Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

You wouldn't know from the headlines what Gallup global poll on wellbeing found through its recent survey: More Pakistanis say they are thriving than do Indians or Chinese.

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveal that Pakistan ranks 40th with 32% of Pakistanis saying they are thriving. By contrast, India ranks 71st with 21% of the Indians thriving and China ranks 92nd with only 12% of the Chinese considering themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Pakistanis are a resilient people. But the only tangible explanation for Pakistanis ranking ahead of their neighbors in the wellbeing Gallup survey can be found in the strength of Pakistan's rural economy. It is being spurred by the higher food and commodity prices resulting in the transfer of additional new tax-free farm income of about Rs. 300 billion in the current fiscal year alone to Pakistan's ruling party's power base of landowners in small towns and villages in Southern Punjab and Rural Sindh, from those working in the the economically stagnant urban industrial and service sectors who pay bulk of the taxes. The downside of it is a bigger hole in Pakistan's pubic finances which is being funded with increased foreign aid and loans.



Moazzam Husain, the Director General of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, describes the current rural resurgence as follows in a recent blog post titled "The Other Pakistan":

"GLORIOUS countryside lies between Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur. Travelling across six districts in Punjab, before a blazing summer sets in, I experienced endless fields of wheat waiting to turn golden, of freshly harvested mustard, acres of ripe sugarcane and sprawling mango orchards.

Far from the drudge and gloom of metropolitan Pakistan, economic privation, traffic snarls, extreme religion and the cricket World Cup agony, this is another Pakistan. Over a quarter of a century after the green revolution ended the rural economy is back in boom, this time on the back of rising prices. The feel-good factor is all around.

Burgeoning commodity prices are churning unprecedented amounts of cash through the farm sector. I pass tractor-pulled trolleys laden with sugarcane waiting outside sugar mills. The crushing season is in full swing. Meanwhile, the flour mills are still grinding away at last year’s surplus crop. This is an agro economy at serious work.

Alongside the cash economy, the place is also brimming with ideas, and with an entrepreneurial spirit. A young man I meet at Rahim Yar Khan’s chamber of commerce has an IT degree and owns an ice cream distribution business spawning an elaborate cold chain across three districts. He tells me that sales are surging because rural society is transitioning to modern desserts which are now more affordable than traditional sweets like mithai and khoya.

Meanwhile, he’s toying with the bigger vision of an electronic marketplace for agricultural produce. Live connectivity to grain mandis and markets for fresh produce and milk will empower farmers to obtain prices online and through their cellphones. He wants to materialise this and wants tips. I give him my two cents worth: study similar models, write a concept paper, galvanise partners around it, put in seed money and get the venture to mezzanine level."


In 2008, the government pushed the procurement price of wheat up from Rs. 625 per 40 kg to Rs. 950 per 40 kg. This action immediately triggered inflationary pressures that have continued to persist as food accounts for just over 40% of Pakistan's consumer price index. According to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) analysis, cumulative price of wheat surged by 120 per cent since 2008, far higher than the 40 per cent between 2003 and 2007. it is also many times greater than the international market price increase of 22 per cent for wheat in the same period. Similarly, sugar prices have surged 184 per cent higher since 2008, compared with 46 per cent increase during 2003-07.

Bumper crops and exports at higher prices are also contributing to the rural prosperity in Pakistan. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported increased Pakistan's wheat exports in a recent story as follows:

"Asia's immediate wheat demand is being met by ample supply from Pakistan, which is exporting existing inventories to make way for the new harvest, trading executives said Monday.

"Pakistan has filled a crucial gap in Asian wheat trade due to the absence of supply from the Black Sea region," said a Singapore-based executive with a global trading company.

If Pakistan hadn't permitted wheat exports during this period of tight overall global supply, price conscious buyers in South Asia and Southeast Asia would have had to turn to costly alternative supply from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

The absence of Pakistan would have also increased demand pressure in Australia, where ports are already facing congestion and there are logistical delays in moving wheat from upcountry warehouses.

Pakistan approved wheat exports in December and shipments began the following month.

In less than four months it has shipped out an estimated 1.16 million metric tons of wheat.

The International Grains Council has projected Pakistan's wheat exports in the year ending June 30 at 1.6 million tons, the highest in at least four years."


The steps such as the increased exports, the transfer of additional Rs. 300 billion to Pakistan's agriculture sector during the current fiscal year 2010-2011 by higher prices of agriculture produce, and direct flood compensation to 1.6 million affected families at the rate of one hundred thousands rupees each are boosting economic confidence in the countryside. This infusion of money is also generating rural demand for consumer items including consumer durables such as fans, TVs, motorcycles, cars, refrigerators, etc.

The big feudal landowners have been the biggest beneficiaries of the PPP's gift of high crop prices. However, the policy has helped small farmers as well, as shown by a recent survey reported by The Nation newspaper. The survey of 300 farmers in Sind's Sukkur district was conducted by Sukkur Institute of Business Administration for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). It has highlighted the following about district's rural economy:

1. In Sukkur district, majority of the farmers are subsistence farmers. 31 percent of them own less than 5 acres of land, and another 34 percent own up to 12.5 acres of land.

2. They spend an average of Rs. 1,611 a month on their children's education, with some of them spending up to Rs. 12,000 a month.

3. Wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane are the major crops being cultivated by 93 per cent, 58 percent, 37 percent and 12 percent of the respondent farmers in that order.

4. 24 percent of them are also growing fruits including dates, mangoes and bananas.

5. 22 percent of the respondent own livestock.

6. About half (49 percent) use privately purchased seeds for wheat cultivation, 33 perecent use their own retained seed and 18 perecent use the seed purchased from Public Sector Seed Corporations.

7. On average, a farmer uses 96.73 Kg chemical fertilizer per acre with the maximum and minimum of 350 Kg and 40 Kg respectively. The average per acre cost of wheat production is Rs. 10,670.

8. All 300 farmers are using tractors for cultivation and preparing land for crops, and some are using tractors for fetching their crop produce to market.

It appears from the economic data and anecdotal evidence that bulk of the 32% of the Pakistani poll respondents who say they are thriving have income from the rural sectors of Pakistan's economy.

As expected, the people in the developed world report higher state of wellbeing than those in the developing nations. With Danes ranked the most satisfied people with 72 percent of respondents considering themselves “thriving,” people in Sweden and Canada follow close behind, each at 69 percent in Gallup’s 2010 Global Wellbeing Survey. The US came in somewhat near the bottom among developed western nations, with 59 percent of Americans thriving.

A median of just 21 percent were found to be “thriving” in the Gallup survey polling 1,000 adults, age 15 and older, in both face-to-face and telephone interviews in each country throughout 2010.

African nations show up near the bottom of the list, with only 12 percent of the respondents considering themselves to be thriving in Egypt, followed by 6 percent in Kenya and Chad with 1 percent ranking it dead last at 124.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Rural Economy

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Agriculture, Textiles Employ Most Indians and Pakistanis

New Index Finds Indians Poorer Than Africans, Pakistanis

Pakistan's Exports and Remittances Rise to New Highs

Sugar Crisis in Pakistan

Agricultural Growth in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Pakistan's Rural Economic Survey

Pakistan's KSE Outperforms BRIC Exchanges in 2010

High Cost of Failure to Aid Flood Victims

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2010

Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009

Darkness Before Dawn? Future of Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

World Bank Report on Rural Poverty in Pakistan

Copper, Gold Deposits Worth $500 Billion at Reko Diq, Pakistan

China's Trade and Investment in South Asia

India's Twin Deficits

Pakistan's Economy 2008-2010

Sunday, April 17, 2011

HEC's Indispensable Role in Pakistan's Higher Education

Those who cite the 1996 World Bank study to argue that the social rates of return for higher education in developing countries are 13 percent lower than return on basic education must remember the following: Hundreds of millions of lives in Asia were saved as a result of the success of the Green Revolution that was enabled by a combination of US aid, and the capacity of the recipient nations to absorb it by virtue of the availability of local college graduates in agriculture and engineering.

The Green Revolution succeeded in South Asia and failed in Africa mainly because of the differences in domestic technical and institutional capacity to absorb foreign aid and technical know-how in the two regions. Simply put, Africa did not have the basic critical mass of people who had the benefit of higher education and training in agriculture and irrigation that was available in India and Pakistan in the 1960s.

Going forward, the importance of tertiary education will only grow bigger in developing nations. The physical capital that was essential for development in the 20th century will no longer be sufficient in the 21st century. Instead, the human intellectual capital will determine success or failure of nations in this century. In addition to basic health care, the key input for the development of human capital is quality education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The key role of higher education is to enable basic institutional capacity building for economic, political and social development. The college and university graduates with arts, business, science or technology degrees help promote economy, democracy, social mobility, entrepreneurship, and intellectual and industrial competitiveness of their entire nation.

Pakistan's Higher Education Commission has led a successful transformation of higher education in Pakistan since 2002 through reforms initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, appointed by President Musharraf.

In a paper titled "Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability", Fred M. Hayward, an independent higher education consultant, assessed the success of the HEC-led reforms as follows:

"By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the Higher Education Commission. For the first time in decades university budgets were at reasonable levels. Quality had increased significantly, and several institutions were on their way to becoming world-class institutions. Most universities had signed onto the tenure-track system. The first master’s and PhD students were returning from their studies to good facilities and substantial research support. Many expatriate Pakistanis returned from abroad with access to competitive salaries. About 95 percent of people sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others. Student enrollment increases brought the total enrollment of college age students to 3.9 percent—well on the way to the target of 5 percent by 2010.

"Research publications more than doubled between 2004 and 2006. Especially important was the emphasis on quality in all areas including recruitment, PhD training, tenure, publications—all requiring external examiners. While the percentage of PhD faculty has slipped slightly from 29 to 22 percent, largely because rising enrollments have taken place faster than increases in PhD training with higher standards, the extensive faculty development programs of the commission will soon result in the return of sufficient numbers of PhDs to more than reverse that trend. During this time the student/faculty ratio has improved from 1:21 to 1:19, and a number of universities have focused on upgrading the quality of their teaching programs. By 2008, a broad transformation of higher education had taken place."


Over 5,000 scholars have participated in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan. Thousands of students and faculty have been awarded HEC scholarships to study abroad. The HEC has instituted major upgrades for laboratories and information and communications technology, rehabilitation of facilities, expansion of research support, and development of one of the best digital libraries in the region. A quality assurance and accreditation process has also established.

Unfortunately, the leadership in Pakistan in recent years has demonstrated its total lack of the most basic appreciation of the critical importance of education in the South Asian nation.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

Now there is an attempt to dismantle the HEC in the name of provincial autonomy under the recently approved 18th amendment of the Constitution. By all indications, this attack on the HEC appears to be politically motivated to punish the HEC for its role in exposing fraudulent degrees of many leading politicians in the country.

More immediately, about $550 million in approved foreign grants and loans are on hold because of HEC's uncertain future.

What is at stake here is not just the future of the current students on HEC scholarships, but also the entire nation's future prospects as the world rapidly moves toward knowledge-based economy. The Pakistani government must acknowledge the potentially serious harm its actions are going to inflict on the nation and reverse course immediately.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Dr. Ata-ur Rehman Defends HEC's Role in Higher Education Reform

Human Capital and Economic Growth in Pakistan

Musharraf Legacy
Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Education Emergency

Politicians' Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan
Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Beyond the ABCs: Higher Education and Developing Countries

UK Aids Pakistani Schools

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Geo Sports TV Ban Amid Pakistan's Youth Bulge

The reason most frequently cited for Pakistan's poor performance at international sporting events is the lack of funding, especially when compared with nations where the state or private sector sponsors spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on their athletes and sports teams.

For example, the Johnson-Ali model which was developed by the duo to predict participating nations' Olympics success, suggested that Pakistan would win seven medals, including three golds, won no medals at all at Athens Olympics. In fact, Pakistan has won three golds,three silvers and four bronze medals, a total of 10 medals in the entire history of its participation in Olympics movement since 1948. Eight out of the ten medals were won by Pakistan's field hockey team. The last Olympic medal Pakistan won was a bronze in 1992.

Johnson-Ali model was developed by Economics professor Daniel Johnson and his student Ms. Ayfer Ali to predict a country's Olympic performance using per-capita income (the economic output per person), the nation's population, its political structure, its climate and the host nation advantage. The Johnson-Ali model was described in a paper, “A Tale of Two Seasons: Participation and Medal Counts at the Summer and Winter Olympics,” that was written in 1999 with Ayfer Ali, while Johnson was on sabbatical at Harvard University and Ali was a student. It was published in Social Science Quarterly in December 2004."It's just pure economics," Johnson insists. "I know nothing about the athletes. And even if I did, I didn't include it."



In terms of funding, the recent growth in Pakistan's commercial media and its coverage of sports have offered a ray of hope, particularly for major Olympics sports which have historically been ignored. And it has come in the form of commercial sponsors looking to use the media coverage to promote their products and services to consumers. Geo Super, the nation's only TV channel dedicated to covering a whole range of sporting events in Pakistan, has led the way.

In addition to promoting sports, tv channels like Geo Super also have the salutary effect in promoting youth athleticism and fitness to play the sports being glamorized by the extensive coverage.

Unfortunately, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has recently pulled the plug on Geo Super, along with AAG, another Geo channel aimed at youth. This decision appears to be have been motivated by the short-sighted desire to hurt Jang media group financially to put pressure on its news channels to tone down their criticism of the current PPP government.

This bad and ill-timed decision has come at time when Pakistan is experiencing a major youth bulge. Fifty-seven per cent of Pakistan’s population is between 15 and 64, and 41 per cent are under 15. Only four per cent are over 65, according to the UN Population Fund.



This youth bulge can either be used to ramp up economic productivity leading to unprecedented prosperity in Pakistan, or it can cause severe social strife sparking a violent revolution. Channels like Geo Super offer an opportunity to promote pursuit of fitness to help build healthier bodies and create jobs through economic activity in the form of sales of sports apparel, shoes, fitness equipment and memberships of fitness clubs.

While the PPP politicians may find it expedient in the short term to tamp down criticism, this decision is likely to hurt Pakistan's youth the most at a time when there are few other outlets to release their energy in nonviolent ways. And the longer this decision is not reversed, the more likely it will hurt Pakistan's future.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Johnson-Ali Model

Commonwealth Games Medals Per Capita 2010

IPL Mixes Cricket, Business and Entertainment

Pakistan's Youth Bulge

Geo Super Sports TV Channel

Sunday, April 10, 2011

US Mining Urdu Content on Facebook and Twitter?

Why does the US government love social media and hate Wikileaks?

The answer is simple: Unlike Wikileaks that reveals unflattering information about its inner workings, the US government sees a treasure trove of detailed data on Facebook, twitter, blogs and other social media...particularly in Urdu and Arabic in light of recent developments in the Middle East and South Asia.



All of the stuff on digital social networks can be a great source of knowledge about user data and sentiments that governments and corporations love to exploit. It can be used not only to gather valuable intelligence for better product marketing and effective government propaganda, but also to tweak policies and offer products and services through crowd-sourcing to achieve desired outcomes.

The real challenge is how to make sense of the vast amount of information, discern meaningful patterns and use it as guide for action. The current application programming interfaces (APIs) and tools for social media monitoring and analysis are still evolving. The current tools focus mainly on sentiment analysis, giving governments and companies a general sense at best.

Among the various researchers tackling the challenge is an Indian-American computer scientist Rohini Srihari. She is working under a US grant to help mine and decipher data from Urdu social media. Her company, called Janya Inc., gets funding from the Pentagon for the project.

In a recent interview with NPR Radio, Srihari explained: "What I want is to determine who are the people, places and things being talked about; Is there an opinion being expressed? Is it a positive or negative opinion being expressed?"

If the ongoing social media data mining research efforts do succeed, the rich and powerful corporations and governments will be further strengthened to manipulate the opinions and preferences of the average consumers and voters. Such an outcome could lead to people being influenced to act against their own best self-interest in the name of freedom and democracy.

Here's a video clip titled "Urdu Enters the Digital Age" featuring Srihari explaining how her software works:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pakistan to Adapt Sesame St Children's TV Show

SimSim Humara ("Ours"), the new Pakistani edition of the original American TV classic Sesame Street, is expected to be launched this year for Pakistan's pre-school children, according to the Guardian newspaper.



Launched in 1969 as a program designed to enhance school readiness in low-income and minority children, Sesame Street was the first television series to attempt to teach an educational curriculum to children as young as two years of age. Sesame Street is not entirely new to Pakistani audiences - the original American version ran on local TV during the 1990s.



Sesame Street International already co-produces 18 localized versions in Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa , and reaches millions of children in 120 nations around the world. The Indian adaptation called "Galli Galli Sim Sim" and Bangladeshi adaptation "Sisimpur" were both launched in late 2006 with USAID funding. Pakistan's SimSim Humara represents the 19th local adaptation of the 42 year old original American Classic.



Sim Sim Hamara will be set around a dhaba, Urdu name for a roadside tea shop, and it will show residents hanging out on their verandas. It will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Other characters include an energetic woman, Baaji, who enjoys family time and tradition, and Baily, a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star. They'll speak entirely in local languages - Urdu and four regional languages of Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi . The only monster from the original American version being retained is Elmo, the cheerful toddler, but he will be recast with new local personality touches. Each show will pick one word and one number to highlight.

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theater group that is collaborating with Sesame Street's American creators, told McClatchy Newspapers: "The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning. And inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated". Peerzada added that "this is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time."

Funded by a $20 million grant by US AID (United States Agency For International Development), the show will be carried by the state-owned PTV channel which reaches every nook and corner of Pakistan. It will reach 3 million pre-school kids via television screens in their homes. In addition to 78 TV episodes in Urdu and 56 in regional languages, there will also be a radio show and several mobile TV vans to show the program in remote areas and a traveling Muppet road show to front public service messages, on issues such as health, to reach 95 million people.



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

Larry Dolan, the director of the education office at USAID for Pakistan, told McClatchy that the expenditure on SimSim Humara is a valuable addition to the "series of different pots" of educational assistance the U.S. provides. "Teaching kids early on makes them much more successful when they get to school. And this program will have the capacity to encourage tolerance, which is so key to what we're trying to do here," he said.

Thirty years of research by Georgetown University Early Learning Project has shown that Sesame Street has made a huge positive impact on increasingly diverse American society.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings reported by Georgetown:

1. School-Readiness : In studies completed after Sesame Street's first two televised years, viewers experienced positive outcomes in the areas of alphabet and number knowledge, body part naming, form recognition, relational term understanding, and sorting and classification abilities.

2. Long-term Benefits : In a longitudinal study examining the long-term impact of preschool-aged viewing of Sesame Street, it was found that exposure to the program in the preschool years was significantly associated with secondary school achievement.

3. Social Impact : Sesame Street has also been evaluated with regard to its ability to teach prosocial behavior to young children. Some studies have shown that children were able to generalize demonstrated behaviors in free play situations (Zielinska & Chambers, 1995), while others have found that children were only able to imitate the behaviors in situations similar to those appearing on the program (Paulson, 1974). Sesame Street has also been successful in contributing to children's understandings of complex issues such as death, love, marriage, pregnancy, and race relations. (Fisch, Truglio, & Cole, 1999)

4. Sesame Street has proven to enhance academic skills and social behavior. Children's television based upon collaborative efforts to develop appropriate curricula for young viewers is now more prevalent than ever.

In addition to teaching basic reading and math skills, Pakistan desperately needs to instill in its people greater tolerance and acceptance of diversity to ensure a more pluralistic and peaceful society for genuine democracy to take root. It is my earnest hope that SimSim Humara and other shows like it will be carefully scripted and presented to lay the foundation to move Pakistan closer to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sim Sim Hamara

Sim Sim Hamara Youtube Channel

Pakistan's Media and Telecom Revolution

Impact of Cable TV on Indian Women

Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

Newsweek Joins Pakistan's Media Revolution

UNESCO Report on Pre-School Education in Pakistan

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Billion Dollar UK Aid For Pakistani Schools

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning

Thursday, April 7, 2011

US Reporter Says Nawaz Sharif Propositioned Her

Kim Barker, an American reporter who covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for Chicago Tribune starting in 2003, claims that she was propositioned by Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif when she met him for interviews for her newspaper.



In an interview with KERA radio, Barker said she followed her bosses advice to try and blend with the local population. However, being a young white female journalist with blue eyes who stands at 5 ft 10 in tall, she says she received unusual attention from the men she met to do her job in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In her recently released book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan", Barker recounts how Nawaz Sharif gave her an Apple iphone as a gift and asked her to be his "special friend". When she declined Nawaz Sharif's sexual advance, Foreign Policy Magazine reports that he offered to set her up with President Asif Ali Zardari.

This latest report adds Sharif's name to the "illustrious" list of senior Pakistani political leaders who have made news for their dalliances with women.

A 2007 Youtube video showing Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani groping Sherry Rehman attracted a lot of attention. Then, President Asif Ali Zardari was shown gushing about US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and asking to "hug" her during a meeting in New York.

Here's a video clip of Barker's interview:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Kim Barker's Radio Interview

Ode to Feudal Prince of Pakistan

Foreign Policy Magazine Review of "Taliban Shuffle"

Incompetence Worse Than Graft in Pakistan

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan By Kim Barker

Comparing US and Pakistani Tax Evaders

Zardari-Palin Meeting in New York

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brits Offer $1 Billion to Aid Schools in Pakistan

A new British aid package for Pakistan, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in Islamabad, is worth $1,055 million over four years. The money will fund education for up to 4 million students, train 9,000 teachers, purchase 6 million new text books and build 8,000 schools by 2015, according to various media reports.

Announcing new aid, Cameron said, “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan." “If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems", he added.



With growth in the last decade, a number of countries like China, India and Pakistan have transitioned from low- to middle-income status under World Bank classifications. But China and India together still account for about half of the world's poor, and most of the illiterates, according to The Guardian. The focus of the OECD nations and the World Bank should be on helping all of the poor people regardless of whether they live in low-income or middle-income countries. Such help needs to be specifically targeted toward human development programs like education and healthcare.



Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

The report added that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.

Among the key findings of the commission are the following:

* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan which still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity

The report concluded that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.



Will the additional British aid bring new focus on education in Pakistan? Is it still possible for Pakistan to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015? I certainly hope so, but it will take a renewed national focus in both public and private sectors of the country.

Fortunately, there are a number of highly committed individuals and organizations like The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and the Human Development Foundation (HDF) which are very active in raising funds and building and operating schools to improve the situation in Pakistan. It is important that all of us who care for the future of Pakistan should generously help these and similar other organizations.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Pakistan Education Emergency

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning