Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shale Revolution Poses Threat to Saudi Economy, Power and Influence?

The rise of the West was driven by the Industrial Revolution beginning in the 18th century. It has since been fueled by fossil fuels--initially coal and later with oil and gas. Coal was indigenous in Britain and America but it is highly polluting and left much of London and New York with a thick coat of soot on everything in sight. Oil burns relatively cleaner but much of it is in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf region. First Britain and then United States saw the significance of the region and sought to control its energy resource through dictatorial puppet regimes, many of which still survive with active support of the Western powers.

Recent US EIA report on vast shale oil and gas reserves (over a trillion barrels) in many countries, including Pakistan (9.1 billion barrels of oil and 105 trillion cubic feet of gas), has prompted a warning to Saudi government from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. While the Prince's warning is about economic impact, I see much broader long term implications of it for the US-Saudi alliance and the power and influence of the Saudi royalty in much of the region and the rest of the world.

The top ten countries together have 345 billion barrels of shale oil reserves These include Russia (75 billion barrels), United States (58 billion barrels), China (32 billion barrels), Argentina (27 billion barrels), Libya (26 billion barrels), Venezuela (13 billion barrels), Mexico (13 billion barrels), Pakistan (9.1 billion barrels), Canada (8.8 billion barrels) and Indonesia (7.9 billion barrels). Notable on this list are US and China, the top 2 consumers of  oil in the world, both having vast shale oil reserves of their own.

In an open letter to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and other Saudi ministers, published on Sunday via his Twitter account, Prince Alwaleed said demand for oil from OPEC member states was "in continuous decline". He said Saudi Arabia's heavy dependence on oil was "a truth that has really become a source of worry for many", and that the world's biggest crude oil exporter should implement "swift measures" to diversify its economy, according to news media reports.

Shortly after the Prince issued his warning, a report from OPEC published this week showed the group's oil export revenue hit a record high of $1.26 trillion in 2012. However, forecasts from the group raise doubts over whether that level of earnings can be sustained in the face of competition from shale oil. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is now pumping at less than its production capacity because of declining consumer demand, Prince Alwaleed said in the letter.

Saudi dependence on oil stems from the fact that nearly 92% of the Saudi government budget this year comes from oil , according to Wall Street Journal. The growing shale oil production in the United States means Saudi Arabia will not be able to raise its production volume to 15 million barrels of oil per day, Prince Alwaleed said. Current capacity is about 12.5 million bpd; a few years ago the country planned to increase capacity to 15 million bpd, but then put the plan on hold after the global financial crisis in 2008.

Oil-rich Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Iran have used their petrodollars to influence events in the Middle East and West Asia. They have funded their favorite sectarian groups to fight bloody proxy conflicts in Lebanon,  Iraq, Pakistan and Syria.  Saudis have bankrolled radical Sunni groups in Pakistan while Iran has financially backed Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon and other radical Shia groups in Iraq and Pakistan.  Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE have supported pro-West elements to roll back democracy in Egypt.

Even if Saudis do heed Prince Alwaleed's warning and succeed in diversifying their economy, it is highly unlikely that the desert Kingdom would be able sustain its current power and influence over the long haul. This is going to be bad news for the rulers who will respond with violence to resist change. But it is potentially good news for the Saudi people and the Arab and Muslim world at large. It'll open up opportunities for reforms leading to positive changes in the Middle East and the surrounding region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Vast Shale Oil and Gas Reserves

Saudi vs Turkish Influence in Pakistan

Shale Gas in Pakistan

Power Shift After Industrial Revolution

Pakistan Needs Shale Gas Revolution

Will Saudi Society Change Peacefully?

Pakistan Starts Tight Gas Production

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Controversial SC Ruling in Pak Presidential Race; Sharif's Choices for COAS and Chief Justice

Opposition parties have protested Pakistan Supreme Court's ruling on pulling in the presidential election date at federal government's request. Nawaz Sharif is set to make three key choices this year: Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court and Republic's President. How will these choices impact the nation in the next several years? Viewpoint From Overseas (VPOS) host Faraz Darvesh discusses these subjects with Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqir), Javed Ellahie and Riaz Haq.

Pakistani Judges' Role in President's Race; Appointments of Army Chief and Chief Justice from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

UN Malala Day

Treason Trial of Musharraf

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Blowback of US Drones in Pakistan

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Burka Avenger- Pakistan's Burka-Clad Female Superhero Fights Terrorists

Pantheon of women superheros has a new entry from Pakistan - the Burka Avenger, a mild mannered school-teacher who fights feudal villains and terrorists getting in the way of girls' education.

The cartoon series in Urdu will begin airing on Pakistan's most-watched GeoTV channel in August this year. It has been conceived by one of Pakistan's best-known pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid to emphasize the importance of girls’ education and teach children other lessons, such as tolerance and concern for the environment.

It appears that the series is inspired by the story of Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistan teenage school-girl who  miraculously survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Swat valley last year. Malala has since become an international icon for girls' education worldwide.  The United Nations declared Malala's 16th birthday this year on July 12 as Malala Day to focus on girls' education.

“Each one of our episodes is centered around a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids,” Rashid told The Associated Press in his first interview about the show. “But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure.”

Responding to a question about the choice of burqa, Rashid said “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes". “Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan,” Rashid added.

The series is set in Halwapur, a fictional town nestled in the soaring mountains and verdant valleys of northern Pakistan, according to The Associated Press. The Burka Avenger’s real identity is Jiya, whose father, Kabbadi Jan, taught her karate which she uses to defeat her enemies. When not dressed as her alter ego, Jiya does not don a burqa, or even a headscarf to cover her hair.

The main villains are Vadero Pajero, a balding, corrupt politician who wears a dollar sign-shaped gold medallion around his neck, and Baba Bandook, an evil man with a bushy black beard and mustache who is drawn to resemble a Taliban commander. Caught in the crossfire are the show’s main child characters: Ashu and her twin brother Immu and their best friend Mooli, who loves munching on radishes alongside his pet goat, Golu.

Other major stars featured in Burka Avenger series include Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat and Josh band members.  Like other series featuring major superheros, the series will be promoted through mobile apps, video games, music videos and other merchandise in Pakistan.

The series is an indication that Pakistan's mass media are getting serious about major issues confronting the country. It is a  very timely effort to address two major issues Pakistan faces: Girls education and terrorism. The two issue are intertwined because the Taliban terrorists are among the biggest obstacles to educating girls in Pakistan, particularly in the nation's north western region infested by the Taliban. Series such as these have the potential to bring about a social revolution in Pakistan.

Here's a preview video of the show:

Adil Omar x Haroon- Lady In Black - Burka... by darkinsky
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Sesame Street in Pakistan

Social Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistan Media Revolution

Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

Terrorism in Pakistan

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Malala Day Missed Opportunity; Supreme Court Rejects Drones Plea

Discussion at Viewpoint from Overseas focused on two events last week: 1. Malala Day at the United Nations and 2. Pakistani Supreme Court's refusal to hear a petition against US drone strikes in FATA.

1. Malala Day:

Malala Day was celebrated at the United Nations at which Pakistani teenage schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai made a passionate appeal to the world to fully support girls' education in Pakistan and around the world. Pakistani leadership was conspicuously absent from this important event.

The vacuum left by the top political leadership of Pakistan was unfortunately filled by the Taliban sympathizers who spun various conspiracy theories to blame foreigners, particularly the West, for all of Pakistan's problems. While she was still speaking at the U.N., her detractors in Pakistani social media were denouncing her as a “CIA agent" or claiming that her wounds had been “faked.” There were those who said she had not been hurt at all, while others were suspicious of her global fame. The messages were in the thousands.

 Malala Day is a missed opportunity for Pakistani leaders to focus the attention of the people of Pakistan on two very important issues they face: the extremely serious threat of terrorism and the denial of education to girls in the country, particularly in western provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa ruled by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Balochistan ruled by Nawaz Sharif's PML(N).

2. US Drones:

Pakistani Supreme Court refused to hear a petition seeking an order to declare US drone strikes in FATA illegal. The rejection was based on technical grounds. The Court said that “under Article 247 (7) of the constitution, neither the Supreme Court nor a high court shall exercise any jurisdiction in relation to tribal area, unless (Parliament) by law otherwise provides.”

This court has not hesitated to hear petitions based on such technical grounds in the past. Pakistan's High Treason Act, for example, clearly states that “No court shall take cognizance of an offense punishable under this act except upon a complaint in writing made by a person authorized by the Federal Government in this behalf.” But this language did not stop the Supreme Court judges from hearing a petition against Pervez Musharraf earlier this year.

It appears that there is more to the Supreme Court's rejection of petition against drones than meets the eye. Could it be that the Supreme Court judges, like many others in Pakistan, know that drone strikes are the only effective means of checking the TTP today?

Watch the following video for more on the above subjects:


Pakistan's Reaction to UN Malala Day; Supreme Court Rejects Drone Plea from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

UN Malala Day

Treason Trial of Musharraf

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Blowback of US Drones in Pakistan

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube

Ramadan Appeal to Stop Electricity Theft in Peshawar, Pakistan

"Do your fasting, pay zakat (charitable donations) and serve your parents, but do these things by the light of legal electricity." Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO)

Peshawar's electric utility has published full page advertisements in major Peshawar newspapers to appeal to its customers' religiosity in the holy month of Ramadan to stop stealing electricity and pay their bills.

According to news reports, PESCO ads exhort the local power consumers to do the right thing by citing religious edicts as follows: "Clerics have ruled that doing good deeds by the light of stolen electricity is against sharia, so let us stop using stolen electricity and beautify our day of judgement."

A combination of deadbeats and power thieves brazenly flout the law by not paying for electricity they use. Many of them are often politically powerful or connected to political bosses who protect them from the law. Some even shamelessly assert their right to steal electricity and refuse to pay bills. The state-owned power companies' employees are often corrupt and complicit in perpetuating the problem which is hurting the entire country. As a result, Pakistan's power sector and its fuel supply chain have been crippled by years of underinvestment, leaving people to endure blackouts of up to 20 hours a day in scorching summer heat.

The problem is widespread. It may be bigger in Peshawar but it is certainly not limited to any one particular city or province. In Islamabad, the nation's capital, it's fairly common for people living in large luxury homes to bribe corrupt utility officials to cap their monthly bills to just Rs. 1000 ($10) regardless of how much electricity they consume.  It's a key reason for Pakistan's worsening energy crisis. By some estimates, more than 40% of the power generated in Pakistan is not paid for.

It can be argued that the power theft is just one manifestation of the fraying moral fiber that is responsible for much of what is wrong in a country where religious fervor has been on the rise particularly since 1980s. Pakistan has rapidly climbed Transparency International's corruption rankings with more and more Pakistanis wearing religion on their sleeves. Symbols of religiosity like beards and hijabs are far more common in Pakistan now than I ever saw when I was growing up in the country in 1960s and 1970s.  Violence against fellow Muslims has also grown along with increasing religiosity. Huqooq-ul-Ibad have been almost completely ignored as Huqooq-ul-Allah have dominated religious discourse in the country.

KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Corporation), Pakistan's largest city Karachi's privately held utility, has started to reward those who pay and punish those who don't. It's a collective reward and punishment scheme to deal with the problem in Karachi. Areas where there is 80% money recovery see almost zero load shedding, 70% get a couple of hours of power cuts and those with less than 50% endure very long hours of black-outs. This policy has helped KESC reduce power theft from about 40% a few years ago to about 28% now  It has also resulted in about 50% of Karachi being supplied uninterrupted power.

There are many steps the new government can take to reduce power theft and improve revenue collection in the power sector. Here are a few of them:

1. Lead by example. All government ministers, top officials and members of national and provincial legislatures should pay their bills.

2. Implement the KESC's Karachi policy in more cities and towns to show consumers the benefits of paying for electricity by rewarding those who pay and punishing those who don't.

3. Deploy technology such as remotely read automated smart meters (AMR) and pre-paid electric meters (remotely shut-off when accounts run dry) to track consumption accurately and control electricity flow.

4. Appeal to people's deep religiosity to fulfill their obligations of paying for what they use. Encourage mosque leaders such as imams and khatibs to reinforce the message through their daily and weekly sermons.

5. Enforce the law. Cut off power to the delinquent consumers. Use police and paramilitary forces to remove kundas, illegal hooks slung over power lines to steal electricity in broad day light.

There is little hope of fixing the worsening crisis without strong action to improve the finances of the power sector to attract more investment.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy Rich Pakistan

Remembering Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Ramadan

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Circular Debt and Load Shedding in Pakistan

Twin Shortages of Gas and Electricity

Corruption and Incompetence Hobble Pakistan Power Sector

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tight Gas Production Begins in Pakistan

First tight gas well  producing 15 million cubic feet per day of natural gas is on line at Sajawal gas field in Kirthar block in Sindh province, according to a report in Express Tribune. This marks a major milestone in development of unconventional hydrocarbon energy sources in Pakistan. Sajawal gas field is located 110 km south east of Karachi, Pakistan. It puts Pakistan in an exclusive club of just a few nations producing unconventional natural gas.

The tight gas well in Kirthar belt is being operated jointly by Poland's Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo (PGNiG) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL).

The state-owned Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) is buying gas from the joint venture at $6 per million BTUs (half the price agreed for Iranian gas) for distribution through its network in southern Pakistan. SSGC is laying a 52-kilometre-long pipeline at an estimated cost of Rs 325 million, carrying gas from the Suleman Range to the Nooriabad industrial estate.

First tight gas production launch in Sajawal is a very significant milestone for Pakistan. It augurs well for the future of both tight and gas production in the country because there are similarities in how both are extracted. Pakistan is endowed with huge deposits of both---105 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of shale gas and at least 33 trillion cubic feet of tight gas. In addition, Pakistan is also blessed with 9.1 billion barrels of shale oil which is also extracted in a similar way.

Pakistan's current demand for natural gas is about 1.6 trillion cubic feet per year. Even if consumption triples to 5 trillion cubic feet per year, the current known reserves of over 150 trillion cubic feet of conventional and unconventional gas are sufficient for over 30 years.

Wells for both of these unconventional resources (tight and shale) must be "hydraulically fractured" (fracked)  in order to produce commercial amounts of gas. Operator challenges and objectives to be accomplished during each phase of the Asset Life Cycle (Exploration, Appraisal, Development, Production, and Rejuvenation) of both shale gas and tight gas are similar, according to a paper on this subject.  Drilling, well design, completion methods and hydraulic fracturing are somewhat similar; but formation evaluation, reservoir analysis, and some of the production techniques are quite different.

The current technology known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking was developed in the United States and it has spawned shale oil and gas revolution increasing supplies and reducing gas prices. The Chinese are now working on further cutting costs to make the equipment and technology more affordable.

Like the shale gas revolution in the United States, tight gas is transforming China's gas production - accounting for a third of total output in 2012 -- and will form the backbone of the country's push to expand so-called "unconventional" gas production nearly seven-fold by 2030, according to Reuters. The speed and size of the boom has exceeded forecasts and has been led by local firms developing low-cost technology and techniques, already being rolled out by Chinese companies in similar gas fields outside of China. Pakistan can benefit from the Chinese in its efforts to increase tight and shale gas and oil production.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Why Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy-Rich Pakistan?

Pakistani Guar in Demand for American Shale Fracking

US EIA Estimates 9.1 Billion Barrels of  Shale Oil in Pakistan

Pakistan's Vast Shale Gas Reserves

Abundant, Cheap Coal Electricity

Twin Energy Shortages of Gas and Electricity in Pakistan

Pakistan Energy Security Via Shale Revolution

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pakistani Government and Top Politicians Ignore Malala Day

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other top politicians in Pakistan reacted negatively or buried their heads in the sand as the world greeted Malala Yousufzai's powerful speech on Friday, July 12, 2013, her 16th birthday, declared by the United Nations as Malala Day. In her speech, Malala said, "I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha."

The only top politician who broke  this conspicuous silence more than 24 hours after Malala's UN speech was Imran Khan who tweeted “Malala’s courage and commitment to the cause of education, especially girls, is admirable” on Saturday evening.

However, the PTI-led government of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, the home of Malala Yousufzai and the place where she was shot in the head by the Taliban, still remained indifferent.

In Pakistan's largest province of Punjab, a tweet from Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif  (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's brother and closest adviser) said Malala’s speech was for "global consumption".  He was criticized for the tweet which he later deleted.

Pakistani civil society did try to partially fill the vacuum left by organizing events to celebrate Malala Day in major urban centers like Karachi and Lahore. In KPK, the province most affected by terrorism and gender bias in education,  ANP was the only political party that held ceremonies in Peshawar and in Malala’s hometown, Mingora, to mark the day. Malala was shot when ANP was in power, but it defended the teen and never showed reluctance in taking on the Taliban.

The vacuum left by the top political leadership of Pakistan was unfortunately filled by the Taliban sympathizers who spun various conspiracy theories to blame foreigners, particularly the West,  for all of Pakistan's problems. While she was still speaking at the U.N., her detractors in Pakistani social media  were denouncing her as a “CIA agent" or claiming that her wounds had been “faked.” There were those who said she had not been hurt at all, while others were suspicious of her global fame. The messages were in the thousands.

Malala Day was a missed opportunity for Pakistani leaders to focus the attention of the people of Pakistan on two very important issues they face: the extremely serious threat of terrorism and the denial of education to girls in the country, particularly in western provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa ruled by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Balochistan ruled by Nawaz Sharif's PML(N).

It's hard to explain the behavior of Pakistan's ruling politicians. They are  failing to condemn the Taliban for the brutal slaughter of innocent civilians. Their silence is being interpreted as their abject weakness and extreme fear of the terrorists.  This is creating even more space for the Taliban and their sympathizers to continue to challenge the writ of the Pakistani state.

It's hard to imagine how the cowardly leaders of Pakistan can solve many of the serious problems, including crises such as energy shortages and economic stagnation, if they lack the basic courage to speak out against the terrorists who are continuing their daily campaign of murder and mayhem unhindered by the Pakistani state.

Lack of real leadership coupled with growing sense of denial makes it difficult for Pakistan to confront its enemies at home. While Nawaz Sharif's government continues to harp on peace talks, the Taliban have intensified their campaign of terror. In the few weeks Sharif has been in office, 32 terrorist attacks have claimed over 250 lives. The only way to begin to stop it is for Pakistanis to see beyond the conspiracy theories. It is impossible to solve a problem that is not even openly and fully acknowledged.

Here's a video of Malala's UN Speech on Friday, July 12, 2013:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Terrorism

Respecting Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Ramadan

Does Nawaz Sharif Have an Anti-Terrorism Strategy?

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage?

Imran Khan Draws 500 Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lala Shahid Khan Afridi Returns to Crush Windies

Cries of "Shabash Lala" rang out with Pakistan's mercurial pathan's tremendous power and skill on full display at Providence Stadium in Guyana today.

First, Shahid Afridi joined his captain Misbah-ul-Haq at the crease to score a quick 76 runs off of 55 deliveries to build Pakistan's respectable total of 224 for 9. Then Afridi went on to claim 7 wickets while conceding just 12 runs to limit West Indies to 98 all out. The other wicket-taker was Mohammad Irfan, world's tallest cricketer, with 2 wickets for just 17 runs.

When Afridi took the crease, Pakistan's top order had collapsed once again against the moving ball as Jason Holder delivered a searing new-ball spell of 8-4-8-4.

Misbah-ul-Haq was playing his usual hold-the-innings-together role scoring at about a run an over, but when Afridi strode out, he was immediately looking to score a run a ball. Pakistan were 47 for 5 and the team's last recognized batting pair was in the middle, but that didn't stop Afridi from launching his third delivery for six over long-off.

The second biggest contributor to Pakistan's total was Captain Misbah-ul-Haq with his 52 runs scored from 121 deliveries he faced.

 Afridi's latest comeback marks yet another phase of the 33 year-old cricketer's career which has been characterized by quick flashes of brilliance followed by long stretches of mediocrity. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that Afridi's inconsistency is also the hallmark of the entire Pakistani national team with few individual exceptions like Misbah-ul-Haq, the current captain, who is known for his consistent batting performance.

In spite of the big win, it's important to recognize that fundamental weaknesses remain in the Pakistani side.In my view, a dispassionate review of the team's record would bring out the following:

1. Pakistan's bowling attack is among the most potent in the world and it should be maintained and enhanced.

2. Pakistan's batting is among the weakest in the world and it needs serious improvement.

3. Pakistani players, particularly batsmen, collapse under pressure.

 The best way to move forward is to do the following:

1. Hire a world-class batting coach who has a track record as a super batsman but also knows how to effectively coach a young side. This search for such a coach needs to be world-wide and selection done in a professional manner.

2. Bring on board a world-renowned sports psychologist to increase mental toughness and improve the overall temperament and tenacity of the players to perform well under pressure. The anger for any losses should not be directed against individual players. Instead, the passion should be channelized to improve the effectiveness of the team as a cohesive unit.

Highlights of Pakistan vs West Indies ODI at Providence Stadium in Guyana:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Top Ten Sledges in Cricket

Pakistan Breaks Australia's 34-Match Winning Streak

Obama on Cricket

Case For Resuming India-Pakistan Peace Talks

Pakistan Punish Aussie 2-0 in T20 Series 

Afridi's Leadership

Pakistan In, India Out of T20 Semis

Pakistan Beat India in South Africa 

Kiwis Dash Pakistan's ICC Championship Hopes

Pakistan Crowned World T20 Champs

Pakistan's Aisamul Haq Beats Tennis Great Roger Federer

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Huqooq ul Ibad in Ramadan; Abbottabad Commission Report; UK Probe of Altaf Hussain

Weekly Round-up: Imams need to emphasize Huqooq-ul-Ibad along with Huqooq-ul-Allah in the Holy month of Ramadan, Leaked Abbottabad Commission report holds Pakistani military and civilian leadership responsible for multiple failures leading up to Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, BBC documentary lays bare Altaf Husain's and MQM's illegal activities in Karachi and London.

1. Huqooq ul Ebad in Ramadan:

It seems to me that there is an urgent need to bring Huqooq ul Allah (Duties to God) in better balance with Huqooq ul Ibad (Duties to humans and all of Allah's creation). And Ramadan is an ideal time for the imams (prayer leaders) and khatibs (preachers) and popular televangelists to give equal time to both in their sermons, TV shows and speeches to the faithful attending the mosques or watching TV.

The Muslim preachers must take this opportunity to tell the worshipers that Allah will not forgive any wrongs done by them to their fellow human beings; such wrongs can only be forgiven by those who are wronged.

The imams and the televangelists must emphasize to their large Ramadan audiences that the Holy Quran equates " unjust killing of one person" with "the killing the entire humanity". It commands respect for life.

 2.  Abbottabad Commission Report:

On Monday, al-Jazeera published 336 pages of the Abbottabad Commission report  which had so far been kept from the public eye.  There is some speculation that the leak was orchestrated by the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make his predecessors and the military look bad.

The leaked findings of the Abbottabad Commission report  are highly critical of the conduct of the Pakistani military brass, military and civil intelligence agencies, corrupt bureaucrats and the top leadership in the years leading up to the US Navy Seals' raid on the Bin Laden Compound.

The report details how Usama Bin Laden who topped American FBI's Most Wanted List lived in various parts of North West Pakistan from 2002 to 2011. He avoided detection by various disguises including shaving off his beard and wearing cowboy hats. When caught in Swat for speeding, he was able to settle the matter by bribing the policeman, a common experience in Pakistan. He also bribed a land department official ("patwari") to acquire land and build his home in Abbotabad with fake IDs. The construction of a third story was illegal but went unchallenged. No property tax was paid, and at one point, the heavily occupied house was even declared uninhabited.

The report lays bare the culture of corruption and blatant lies that permeates many aspects of life in Pakistan.  The report does not rule out the possibility that Bin Laden enjoyed the support of some officials to conceal his presence in Pakistan, but it says that there was no conclusive proof of such support.

3.  Expanding Probe of  MQM Chief Altaf Hussain:

BBC documentary on expanding British police investigation into allegations against MQM leader Altaf Husain was aired on July 11, 2013. He lives in London and runs his party remotely through regular speeches and telephonic orders to the political and militant wings of his party in Karachi.

The documentary features former members of MQM who accuse Altaf Hussain of ordering hits against his opponents. The documentary reveals the recovery of over 400,000 British pounds in searches of Altaf Husain's homes in London.

It seems that British government's support of MQM has so far stemmed from its policy of supporting forces strongly opposed to Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan. It also appears that the UK officials have known about MQM's use of extortion, murder and torture in Karachi but they have chosen to look away until the brutal murder of Dr. Imran Farooq, a former top leader of MQM, on a London street. The British police suspect that Dr. Farooq's killing was ordered personally by Altaf Husain from his London residence.

Even if the British prosecutors do find substantial evidence to charge and convict Altaf Hussain, it's still possible that they will not pursue the charges. Their decision will be based on how valuable Altaf Husain and MQM are in supporting their over-riding priority to curtail the influence of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan and its spill-over into the UK.

Here's the weekly show of Viewpoint From Overseas:

Respecting Rights in Ramadan; Abbottabad Commission Report; BBC Documentary on Altaf Hussain from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rights in Ramadan

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Gangster Politicians of Pakistan

Gangs of Karachi

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy-Rich Pakistan?

Frequent IMF bailouts and power blackouts in energy-rich Pakistan are closely tied. One of the key reasons for recurring balance-of-payment crises is the country's rapidly rising oil import bill. The lack of sufficient fuel exacerbates load shedding, negatively impacts economy, reduces tax revenue growth and worsens current account and budget deficits. This requires repeated injections of IMF loans in US dollars to meet import requirements and deal with budget shortfalls.

Pakistan Energy Infrastructure (Source: PPEPCA)

Pakistan's Untapped Energy Riches:

1. Shale Oil:

A recent US EIA report released in June 2013 estimates Pakistan's total shale oil  reserves at 227 billion barrels of which 9.1 billion barrels are technically recoverable with today's technology. In fact, US EIA (Energy Information Administration) puts Pakistan among the top ten countries by recoverable shale oil reserves. These include Russia (75 billion barrels), United States (58 billion barrels), China (32 billion barrels), Argentina (27 billion barrels), Libya (26 billion barrels), Venezuela (13 billion barrels), Mexico (13 billion barrels), Pakistan (9.1 billion barrels), Canada (8.8 billion barrels) and Indonesia (7.9 billion barrels).

2. Shale Gas:

The latest US EIA report has raised estimates of Pakistan's recoverable shale gas reserves from 51 trillion cubic feet to 105 trillion cubic feet. It says Pakistan has 586 trillion cubic feet of shale gas of which 105 trillion cubic feet (up from 51 trillion cubic feet reported in 2011) is technically recoverable with current technology.

3. Tight Gas:

Rough estimates indicate the presence of at least 33 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas reserves trapped in tight sands, according to an ENI Pakistan report. Another report by Shahab Alam, technical director of Pakistan Petroleum Concessions, puts the estimate at 40 trillion cubic feet of tight gas reserves in the country. These unconventional gas reserves are in addition to the remaining conventional proven gas reserves of over 30 trillion cubic feet.

4. Conventional Gas:

In addition to unconventional oil and gas resources, Pakistan also has about 30 trillion cubic feet of remaining conventional natural gas.

5. Thar Coal:

Pakistan's coal reserves in the Thar desert are estimated at 175 billion tons, according to  Geological Survey of Pakistan. It's low BTU content coal.  The carbon content of Thar lignite is around 60-80%; the rest is composed of water, air, hydrogen, and sulfur. It's hard to transport it but it can used to generate electricity in an integrated mining-generation facility.

6. Hydro:

Pakistan's hydroelectric potential is over 100,000 MW of electricity of which 59,000 MW can come from currently identified sites by the nation's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA).

7. Wind:

According to data published by Miriam Katz of Environmental Peace Review, Pakistan is fortunate to have something many other countries do not, which are high wind speeds near major centers. Near Islamabad, the wind speed is anywhere from 6.2 to 7.4 meters per second (between 13.8 and 16.5 miles per hour). Near Karachi, the range is between 6.2 and 6.9 (between 13.8 and 15.4 miles per hour). In only the Balochistan and Sindh provinces, sufficient wind exists to power every coastal village in the country. There also exists a corridor between Gharo and Keti Bandar that alone could produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity, says Ms. Katz who has studied and written about alternative energy potential in South Asia.

8. Solar:

Pakistan is an exceptionally sunny country. If 0.25% of Balochistan was covered with solar panels with an efficiency of 20%, enough electricity would be generated to cover all of Pakistani demand. Solar energy makes much sense for Pakistan for several reasons: firstly, very large population lives in 50,000 villages that are very far away from the national grid, according to a report by the Solar Energy Research Center (SERC). Connecting these villages to the national grid would be very costly, thus giving each house a solar panel would be cost efficient and would empower people both economically and socially.


Pakistan's frequent bailouts and blackouts are clearly related. The key to solving these interlinked crises is to put high priority on developing the country's vast but untapped domestic energy resources identified above. These include shale oil, shale gas, tight gas, Thar coal, hydro and renewables like solar and wind. Reducing Pakistan's dependence on energy imports is also the key to making the nation less vulnerable to recurring external shocks from energy prices which vary wildly with international political and economic events and crises.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US EIA Estimates Pakistan's Shale Oil Reserves at 9.1 Billion Barrels

Pakistan's Vast Shale Gas Reserves

Pakistan's Energy History

Cheap Coal Electricity

Potential Renewable Energy Resources in Pakistan

Hydroelectricity Potential in Pakistan

US EIA Shale Oil and Gas Report 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Respecting Rights of Fellow Humans (Huqooq ul Ibad) in Ramadan

Muslims around the world have begun observing the holy month of Ramadan with long hours of fasting during daylight and by flocking to the mosques everywhere for taraveeh (extra prayers) after sundown. The imams are delivering khutbas and making television presentations on the blessings of Ramadan and emphasizing extra rewards for praying during the month. Meanwhile, the Taliban have refused to agree to a ceasefire by claiming that the “reward of fighting is much higher in the holy month.”

How about discussing Huqooq ul Ibad (human rights) in this blessed month? How about saying that there is no greater right of the living than the right to life? And there is no greater sin than the taking of an innocent life which is happening with regularity in indiscriminate bomb attacks almost everyday in public places?

And We have sent you (Muhammad) not but as a mercy for mankind
Quran: Sura Al-Anbiya  21:117

As to the convoluted justifications for killing of the "infidels", it is important to remember that the Holy Quran describes Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Rehmat-ul-lil-Alamin, not just Rehamt-ul-lil-Muslimeen.  The Prophet of Allah was sent to this world as a blessing for all, not just for Muslims, a fact often forgotten by bigots and terrorists who claim to be Muslims and carry out unimaginable atrocities in the name of Islam.

TTP's "Shariah" is Distortion of Real Shariah. Just Say No to it!

It seems to me that there is an urgent need to bring Huqooq ul Allah (Duties to God) in better balance with Huqooq ul Ibad (Duties to humans and all of Allah's creation). And Ramadan is an ideal time for the imams (prayer leaders) and khatibs (preachers) and popular televangelists to give equal time to both in their sermons, TV shows and speeches to the faithful attending the mosques or watching TV.

The Muslim preachers must take this opportunity to tell the worshipers that Allah will not forgive any wrongs done by them to their fellow human beings; such wrongs can only be forgiven by those who are wronged.

“And render to the kindred their rights,as also to those in want and to the wayfarer” (Surah Bani Isra’il, verse 26)

“Serve Allah, don’t associate anyone with Him, do good to parents, kinsfolk,orphans, those in need, neighbors who are of kin, neighbors who are strangers,the companion by your side, the wayfarer,and what your right hand posses: for Allah loves not the vainglorious;nor those who are niggardly, enjoin niggardliness on others,hide bounties which Allah has bestowed on them” (Surah Al-Nisa, verse 36)

It's also important remember that the Jannah is not exclusively for Muslims only. People of other faiths who do good will be just as eligible to enter paradise as Muslims. Here's Chapter 2 Verse 62 of the Holy Quran:

 "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve"

It's important to remember during Ramadan from the teachings and the life Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  lived to learn how to deal with the serious crises Muslims face today. Here is how I remember the Prophet I know from my reading about his life:

Secular Education:

The Prophet I know instructed Muslims to "go as far as China to seek knowledge". It was clear at the time that China was not a Muslim nation. It is therefore safe to conclude that the Prophet encouraged all necessary efforts to seek all knowledge including secular education.

Faith and Reason:

The Prophet I know brought the Holy Quran to humanity, the Book that repeatedly and emphatically challenges readers to "Think" (Afala Taqelon) and "Ponder" (Afala Tatafakkron) for themselves. This is the best proof that Islam wants Muslims to reconcile faith and reason. It was this teaching that brought greatness to Muslims in seventh through thirteenth centuries following the death of Prophet Muhammad.


The Prophet I know showed compassion and understanding when a Bedouin person entered the Prophet's mosque in Medina and urinated, an act that infuriated the Prophet's companions. He restrained his companions and asked them to show understanding for the ignorance of the Bedouin.


The Prophet I know spoke softly and briefly. His last khutbah was a mere 430 words lasting a few minutes. He did not make long, fiery speeches.

Response to provocation:

The Prophet I know responded to abuse by prayer. When the people of Taif threw rocks at him, he responded by praying to Allah to give guidance to those who abused him.

Respect for Life:

The Prophet I know brought the Holy Quran, the Book that equates " unjust killing of one person" with "the killing the entire humanity". It commands respect for life.

In this terror-stricken world, it is more important than ever for Muslims to make a serious effort to understand what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stood for and how he lived his life. The issues of education, faith, reason and compassion need to be understood in the light of the Quran, the Sunnah and the Hadith. It is this understanding that will help guide the Ummah out of the deep crisis it finds itself in.

I urge the Muslim imams and the Islamic scholars everywhere not to waste the opportunity to educate Muslims about the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the high importance of Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Ramadan to contribute to ending the long nightmare Pakistanis and others are are being subjected to.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

The Prophet I Know

Is Ramadan Just a Break From Work?

Does Nawaz Sharif Have a Counter Terrorism Strategy?

Obama Hosts Iftar Dinner at White House

American Muslim Reality TV Breaks Stereotypes

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Coup Topples Morsi, Pak Seeks TTP Dialog, MQM's Altaf in Trouble

Egypt and Pakistan have both been in the news in the last few days. Egypt's military generals staged a coup against President Mohammad Morsi while denying it was a coup. Pakistan sought dialog with the TTP even as its citizens continued to suffer heavy casualties in terrorist attacks launched by the Pakistani Taliban and their sectarian allies across the country. Reports from London indicate that the British police have found credible evidence to link MQM chief Altaf Husain with money laundering and Imran Farooq's murder.

Here's a summary of this week's Viewpoint From Overseas discussion:

1. Military Coup in Egypt:

Egypt's first democratically elected president Dr. Mohammad Morsi was forced out by the Egyptian military in a coup. The military said it was responding to the wishes of the protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The protesters who demanded the removal of Dr. Mohammad Morsi are people who did not vote for him in the first place. These are people who say "My way or highway" and don't understand the democratic process. They agree on very little other than the removal of a man they did not want to be the president. The generals saw this as an opportunity to grab power after barely a year of free and fair election won by Morsi , and sought to restore the privileged position of the military.

I fear a violent reaction from the Brotherhood and its allies to this coup which has been welcomed by retrograde Arab dictators ranging from Syria's Assad to Saudi King Abdullah and the Qatari rulers.

2.  Dialog with Pakistani Taliban:

Pakistan's political leaders signaled their weakness yet again by continuing their pleas for dialog with the TTP and its sectarian allies in response to more horrific attacks on many more civilian and state targets across the country.

The question one needs to ponder is what will Pakistani leadership talk with the TTP about? And what is it ready to concede in return for peace?

The TTP have repeatedly made it clear that they want the implementation of their version of Shariah which rejects Pakistan's democracy, constitution and its various state institutions, including the parliament and the judiciary.

Do Pakistani leaders want a repeat of what happened in Swat after ANP signed a peace deal with the TTP in 2009?

Do they remember that the Taliban unleashed their reign of terror on the people of Swat in the name of "Nizam-e-Adl"? Are they willing to accept it across the country?

The second major demand of the Taliban is for Pakistan to cut ties with the United States.

Pakistan is in the middle of another IMF bailout right now.  Would the IMF, dominated by the US and its allies, bail Pakistan out now or in the future if it accepted the TTP demand to cut ties with the West?

In fact, the US and its allies are Pakistan's biggest trading partners. How long can Pakistan, or any other country, survive by cutting ties with the US? Do the anti-American demagogues in Pakistan know what is happening to Iran, a country with a lot more resources than Pakistan, under US-sponsored sanctions? Do they know that Iran and Syria are among the world's fastest shrinking economies?

Is it better to first use overwhelming military force against the TTP to weaken them to make them see reason before starting a dialog?

Back in 2009, Pew Poll indicated that 53% of Pakistanis supported military action against the Taliban in Swat.

Support for the use of the Army against the Taliban is 35%, up from 32% last year, while 29% oppose it. down from 35% in 2012. Can the support for decisive military action against the TTP be increased by Pakistani political leadership?

What needs to be done to increase support to use decisive military force against the Taliban?

3. Altaf Husain in Trouble:

There are unconfirmed reports that the British Police have found credible evidence of MQM chief Altaf Husain's involvement in murder and money laundering after several days of searches, seizures and interrogations in Dr. Imran Farooq murder case in London and elsewhere.

Would the British government actually go all the way and charge Altaf Husain? Or would it just use the threat of such charges to influence MQM's behavior in Pakistani politics to protect British interests in Pakistan, particularly in the important port city of Karachi? Can Altaf Husain continue to lead the MQM if he is formally charged ad prosecuted?

Here's a video discussion on the above topics:

Egypt's Morsi Ousted by Military; Hazara Carnage; Dialog with Taliban; MQM Boss Altaf Husain's Troubles from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Here's a BBC2 documentary about British investigations into possible murder and money laundering charges against MQM Chief Altaf Hussain:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube