Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who's Better For Pak Human Development? Musharraf or Politicians?

Pakistan's HDI grew an average rate of 2.7% per year under President Musharraf from 2000 to 2007, and then its pace slowed to 0.7% per year in 2008 to 2012 under elected politicians, according to the 2013 Human Development Report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”.

Source: Human Development Report 2013-Pakistan

 At 0.515, Pakistan's HDI is lower than the average HDI value of 0.558 for South Asia which is the second lowest among the various regions of the world tracked by UNDP. Between 2000 and 2012, the region registered annual growth of 1.43% in HDI value, which is the highest of the regions. Afghanistan achieved the fastest growth (3.9%), followed by Pakistan (1.7%) and India (1.5%), according to the United Nations Development Program.

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

 Who's to blame for this dramatic slowdown in the nation's human development?  Who gave it a low priority? Zardari? Peoples' Party? Sharif brothers? PML (N)? PML (Q)? Awami National Party? Muttahida Qaumi Movement?  The answer is: All of them. They were all part of the government. In fact, the biggest share of the blame must be assigned to PML (N).

Sharif brothers weren't part of the ruling coalition at the center. So why should the PML (N) share the blame for falling growth in the nation's HDI? They must accept a large part of the blame because education and health, the biggest contributors to human development, are both provincial subjects and PML(N) was responsible for education and health care of more than half of Pakistan's population.

Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World
Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.

Acceleration of HDI growth during Musharraf years was not an accident.  Not only did Musharraf's policies accelerate economic growth, helped create 13 million new jobs, cut poverty in half and halved the country's total debt burden in the period from 2000 to 2007, his government also ensured significant investment and focus on education and health care. The annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. In 2011, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including Pakistan Steel and PIA, both of which  continue to sustain huge losses due to patronage-based hiring.

Pakistan's High-Tech Exports Tripled as % of Manufactured Exports. Source: World Bank

Source: Pew Surveys in Pakistan

Looking at examples of nations such as the Asian Tigers which have achieved great success in the last few decades, the basic ingredient in each case has been large social sector investments they have made. It will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to catch up unless similar investments are made by Pakistani leaders.

Primary Enrollment Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan

Youth Literacy Rate Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan

As Pakistanis prepare to go to the polls on May 11, it is important that the voters demand an explanation from the incumbent political parties for their extremely poor performance in the social sector. Without accountability, these politicians will continue to ignore the badly needed investments required to develop the nation's human resources for a better tomorrow. Forcing the political leaders to prioritize social sector development is the best way to launch Pakistan on a faster trajectory.
Here's a video discussion on elections in Pakistan:

Upcoming Elections in Pakistan: How different parties are positioning themselves from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Saving Pakistan's Education

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman Defends Pakistan's Higher Education Reforms

Twelve Years Since Musharraf's Coup

Musharraf's Legacy

Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010

Role of Politics in Pakistan Economy

India and Pakistan Compared in 2011

Musharraf's Coup Revived Pakistan's Economy

What If Musharraf Had Said No?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Madhu Lal Shah Husain Urs: LGBT Celebration in Pakistan?

"The nights are long without my beloved".
Shah Husain
Devotees of  the sixteenth century Muslim Sufi Saint Shah Husain believe he was in love with Madhu Lal, a Hindu Brahmin man. The two men, whose attraction to each other may well have been platonic,  are buried next to each other in a famous Lahore shrine where there is an annual three-day celebration by hundreds of thousands of followers of the famous mystic.

Called Mela Chiraghan  or the Festival of Lights, the three-day celebration of Madhu Lal Hussain started today in Baghbanpura Lahore. The event's name comes from a large fire, alao, at the shrine where people throw candles, oils and terra-cotta lamps (chiragh) after making wishes,  according to a report in The Express Tribune. The fire remains lit for the entire duration of  the urs.

Reporting on the same-sex relationship of Madu Lal and Shah Husain, NPR's The World quoted Pakistani-American Professor Taymiya R. Zaman of  University of San Francisco as saying: " You can't  look at something that already existed and there is a shrine devoted to it and say it was unacceptable ".

Drag Queen Ali Saleem (aka Begum Nawazish Ali)

Anyone who's spent time in Pakistan knows that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) exist in the country, though this fact is not openly acknowledged or discussed for fear of backlash from conservatives. This has begun to change, however, with recent Supreme Court decisions acknowledging the rights of transgender community as equal citizens under Pakistan's constitution.  The nation's highest court has ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure that transgenders are registered as voters and be allowed to contest for parliament in the upcoming elections.

Other than transgenders who are in the open, there are groups of gays and lesbians who meet secretly, according to the New York Times. There are anti-LGBT colonial era laws on the books, but such laws are not enforced. In fact, there is no active state-sponsored witch-hunt of such groups in Pakistan. Their situation is more akin to the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy which began in the Clinton Administration and remained in force until recently.

Pakistan is in the midst of big social changes internally. But, as the New York Times reported recently, anny attempt by outsiders to influence it invites a severe backlash. Here's an excerpt of the New York Times story:

That clash of ideologies was evident last year on June 26, when the American Embassy in Islamabad held its first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride celebration. The display of support for gay rights prompted a backlash, setting off demonstrations in Karachi and Lahore, and protesters clashing with the police outside the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. This year, the embassy said, it held a similar event but did not issue a news release about it. 

“It is the policy of the United States government to support and promote equal rights for all human beings,” an embassy spokeswoman, Rian Harris, said by e-mail when asked about the backlash. “We are committed to standing up for these values around the world, including here in Pakistan.” 

Well intended as it may have been, the event was seen by many in Pakistan’s gay community as detrimental to their cause. The 33-year-old activist strongly believes it was a mistake. 

“The damage that the U.S. pride event has done is colossal,” she said, “just in terms of creating an atmosphere of fear that was not there before. The public eye is not what we need right now.”
Despite the hostile climate, both the support group and O continue their work. O is currently researching violence against lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pakistanis. 

“In a way, we are just role models for each other,” the 30-year-old said. When she was growing up, she said, she did not know anyone who was gay and she could not imagine such a life. 

“For me the whole activism is to create that space in which we can imagine a future for ourselves, and not even imagine but live that future,” she said. “And we are living it. I’m living my own impossibility.”

Here's a trailer of "Zunn", a film on Pakistan's gay and transgender community:

Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan | Official Trailer from ZUNN on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Social Change in Pakistan

Turkish Soaps and Schools in Pakistan

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pakistan Day: Looking at the 1940 Lahore Resolution in Hindsight

As Pakistanis celebrate Pakistan Day today, March 23, 2013,  there are some who are questioning the founder's wisdom in seeking partition of India to carve out Pakistan as an independent nation.  They do not recognize today's Pakistan as Jinnah's Pakistan. The doubters justifiably point to the rising tide of intolerance and increasing violence and  a whole range of problems and crises Pakistan is facing. Many in the  oppressed Shia community wonder aloud if it was a mistake to demand a separate country for Muslims of undivided India.

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

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

1. Muslims, the New Untouchables in India:

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

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

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

2. Upward Economic Mobility in Pakistan: 

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

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

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

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

3. East Pakistan Debacle: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Poverty, Hunger, Other Socioeconomic Indicators: 

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

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

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

Pakistanis spend more time in schools and colleges and graduate at a higher rate than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee. Pakistan has seen its human capital grow significantly over the last decade.  With nearly 16% of its population in 25-34 years age group having college degrees, Pakistan is well ahead of India and Indonesia, according to Global Education Digest 2009 published by UNESCO Institute of Statistics. UNESCO data also shows that Pakistan's lead is growing with younger age groups.

Source: Global Education Digest
Barro-Lee Data on Educational Attainment in India and Pakistan
Here is a summary of Barro-Lee's 2010 data in percentage of 15+ age group students who have enrolled in and-or completed primary, secondary and tertiary education:

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

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

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





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

World Hunger Index 2012

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

 Pakistan ranks well ahead of India and in the middle among 15 similar countries compared by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010).  Other countries in this group include India, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Island, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Poor Treatment of Minorities:

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

Pakistan finds itself in the midst many serious crises of governance, economy, energy, security, etc. I do think, however, that all of the available and credible data and indicators confirm the fact that Muslims in Pakistan are not only better off than they are elsewhere in South Asia, they also enjoy higher economic and social mobility than their counterparts in India and Bangladesh.

On Pakistan's National Day today, let me remind everyone that Pakistanis have made a habit of proving pessimist pundits wrong. Pakistani state was 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 says 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.” 

Here's a video discussion on Pakistan:

Imran Khan's March 23 Jalsa and Musharraf's Return to Pakistan from WBT TV on Vimeo.

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

Muslims in India by desitvonline  Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

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

Rising Tide of Intolerance in Pakistan

Muslims-New Untouchables in India

Violent Conflict Marks Pakistan's Social Revolution

Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Poverty Across South Asia

Graduation Rates in Pakistan

Introspection of Pakistan's Creation

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Can Turkish Soaps and Schools Counter Saudi Influence in Pakistan?

Cultural invasion of Pakistan is in full swing with Turkish schools and soap operas finding broad acceptance across the country. Local TV channels are airing soap operas dubbed in Urdu and Gülen movement is operating over a dozen schools in different parts of the country.

Turkish Entertainment: 

Since last summer,  channel Urdu1 has enjoyed top TV ratings with its multiple daily airings of the Turkish soap opera Ishq-e-Mamnu, or “Forbidden Love", according to the New York Times. Afraid of being left behind, Geo Entertainment, part of Pakistan's biggest media empire spawned by recent media revolution in the country, has joined the bandwagon with its prime-time airing of  Noor. It's a rags to riches story of a woman, and her adoring husband, played by the blue-eyed former model Kivanc Tatlitug.

Ishq-e-Mamnoon Cast Members
While the soaps depict a western lifestyle and deal with subjects that are considered taboo in Pakistan, they include characters with Muslim names which many Pakistanis can identify with. 

This latest trend contrasts sharply with what has been happening in the country for several decades.  Since 1980s, Pakistan's cultural transformation has been led, in part, by Pakistani workers traveling to and returning from Arab countries. These workers have brought with them Arab notions of Islamic piety and hard-line Wahabi beliefs to Pakistan. This phenomenon has contributed to the proliferation of radical madrassas funded by Saudi money in many parts of the country.

Arabs, seen as model Muslims by many Pakistanis, are themselves soaking up Turkish culture. Back in 2008, Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) bought Noor and broadcast it across the Arab world to win its hearts and minds. Now Turkish shows are dominating the Arab airwaves. Even Greece, traditional rival of Turkey, has become so hospitable to Turkish soaps that they "are gaining a worshipful following in Greece", according to Mary Andreou who writes for the Greek newspaper Adesmeftos Typos.

Magnificent Century – Turkey’s most popular and most talked-about but controversial soap is about the lavish lifestyle of Suleiman The Magnificent who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 at the height of its glory and is still revered as Kanuni, or Lawgiver. His empire included large parts of Eastern and Central Europe and the entire Middle East. It is watched in 43 countries by 200 million people, according to David Rohde in The Atlantic. The Hurriyet reports that Turkish soap opera exports have grown from US$1 million in 2007 to nearly US$100 million today. Around a hundred different Turkish serials are exported in dubbed or subtitled form to North Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

Turkish Education:

In Pakistan, Turkish presence extends beyond television entertainment; there's a network of Turkish schools being operated by Gülen Movement, a transnational religious, social, and possibly political movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. It's been described by  New York Times as  coming "from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam". Currently, Gulen Pakistan is operating 14 Pak-Turk schools serving over 3000 students in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Khairpur, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.

Pak-Turk School, Jamshoro, Pakistan
 In a CBS 60 Minutes segment last year, here's how correspondent Leslie Stahl described Gulen schools in the United States: "Over the past decade scores of charter schools have popped up all over the U.S., all sharing some common features. Most of them are high-achieving academically, they stress math and science, and one more thing: they're founded and largely run by immigrants from Turkey who are carrying out the teachings of a Turkish Islamic cleric: Fethullah Gulen". CBS report said Gulen schools in the United States have 20,000 students enrolled with 30,000 more on waiting list. The growing popularity of Turkish charter schools has drawn suspicion and criticism of various groups in the United States.


Growing Turkish influence in Pakistan has its critics. Local actors and producers decry the new competition of Turkish soaps for "destroying our society".  Others see as part of the American conspiracy. Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey, was warned by a mosque near where he works never to return wearing a tie, according to a news report.


Today's Turkey is a modern democratic and secular state run by moderate Islamists. It is seen by many Muslims, including Pakistani Muslims, as a model pluralist society that offers many lessons for the rest of the Islamic world.  But it has many detractors as well. For example, there is significant resistance to growing Turkish cultural and educational influence in Pakistan.  The Turkish influence is still small but rising rapidly, and the resistance from entrenched orthodoxy is increasing with it. It does offer hope as an anti-dote to the  radical Saudi influence that is at least partly responsible for growing violence in Pakistan. While I do see signs of hope with the emergence of Turkey as model for Pakistan and other Muslim countries, only time will tell as to how this culture war unfolds to shape Pakistan's future. 

Here's a video clip of Ishq-e-Mamnoon:

Ishq E Mamnoon OST Title Song Full 720p HQ from Prince Mughal on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Turkey, Pakistan and Secularism

Pakistan Media Revolution

Violent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Clash of Ideas in Islam

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

 Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Learntive: Silicon Valley NEDians Digitize Pak School Lessons

DVDs and YouTube videos are at the heart of Learntive, a Silicon Valley NEDians' initiative to promote better learning among school students in Pakistan.

Founded in 2012, Learntive has begun with the launch of a YouTube channel and video CDs containing complete lectures for  Sindh mathematics text books for grades 9 and 10. Learntive has already given 2300 CD sets to district education officers for distribution to teachers at government-run schools in Sindh province. 

In addition to working with Sindh government, Learntive is also sharing digitized lessons with various other organizations including The Citizens Foundation (TCF) which runs nearly 1000 schools across Pakistan, Development in Literacy (DIL), and Indus Resource Center (IRC). 

L to R: Dr. Nasir Ansar (Director General Colleges, Sindh), Pir Mazahar ul Haq (Senior Minister, Education & Literacy Department, Sindh), Sajjad Abbasi (Special Secretary, Education & Literacy Department, Sindh),
Anees Ahmed Kaim Khani ( Learntive Team Member)
 The initial funding for the initiative has come mainly from Pakistani-American alumni of NED University who are working in Silicon Valley, California. Silicon Valley NEDians have also volunteered their time and the production facilities to narrate and produce the videos. Of particular note are  the contributions of time and money made by my friends Suhail Ahmad, Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, Abbas Zaidi and Raghib Husain, all graduates of NED University in Karachi, Pakistan.  Ali Hasan Cemendtaur is also working with Bilal Musharraf of Khan Academy to ensure Urdu translations of its online tutorial videos.  Ali's voice can be heard in several instructional videos posted online. 

Digitizing lessons is the first step toward helping teachers provide better instruction in classrooms. Such content can also be distributed through high-speed broadband expansion.  A recent industry report indicates that Pakistan has become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia.

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.

Clearly, the concept of virtual instruction is finding its way to K-12 education. Increasing number of Pakistanis are drawn to the Khan Academy channel on YouTube making Pakistanis among its top users. Learntive and Virtual Education for All are a local Pakistani initiatives extending the concept to primary and secondary level.

All of these technological developments and various 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 Learntive video:

Here's a video of NED Alumni Convention in Silicon Valley:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-Americans in Top Venture Deals in Silicon Valley

12-Year-Old Pakistani Girl at Davos, Switzerland

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

Pakistan Primary Education Crisis

Indian Students' Poor Performance on PISA and TIMSS

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

PISA's Scores 2011

Teaching Facts versus Reasoning

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Successful South Beach Developer Eyes Karachi Real Estate

World's tallest building for Karachi is back on track with Bahria Town's Malik Riaz signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with German-American real estate tycoon Thomas Kramer. Riaz brought in Kramer after his earlier deal with Abu Dhabi Group collapsed soon after signing about three weeks ago. Both Riaz and Kramer have an established track record for developing upscale properties; Riaz in Pakistan and Kramer in Florida and Germany.

The $20 billion plan is to develop 12,000 acres of land over a period of 10 years on Bundal & Buddo Islands about 3 kilometers from Karachi's Clifton district. The first residential  units be completed as early as 2016. In addition to housing, the plans also include world’s tallest building, world’s largest shopping mall, mosques, cinemas, spas, golf courses, schools and hospitals, all with modern amenities and associated infrastructure. The two islands will be connected with each other and the mainland by a six-lane bridge. The entire city will be a “high security zone”, with its own desalination and power generation plants to enable it to be self sufficient for water and power.  

South Beach, Florida, USA

Speaking to the media after signing the MOU, Thomas Kramer said, “I have full confidence in the people and economy of Pakistan. In 1970 when I started my project in Germany it was the worst era of their history. Likewise when Miami Beach project was started, the area was in full control of Cuban criminals, different mafias and gangsters. Dead bodies used to be scattered on the beaches. I completed my projects successfully. Today they are the world’s most secure and advanced regions. Current situation in Pakistan is much better than those areas. Further I am confident that this project along with boosting the economy will also eradicate terrorism from Pakistan. This is a once in a lifetime chance to bring Pakistan back on the map to the leading nations in the world.”

Sharing the podium with Kramer, Bahria Town's Malik Riaz said, “Our slogan is ‘Bahria Town Commits – Bahria Town Delivers’ and Alhamdulillah we have fulfilled all our promises made with Pakistan and Pakistanis. We know that the construction sector has played a key role in transforming the USA, Malaysia, Japan, Turkey and Germany into developed nations. In the same manner, Insha Allah, Pakistan will also become a developed nation, which is our vision. This project will not only provide 2.5 million jobs but will help revive 55 national industries and provide housing to 1 million Pakistanis. It will also help eliminate terrorism and crimes.”

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. More recently, the deal between Abu Dhabi Group and Bahria Town also fell through even before it got off the ground. This latest deal is an indication that Malik Riaz is now more determined than ever to realize this dream of his. Is third time the charm? Let's wait and see!

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Renewed Construction Boom Pushes Cement Sales in Pakistan

World's Tallest Building Proposed in Karachi

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

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India in Health Study

Pakistan ranks in the middle among 15 similar countries compared by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010).  Other countries in this group include India, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Island, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Source: Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study

 The study is  is a collaborative project of nearly 500 researchers in 50 countries led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The Institute describes it as " the largest systematic scientific effort in history to quantify levels and trends of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors. GBD serves as a global public good to inform evidence-based policymaking and health systems design".

In terms of the number of years of life lost (YLLs) due to premature death in Pakistan, the study found that lower respiratory infections, neonatal encephalopathy (birth asphyxia and birth trauma), and diarrheal diseases were the highest ranking causes in 2010. Of the 25 most important causes of burden, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), diarrheal diseases showed the largest decrease, falling by 35% from 1990 to 2010. The leading risk factor in Pakistan is household air pollution from solid fuels. Interpersonal violence, including crime and terrorism, is ranked 20th on a list of  71 causes of premature mortality in Pakistan.

Leading Mortality Causes in Pakistan

Recent research shows that there are potentially far reaching negative consequences for nations carrying high levels of disease burdens causing lower average intelligence among their current and future generations.

World IQ Map

Published by the University of New Mexico and reported by Newsweek, new research shows that there is a link between lower IQs and prevalence of infectious diseases. Comparing data on national “disease burdens” (life years lost due to infectious diseases or DALYs) with average intelligence scores, the authors found a striking inverse correlation—around 67 percent. They also found that the cognitive ability is rising in some countries than in others, and IQ scores have risen as nations develop—a phenomenon known as the “Flynn effect.”

According to the UNM study's author Christopher Eppig and his colleagues, the human brain is the “most costly organ in the human body.” The Newsweek article adds that the "brainpower gobbles up close to 90 percent of a newborn’s energy. It stands to reason, then, that if something interferes with energy intake while the brain is growing, the impact could be serious and longlasting. And for vast swaths of the globe, the biggest threat to a child’s body—and hence brain—is parasitic infection. These illnesses threaten brain development in several ways. They can directly attack live tissue, which the body must then strain to replace. They can invade the digestive tract and block nutritional uptake. They can hijack the body’s cells for their own reproduction. And then there’s the energy diverted to the immune system to fight the infection. Out of all the parasites, the diarrheal ones may be the gravest threat—they can prevent the body from getting any nutrients at all".

Looking at the situation in South Asia, it appears from the WHO data that Pakistan is doing a bit better than India in 12 out of 14 disease groups ranging from diarrhea to heart disease to intentional injuries, and it is equal for the remaining two (Malaria and Asthma).

Another detailed WHO report on World Health Statistics for 2010 assesses and compares its member nations on the basis of nine criteria including mortality and burden of disease, cause-specific mortality, selected infectious diseases, health service coverage, risk factors, health workforce-infrastructure, health expenditures and demographic and socioeconomic statistics. It shows that both India and Pakistan have some serious challenges to overcome to have any chance of meeting health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 4, 5 and 6).

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India and Pakistan Suffer Heavy Disease Burdens 

India and Pakistan Off Track, Off Target on Sanitation

Pak Lady Health Workers "Best in the World"

India's Air Most Toxic in the World

Infectious Diseases Kill Millions in South Asia

WHO Says Pakistan On Track to be Polio Free

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Eating Grass-The Making of the Pakistani Bomb"-- Riaz Haq Talks With Author Firoz Khan

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 an insider's account of the "The Making of The Pakistani Bomb".

In this interview, Feroz Khan discuses the challenges and the inherent complexity of what it takes to develop, build and operationalize a nuclear weapons arsenal with maximum deterrence value:


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

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."

Read more at Silicon Valley Launch of Eating Grass.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pakistan Third Most Popular Among Online Outsource Countries

Pakistan ranks number 3, after US (#1) and India (#2), in terms of freelancers doing outsourced IT work on contract. Bangladesh ranks fourth, according to data from four biggest online outsourcing sites:,,, and

The data also shows that US, Australia and the UK as the top hiring countries. All four websites work in a similar way: First, companies post job requirements on these sites. Next, freelancers or IT-companies offer their bids with skills and cost for the project listed on the website. Finally, the company chooses the best bid meeting its job requirements.

Recently,, one of the top four online marketplaces, said there are 240,000 freelance Pakistanis registered as providers on its website.

With more than 30 million internet subscribers, five million plus broadband users and a population nearing 200 million, according to Freelancer executive Adam Byrnes, it makes sense to have a presence in Pakistan.
“Going forward, we want to provide self-employment for a billion people, a significant portion of that is going to come from Pakistan,” he told Express Tribune.

In addition to having a large population, Pakistan has seen its human capital grow significantly over the last decade.  With nearly 16% of its population in 25-34 years age group having college degrees, Pakistan is well ahead of India and Indonesia, according to Global Education Digest 2009 published by UNESCO Institute of Statistics. UNESCO data also shows that Pakistan's lead is growing with younger age groups.

Faster economic growth requires BOTH skilled manpower and investment of dollars as Pakistanis saw during Musharraf years. Regardless, the growth of human capital is a good thing to build a foundation for Pakistan's future. It'll contribute to economic growth when the security situation improves and FDI returns to Pakistan. The country's large diaspora too will be helpful in accelerating Pakistan's growth and development with money and skills. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Pakistan Among Top Outsourcing Destinations

Pakistan's IT Industry

Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

India & Pakistan Comparison Update 2011

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2010
Eating Grass-The Making of Pakistani Bomb
Educational Attainment Dataset By Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee

Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India on Key Human Development Indices

Monday, March 4, 2013

Are Pakistan's Pandering Politicians Part of the Problem?

Latest polls show that Nawaz League's nexus with Punjab-based anti-Shi'a terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has not hurt its popularity in Punjab during the last several months.

PML (N) Popularity:

In fact, it appears that PML(N) has successfully exploited Sunni majority's bigotry against the Shi'a in Pakistan, particularly in its home base in Punjab. Sharif brothers' PML (N) is now the most popular party in  Punjab with 59% approval and nationally with 41% approval rating  in Pakistan, according to the latest Gallup Pakistan poll. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is second nationally with 17% and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) third with 14% approval.

Exploiting Hate:

To put PML(N)'s popularity in perspective, let's look at the history of how politicians have exploited such feelings of hatred against minorities. Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany by riding a wave of resentment against European Jews. In India, Narendra Modi solidified his popularity in Gujarat by approving of Muslim massacre in 2002. Ten years later, Modi continues to be the most popular chief minister in India.  While India's ruling Congress party governs only 8 states,  BJP's anti-Muslim rhetoric continues to help it retain power in ten of India's 28 states. Most Israelis continue to vote for politicians who maintain brutal military occupation of Palestine.

Militancy in Pakistan:

 In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caved in to pressure from right-wing religious parties and passed a law declaring Ahmedis non-Muslim. This self-serving act did not save Bhutto. Anti-Bhutto riots gave Gen Ziaul Haq the opportunity to remove Bhutto from power. After grabbing power, Zia collaborated with the religious right to take advantage of average Pakistani's religiosity to consolidate his own power. Zia exploited the strong anti-communist sentiments after the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. He collaborated with the United States and Saudi Arabia to give birth to religious militancy in Pakistan, eventually leading to the creation  of Al Qaeda and the Taliban who, along with their allies and affiliates such as LeJ, continue to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere. Nawaz Sharif, too, is a creation of the Zia era.

Civil Society's Role:

Most politicians in democracies are followers, not leaders. They respond to sentiments of their constituents, even hate-filled and violent sentiments. Most of Pakistan's politicians and political parties have their militant wings or alliances with various militant groups who carry out attacks against those who disagree. Such venal politicians are part of the problem, not part of the solution to rising violence in Pakistan. 

Given the venality of the politicians, the only possible solution to this problem is to build public opinion against violence in all its forms. Once the people decide to reject bigotry and violence, the politicians will follow.

Who has the power to shape public opinion in democracies? It's the civil society consisting of the mass media, non-governmental organizations, religious scholars and other powerful public advocacy groups.

Why Should Civil Society Care?

 It's in civil society's best interest to create an enabling environment for peaceful coexistence for freedom, music, arts, literature, culture and economy to flourish. Such freedom is necessary to promote creativity and ensure prosperity of the society as a whole.

Why Should Mass Media Care?

The media are owned by corporations who should care because a safe and secure Pakistan is the best way to increase their profitability. These media magnates should have a clear editorial policy to discourage incitement to violence. They should tell their anchors to stop spinning conspiracy theories designed to distract the attention of people from Pakistan's real threats which are mostly internal. They should encourage the people to take personal responsibility for their actions.

Why Should Politicians Care?

The politicians should care because they have to govern after winning elections. Here, they can learn from Indian BJP leader Narendra Modi.  Modi is still a bigot but he knows that he can not afford to alienate the whole world, particularly businessmen and investors who need security and stability to invest in Gujarat. Modi has used his anti-Muslim rhetoric to get votes but he has not allowed mass killings of Muslims after 2002. The lack of violence and continuing stability have attracted massive investments which have made Gujarat's economy among the fastest growing in the world.


It's in the best long-term self-interest of Pakistani politicians and civil society  to work to reduce militancy and promote peace and tolerance in the country. This will help bring stability and economic opportunity to Pakistan's current and future generations.

Here's a video discussion on sectarian violence and upcoming elections:

Abbas Town Massacre from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Gangster Politicians of Pakistan

Shia Massacres Undermine Pakistan

 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