Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shia Massacres Undermine State and Destabilize Pakistan

Pakistani government leaders, major political parties and the military are busy playing blame game while the Taliban militants and their sectarian allies such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are engaged in continuing mass casualty attacks in various parts of the country.

The unfolding tragedy of Hazaras, a small ethnic minority in Pakistan, symbolizes the plight of both ethnic and religious minorities in the country. The failure of the state to protect them undermines the state itself and destabilizes Pakistan.

The media's role in it has not been helpful either. Some of the top talk show hosts and TV anchors are spinning various conspiracy theories and laying the responsibility with foreigners. Some blame America while others point fingers at India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Here are several questions that come to mind:.

1. Can the problem be solved by blaming each other and foreigners for the mess? Or is this merely an excuse to do nothing?

2. Can the PPP, PML (N), PML (Q), ANP, MQM and PTI have basic consensus to demand that the Pakistani military act against the militants?

3. What can the PML (N) in Punjab do to stop the Jhang-based LeJ from carrying out attacks in Quetta, Karachi and other parts of the country?

4. Does military really need LeJ to deal with Baloch insurgents? What can the military do to make amends for its past dalliances with such militants and crack down hard on them?

5. What can the PPP-led coalition do in terms of legislation and budgeting to strengthen the hands of the police and the courts in fighting militants?

6. What can the media do to develop national consensus to act decisively against the militants who kill and maim innocent civilians?

7. What can the police, the prosecutors and the judges do to protect the people from blowback from military action to remove militants from the streets where they inflict harm on innocent civilians.

8. What else can Pakistanis themselves can do to protect their own people? To get some of the answers, please watch the following video:

How to Stop the Massacres of Hazara Shias in Pakistan? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Here's a video of Topi Drama's "We have blood on our hands":

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Blowback From Drone Attacks in FATA

Rising Tide of Intolerance Threatens Pakistan

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

World's Tallest Building Proposed in Karachi

Bahria Town and Abu Dhabi Group agreed to invest $45 billion in real estate in Pakistan. After signing the investment deal, Malik Riaz and Shaikh al-Nahyan announced that Karachi, not Dubai nor Shanghai, will soon boast having the world's tallest building.

Representing the largest foreign investment to date in Pakistan, there will be $35 billion invested in several  large commercial and residential real estate projects in  Karachi, and another $10 billion in Lahore and Islamabad. It's expected to create 2.5 million new jobs in the country.

His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Group, was quoted by Express Tribune as saying, “I am genuinely happy that in this historic project of Pakistan we are working with the visionary Malik Riaz Hussain, this guarantees that not only the project will be delivered beyond our expectations but also before time. We will Inshallah be welcoming first residents in next 3-4 years.”

Why is Abu Dhabi Group interested in investing in Pakistan?  Why not put all or most of these $45 billion in GCC or other Middle East nations?  Answering a reporter's question about the growth prospects of GCC (oil-rich nations of Gulf Cooperation Council) at a recent investment conference in Dubai, Golman Sachs' Jim O'Neill said: "Some GCC countries are well placed to be hubs for the BRIC and N-11-influenced world. I often think of Dubai as a kind of N-11 center, even the capital of the N-11 world, given its business adjacency to Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and, of course, India and Russia."

Pakistan is already experiencing a renewed construction boom with cement sales rising by double digits. Domestic cement consumption surged 10.10% in Pakistan in January 2013, according to All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association. On top of 8% increase in Fiscal Year 2011-12, it jumped another 8% for the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2012-13.

There is a lot of privately funded real estate development activity visible in all major cities of the country. Big real estate developers like Bahria Town and Habib Construction are developing both commercial and housing projects in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Other cities like Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Larkana, Multan, Mirpur, Peshawar and Quetta are also seeing new housing communities, golf courses, hotels, office complexes, restaurants, shopping malls, etc.

Cement consumption is an important barometer of national economic activity,  according to a research report compiled by a Credit Suisse analyst.  Last year, CS analyst Farhan Rizvi said in his report that "higher PSDP (Public Sector Development Program) spending has led to a resurgence in domestic cement demand in FY12 (+8%) and with increased PSDP allocation for FY13 (+19%) and General Elections due in 2013, domestic demand is likely to remain robust over the next six-nine months".  This latest investment will add to it. It will give a big boost to the national economy.

The Abu Dhabi Group is a major investor in Al-Falah Bank and United Bank in Pakistan. It recently announced acquisition of all of SingTel’s shares in Warid Telecom, a mobile telephone service operator in Pakistan. With the agreement, the group has become the sole owner with equity holding of 100% in the Pakistani telecom company. Abu Dhabi Group said it plans to improve Warid Telecom’s operations in Pakistan by introducing new technologies, services and packages.

Back in 2008, there was a lot of excitement in Pakistan when  Dubai developer Emaar announced a massive real estate project valued at $43b to develop two island resorts near Karachi. That investment never materialized. Let's hope this time will be different. Let's hope Abu Dhabi Group and Bahria Town will follow through on their commitments.

Here's a video of Malik Riaz speaking with Dunya News:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Renewed Construction Boom Pushes Cement Sales in Pakistan

DCK Green City in Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistan on Goldman Sachs' Growth Map

Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan

Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012

Pak Consumer Boom  Fuels Underground Economy

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chaudhry Court Puts Pak Diaspora on Trial in Qadri Case

Pakistan Supreme Court has dismissed Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri's petition to annul the current election commission. The petition was based on a claim that specific procedures laid out in Pakistan's constitution to pick the commission members were violated.

The Court, led by Chief Justice Inftikhar Chaudhry, was under no obligation to admit the petition for hearing but it decided to hear it anyway and spent three days on it. And instead of focusing on the merits of the claims in Dr. Qadri's petition, the judges proceeded to attack him personally. They said the petition was brought in bad faith, called him a "foreigner" and questioned his loyalty to Pakistan as a dual Pakistani-Canadian citizen.

The Court ignored Dr. Qadri's plea that he has filed the petition as a Pakistani citizen who has a right to vote in Pakistan and concerned about transparency of the electoral process.  The Court also refused to heed Dr. Qadri's argument that Pakistan's constitution and laws permit him to hold dual nationality. Instead, the judges demanded that Dr. Qadri produce the text of his oath of his Canadian citizenship. The Court then proceeded to read it out and claimed that Dr. Qadri's loyalty, and by extension the loyalty of millions of Pakistanis living abroad as dual nationals, is questionable. This line of questioning was clearly not based on Pakistan's Constitution and Laws which permit Pakistanis to hold dual citizenship with the UK and its several of its former colonies.The court clearly exceeded its authority by attempting to make new law for Pakistanis with dual nationality rather than interpret the laws already on the books.

Here's an interesting take on Dr. Qadri vs Justice Chaudhry:

As to the Court's argument about the petitioner's standing in the case, Dr. Qadri responded follows: "I am a Pakistani but the respected judges during the proceedings called me a foreigner and not only insulted me but the millions of Pakistanis living in foreign countries".  Dr. Qadri cited the precedent of the Court in accepting a petition by Showkat Suhail, a Pakistani-Canadian, in the Memogate case against former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani.

Dr. Qadri pointed out that Justice Chaudhry is sitting on the Supreme Court bench based on an oath he took under Gen Musharraf's PCO which was a violation of Pakistan's constitution. Eminent Pakistani lawyer Aitazaz Ahsan agreed that the sitting judges' oath  under PCO was a much bigger issue than Dr. Qadri's loyalty oath to the Queen of England. 

The overt hostility of Pakistani judges and some in the media toward Pakistani diaspora is especially troubling given the fact that Pakistani economy is being kept afloat by more than a billion dollars a month in remittances. These remittances add up to about 5% of Pakistan's GDP and represent the largest foreign currency inflow into the country. This is another case of some Pakistanis biting the hands that feed them.

While I agree with the Court's decision to dismiss Dr. Qadri's petition at this stage, I do think that the Court has left a very bad taste in the mouths of overseas Pakistanis who have become dual nationals. They currently contribute over $12 billion a year to Pakistan's economy but they have no voice in how the country should be run.

Let me remind all those interested in improving the political process and governance in Pakistan that Dr. Qadri has already made an enormous contribution by articulating and pressing for specific steps under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution to rid Pakistani parliament of corrupt politicians. One obvious result is the recent decision by the Election Commission of Pakistan to work with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan to identify and disqualify tax evaders and loan defaulters from seeking election to parliament.

This latest episode is a reminder that millions of overseas Pakistanis, with or without dual nationality, need to protect their rights of citizenship in Pakistan. They should demand greater voice in Pakistan's affairs through  reserved seats for their own elected representatives in Pakistan's parliament.  

Here's a video discussion on the subject:

Chaudhry Court Rejects Qadri's Plea, Questions Pak Dual Nationals' Loyalty from WBT TV on Vimeo.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Why Make Pakistan's Election Commission Controversial Now?

Pakistani Election 2013 Election Predictions

Pakistani Diaspora World's 7th Largest

Blackberry Transcripts in Memogate

Kudos to Qadri

Iftikhar Chaudhry is No Angel

Justice Chaudhry Must Go!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Silicon Valley Launch of "Eating Grass- The Making of the Pakistani Bomb"

Unlike most western accounts of Pakistani nuclear program which begin and end with A.Q. Khan's network,  Brig Feroz H. Khan's  scholarly work "Eating Grass" offers a very comprehensive story of the "Making of The Pakistani Bomb". Feroz Khan takes the reader through the interdisciplinary nature and the inherent complexity of what it takes to develop, build and operationalize a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Book Cover: PINSTECH Campus, Nilore, Pakistan

Setting the Record Straight:

The standard Western and Indian narrative has us believe that A.Q. Khan stole the uranium enrichment technology and built the Pakistani atom bomb, and then proliferated it to Iran, Libya and North Korea. To put it perspective,  Feroz Khan explains that it takes at least 500 scientists and 1300 engineers with relevant training and skills to have a nuclear weapons program, according to a 1968 UN study. In a piece titled "Laser Isotope Enrichment-a new dimension to the nth country problem?", Dr. Robert L. Bledsoe writes as follows: "a United Nations study conservatively estimates that at least 500 scientists and 1300 engineers are needed to develop and maintain warhead production facilities, and an additional 19,000 personnel (more than 5000 of them scientists and engineers) are required to produce delivery vehicles of the intermediate ballistic missile variety".

Book Launch:

Khan's book was launched in Silicon Valley at the Fremont Marriott yesterday, with about 100 invited guests, including this blogger, in attendance. The author was introduced by Ms. Sabahat Rafique, a prominent local Pakistani-American. The author, currently a lecturer at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,  spoke briefly about the extensive research he undertook to write the book. He was joined by Prof Rifaat Husain, visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, to answer questions.

L to R: Sabahat Rafiq, Feroz Khan, Riaz Haq, Yasmeen Haq at "Eating Grass" Book Launch

Human Capital Development:

"Eating grass", published by Stanford University Press, traces the origins of Pakistani nuclear program to the work of Dr. Rafi Mohammad Chaudhry in 1950s and of Dr. Ishrat Husain Usmani in 1960s, both of whom were graduates of Aligarh Muslim University. Dr. Chaudhry did his doctoral research in physics under the supervision of the famous British physicist Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge and Dr. Usmani got his Ph.D. in physics at Imperial College, University of London, with Nobel Laureate Professor P.M.S. Blackett as his adviser.  Along with Pakistani Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam, Chaudhry and Usmani built laboratories and academic institutions and inspired generations of Pakistanis to study subjects in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields to produce the scientific and engineering talent for the young nation beginning in 1950s and 1960s.

Source: OECD Global Education Digest 2009

Darra Adam Khel cottage industry making copies of sophisticated firearms is a testament to the reverse engineering prowess in Pakistan. Faced with multiple layers of sanctions, Pakistanis have now developed industrial scale reverse engineering capabilities. The best example of it is Pakistan's cruise missile Babur which was derived from US Tomahawk cruise missile. Some of these Tomahawk missiles landed intact in Pakistani territory when Clinton ordered cruise missile attack on Bin Laden in August 1998 in response to USS Cole attack by Al Qaida.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Role: 

The title of the book "Eating Grass" alludes to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's famous quote "we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (atom bomb). We have no other choice".  Khan goes beyond the quote to highlight Bhutto's substantial role in promoting Pakistan's nuclear program in 1960s. After India's humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962 and the Chinese nuclear test in 1964, Bhutto realized that India, too, would follow suit with a bomb of its own. He started lobbying with President Ayub Khan to start the bomb effort as early as mid 1960s. Ayub and most of his cabinet dismissed the idea but Bhutto remained committed to it and started taking modest steps toward building the scientific capability for it. As part of this effort, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and Pakistan's Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) were established in 1960s under the leadership of Dr. I.H. Usmani. These were followed by the construction of Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) in 1970s. These institutions became training grounds for thousands of engineers and scientists in Pakistan in the field of nuclear science and technology.

1971 India-Pakistan War:

It was Pakistan's dismemberment after a humiliating defeat in India-Pakistan war of 1971 and India's first successful nuclear test in 1974 that, according to Khan,  strengthened Pakistanis' resolve to weaponize the country's nuclear program.  This new resolve gave strong impetus to expanding research and development activities and covert acquisition of a range of components necessary to build indigenous capability to produce nuclear warheads and delivery mechanisms. This was done in the face of strict international controls mandated by NPT and MTCR to prevent proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies.

Parallel covert efforts started with the establishment of a uranium enrichment facility at Kahuta which was headed by A.Q. Khan. A.Q Khan, a graduate of Karachi University, had been working on uranium enrichment in Europe for many years. He had the knowledge and the experience. He also had a wide range of contacts he had developed over the years while working at URENCO in Europe which he used to establish a procurement network. A.Q. Khan succeeded in acquiring the components and building thousands of gas centrifuges to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) well ahead of a similar plutonium (Pu) reprocessing program underway at PAEC.

The book explains that HEU from A.Q. Khan's Research Lab (KRL) was essential but alone was not enough to make a bomb. It was PAEC that did the R&D to metalize UF6 into bomb core, and designed and built trigger mechanism with specialized explosives, lenses and detonators. It also required lots of cold testing to test the bomb design before conducting hot tests.

May 1998 Nuclear Tests:

Pakistan finally decided to go ahead with its atomic weapons tests in response to India's tests in May, 1998. It took only two weeks for Pakistan to do so after the Indian tests. Pakistan's then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the tests in the face of intense international pressure, particularly from the US President Bill Clinton who made multiple phone calls to Sharif asking him to refrain from it.The tests were followed by severe international sanctions led by the United States against Pakistan.

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles:

In addition to the work on the bomb, both PAEC and KRL labs also pursued development of reliable delivery vehicles for nuclear warheads. While PAEC worked on solid fuel rockets based on Chinese M-11 design, KRL focused on liquid-fueled variety based North Korean Nodong, writes Khan in "Eating Grass".  Khan says Pakistanis have also reverse engineered American Tomahawk cruise missile as part of their efforts to add stealth capability to hit targets deep inside India from air, land and sea.

Command and Control: 

Khan goes into the efforts made by Pakistan under President Musharraf since 2000 to put in place robust security of its nuclear assets and sophisticated command and control structures. A separate strategic command has been established to operationalize its nuclear weapons capability. And it is continuing to develop with changing needs.

Response to Indo-US Nuclear Deal:

Khan says in the book that there are eight Indian reactors exempted by US-India nuclear deal from IAEA safeguards leaving India free to process and accumulate 500 Kg weapons-grade plutonium per year. In addition, India is rapidly expanding its HEU production for its nuclear submarine by adding thousands of centrifuges.

Pakistan has responded by increasing its plutonium production at its indigenously built Khushab reactor complex which is not covered by IAEA safeguards, according to Khan. KRL is also continuing to produce about 100 Kg per year HEU with a new generation of P-3 and P-4 centrifuges at much higher separation rate.

Damaging Episodes:

Khan does not gloss over the severe damage done to Pakistan by AQ Khan's proliferation network and concerns raised by a meeting of Pakistani nuclear scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Abdul Majeed with Osama Bin Laden. He discusses at length how AQ Khan turned his procurement network into a proliferation network for personal profit. Musharraf saw the AQ Khan's proliferation as the "most difficult thing to deal with". The author quotes Musharraf as saying, "(T)he public image of A.Q. Khan was that of a legend and father of the bomb. He certainly was a hero for his role and contribution to the nuclear program, but at the same time no other person brought so much harm to the nuclear program than him".

 As to Mehmood and Majeed, Khan says that they designed Khushab reactors. Their expertise was in reactor design, not bomb-making, and they couldn't have helped Al Qaeda  acquire a bomb even if they wanted to. Nonetheless, they reinforced international suspicions about Pakistan's primarily defensive nuclear efforts.

Criticism of the Book:

As expected, the main criticism of the book has come from Indian reviewers. In a 500-page book, Indian critics have singled  out a one-line citation by the author that on December 16, 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stood before the Indian Parliament and, amid a thunderous standing ovation, stated that India had “avenged several centuries of Hindu humiliation at the hands of Mughal emperors and sultans”. Khan has cited his reference for it as follows: V. Longer, The Defence and Foreign Policy of India (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1998), 205. Cited in Sattar, Pakistan's Foreign Policy 1947-2005, 119.


Brig Feroz Khan's "Eating Grass" is an erudite work that offers the first authentic insider account of the making of the Pakistani bomb. It details a story of spectacular scientific and strategic achievement by a nation dismissed as a temporary "tent" and a "nissen hut" at birth by Viceroy Lord Mountbatten in 1947. That same "nissen hut" is now a nuclear power about which Brookings' Stephen Cohen has said as follows:

“One of the most important puzzles of India-Pakistan relations is not why the smaller Pakistan feels encircled and threatened, but why the larger India does. It would seem that India, seven times more populous than Pakistan and five times its size, and which defeated Pakistan in 1971, would feel more secure. This has not been the case and Pakistan remains deeply embedded in Indian thinking. There are historical, strategic, ideological, and domestic reasons why Pakistan remains the central obsession of much of the Indian strategic community, just as India remains Pakistan’s.”

Brig Feroz Khan concludes his book on a somber note by mentioning "massive corruption" and "stagflation" in the country he served. "Perhaps it never crossed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's mind that his words (eat grass...even go hungry) would become a self-fulfilling prophesy."

Here's a video of President Pervez Musharraf speaking about Dr. AQ Khan's contribution to the Pakistani atomic bomb development:

Here's a video of this blogger talking with Brig Firoz Khan, the author of "Eating Grass":

"Eating Grass-The Making of the Pakistani Bomb"-- Riaz Haq Talks With Author Brig Firoz Khan from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Indigenous Copies of Nukes and Missiles 

India's Nuclear Bomb by George Perkovich

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Cyberwars Across India, Pakistan and China

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Space Capabilities

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Scientist Reveals Indian Nuke Test Fizzled

The Wisconsin Project

The Non-Proliferation Review Fall 1997

India, Pakistan Comparison 2010

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Global Firepower Comparison

Evaluation of Military Strengths--India vs. Pakistan

Only the Paranoid Survive

India Races Ahead in Space

21st Century High-Tech Warfare

World Military Spending

Indian Attempts to Scuttle F-16s For Pakistan

Attrition Rates For IAF and PAF

Mockery of National Sovereignty

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why Make Pakistan Election Commission Controversial Now?

Would demand by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri to change election commission now derail general elections in Pakistan? Why has Imran Khan objected to Asma Jahangir's possible nomination as caretaker prime minister? What does the latest IRI poll say about the battle for Punjab vote? Is ANP in trouble in KPK with PTI leading the polls there? Watch the show to find out!!!

Why Make Pakistan Election Commission Controversial Now? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions

Pakistan Rural Economy Showing Strength

Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Land for Landless Women Peasants

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

FMCG Companies Profiting From Pakistan's Rural Consumption Boom

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Elections

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pakistani Construction Boom Continues in 2013

Domestic cement consumption surged 10.10% in Pakistan in January 2013, according to All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association. On top of 8% increase in Fiscal Year 2011-12, it jumped another 8% for the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2012-13.

Cement production is an important barometer of national economic activity,  according to a research report compiled by a Credit Suisse analyst.  Last year, CS analyst Farhan Rizvi said in his report that "higher PSDP (Public Sector Development Program) spending has led to a resurgence in domestic cement demand in FY12 (+8%) and with increased PSDP allocation for FY13 (+19%) and General Elections due in 2013, domestic demand is likely to remain robust over the next six-nine months".

Ongoing public sector projects include new large and small dams, irrigation canals, power plants, highways, rapid transit systems, flyovers, airports, seaports, etc. Most of these were already in the pipeline when the PPP government assumed control in 2008. Recent pre-election increases in PSDP funding allowed work to resume on these projects in 2011-12.

 In addition to public sector infrastructure projects, there is a lot of privately funded real estate development activity visible in all major cities of the country.

Ocean Tower Karachi
Among the high-profile new construction projects completed this month is Ocean Tower in Karachi. At 393 feet high with 30 floors, it is now the tallest building in Pakistan. Ocean Tower has a shopping mall, food courts, corporate offices, a business club, car-parking area and 4 cinemas.

The Centaurus Islamabad
The Centaurus, at 361 feet, is another new project in Islamabad completed this month. It consists of three towers---office tower, residential tower and a 5-star hotel. The three will be linked by a shopping mall.

Big real estate developers like Bahria Town and Habib Construction are developing both commercial and housing projects in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Other cities like Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Larkana, Multan, Mirpur, Peshawar and Quetta are also seeing new housing communities, golf courses, hotels, office complexes, restaurants, shopping malls, etc.

Per capita cement consumption in Pakistan was only 70 Kg in 2003. It has more than doubled in the last decade.  With back-to-back increases in domestic cement demand, per capita consumption has now risen to 154 Kg which is still below average for Asia. But the rising demand is a good sign of economic recovery since 2009 when the GDP growth hit a low of 1.7%.

Centaurus Mall Opening Day

Credit Suisse is bullish on Pakistan's cement sector in particular and Pakistani shares in general.

CS analyst Farhan Rizvi has initiated coverage with "an OVERWEIGHT stance, as we believe compelling valuations, improving domestic demand outlook, better pricing power and easing cost pressures make the sector an attractive investment proposition. Despite better growth prospects (3-year CAGR of 17% over FY12-15E) and improving margins, the sector trades at an attractive FY13E EV/EBITDA of 3.8x, 49% discount to the historical average multiple of 7.4x. Moreover, FY13E EV/tonne of US$74 is approximately 29% discount to historical average EV/tonne of US$104 and 50% discount to the region".

A New Housing Construction Project in Rawalpindi

Another CS analyst Farrukh Khan, based in Credit Suisse’ Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore,says in his research report that “liquidity in 2012 has been concentrated in stocks offering positive earnings surprises (e.g., United Bank, Lucky Cement, DG Khan Cement and Bank Alfalah), enabling them to be strong outperformers. With further improvements in liquidity, we expect a broad-based price discovery to take hold in attractively valued oil and fertilizer stocks as well.”

 A string of strong earnings announcements by Karachi Stock Exchange listed companies and the Central Bank's 1.5% rate cut have already helped Karachi's KSE-100 index surge nearly 50% (37% in US $ terms) in 2012 to top all Asian market indices. It was followed by Bangkok's SET index which advanced 36%. It also easily beat India's Sensex index which was the top performer among BRICs with 25.19% annual gain.

Related Links:

 Haq's Musings

Pakistan's GDP Grossly Underestimated, Shares Highly Undervalued

Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan

Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012

Pak Consumer Boom  Fuels Underground Economy

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding

Sunday, February 3, 2013

12 Year-old Pakistani Girl Shares Online Education Experience at Davos

Khadija Niazi, a 12-year old from Lahore, Pakistan, is taking online courses offered by a new wave of cyber-based educational platforms like Coursera and Udacity.  She was recently interviewed by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at World Economic Forum 2013 at Davos, Switzerland.

 Khadija was the featured guest in a session on online education sponsored by Victor Pinchuk Foundation. She was joined on stage at WEF by Bill Gates, Larry Summer, Daphne Koller (Coursera co-founder), Rafael Reif (President of MIT), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder), Peter Thiel and other dignitaries.

Coursera and Udacity offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) in a variety of subjects to large numbers of students from around the world. MOOC courses are often taught by professors who have been teaching for years at elite universities in the United States. Top academic institutions are in the forefront of online learning. For example, Harvard and M.I.T. have joined hands to introduce EdX, which offers free online courses from each university. About 753,000 students have enrolled, with India, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia among the top 10 countries from which people are participating, according to NY Times

Khadija attends a local school in Lahore. She was only 10 years old when she first took the Artificial Intelligence online course on Udacity. She managed to finish the course and, the following year, Khadijah completed Udacity’s Physics course with highest distinction. She now plans to take courses in Astrobiology.

Enabling virtual education is the high-speed broadband expansion led by PTCL which has propelled Pakistan to become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia, according to a recent industry report.

Source: OECD Global Education Digest 2009

The quickest and the most cost-effective way to broaden access to education at all levels is through online schools, colleges and universities. Sitting at home in Pakistan, self-motivated learners can watch classroom lectures at world's top universities including UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford. More Pakistanis can pursue advanced degrees by enrolling and attending the country's Virtual University that offers instructions to thousands of enrolled students via its website, video streaming and Youtube and television channels.

The concept of virtual instruction is finding its way to K-12 education as well. Increasing number of Pakistanis are drawn to the Khan Academy channel on YouTube making Pakistanis among its top users. Virtual Education for All is a local Pakistani initiative extending the concept to primary level.

All of these technological developments and open courseware initiatives are good news for making education available and accessible to satisfy the growing needs in Pakistan and other emerging countries around the world seeking to develop knowledge-based economies of the 21st century.

Here's a video of Khadija's interview with Tom Friedman at Davos:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Youngest Computer Prodigy

Khan Academy Draws Pakistanis

Pakistan Virtual University Wins Top OCW Award 

Pakistan Rolls Out 50Mbps Broadband Service

More Pakistan Students Studying Abroad

Inquiry Based Learning in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Allama Iqbal Open University

Online Courses at Top International Universities

Pakistan Virtual University

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Friday, February 1, 2013

2 Pakistani-American Startups Among Top 5 Silicon Valley VC Deals

Latest funding of Ashar Aziz's FireEye and Zia Yusuf's Streetline rank #1 and #4 among top 5 VC deals in Silicon Valley announced in January 2013, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal.

FireEye is riding high on a wave of growing cyber security concerns amidst increasing cyber attacks being reported almost daily from around the globe. FireEye's founder Asgar Aziz is among the top recognized experts in the field of Internet and computer security. With the recent $50 million round from top investors, the company has raised $100 million to date. The new funding comes from new and existing investors — including Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Goldman Sachs, Juniper Networks, Silicon Valley Bank, and others.

Streetline is offering smartphone applications to help drivers find the increasingly scarce parking spots in crowded places. The company bills itself as "the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, garages, airports, universities and other private parking providers". The company has raised $25 million in January, 2013 from True Ventures, with participation by new investors Qualcomm Ventures and Citi and existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners and Fontinalis Partners. The company has now raised a total of $40 million, and it says it recently obtained a $25 million credit facility from Citi, too.

Another Pakistani-American who has been in the news is Rayid Ghani who served as the Chief Scientist in President Obama's re-election campaign organization. Before joining the Obama Campaign, Ghani worked for Accenture as Chief Scientist  and developed tools to mine mountains of private data of client corporations to find statistical patterns that could forecast consumer behavior. Instead of just using Facebook for posting messages and tracking its followers’ feelings, Ghani's team turned social media into a tool for efficiently recruiting the human resources it needed leading into the election’s home stretch.

Using Ghani's tools, the Obama campaign was able to match up supporters’ friends' profiles with voting lists and decide how it should reach out to supporters to reach their friends through micro-targeting. If someone was going to spread a message to 10 people, the campaign wanted to ensure they reached 10 people most likely to take actions such as donate money, get active knocking on doors or even to switch sides.

Pakistani-Americans Ashar, Ghani, Zia and many other entrepreneurs and professionals like them from Asia represent a dramatic shift in   Silicon Valley's racial mix over the last few  decades. I have been a witness to this historic change. When I arrived here to join Intel in 1981, there were few non-whites in the Valley. In fact, I was the only nonwhite person in a picture of the six-member award winning Intel 80386 CPU design team which was published by the PC Magazine in 1988.

Standing L to R: Riaz Haq, Jan Prak, Gene Hill, Pat Gelsinger, John Crawford     Sitting: Dave Vannier

My experience of the demographic changes in this high-tech valley is not just anecdotal. It's supported by data compiled by the local San Jose Mercury newspaper in 2010. The data shows that 49% of Intel employees are now Asian, a full 7% more than whites. In Silicon Valley, the difference is even more pronounced with Asians accounting for 53.9% of the employees versus 37.6% white workers.

 With Asians accounting for just 15.5% of the high-tech work force nationally, Silicon Valley's high-tech racial mix is also very different from the rest of the country. Silicon valley's employee pool also differs in terms of under-representation of Blacks, Hispanics and women relative the national averages.

 Among Asian-Americans, Pakistani-Americans are the 7th largest community in America, according to a report titled "A Community of Contrasts Asian Americans in the United States: 2011" published by Asian-American Center For Advancing Justice.  Pakistani-American population has doubled from 204,309 in 2000 to 409,163 in 2010, the second largest percentage increase after Bangladeshis' 157% increase in the same period.

The total fertility rate in the United States is now at 2.06, just enough to maintain the current level of US population. It's possible mainly due to the history of relatively liberal US immigration policy. If US immigration policy is tightened in response to pressures from various labor organizations and the traditional anti-immigration groups, the US fertility rate is likely to dip and hurt the US economy which needs more workers to pay for the retiree benefits of the growing population of senior citizens. Already, many US multinational corporations have added 1.5 million workers to their payrolls in Asia and the Pacific region from 1999 to 2009, and 477,500 workers in Latin America, according to US Commerce Dept data as reported by the Wall Street Journal. If the businesses can not find workers in the United States, they are more likely to continue to accelerate moving jobs elsewhere, depriving the US government the revenue it needs to balance its budget.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

US Firms Adding Jobs Overseas 

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistanis Study Abroad

Pakistan's Youth Bulge

Pakistani Diaspora World's 7th Largest

Pakistani-American NFL Team Owner

Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Catch the Wave

Pakistani Graduation Rate Higher Than India's