Monday, December 31, 2012

Pakistani Shares Beat Asian and BRIC Market Indices in 2012

Karachi's KSE-100 index surged nearly 50% (37% in US $ terms) in 2012 to top all Asian market indices. It was followed by Bangkok's SET index which advanced 36%. It also easily beat India's Sensex index which was the top performer among BRICs with 25.19% annual gain.

A string of strong earnings announcements by Karachi Stock Exchange listed companies and the Central Bank's rate cuts helped the KSE-100 index approach 17,000 level, a gain of  49.84% (37% in US dollar terms). In spite of this run-up in KSE-100, Andrew Brudenell, manager of the HSBC Frontier Markets fund (HSFAX) in London, remains bullish on Pakistani equities, according to Barron's. Pakistan is one of the cheapest markets he follows, at about seven times earnings. He notes that earnings growth has kept pace with the market. The firms, he adds, are typically cash-rich, boast strong return on equity levels in the 20% range, and pay good dividends.

Here's an excerpt of a recent Businessweek story titled "Pakistan, Land of Entrepreneurs " which captures the ground reality of Pakistan's business landscape that is masked by the continuing reports of doom and gloom making up the standard mass media narrative about Pakistan:

" (Arif) Habib, who started as a stockbroker more than four decades ago, has expanded his Arif Habib Group into a 13-company business that has invested $2 billion in financial services, cement, fertilizer, and steel factories since 2004. His group and a clutch of others have become conglomerates of a kind that went out of fashion in the West but seem suited to the often chaotic conditions in Pakistan. Engro, a maker of fertilizer, has moved into packaged foods and coal mining. Billionaire Mian Muhammad Mansha, one of Pakistan’s richest men, is importing 2,500 milk cows from Australia to start a dairy business after running MCB Bank, Nishat Mills, and D.G. Khan Cement.

These companies have prospered in a country that, since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after Sept. 11, has lost more than 40,000 people to retaliatory bombings by the Taliban. Political violence in Karachi has killed 2,000 Pakistanis this year, and an energy crisis—power outages last as long as 18 hours a day—has led to social unrest. Foreign direct investment declined 24 percent to $244 million in the four months ended Oct. 31, according to the central bank.

At the same time, some 70 million Pakistanis—40 percent of the population—have become middle-class, says Sakib Sherani, chief executive of Macro Economic Insights, a research firm in Islamabad. A boom in agriculture and residential property, as well as jobs in hot sectors such as telecom and media, have helped Pakistanis prosper. “Just go to the malls and see the number of customers who are actually buying in upscale stores and that shows you how robust the demand is,” says Azfer Naseem, head of research for Elixir Securities in Karachi. “Despite the energy crisis, we have growth of 3 percent.”

Sherani of Macro Economic Insights estimates the middle class doubled in size between 2002 and 2012. “Those who understand the difference between the perception of Pakistan and the reality have made a killing,” Habib says. “Foreigners don’t come here, so the field is wide open.” The KSE100, the benchmark index of the Karachi Exchange, has risen elevenfold since mid-2001. Shares in the index are up 43 percent this year alone. Over the past decade, stocks have been buoyed by corporate earnings, which were bolstered in turn by rising consumer spending."

While Pakistan's public finances remain shaky, it appears that the country's economy is in fact healthier than what the official figures show. It also seems that the national debt is much less of a problem given the debt-to-GDP ratio of just 30% when the informal economy is fully comprehended. Even a small but serious effort to collect more taxes can make a big dent in budget deficits. My hope is that increasing share of the informal economy will become documented with the rising use of technology. Bringing a small slice of it in the tax net will make a significant positive difference for public finances in the coming years.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's GDP Grossly Underestimated, Shares Highly Undervalued

Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan

Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012

Pak Consumer Boom  Fuels Underground Economy

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding

Hypermart Pakistan

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Are Muslims Worse Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

As Pakistanis celebrate Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's birthday today on Christmas Day, there are some who are questioning the founder's wisdom in seeking partition of India to carve out Pakistan as an independent nation.  The doubters justifiably point to the rising tide of intolerance and increasing violence and  a whole range of problems and crises Pakistan is facing. They wonder aloud if it was a mistake to demand a separate country for Muslims of undivided India.

Wax Statues of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi in Islamabad

Are the critics correct in their assessment when they imply that Muslims in Pakistan would have been better off without partition? To answer this question, let us look at the following facts and data:

1. Muslims, the New Untouchables in India:

While India maintains its facade of  religious tolerance, democracy and secularism through a few high-profile Muslim tokens among its high officials and celebrities, the ground reality for the vast majority of ordinary Muslims is much harsher.

An Indian government commission headed by former Indian Chief Justice Rajendar Sachar confirms that Muslims are the new untouchables in caste-ridden and communal India. Indian Muslims suffer heavy discrimination in almost every field from  education and housing to jobs.  Their incarceration rates are also much higher than their Hindu counterparts.

According to Sachar Commission report, Muslims are now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% are unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 ca not read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims account for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they hold less than 5% of government jobs.

2. Upward Economic Mobility in Pakistan: 

In spite of all of its problems, Pakistan has continued to offer  higher upward economic and social mobility to its citizens over the last two decades than India. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class had expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future".

Miles Corak of University of Ottawa calculates that the intergenerational earnings elasticity in Pakistan is 0.46, the same as in Switzerland. It means that a difference of 100%  between the incomes of a rich father and a poor father is reduced to 46% difference between their sons' incomes. Among the 22 countries studied, Peru, China and Brazil have the lowest economic mobility with inter-generational elasticity of 0.67, 0.60 and 0.58 respectively. The highest economic mobility is offered by Denmark (0.15), Norway (0.17) and Finland (0.18).

The author also looked at Gini coefficient of each country and found reasonably good correlation between Gini and intergenerational income elasticity.

 More evidence of upward mobility is offered by recent Euromonitor market research indicating that Pakistanis are seeing rising disposable incomes. It says that there were 1.8 million Pakistani households (7.55% of all households) and 7.9 million Indian households (3.61% of all households) in 2009 with disposable incomes of $10,001 or more. This translates into 282% increase (vs 232% in India) from 1995-2009 in households with disposable incomes of $10,001 or more. Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to Bloomberg.

3. East Pakistan Debacle: 

Critics love to point out Pakistan's break-up in 1971 as evidence of failure of Jinnah's Pakistan.
They lavish praise on Bangladesh and scold Pakistan as part of the annual ritual a few days before Quaid-e-Azam's birthday every year.

Economic gap between East and West Pakistan in 1960s is often cited as a key reason for the secessionist movement led by Shaikh Mujib's Awami League and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. This disparity has grown over the last 40 years, and the per capita income in Pakistan now stands at more than twice Bangladesh's in 2012 in nominal dollar terms,  higher than 1.6 in 1971.

 Here are some figures from Economist magazine's EIU 2013:

Bangladesh GDP per head: $695 (PPP: $1,830)

Pakistan GDP per head: $1,410 (PPP: $2,960)

Pakistan-Bangladesh GDP per head Ratio: 2.03 ( PPP: 1.62)

4. Poverty, Hunger, Other Socioeconomic Indicators: 

 Pakistan's employment growth has been the highest in South Asia region since 2000, followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka in that order, according to a recent World Bank report titled "More and Better Jobs in South Asia".

Total employment in South Asia (excluding Afghanistan and Bhutan) rose from 473 million in 2000 to 568 million in 2010, creating an average of just under 800,000 new jobs a month. In all countries except Maldives and Sri Lanka, the largest share of the employed are the low‐end self-employed.

Pakistanis have higher graduation rates in education and suffer lower levels of hunger and poverty than Indians and Bangladeshis.

Pakistanis spend more time in schools and colleges and graduate at a higher rate than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.

Here is a summary of Barro-Lee's 2010 data in percentage of 15+ age group students who have enrolled in and-or completed primary, secondary and tertiary education:

Education Level.......India........Pakistan

Primary (Total)........20.9..........21.8

Primary (Completed)....18.9..........19.3





According to the latest world hunger index rankings, Pakistan ranks 57 while India and Bangladesh are worse at 65 and 68 among 79 countries ranked by International Food Policy Research Institute in 2012.

World Hunger Index 2012

The latest World Bank data shows that India's poverty rate of 27.5%, based on India's current poverty line of $1.03 per person per day, is more than 10 percentage points higher than Pakistan's 17.2%. Assam (urban), Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the only three Indian states with similar or lower poverty rates than Pakistan's.

Clearly, Pakistanis have not lived up to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a tolerant and democratic Pakistan where the basic rights of all of its citizens, including religious and ethnic minorities, are fully respected. Popular Pakistani columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee put it well when he wrote: "Fortunately for him, Jinnah did not live long enough to see his dream betrayed by men unworthy even to utter his name. He died before total disillusionment could set in (though he had his suspicions that it was on its way) and broke his heart. From what we know of him, he was that rare being, an incorruptible man in all the many varied meanings of the word corruption, purchasable by no other, swayed by no other, perverted by no other; a man of honor, integrity and high ideals. That the majority of his countrymen have been found wanting in these qualities is this country's tragedy."

I do think, however, that all of the available and credible data and indicators confirm the fact that Muslims in Pakistan are not only much better off than they are elsewhere in South Asia, they also enjoy higher economic and social mobility than their counterparts in India and Bangladesh.

Here's a video report on widespread discrimination against Muslims in India:

Muslims in India by desitvonline
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

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

Rising Tide of Intolerance in Pakistan

Muslims-New Untouchables in India

Violent Conflict Marks Pakistan's Social Revolution

Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Poverty Across South Asia

Graduation Rates in Pakistan

Introspection of Pakistan's Creation

Monday, December 24, 2012

Remembering Ardeshir Cowasjee 1926-2012

Guest Post by Roland deSouza

Ardeshir Cowasjee was on earth to do good for others (what the others are here for is not really known!), and this he did in full measure. The needy from all creeds and castes came to him for advice, financial help and varied assistance. And he tried to aid them whenever he could. He would write notes of appeal to the police, to senior government officials, to municipalities, to multinationals, to businessmen, to school headmistresses --- and most of them worked.

He had a great sense of humour, and often dissolved in uproarious laughter on the foibles and antics of the rich and famous, especially the politicians. One of his favourite stories was about an old, fat Parsi who went to see a doctor one evening and was scheduled a battery of medical tests for the next morning. He was also told that he had to sleep on an ‘empty stomach’. So the man immediately phoned his wife and said “Rashna Bai, no dinner for you tonight!” 

His practical jokes were legion. My son, Zane, remembers a trip with AC, who was togged up in a distinguished cream suit and colourful tie complete with a jaunty cane, to an exhibition at the Karachi Expo Centre. Some kids came up and asked AC if he was Colonel Sanders of KFC. Cowasjee impishly admitted he was --- and started signing chits to the fast-food chain authorizing free Zinger burgers to each of the increasing crowd of eager children gathering around! We wondered what happened when the kids turned up at various KFC outlets.

He took me and my wife to tea at the Marriott Coffee Shop when we were up in Islamabad in 1999 to attend the Supreme Court hearings on the landmark ‘Glass Towers’ and ‘Costa Livina’ cases. “Watch the maza,” he smiled, walking off after consuming a great spread, with us in tow. The waiter (who probably has to pay out of his own pocket if a customer runs away) came tripping down the restaurant, protesting. AC ignored him and kept ambling along. Finally, he turned around, lowered his spectacles to the tip of his nose and glowered for a couple of minutes at the waiter, who mumbled something about the bill while shrinking under the gimlet glare. Finally, Cowasjee sternly told the waiter to talk to his manager about the bill, turned on his heel and strode away. We later learnt that he had an arrangement with the hotel that his bills would be paid by his office.

His keen involvement in the late 1990s in the Karachi Building Control Authority’s Oversee Committee (it held 65 monthly meetings like clockwork over a period of five years!), helped establish a modicum of transparency in that infamous ‘Nest of Corruption’ (as designated by Governor Kamal Azfar in his 1996 Sindh government Dissolution Order.) Along with Shehri, he was instrumental in setting up a KBCA ‘Public Information Counter’ where ordinary citizens could, at low cost, quickly obtain copies of government approved plans (and consequently be saved from purchasing illegal apartments on the 6th floor of a building that had only been approved for G + 4 floors.)

His concerted efforts in the Governing Body of the KDA resulted in the rustication of ten sleazy KBCA officials (wonder of wonders --- corrupt government officials are usually only suspended for some months, and then restored with full benefits for the non-working period). With the subsequent dissolution of the KDA on the promulgation of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2002, the ten dismissed officials were reinstated and have today risen even higher in the crumbling and corroded edifice that is government in Karachi.

Everyone in Pakistan will miss Ardeshir Cowasjee --- especially the bad guys!

Note:  Roland deSouza is a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and is the former chairman of Shehri - Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE), an advocacy group working for the improvement of environmental conditions in Karachi. deSouza is an Executive Member of Shehri.

Related Links:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Are the Taliban Attacking Women Polio Workers?

Why are the Taliban assassinating polio workers in Pakistan?  Why are they attacking schoolgirls like Malala and her friends and why are many young women being murdered in "honor killings" in rural Pakistan? What is it that the killers fear from unarmed females seeking education or working to provide basic health care to poor families or choosing their own mates? Why so much gratuitous violence against peaceful women?

Before answering these questions, let's look at the following facts on the ground:

1. As of 2006, about 72 percent of the University of Karachi student body is female. Among medical students, 87 percent are women, and the figure for architecture and planning is as high as 92 percent. In fact, KU vice chancellor was so concerned that he suggested a quota for men.

2. In addition to basic door-to-door health care and vaccinations, Pakistan's Lady Health Workers also offer family planning and birth control tips to women.  The vaccination effort has been made more difficult ever since the discovery of the US CIA-sponsored bogus vaccination campaign to identify bin Laden's  whereabouts.  The Ladies Health Workers program is staffed by 100,000 women and it's been described as "one of the best community-based health systems in the world” by Dr. Donald Thea, a Boston University researcher. Thea is one of the authors of a recent Lancet study on child pneumonia treatment in Pakistan. He talked with the New York Times about the study.

3. In the study of censuses, the most important age group in society is that between 15 and 24. In the 1981 census, 39 percent of women in this age bracket were married, as were 16 percent of the men. Today, the figure for married women in this bracket is less than 20 percent, and for married men 7 percent. For the first time in Karachi's history, there is an overwhelming majority of unmarried adolescents. For this same 15-24 age group in Karachi, 67 percent of the men were literate in 1981, as were 63 percent of the women. Today, we have 84 percent literacy among men and 85 percent literacy among women.

4.  Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Women made up about 22 percent of the 68,000 students in Pakistani universities in 1993; today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. “Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work,” says Sima Kamil, 54, who oversees 1,400 branches as head of retail banking at Habib. “Every branch I visit has one or two girls from conservative backgrounds,” she told Businessweek.

5. About 31 percent of Pakistani females are in the workforce, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold 78 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, and in July, Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, became Pakistan’s first woman Foreign Minister. “The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed,” Maheen Rahman, 34, chief executive officer at IGI Funds, which manages some $400 million in assets. Rahman told Businessweek she plans to keep recruiting more women for her company.

6.  There was a recent news story about young Pakistanis engaging in Internet dating and marriages According to data compiled by Karachi-based sociologist Arif Hasan,  there were 10 to 15 applications for court marriages in Karachi in 1992, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent. 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 marriage came from rural areas of Sindh.

7.  As early as 1998 when the last census was held, researcher Reza Ali  found that Pakistan was almost half urban and half rural, using a  more useful definitions of ‘urban’, and not the outdated definition  of the Census Organization which excludes the huge informal settlements in the peri-urban areas of the cities which are very often not part of the metropolitan areas.

8. A 2012 study of 22 nations conducted by Prof Miles Corak for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that upward economic mobility to be greater in Pakistan than the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, China and 5 other countries. The study's findings were presented by the author in testimony to the US Senate Finance Committee on July 6, 2012.

The above facts point to a powerful trend of increasing education and workforce participation of Pakistani women.  It's these trends that the Pakistani Taliban see as a threat to the goal of imposing their dark tribal vision on an increasingly urban and middle class Pakistan. In their desperation, Taliban are now attacking soft targets like schoolgirls and polio workers. They are also going after right-wing politicians and media who have been sympathetic to the Taliban but don't entirely agree with them.

In my view, the medieval-minded Taliban are no match for the powerful revolutionary social changes sweeping Pakistan today. They will be swept away as Pakistan becomes a prosperous and urban middle class nation with full participation of  empowered women in all walks of life.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Lady Health Workers Best in the World 

American CIA Sponsored Fake Vaccination Campaign

Violence Against Social  Change in Pakistan

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Monday, December 17, 2012

Violent Conflict is Part of Pakistan's Social Transformation!

Whether it was the bloody Civil War to abolish slavery in America or the Meiji Restoration that transformed feudal Japan into an industrial giant, history tells us that violent conflict has been an integral part of the process of social change.  Pakistan, too, is experiencing a similar violent social revolution. It started well before the terrorist attacks  of 911 and the subsequent US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  It has only intensified after these events.

The "peace of the dead" has ended with the continuing "eclipse of feudalism" in Pakistan.  A significant part of  the what the world media, politicians and pundits call terrorism is in fact  an "unplanned revolution" in the words of a Pakistani sociologist, a revolution that could transform Pakistani society for the better in the long run.

 Violence is being used by the defenders of  a range of old feudal and tribal values in Pakistan. Some of the traditionalists are fighting to keep girls at home and out of schools and workplaces while others are insisting on continuing traditional arranged and sometimes forced marriages within their clans. Such violence is being met with brave defiance, particularly by the younger generation.

Recent media coverage of the attempt on Swat schoolgirl Malala Yosufzai's life by the Taliban has brought attention to what the tribal traditionalists see as a serious threat to their old feudal-tribal ways. In an October 2012 speech at a social scientists conference in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Arif Hasan recalled what a village elder in Sindh told him about the reasons for the increase in honor killings. He said: “The young people, they’ve gone to the city, and they’ve done all the wrong things. The girls have learned how to read and write, they’ve gone to school, some of them have gone to university as well. They have no morals left, so this is bound to happen.”

When Hasan asked the village elder as to when will the honor killings stop? He replied: “The honor killings will stop when everyone becomes shameless, then it will end.” Then he added, “But I hope that I die before that day.”  Hasan says "he was a man of the old, feudal rural culture, with its own pattern of behavior and way of thinking. He was part of it, and it was dying, so he wished to die with it."

There was a news story this morning about young Pakistanis engaging in Internet dating and marriages. 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.

Rapid urbanization , rising economic mobility  and media and telecom revolutions have been the key contributors to the process of social change in the country.   New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise described the rise of Pakistan's middle class in a story from Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh in the following words:

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

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

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

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

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

As early as 1998 when the last census was held, researcher Reza Ali  found that Pakistan was almost half urban and half rural, using a  more useful definitions of ‘urban’, and not the outdated definition  of the Census Organization which excludes the huge informal settlements in the peri-urban areas of the cities which are very often not part of the metropolitan areas.

A 2012 study of 22 nations conducted by Prof Miles Corak for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that upward economic mobility to be greater in Pakistan than the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, China and 5 other countries. The study's findings were presented by the author in testimony to the US Senate Finance Committee on July 6, 2012.

 Pakistan's media and telecom revolution that began during the Musharaf years is continuing unabated. In addition to financial services, the two key service sectors with explosive growth in last decade (1999-2009) in Pakistan include media and telecom, both of which have helped create jobs and empowered women. The current media revolution sweeping the nation began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100.  Pakistan is among the five most dynamic economies of developing Asia in terms of increased penetration of mobile phones, internet and broadband, according to the Information Economy Report, 2009 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). Among the five countries in terms of mobile penetration in South Asia, Pakistan is placed at number three followed by Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Iran and Maldives are ranked above Pakistan.

Here's how Arif Hasan concluded his Kathmandu speech:

 Pakistani society continues in its state of flux, and the Afghan war has escalated this. The normal evolution of society has been stopped by the militancy in Pakistan linked to the war in Afghanistan. If you remove these militants – which you won’t, by the way – then a whole new world emerges in Pakistan, a transformation in a society trying to define itself. The recent shooting of Malala Yusufzhai has shown what Pakistani society really feels and how it thinks on issues. For the first time the Pakistani establishment – the army as well as the three major political parties – have all condemned the Taliban for the shooting. The people have spoken in the huge rallies, in Karachi and elsewhere. Earlier, this never happened because people were scared of being shot, kidnapped, and having bombs thrown at them. This is the first time that there has been such a huge public outpouring.

But even as people find a voice, we do need the inculcation of new societal values. The problem is, how do you promote these values and through whom? It is too much to ask media, and academia is busy in consultancies for the donor institutions. The literature is all about the struggle between fundamentalism and liberalism, but that is not where the problem lies. The challenge is for Pakistani society to consolidate itself in the post-feudal era. The society has freed itself from the shackles of feudalism, but our values still remain very much the same. There are very big changes that are taking place – how do you support them, how do you institutionalize them, how do you give the people a voice? I leave you with these questions, rather than try and provide the answers.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Arif Hasan's Website

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pakistan's "One Pound Fish" Man Gets Record Deal

Street vendors in Pakistan have used their signature songs to entice customers from as far back as I can remember. Recently, a Pakistani fishmonger has brought this old street singing tradition to East London's Queens Market in Upton Park, and his "One Pound Fish" song has become a YouTube sensation with nearly 5 million hits.

The singer is Muhammad Shahid Nazir who left his home town of Pattoki in Pakistan to study business in London. He took a part-time job selling fish to support himself. Bored with the usual prose to sell fish, he resorted to poetry,  made up a song and started singing "Come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish. Very, very good one pound fish, very very cheap one pound fish."

Shoppers liked the song and it was recorded and uploaded by someone on YouTube. The song soon went viral and Warner Music offered Nazir a record deal. Now the record is vying for the top of charts this Christmas season.

International media have begun to focus their attention on "One Pound Fish" in the same way as they have on "Gangnam Style" dance video by a Korean man. Here are some excerpts of the media coverage "One Pound Fish" is getting:

Washington Post Style Blog:

It’s true that there are some common threads between the oddball pop songs. Both have brought forth unlikely stars: Psy, a portly rapper older than your typical Korean pop star, and now Nazir, a fishmonger in London’s Queens Market. They’ve quickly garnered millions of YouTube views —1.5 million since Monday for “One Pound Fish,” and more than 900 million for “Gangnam Style.” They’ve brought international music genres — K-pop and Bollywood-tinged Hindi-pop — to American listeners. And they both have a catchy and similar refrain: Psy’s “Heeeeey Sexy Ladies!” and Nazir’s “Come on ladies, come on ladies! One pound fish!” (it’s slightly reminiscent of another novelty hit, a snippet of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”). 

Agence France Press (AFP):

A slicker version with Nazir shimmying and strutting Bollywood-style in a natty suit went up on December 10, launching the race to top the Christmas charts in Britain. The original video has had a staggering 4.6 million hits, while the professionally produced one already has more than two million. Nazir has also gained nearly 28,000 followers on Twitter. Back at the family home in Pattoki, a small town 146 miles (234 kilometres) south of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, his delighted 67-year-old mother Kalsoom says she is praying and fasting for Nazir's success.

Global BC TV:

“Come on ladies, come on—one pound fish!”

That’s just a taste of the lyrics sung by a London market trader who first gained local fame with his song “One Pound Fish.” Since then, he’s filmed a major-label music video, reaffirming the power of the Internet to catapult regular citizens to stardom.

Muhammad Shahid Nazir, who moved to London from Pakistan with his wife and four children, used the song to hook customers in his job at a market stall.

Nazir first appeared on YouTube, singing and gesturing, in spring 2012, in a video that went on to earn more than 4 million views. He embraced the attention, and soon after auditioned for the UK music competition show, The X-Factor.

His song was covered by music producer Timbaland as well as English star Alesha Dixon, and the UK’s Evening Standard called him a rival to South Korean rapper Psy (of “Gangnam Style” fame).

Huffington Post: 

 Thanks to the powers of YouTube, he's breaking into America with his music and finding audiences around the globe, with a Timbaland collaboration set to be released stateside in the near future!
Explaining how the phenomenon first sparked to life, Shahid tells us that while working as a fishmonger, he was required to find a way to attract customers to his store. Like everyone else, he tried the shouting method ("Have a look at the one pound fish!"), but that just turned people away.
The very next day, he decided to make up his own song. Thus, the unavoidably catchy, "Come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish," melody was born and ended up being completely successful in drawing positive attention to his store. Shahid says that shoppers would tell him, "You should go to 'X Factor.' You should go to 'Britain's Got Talent' and should be a pop star."


A range of videos from the extremely hateful to highly entertaining  are a confirmation of  the immense new power of the burgeoning social media-- the kind of power that can be used to bring people together or to pull them apart. With such power in the hands of individuals comes a great deal of responsibility to exercise it with extreme care.

Here's a video clip of "One Pound Fish" song:

Related Links:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Starving" North Korea's Space Pursuit Different From Hungry India's?

Contrasting America narratives of space efforts  by two countries-one seen as friendly and the other viewed as a threat- are evident from the following New York Times coverage of the space efforts in India and North Korea:

"Even though it cannot feed its people, North Korea has joined the ranks of countries with the money and expertise to build and launch a long-range rocket and put a satellite into space."     New York Times Editorial December 12, 2012

"AFTER two decades of dreaming, planning and development, India's space program has come of age. Once merely a symbol of the nation's pride and ingenuity, Indian space technology has become an integral part of its communications, weather forecasting and resource management systems." New York Times December 23 , 1986

Is India able to feed its people? Is it doing a better job of feeding its people than North Korea? Let's take a look at the following table from  IFPRI's World Hunger Index 2012:


While India ranks at 65 among 79 nations ranked by the International Food Policy Research Institute on its hunger index, North Koreans are considerably ahead at 52 and Pakistanis at 57. The World Hunger data shows that India, which gets a free pass from the western media and active support of western and Russian governments to pursue its nuclear and space programs, is doing a poorer job of feeding its people than the North Koreans.  Is this not hypocrisy to cite North Korean hunger as a reason to criticize its space program while lavishing praise on India whose citizens fare worse than North Korean citizens?

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US Proliferated Nukes to India

India's "Indigenous" Copies of Foreign Nukes and Missiles

India's Nuclear Bomb by George Perkovich

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Cyberwars Across India, Pakistan and China

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Space Capabilities

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Scientist Reveals Indian Nuke Test Fizzled

The Wisconsin Project

The Non-Proliferation Review Fall 1997

India, Pakistan Comparison 2010

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Global Firepower Comparison

Only the Paranoid Survive

India Races Ahead in Space

21st Century High-Tech Warfare

Monday, December 10, 2012

Comparing Bangladesh With Pakistan in 2012

Lavish praise for Bangladesh and scolding for Pakistan mark the anniversary of the painful events leading up to the breakup of Pakistan in December 1971. This annual ritual is usually led by writers from Pakistan's arch-rival India. A few Bangladeshi  nationalists and disgruntled Pakistanis join in as well. Here are a few samples of it:

 1. Sadanand Dhume, Wall Street Journal

 "Not long ago, when you thought of a South Asian country ravaged by floods, governed by bumblers and apparently teetering on the brink of chaos, it wasn't Pakistan that came to mind. That distinction belonged to Bangladesh.....Bangladesh has much to be proud of. Its economy has grown at nearly 6% a year over the past three years. The country exported $12.3 billion worth of garments last year, making it fourth in the world behind China, the EU and Turkey..... Nearly 40 years ago, only the most reckless optimist would have bet on flood-prone, war-ravaged Bangladesh over relatively stable and prosperous Pakistan. But with a higher growth rate, a lower birth rate, and a more internationally competitive economy, yesterday's basket case may have the last laugh."

2.  Akbar Ali Khan, Bangladesh's Daily Star

"Per capita income in West Pakistan in 1950 was only four per cent higher than that of East Pakistan. In 1970 per capita income in West Pakistan exceeded that of East Pakistan by 61 percent. The increase in disparity of two wings reinforced the secessionist argument that West Pakistan was becoming richer at the expense of East Pakistan....annual per capita income growth in Bangladesh since 1972 exceeded almost every year total per capita income growth in East Pakistan in twenty years. This clearly suggests that political independence provided much more conducive environment for growth in Bangladesh than united Pakistani. . Though economic growth in East Pakistan was revived during Ayub Khan's so-called decade of reforms, growth rate in erstwhile East Pakistan was much lower than that of West Pakistan."

3.  S. Akbar Zaidi, Pakistan's Daily Dawn

"In the world of development achievements and democratic and secular credentials, it is Bangladesh today which offers a rather sad comment on Pakistan`s numerous failed promises. Bangladesh is one of the six countries in Asia and Africa which has been feted for its progress towards achieving its Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets that seek to eradicate extreme poverty and boost health, education and the status of women worldwide by 2015....The West Pakistani elite which lived off the resources of East Pakistan for 25 years and was happy to see the basket case East Pakistan become Bangladesh, needs to seriously come to terms with its continuing hubris and past. The least that the civilian and military Pakistani elite can do is to seek forgiveness for the crimes committed four decades ago, and to begin to learn how basket cases and failed states can become successful democratic, developmental and secular states."

Let's now assess how Bangladesh and Pakistan have performed since 1971 by looking at some key indicators like per capita income, upward mobility and consumption of energy and cement in the two countries.

PPP GDP of Pakistan and Bangladesh Source: World Bank

Per Capita Income:

Economic gap between East and West Pakistan in 1960s is often cited as a key reason for the secessionist movement led by Shaikh Mujib's Awami League and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. This disparity has grown over the last 40 years, and the per capita income in Pakistan now stands at more than twice Bangladesh's in 2012 in nominal dollar terms,  higher than 1.6 as claimed by Akbar Ali Khan in 1971.

 Here are some figures from Economist magazine's EIU 2013:

Bangladesh GDP per head: $695 (PPP: $1,830)

Pakistan GDP per head: $1,410 (PPP: $2,960)

Pakistan-Bangladesh GDP per head Ratio: 2.03 ( PPP: 1.62)

Bangladesh-Pakistan GDP (Source: World Bank) 

Upward Economic Mobility:

Pakistan has continued to offer much greater upward economic and social mobility to its citizens than Bangladesh and India over the last two decades. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class had expanded by 36.5%, India's by only 12.8% and Bangladesh's by just 8.3%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future.

Per Capita Energy Consumption:

Energy consumption in this day and age generally indicates a nation's level of industrialization, productivity and standards of living. Going by this yardstick, Pakistan's 14 million BTUs per capita consumption is well ahead of Bangladesh's 6 million BTUs per capita as estimated by US Energy Information Administration for 2009.

Per Capita Cement Consumption:

Cement use is an important barometer of national economic activity in developing countries. Pakistan's cement consumption of 132 Kg per capita is significantly higher than Bangladesh's 85 Kg per person.  

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in Constant 2000 US$ (Source: World Bank)

Job Growth:

 Pakistan's employment growth has been the highest in South Asia region since 2000, followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka in that order, according to a recent World Bank report titled "More and Better Jobs in South Asia".

Total employment in South Asia (excluding Afghanistan and Bhutan) rose from 473 million in 2000 to 568 million in 2010, creating an average of just under 800,000 new jobs a month. In all countries except Maldives and Sri Lanka, the largest share of the employed are the low‐end self-employed.

Other Facts: 

Here are a few other relevant data points in comparing Bangladesh and Pakistan:

1. Bangladesh is still categorized by the World Bank among low income and least developed countries of the world, while Pakistan is a middle income country and classified well above the list of least developed countries of the world.

2. Bangladesh is ranked as 11th poorest country in the world by the World Bank in terms of the percentage of population living on $1.25 or less a day. Neighboring India is the 14th poorest on this list, while Pakistan does not show up on it. The rest of the nations on this list are all in sub-Saharan Africa.

3. In 1947, East Pakistan started with a lower economic base than West Pakistan, and the loss of its Hindu Bengali business elite in 1947 left it worse off. It also didn't have the benefit of the large number of Muslim businessmen who migrated to West Pakistan, particularly Karachi, after partition of India in 1947.

4. Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain explains it well when he says that "although East Pakistan benefited from Ayub’s economic reforms in 1960s, the fact that these benefits were perceived as a dispensation from a quasi-colonial military regime to its colony—East Pakistan—proved to be lethal."

World Hunger Index Rankings

It must, however, be acknowledged that Bangladeshi economy has been outperforming Pakistan's in the last few years, particularly since President Musharraf's departure in 2008. Bangladesh has also made significant strides on various social indicators and it now ranks just one notch below Pakistan on human development index 2011. Bangladesh's family planning efforts have been remarkably successful in lowering the fertility rate of Bangladeshi women, an area where Pakistan significantly lags behind the rest of South Asia.

Here's a recent video about Pakistan:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Economic Disparity Between Bangladesh and Pakistan

Comparing India and Pakistan in 2011

Is This a 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation Rates

Pakistan Tops Job Growth in South Asia

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis?

President Musharraf's Legacy

Demolishing Indian War Myths

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thirty Years of Self-Help Rural Development in Pakistan

 "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

Rural Support Network, now a large collection of local NGOs, was founded by Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan of the Agha Khan Network in December 1982. Over the last 30 years, the RSP movement has spawned nearly 300,000 community self-help organizations touching the lives of 32 million rural Pakistanis across the length and breadth of the country.

While the stats about its reach are impressive, the emphasis on its self-help model is what makes it particularly effective. RSPNs differ fundamentally from the normal aid programs.

An American writer  Joshua Foust recently described RSP's modus operandi in The Atlantic magazine as follows: "They focus on the development of institutions first, and only after that institution is established do they worry about its output or performance. The NGO also heavily invests in the smallest scale of the community, from conceptualization to execution, hiring mostly locals to administer projects. Lastly, they have extraordinarily long project timelines -- sometimes as long as 15 years from start to finish..... RSPN's longer term focus lets it work on more difficult goals, such as creating institutional capacity that can exist without foreign input. It also means RSPN can build out micro-infrastructure projects like micro-hydro power plants that allow communities to finance their own development -- again, without foreign input."

Micro-infrastructure Projects:

 A number of community-based micro hydro projects are being executed with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation in Pakistan's Northern Areas and NWFP. Within this region, out of a total of 137 micro-hydro plants, the AKRSP has established 28 micro-hydros with an installed capacity of 619kW. Initially, in 1986, these plants started as research and demonstration units. These projects were extended to Village Organizations (VOs) and became participatory projects. A Village Organization (VO) is a body of villagers who have organized themselves around a common interest.

After formation, each village organization signs a partnership with AKRSP to abide by all terms and conditions necessary for the village development. The entire responsibility of implementation is passed on to the VOs. AKRSP provides the negotiated cost of the plants and technical input required during the construction period. All the VOs complete the civil work of the plants. They purchase and transport machinery from other parts of Pakistan. The VO members provide subsidized or free unskilled labour and locally produced building material.

Health Care Insurance:

 RSP has helped create a collaborative micro-healthcare insurance system. For very little money -- $3.50 a year in some cases -- poor people can get access to basic medical care (especially maternity care) and assistance if they face hospitalization.

More recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Asher Hasan, a social entrepreneur, has set up Naya Jeevan—"new life" in Urdu—a nonprofit micro-insurance program for the urban poor.

Human Development Effort: 

Human Development Foundation, an organization funded mostly by overseas Pakistanis, has taken a page from RSP playbook to establish many self-help projects.

HDF has a community physical infrastructure development program which helps communities improve their environment, including link roads, water storage, hand pumps, tube wells, irrigation, sanitation and pest control projects. Such projects are executed with community's sweat equity (Development Organization) and managed by the community (Village Development Organization) upon completion. Over 600 such projects have already been completed, and hundreds are currently underway.

HDF also has an education program which has grown from a few non-formal schools with 20-30 children each, to multi-grade schools with over 100 children each. Many of these schools operate in remote areas, and curriculum is activity-based to retain children's interest and reduce drop-out rates.

HDF has a  microfinancing program as well. It has grown from offering small loans to individuals to joint ventures and community partnerships, and "one village, one product" programs. In addition to capital, these programs also offer skills training to start and run the businesses. These microloan programs are based on the Islamic principle of Murahaba.

Hope for the Future:

 Unfortunately, Pakistani state, run by politicians and their hand-picked civilian administrators, is weak, incompetent and ineffective. But ordinary Pakistanis are among the most philanthropic people in the world. Thirty years of community-based rural support and other similar programs are proof that many of them are giving to help their fellow citizens to get up on their own feet. More and more of them are choosing to light candles instead of cursing the darkness.  This should give us all hope for a brighter future for Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Philanthropy in Pakistan

Pakistan-A Hard Country

World Giving Index Report 2011

How Can Overseas Pakistanis Help Flood Victims?

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Pakistan Center for Philanthropy

An Overview of Indian Philanthropy

Aaker Patel on Philathropy

Orangi Pilot Project

Volunteerism in America

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision