Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ukraine Muslims Oppose Russian Intervention

"With cries of “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” thousands of protesters in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, a tinderbox of ethnic, religious and political divisions, added an Islamic voice on Wednesday to the tumultuous struggle for Ukraine that last weekend drove the president from power and that has pushed Russia and the West into a face-off reminiscent of the Cold War". New York Times Feb 27, 2014

Crimean Tartar Muslim Leader Refat Chubarov
Ukraine is a deeply divided country. Though the majority of Ukrainians claim to be secular, the western part of the country has been mostly Catholic and supports integration with the West. The eastern part, on the hand, is made up of pro-Russia Orthodox Christians. Crimea has a majority Russian-speaking population which favors close ties with Russia. The Crimean peninsula also has significant  pro-West Catholic and Muslim minorities. About 10,000 Muslim Tartars rallied in Crimean capital of Simferopol in support of pro-West interim government in Kiev which Russia opposes.

Crimea is strategically important to Russia. Russian Navy has a large naval base at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. It helps Russia project its power in the Mediterranean Sea. A substantial amount of Russian natural gas exports flow through Crimea and other parts of Ukraine via pipelines to Western Europe.

European Dependence on Russian Gas
Crimea was a majority Muslim Khanate in the Ottoman Empire before it was overrun by the Russian empire. After defeating the Ottoman Empire in Crimea, the Russian empire expelled large numbers of Turkic Muslims and brought ethnic Russians to settle there, reducing Muslim population to about 12% now. It was transferred by Soviet Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.

Here's an except of a New York Times story on Tartar Muslims in Crimea:

"The minority Tatars, however, have little love for Moscow after being deported en masse by Joseph Stalin and, now back in their homeland, want to carve out their own space inside Ukraine. “We have a long memory of what Russia did to us Tatars,” Refat Chubarov, a member of the Crimean Legislature and a Tatar community leader. Pro-Moscow members of the assembly, furious at the cancellation of an extraordinary session they had called to discuss a response to events in the capital, accused Mr. Chubarov of using a mob to derail democracy. Most people on both sides of the Russia-Ukraine divide have no interest in violent confrontation, but small militant groups have been increasingly active in trying to rally people for battle. In Sevastopol, Crimea’s biggest city, pro-Russian groups have been signing up residents for so-called “self-defense” units while hard-line Cossack organizations, recalling past campaigns to expand and secure Russia’s borders, denounced politicians who call for calm as cowards. A small number of militant Tatars, encouraged by extremists abroad, have tried over the years to recruit Crimea’s Muslims for jihad, but their efforts have fallen flat. Any move to restore Crimea to Russian rule, however, would risk breathing life into such calls for extremism".

Russia has offered evidence of western intervention in recent days in the Maidan uprising in Kiev. It has released a voice recording of a telephone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador in Kiev discussing the composition of future government of Ukraine while pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was still in charge as the pro-West protests raged against his government.

In response to the installation of a new pro-West interim government in Kieve, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ordered massive military exercises close to the Ukrainian border as a warning to the West to stop interfereing. US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia not to intervene in Ukraine. The situation is very tense. Putin could complicate US efforts in Iran nuclear talks and resolution of Syrian crisis in response to US intervention in Ukraine.

US and EU need to tread very carefully in Ukraine which Russia sees as its backyard. Any missteps could lead to a larger international crisis far beyond Europe.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Putin Challenges US Exceptionalism

Syrian Crisis

Hui Muslims in China

Turkish Soaps in Pakistan

Muslims Demographics in West

Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

US Dollar is Global Currency

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fashion Pakistan Week 2014 in Karachi

Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC) is currently putting on a 3-day fashion week in Karachi.  It is the sixth edition of  Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) showcasing Spring/Summer collections from 24 mainstream and upcoming designers.

Designers at the show include Maheen Khan, Shamaeel Ansari, Nomi Ansari, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, Deepak Perwani, Fahad Hussayn, Faraz Manan, Amna Aqeel, Jafferjees, Gul Ahmad, Adnan Pardesy, Zainab Chottani, Tapu Javeri, Kamiar Rokni, Maheen Hussain, Nida Azwer, Ali Xeeshan and many more.

Here are a few select pictures of the event:

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial:

Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Top Fashion Models

Pakistani Cover Girls

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Pakistan Fashion Week 2013

Karachi Fashion Week 2013

Veena Malik Challenges Pakistan's Orthodoxy 

PakAlumni-Pakistani Social Network 

Huma Abedin Weinergate

Pakistan Media Revolution

Protest Music in Pakistan

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Pakistani Entrepreneurs Survive Economic Downturn

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sri Lanka Booms as India, Pakistan Lag Among South Asian Economies

Since the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been booming even as the rest of South Asia region has lagged.
Per Capita GDPs South Asia Region Source: Economist

Sri Lanka's per capita income has quintupled over the last two decades from about $700 to $3500, significantly outperforming all other South Asian economies. During the same period, Pakistan's per capita GDP has increased from $500 to $1300 while India's is up from $400 to $1400.

In addition to its high per capita GDP for the South Asia region, Sri Lanka has also excelled on Human Development Index (HDI), a key indicator of social development assessed each year by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Human Development Index in South Asia Source: UNDP
Sri Lanka has the fastest growing economy with the highest social indicators in South Asia region. Its economy grew at 7.2% last year and it is expected to post 8% growth this year. With a literacy rate of 91% and life expectancy of 76 years, the UNDP ranks it among countries with high human development. It has achieved this progress in spite of a 26-year-long violent insurgency by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) which it successfully ended in 2009.

By contrast, both India and Pakistan continue to lag Sri Lanka in terms of both economic and social indicators. India's economy has slowed in recent years. India's per capita GDP has shrunk in US dollar terms this year, significantly reducing the gap with Pakistan whose GDP has also seen slow growth since 2008. India suffers from low levels of human development with a rank of 136 among 187 countries. Pakistan ranks even lower at 146.

GDP Per Capita in US$ Source: World Bank
Pakistan's per capita GDP remained essentially flat in 1990s before doubling in years 2000-2008 on Musharraf's watch when Pakistan joined the ranks of middle income countries with per capita income of $1000 or more. Pakistanis have seen a very modest growth in their incomes since 2008.

While India's human development is still low, it has continued to make steady progress in the last two decades. Pakistan's human development progress briefly accelerated in years 2000-2007 on President Musharraf's watch. 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”. 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.

There is much Pakistan can learn from Sri Lanka's record on human and economic development as well as fighting violent insurgencies. It is especially important today as its economy and education suffer in the midst of a growing Taliban violence that threatens the very existence of Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can Pakistan Learn From Sri Lanka to Defeat TTP? 

South Asia Lags in UN MDG Goals

History of Human Development in Pakistan

Musharraf Accelerated Economic and Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Will "Last Chance" Talks With TTP Succeed?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hindu Academics Force Destruction of "Insulting" Book

"If someone makes a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad, Muslims are outraged around the world. So why should anyone write anything against Hinduism and get away with it?" Dinanath Batra

Batra, the man who oversaw revisions in Indian history textbooks for the country's National Council of Education, Research and Training (NCERT), has forced Penguin India to recall and destroy all copies of "The Hindus: An Alternative History"  by University of Chicago scholar Wendy Doniger published by Penguin Books about 5 years ago.

Professor Doniger has authored 30 books so far. Her research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology, according to University of Chicago Divinity School website. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.

In 2011, the Hindu nationalist group Shiksha Bachao Andolan filed a civil case against Penguin India. The group claims the book offends Hindus by inaccurately representing Hinduism. A criminal case was also brought against the publisher alleging a criminal violation of India's law establishing its exclusive unilateral claim over the entire disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The publisher has now settled the case by agreeing to recall and pulp all copies of the book.

Explaining his opposition to Doniger's book, Batra told Time magazine: "The entire book is objectionable, but yes, that is one of our main objections. She is insulting our gods and goddesses and religious leaders and texts and even our freedom fighters. I don’t have any objection to sex and neither does our religion, as long as it’s within the parameters of religion." 

"According to her book, when Ramrajya [an idyllic vision of state propounded by Mahatma Gandhi] comes to India, then Christians and Muslims will be driven out of India. We all know that Gandhiji’s vision was about unity; he dreamed of a state where there would be no discrimination based on religion or wealth. Her book will incite hatred among communities. Furthermore, Doniger says [in the book] that when Sanskrit scriptures were written, Indian society favored open sexuality. The jacket of her book shows Lord Krishna sitting on the buttocks of nude women. She equates the shivlingam, worshipped all over India by millions, with sex and calls it an erect penis. She calls Gandhiji strange and says he used to sleep with young girls", Batra added.

Hindu nationalists have been battling scholars over history for decades. They tried to do in California what their Indian counterparts have already done in India. They attempted to change California history textbooks in 2006, when they argued unsuccessfully to include their claims like the indigenous origins of Aryans and tried to deny the terrible impact on hundreds of millions of Indians of the caste system and misogyny prevalent in Hindu texts and Aryan culture. Hundreds of history scholars from US and South Asia helped defeat this attempt by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and its allies in the United States.

India has a very long list of "banned" books dating back to the days of the British Raj. It includes books such as Katherine Mayo's "Real Face of Mother India" which is banned for its "pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu bias". Another is "Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie which is banned because it is offensive to Muslims.

Just as "Satanic Verses" received massive publicity after worldwide Muslim protests and became a best-seller overnight, "The Hindus: An Alternative History" is also getting a lot buzz in both traditional and new media around the world. Number of Amazon e-book downloads on Kindle has jumped and links to free pdf downloads are being widely shared through social media. Strong reaction to perceived "insults" has backfired in both cases. Let's hope those offended by such books will learn a lesson from what is happening now.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindutva Whitewash of History

Pro-Modi Candidate in Silicon Valley Congressional Race

Sonal Shah in the White House

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politicians

Indian-American Lobby Emulates AIPAC

Pakistani-American Demographics

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Japan to Finance and Build Modern Mass Transit System in Karachi

Pakistan's federal government and Sindh provincial government are close to a deal with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to finance a modern mass transit system befitting the megacity of Karachi with a population of nearly 20 million, according to a Pakistani TV Channel.

KUTC Trains Source: KUTC

The mass transit project will feature modern trains with automatic signalling and telecommunication system. An automatic train control (ATC) system will be set up. The train stations will feature computerized ticketing and vending machines, automated ticket gates and elevators. It will be run by Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC).

Project History:

The $2.5 billion project will revitalize and modernize the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). Opened in 1964, the old KCR ran from Drigh Road in the outskirts to the center of the city of Karachi. It ceased operations in 1999 after it suffered huge losses.

Efforts to revive it began in 2005 with a feasibility study conducted by Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) completed in 2006. UK-based Scott Wilson Railways was appointed to validate the report prepared by JETRO. Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), which is funding the project, sponsored a final study prepared by Special Assistance for Project Formulation (SAPROF). US-based consultants Louis Berger validated the final report. The progress has so far been slow and halting but it now appears that the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pushing to make it happen.

Project Scope:

The JETRO study has recommended that the project be done in two phases.

Phase I of the project will include a 28.3 km circular section from Karachi Cantonment to a proposed station at Gulistan-e-Johar. About 9 km of this section will be elevated.

Phase II will consist of the 14.8km circular section from Gulistan-e-Johar to the proposed station at Liaquatabad. This section will have two dedicated tracks along the main line. Phase II also includes a 5.9 km airport line from Drigh Road to Jinnah International Airport. This extension will either have an elevated or underground track. Other bridges, culverts and underpasses, wherever necessary, will be constructed for the project.

Project Funding:

Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) is providing the entire funding for the project through a soft loan. The loan is payable in 40 years by the stakeholders of the City District Government Karachi, Pakistan Railways and Government of Sindh. The Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) is planning an international tendering process for the project, which will be awarded on a turnkey basis. The winning contractors will operate it for the first two years of operation.

Rolling Stock:

The new KCR will be served by electric multiple units (EMU) with a capacity to carry 1,400 passengers. The maximum speed of the EMUs will be 100 km/h. About 290 trains are expected to operate daily at six-minute intervals.

Infrastructure Construction:

Proposed Station Design 
The project will include the construction of 19 underpasses and three overhead bridges. About 23 stations are planned for the project. The stations will feature computerized ticketing and vending machines, automated ticket gates and elevators.

The existing KCR has about 22 level crossings. Since the railway line passes through the major commercial areas of the city, these level crossings need to be removed to ensure that trains can operate every 6 minutes. The level crossings are expected to be removed and replaced by underpasses or overpasses.

Economic Impact:

There will be significant positive economic impact of this megaproject. In addition to its obvious benefits for the businesses owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family, there will be thousands of new jobs created for ordinary Pakistanis during construction and later to operate the system. It will help stimulate Pakistan's stalling economy.

Japan's Interest:

Japan's commercial interest in Pakistan has recently been validated by JETRO survey of Japanese companies doing business in the country. It indicated that Japanese companies have "strong intentions to expand their business for the reasons of “sales increase” and “high growth potential.” in Pakistan. Clearly, the Japanese see significant future potential in Pakistan to increase their economic footprint in the emerging growth market.

Current Status:

The city and the provincial governments have already begun to remove squatters in and around the existing KCR track to begin new construction. Each of the estimated 5,000 affected families is being promised an 80-square-yard newly built home. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing financial assistance for the resettlement project, while the KUTC will give an additional Rs 50,000 in financial aid to each affected family, according to a news report.

Future Concerns:

One of the key concerns is how will the system be managed after the first two years of operation by the turn-key contractors? Will it suffer the same horrible fate as the previous public transport systems have in Karachi? Will it be used to hire political cronies of the ruling politicians? Will it be headed by incompetent and corrupt managers hand-picked by politicians? If the politicians are serious about ensuring a well-run mass transit system in Karachi, they will need to take a page from the Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC) system in India.  It is being run very well by an independent professional management team without political interference in its day to day hiring, firing and other management decisions.


It is certainly welcome news that Karachi, the world's fastest growing megacity, will finally have a mass transit system that its residents need and deserve. Let's hope this time it's for real.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Saving PIA, Railway and Education

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan

JETRO 2013 Survey of Pakistan

Pakistan on Goldman's Growth Map

Karachi is World's Fastest Growing Megacity

Monday, February 10, 2014

Will "Final Chance" Talks with Pakistani Taliban Succeed?

"I am sure the whole nation would be behind the government if and when we launch a military operation against the terrorists - but I want to give peace a final chance," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told members of  Pakistan's parliament in a televised speech on January 29, 2014.

So why did Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decide to make the "final chance" offer of talks to the TTP just when it seemed his government was ready to launch a military operation to root out the Pakistani Taliban? Let's explore the answer this question in some detail.

Poll Numbers on TTP:

While the number of Pakistanis who support the Taliban is very small and shrinking, there are still significant numbers of people who are opposed to using military force against them.

Pew Poll May 2013
The most recent poll data on this issue is from a Pew Poll conducted in May 2013. It showed that only 17% of respondents said they have a favorable view of the TTP while 56% have an unfavorable view of them.  However, only 35% of the people support the use of military force against them while 29% oppose it.

Chances of Talks Success:

There is a very slim chance of success of Pakistan's talks with the TTP. Why? Because there have been several failed attempts earlier to bring peace through talks with the them.

First such agreements was concluded between Nek Mohammad and Pakistani military in Shakai Valley in 2004. Both sides agreed to peace with the understanding that the Taliban will not host foreign fighters and they will not attack Pakistani military or civilians. In return, the government offered compensation to the families of those killed, pay off TTP's debts to Al Qaeda and release Taliban prisoners. While the government held to its part of the bargain, the Taliban did not. The deal broke down almost immediately; Mohammed claimed he never agreed to identify or hand over any Al Qaeda militants and the Taliban began killing tribal elders who helped broker the agreement.

Shakai Valley deal was followed by peace agreements at Sararogha in 2005 and then Swat in 2009. Both of these deals also failed because of the Taliban non-compliance. The TTP intensified violence against civilians after each of these details.

Talks Are a PR Exercise:

Both the Pakistani Taliban and the government see talks as an opportunity to gain support of the fence-sitters, those who dislike the Taliban but are unwilling to support military action against them.

The Taliban will try and show their willingness to talk to get "Shariah" implemented "peacefully" in Pakistan. Their aim will be to strengthen the resolve of those who support them to bring "Shariah" while swaying the fence-sitter to join their side.

Taliban "Shariah" is fake. Say No to Taliban "Shariah"
Pakistani government needs to demonstrate to the fence-sitters that it, too, wants to give peace a chance before resorting to military force as a last resort. The government must also persuade people that the Taliban "Shariah" has nothing to do with the real Shariah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who came as a blessing for the entire world (Rematul lil Alameen).  Far from being a blessing to the world, the Taliban are a curse on humanity. They are simply using the talk of "Shariah" as a Trojan horse to win power for themselves. Pakistani leaders need to remind the people of what the Taliban did in Swat in 2009 after agreeing to peace in the name of  "Nizam-e-Adl" when they tortured and killed large numbers innocent civilians and bombed girls' schools. The people need to be repeatedly shown the death and destruction of tens of thousands of lives wrought by the Taliban in all parts of the country over the last decade.


If history is any guide, the chances of success of the current peace talks between Pakistan government and the Taliban are slim to none. While it would be great to be proved wrong, I think it's time for Pakistani government and the people to prepare for a long, sustained campaign to rid the country of the TTP terrorists. If Pakistan fails to defeat the Taliban, they will destroy Pakistan.

Here's a video discussion on the subject of Pakistan-TTP Talks:

Can Pakistan-Taliban Talks Succeed Will India-born Nadella Turn Microsoft Around? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Pakistan Can Learn From Sri Lanka's Defeat of LTTE

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 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Indian Economy Declines to $1.7 Trillion in 2013-14

Advance estimates by Indian Central Statistical Office (CSO) indicate that India's GDP for year 2013-14 is $1.7 trillion, down 9% from $1.87 trillion reported for the previous financial year. However, Indian economy has grown from Rs. 100.2 trillion in 2012-13 to Rs. 105.4 trillion in 2013-14 in terms of local currency.

India-Pakistan Per Capita GDP 1990-2012 Source: World Bank

Source: Economist Magazine

CSO estimates India's economic growth rate in the current financial year at 4.9 per cent, a faster pace than in the previous year, mainly on an improved performance in the agriculture and allied sectors.

India's per capita income is estimated at Rs. 74,920 (US$ 1201) for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2014, according to Indian media reports. It is up from Rs 68,757 in 2012-13 in Indian rupee terms, but down based on current USD exchange rates.

While India's growth has slowed a lot in recent years, the recent decline of Indian economy in USD terms is the result of  a sharp drop in the value of Indian currency against the US dollar. The Indian rupee has plummeted from 47.80 in 2012 to 54.30 in 2013 to  62.30 to a US dollar now.

The free fall of Indian rupee has dashed the hopes of many in India, including former finance minister and current President Pranab Mukherjee, who were boasting about a $2 trillion economy as early as 2012.

India is now among "The Fragile Five", a phrase first used by Morgan Stanley report last August amid an emerging-market rout caused by investors pulling out their money on speculation the Federal Reserve would soon reduce its bond purchases. That month, the Indonesian rupiah, South African rand and Brazilian real fell to the lowest levels in more than four years and the Turkish lira, like the Indian rupee, was at its weakest rate ever.

The continuing weakness of the Indian rupee and the slow growth of Indian economy are likely to help the electoral fortunes of the Indian Opposition led by the  Hindu Nationalist BJP leader Narendra Modi.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Indian Economy Shrinks to $1.84 trillion in 2012-13

Pro-Modi Candidate in Silicon Valley Congressional Election

India's Hyphenation: India-Pakistan or India-China?

India's Share of World's Poor Jumps as World Poverty Declines

Forget Chindia--Chimerica Will Rescue the World

World Bank on Poverty Across India

Superpoor India's Superpower Delusions

Are India and Pakistan Failed States? 

India Home to World's Largest Number of Poor, Hungry and Illiterate

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

India Tops in Illiteracy and Defense Spending

Indians Poorer than sub-Saharan Africans

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pro-Modi Indian-American Enters Silicon Valley Congressional Race

US Congressional election in Silicon Valley this year was being seen as a two-person race between incumbent Congressman Mike Honda (Democrat) and his main challenger Rohit "Ro" Khanna (Democrat) until recently.

Vanilla Singh:

It all changed when Dr. Vanilla Mathur Singh (Republican), a member of Hindu American Foundation (HAF), entered the race in December 2013. The HAF first made headlines in 2005 with its failed attempt in California state to "improve 6th grade textbooks so that these books actually reflect their (Hindu) beliefs and their religious practices."

Vanilla Singh and Mike Honda

Media reports indicate that Singh was recruited to run by Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, a Chicago-based Indian-American businessman and Republican fundraiser. Kumar is the founder of a super PAC, Indian Americans for Freedom, with close ties to Hindu Nationalists. He has been lobbying members of US Congress to help rehabilitate his "idol" Narendra Modi of India's Hindu Nationalist Bharatya Janata Party (BJP). Modi has been denied US visa multiple times by the State Department because of his widely suspected role in the killing of thousands of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots.

Singh told San Francisco Chronicle that she raised $100,000 in the five days after declaring her candidacy, including $25,000 of her own money. The rest, she said, came from about "20 family and friends." Kumar's super PAC could change the dynamics of the South Bay race if he chooses to back Singh financially. In 2002, his super PAC spent $500,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., including producing an ad set to Middle Eastern music that showed the double amputee Iraq war veteran wearing a headscarf during a visit to a local Muslim community center.

Rohit "Ro" Khanna:

Ro Khanna
Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley patent attorney of Indian origin, is backed by many of Silicon Valley’s top VCs and executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies.   Other Notables include Marc Andreessen, the Netscape co-founder; John Doerr, the venture capitalist; and Randi Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Zuckerberg Media and the sister of Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, former President pf Facebook.  Four months before the primary, Khanna has $1,975,000 in cash on hand, or more than triple the incumbent’s $623,000, according to campaign finance records filed last Friday as reported by the New York Times. Khanna supporters expect him to win to push legislation in Congress to liberalize US visas for foreign workers needed to fill Silicon Valley tech jobs.

He supports raising the number of H1-B visas, keeping a lid on capital gains taxes and cracking down on patent trolls while charting a progressive agenda on most social issues. Faced with the surprise new challenge from the Hindu Right, Ro Khanna has refused to denounce Narendra Modi for fear of alienating a significant chunk of the substantial pro-BJP Indian-American voters in Silicon Valley.

Mike Honda:

Mike Honda, the incumbent congressman from 17th district, is a Japanese-American who was put by the United States in an internment camp as a child during World War II. He has been a featured speaker at many Muslim-American events where he has spoken out for American Muslims' civil rights since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

During a 2009 keynote speech at Human Development Foundation fund-raiser that I attended, Congressman Honda said the US foreign policy should have the same goals that the HDF has in Pakistan. Drawing from his experience as a US peace corps volunteer to support education and infrastructure development in Central America in the 1960s, he proposed a similar effort in restoring US credibility in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Honda praised the US emphasis on economic aid and said he supports the 80/20 rule that General Petraeus had outlined, with 80% emphasis on the political/economic effort backed by 20% military component to fight the Taliban insurgency.

Honda says he has been a strong advocate for the tech industry in Congress. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he helped get millions of dollars in funding for BART extension to San Jose, a top priority for Valley leaders, as well as federal investment in nanotechnology research. His strong backing from organized labor and veteran Democrats reflects the decades he's spent in public service. Honda also supports an increase in H1-B visas, although he's also expressed concerns about its potential harm to the local labor pool.


A number of polls in 17th district so far show that Honda enjoys a healthy lead over his challenger Khanna. Honda's lead could increase if Singh takes a significant chunk of Indian-American votes away from Khanna.


In spite of a powerful tech industry funded challenge by Ro Khanna, Honda remains a favorite to win. Honda also enjoys the strong endorsement of President Obama and Democratic Party's establishment. Singh's entry in the race could further help Honda extend his lead and keep his seat in Congress. I intend to vote for Mike Honda based on the Congressman's strong record of service to Silicon Valley and his unambiguous pro-civil rights stance.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sonal Shah in the White House

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politicians

Indian-American Lobby Emulates AIPAC

Pakistani-American Demographics

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Can Indian-American CEO Nadella Succeed at Microsoft in Post-Wintel World?

Microsoft, the world's largest software company, has named Satya Nardella, an Indian-American company veteran of 20 years, as its new CEO to replace its long-time leader and Bill Gates' pal Steve Ballmer. It's clearly a matter of great pride for not only his fellow Indian-Americans in the United States but also in India, Nadella's country of birth. I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Nadella and his fellow Indians who are celebrating it as their own success. The question on everyone's mind now is whether he has what it takes to bring back the Wintel-era glory to Microsoft.

Wintel Era:

Wintel (Windows+Intel) represented the most successful period for Microsoft and its partner Intel when the two companies together made history with the personal computer revolution. Working for Intel as an engineer in 1980s and 1990s, I had a chance to work with both Microsoft and Intel executives to help bring about the PC revolution. Both companies offered products that worked well together to address the needs of hundreds of millions of PC users in that period. Both companies enjoyed phenomenal growth and high profit margins. I met Bill Gates several times in the two decades at frequent Intel-Microsoft executive meetings. I also got a chance to work with other Microsoft executives including Paul Maritz, Rob Glaser, Nathan Myhrvold, Carl Stork and others.

One particular incident with Bill Gates that I remember was at the 80486 CPU launch event at McCormick Place in Chicago. Gates insisted on doing the 80486 CPU demo at the event. Gates was a real geek at the time. He showed up wearing a rumpled shirt. His hair was uncombed. As he began the rehearsal under a spotlight aimed at the stage, he started complaining that he couldn't see under its glare. Intel marketing manager suggested to him to not look directly into the light to avoid it. Somehow we got through the rehearsal and, later, the actual launch in front of the media and the analysts went quite well.

The Wintel duopoly enabled both Intel and Microsoft to increase performance, bring down prices and still enjoy unprecedented profitability in the computer industry. Dave House, Executive VP at Intel in charge of microprocessor business, put it best when he told me and my fellow 80386 CPU engineers in 1985 that "making 80386 microprocessor chips is like printing money". He went on to explain that "it costs more than 10 cents for the US govt to print a dollar bill but Intel's cost of printing 80386 chips is less than 10% of its average selling price". I believe Microsoft made even bigger profits with DOS and Windows operating systems and PC applications in 1990s. 

RISC Challenge:

Wintel partnership came under severe strain in 1992-93 when Microsoft decided to build its Windows NT operating system to run primarily on Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) processors from DEC and MIPS. Intel's CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing) X86 architecture-based processors were considered by many as old and uncompetitive relative to RISC. RISC processors came with a reduced set of simple instructions executable within a clock period, lots of registers, more cache memory and powerful compilers which Intel x86 based CPUs lacked at the time. Intel responded to the challenge by offering much higher clock rates, larger cache memories, improved instruction pipelining, multiple execution units and highly optimizing compilers which made more efficient use of the limited number of registers and better instruction scheduling on the Intel processors. I was assigned the role of a program manager at Intel to work with Microsoft to optimize Windows NT for 80486 at the time. It was interesting to watch the competing arrogant management styles of the two companies on full display during this effort. Needless to say, Intel beat back the RISC challenge and went to become the world's largest and most profitable chip company.

PC Era Over:

The world has dramatically changed since the 1990s when Wintel ruled the roost. PC is no longer the dominant device. Smartphones and tablets have brought the era of mobile cloud computing where neither Intel nor Microsoft enjoy leadership position. Even developing like Pakistan are deploying cloud computing applications. A Google sponsored survey in Pakistan found that mobile computing is expected to overtake desktop computing this year. Several new and more innovative and powerful players have emerged to in this market. It is this new reality that stares Staya Nadella in the face.

Decline of Empires:

In a recent New York Times column, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman compared the decline of Microsoft to the fall of the great empires of the past. Drawing upon the lessons of Medieval Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, Krugman wrote:

"How could Microsoft have been so blind? Here’s where Ibn Khaldun comes in. He was a 14th-century Islamic philosopher who basically invented what we would now call the social sciences. And one insight he had, based on the history of his native North Africa, was that there was a rhythm to the rise and fall of dynasties. Desert tribesmen, he argued, always have more courage and social cohesion than settled, civilized folk, so every once in a while they will sweep in and conquer lands whose rulers have become corrupt and complacent. They create a new dynasty — and, over time, become corrupt and complacent themselves, ready to be overrun by a new set of barbarians. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to apply this story to Microsoft, a company that did so well with its operating-system monopoly that it lost focus, while Apple — still wandering in the wilderness after all those years — was alert to new opportunities. And so the barbarians swept in from the desert". 


Krugman's comparison of today's Microsoft with ancient dynasties seems to make a lot of sense. The "Wintel" dynasty is being overthrown by hordes representing cloud computing "barbarians and tribesmen" at Apple, Google, Amazon and a whole bunch of other tech companies. Can  a Microsoft lifer like Staya Nadella, steeped in Microsoft's established culture, fend off the "barbarian at the gates"? If I were a betting man, I'd say No! But let's wait and see.

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