Wednesday, February 25, 2015

India Rising? Pakistan Rapidly Collapsing?

Is it true that "India is rising and Pakistan is rapidly collapsing", the currently accepted western narrative recently re-iterated by Roger Cohen in his New York Times Op Ed from Lahore, Pakistan? Let's examine it by reviewing reports filed by several Indian journalists after their recent visits to Pakistan:

"India is a democracy and a great power rising. Pakistan is a Muslim homeland that lost half its territory in 1971, bounced back and forth between military and nominally democratic rule, never quite clear of annihilation angst despite its nuclear weapons".

Roger Cohen's  New York Times Op Ed "Pakistan in Its Labyrinth"

"I.. saw much in this recent visit (to Pakistan) that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing. Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China....Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India".  

Pankaj Mishra's Bloomberg Op Ed "Pakistan’s Unplanned Revolution Rewrites Its Future"

Compare and contrast the two narratives of two seasoned journalists, American Roger Cohen and Indian Pankaj Mishra, on their  recent Pakistan visits. Note Mishra's explanation of why the western media is parroting the standard post Cold War western narrative about India and Pakistan as "seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests", "born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies".

Now read the following post titled Indians Share "Eye-Opener" Stories of Pakistan that I wrote in July 2012.  It's reproduced below:

Several prominent Indian journalists and writers have visited Pakistan in recent years for the first time in their lives.  I am sharing with my readers selected excerpts of the reports from Mahanth Joishy (, Panakaj Mishra (Bloomberg), Hindol Sengupta (The Hindu), Madhulika Sikka (NPR) and Yoginder Sikand (Countercurrents) of what they saw and how they felt in the neighbor's home. My hope is that their stories will help foster close ties between the two estranged South Asian nations.

Mahanth S. Joishy, Editor, :  (July, 2012)

Many of us travel for business or leisure.  But few ever take a trip that dramatically shatters their entire worldview of a country and a people in one fell swoop.  I was lucky enough to have returned from just such a trip: a week-long sojourn in Pakistan.

It was a true eye-opener, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.  Many of the assumptions and feelings I had held toward the country for nearly 30 years were challenged and exposed as wrong and even ignorant outright.
 The Western and Indian media feed us a steady diet of stories about bomb blasts, gunfights, kidnappings, torture, subjugation of women, dysfunctional government, and scary madrassa schools that are training the next generation of jihadist terrorists.  And yes, to many Westerners and especially Indians, Pakistan is the enemy, embodying all that is wrong in the world.  Incidents such as the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, 26/11 and the Osama Bin Laden raid in Abottobad have not helped the cause either.  Numerous international relations analysts proclaim that  Pakistan is “the most dangerous place in the world” and the border with India is “the most dangerous border in the world.”
(Upon arrival in Karachi) two uniformed bodyguards with rifles who were exceedingly friendly and welcoming climbed onto the pickup truck bed as we started on a 45-minute drive.  I was impressed by the massive, well-maintained parks and gardens surrounding the airport.  I was also impressed by the general cleanliness, the orderliness of the traffic, the quality of the roads, and the greenery. Coming from a city government background, I was surprised at how organized Karachi was throughout the ride.  I also didn’t see many beggars the entire way.  I had just spent significant amounts of time in two major Indian cities, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as several second-tier cities like Mangalore, and none would compare favorably on maintenance and city planning, especially when it came to potholes and waste management.  This was the first surprise; I was expecting that piles of garbage and dirt would line the roads and beggars would overflow onto the streets.  Surely there is dirt and poverty in Karachi, but far less than I was expecting.  Karachi was also less dense and crowded than India’s cities.

My second pleasant surprise was to see numerous large development projects under way.  I had read about Pakistan’s sluggish GDP growth and corruption in public works and foreign aid disbursement.  This may be true, but construction was going on all over the place: new movie theaters, new malls, new skyscrapers,  new roads, and entire new neighborhoods being built from scratch.  In this regard it was similar to India and every other part of Asia I had seen recently: new development and rapid change continues apace, something we are seeing less of in the West.
 We were also able to do some things which may sound more familiar to Americans: bowling at Karachi’s first bowling alley, intense games of pickup basketball with some local teenagers at a large public park (these kids could really play), or passing through massive and well-appointed malls filled with thousands of happy people of all ages walking around, shopping, or eating at the food court.  We even attended a grand launch party for Magnum ice cream bars, featuring many of Pakistan’s A-list actors, models, and businesspeople.  A friend who is involved in producing musicals directed an excellent performance at the party, complete with live band, singing, and dancing.  This troupe, Made for Stage has also produced shows such as the Broadway musical Chicago to critical acclaim with an all-Pakistani cast for the first time in history.

Even the poor areas we visited, such as the neighborhoods around the Mazar, were filled with families coming out for a picnic or a stroll, enjoying their weekend leisure time in the sun.  All I could see were friendly and happy people, including children with striking features running around.  At no time did I feel the least bit unsafe anywhere we went, and we definitely went through a mix of neighborhoods with varying profiles.
 Lahore is more beautiful overall than Karachi or any large Indian city I’ve seen.  Serious effort has gone into keeping the city green and preserving its storied history.  Historians would have a field day here.  In particular we saw two stunning historic mosques, the Wazir Khan and the Badshahi, both of which should be considered treasures not only for Muslims, Pakistanis, or South Asia, but for all of humanity.  I felt it a crime that I’d never even heard of either one.  Each of them in different ways features breath-taking architecture and intricate artwork comparable to India’s Taj Mahal.  These are must-see sights for any tourist to Lahore.  The best way to enjoy the vista of the Badshahi mosque is to have a meal on the rooftop of one of the many superb restaurants on Food Street next to the mosque compound.  This interesting area was for hundreds of years an infamous red-light district, made up of a series of old wooden rowhouses that look like they were lifted straight out of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, strangely juxtaposed with one of the country’s holiest shrines.  From the roof of Cuckoo’s Den restaurant, we could see all of the massive Badshahi complex along with the adjoining royal fortress, all while having a 5-star meal of kebabs, spicy curries in clay pots, and lassi under the stars.  We were fortunate to have very pleasant whether as well.  This alfresco dining experience with two good friends encompassed my favorite moments in the  city.

We did much more in Lahore.  We were given a tour of the renowned Aitchison College, which one of my friends attended.  This boys’ private prep school is known for its difficult entrance exams, rigorous academic tradition, illustrious list of alumni since the British founded the school, and its gorgeous and impeccably maintained 200-acre campus that  puts most major universities icluding my own Georgetown to shame.  Aitchison has been considered one of the best prep schools on the subcontinent since 1886.  However, it would have been impossible to get a tour without the alumni connection because security is very thorough.

Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg:  (April, 2012)

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Hindol Sengupta, The Hindu: (May, 2010)

Add this bookstore to the list of India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank. The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign policy and subcontinental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting into in India. ...

Yes, that's right. The meat. There always, always seems to be meat in every meal, everywhere in Pakistan. Every where you go, everyone you know is eating meat. From India, with its profusion of vegetarian food, it seems like a glimpse of the other world. The bazaars of Lahore are full of meat of every type and form and shape and size and in Karachi, I have eaten some of the tastiest rolls ever. For a Bengali committed to his non-vegetarianism, this is paradise regained. Also, the quality of meat always seems better, fresher, fatter, more succulent, more seductive, and somehow more tantalizingly carnal in Pakistan. ....

Let me tell you that there is no better leather footwear than in Pakistan. I bought a pair of blue calf leather belt-ons from Karachi two years ago and I wear them almost everyday and not a dent or scratch! Not even the slightest tear. They are by far the best footwear I have ever bought and certainly the most comfortable. Indian leather is absolutely no match for the sheer quality and handcraftsmanship of Pakistani leather wear.

Yes. Yes, you read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and, yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable, wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously — potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur in the North West frontier province, hard hit by the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the highways and motorways.

Road to Daman-e-Koh, Margalla Hills, Islamabad, Pakistan

Madhulika Sikka, NPR News: (May, 2010)

This may be hard to believe, but the first thing that crosses your mind when you drive into Islamabad is suburban Virginia — its wide roads, modern buildings, cleanliness and orderliness is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the ancient city of Lahore, some 220 miles east on the Grand Trunk Road.

Islamabad is laid out in a grid with numbered avenues running north to south. The streets are tree lined and flowers abound among the vast open stretches of green space.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful spots is the Margallah Hills National Park. Drive up the winding road on the northern edge of town to the scenic view points and you'll see the broad planned city stretch before you.
It's a Sunday afternoon and you could be in any park in any city in the world. Families are out for a stroll and picnicking on park benches. There's a popcorn vendor and an ice cream seller. Kids are playing on a big inflatable slide. Peacocks strut their full plumage as people are busily clicking away on their cellphone cameras. Lively music permeates the air as souvenir sellers are hawking their wares. Off one of the side paths I notice a young couple lunching at a bench, a respectable distance apart from each other but clearly wanting to be alone.

So what's it like here? It's pretty much like everywhere else. On a quiet Sunday afternoon people are out with their families, relaxing and enjoying themselves, taking a break from the stresses and strains of daily life. For all of us this is an image of Pakistan worth remembering. I certainly will.
Yoginder Sikand, : (June, 2008)

Islamabad is surely the most well-organized,picturesque and endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or, if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never highlights anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only 'bad' news about the country appears to be considered 'newsworthy'. That realization hit me as a rude shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad's plush International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favorably with every other South Asian city that I have visited. That week in Islamabad consisted essentially of a long string of pleasant surprises, for I had expected Islamabad to be everything that the Indian media so uncharitably and erroneously depicts Pakistan as. The immigration counter was staffed by a smart young woman, whose endearing cheerfulness was a refreshing contrast to the grave, somber and unwelcoming looks that one is generally met with at immigration counters across the world that make visitors to a new country feel instantly unwelcome.

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial:
Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network


Majumdar said...

Prof sb, Wonderful article but that is par for the course. Some of the comments are a bit outdated of course. For instance, if bhai Yogi Sikand were to visit the new Delhi or Mumbai or Hyd or Blore terminal he will not feel too embarrassed to be an Indian. And Hindol dada since he is now based in Delhi could take the Yamuna Expressway from Noida to Agra.


Anonymous said...

Haq bhai, what the matter with you? posting all the old news again and again? Ran out of ideas? Delhi IGI, Mumbai CSI, Hyderabad, B'lore, began modernisation in 2008 and now are well into the best. BTW I have been to Singapore Changi, London Heathrow, Sydney so I have the idea what is world class. Meanwhile, Pakistan with Islamabad Bhutto airport sucks big time. Not just me, renowned websites are also saying this.

To quote them, "Likened to a central prison, ISB is criticized for the crowds (and absence of crowd control), the pervasive corruption, the aggressive-yet-inconsistent security checks, and the overall lack of cleanliness and technology."

If we narrow down to Asia only, India has just one entry, at 10. Chennai, which too has made good progress from going from 4th to 10th. To quote them..

India’s Chennai airport has made some improvements in the past year, that have dropped it to our tenth spot from fourth last year. That said, the airport continues to aggravate travellers with its lack of cleanliness, its long queues and its serious lack of comfortable seating."

Mike Z. said...

So very true Riaz Bhai,
We need to talk.
There is one thing Pakistan has to get rid of to truly leave India in dust, that is false presumption of what Mohammad (PBUH) would have wanted his Ummah to do in 21st Century. Mohammad (PBUH) was the most progressive reformer, philosopher, thinker, leader ever born, brought his people from tribal war lords to a united front, in his life time. The recipe was so potent that it kept growing and number now is in Billions. The emergence of astronomy and medicine from that united power base was no coincidence. The problem is that the day he died we froze the rituals, the value system and stop evolving. He was all about change that actually helps you evolve. Present day Islam is not what Mohammad (PBUH) would have ever wanted for his Ummah, knowing how brilliant he was. We are at the fading portion of diminishing return curve, we will be finished, self-destruct or will be hunted down like insects from the power of science, when we will be established as a source of nuisance and of little value.
“Bring down those Walls” Riaz Bhai. Let those neurons run wild, open the flood gates of Thinking ‘cause that is where the good has to come from. Let not the brick from the Berlin Wall fall on our heads. Let’s be proactive, let’s not trail behind, be the leaders and the pioneers. Iqbals did not have to be born only in the past. How about a present day Iqbal?
Let’s show the world whose Ummah we really are?
Why tomorrow and not today?
If not by you than by who?

With profound Regards,

Shermaine said...

Recycled Musings?

I was on a journey last year to Pakistan, Nepal and then India. Of all India seems most promising and you can palpate the takeoff that is happening or is about to happen. There are social problems of course in all three countries but the despair is greatest in Pakistan.

On a diesel train in Pakistan, it ran out of fuel midway and we had to get on a private coach to Islamabad to catch a flight to Kathmandu! There the flight got delayed because the entire airport lost power due to "load shedding". They started the generators but that took 2 hours and all the lights and monitors would flicker from time to time!

Thanks for the glossy portrayal of Pakistan but underneath that there is lot more dirt!

Riaz Haq said...

Shermaine: "There are social problems of course in all three countries but the despair is greatest in Pakistan"

The number of Pakistanis reporting they are better off now has increased from 25% in 2002 to 51% (vs 44% of Indians) in 2014, according to Pew Research Center report from its 43-nation survey on life satisfaction around the world. However, only 36% of those surveyed in Pakistan express personal optimism over the nest five years.

Among Pakistan's neighbors, 44% of Indians and 34% of Bangladeshis say they are now better off. Large majorities of Bangladeshis, Thais, Indonesians, Chinese, Filipinos and Indians expect their life in five years to be higher on the ladder than it is today. Pakistanis are considerably less sanguine about the future, but many say they don’t know where they will stand in five years (32%).

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: As the country continues to take steps in an attempt to tackle the persistent energy crisis, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan on Wednesday said the government intends to approve 10,400-MW projects that fall under the Pak-China Economic Corridor by March.
He said this while talking to media during his visit to the head office of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to expedite the work on energy projects to overcome the energy crisis,” he said, while declaring 2017 as the year in which the nation will see huge changes on both fronts — terrorism and energy crisis.

The commerce minister’s visit to FPCCI was part of the events scheduled to take place on the inauguration of the Expo Pakistan 2015 – the biggest annual trade fair of the country.
The event will be held at the Karachi Expo Centre from February 26 to March 1.
“I am here to take the business community in confidence so that they can plan their investments well before 2017,” said Dastgir, “Because with the help of recent steps to overcome terrorism and energy issues, Pakistan’s economy will get a massive boost in 2017.”
The Expo Pakistan 2015 has given the government confidence to display a strong image of Pakistan through its exportable goods, he said, adding that it has also planned a single country exhibition this summer in the United Kingdom to get business orders for our industries.
Replying to a question, Dastgir said that he was not promising to end load-shedding in 2017. “What I am saying is that Pakistan will be able to considerably resolve its energy crisis,” he added.
He said that his visit to FPCCI is also linked with the government’s efforts to start collecting budget proposals for the upcoming federal budget.
Speaking on a specific question on slow tax reforms in the country, he said that Pakistan definitely needs innovative solutions to overcome its problem of low tax-to-GDP ratio.
The minister also faced tough questions on why the government was not taking all provinces on board on the Pak-China economic corridor.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign delegates participating in the Expo Pakistan 2015 have shown interest in the Pakistani products and number of MoUs signed here on Friday.
The signing ceremony was attended by SM Muneer, Chief Executive and Ms. Rabiya Javeri Agha, Secretary TDAP.
An MoU has been signed between a Moroccan company, M/s Materials Agricolas Automobiles & Industries and Balochistan Wheels Limited for the purchase of tractor wheel rims. The Moroccan Company has agreed to purchase tractor wheel rims worth $1.1 million from Balochistan Wheels in the next eighteen months. Hassane Berkani, member of Moroccan Parliament were also present.
More buying orders are likely to be placed before the end of the Expo. It may be mentioned that an eleven-member delegation of prominent businessmen from Morocco is attending the 9th edition of Expo Pakistan 2015 being held at Expo Centre Karachi. The businessmen working in different sectors held a number of meetings with the exporters. Another MoU between Chinese and Pakistani Gems and Jewellery Association signed.
A strategic Cooperation Memorandum has been signed on Friday between Gems and Jewellery Trade Association of China (GAC) and All Pakistan Gem Merchants and Jewellers Association (APGPA). This step will enhance bilateral cooperation and will establish a win-win co-operation model. Pakistan has rich sources of precious gems and stones. Exchange of delegations, sharing of information and participation in trade fairs will open up avenues in ever expanding Chinese market. In addition to trade, there is a huge scope of promotion of allied industry like mining, finishing and jewelry making.
Yet another MoU by Saudi Company for purchase of tents and canvas cloth, a contract worth $6 million was signed for export of tents and canvas cloth from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia between Abid Hassan Sabri of Al-Farooq Enterprises, of Pakistan and Abdullah Muhammad, Al-Ghamdi Trading Estate of Saudi Arabia. Ghamdi expressed his confidence in the Pakistani product and hopes to double the tent order in next year.
Meanwhile, officially staged by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), JETRO Pavilion at 9th Pakistan Expo 2015 received an overwhelming response from the local business communities, investors, importer and traders who witnessed a wide range of modern, high-quality Japanese products and machineries on show.
Including newly-introduced automobiles, electronics, industrial machinery, surgical instruments, home appliances, and retail items, etc., these made-in-Japan products outpaced the rest of the items displayed by other countries and regions here at the Pakistan Expo 2015, said a press release of JETRO. Set up in the prominent Hall 4 of the Expo Center, JETRO Pavilion appeared to be the highly-visited exhibition area so far, showing unsurpassed reputations which Japanese companies have earned globally during last few decades.
Being held from February 26 to March 1 2015 at the Karachi Expo Centre, Pakistan Expo tends to be the country’s biggest trade fair.

Riaz Haq said...

#India is home to more poor people than anywhere else on Earth. One-third of world's poor in #India via @TIMEWorld

One third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India, according to the latest Millennium Development Goals report by the U.N.

India only managed to reduce its poverty rate (the ratio of the number of people who fall below the poverty line and a country’s total population) from 49.4% in 1994 to 42% in 2005 and 32.7% in 2010. By contrast, regional rival China brought it down from 60% in 1990 to an impressive 16% in 2005 and just 12% in 2010.

India also accounted for the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children not reaching their fifth birthday.

“We don’t have to be proud of what we’ve done,” admitted minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla to the Times Of India on Wednesday. “Poverty is the biggest challenge.”

Riaz Haq said...

From Wall Street Journal: Pakistan’s Economic Management Gets Thumbs Up From IMF

Pakistan’s economy has improved, thanks to prudent monetary and fiscal policies, strong capital inflows, robust remittances from abroad and lower oil prices, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

“The authorities have made progress with consolidating macroeconomic stability, strengthening public finances and rebuilding foreign-exchange buffers,” Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, said in a statement following a recent visit to Islamabad and Lahore.

As a result, economic growth is strengthening and inflation is slowing, he added.

Pakistan’s central bank slashed its key interest rate in January by a full percentage point, to 8.5%, citing a slowdown in inflation, among other factors, amid plummeting oil prices and declining global prices for other commodities. January’s interest-rate cut came after a half-percentage point easing in November.

Mr. Ahmed called on Pakistan’s government to further bolster revenue by broadening the tax base and improving compliance, which would allow it to further reduce public debt while increasing spending in key areas such as health and education.

The Pakistani government should also “reinforce and build on recent stability gains to work towards achieving higher, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

Priorities for the government should include addressing longstanding imbalances in the energy sector, restructuring and privatizing public-sector enterprises, proceeding with investment-climate and trade reforms as well as continuing with financial-sector reforms, the IMF official noted.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone has grown by 150 nautical miles, adding around 50,000 square kilometres of international waters to its territory.
A United Nations commission has accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles, according to a statement issued by the Pakistan Navy on Friday. “This adds over 50,000 sq kms of continental shelf to the existing 240,000 sq kms of EEZ under Pakistan’s jurisdiction,” its added.
Pakistan now enjoys exclusive rights over the seabed and subsoil resources, allowing it to drill for petroleum or lay submarine cables or pipelines in the added area.
Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal states to extend their continental shelf beyond 20 nautical miles. However, the state is required to prove its case through technical data to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf – a body of 21 experts in geology, geophysics, hydrography and related disciplines.
In 2005, the navy and the National Institute of Oceanography with the science and technology ministry had started this project. After years of processing technical data, a submission was made to the UN on April 30, 2009.
A seven-member commission after over a year-long scrutiny, adopted the recommendations for extension of the country’s continental shelf. Pakistan’s delegation gave the final presentation on March 10. The UN has now announced the adoption of Pakistan’s claim.
The navy statement termed the decision a landmark in the country’s history which would bring vast economic benefits through the exploitation of extensive natural resources.

Shyam S said...

KhudKhusi Saab :) .. wait few more year...Pakistan fed on lies,now breeding on terror ...

Riaz Haq said...

Shyam: "KhudKhusi Saab :) .. wait few more year...Pakistan fed on lies,now breeding on terror ..."

Look who's talking...someone from a nation that just elected Hindu fascist Modi, a KKK wizard, according to Pakistan-bashing analyst Christina Fair.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excepts of Nisid Hajari's NPR Fresh Air interview promoting his book "Midnight's Furies":

"This rivalry between India and Pakistan has been going on now for nearly 70 years and it seems like a feature of the landscape ... as if it has always existed, and once you created two countries out of one that it was inevitable," Hajari says. "I don't think it was inevitable and a closer look at what happened in 1947 teaches you how the seeds of this rivalry were planted. It was obviously worsened over the years by various actors, but this is where it all started."

They (Hindus) controlled the schools, they controlled the educational curriculum, they oversaw the police and they gave out jobs and patronage to their own followers. And Muslims could see, particularly professional Muslims, Muslims who would otherwise have perhaps won these jobs, could see that they would have very little power in a democratic system, a parliamentary system after independence.

On that (Direct Action) day (1946), the speeches that were given were fairly inflammatory, and some of the Muslim listeners of these speeches went out and started burning and looting in Hindu areas. At the same time, Hindus in different parts of the city were also throwing bricks and stones at Muslim marchers. It's very hard to say exactly how it started or who started it [but] both sides behaved violently.

The Sikhs really were the accelerant to the riots in August 1947, which is, when people talk about partition, this is what they're talking about. These are the massive riots that broke out around the time that the British withdrew from India, and anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million people were killed.

As independence was approaching, all sides were forming militias, which they claimed were for self-defense. The Sikhs, because so many of them had served in the army, were the best trained and the best armed and the best organized of these militias, and therefore the rampages that they engaged in were more effective and bloodier and more damaging.

The Pakistani support for the Taliban had to do with their desire to have an influence in Kabul and to block Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistani strategists have this idea of strategic depth that if they were engaged in a major conflict with India that they would be able to use Afghanistan as a sort of rear-guard area to fall back to. They have a fear of being encircled by Indians and there have always been rumors that the Indians were trying to gain influence with various Afghan governments and that they had spies in Afghanistan and so on. Afghanistan has never fully agreed to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that creates more tensions.

But this fear of Indian encirclement, that's what goes back to partition in 1947. The seeds of that rivalry were planted in these weeks and months of violence and bloodshed back when both countries were still being born and they were exacerbated over the years by further conflicts and by various military dictators and politicians and so forth, but the basic pattern was set very quickly. As a smaller, weaker country, this asymmetric strategy of using surrogates to do your fighting for you seems appealing, but it has very destructive repercussions.

Riaz Haq said...

After taking a study tour to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, members of an international officers’ delegation made some poignant observations about their stint in the three countries. Some of these observations may be cursory but still reflect certain realities of some South Asian cities. Arriving in and moving through New Delhi was a shocking experience, recalled a German official. According to him, the life outside the grand airport was in sharp contrast to what he had read about the new, shining India. Unlike the image of a clean and vibrant New Delhi reflecting the oft-trumpeted ‘shining India’, he encountered congested roads, vehicular mayhem, and filth and trash all over.

The delegation visited the Taj Mahal too; the Taj itself is grand but the road up to and from Agra as well as its vicinities often make you nauseous as you see countless people openly squatting along the roads, recalled an official from England. How else would you feel when you came across these images in a country that boasts a nuclear arsenal and is investing billions in nuclear submarines and the latest combat aircraft? Unfathomable that such a country is host to about 400 million people living on less than two dollars a day and a huge number of them don’t have toilets in this day and age.

Big advertising billboards, recalled a British officer, display a yearning for a Western lifestyle, with light-skinned models. Discussions are very much centred on a nationalistic ethos and self-confidence, he said. It is good to be nationalistic and self-confident, but misplaced over-emphasis is not, he remarked. This over-emphasis reflects a disconnect between the marketing gimmickry of the corporate sector and the discourse on ground.

An official from Ukraine was disappointed with his experience in Bangalore and Chennai; these are rightly touted as IT cities, but the life on the roads doesn’t reflect the order and prosperity that comes with the IT-related development. Poverty and disorder is omnipresent, he recalled. Officials from Belgium, France and Spain found Colombo and Islamabad to be much more organised, cleaner and quite orderly. A Japanese delegate complained of “very few women at work” at the Islamabad airport. They also wondered as to who is really running the government. But most officers, who had visited places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, did appreciate what they described as the “resilience of Pakistani society”, despite nearly 14 years of unrest.

One of the top executives of a multinational communications company complained bitterly about the unpredictability of doing business in India. At the same time, however, he felt that the Indian market is too big to ignore so his company is still sticking its necks out because of the potential the market offers.

Riaz Haq said...

Swedish professor and TED talk phenomenon Hans Rosling has slammed the media for being 'ignorant and arrogant' and failing to see the big picture with regard to developments in a world which, he argued, is moving in a positive direction.
A new video of the swashbuckling Swede whose straight-talking upbeat missives about the state of the world have made statistics sing off the page, has gone viral in the wake of this week's tragic news of the death of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach.

The Danish news presenter is left speechless as Rosling explained that the message sent out by the global media of a divided world in crisis is failing to inform the public of the bigger (more positive) picture.
"You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world. If you think that the majority of the world population is very poor and if you believe that the girls don't attend school, and that all of these people are trying to flee to wealthier countries, then you don't understand anything," he told broadcaster DR.
He cites the example of Nigeria as a case where a successful transition of power in a recent democratic election has been overshadowed by news of atrocities committed by Boko Haram.
"You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. If you choose to only show my face then that is another part of me," Rosling argued.
Rosling presented several indicators such as birthrates which are no longer growing, the widespread use of contraception and an increasing number of girls attending school, to argue that the world outside the borders of the western world is developing positively and that war and conflict is only a small part of the bigger picture.
When challenged for the source of his facts, Rosling replied:
"Statistics from The International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, nothing controversial."
"These facts are not up for discussion. I am right, and you are wrong," he concluded.

Unknown said...

The youth of Pakistan look up to people like you, who have the passion and vigor to lead us forward realizing out true potential. jazakAllah khair keep it up

Riaz Haq said...

#China Railway Construction & Zahir Khan Constructors win bid for 1100 Km of #Karachi-#Lahore Motorway in #Pakistan

China Railway Construction Corp. said on Wednesday it has secured a 9.38 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) contract jointly with a Pakistani company to build a highway in Pakistan.

The company said that its unit, China Railway 20th Bureau Group Co, and Zahir Khan & Brothers Engineers & Constructors won the bid to build a 1,152 km section of a highway between Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Pakistan and China signed energy and infrastructure deals worth $46 ..

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to Host an Arts Biennale of Its Own in nation's culture capital #Lahore @RashidRanaRR

"Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here. “Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”
Rashid Rana

Pakistan will join the roster of countries hosting contemporary art fairs with the announcement of the inaugural Lahore Biennale, which is scheduled for November 2017.

Rashid Rana, a native of Lahore and one of Pakistan’s best-known artists, will be the artistic director of the show, which will be announced Tuesday. Mr. Rana, 47, has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, including a retrospective in 2010 at the Musée Guimet in Paris.

“Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan,” Mr. Rana said Monday by telephone from Lahore. “Why not create the opportunities and platform so the audience can see the work in the context in which it is being produced and, in doing so, bring international art into Pakistan.”

Mr. Rana said that the biennale would feature public art projects as well as new commissioned works, with an emphasis on engaging with the public. The exact sources of financing have yet to be determined, but Mr. Rana said that his team would be seeking both private and government support to pay for the exhibition.

The artist said he expected that logistics would be the biggest challenge in planning the show, which he described as a “different kind of bienniale, taking place not in a white cube museum space.” He said that his team would begin selecting artists and venues for the show in the coming months.

Mr. Rana acknowledged that censorship could be an issue, but, he said, “Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here.”

“Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”

The show is being presented by the Lahore Biennale Foundation, a collective of prominent Pakistanis from the art and business communities. Mohsin Hamid, the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” is one of the foundation’s directors, and Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation, is an adviser.

Last year, the foundation helped present “My East Is Your West,” an event at the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition featured work by Mr. Rana alongside the Indian artist Shilpa Gupta in a rare, if unofficial, collaboration between India and Pakistan on an international platform.

“I think one very simple reason for the biennale is to bring attention to the fact that Pakistan has a very vibrant artistic scene,” Ms. Morgan said in a telephone interview. “It has produced a number of artists that have become very well known internationally but hasn’t yet had an internal event that can celebrate what has been happening there in the last few years.”

Anonymous said...

Is India a Flailing State?: Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization

India is an emerging global superpower as its rapid growth has transformed its economy and has maintained itself as the world’s largest democracy. But at the same time India lags in many dimensions—its malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world, its immunization rates are lower than most African countries, and Bangladesh has a better infant mortality rate. I argue that this is in part because the India state is “flailing”—its very capable head is not longer reliably connected to the arms and legs of implementation. In the four-fold transition of economy, polity, administration, and society the administrative capability of the state is lagging. I use examples from services like health, education, and routine transactions like issuing driver’s licenses to show that the agents of the state routinely do not implement the tasks they are assigned—causing a massive divergence between de jure and de facto reality. The paper concludes with speculations about the causes of flailing and possible future trajectories.

Riaz Haq said...

What attracted Columbus and other Europeans to India was its reputation as a "golden bird" built under Muslim rule.

Read Paknja Mishra's Op Ed in NY Times:

India, V.S. Naipaul declared in 1976, is “a wounded civilization,” whose obvious political and economic dysfunction conceals a deeper intellectual crisis. As evidence, he pointed out some strange symptoms he noticed among upper-caste middle-class Hindus since his first visit to his ancestral country in 1962. These well-born Indians betrayed a craze for “phoren” consumer goods and approval from the West, as well as a self-important paranoia about the “foreign hand.” “Without the foreign chit,” Mr. Naipaul concluded, “Indians can have no confirmation of their own reality.”

Mr. Naipaul was also appalled by the prickly vanity of many Hindus who asserted that their holy scriptures already contained the discoveries and inventions of Western science, and that an India revitalized by its ancient wisdom would soon vanquish the decadent West. He was particularly wary of the “apocalyptic Hindu terms” of such 19th-century religious revivalists as Swami Vivekananda, whose exhortation to nation-build through the ethic of the kshatriya (the warrior caste) has made him the central icon of India’s new Hindu nationalist rulers.
A Harvard-trained economist called Subramanian Swamy recently demanded a public bonfire of canonical books by Indian historians — liberal and secular intellectuals who belong to what the R.S.S. chief in 2000 identified as that “class of bastards which tries to implant an alien culture in their land.” Denounced by the numerous Hindu supremacists in social media as “sickular libtards” and sepoys (the common name for Indian soldiers in British armies), these intellectuals apparently are Trojan horses of the West. They must be purged to realize Mr. Modi’s vision in which India, once known as the “golden bird,” will “rise again.”

Mr. Modi doesn’t seem to know that India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture. The psychic wounds Mr. Naipaul noticed among semi-Westernized upper-caste Hindus actually date to the Indian elite’s humiliating encounter with the geopolitical and cultural dominance first of Europe and then of America.

Riaz Haq said...

#India writer Yoginder Sikand says in his book "Beyond the Border" that he was taught to hate #Pakistan at age 4. …

Indian writer Yoginder Sikand in his book "Beyond the Border":

When I was only four years old and we were living in Calcutta (in 1971) was clear that "Pakistan" was something that I was meant to hate and fear, though I had not the faintest idea where and what that dreaded monster (Pakistan) was.

What I heard and read about the two countries (India and Pakistan)--at school, on television and over radio, in the newspapers and from relatives and friends--only served to reinforce negative images of Pakistan, a country inhabited by people I necessarily had dread and even to define myself against. Pakistan and myself were equated as one while India and the Hindus were treated as synonymous. The two countries, as well as the two communities were said to be absolutely irreconcilable. To be Indian necessarily meant, it seemed to be uncompromisingly anti-Pakistani. To question this assumption, to entertain any thought other than the standard line about Pakistan and its people, was tantamount to treason.

Riaz Haq said...

View from right-wing India:

Pakistan’s Political Economy Is Changing – And India Must Take Note
Monica Verma
- Mar 30, 2017, 8:35 pm

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators.

The country’s economic performance, along with China’s investment into the CPEC initiative, has encouraged investors to look at the country in a new light.

Such is the dominance of geopolitical narratives in South Asia that any positive news from the neighbourhood does not reach us. While thinking about our neighbours, especially Pakistan, images of a country whose economy is in shambles and polity unstable strike us.

Not that these images have changed completely, nor has Pakistan moved on to become a developed economy overnight, but the changes in the neighbourhood are significant. The country now has the potential to transform itself into a stable polity and healthy economy pending a good deal of caution.

The positive signs

In 2013, Pakistan’s economy was on the verge of a collapse. The foreign exchange reserves were drying up, and fiscal deficit was mounting even as the rate of economic growth was slowing down. It was during this turbulent time that International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended a loan of $7.6 billion to help the country stabilise its economy and protect the vulnerable sections of its population. This three-year IMF-supported programme not only helped the country stave off a foreign exchange crisis, it also laid the foundation for macroeconomic and financial stability in the country.

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators. The economy witnessed a 4.7 per cent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2016, the country’s highest in the last eight years. Fiscal deficit has also come down to 4.6 per cent from 8.8 per cent. Another sign of revitalised economic activity is the stock market that rose by almost 50 per cent in 2016. These figures might indicate a positive turnaround in Pakistan’s economy, but in comparison to other South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, Pakistan’s growth rate is still miniscule. If the country maintains its fiscal prudence and executes reforms as suggested by IMF fairly, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

Promising sectors

The construction industry has emerged as one of the sweet spots for Pakistan’s economy. Government of Pakistan considers it an important driver of economic growth, where a spurt in economic activity has the potential to positively impact growth in allied sectors as well. The boom in the industry is a result of increased infrastructural activities as well as various residential projects that have been initiated to deliver housing solutions to the people. This boom is aided by favourable fuel prices including oil, electricity and coal. The government has also given tax relief to builders to facilitate growth in the real estate sector.

Along with construction, the Information Technology (IT) sector has emerged as a promising sector for the Pakistani economy. In 2015, Pakistan’s IT sector accounted for $2.8 billion, of which services worth $1.6 billion were exported abroad. This is an almost negligible share of a $3.2 trillion global IT market, but the commitment of the Pakistani government to the IT sector signals that this share may increase exponentially.

The model followed by the Pakistani IT industry has helped it cut through problems like corruption, bureaucratic red tape and security challenges. The software professionals in the country seek clients through popular freelance hiring sites such as Elance, Upwork and Fivver. The freelance software professional community from Pakistan is now the third largest in the world. Various estimates put the number of IT companies in the country at 25,000.

Riaz Haq said...

"Mr. Modi’s rule represents the most devastating, and perhaps final, defeat of India’s noble postcolonial ambition to create a moral world order. It turns out that the racist imperialism Du Bois despised can resurrect itself even among its former victims: There can be English rule without the Englishman. India’s claims to exceptionalism appear to have been as unfounded as America’s own." --- Pankaj Mishra

India at 70, and the Passing of Another Illusion

AUG. 11, 2017

August 15, 1947, deserved to be remembered, the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois argued, “as the greatest historical date” of modern history. It was the day India became independent from British rule, and Du Bois believed the event was of “greater significance” than even the establishment of democracy in Britain, the emancipation of slaves in the United States or the Russian Revolution. The time “when the white man, by reason of the color of his skin, can lord it over colored people” was finally drawing to a close.

It is barely remembered today that India’s freedom heralded the liberation, from Tuskegee to Jakarta, of a majority of the world’s population from the degradations of racist imperialism. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, claimed that there had been nothing “more horrible” in human history than the days when millions of Africans “were carried away in galleys as slaves to America and elsewhere.” As he said in a resonant speech on Aug. 15, 1947, long ago India had made a “tryst with destiny,” and now, by opening up a broad horizon of human emancipation, “we shall redeem our pledge.”

But India, which turns 70 next week, seems to have missed its appointment with history. A country inaugurated by secular freedom fighters is presently ruled by religious-racial supremacists. More disturbing still than this mutation are the continuities between those early embodiments of postcolonial virtue and their apparent betrayers today.

Du Bois would have been heartbroken to read the joint statement that more than 40 African governments released in April, denouncing “xenophobic and racial” attacks on Africans in India and asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate. The rise in hate crimes against Africans is part of a sinister trend that has accelerated since the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

Another of its bloodcurdling manifestations is the lynching of Muslims suspected of eating or storing beef. Others include assaults on couples who publicly display affection and threats of rape against women on social media by the Hindu supremacists’ troll army. Mob frenzy in India today is drummed up by jingoistic television anchors and vindicated, often on Twitter, by senior politicians, businessmen, army generals and Bollywood stars.

Hindu nationalists have also come together to justify India’s intensified military occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir, as well as a nationwide hunt for enemies: an ever-shifting and growing category that includes writers, liberal intellectuals, filmmakers who work with Pakistani actors and ordinary citizens who don’t stand up when the national anthem is played in cinemas. The new world order — just, peaceful, equal — that India’s leaders promised at independence as they denounced their former Western masters’ violence, greed and hypocrisy is nowhere in sight.

Riaz Haq said...

From Seeking Alpha :


Pakistan continues to be a misunderstood and under-researched market.

Though there are near-term macro concerns, stock market correction has made valuations attractive.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can have a positive impact on future GDP growth.

In line with our process of being on the ground in the countries we invest in, Investment Analyst Scott Osheroff travelled to Pakistan in October 2017 to meet with companies on the ground. All photos are by Asia Frontier Capital.

Pakistan is a perfect example of an information disconnect where what is reported in the mainstream media is starkly different from the day-to-day reality on the ground and does not show the full picture. I travelled to Pakistan last month for an investment tour with our local broker, visiting 19 listed companies in Lahore and Karachi, as well as seeing some tourist sites along the way, and was pleasantly surprised by the monumental opportunity Pakistan offers to investors.

My first realization of the current reality in Pakistan occurred when I was boarding my Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Lahore. The Boeing 777 was fully booked and the only foreigners on the plane, in addition to myself, were about 50 Chinese businessmen. A Chinese presence would be a recurring theme throughout my trip, as the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (“CPEC”) is in its infancy and has driven Chinese workers and entrepreneurs alike to come to Pakistan to partake in the country’s economic growth.

Arriving at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on a Saturday evening at 11pm, I proceeded to apply for a visa on arrival. The process was time-consuming, taking about 30 minutes despite being the only person in the room, but was easy enough. Upon receipt of my visa and exiting customs, I departed for the Pearl Continental Lahore, previously the Intercontinental Hotel. My driver was very friendly and acted as a useful tour guide helping me to get my bearings. Immediately upon leaving the airport, he pointed out two new buildings under construction and identified them as the up and coming Sofitel and Hyatt Regency hotels. With underinvestment in the hotel sector over the past several years, there is now a shortage, which is leading to renewed investment.

The next morning, I met the other attendees of our investment tour in the hotel lobby, and we headed out for a day of Lahori site seeing. We started with a visit to Packages Mall, owned by publicly listed Packages Group. It was reminiscent of the malls in Indonesia or Bangkok in relation to their massive scale. Seemingly every international retailer and F&B chain could be found (including McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts (NASDAQ:DNKN), etc.), in addition to several home-grown retail giants such as “Ideas” which is owned by publicly listed Gul Ahmed Textiles and has 40 stores throughout the country.
After departing Packages Mall, we made our way to the historic bazaar - Anarkali, followed by the Shalimar Gardens and a trip to the Wagah Border. Situated 29 kilometres from Lahore, the Wagah Border is the only land crossing between Pakistan and India opened to international travellers. Every day about an hour before sunset, there is a ceremony conducted by the military from each side to officially close the border for the day. A tourist attraction among locals and foreigners alike (of the handful of foreigners in attendance nearly all were Chinese), it was a memorable experience.

That night, we had dinner atop a block of stunning historic buildings adjacent to a large Mughal-era mosque. The spread consisted of kebab, lamb chops, several types of delicious breads, and my new favourite Pakistani dish - goat brain masala (also called “bheja fry” in the local language across most parts of South Asia).

Riaz Haq said...

From Seeking Alpha...Part 2:

The next day, Monday, we departed early from the hotel for a day of meetings before catching an evening flight to Karachi. We visited a leading insurance company with operations in Pakistan, as well as the UAE, and who foresees the domestic insurance industry growing at a CAGR of 10-15% over the coming years. Being that insurance penetration in Pakistan as a percentage of GDP is only 0.08%, the industry has ample room for growth. Another notable meeting that day was with a top 5 cement producer who is expanding capacity as they project robust domestic demand growth of 8-10% per year over the next three years due to an improving construction market, alongside further investments related to the CPEC. Though domestic cement demand has been quite strong over the past year, higher coal prices as well as pricing pressure has impacted profits in the most recent quarter, and worries over these two issues have led to a pretty big correction in cement stock prices. Thus, at current levels, there appears to be value in some of the cement names.

Among the other interesting companies whose management we met was the leading private hospital group in Pakistan. They currently have 600 beds and 700 nurses across multiple hospitals, though they have growth plans to see them reach 1,000 beds within five years and a potential expansion into Lahore, a city of 7mln, as well as plans to enter Sialkot, a city about 125 km north of Lahore. Recently, this company also announced plans of expanding operations overseas by setting up a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The private healthcare industry in Pakistan is still in its infancy, like with many such industries, meaning that penetration rates can only grow.

I found the issue of low penetration across multiple sectors fascinating, as Pakistan has a population of 190mln, but penetration of refrigerators, air conditioners, and washer machines is only 47%, 10%, and 57%, respectively. That is not to mention that the country has smartphone penetration of only 25-30%.

That evening, we drove to Allama Iqbal International Airport and departed for Karachi, the commercial and financial capital of Pakistan, on the national carrier Pakistan International Airways (PIA). Interestingly, as I was on the boarding platform preparing to enter the plane, I peered out the window expecting to see the “PIA” logo on the side of the plane. Instead, I saw “VietJet.” VietJet is currently leasing 4 planes to PIA, and this flight was staffed with a mix of Pakistani and Vietnamese cabin crew.

The next two days in Karachi were a mix of meetings at our hotel and site visits. We met a variety of companies, including banks, leasing groups, garment manufacturers and industrial manufacturers. The broad number of industries represented on the stock market was present in the diversity of companies we met, and it was encouraging to see the level of professionalism and transparency expressed by their management teams compared to other countries in the region.

Our last meeting of the trip was with a privately-owned car parts manufacturer supplying mainly window glass to the domestic auto manufacturers. The conversation focused on the current and future potential of the industry, which is clearly robust. Auto manufacturers currently have a 3-6-month backlog for new orders depending on the model (motorcycle manufacturers have the same issue). At present, the ratio of autos per 1,000 people in Pakistan stands at 15. As consumer financing becomes more readily available, we would expect this number to accelerate rapidly and become more in line with India with 22 autos and Vietnam with 23 autos, according to 2015 statistics.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian Author/Activist Harsh Mandar: "I have travelled to many countries in the world in the sixty years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in #Pakistan"

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively at the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened the latch, and asked us who we wanted to meet. My mother said apologetically, ‘We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.’

The house-owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate. ‘Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome’. And he led us all in. Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it. ‘You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?’ They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.

After we returned to India, news of our adventure spread quickly among family and friends. The next year, my mother-in-law, a wheel-chair user, requested that we take her also to Pakistan to visit her childhood home, this time in Gujranwala.

Given the joys of my parents’ successful visit, I was more confident. But then many elderly aunts and an elderly uncle joined the trip, and in the end my wife and I were accompanying six older people to Pakistan.

Our experience this time was very similar to a year earlier. The owner of their old ancestral haveli in their Gujranwala village took my mother-in-law around the sprawling property on her wheel-chair, and after we had eaten with them asked her, ‘Would you not like to check out your farmlands?’

On both visits, wherever my wife visited shops, for clothes, footwear or handicrafts, if the shopkeepers recognised her to be Indian, they would invariably insist on a hefty concession on the price. ‘You are our guests’, they would say. ‘How can we make a profit from our guests?’

As news of these visits travelled further, my associates from an NGO Ashagram for the care and rights of persons living with leprosy in a small town Barwani in Madhya Pradesh—with which I had a long association since its founding—demanded that I organise a visit for them also to Pakistan.

Once again, the Pakistani High Commission granted to them visas and they were on their way. There was only one catch, and this was that all of them were vegetarian. They enjoyed greatly the week they spent in Pakistan, except for the food.

Every night they would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night they found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice.

‘We will not charge money from our guests from India,’ they would say each time. This happened for a full seven days.

I have travelled to many countries in the world in the sixty years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan.

This declaration is my latest act of sedition.

Riaz Haq said...

#India falls to 102 in global #HungerIndex, 8 ranks below #Pakistan. It was the lowest ranked among #SouthAsian countries. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva via @timesofindia

Riaz Haq said...

#India is home to almost a quarter of the global poor. Five countries with the highest number of world's extreme #poor are (in descending order): #India (24%), #Nigeria (12%), Democratic Republic of #Congo (7%), #Ethiopia (4%) & #Bangladesh (3%). #poverty

Of the world’s 736 million extreme poor in 2015, 368 million—half of the total—lived in just 5 countries. The 5 countries with the highest number of extreme poor are (in descending order): India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. They also happen to be the most populous countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions that together account for 85 percent (629 million) of the world’s poor. Therefore, to make significant continued progress towards the global target of reducing extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day) to less than 3 percent by 2030, large reductions in poverty in these five countries will be crucial.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the numerous other countries with high poverty rates. As poverty projections to 2030 for these five countries reveal, uneven outcomes are likely (see figure 2). When projections are based on countries growing in line with past growth rates (the regional average over the last ten years), extreme poverty in India and Bangladesh approaches zero by 2030 but extreme poverty in Nigeria, DRC, and Ethiopia remains quite elevated. The uneven progress across these 5 countries is indicative of the broader uneven progress globally. An outcome where extreme poverty is nearly eliminated throughout the world except in one region, sub-Saharan Africa, certainly does not portray a picture of a world free of poverty. As emphasized in the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2018, we should go beyond the focus on reducing the global poverty rate to below 3 percent and strive to ensure that all countries and all people can share in the benefits of economic development.

Riaz Haq said...

A passage to #Pakistan by @dhume: #Indians may have a distorted view of their neighbor, but Pakistanis don’t quite get #India either. #Delhi’s Pakistan policy is a's based on a combination of hubris and hatred that are the opposite of realism

Cliches about the warmth of Pakistani hospitality are true. But you can also encounter kindness among ordinary Pakistanis that has nothing to do with a culture of looking after your guests. At the Pakistan International Airlines counter in Lahore, a young man helpfully suggests that i check my carry-on bag at the gate to avoid paying for excess baggage. In the Indian imagination, particularly on the Hindu Right, Pakistan brings to mind only fanaticism and violence. But a visitor can experience it instead as a land of many small kindnesses.

The Indian view of Pakistan is increasingly shaped by a kind of national hysteria, an inability to view the country dispassionately as a geographical space that happens to be inhabited by a kindred people whose ancestors were Indians. In general, educated Pakistanis are less ignorant about India than their Indian counterparts are about Pakistan. (They are alarmingly up-to-date on Bollywood gossip.) But here too distortions abound. For Pakistanis, India is north India. Indian politics is the politics of the Hindi heartland.


On television, Indians are fed a diet of jingoism that is detached from reality. For instance, while Pakistan’s global influence may have declined precipitously – in large measure because of its sclerotic economy – the idea that India can isolate a nuclear-armed nation with more than 200-million people is preposterous. As things stand, Pakistan enjoys a strong relationship with China, has largely repaired its once strained relations with America, and is open to overtures from Russia.

Perhaps one day the politicians who run India and the generals who run Pakistan will feel secure enough to allow Indians and Pakistanis to visit each other freely and experience each other’s countries for themselves. Until such contact becomes commonplace, the odds of South Asia becoming more like Southeast Asia – united by economics rather than divided by politics – remain vanishingly slim.

Riaz Haq said...

#India Doesn’t Want #Monkeys Attacking #Trump During Taj Mahal Visit. Police plan to use slingshots during the president’s upcoming visit to ward off 100s of aggressive monkeys living near centuries-old mausoleum #TajMahal #TrumpInIndia via @HuffPostPol

When President Donald Trump visits India next week, officials will be going bananas trying to prevent him from being attacked by monkeys at the Taj Mahal.

The city of Agra, where the famous building is located, will be under security lockdown during Trump’s visit, India Today reported. That means that no one will be allowed out of their homes when the president is traveling from the local airport to the Taj Mahal.

That’s fine and dandy for humans. But try convincing the 500 to 700 monkeys living near the nearly four-century-old mausoleum. The rhesus macaques have a reputation for being very aggressive toward the 25,000 tourists who visit the Taj on a typical day.

Slingshots, police say, are the solution. Officers assigned to Trump’s visit will be armed with the devices to chase off any monkeys that menace the president and first lady Melania Trump during their visit.

“We found that monkeys get scared by just seeing us brandishing these slingshots,” Brij Bhushan, head of the Taj Mahal security force, told Reuters last year.

The weapons work on monkeys individually or in small groups, but they’re “completely ineffective” in warding off packs of maurading macaques, a law enforcement official told India Today.

In May 2018, monkeys attacked two French tourists as they were taking selfies, according to the Independent. Later that year, monkeys reportedly snatched a 12-day-old baby from its nearby home and killed it.

One Agra resident lamented that persistent efforts to control the monkey population have come to nothing.

“The terror of the monkeys is so pervasive that women and children are scared of going up on the roof of their houses, which have almost been taken over by monkeys,” the resident told India Today. “If such a large troop of monkeys attacks Donald Trump’s entourage, it will be a disaster.”

Riaz Haq said...

Discussion on India in President Barack Obama's memoir titled "A Promised Land" reveals what the former US President thought about India, particularly Indian hostility against Pakistan. Obama also reveals that President-elect Joseph R. Biden opposed the US Navy Seals raid to kill Usama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011. Biden was Obama's Vice President at the time.

Obama's Book Excerpts:

“Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”.

"Violence, both public and private, remained an all-too-pervasive part of Indian life”.

All politics and violence in India revolves around "religion, clan and caste".

"Despite genuine economic progress, India remained a chaotic and impoverished place: largely divided by religion and caste, captive to the whims of corrupt local officials and power brokers".

Indians take "great pride in the knowledge that India had developed nuclear weapons to match Pakistan's, untroubled by the fact that a single miscalculation by either side could risk regional annihilation".

"(Manmohan) Singh had resisted calls to retaliate against Pakistan after the (Mumbai) attacks, but his restraint had cost him politically. He feared that rising anti-Muslim sentiment had strengthened the influence of India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)"

"Across the country (India), millions continued to live in squalor, trapped in sunbaked villages or labyrinthine slums, even as the titans of Indian industry enjoyed lifestyles that the rajas and moguls of old would have envied".

“Joe (Biden) weighed in against the (Usama Bin Laden) raid (on compound in Pakistan)”

Riaz Haq said...

Tony Ashai
I designed the concept for this Iconic project at the direction of then PM ⁦
⁩ for #Damenekoh #Islamabad #Pakistan as a #Tourist destination in 2021. Am still hopeful one day it will get built.

Riaz Haq said...

An Indian CEO shared a beautiful story from her Harvard days.

The post gives a description of a blooming friendship between Early Steps Academy CEO and her Pakistani friend.
She shared a picture with her Pakistani friend.
An endearing post shared by the CEO of Early Steps Academy has won the hearts of netizens. The LinkedIn post by Sneha Biswas gave the perfect example of friendship that broke all barriers. Biswas wrote about one of her classmates from Harvard Business School who happened to be a Pakistani citizen. The beautiful story of friendship received a thumbs up from people.

The post gave a detailed description of the blooming friendship between Biswas and her friend from Pakistan. “Growing up in a small town in India, my knowledge about Pakistan was limited to cricket, history books and the media. All revolving around rivalry and hatred. Decades later I met this girl. She is from Islamabad, Pakistan. I met her on my Day 1 at Harvard Business School. It took us 5 seconds to like each other and by the end of first semester she became one of my closest friends on campus,” Biswas wrote.


Growing up in a small town in India, my knowledge about Pakistan was limited to cricket, history books and the media. All revolving around rivalry and hatred.

Decades later I met this girl. She is from Islamabad, Pakistan. I met her on my Day 1 at Harvard Business School . It took us 5 seconds to like each other and by the end of first semester she became one of my closest friends on campus.

Over multiple chais, biryanis, financial models and case study preps, we got to know each other. Her stories of growing up in a conversative Pakistani backdrop, but blessed with supportive parents who gave her and her younger sister the courage to break the norms and chase their dreams, resonated with me. Her stories of fearless ambitions and bold choices inspired me.

I realized that while pride for your individual nations stand strong, your love for people transcends geographies and boundaries. People, fundamentally, are similar everywhere. Boundaries, borders and spaces are built by humans, and while it all might make sense to the head, the heart often fails to understand them.

Look at us on the famous flag day at #harvard - flaunting our flags and smiling away at the joy of “breaking barriers” - not just literally between India and Pakistan, but also for the countless little girls from India and Pakistan who are scared to shoot for the stars.

Riaz Haq said...

India woman's post on Pakistani friend wins hearts on social media

An Indian woman's post about her friendship with a Pakistani classmate is being praised on social media.

The two are students at Harvard Business School, and the post shows them holding the national flag of their respective countries.

Sneha Biswas wrote that her friendship with a Pakistani student broke the stereotypes she knew about the neighbouring country.

The two nations have shared hostile relations for decades.

India has banned Pakistani artists and cricketers from performing and playing in India. Pakistan has banned Bollywood films.

Celebrating the sentiment of unity depicted in the post, one user commented "we built walls between each other and thus it's up to us to bring it down." Another user hoped that the two women would "share a lifelong friendship that may bring changes across the borders for girls on both sides".

Ms Biswas, who is also an entrepreneur, shared the post about her friendship with her Pakistani classmate on LinkedIn. She did not name her friend.

In the post, she said that growing up in a small town, her knowledge about Pakistan and its people was limited. She got all her information through books and media, which often espoused narratives of hatred and rivalry.

She met her friend, who is from Islamabad, on her first day at Harvard and the two have developed a close friendship since then.

Over many chats enjoyed with tea and biryani (a flavourful rice dish), she discovered her friend's similar background - that of growing up in a "conservative Pakistani backdrop" but having family that supported her dreams.

"I realised that while pride for your individual nations stand strong, your love for people transcends geographies and boundaries," wrote Ms Biswas.

Her post championed unity between the people, saying "boundaries, borders and spaces are built by humans." She talked about "breaking barriers" not just between the two countries, but also for little girls from India and Pakistan who are "scared to shoot for the stars."

The post has received social media attention in the week running up to India's and Pakistan's independence anniversaries, celebrated on 15 and 14 August respectively. Both nations' independence is also linked to the Partition in 1947, which led to the division of India into India and Pakistan. The partition was one of the bloodiest events in history, and one that experts say laid the seeds of animosity between the two nations.

Riaz Haq said...

Mani Shankar Aiyar: What #India's #Modi Has Not Recognised About #Pakistan: ITS RESILIENCE AND NATIONALISM … via @ndtv

Note: Mani Shankar spent some time in Pakistan posted as a diplomat, serving as India's first consul-general in Karachi from 1978 to 1982. He's a former federal cabinet minister and current member of Rajya Sabha

"unlike numerous other emerging nations, particularly in Africa, the Idea of Pakistan has repeatedly trumped fissiparous tendencies, especially since Pakistan assumed its present form in 1971. And its institutions have withstood repeated buffeting that almost anywhere elsewhere would have resulted in the State crumbling. Despite numerous dire forecasts of imminently proving to be a "failed state", Pakistan has survived, bouncing back every now and then as a recognizable democracy with a popularly elected civilian government, the military in the wings but politics very much centre-stage, linguistic and regional groups pulling and pushing, sectarian factions murdering each other, but the Government of Pakistan remaining in charge, and the military stepping in to rescue the nation from chaos every time Pakistan appeared on the knife's edge. The disintegration of Pakistan has been predicted often enough, most passionately now that internally-generated terrorism and externally sponsored religious extremism are consistently taking on the state to the point that the army is so engaged in full-time and full-scale operations in the north-west of the country bordering Afghanistan that some 40,000 lives have been lost in the battle against fanaticism and insurgency.

"And yet," as was said on a more famous occasion, "it works!" Pakistan and her people keep coming back, resolutely defeating sustained political, armed and terrorist attempts to break down the country and undermine its ideological foundations. That is what Jaffrelot calls its "resilience". That resilience is not recognized in Modi's India. That is what leads the Rathores and the Parrikars to make statements that find a certain resonance in anti-Pakistan circles in India but dangerously leverage the impact on Pakistani public opinion of anti-India circles in Pakistan. The Parrikars and the Saeeds feed on each other. It is essential that both be overcome.

But even as there are saner voices in India than Rathore's, so also are there saner - much saner - voices in Pakistan than Hafiz Saeed's. Many Indians would prefer a Pakistan overflowing with Saeeds to keep their bile flowing. So would many Pakistanis prefer an India with the Rathores overflowing to keep the bile flowing. At eight times Pakistan's size, we can flex our muscles like the bully on the school play field. But Pakistan's resilience ensures that all that emerges from Parrikar and Rathore are empty words. India is no more able than Pakistan is to destroy the other country"

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Diplomat Sharat Sabharwal on Pakistan's "Resilience", "Strategic" CPEC, China-Pakistan "Nexus"

Retired Indian diplomat Sharat Sabharwal in his recently published book "India's Pakistan Conundrum" disabuses his fellow Indians of the notion that Pakistan is about to collapse. He faithfully parrots the familiar Indian tropes about Pakistani Army and accuses it of sponsoring "cross-border terrorism". He also writes that "Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity". "Pakistan is neither a failed state nor one about to fail", he adds. He sees "limitations on India’s ability to inflict a decisive blow on Pakistan through military means". The best option for New Delhi, he argues, is to engage with Pakistan diplomatically. In an obvious message to India's hawkish Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he warns: "Absence of dialogue and diplomacy between the two countries carries the risk of an unintended flare-up". Ambassador Sabharwal served as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad in the 1990s.

Riaz Haq said...

Adani’s business empire may or may not turn out to be the largest con in corporate history. But far greater dangers to civic morality, let alone democracy and global peace, are posed by those peddling the gigantic hoax of Modi’s India. Pankaj Mishra

Modi has counted on sympathetic journalists and financial speculators in the West to cast a seductive veil over his version of political economy, environmental activism and history. ‘I’d bet on Modi to transform India, all of it, including the newly integrated Kashmir region,’ Roger Cohen of the New York Times wrote in 2019 after Modi annulled the special constitutional status of India’s only Muslim-majority state and imposed a months-long curfew. The CEO of McKinsey recently said that we may be living in ‘India’s century’. Praising Modi for ‘implementing policies that have modernised India and supported its growth’, the economist and investor Nouriel Roubini described the country as a ‘vibrant democracy’. But it is becoming harder to evade the bleak reality that, despoiled by a venal, inept and tyrannical regime, ‘India is broken’ – the title of a disturbing new book by the economic historian Ashoka Mody.

The number of Indians who sleep hungry rose from 190 million in 2018 to 350 million in 2022, and malnutrition and malnourishment killed nearly two-thirds of the children who died under the age of five last year. At the same time, Modi’s cronies have flourished. The Economist estimates that the share of billionaire wealth in India derived from cronyism has risen from 29 per cent to 43 per cent in six years. According to a recent Oxfam report, India’s richest 1 per cent owned more than 40.5 per cent of its total wealth in 2021 – a statistic that the notorious oligarchies of Russia and Latin America never came close to matching. The new Indian plutocracy owes its swift ascent to Modi, and he has audaciously clarified the quid pro quo. Under the ‘electoral bond’ scheme he introduced in 2017, any business or special interest group can give unlimited sums of money to his party while keeping the transaction hidden from public scrutiny.

Modi also ensures his hegemony by forging a public sphere in which sycophancy is rewarded and dissent harshly punished. Adani last year took over NDTV, a television news channel that had displayed a rare immunity to hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories. Human Rights Watch has detailed a broad onslaught on democratic rights: ‘the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government used abusive and discriminatory policies to repress Muslims and other minorities’ and ‘arrested activists, journalists and other critics of the government on politically motivated criminal charges, including of terrorism’. Last month, as the BJP’s official spokesperson denounced the BBC as ‘the most corrupt organisation in the world’, tax officials launched a sixty-hour raid on the broadcaster’s Indian offices in apparent retaliation for a two-part documentary on Modi’s role in anti-Muslim violence.

Also last month, the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was expelled from parliament to put a stop to his persistent questions about Modi’s relationship with Adani. Such actions are at last provoking closer international scrutiny of what Modi calls the ‘mother of democracy’, though they haven’t come as a shock to those who have long known about Modi’s lifelong allegiance to Rashtriya​ Swayamsevak Sangh, an organisation that was explicitly inspired by European fascist movements and culpable in the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi in 1948.

Riaz Haq said...


Ms. Nitupola Sharma writes an account of her first encounter with a Pakistani and her visit to Pakistan

Arriving at my friend’s home, I could sleep only for an hour, totally excited at the prospect of seeing my old friends and exploring the country that I had thought I would never be able to see in my lifetime. Saad had a beautiful, spacious bungalow in DHA. At breakfast, Saad shared a humorous story of how his friends had cautioned him against having me, an Indian, stay in his house in a defence housing colony. Filled with worry, he had been wondering what to do as I was already planned to arrive in a day. He received a call from an unknown number. Saad nearly had a heart attack when the voice on the other side asked if he was Saad Iqbal, and on confirmation asked him if he was having an Indian visitor. Barely being able to squeak out a yes, Saad waited with bated breath as to what would come next. He was pleasantly surprised when the voice introduced himself as a relative of the ambassador, and that he would like to have all of us join him for dinner in Islamabad. This trip of mine was getting more and more eventful and memorable by the minute.

The afternoon found us meeting another ex-colleague, Nauman, and going together as a huge group of mischievous children and adults to the walled city of Lahore. Children made so much of a din that it was impossible for the adults to have any sort of a conversation. I felt a familiarity with one part of the city with its high walls, wide clean roads, and bungalows with its similarity to Gurgaon. Interior Lahore was more like Old Delhi with its abundant share of historical relics and cosy small outlets selling curios, antiques and artifacts, and snack sellers competing in their persuasive methods to entice you to stop by their colourfully decorated stalls.

I fell in love with Cooco’s Den with its beautiful stained-glass windows, narrow dark and dingy spiral steps, abundance of antiques, its secretive air, its gorgeous paintings, and open veranda giving you an amazing view of the walled city. The narrow building seemed to be bursting with stories and secrets of forbidden romances, having been the house of a lady infamous for her different lifestyle in a conservative society. Her son had converted their home into a restaurant. Soulful music accompanied our food, an experience that I will never forget. Never have I ever tasted karahi chicken that was so tasty that Ryan practically scraped off the handi and could not stop gushing about it.

The sight of the Badshahi Masjid, sharing its walls with the Ranjit Singh Gurudwara, and the Shahi Qila with the Minar-e-Pakistan standing guard in the front like a torch to these three precious historical treasures, was an exceptional experience worth its weight in gold. Shahi Qila with its paintings framed in precious stones, sadly most of them scrapped out. There is a huge step that was created for elephants to carry their royal riders directly inside the fort.

Inside the Badshahi Masjid, children enjoyed themselves the most as they ran around in the open area. The sight of the normally shy and self-conscious Ryan lying down in abandon on the carpet, busy with his new cell phone, completely oblivious of his surroundings, was a new sight to me.

Riaz Haq said...


Ms. Nitupola Sharma writes an account of her first encounter with a Pakistani and her visit to Pakistan

A very strange thing happened to me in the Badshahi Masjid, which will stay a mystery for me forever. I somehow feel it was God’s way of showing me that that He was there. As our group of six adults and seven children went inside the mosque, right outside the gate was a man sitting with a basketful of what looked like sweetmeats packed in cellophane paper. There was another person standing beside him, and as we passed by, the gentleman standing next to the seller picked up a packet and offered it to me. I declined politely. He shook his head and said, “Prasad [food and water offered to a deity during worship] nahin lena?” [Don’t you want prasad?] Astonished, I immediately accepted. My group had already gone ahead, and I had to run to catch up with them.

Prasad at the doorstep of a mosque? How had this stranger identified my religion? I was dressed no differently from the other women. Or was it the mosque offering sweets? After doing a tour of the masjid, we came out, and I noticed that both the seller and the gentleman were gone. I showed the packet to Shaista, my colleague’s wife; she was convinced that it was either drugged or poisoned and forbade me from sharing it with the children. She also enlightened me to the fact that mosques do not offer any sort of prasad like temples do.

I went ahead and opened the packet of soan papdri sweets. I vouch by their crispy fluffy texture and I live to tell the tale. When nothing happened to me, we, the adults, shared the rest of the sweets, but no one could figure out who those men were and where they went. We went back to the place the next day to see if the men were there again, but no one was there. I could have sworn on my life that the person looked like a Pathan and could not have been anyone else.

It was past midnight when we finally headed home after celebrating Ryan’s birthday. Lahore was still awake, and life outside seemed like it was still early evening. Midnight on the eve of Eid was another discovery for me when Shaista took me shopping. At that hour of the night, I would not have expected Pakistani women to do finery shopping. There seemed to be a lot of activity all around. Mehndi stalls, shopkeepers not being able to keep pace with demands of specific shades of lipstick and nail polish, and jewellery of every kind. My favourite amazingly beautiful glass bangles in a myriad of colours, ready to be matched with any outfit. It was a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie, only this was real, and I was relishing every minute of it.

The next few days were spent enjoying amazing hospitality and savouring great food. Days went long into night, and I realised that the Lahore society was used to late nights with even children being wide awake while Ryan and I walked around like zombies. Lahore was another incredible experience for us, and we could not wait for more.

Where the straggly pine treetops reached out to the sky in hope of a whisper of sunlight, and the hills wore a deep red hue. That is where my friends took us next. We drove on serpentine roads by the deep gorges of the Kallar Kahar Salt Range to Murree and Ayubia in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The scenery changed frequently, sometimes barren hills greeting the eye and sometimes bountifully lush green hillsides. The road was colourfully decorated at places with shawls hung out for sale and salesmen lounging by the roadside, staring longingly with soulful eyes at the passing cars, willing them to stop. In some places, the road was lined with trees in full bloom as the yellow blooms competed with the fresh green leaves.

Riaz Haq said...


Ms. Nitupola Sharma writes an account of her first encounter with a Pakistani and her visit to Pakistan

After what seemed an eternity, we finally arrived at our destination just as the sun decided to take a break and the evening chill to bare its claws. Murree was a hill station choc-o-bloc with jostling stalls displaying tempting woollens and Kashmiri jewellery. My mind was engrossed with this feeling of déjà vu after I saw a huge photo hung on the wall of the restaurant where we had supper. The painting was a faded replication of the Mall Road as it was during the British Era. And then it dawned on me. It was the Mall Road in Shimla, with the church, the downhill road, and the small culvert. The British had left the signature of their homeland in all the places they touched and adopted. Because of the dim light of dusk, I could not see much of Murree’s Mall Road or a church or a culvert.

The jostling crowd of tourists, the smell of roasted groundnuts in the air and the colourful cotton candy added to the festive atmosphere that enveloped us. Tiredness eluded us as the children enjoyed a screaming pram ride uphill before we proceeded into the darkness of Ayubia. Roads were not too familiar for Saad, and before we realised the road ahead turned into a misty darkness as we fumbled our way through. Children had dozed off, happy and content with full tummies. We finally made it to the hotel safe.

I cannot for my life recall the name of the hotel, but the view of a deep ravine, depths of which played hide and seek with my eyes, with golden streaks of sunlight piercing through thick trunks in the early morning is a mental image I will treasure forever. Sunrays seemed so alive with millions of dust particles swimming against a clear blue sky. That early morning welcome sight more than made up for the bone chilling water that greeted us when we went inside to take our baths.

The previous evening had ended with us sipping sweet, brewed tea out of glasses as we discussed world politics, India, Pakistan, and the future of our region. Children added spice with frequent appearances as we tucked our toes into our chairs, trying to keep them warm in our long coats. There seemed to be a univocal agreement on the worthlessness of the enmity of our two countries, and wastage of time and money whereas competitiveness should have been solely concentrated on the cricket field. We talked about the huge fiscal wastage on arms, whereas the same money could have done wonders if spent on the development of the region. It was as if we were nothing but puppets in the hands of powers that wanted to maintain a certain status quo and were slaves to profits at the immense cost of human lives, peace, and development.

Nathiagali greeted us with a sumptuous breakfast of hot parathas and fluffy masala omelettes in the fresh, crisp, mountain air. As we feasted, I shared the story of my arrival in Karachi with my overwhelming emotions of instant despair, fear and then warmth in the first two hours of landing in Pakistan. A concerned and protective Shaista kept shushing and warning me on my choice of words — I was using the word Indian too much — as she gestured to a group of men in grave discussion at a nearby table, with their rifles casually leaning on the side of the table pointing upwards. I could not help wondering if they were the Taliban!

After breakfast, we splurged on some quick shopping and curio hunting. I mused on the prices I had paid for my shopping; things were unbelievably cheap. Saad explained that the priority of those shops was to sell their wares so they could have food at home. It was inconceivably sad.

Riaz Haq said...

I can cite plenty of examples of Indians visiting Pakistan who differ with Prof Ishtiaq Ahmad view of the two countries.

Here's one:

Famous Indian writer and poet Javed Akhtar told his audience at a conference in Mumbai that he saw "no visible poverty" in Lahore during his multiple visits to Pakistan over the last three decades. Responding to Indian novelist Chetan Bhagat's query about Pakistan's economic crisis at ABP's "Ideas of India Summit 2023" in Mumbai, Akhtar said: "Unlike what you see in Delhi and Mumbai, I did not see any visible poverty in Lahore". This was Akhtar's first interview upon his return to India after attending "Faiz Festival" in Lahore, Pakistan.


Here's another one:

The drive from Lahore to Islamabad is stunning. Across five hours, the lush farms along the Chenab and Jhelum Rivers transform into the green hills and mountains as eye-catching trucks and buses dot the scenery. Tucked along the way in the Potohar Plateau, I find myself lost in the Katas Raj temples. This complex is one of Pakistan's most fascinating mythological sights. As legend goes, the temples surround a pond created by the teardrops of Lord Shiva, who roamed the Earth in grief after the death of his wife Sati. The temples themselves play significant roles in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. In the present day, these structures are extremely peaceful and well-maintained. I can't help but ask my guide if their presence has caused problems with locals after Partition. He eloquently surmises: "Why would [the temples] cause problems? Ultimately, it is a place of worship and people respect that. We lived together before 1947."

Riaz Haq said...

Four key trends - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

By Umair Javed

The cultural indicators are about how people understand the world around them and the degree to which they are engaged with it. The first of these relates to consumption of information, especially among young people, who constitute a majority in the country. For this, we can turn to Table 40 of the last census, which reports that 60 per cent of households rely on TV and 97pc rely on mobile phones for basic information. The corresponding figures in 1998 were 7pc and 0pc respectively.

What this overwhelmingly young population is watching on TV or through their mobiles is something that we can never completely know. But what is clear is that a lot of information is being accessed, and a lot of ideas — about politics, about religious beliefs, and about the rest of the world — are circulating. Controlling or regulating this flow is an impossibility. Will it lead to an angrier population or a more passive one? A more conservative one or one with some transgressive tendencies? So far, the outcome leans more towards anger and conservatism.

Another slow but steady sociocultural transformation is the vanishing gender gap in higher education. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 have university degrees at roughly the same rate (about 11pc). Between 20 and 30, a slightly higher percentage of women have a college degree compared to men. And just two decades ago, women’s higher education attainment in the same 20 to 35 age bracket was 3pc lower than men. This gap has been covered and there are strong signs that it will reverse in the other direction as male educational attainment stagnates.

What does a more educated female population mean for societal functioning? Will these capabilities threaten male honour (and patriarchy) in different ways? Will there be new types of gender politics and conflicts? And will the levee finally break in terms of the barriers that continue to prevent women from gaining dignified remunerated work? As in other unequal countries, Pakistani men hold a monopoly over economic benefits and public space. And they are unlikely to give these privileges up passively.

In the socioeconomic domain, there are also two things worth highlighting. The first is urban migration, not just in large metropolitan centres, but in smaller second- and third-tier cities as well. Fragmenting land holdings and climate change are compelling young men in particular to move to cities in large numbers. A 10-acre farm inherited by five brothers will lead to at least three seeking work outside of agriculture.

The official urbanisation rate may be at around 38pc but this is a significant underestimate. Many villages are now small towns, and small towns are now nothing less than large urban agglomerations. The perimeters of these urban areas are dotted with dense informal settlements that provide shelter — often the only type available — for working-class migrants.

Finally, the last trend is employment status in the labour force. In the last 20 years, the percentage of people earning a living through a daily/weekly/monthly wage (as opposed to being a self-cultivator, self-employed, or running a small business) has increased by 10pc. Much of this increase is taking place in the informal economy and that too in the services sector.

Starting your own business, however small, requires money, which most do not have. Getting higher-paying, formal-sector jobs first requires getting credentials and training, which again is beyond the budget of most. Large swathes of the working population will grind out a living by taking care of the needs of the better off — fixing their cars, cleaning their houses, serving them food. Given the condition of the economy, this trend is unlikely to change.

Riaz Haq said...

Watch: 'Pakistan Is My Second Favourite Country,' Says Mani Shankar Aiyar
Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan.

In an interview to discuss his four years as India’s Consul-General in Karachi, a key part of his recently published autobiography Memoirs of a Maverick, as well as his overall view of Pakistan – a country he has visited 40 times in the last 40 years – Mani Shankar Aiyar says Pakistan is his second favourite country.

In an extensive interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan. He shatters the false misconceptions and outright lies that colour the traditional Indian perception of our western neighbour.

This interview is full of the most delightful stories and anecdotes, told with Aiyar‘s riveting sense of drama and laced with his irresistible humour.

Many of his stories will astound Indian viewers because they speak of a Pakistan we know nothing about. They portray a country that far from being narrow and fundamentalist is fun-loving, welcoming of Indians and Hindus and where Islamisation has not impinged on the right of people to drink alcohol in their homes. And, boy, do they!