Monday, September 24, 2012

Meeting the Heathcare Challenge of the 21st Century South Asia

It is a great challenge of the 21st century to provide the best possible universal health care at the lowest possible cost. It's in fact a dual challenge. While aging and obesity related diseases are the dominant concern in the West, there is continuing worry about more basic issues of hygiene, vaccination, nutrition and access to health care professionals in the developing world, including South Asia. What is common between these two is the increasing reliance on technology.

Technologies ranging from new toilets, water purification, bio-fortification, diagnostics and computing and communication to nano-biotechnology and bioengineering are being developed and deployed to prevent and fight all kinds of diseases around the world. In the video below I join a discussion of the current state of health care and how to meet the challenges of this century:

Vision 2047 from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

World Water Day: Water Scarce Pakistan 

Malnutrition Challenge in India and Pakistan 

Pak Lady Health Workers "Best in the World"

Obesity in America

India and Pakistan: Off-Track, Off-Target on Toilets

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Peepli Live Destroys Indian Myths

India After 63 Years of Independence

Poverty Across India 2011

British Pakistan Wins "Re-invent the Toilet" Contest

Friday, September 21, 2012

Globalization of West's Hate Speech Against Muslims

Negative stereotyping of Prophet Mohammad has been the preoccupation of generations of Western writers from the time of the Crusades to the present day. Among those who have engaged in highly offensive portrayal of Islam's prophet are Italian poet-philosopher Dante Aligheri (1265-1321), Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1325-1450) and European "Enlightenment" leader François-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778). More recently, there have been attempts by Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses), Kurt Westergaard (Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoons) and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (Innocence of Muslims) to ridicule Muslims' most revered leader.

So What's New?

So one might ask as to what has changed in recent years? Why is the Muslim reaction so much stronger and more global than ever before? The answer is that the availability of the Internet, and particularly Google-owned Youtube, has made it possible for hate material to reach its intended target much more quickly than Dante's Divine Comedy or Voltaire's Mahomet could in the past.

The latest flare-up has so far claimed dozens of lives including the life of Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya. As if to add fuel to an already intensely burning fire, a French magazine has published fresh batch of insulting cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. And such western provocations from hateful bigots are almost certain to grow in number and intensity in the future.

Free Speech or Hate Speech?

 It appears that the US President Barack Obama and the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton understand the extremely dangerous implications for the United States of this ongoing escalation of hostility in the Muslim world. In fact, the White House asked Google to remove the offensive Youtube video, a request that was denied by Google as violation of the right of free speech. New York Times reported that Google's "policy is to remove content only if it is hate speech, violating its terms of service, or if it is responding to valid court orders or government requests. And it said it had determined that under its own guidelines, the video was not hate speech."

To defuse the situation, the US government has run ads in Pakistani media which show President Obama and Secretary Clinton denouncing the video and condemning the violence in response to it. Google's refusal to remove the offensive video from Youtube raises significant questions about the definition of free speech....a debate that is already raging for a different reason since the US supreme court's Citizens United decision which has opened the floodgates of big money to influence US politics and policies by the rich and the powerful for their own advantage.

Free Speech and Money:

 The questions of money and free speech are closely tied in America. Google removes thousands of Youtube videos everyday for commercial reasons. Like any other big corporation, Google decisions are guided more by its commercial interests than any other considerations. Here's how Tim Wu, the author of Master Switch, describes it in an article in The New Republic:  

YouTube, to be clear, isn’t an open forum (even if it sometimes seems that way). For one thing, Google uses an ingenious sex-detecting algorithm to preemptively yank porn. It also employs a complicated system to help copyright owners (mainly Hollywood) locate their works. Finally, the firm bans a long list of other content, including: “animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, bomb-making, graphic or gratuitous violence, gross-out videos, hate speech, predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, inciting others to commit violent acts, and spam.”
Regardless of whether the latest offensive video constitutes hate speech or not,  US legal discourse often makes references to Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919. Here's what Justice Holmes wrote in his opinion:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

 So the question now is whether the mass distribution of such material via the Internet presents "clear and present danger" that "will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent".

Why the Violence?

The violent reaction in the Muslim world also raise serious questions. For example, can the Muslims demand tolerance of their faith from others when they show such intolerance against minorities in their own countries? Do Muslims have a right to ask others to control their undesirable behavior without showing any restraint themselves?

Let me end this post by paraphrasing a Syrian activist's tweet:

The only thing that seems to enrage the Muslim world today is a movie, a cartoon or an insult, but not the pool of blood of their own fellow citizens shed by fellow Muslims in their own countries.

Here's a video clip of a recent discussion on the subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Growing Intolerance in Pakistan

Exposing Congressman King's Hypocrisy

FBI Entrapping Young Muslims

Fighting Agents of Intolerance in Pakistan

Muslim Scholars Must Fight Hate in Pakistan

South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision

Pakistan Must Defeat Agents of Intolerance 

Celebrating Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Birthday

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Strong Food & Beverage Demand Draws Investments in Pak Agribusiness

US venture investor Tim Draper, Swiss food giant Nestle, and American beverage titan Coca Cola are investing heavily in Pakistan's agribusiness.

Silicon Valley private equity investor Tim Draper, a well-known international venture capitalist, is quietly investing in Pakistan's agribusiness, the largest provider of food commodities in the Middle East, according to San Francisco Examiner.

The share of livestock in Pakistan's agriculture output nearly doubled from 25.3 percent in 1996 to 49.6 percent in 2006, according to FAO. As part of the continuing livestock revolution, Nestle is investing $334 million to double its dairy output in Pakistan, according to Businessweek. Reuters is reporting that the company has already installed 3,200 industrial-size milk refrigerators at collection points across the country to start the kind of cold storage chain essential for a modern dairy industry, and give farmers a steady market for their milk. In another development on the infrastructure front, Express Tribune has reported that  Pakistan Horti Fresh Processing (Pvt) Limited has invested in the world's largest hot treatment plant to process 15 tons of mangoes per hour for exports.  Hot water treatment  will also help reduce waste of fruits and vegetables by increasing shelf-life for domestic consumption.
The Coca-Cola Company is planning to invest another US$280 million by 2013 in Pakistan, according to BMI's Q3 2012 Food & Beverage Report for Pakistan.  Coke plans to channel the bulk of its capital expenditures towards increasing the production of its existing brands as well as expanding its overall beverages portfolio. Coca-Cola plans to introduce more juices and mineral water in the Pakistani market over the coming years. This strategy could diversify Coca- Cola’s presence beyond the carbonates sector and help it secure early footholds in the higher-value bottled water and fruit juice segments, which boast tremendous long-term promise.

In addition to foreign investors, big name Pakistani companies like Dawood Group's Engro, billionaire industrialist Mian Mansha's Nishat Group and former minister Jahangir Khan Tareen's JK Dairies are placing big bets on food and beverage market in the country. Annual milk consumption in Pakistan reached 230 kg per capita in 2005, more than twice India's per capita consumption, according to FAO.

Business Monitor International expects "Pakistani agriculture sector to reap record harvests for key crops such as rice, sugar and cotton owing to favorable weather in 2011 and the year-on-year increase in crop area following floods in 2010". "We expect the dairy, poultry and wheat industries to be the biggest beneficiaries of increased investment in the agriculture sector", adds BMI's report.

 Pakistan is world’s eighth largest consumer of food and food is the second biggest industry in the country, providing 16 per cent employment in production, according to report published in Express TribuneIn addition to rising domestic demand, growth in agribusiness is supplemented by increased exports as Pakistan expands trade with new partners. BMI expects basmati rice to take up a greater share of the trade as production increases. Cotton production to 2015/16: 45.5% to 12.8 million bales. Increased demand from Europe and emerging markets will drive output. BMI also expect an increase in domestic farmers switching from rice and sugar to cotton cultivation. Sugar production to 2015/16: 22.1% to 4.8 million tons. Large-scale consumers such as confectioners, candy makers and soft drink manufacturers account for about 60% of the total sugar demand and will be the main drivers of growth.

Pakistan witnessed a livestock revolution follow Green Revolution. Here's how International Livestock Research Institute puts the dramatic changes in Pakistan's agriculture sector since the mid 1960s: 

 Since the mid 1960s, investment in Green Revolution technologies – high-yielding varieties of cereals, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and mechanization of farm operations – significantly increased cereal crop productivity and output. Success in the crop sector created a platform for diversification of farm and non-farm activities in the rural areas including the livestock sector, especially the dairy sector. Some of the Green Revolution technologies had a direct impact on the dairy sector while others had an indirect impact. Increased cereal productivity and output helped to reduce prices of cereals relative to other commodities in both rural and urban areas. This, along with increased income from high crop-sector growth, created  demand for better-quality foods including livestock products. This created market opportunities and incentives for crop producers to diversify into higher-value products, such as milk, meat, vegetables and fruits.

Pakistan has made significant progress in agriculture and livestock sectors showing that it has the potential to feed its people well and produce huge surpluses to fuel exports boom. The continuation of this progress will depend largely on success in making needed public and private investments in energy and water infrastructure and education and health care.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

FMCG Consumption Boom in Pakistan 

Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

World Bank Report on Pakistan Agribusiness

Pakistan's Sugar Crisis

FAO Livestock Sector Brief 2002 

Recurring Floods and Droughts

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

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Indian Insiders' View of 1965 War

 "...a major battle the west of the Beas would end in the destruction of the Indian Army and thereafter allow the enemy (Pakistani) forces to push to the gates of Delhi without much resistance." 1965 WAR-The Inside Story by R.D. Pradhan                                    
As Pakistanis honor the memory of  their 1965 war heroes on Defense of Pakistan Day today, let us review some snippets of how the war looked from the other side. R.D. Pradhan and Harbakhsh Singh were both insiders who participated in the 1965 India-Pakistan war. While Pradhan was a civilian working for Indian Defense Minister Y.B. Chavan, General Harbakhash Singh was commanding Indian troops on the front-lines. Both have written books drawing upon their first-hand knowledge of how the war started, unfolded and ended in September, 1965.

In Chapter 8 titled "Of Cowardice and Panic" of his book "1965 War-The Inside Story", R.D. Pradhan describes the cowardice of Maj. Gen. Niranjan Prasad, the Indian general commanding officer in Lahore sector.  When Pakistan Defense Forces counter-attacked the intruding Indian military and the general was fired upon on Sept 6, 1965, he "ran away".  Here's an excerpt:

"On learning that, Lt. Gen. Harbakash Singh and the corps commander drove in a Jonga (Nissan P60 Jeep) to the battlefront. Army commander found that the enemy (PAF) air attack had created a havoc on G.T. Road. (Indian) Vehicles were burning and several vehicles of 15 Division abandoned on the road, the drivers having run away, leaving some of the engines still running. Maj. Gen. Niranjan Prasad was hiding in a recently irrigated sugar cane field. As described by Harabakash Singh: "He (Prasad) came out to receive us, with his boots covered with wet mud. He had no head cover, nor was he wearing any badges of his rank. He had stubble on his face, not having shaved." Seeing him in such a stage, Harbakhash Singh asked him: "Whether he was the General Officer commanding a division or a coolie? Why had he removed badges of rank and not shaved? Niranjan Prasad had no answer." 

Chapter 12 of Pradhan's book is titled "Retreat to Beas" in which there is detailed discussion of Indian COAS's proposal for the Indian Army to retreat behind Beas in the face of Pakistan's fierce counter-attacks after India's attempted incursion in Lahore. Pradhan argues in this chapter that during the 1965 war with Pakistan, Indian COAS General Chaudhuri feared that "a major battle the west of the Beas would end in the destruction of the Indian Army and thereafter allow the enemy (Pakistani) forces to push to the gates of Delhi without much resistance".

Pradhan's book contains many different entries by Indian Defense Minister Y.B. Chavan. A Sept 9, 1965 entry reads:  

Had a very hard day on all fronts. Very fierce counter-attacks mounted and we are required to withdraw in Kasur area. COAS was somewhat uncertain of himself. I suggested to him that he should go in forward areas so that he will be in touch of realities. He said he would go next day.

In Line of Duty: A Soldier Remembers, according to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of Indian Express, Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh reveals that not only "did Gen Chowdhury play a very small role in the entire campaign, he was so nervous as to be on the verge of losing half of Punjab to Pakistan, including the city of Amritsar. Harbakhsh describes, in clinical detail, how our own offensive in the Lahore sector had come unhinged. The general commanding the division on Ichchogil canal fled in panic, leaving his jeep, its wireless running and the briefcase containing sensitive documents that were then routinely read on Radio Pakistan during the war. Singh wanted to court martial him, Chowdhury let him get away with resignation".

According to Shekhar Gupta, Harbkhash Singh recounts that a bigger disaster struck a bit to the south where the other division cracked up in assault, just as it encountered a bit of resistance. Several infantry battalions, short on battle inoculation, deserted and Singh gives a hair-raising account – and confirmation of a long-debated rumor – that Chowdhury panicked so badly he ordered him to withdraw to a new defensive line behind the Beas, thereby conceding half of Punjab to Pakistan. Singh describes the conversation with Chowdhury at Ambala where he refused to carry out the order, asking his chief to either put it down in writing or visit the front and take charge of the battle.

 Beyond the Indian insiders quoted above,  here is how several non-Pakistani journalists have covered the war:

The London Daily Mirror reported in 1965:

"There is a smell of death in the burning Pakistan sun. For it was here that India's attacking forces came to a dead stop.

"During the night they threw in every reinforcement they could find. But wave after wave of attacks were repulsed by the Pakistanis"

"India", said the London Daily Times, "is being soundly beaten by a nation which is outnumbered by four and a half to one in population and three to one in size of armed forces."

In Times reporter Louis Karrar wrote:

"Who can defeat a nation which knows how to play hide and seek with death".

USA - Aviation week - December 1968 issue:

"For the PAF, the 1965 war was as climatic as the Israeli victory over the Arabs in 1967. A further similarity was that Indian air power had an approximately 5:1 numerical superiority at the start of the conflict. Unlike the Middle East conflict, the Pakistani air victory was achieved to a large degree by air-to-air combat rather than on ground. But it was as absolute as that attained by Israel.

India was the first to accept UN sponsored ceasefire (page 100 of RD Pradhan's book)  followed by Pakistan which brought the 1965 war to an end on Sept 22, 1965. As the ceasefire took effect, Indian Defense Y.B. Chavan wrote in his diary as follows:

"The ball is now in the political court again--where it should be--and not in the military one. I hope we have the vision and courage to (our) political leadership."
Alas, the core issue of Kashmir still remains unresolved 47 years since Mr. Chavan wrote his words of wisdom.

Related Link:

 Haq's Musings

Demolishing Indian War Myths 

Kashmiris Remain Defiant

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Assessing Pakistan Army Capabilities

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rising Tide of Intolerance Threatens Pakistan's Existence

A spate of incidents targeting various minorities including Christians and Hindus as well as members of the Muslim Shia community have raised serious concerns in Pakistan.

 This situation brings back echoes of the events preceding the rise of Nazis in Germany that led to the killing of millions of innocent people including a large number of European Jews. A German pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) wrote a poem at the time lamenting the silence of many in the face of massive atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler.

Here's how I express my fears about the current crisis of intolerance in Pakistan by paraphrasing what Niemöller said in 1930s:

First they came for Ahmedis, and I did not speak out
-- Because I was not an Ahmedi.

Then they came for the Christians, and I did not speak out
-- Because I was not a Christian.

Then they came for the Hindus, and I did not speak out
-- Because I was not a Hindu.

Then they came for the Shias, and I did not speak out
-- Because I was not a Shia.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

I urge all sane Pakistanis to speak out against all agents of intolerance and work diligently to defeat them before it's too late. 

Here are two videos of  recent TV discussions I participated in on the subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Fighting Agents of Intolerance in Pakistan

Muslim Scholars Must Fight Hate in Pakistan

South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision

Pakistan Must Defeat Agents of Intolerance 

Celebrating Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Birthday