship gains better access to one of the internet’s most important tools, it’s big news.

And that’s exactly what has happened today. Starting today, Pakistan’s largest provider of cellular services has announced that its prepaid customers can tweet away – for free.

“Data charges for accessing Twitter have been made ZERO for all Mobilink prepaid subscribers. Subscribers don’t require to subscribe to this offer since it is available for all prepaid subscribers by default,” says Mobilink.

That means that users can tweet and retweet all they want without incurring any data charges. This removes one of the impediments from Pakistani Twitter users, who have faced state censorship of Twitter in the past.

Back in May of 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority shut off Twitter access for the entire country for approximately 8 hours following the circulation of content deemed blasphemous on the network. Some speculated that the move had less to do with the specific content and more to do with a simple test as to whether a state-wide blockage was feasible.

As far as the rest of the internet goes, the Pakistani government has a history of censorship in the areas of so-called blasphemy and pornography. Recently, that censorship has moved to content that falls in the realm of political speech. In a country with this track record, free access to Twitter is a significant opportunity for its people – considering access remains open.

There are some caveats to the deal. Mainly, tweets must be sent via mobile.twitter.com – not Twitter’s native apps.

Also:

“[G]oing on external links will result in data charging. Whenever a subscriber clicks on an external link, he will be shown a notification indicating that standard data charges apply to view the link. External link will be opened after subscriber’s consent only.”

But for the purposes of simply communicating (being that all-important amateur reporter), this is a great thing for Pakistani tweeters.


http://www.webpronews.com/pakistans-mobiilink-offers-free-tweeting-to-its-customers-2013-04

Riaz Haq said...

Growing use of social media is driving political and social activism and significant social change in Pakistan.

Much of the communication and organization of civil society members in support of the lawyers' movement used social media platforms like facebook and twitter.

Pakistan saw the beginnings of online civil and political activism in 2008-2009 when the lawyers, according to Woodrow Wilson Center's scholar Huma Yusuf, "used chat forums, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, and blogs to organize the Long March, publicize its various events and routes, and ensure that citizen reporting live from the march itself can be widely circulated to counter the government-influenced coverage of the protest on mainstream media outlets (such as state-owned radio and private news channels relying on government-issue licenses".

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/05/can-bin-laden-raid-ignite-twitter.html

New media have broken stories where traditional media has failed, like Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's son Arsalan's corruption scandal.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/06/pakistans-familygate-mediagate-scandals.html

Politicians and their supporters are active on facebook and twitters to organize and get their messages out and influence public opinion and get votes.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/11/imran-khans-social-media-campaign.html

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/05/election-ads-money-buys-favorable-media.html

New young talent is getting attention by posting its protest music videos online.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/11/pakistans-protest-music-in-social-media.html


Young men in Lahore have organized through facebook to clean city streets.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/05/young-pakistanis-inspire-with-public.html

Young men and women are defying old customs of arranged marriages based on parents' choices and going for civil marriages outside their families and biraderies. Some of it is resulting in violence by the old guard as evidenced in more honor killings.

In 1992, the applications for court marriages in Karachi amounted to about 10 or 15, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent, according to Arif Hasan. By 2006, it increased to more than 250 applications for court marriages per day in Karachi. Significantly, more than half of the couples seeking court recognition of their betrothal came from rural areas of Sindh. This is yet another indication of how the entire feudal system and its values are in rapid collapse.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/12/violent-conflict-is-part-of-pakistans.html

Flashmobs are becoming more common.

Gays are finding each other through social media and organizing underground gay parties in Karachi and elsewhere.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/23811826

Riaz Haq said...

Couple of stories by BBC on gay life in Pakistan:

Mobeen Azhar investigates life in gay, urban Pakistan. Despite Pakistan's religious conservatism and homosexuality being a crime, he finds a vibrant gay scene, all aided by social media. He meets gay people at underground parties, shrines and hotels and finds out what it's really like to be gay in Pakistan. As one man tells him, "The best thing about being gay in Pakistan is you can easily hook up with guys over here. You just need to know the right moves and with...
-------------
Ahmed Asif’s wife is supportive of her husbands work (pictured).

Ahmed has been a masseur for his entire working life. He claims to have slept with over 3000 men but perhaps even more surprisngly, he has 2 wives and 8 children. One of his wives Sumera wears a burka and the nikab, the full face covering. It could be assumed that she is religiously conservative. In fact she’s extremely accepting of her husband’s work and says she wishes more of society would keep an open mind. “I know he has sex. No problem. If he doesn’t work how will the kids eat?"


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01fkg9m

Riaz Haq said...

Social media use in Pakistan is small but growing very rapidly.

Its economic value is hard to gauge now but you can see its use in the start of viral marketing campaigns.

As the number of users grows, companies will start to devote more and more resources to it to generate more revenue and profits.

Here are a few useful links:

http://samramuslim.com/pakistan-social-media-marketing-landscape/

http://tribune.com.pk/story/548285/the-socio-economic-impact-of-social-media/

https://wiki.smu.edu.sg/digitalmediaasia/Digital_Media_in_Pakistan

http://www.juancole.com/2010/05/pakistans-social-media-ban-endangers-economic-growth.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ story on how some people are using fake twitter accounts to boost their "followers":

One day earlier this month, Jim Vidmar bought 1,000 fake Twitter accounts for $58 from an online vendor in Pakistan.

He then programmed the accounts to "follow" the Twitter account of rapper Dave Murrell, who calls himself Fyrare and pays Mr. Vidmar to boost his standing on the social network. Mr. Vidmar's fake accounts also rebroadcast Mr. Murrell's tweets, amplifying his Twitter voice.

Mr. Murrell says he sometimes buys Twitter ads to raise his profile, "but you'll get more with Jim." He says many Twitter users try to make their followings look bigger than they are. "If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right," he says. "It's part of the game."

Mr. Vidmar offers a window into the shadowy world of false accounts and computerized robots on Twitter, one of the world's largest social networks. Surrounded by a dozen computers at his home overlooking a golf course near the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Vidmar has been buying fake accounts and unleashing them on Twitter for six years.

Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.

His are among millions of fake accounts on Twitter. Mr. Vidmar and other owners manage them to simulate Twitter users: they tweet; retweet, or forward, other tweets; send and reply to messages; and follow and unfollow other Twitter accounts, among other actions.

Some entertainers pay for fake followers. But false accounts can be political tools as well. In 2011, thousands of fake accounts disrupted anti-Kremlin protesters on Twitter.

The fake accounts remain a cloud over Twitter Inc. in the wake of its successful initial public offering. "Twitter is where many people get news," says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. "If what is trending on Twitter is being faked by robots, people need to know that. This will and should undermine trust."
-------
Mr. Ding, the Barracuda Labs researcher, says the fake-account market is "going very strong." He and other researchers say Twitter doesn't appear to be applying the Berkeley researchers' techniques to root out other fake accounts.

Mr. Vidmar's robots have helped make his clients "trending topics" on Twitter, giving them special mention on Twitter users' home pages. The trending topics appear just below the "promoted trend" that the company sells for as much as $200,000 a day. The trending topics aren't marked as "sponsored," so they appear more genuine.

Rapper Tony Benson says hiring Mr. Vidmar to promote his account on Twitter is "the best decision I ever made." Mr. Vidmar's robots made the rapper, known as Philly Chase, a trending topic so often around Philadelphia that he attracted attention from local newspapers. Prominence on Twitter led to gigs, fans and ways to promote his videos, Mr. Benson says.

Mr. Vidmar uses software to follow tens of thousands of accounts for his clients, another tactic Twitter prohibits. Being followed prompts many Twitter users to return the favor, and follow his clients.

In September, Mr. Vidmar used software to follow more than 100,000 Twitter users in a week for the Australian rock band The Contagious; that boosted the band's following by 20,000.

The band has a "verified" account, meaning it has taken extra steps to prove to Twitter that the account is real.


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304607104579212122084821400