Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Other Face of Pakistan

Guest Post by Amjad Noorani

Like any young nation, Pakistan has been on a roller coaster ride. Things are looking up now -- and TCF is doing its part.

Here are sample facts about an emerging nation and its modest progress, through sources that underscore Pakistani business, its economy, education, social programs, democratic institutions, an improving infrastructure and quality of life.



TCF is doing its part by addressing the challenges of high illiteracy, access to quality education for the poor, the need for education reform, and providing a replicable model for better education management. Our goal is to make high quality education possible for all children and our commitment was recognized recently by the Clinton Global Initiative.

Good news rarely makes headlines and media stories often depict Pakistan as a problem country subscribing to extremist ideology. Certainly Pakistan has had its ups and downs, reckless spurts and grinding halts. But, against heavy odds, Pakistan is resilient and its people recognize that it must do better to thrive in a competitive world.

From Forbes, there is good news in business. Consumer prices and inflation are checked. Exports in 2011 were up sharply. Despite global recession, its annual GDP growth was 2.8% for 2008-2011 and as high as 7% annually for the period 2004-2007. About 40% of the country's labor force is in services, 40% in agriculture and 20% in industry.

Economists project a 4% GDP growth rate. Sales of consumer electronics is expected to grow 13.3% annually. International icons like Nestle, Pepsi and Unilever are common household names. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most developed hi-tech sectors. In July 2011, a growing middle class pushed car sales up by 61%.

Democratic processes seem to be taking hold. Tax revenues are going up and there are signs of improving infrastructure in many aspects of daily life. College education is more accessible and overall quality of education is steadily improving. Telecom technology is introducing education to far flung areas, with phenomenal growth in media and communications. Also read about women leading a silent social revolution and a new cadre of excellent journalists and writers on social issues. These are solid indicators of Pakistani progress despite the roller coaster ride of the last 64 years. With 60% of its population under 30 years old, huge challenges remain in critical areas such as education, workforce training, employment, housing, water management, healthcare, etc. Gradually, these are being chipped away with homegrown solutions.

We hope to bring you more good news about TCF and other positive initiatives in Pakistan. Do let us know what you think. Support for TCF is the best route to helping Pakistan. Let's make 2012 a great year for Peace and Progress in Pakistan.

Note: The author is a board member of The Citizens Foundation USA.

Here's a video clip of The Citizens Foundation's brief presentation at a recent Clinton Global Initiative meeting:



Here's a short film about Pakistan:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Inquiry-based Learning in Pakistan

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Primary Education Crisis

Indian Students' Poor Performance on PISA and TIMSS

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

PISA's Scores 2011

Teaching Facts versus Reasoning

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

28 comments:

KA Akhtar said...

Good News Pakistan is an initiative by brothers and social entrepreneurs Majid and Mahmood Mirza. They set up a website simply titled Good News (www.goodnews.pk) , which focuses solely on positive developments coming out of the country. They describe the idea behind the website via Skype as being "to highlight amazing, awesome and inspirational news stories coming from Pakistan, as opposed to the usual negativities that steal the headlines". And they have plenty of examples ready. For instance, did you know that Pakistan has become only the sixth country in the world to map the human genome, joining the ranks of the US, the UK, China, Japan and India, which have all successfully sequenced it. Or, how about the fact that Pakistan has the largest volunteer ambulance organisation in the world started by "living saint" Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1948. Today, the radio-linked network includes 600 ambulances that work in every corner of the country. Or how about the recent news that Dr Umar Saif, an associate professor at the School of Science and Engineering in Lahore, has been recognised by MIT Technology Review as one of the top 35 innovators in the world - joining an elite group of researchers and entrepreneurs selected over the last decade, which includes Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and Jonathan Ive, the chief designer at Apple. These are stories which slipped under the radar.

Then there are serial entrepreneurs like Monis Rahman, who just four years ago set-up Rozee.pk, which is now Pakistan's largest jobs website, with 500,000 unique visitors a month; or Karachi-born freelance designer Vakas Siddiqui laying to rest the myth that Pakistani students are limited to excellence in science and the humanities by being selected as one of the top 28 designers in the world; or filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who has just been shortlisted for an Oscar in the 'best documentary short' category for her film Saving Face. Whether it be in music, fashion, academia, activism, technology, sports or science these are stories that people do not usually associate with Pakistan and which might just show that there is more to the country than just bombs and beards.For more insight into this project following this link:

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/activate/2011/10/2011102774650979571.html

Riaz Haq said...

From Aljazeera English:

Pakistan: More to offer than bombs and beards
Some Pakistanis are trying to counter the negative headlines about their country by spreading the good news.

If you did not know anything about Pakistan and happened to pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news, you might be forgiven for assuming that it is possibly the most broken, troubled and violent country on the face of the earth - a basket case just moments from imploding.

In the all-important arena of international public perception, Pakistan has taken an unprecedented battering in recent years, accumulating more bad headlines than nearly any other country and making places like Afghanistan and Iraq look relatively stable by comparison.

The list of challenges it faces is seemingly unending: terrorism, corruption, drone attacks, natural disasters, poverty, a deficit in leadership, discrimination against minorities, mistreatment of women, attacks on freedom of speech, mass tax evasion, match fixing, the murder of judges, politicians, union organisers and journalists - and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

So pervasive are the headlines pointing to a crisis in Pakistan that after a while they seem to blur into one another. Whether it is "hostages held in Karachi", "al-Qaeda hideout discovered in Swat", "floods bring pain to millions", "suicide bomber explodes in market square", "senior judge in blasphemy case shot dead" or "Pakistan's ISI actively supporting Taliban in Afghan war" the message is uniformly bad news. The result is that for many the image of Pakistan is one of bombers, beards, shaking fists, distressed women and utter hopelessness. It makes for a pretty depressing picture.

I guess that is why the work of Syed Ali Abbas and his Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) featured in this week's Activate, Pakistan: The New Radicals, is so refreshing. A courageous young social activist, Ali founded the PYA together with Maryam Kanwer when he was just 21 years old. It was born in the midst of severe political turmoil, as then-President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and fired the chief justice on national television, while the security forces brutally cracked down on dissenting lawyers.

Fed up with watching their country's problems on the television, the PYA initially organised protests and rallies but quickly became more active. Its core premise and mission statement is to take a stand, to get as practically involved on the ground as possible and to exemplify the change they seek through their actions rather than merely proposing it on paper.

Their main goal is to create political and social awareness among the youth of Pakistan and to unite them irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, caste, race or language on an unbiased platform through which they can engage with one another and contribute practically to building a more progressive society in Pakistan - whether through protest, social and relief work or the arts.

Earlier this year, Ali was among a small group instrumental in organising counter protests to the hate filled ones celebrating and glorifying Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was murdered in January over his stance on Pakistan's blasphemy laws and his ardent defence of religious minorities like Christians and Ahmadis. Ali says he did this because: "This is not what the founder of Pakistan and 'Father of the Nation' Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah would have wanted for this country today, especially as he repeatedly stressed the importance of inter-faith unity and religious harmony."...

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/activate/2011/10/2011102774650979571.html


http://bcove.me/erkfqgrt

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a SciDev report on Pakistan's Human Genome Project undertaken with Chinese collaboration at the University of Karachi:

A burgeoning genetics research collaboration between China and Pakistan has yielded its first result: the mapping of the genome of a Pakistani national.

The Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi, had agreed last year to work together on seven genomic projects, train Pakistani scientists, set up a genomics centre in Pakistan, and transfer state-of-the-art technology to Pakistan.

The first project involved sending genetic samples of the first volunteer, former science minister Atta-ur-Rahman, who is also ICCBS patron, to the BGI for mapping.

'Genome mapping' involves locating and identifying genes to create a map, akin to identifying towns and cities, to create a road map. Genome maps help scientists locate genes for human diseases, by tracking the complete genetic information of individuals and, families over generations.

Researchers at the Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), under the ICCBS, and BGI mapped Rahman’s genes in 10 months. ICCBS director Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary announced the results to the media last month (27 June). The results are yet to be published in a scientific journal.

This makes Pakistan the world's sixth and the first Islamic country to completely map a human genetic sequence, Choudhary said.

More projects are underway to gain insights into various population groups in Pakistan; genetic predisposition to disorders, including liver and heart disease; anaemia, diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer's disease and blood disorders, Choudhary told SciDev.Net.

It could lead to "significant advances in their diagnosis and treatment" Kamran Azim, assistant professor at the PCMD, said.

"It is going to take more than two years to complete the genome projects and come up with the final conclusions about different aspects of the country's different population groups," Choudhary said.

BGI scientists are interested in studying the genetic structure and physiology of Pakistan's diverse ethnic groups, particularly those along the Makran coast, Balochistan province, and Kalash Desh in northern Pakistan, Choudhary said.

Manzoor Hussain Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, observed that the development could pave the way for better medical management and new drugs discovery.

But, he cautioned, such research could also raise ethical, legal and social concerns over confidentiality and misuse of genetic information by prospective employers, insurers, courts of law and family members.

Soomro said that though it is not yet clear who would safeguard the genome mapping data, it should logically be the responsibility of Pakistan's national bioethics committee under the Pakistan Council of Medical Research.


http://www.scidev.net/en/news/china-aids-first-pakistani-genome-map-1.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ANI report on gene mapping in Pakistan:

Karachi, June 28(ANI): Scientists at the Karachi University have mapped the genome of the first Pakistani man with the help of the Beijing Genomics Institute.

This has made Pakistan the first country in the Muslim world to map the genome of the first Muslim man.

The achievement places Pakistan in the ranks of the few countries- the United States, the United Kingdom, India, China and Japan- that have successfully sequenced the human genome as well.

"Our nation is a mix of a lot of races," said Professor Dr M Iqbal Choudhary, who heads the project. "Pakistanis are like a "melting pot" i.e. a mix of Mughals, Turks, Pashtuns, Afghans, Arabs, etc."

"According to the researchers, the newly sequenced Pakistani genome has uncovered a multitude of Pakistan-specific sites, which can now be used in the design of large-scale studies that are better suited for the Pakistani population," The Express Tribune quoted Dr Choudhary, who is the director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at Karachi University, as saying.

The first Pakistani genome has been mapped using a recently developed technology, ten years after the first human genome was discovered.

Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research at the University of Karachi took 10 months to accomplish the task. The individual who has been genetically mapped is a resident of Karachi. (ANI)


http://in.news.yahoo.com/pakistan-becomes-first-islamic-country-map-genome-first-111639389.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on alleged Anthrax sent to Pakistan Prime Minister's office:

The package was intercepted by the prime minister’s security staff in October, according to the spokesman, Akram Shaheedi. The Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, a government laboratory, established that the suspicious white powder it contained was anthrax spores, he said. A criminal case was filed on Tuesday, according to an Islamabad police officer, The Associated Press reported.

Government officials gave contradictory accounts of the identity of the sender, and they offered little sense of motive. While Islamist militants have repeatedly targeted senior government officials in suicide and bomb attacks, an assassination attempt using biological weapons would be an anomaly.

Mr. Shaheedi said that law enforcement authorities had identified the sender as an associate professor at Jamshoro University in the southern province of Sindh. But he could not say whether the professor, a Ms. Zulekha, had been arrested or detained.

A senior police officer in charge of presidential security, Hakim Khan, gave a different account. He denied any knowledge of the suspect Mr. Shaheedi named, but he confirmed that a police team had been sent to Jamshoro to investigate. The packet had been sent from a small post office on the Jamshoro University campus, he said.

Mr. Khan said the case had been registered under a provision of Pakistan’s penal code that deals with the act of sending poison with the intention of causing harm.

In November 2001, suspicious letters containing anthrax spores were sent to three private businesses, including the country’s largest Urdu-language daily, Jang, in the southern port city of Karachi. No motive was ever determined.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/world/asia/pakistan-reveals-prime-minister-gilani-was-sent-anthrax.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Brown Daily Herald report on an upcoming Pakistani documentary "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan":

Samina Quraeshi is a Renaissance woman in every sense of the phrase. A native of Pakistan, she has worn the hats of author, artist, architect, speaker, academic, photographer, curator — and now filmmaker.

Quraeshi presented clips from her upcoming documentary, "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan," to a rapt audience of roughly 30 students and Rhode Island natives Wednesday night in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. The richly detailed and tenderly shot film tells the stories of women in Pakistan trying to make positive changes in their surroundings as entrepreneurs, public health workers and dance instructors, among other jobs.

In an address before the screening, Quraeshi said her motive behind producing the film was to present the human face of a region often vilified in the media.

"I want to use art to introduce complex cultural nuances," she said. "Sensationalist portrayals begin to warp the public's consciousness of the people who live in (Pakistan)."

Soft-spoken and often dryly humorous, Quraeshi also emphasized that understanding a place's history is essential to understanding its culture.

"During the past Bush era, there was a culture of fear on top of a lack of awareness," she told The Herald. "It made people want to get into their houses and watch their TVs, but all the media coverage was doing was propagating stereotypes."

The film preview was part of a national series called "Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet," which aims to introduce American audiences to contemporary Muslim artists. The Providence nonprofit FirstWorks competed fiercely with organizations across the country to host Caravanserai in the city, said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director of FirstWorks. Only four other U.S. nonprofits earned a spot as a stop on the tour.

"There's this idea of a caravanserai as a place where weary travelers along the road stop and rest and share their stories," Pletcher said. "It's a very collective act. And that's what we're hoping to do here — connect art with audience."

The next Caravanserai event is a Feb. 7 screening of "Made in Pakistan," a documentary from Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Khan. Quraeshi's film is slated to be released in October.


http://www.browndailyherald.com/granoff-hosts-pakistani-renaissance-woman-1.2694725#.TywcK-RWGSo

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is a resilient country, says Anatol Lieven according to Dawn:

In Pakistan’s diversity lies a measure of its resilience. This was argued by distinguished journalist and author Anatol Lieven during his talk at the Oxford University Head Office on Saturday.

Mr Lieven’s talk basically gave a sketch of his book ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country.’ He began by asserting that Pakistan was not a failed state and said the people who had gathered to listen to him were proof of it. Pakistan was not Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia. He maintained that his book was about the sources of resilience in Pakistan, which could be sources of stagnation as well (in terms of development). To explain his point, he said he had used the expression ‘Janus-faced’ many a time in the book, and that the editors had made 18 deletions of the phrase, leaving just half a dozen. The book was an attempt at discussing power in the country, how it is exercised and what are its roots – religious, cultural etc. This central theme was set against the background of the war in Afghanistan and the rise of militancy in Pakistan. He told the gathering that when an American publisher read it he was taken aback because he had thought that it would be about the Taliban and an impending Islamic revolution in Pakistan. He added that it also discussed the role of the military and the four provinces and the difference within those provinces.

Mr Lieven said he had spent a lot of time talking about the diversity in Pakistan. For example, how Karachi was different from the rest of Sindh and how Punjab was an immensely varied region. Also, the important role that kinship played in the country’s politics and power struggles. In his view, a measure of its resilience lay in the country’s diversity, because of which, however, it was sometimes difficult to get things done. He argued that Pakistan couldn’t have an Iran-style revolution because it didn’t have a monolithic culture.

Mr Lieven said that as he was a journalist he got quotes from the Pakistani people in their own words. The problem with the West was that it didn’t listen to people directly and therefore had a flawed understanding of things. If you were to know about the tribal justice system in Balochistan, you had to talk to a Baloch sardar, he pointed out.

With respect to militancy in Pakistan Mr Lieven said that although the fear of terrorism was pervasive, and that it had claimed numerous victims, the insurgency was limited, particularly after the 2009 Swat operation in which militants were driven back. However, he added that insurgency was common in the region and, except for Bangladesh, every country had faced it.

Mr Lieven said sympathy for the Afghan Taliban in areas like Peshawar was similar to the support for the mujahideen in the ‘80s. It did not necessarily mean an Islamic revolution. He argued that up to a certain point the situation did appear perilous but the post-Musharraf scenario proved that if the state and the army made a concerted attempt things could be done. He said his book also took issue with the US foreign policy. The US should realise that Pakistan is a much more important country than Afghanistan and that it needs to tread lightly here. He said however that the Osama bin Laden operation had impacted public opinion in the US, and if there was a terrorist attack in the US or India in future, US retaliation could be severe. It was important for Pakistan to continue visible cooperation against international terrorism, he remarked.

Replying to a question, Mr Lieven said one of the reasons he used the word ‘hard’ in the title of the book was that he would often hear the phrase ‘Pakistan is a hard country’ from the locals. He gave the example of a Chaudhry in Punjab who, explaining the killing of his detractors, commented that Pakistan was a hard country....


http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/05/pakistan-is-a-resilient-country.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of the impact of energy crisis in Pakistan by Sky News:

Energy shortages across Pakistan are crippling the country's economy and costing businesses millions in lost productivity.

Electricity is cut off for hours at a time, fuel is rationed at filling stations and people are forced to run expensive generators to keep their homes lit.

Pakistan is not producing enough power to meet the growing demand and economists estimate the shortages are shaving 2% off its gross domestic product.

At one time most of the world's hand-stitched leather footballs were made in the town of Sialkot in the Punjab.

It is still a profitable business, but only just.

The power cuts keep production lines idle for hours at a time, orders take longer to make, some have to be flown abroad at great expense to make their deadlines rather than shipped.

"The energy crisis has been here for the last five or six years but it has become very severe over the past couple of years, very very severe," manager Ali Sheikh told Sky News.

"At times it is as if the government is trying to shut industry down altogether. It seems deliberate at times."

Add to that rising unemployment, a negligible tax collection rate, rampant corruption and a security situation that puts buyers off from travelling to Pakistan.

Businessman Asad Bajwa believes many foreigners are now reluctant to visit his factory in Sialkot and orders are down 40%.

But do not write Pakistan off just yet, one leading economist says.

Dr Rashid Amjad , the Vice Chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad, said: "The bottom line is we need to revive growth as soon as we can.

"The government has to give it the highest priority and go in for serious economic thinking to ensure macro-economic stability.

"But I still come back to the basic fact that there is a resilience in its people and a resilience in its economy.

"Everybody thinks Pakistan is going to collapse - it never has."


http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16163280

Riaz Haq said...

The prices for Pakistan's PAC (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex) computers range from Rs. 8,000 for PAC eBook reader tablet, to Rs. 15,000 for PAC PAD 1 tablet and Rs. 23,500 for PAC nBook.

Check out PakAccounts.com for specs more details.

http://pakaccountants.com/pakistan-introduced-ebook-reader-notebook-tablet-pc/

Here's a link to a video about Pakistan Aeronautical Complex products.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oMbzyTun7Q&feature=related

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece in Time magazine on Pakistan Fashion Week in Lahore:

Fashionistas the world over will look to the Big Apple as the spotlight falls on New York ahead of the start of its glitzy Fashion Week this Thursday. But, away from the catwalks and cocktail parties of fashion’s North American capital, the industry struts its stuff in far more troubled frontiers. I attended Pakistan’s Fashion Week in the historic, culturally rich city of Lahore last spring. Pakistan carries with it centuries of South Asian expertise in the craft of weaving and flashy garment making, making it, in many ways, a natural spot for such colorful event. Hassan Yasin is the designer for his label HSY and is one of the few Pakistani fashion creators to export to the western hemisphere: “What it does is that it gives us discipline, that’s the most important thing. We’ve been doing fashion weeks in Dubai and in other places for a long time. Without a fashion week it’s very difficult because there is no need, there is no desire to create and the consumer loses out.”

The most obvious question remains: how does such a religiously conservative nation ever teetering on the brink chaos organize itself to put on a fashion show? First and foremost there are practicalities to be dealt with like security, each guest faces a stringent security process in order to enter the venue, running a gauntlet tantamount to an airport security check. Once inside you’ll find patient fashionistas facing a barrage of political questions while prepping for their shows — not exactly what Karl Lagerfeld concerns himself with. Female designers get harangued about women’s rights, the burqa, and blasphemy laws, while male designers are questioned about homosexuality, the tensions with India and the war in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly this is a daunting task, but perhaps the most important interpretation of the event is that of conservatives in the country.

Weighing in is Dr. Khalid Zaheer, a professor of Islamic studies and a dean at the Univeristy of Central Punjab. “If we go for fashion within the acceptable limits, it’s not that it is acceptable, I think it’s desirable,” says Zaheer. He adds that “God is not against beauty. The trouble is that when you start talking about beauty there is a danger of evil creeping into it. The evil is of obscenity and of vulgarity. Many orthodox Muslims have taken this idea too far but many liberals have taken the idea to the other extreme, that is what needs to be done, to bring sanity to most of these people.” Zaheer says that all Pakistanis don’t share his vision in Pakistan, and that organizers of the fashion event must tread lightly given the sentiments of the wider, more conservative public.


Read more: http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/02/06/fashion-week-in-pakistan-can-style-trump-conservatism

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Express Tribune on Anatol Lieven's recent speech in Lahore:

“Drama sells beautifully,” said Anatol Lieven, “You see a headline, ‘Pakistan on the edge of destruction’ it does wonders for selling the news. Lieven, a British journalist, was speaking with The Express Tribune at a talk organised by the Oxford University Press regarding his latest book, Pakistan: A Hard Country. Lieven admitted that the ‘West’ is not that well informed about Pakistan and those journalists who were relied on for information also liked their drama.

“No matter how angry the Pakistani government is with the US,” he said, “it is imperative for both to continue real and public cooperation.” Lieven does believe that the government had no clue about Osama Bin Laden’s presence in the country but said he was not sure about the military or intelligence. Conspiracy theories, he said, were rife in Pakistan and could be infuriating. “No one knows who killed General Ziaul Haq. But we all do know that he was killed.”

Calling the US’s decision to send troops during the May 2 raid in Abbottabad last year a ‘bad idea’, Lieven said there was some awareness in the UK and in ‘sensible’ quarters of the Washington establishment about the intrusive nature of that raid. However, he said after the Bin Laden discovery, it was difficult to maintain much of a stance against raids.

Lieven is more concerned about how the US would respond in case a terrorist act carried out in the US is traced back to Pakistan. “The reaction by the US government would be disastrous.” With the mood in the US Congress and on the street turning highly sceptical over the years, Lieven said post 9/11 even the most moderate quarters had lost their reasonableness. “The US congress is not a very sophisticated force. They are very easily provoked,” he said.

Explaining title of his book, Lieven said Pakistan was a resilient country that had over the years faced hard challenges. Lieven believes that though Pakistan was facing its toughest crisis yet, it had always survived. He said the country had bounced back from the ‘increasingly dangerous’ situation in Swat as well as from the aftermath of the recent floods.

Lieven also warned against blaming the West alone. “We cannot deny that there are certain elements in Pakistan that hold a sympathetic view of the Afghan Taliban,” he said, “and resist US policies.”

The author, who has worked for The Financial Times and is currently a professor of international relations and war studies at King’s College in London, has written six books. Lieven said an Islamic revolution in Pakistan could disintegration of the country. “People talk of the Arab Spring in Pakistan,” he said, “Though with its democratic character – no matter how flawed- Pakistan is very different from the Middle East.”

“I have received criticism for being too soft on the military,” he said during the talk later, “but it is unfair to say that the military or the government are doing absolutely nothing,” he said.

Lieven said that in his opinion the military was the only institution in Pakistan that ‘works’, but that did not imply that the military could take over the state. “I hope one thing is clear from my book,” Lieven said, “as far as civil rights, education and boosting the economy is concerned, I am with the liberals – how one gets there is another thing.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/332633/a-hard-country-an-islamic-revolution-will-break-up-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

In a Tehelka Op Ed, Kiran Nazish writes: "One way to regulate the media or politics in Pakistan is to have civil society watchdogs and that seems to be working. The civil society in Pakistan seems to be quietly — and perhaps, inadvertently — regaining strength. We don’t know if this could this be a threat to the establishment’s control over the state."

More excerpts:

"In recent years, Pakistani media has been on a wild ride of television ratings. To catch up, Maya Khan, a popular TV host took her show to public parks, where she – with her battalion of likeminded women, ran from ‘couple’ to ‘couple’, with microphones and cameras, exposing them as a social disgrace. "

"If the stars were on their usual path, Maya Khan would not have encountered the kind of public outrage she did. While some jocular humour embellished public anger, and jokes like ‘when in parks, beware of dogs and Maya Khan’, were winning popularity; a group of civil society members took shape. The Citizen for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM) emerged as a group of activists, academics, lawyers and journalists, including unadorned citizens that collectively forfeited against Maya’s actions and ran a campaign to ensure that she identifies such behaviour as unethical and apologises. Which, when she didn’t, aggravated the situation and caused her to get fired by the channel along with rest of the team on her show. The following days CFRM continued pointing out and campaigning against other programmes with questionable content or anchoring style and caused two resignations from the anchor and producer of popular prime time shows.

Maya Khan is not just a person, but also a phenomenon, and the growth of such phenomenon is now being impeded by efforts of groups like the CFRM. This development is significant in Pakistan, especially when, to rephrase a CNN report, ‘Media is becoming more powerful than the military.’"

"Take the NRO issue or the Memogate scandal, a massive outrage from the public has constantly been visible. Pakistan now seems ready to hold the state to account, forcing it to live up to its own commitments. Then the lawyers’ movement, with 10 million signatories, was crucial to restore the chief justice. Not just lawyers, but people from all walks of life took to the streets till the goal was accomplished. A lot happened in between but the resistance could not overcome collective civilian participation. It was the civil society in Pakistan that brought about the change from authoritarianism to democracy. We need to explore how quietly and steadfastly their efforts are having a transformative impact. And whether civil society can help dismantle the power, political and monetary concentration by the military. Pakistan may not have free and independent media yet but behind the barricades and across the checkposts, the civil society is learning how to self-liberate."

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ws110212Lessons.asp

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Associated Press report on Pakistan's assertive judiciary challenging the military and civilian leadership:

....Some believe the court’s actions are part of a necessary, if messy, rebalancing in a country that has long been dominated by the army or seen chaotic periods of rule by corrupt politicians. Others view the court as just another unaccountable institution undermining the elected government.
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The army has been the principal point of contact for the U.S. in the decade since it resuscitated ties with Pakistan to help with the Afghan war. While the army remains the strongest Pakistani institution, recent events indicate it has ceded some of that power to the Supreme Court and the country’s civilian leaders.
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The Supreme Court’s activism was on full display Monday.

The court charged Pakistan’s prime minister with contempt for refusing to reopen an old corruption case against the president. Later, it ordered two military intelligence agencies to explain why they held seven suspected militants in allegedly harsh conditions for 18 months without charges.

Some government supporters have accused the court of acting on the army’s behalf to topple the country’s civilian leaders, especially in a case probing whether the government sent a memo to Washington last year asking for help in stopping a supposed military coup.

But no evidence has surfaced to support that allegation, and the court’s moves against the military seem to conflict with the theory. The judges have also taken up a case pending for 15 years in which the army’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, is accused of funneling money to political parties to influence national elections.
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The court’s actions against the army are a significant turnaround. For much of Pakistan’s nearly 65-year history, the court has been pliant to the army’s demands and validated three coups carried out by the generals.
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The Pakistani media have largely applauded the court’s activism against the army, which has also had its power checked by a more active media and the demands of a bloody war against a domestic Taliban insurgency.
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“I think the Supreme Court is going too far,” said Pakistani political analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi. “In the past, it was the army that would remove the civilian government, and now it’s the Supreme Court, another unelected institution trying to overwhelm elected leadership.”

Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president based on recommendations from a judicial commission working in conjunction with parliament. The judges can serve until the age of 65 and can be removed only by a judicial council.

The cases have distracted the government from dealing with pressing issues facing the country, including an ailing economy and its battle against the Pakistani Taliban.

Moeed Yusuf, an expert on Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, said the jockeying for power between the army, Supreme Court and civilian government was expected given the shifting political landscape and could be beneficial to the country in the long run.

“No country has managed to bypass several phases of such recalibration before they have arrived at a consensual, democratic and accountable system where institutions finally are able to synergize rather than compete endlessly,” Yusuf wrote in a column in Dawn.
-----------
“No single group will totally dominate the system,” said Rizvi. “That will slow down decision making further in Pakistan because nobody can take full responsibility for making a decision.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistans-assertive-supreme-court-signals-power-shift-in-vital-us-ally/2012/02/14/gIQAIZHODR_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nashua Telegraph report on US Rotarians' planned visit to Pakistan:

Julie Whitcomb of Mont Vernon, president of the Milford Rotary Club, organized the trip after hosting one of five Pakistani Rotarians who visited the Milford area last year.

“They said, ‘We would love to have people from the United States come visit us because we need you guys to see how it is in Pakistan for real,’ ” she said.

Aside from making personal connections, the group is pursuing several projects.

Sampson, who is head librarian in Mont Vernon, is working to establish a book-exchange program that will provide books and writing supplies for children, which the Milford club plans to make an ongoing project.

Veterinarian Shelley Brooks of Mont Vernon is working to establish a textbook-exchange program between New Hampshire veterinarians and the University of Veterinary and Animals Sciences in Lahore. And Whitcomb’s husband, Matt Gelbwaks, a business consultant, will hold some business seminars.

Sampson said she signed up for the visit after she and her husband, Frank Corey, hosted one of five Pakistani members of Rotary last year.

“I had very little notion of what Pakistan was, just what you see on the TV news,” she said. “Everyone assumed everyone there is like the people we saw on the news, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The Pakistanis toured the Milford police station to get an idea of American law enforcement and visited a Milford insurance agency and propane and oil dealers to get an idea of how business is done. They also visited the casinos in Connecticut to see some of the louder aspects of American life in action.

“It sounds corny, but their visit was one of the more meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t imagine going the rest of my life, never seeing them again,” Sampson said.

This is exactly the goal of the Rotary International program called GSE, or group study exchange. GSE sends thousands of members of Rotary clubs, usually young professionals, around the world each year to stay with each other and make connections which would otherwise never happen.

The connection between southern New Hampshire and Pakistan began when Rick Manganello of the Nashua Rotary club, who at the time was district governor for some 60 Rotary chapters in New Hampshire and Vermont, met some Pakistani Rotarians at a conference.

Although he knew little about the country except that it is one of the fastest-growing countries in Rotary – Pakistan recently divided into two districts because so many new chapters are opening – he was impressed enough from those meetings and subsequent connections that he and his wife visited Pakistan last March for a district conference.

The people there, he said, solidified his desire to make connections.

“They were warm, interesting, friendly,” said Manganello, CEO of Windmill International, a software firm. “I really can’t say enough about them.”

He also was prompted by the fact that most Americans know nothing of Pakistan doesn’t extend beyond news of terrorism.

“The idea is to build bridges, to help bring peace – and Pakistan is a place to build peace,” Manganello said.

As for the question of personal safety, he isn’t too concerned because of the structure of Rotary visits.

“I didn’t consider Pakistan anymore threatening than Honduras or Haiti, where we’ve been many times,” Manganello said. “You’re fairly safe, traveling in small groups, staying in homes of Rotarians. You’re not in big Western hotels, you’re not too visible.”


http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/950239-196/pakistan-trip-lets-locals-see-need.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Pakistani blogger Huma Yousuf's post on "Where Extremes Meet"

The forces that compete to shape contemporary Pakistan were in plain sight in Karachi last Sunday. While at a posh creek-side hotel, literary glitterati from Pakistan and India and the South Asian diaspora in Britain and beyond gathered for the third annual Karachi Literature Festival, at the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder, the symbolic center of the city, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (D.P.C.), a coalition of more than 40 religious political parties and extremist groups, drew thousands to its first rally in Karachi.
------------
In short, for all their ideological diversity, the liberal left and the extremist right now agree that Pakistan needs to better protect its interests and negotiate a more equitable partnership with the United States. This consensus could be the basis for a new national discourse that engages the viewpoints of all stakeholders. After all, a shared vision for the country could help bridge its ethnic and sectarian fractures.

But as NATO supply lines reopen this week and a national security committee dithers about how to reframe the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, coherent policymaking still seems far off. Pakistan’s leaders simply have too little interest in representing the views of their constituents, no matter how similar those are.


http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/pakistans-liberals-and-fundamentalists-share-worries-about-countrys-future/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian piece on Pakistan's film industry:

It claims to not only be the most anticipated film in the history of Pakistan, but to be based on true events. And, for once, the Hollywood-style hyperbole can be excused. The feature-length action thriller called Waar ("to strike" in Urdu) is eagerly awaited, despite being out of tune with the trend for movies packed with singing and dancing.

Waar is coming to cinemas in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and even the restive frontier city of Peshawar later this year. The trailer was viewed more than 500,000 times in the first month when posted on YouTube in January, entering the website's top five videos.

Inspired by real events such as a Muslim extremist assault on a Pakistani police academy in 2009, the film follows a team of anti-terrorist police officers who, with time running out, try to stop a new attack. But the subject matter is not the only attraction, say local critics. With its slick production and use of digital technology, the film, reportedly the country's most expensive ever, is a long way from the staples of local cinema.

"Waar is very, very new," says Sher Ali Khan, film reporter for the Express Tribune newspaper.

In recent years, there has been a series of films dealing with edgy subjects in Pakistan but these were made by, and watched by, the westernised middle classes. "So far the masses haven't accepted these new kind of films. They have catered to the westernised upper middle class. Popular tastes have stayed with the standard styles of plot and production," says Khan. "Waar can be considered the first new wave film to go mainstream."
----------
However, along with Waar, a whole series of similar films is being readied for release in coming months.

One is Kaptaan, a cinematic rendering of the recent life of Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who currently tops popularity polls in Pakistan. The film will cover Khan's life since retiring from sport 20 years ago and will dramatise his entry into politics as well as his failed marriage to Jemima Goldsmith, who is played by a Pakistan-American actress.

Tareen is producing Tamanna (Desire), a drama exploring class, adultery and, through flashbacks, the heyday of Lollywood. "It is neither action-based nor Bollywood-style. It is much more a pure drama with a narrative telling the story of three individuals," she says.

Sanaa Ahmed, a film journalist in Pakistan, sees the new developments in Pakistan as part of a broader global trend. "There are a lot of new young people with stories to tell who are figuring out ways to tell it," she says. "It's a new wave."

Lashari says Pakistan needs to "recreate" its cinema. "Everyone here has been following Bollywood but the best we can ever come up with is going to be a B grade knock off. We need to create our own identity," he says.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/17/pakistan-film-fans-prepare-waar

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on Lahore Derby in 2012:

THE 66th running of the most cherished annual event of the country’s turf, the Pakistan Derby 2012, scheduled to be run at the Racecourse in Lahore on March 4, has a long tradition to lean on.

A term race for four-year-old colts and fillies, the Derby exemplifies elegance, colour and grandeur and provides a real test of speed, stamina and endurance of the thoroughbreds’ bloodline for the breeders to improve their quality breeding.

It carries the greatest prestige and the biggest slice of prize-money. Derby winner’s purse this year will be rupees half a million plus a glittering trophy.

The colts or fillies occupying second, third and fourth positions will bring for their owners Rs175,000, Rs85,000 and Rs45,000, respectively besides a special prize for the breeder of the winner.

Lahore being the Derby home is at present afflicted with the Derby fever and the quest for picking the probable Derby winner has already started.

In the race club, stables and the restaurants where race fans, owners, trainers are sitting probable Derby runners are the topic of their discussions with special reference to their past record of achievements and track work they are being given in morning exercises.

The Pakistan Derby was instituted in 1947 after the founding of the new country, Pakistan.

Since then, it has become an event for great horses, great jockeys, owners and trainers. The pomp, pageantry and splendour have never been seen on any other occasion.

Before independence, the event was known as the Punjab Derby and according to available official record it was first introduced in 1924 when a group of equine enthusiasts started holding Meeting races at the Lahore Race Club (LRC).
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The Derby was not held in 1978 due to shortage of runners.

Later, the Derby distance was reduced to 1,600 metres in 1979 but was increased to 2,000 metres in1980, two years later it was again brought to international standards in 1982.

Since then the Derby has remained the biggest classic and feature event in the country’s racing calendar.

The Derby is a truly unique and colourful occasion that combined highly competitive and very best racing action with a real taste of day-long equine activity, nothing compares in the rest of the year racing.

The event also attracts a bumper crowd of sports fans, mostly those who otherwise never attend races.

The Pakistan Derby over the 65 years of its inception has both sweet and sour memories.
-----------
Among owners, who were lucky to have won the Derby more than once are: H.O. Hay’s, Nawab Jamal Khan Leghari, Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari, Sardar Ata Mohammad Khan Leghari, H.S. Khawaja, Syed Shah Mardan Shah II, Pir Pagaro VII, Khalida Yasmeen Khan, Zafar Yousuf Khan, Syed Pervez Shah, Sohrab Khan and M. Attiq.

Pir Pagaro had the distinction of winning the Derby four times as a single owner in the country.

Only three women owners have so far won the Derby. They are: Sahibzadi Fareeda Begum, Syeda Abida Hussain and Khalida Yasmeen.

The more fortunate among trainers to win the Derby more than once are: Tymon, Shaukat Ali, Captain Jack Fownes, Khuda Bux Peshamby, M.H. Shah, Fateh Khan, Mohammad Ashraf, Haji Fazal Hadi, Raja Mohammad Azad and Amjad Ali II.

Among the jockeys, the feat has been achieved by Faiz Mohammad, S. Laloo, Bill Alford, Khadim Hussain, F. Hussain, Christopher Fownes, A. Razzaq, Memrez, Flatcher, Salahuddin II, Aamir Pervez and Shahid Rehman.
----------
Jockeys Flatcher and Shahid Rehman are tied up at the top Derby winners with five Derby wins each, Jockey Faiz Mohammad and Salahuddin II four times each are the next in the line.
--------------
Many of the lucky owners, trainers and jockeys are not with us today but their names will live in the annals of racing forever.


http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/25/competitive-pakistan-derby-has-a-long-tradition.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a DNA piece on Western misconceptions about Pakistan:

When Peter Oborne first arrived in Pakistan, he expected a 'savage' backwater scarred by terrorism.
Years later, he describes the Pakistan that is barely documented - and that he came to fall in love with

It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky - and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on racism.

Pakistan, he said, was "humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred". In summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the "vilest and most dangerous regions on Earth".

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens's brash assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly - as Pakistanis themselves are well aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.
----------------
Many write of how dangerous Pakistan has become. More remarkable, by far, is how safe it remains, thanks to the strength and good humour of its people. The image of the average Pakistani citizen as a religious fanatic or a terrorist is simply a libel, the result of ignorance and prejudice.

The prejudice against Pakistan dates back to before 9/11. It is summed up best by the England cricketer Ian Botham's notorious comment that "Pakistan is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid". Some years after Botham's outburst, the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham's mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan - all expenses paid - to see what she made of the country.

Unlike her son-in-law, Mrs Waller had the evidence of her eyes before her: "The country and its people have absolutely blown me away," said the 68-year-old grandmother.

After a trip round Lahore's old town she said: "I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged." She concluded: "All I would say is: 'Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you'll love it'. Honestly!"

Mrs Waller is telling the truth. And if you don't believe me, please visit and find out for yourself.


http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_are-we-wrong-about-pakistan_1655373-all

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The News on Pakistan's growing life sciences and biotech sectors:

Pakistan is a growing market for life sciences and biotechnologies, and a country where they, as well as public health research and related fields, have great potentials for beneficial social, economic and health impacts. Multilateral cooperation of Pakistan with international partners such as European Union (EU) could significantly increase the footprint of this impact.

These views were expressed by Professor Maurizio Martellini, Secretary General of the Landau Network-Centro Volta and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Insubria (Como, Italy), at an in-house talk, organised by the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) on the subject titled ‘Conceptualizing a future cooperation with Pakistan in Bio and Health sectors’.
------------
Elaborating the prospects of cooperation, Prof. Maurizio took stock of Pakistan’s biotechnology and medical industry and said that research in academia is rapidly developing; publications by Pakistani research teams rose to four-folds in the last decade, and the majority of publications from major universities come from the life sciences.

He said that university departments in Pakistan dealing with life science research amount to over 200, with increasing numbers in general and particularly in the biotechnologies and applied science sectors. He was of the view that Pakistan’s biotechnology industry seems also to have been a priority for the government support and in 2010 the country boasted its first biotech plant.
-------
Outlining his vision for cooperation, Prof Maurizio said that cooperation projects which are sustainable in both policy and financial terms should increase the S&T exchanges, favour socio-economical impacts of scientific and technological improvements, and implement improved safety and security good practices and standards, all with medium- and long-term strategies and objectives.

Dr Maria Sultan, Director General SASSI, in her remarks stated that the Pakistan will welcome the cooperation in the bio-safety and security field, however, it requires more broad-based understanding of global concerns and Pakistan’s requirements in this field. Highlighting issues of importance from the Pakistani side she said there is a need to develop a national framework which would encompass the entire scale of pathogens as well as possible gaps in the bio-safety and security area and development of a community of bio-safety in Pakistan for more societal awareness about the issue as well as to include all stakeholders especially the factors which are linked to the bio-economy in Pakistan. She said that the emphasis of cooperation should balance between research and development (R &D) sector in high-tech bio-sciences and bio-safety aspects for disease eradication and epidemic eradication programmes and capacity building in surveillance and equipment for the bio-security and safety mechanism in the country and the international collaborative programmes. She said Pakistani bio-engagement programmes if they are to be run have to rest on the policy of transparency and sustainability aimed at developing bio-economy in Pakistan and the region. Subsequent sanctions on its bio-technology sector could in the future retard or restrict the Pakistan’s capacity to fully utilise its immense potential. The international community should take this matter in account as well, she said.....


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=94991&Cat=6

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times story on Karachi Textile Expo 2012:

The textile sector is likely to fetch more than $45 million export orders during three-day 9th Textile Asia 2012 International Exhibition, textile experts said Saturday.
During previous international event in 2011, Pakistan fetched more than $31 million worth of orders for different categories of textile products, they added.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Textile Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig inaugurated the 9th Textile Asia 2012 event at Karachi Expo Centre.
It is the largest annual textile and garment machinery show of textile industry of Pakistan.
This year more than 276 exhibitors from 39 countries representing 369 international brands are participating in the event.
Besides a large number of textile sector’s representatives along with 271 foreign delegates are attending the exhibition.
The demand for textiles in the world is around $18 trillion, which is likely to be increased by 6.5 percent. China is the leading textile exporter of the world’s total exports of $400 billion.
Export of China stands at $55 billion, Hong Kong $38 billion, Korea $35 billion, Taiwan $16 billion, and Indonesia and Pakistan $14 billion.
Pakistan has emerged as one of the major cotton textile product suppliers in the world market with a share of world yarn trade of about 30 percent and cotton fabric about 8.0 percent, having total export of $13.8 billion, which accounts for only 1.2 percent of the overall share. Out of this cotton fabric is 0.02 percent, made-ups 0.18 percent and garments is 0.15 percent.
Textile sector is the backbone of the country’s economy having 56 percent of total exports and 38 percent job creation in the manufacturing sector. Nearly all the world-renowned brands are manufactured in Pakistan keeping high standard of international quality and competitiveness.
Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of cotton yarn and cloth in the world after China, which is number one besides, Pakistan ranks second in export of yarn and third in export of cloth and fourth largest producer and consumer of raw cotton.
The textile sector in 2011 has registered an impressive growth of 38 percent and it was expected after European Union’s (EU) duty free export of 75 products from Pakistan out of which 65 are textile products, the sector would fetch more than $25 billion export target. The EU facility is initially for two years, extendable for third year after which Pakistan would quality for Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus status to export duty free to EU as per revised criteria agreed with EU.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\03\11\story_11-3-2012_pg5_12

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on launch of local version of an international glossy magazine in Pakistan:

Pakistan is better known for bombs than bombshells, militant compounds than opulent estates. A few enterprising Pakistanis hope to alter that perception with the launch of a local version of the well-known celebrity magazine Hello!.

They plan to profile Pakistan’s rich and famous: the dashing cricket players, voluptuous Bollywood stars and powerful politicians who dominate conversation in the country’s ritziest private clubs and lowliest tea stalls. They also hope to discover musicians, fashion designers and other new talents who have yet to become household names.

“The side of Pakistan that is projected time and time again is negative,” said Zahraa Saifullah, the CEO of Hello! Pakistan. “There is a glamorous side of Pakistan, and we want to tap into that.”
--------------
Pakistan already has a series of local publications that chronicle the lives of the wellheeled in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, especially as they hop between lavish parties. But the producers of Hello! Pakistan hope the magazine’s international brand and greater depth will attract followers.

Hello! was launched in 1988 by the publisher of Spain’s Hola! magazine and is now published in 150 countries. It’s well-known for its extensive coverage of Britain’s royal family and once paid $14 million in a joint deal with People magazine for exclusive pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn twins.

The market for English-language publications in Pakistan is fairly small. Most monthly and weekly magazines sell no more than 3,000 copies, said Khan, the consulting editor. But they hope to tap into the large Pakistani expatriate markets in the United Kingdom and the Middle East as well.

Hello! Pakistan will be published once a month and will cost about $5.50, twice as much as what many poor Pakistanis earn in a day. The first issue will be published in mid-April and will focus on the Pakistani fashion scene.

Saifullah, who grew up watching her mother and grandmother read Hello! as she hopped between London and Karachi, said it took her two years to convince the magazine to publish a local version in Pakistan....


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/say-hello-to-pakistans-glamorous-side-as-famous-celebrity-magazine-launches-in-the-country/2012/03/24/gIQAtkbIYS_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a Bloomberg piece by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra on Pakistan's "unplanned revolution":

However, I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
------------
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.
Gangsters with Kalashnikovs

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-22/pakistan-s-unplanned-revolution-rewrites-its-future.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Washington Post on International Dance Day celebration in Pakistan:

LAHORE, Pakistan — In an auditorium at a luxury hotel here the other day, an artistic spectacle unfolded that once would have been unimaginable: Women and men danced together.

The occasion was International Dance Day, and to celebrate it, the Pakistan National Council of the Arts put on a cultural show in which young performers displayed different ethnic dance traditions. It is still rare in Pakistan to see any sort of public dancing that commingles the sexes, a legacy of the conservative Islamic policies imposed during the military rule of Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq from 1978 to 1988.
----------
“Pakistan has very rich folk dance traditions,” said Sughra Sadaf, director of the Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture. She is among those working to promote traditional dance from the diverse regions of Pakistan, including Balochi dance, Pashtun dance, Sindhi dance, and Bhangra, which is Punjabi in origin.

Even today, the mixing of men and women dancers on the same stage can cause surprise. At another Pakistan National Council of the Arts event in March in Islamabad, the program featured a troupe of men and women performing an illustration of the evolution of dance on the subcontinent.

The men wearing salwars and tunics twirled, arms extended, in the fashion of whirling dervishes. Women loosened their waist-length hair to perform during a Sufi dance.

At one point an audience member turned to another and said: “Men and women dancing on stage together. Imagine that.”

Chaudhry Asif, deputy director of the Lahore Arts Council, said he has never felt pressure from extremists or the government to cancel or postpone activities, “but sometimes we are compelled to do it.”....


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistan-dancers-put-on-a-rare-performance/2012/05/07/gIQAPxor8T_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a special CNN report on a Pakistani village by Wajahat Ali:

This is a story affecting millions of Pakistanis — and it does not involve suicide bombings, honor killings, extremism or President Zardari's mustache.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked Sakafat, a boisterous 12-year-old girl, while visiting a remote Pakistani village in the Sindh province.

"A scientist!" she immediately replied. "Why can't we be scientists? Why not us?"

The confident Sakafat lives in Abdul Qadir Lashari village, which is home to 500 people in Mirpur Sakro. It is in one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

There was a characteristic resilience and optimism in this particular village. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pakistan's often dysfunctional, surreal yet endearing daily existence.

The 500 villagers live in 48 small huts, except for the one "wealthy" family who recently built a home made of concrete. The village chief, Abdul Qadir Lashari, proudly showed off his village's brand-new community toilets, paved roads, and water pump that brings fresh water to the village.

These simple, critical amenities, taken for granted by most of us in the West, resulted from the direct assistance of the Rural Support Programmes Network, Pakistan's largest nongovernmental organization. RSPN has worked with thousands of similar Pakistani villages to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

I visited the Sindh village with RSPN to witness the results of using community organizing to alleviate poverty. The staff told me its goal was to teach villagers to "fish for themselves."

Every household in the Abdul Qadir Lashari village was able to reach a profit by the end of 2011 as a result of professional skills training, financial management, community leadership workshops and microloans.

Specifically, a middle-aged, illiterate woman proudly told me how she learned sewing and financial management and was thus able to increase her household revenue, manage her bills, and use a small profit to purchase an extra cow for the family. She was excited to introduce me to her cow, but sadly due to lack of time I was unable to make the bovine acquaintance.
--------
Asked what single thing she felt was most important most for her village, she replied education. Upon asking another elderly lady what she wishes for Pakistan, she repeated one word three times: "sukoon," which means peace.

When it was time to depart, the people of the village presented me with a beautiful handmade Sindhi shawl, an example of the craftwork the villagers are now able to sell for profit.

As I left the village with the dark red, traditional Sindhi shawl adorned around my neck, my thoughts returned to the 12-year-old girl, Sakafat, who passionately asked why she couldn't become a scientist.

I looked in her eyes and could only respond with the following: "You're right. You can be anything you want to be. And I have every confidence you will, inshallah ("God willing"), reach your manzil ("desired destination").

By focusing on education and local empowerment to lift the next generation out of poverty, Sakafat's dream could indeed one day become a reality for all of Pakistan.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/13/world/asia/pakistan-empowerment/index.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on revival of Pakistani cinema:

There’s been a lot of hue and cry about the decline of Pakistani cinema, but with a number of feature films under production and a lot of TV directors switching to films, the situation is expected to drastically change and the industry may get its much-needed overhaul. Here is a list of all those projects which are currently under production.

Faisal Aman Khan

Faisal Aman Khan, an independent film-maker who is based in the UK, is directing Kaptaan, a biographical film about the life of Pakistani politician, social worker and former cricketer Imran Khan. Although TOI reported that the film was in post-production stage in 2011, its release date has been moved from February to fall.

Jaami

Music director Jamshed Mahmood Ansari, better known as Jaami, has impressed us lately with his work. From “Mein Tou Dekhoonga” to “Bum Phatta”, Jaami has come at par with the likes of Saqib Malik, who is one of the most established directors of Pakistan but hasn’t been contributing to the music video scenario lately.

Jaami, who has slowly and gradually come to the fore by directing music videos, is all set to make his own film. Unlike most film-makers, who are known to keep their films consistently in the “pre-production phase”, Jaami has already completed one spell of his shoot and the director, along with his crew members, was seen last winter shooting in Muslim Bagh, a place near Quetta. Rumour has it that the second spell of the shoot is about to begin and filming locations are spread out all over Pakistan. We have very high expectations from Jaami.

Yasir Nawaz and Ismail Jilani

Chameli is the brainchild of Ismail Jillani, who has worked for a leading private channel earlier and produced famous documentaries and shows like “George Ka Pakistan” and Yasir Nawaz, who recently made Bhaag Amina Bhaag. For now, we don’t exactly know what to expect from the duo but one thing is for sure, the film will be a commercial venture.

Nadeem Mandviwalla

Nadeem Mandviwalla, who is the owner of Mandviwalla Entertainment, which is responsible for some of the key cinemas in the country and distributes films throughout Pakistan, is now producing a film which is being funded by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). It revolves around the life of one of Pakistan Army’s martyrs. Although the name of the director is not confirmed yet, one expects hordes of people walking into cinemas when a name like Mandviwalla is involved.

Humayun Saeed

With a CV that boasts walking the ramps for top designers, acting in several dramas, featuring in various commercials, and owning one of the most noticeable drama production companies in Pakistan, the last thing left for Humayun Saeed to do is to make a film. And he’s doing just that with Main Hun Shahid Afridi that revolves around a boy’s struggles in his journey to become a cricketer. The script has been written by well-known TV writer Vasay Chaudhry and will be directed by Osama Ali Raza.

Iram Parveen Bilal

Iram Parveen Bilal, who shares her name with that of Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor’s character in Agent Vinod, has wrapped up the shoot of her film Josh. The film stars model Aaminah Sheikh and RJ and actor Khalid Malik amongst many others and should release. In the past, Bilal took her last short film Poshak to different exhibitions and festivals around the world and brought Pakistan a lot of fame.

Bilal Lashari and Bodhicitta Film Works
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http://tribune.com.pk/story/379141/pakistani-cinema-promising-projects-in-the-pipeline/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's assessment after his recent Pakistan visit--Part I:

Pakistan, a Muslim country, has spent about half of its independent life under military governments. Today, Pakistani leadership celebrates the ruling coalitions success in almost finishing the first five year term in history (previous leaders indicted by the courts, assassinated by extremists or brushed aside by the generals.) In meetings last week with the senior General, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, they made the case for a new and updated image of Pakistan: one of the largest democracies in the world, with a vibrant and open press, an upcoming demographic dividend of hardworking young people, and a highly educated elite leadership of the country. Islamabad and Lahore, where we visited, were relatively safe and certainly safer than Afghanistan. It was clear to us that Pakistan has an image problem.

Pakistan also has a power problem, as in electric power. Power is now off two hours out of three all day and all night. Estimates are that the country has enough generation capacity (hydro and oil based) to handle all the load, but corruption, power stealing, poor payment rates and the classic mistake of underpricing power compared to its real generation cost means that industrial production is threatened. Everyone of means has a UPS, and the air-conditioning seldom works on a 45 Celcius day. Our meetings often were literally in the dark, a common enough occurrence that people did not even remark about it.

Pakistanis are on their way to full mobile penetration with more than 110 million users, and all effective political communication programs now rely on SMS. 3G licenses are underway and the start of a real software industry can be seen.

Against this backdrop, another side of Pakistan emerges. The consensus is that the military drives the foreign policy of the country with unforeseen consequences. Alleged use of extremist groups to fight in Kashmir enables a criminal element to flourish, and the hosting of the Taliban in the autonomous regions (called FATA) to the north and west in the mountains turned an ungoverned area into a very dangerous area. The Army Generals explained the difference between fundamentalism (which they support) and extremism (which they fight), and the political leadership explained that the extremism now comes from “seminaries” where youth are indoctrinated, housed and fed in the rural areas where there are no opportunities at all.

Until recently a strong US ally, Pakistan is now on very good terms with China, and has improving relations with India (with whom they have had three wars.) The development of a nuclear stalemate between India and Pakistan seems to have forced them to pursue accommodation and trade is now increasing rapidly. The press are generally hyper-critical of the United States policies in the region and take the view that the India-US relationship is driving much of our countries behavior. The drone strikes are universally condemned as a violation of sovereignty and their constitution and are subject to much negotiation between the two countries. The bin Laden raid is viewed with strikingly different perspectives in the two countries.


https://plus.google.com/u/0/104233435224873922474/posts/4UcNomnhipX

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's assessment after his recent Pakistan visit--Part II:

...We met a number of impressive Pakistanis, none more so than Masarrat Misbah of Smile Again. Every year, hundreds of young rural women have acid thrown on their faces by men as punishment for some dishonor, including being raped by the men who pour acid on her. This horrific crime, which often leads to death or blindness, requires painful rehabilitation and rebuilding of the woman’s life. Masarrat Misbah’s home in Lahore provides a temporary safe house. The perpetrators, most often direct family members, are seldom prosecuted and almost never convicted of anything. I will never forget the faces of these shy, young women so grievously injured in such an evil way.

Much of what people say and think about Pakistan is absolutely true for most of the FATA provinces (autonomous areas) and for Baluchistan. Pakistan's image problem results from the fact that people outside the country believe the realities of North and South Waziristan and Quetta are reflective of what the larger country looks like. Islamabad and Lahore are certainly safer than people realize, unless you are a politician (many prominent politicians still suffer assassination attempts and threats inside these cities).

Pakistan's major security challenge comes from having two many fronts. FATA represents a Haqqani network and Taliban problem, threatening the establishment in Islamabad. Baluchistan is a persistent separatist movement. Afghanistan is a threat because Pashtuns are allowed to go back and forth undocumented. All of this, including India, is simply too much for a government like Pakistan to take on right now.

We ultimately see three Pakistans: 1) The places where the security issues are true (FATA, Baluchistan, parts of SWAT Valley, and Kashmir); 2) the rest of Pakistan for the average citizen, much larger than the first and which is reasonably misunderstood and relatively safe; 3) The politician's and military's Pakistan, which whether in FATA or Islamabad, is turbulent, unsafe, and complex.

There is a good case for optimism about Pakistan, simply because of the large emergent middle class (#2). The country, vast, tribal and complicated, can follow the more successful model of India. Connectivity changes the rural experience completely.. illiteracy at 43% can be overcome relatively quickly, and providing information alternatives can dissuade young males from a life of terrorism. The well educated elite can decide to further reform the countries institutions to increase confidence in the government. The war in Afghanistan, destabilizing to Pakistan in many ways, winds down after 2014 and buys time for Pakistan to address its real and continuing internal terrorism threat (more than 30,000 civilian terror deaths in the decade.)

Technology can help in other ways as well. The power problem is mostly a tracking problem (tracing corruption and mis-distribution). The problem of extreme crimes (like acid, or stoning) in poorly policed regions can be mitigated with videos and exposes that shame authorities into prosecution. The corruption problem can be tracked and traced using mobile money and transparent government finances. We met with clever Pakistani entrepreneurs who will build large, new businesses in Pakistan in the next few years and global multinational will locate sales and eventually manufacturing in the country.

The emergent middle class of Pakistan won’t settle for a corrupt system with constant terrorism and will push for reforms in a burgeoning democracy. Here’s to the new civil society of Pakistan, who will use connectivity, information and the Internet, to drive a peaceful revolution that brings Pakistan up to its true potential.


https://plus.google.com/u/0/104233435224873922474/posts/4UcNomnhipX

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece on Shehzad Roy's "Chal Parha" GeoTV series to improve education in Pakistan:

Last month, well-known Pakistani pop star, Shehzad Roy made an appearance at Harvard to talk about music, activism and his new documentary series, Chal Parha (Urdu for: Come, Teach), which highlights the extensive issues plaguing Pakistan’s education system.

Having visited over 200 schools across the country, in an interview with DAWN, Roy stated: “In each episode we highlight an issue from public schools, for example, corporal punishment, medium of instruction, population, textbooks, curriculum, teachers.”

He added, “I want to share the lessons that we have learnt; both good and ugly. We want people to know the obstacles standing in the way of improving the structure of education in government schools while also highlighting the remarkable individuals committed to the teaching profession. These people prove the power of individual efforts.”

Broadcast on a local television channel, GEO TV, the show has gained immense popularity, fast making an impact in a country where, according to the non-profit Alif Ailaan, the government spends just 2.4 percent of its national GDP on education and where just over half of children enroll in primary school.

Mariam Chughtai, the founder of Harvard’s Pakistan Student Group told The Diplomat that the singer was invited primarily because the student group “is committed to changing the discourse on Pakistan at Harvard from one of terrorism and challenges, to that of resilience, art and social change.”

“[Roy] embodied for us an activist who is using music to make an impact on the ground, which is why his discussants, Professor Ali Asani and I were able to have a conversation with him in light of how artists have historically played a key role in keeping governments and rulers accountable,” Chughtai said.

“Roy himself spoke of the main learnings he has had in his journey of Chal Parha, including clippings from his show which illustrated these learnings. They represented both strengths and weaknesses of society in being ready for change on education.”

Alongside his music career, which, over the past couple of years, has veered sharply into the direction of socio-political commentary, Roy has managed to rather successfully integrate both his music and humanitarian work
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Roy told Dawn, “We have installed thumb-printing attendance machines in the five provinces to bring transparency to the issue of teacher absenteeism. We are now collecting this data and are happy to report that teacher attendance has increased considerably in these schools. Similarly, in the episode on corporal punishment, we are proposing a law banning physical abuse in schools and we plan to diligently pursue this issue in the media.”
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http://thediplomat.com/the-pulse/2013/05/16/shehzad-roy-fighting-for-change-in-pakistani-education/