Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How America Promotes "We're the Good Guys" Narrative

In a 2017 Super Bowl Sunday interview with President Donald Trump,  Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly authoritatively declared  Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s a killer.”  Trump replied with the question: “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

Trump did something similar more recently after his Singapore Summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim JongUn.  When Fox News' Brett Baier  raised the question  in an interview about "Kim's oppression of his own people", Trump said: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things.”

American Narrative:

Both O'Reilly and Baier were essentially repeating the standard American narrative that wants the world to believe that "we (Americans) are the good guys and those opposing America are the bad guys".

Trump, an unconventional American leader, displayed rare candor in his responses.  The American  media and "research scholars", managed by the "Deep State", sharply criticized Trump and continued to parrot the standard American narrative asserting that "we're the good guys" while vilifying Vladimir Putin, Kim JongUn and other leaders and countries designated as "enemies".

Young and Barbaric:

Trump appears ready to drop all pretenses of US being "the good guys" standing for "freedom, democracy and human rights".  He is not alone in his assertion that "our country (United States) is not so innocent".  George Friedman, the founder of  Stratfor which describes itself as "American geopolitical intelligence platform", is the ultimate "Deep State" insider in America.  Friedman acknowledges that "America, like Europe in sixteenth century, is still barbaric, a description, not a moral judgment. Its culture is unformed. Its will is powerful. Its emotions drive it in different and contradictory directions."

Friedman argues that "perhaps more than for any other country, the US grand strategy is about war, and the interaction between war and economic life. The United States is historically a warlike country. The nation has been directly or indirectly at war for most of of its existence...the war of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm. And the US has been constantly at war in Afghanistan and Iraq since the beginning of this century."

More recently, the United States' interventions in the Middle East have destabilized and devastated Libya and Syria and created a major humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands have died and millions rendered homeless and trying to flee hunger and violence.

Narrative Promotion:

So how does America create and promote its "good guys" narrative in the world and demonize others? How do American image builders gloss over its past characterized by the genocide of the indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and a history of assassinations, invasions, atrocities, proxy wars, and coups in the developing world? How do their actions escape the "terrorism" label that is liberally applied to others, particularly Muslims?  What modern image-making and promotional tools and techniques has Uncle Sam borrowed from the world of brand creation, promotion and management?

The first thing in creating a narrative is the basic story supported by effective language and vocabulary. It is fleshed out by writers, poets, musicians and artists.  The basic American narrative  goes like this:  America stands for freedom, democracy and human rights. It is a force for all that is good in the world. Those who oppose America are the "bad guys".

The narrative is then widely disseminated, promoted and incessantly repeated by Washington think tanks, book authors, major newspaper reporters and editors,  mainstream journalists, television channels and popular entertainment platforms.

Talking points are developed and shared to defend against any criticisms. Inconvenient truths are obfuscated.  Those who accept the talking points are rewarded and those who persist in criticisms are isolated and punished. Rewards come in the form of funding and access. Punishments are handed out by orchestrating attacks by peers and by denying funds and access.

Controlling the Narrative:

The United States government funds think tanks, hires consultants and directly and indirectly influences mass media and popular entertainment platforms to control and promote its "good guys" narrative and to vilify those seen as competitors.

1. Think Tanks:  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, US Institute of Peace (USIP), Rand Corporation and a several others are partially or fully funded by the US government. These are supplemented by dozens of other think tanks funded by major US corporations which have a stake in promoting a positive global image of the United States. These organizations organize conferences, publish books and "research papers" and offer scholarships to promote the American "good guys" narrative globally.  They have both resident and non-resident "scholars", including some from developing countries like Pakistan. Some of the Pakistani "scholars" working for Washington think tanks also work for major media houses in Pakistan. These "scholars" are widely quoted by the media on issues relating to US-Pakistan relations.

2. News Media:  Veteran American journalist Carl Bernstein, famous for his reporting on Watergate along with Bob Woodward, investigated CIA's use of the American media and wrote a piece describing "How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up". Here's what he said:

"Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Associated Press (AP),  United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune".

3. Popular Entertainment:  It has been suggested that Hollywood has been working with the United States government for a long time.  Some have said that Hollywood is "the unofficial ministry of propaganda for the Pentagon".  Information obtained under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) confirms that thousands of Hollywood films have received backing from the CIA and the US Department of Defense and other US agencies to promote America's "good guy" narrative. These include 24, Army Wives, Flight 93, Homeland,  Ice Road Truckers, NCIS,  Transformers, Iron Man, Terminator, etc.

Documents obtained recently under FOIA show that the relationship between the US national security establishment and American entertainment businesses is much deeper and more political than ever acknowledged.

4. Books and Literature:  Starting with the Cold War, the American CIA has infiltrated and influenced books and literature to promote the American official "good guys" narrative. "Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers" by Joel Whitney reveals how great writers such as Baldwin, Márquez, and Hemingway were recruited as soldiers in Cold War.

Editors of top literary magazines were used as a vehicle for this infiltration.  The first time the CIA's connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines came to light was in 1966. The CIA used multiple guises to financially support young, promising writers as part of a cultural propaganda strategy with literary outposts around the world.

Summary:

The United States government has developed and aggressively controls and promotes America's standard narrative that "we are the good guys and those opposing us are the bad guys".  This narrative glosses over the history of native American genocide, enslavement of Africans and the CIA sponsored assassinations, coups and proxy wars in the developing world. In a couple of recent interviews, US President Donald Trump has acknowledged the problems with the American narrative. Nevertheless, the American narrative is promoted using a multi-pronged strategy that includes the use of think tanks, popular entertainment, books and literature and the mainstream media.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Hollywood: America's Unofficial Ministry of Propaganda

Free Speech: Myth or Reality?

Social Media Tribalism

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-Japan-US

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel



Monday, June 18, 2018

Pakistan Among Top 5 Countries to Discover Oil and Gas in 2017

Pakistan made two key oil and gas discoveries in the third quarter and another three discoveries in the fourth quarter of 2017. These discoveries may have prompted the US-based Exxon-Mobil to join off-shore drilling efforts in Pakistan. American energy giant's entry in Pakistan brings advanced deep sea drilling technology, its long experience in offshore exploration and production and its deep pockets to the country. US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Pakistan has technically recoverable deposits of 105 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas and 9.1 billion barrels of oil. Exxon-Mobil is expected to accelerate exploration and lead to more discoveries and increased domestic oil and gas production.

Top Countries Discovering Oil and Gas:

Russia led with 10 discoveries, followed by Australia with seven discoveries and Colombia with four discoveries. Pakistan and the UK each had three discoveries in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Global Oil and Gas Discoveries Review.

Oil and Gas Discoveries 2H/17. Source: Offshore Technology

In fourth quarter of 2017, the Former Soviet Union leads with 12 discoveries, followed by Asia with eight discoveries, and Oceania with seven discoveries. Europe and South America had five discoveries each, followed by North America with two discoveries, while the Middle East and Africa had one discovery each in the quarter, according to Offshore Technology website.

Exxon-Mobil's Entry in Pakistan:

American energy giant Exxon-Mobil has joined the offshore oil and gas exploration efforts started by Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC), Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Italian energy giant ENI, according to media reports.

Each company will have 25% stake in the joint venture under an agreement signed at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in May among ExxonMobil, Government Holdings Private Limited (GHPL), PPL, ENI and OGDC.

Exxon-Mobile's entry in Pakistan brings deep offshore drilling technology, its long experience and financial resources to the country. It is expected to accelerate exploration and more discoveries.

Pakistan Oil Basins:

A Pakistan Basin Study conducted in 2009 found that the country has six onshore and two offshore basins; offshore basins being the Indus basin and the Makran basin in the Arabian Sea.

The Indus offshore basin is a rift basin that geologists say developed after the separation of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Jurassic period. It is believed to be the second largest submarine fan system in the world after the Bay of Bengal with high probability of hydrocarbon discoveries.

The Makran Offshore basin is separated from the Indus Offshore basin by Murray ridge, according to Syed Mustafa Amjad's report in Dawn. It is an oceanic and continental crust subduction zone with deepwater trenches and volcanic activity. The basin consists of oceanic crust and periodic emergence of temporary mud islands along the coast suggesting strong evidence of large hydrocarbon deposits.

Pakistan Hydrocarbon Potential:

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Pakistan has 586 TCF (trillion cubic feet) of gas in Pakistan of which 105 TCF is technically recoverable.

In addition to gas deposits, US EIA estimates there are 227 billion barrels of oil in Pakistan with 9.1 billion barrels being technically recoverable.

Pakistan also has 185 billion tons of coal deposits in Thar desert which are just beginning to be extracted by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Corporation.

Oil and Gas exploration and production companies are currently planning to drill 90 wells in different parts of  the country. Under the plan, as many as 50 exploratory and 40 development wells would be drilled in a bid to make the country self-sufficient in the energy sector, according to media reports.

During the last five years, the sources said the exploration and production companies drilled 445 new wells, out of which 221 were exploratory, adding that the increased exploration activities resulted in 116 new oil and gas discoveries.

Current Account Deficits:

Energy imports make up a big chunk of Pakistan's total imports. Rising oil prices worsen the current account deficit and put pressure on Pakistan's reserves, forcing the country to seek periodic IMF bailouts.

Pakistan’s current account deficit has jumped by 50% to a record high of $14.03 billion in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year 2018, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.  The country imported $12 billion worth of energy in 2017. The bill is likely to grow with increasing demand and rising prices in 2018.

Reducing energy imports by increasing domestic production will likely ease Pakistan's current account deficits and reduce its chances of going back to the IMF again and again.

Summary:

Pakistan made 2 key oil and gas discoveries in 3rd quarter and another 3 discoveries in the 4th quarter of 2017. These discoveries appear to have prompted US-based Exxon-Mobil to join off-shore drilling efforts in Pakistan.  American energy giant's entry in Pakistan brings advanced deep sea drilling technology, its long experience in offshore exploration and financial resources to the country. It is expected to accelerate exploration and lead to more discoveries.  US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Pakistan has technically recoverable deposits of 105 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas and 9.1 billion barrels of oil. Reducing energy imports by increasing domestic production will likely ease Pakistan's current account deficits and reduce its need to seek repeated IMF bailouts.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

US EIA Estimates of Oil and Gas in Pakistan

Methane Hydrate Release After Balochistan Quake

Thar Coal Development

Why Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy-Rich Pakistan?

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Veere Di Wedding" Challenges South Asian Social Norms

I had a chance this week to see Veere Di Wedding, the latest Bollywood flick released recently in Silicon Valley, CA. The movie's story revolves around the lives of four childhood friends Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor), Avni (Sonam kapoor), Meera (ShikhaTalsania) and Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar).

The film appears to be India's version of the popular HBO series "Sex and the City" that ran from 1998 to 2004 in the United States. Sex and the City features lives of four unmarried career women living in New York City. The series explores changing women's' roles in American society and how the changes are impacting workplaces and women's relationships with men.

Directed by Shashanka Ghosh, it is a story of four drinking, smoking, foul-mouthed female friends from upscale South Delhi. These are well-educated young women asserting their independence by challenging social norms in a highly patriarchal Indian society.  The behavior and the language of the female characters in the movie has shocked and outraged many in India. The screening of the movie has been banned in Pakistan and slammed by Hindu groups in India.

As the name suggests, Veere Di Wedding (Friend's Wedding) features a wedding, a big fat Indian wedding. It is the celebration of the union of Kalindi with Rishabh (Sumeet Vyas) that brings together the four main female characters. They share their stories and the drama unfolds.

Each of the four characters is defying traditions in their own way with the common thread being refusal to accept arranged marriages within their caste and class. Meera has married an American against her parents' will. Sakshi is a frustrated wife of an Indian man in London when he catches her using a mechanical device to pleasure herself. Avni, a divorce lawyer, is dumped by an Indian man picked by her mother as a "suitable" mate for her.  Kalindi has been happily living with Rishabh in Australia. She only reluctantly agrees to solemnize the relationship upon Rishabh's insistence.

The film and the cast have generated a lot of controversy in both India and Pakistan. Box office receipts so far suggest the controversy has helped sell more tickets.

Swara Bhaskar drew sharp criticism from several Pakistani celebrities for saying  that "Pakistan is a failing state run by sharia laws" and then she added "why should we take pleasure in all the silly things that happen in Pakistan? Apologies to all my Pakistani friends…”

Swara was heavily trolled by right-wing Hindu groups after she protested the rape-murder of an 8 year old Muslim Kashmiri girl Asifa by posting a picture of herself holding a placard that said: “ I am Hindustan. I am Ashamed. 8 years old ! Gangraped! Murdered!! In 'Devi'-sthan temple!!! #Kathua”.

"At least Indians and Pakistanis have finally managed to find something to agree about,” Bhaskar told BuzzFeed News. “Maybe this is the Indo-Pak peace talk we needed.”

Veere Di Wedding is not suitable for moviegoers of all ages. The film would shock and outrage many South Asians for its content. It does, however, begin to explore the possibility of significant social and workplace impact of the growing population of educated career women in the region.  It is recommended for adult audiences who have watched R-rated western movies in the past.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Arif Hasan's Website

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Pakistan Launches NUTech to Prepare 21st Century Workforce

As technology begins to permeate every aspect of life in Pakistan, the country needs a balanced mix of highly skilled workers, technicians, mechanics, technologists, engineers, researchers and development scientists to meet the challenge.  Recent launch of National University of Technology (NUTech) is part of Pakistan government's response to this challenge.

21st Century Workforce:

Pakistan's economy is rapidly transforming from traditional agriculture to modern business and industry.  Accelerating penetration of smartphones, personal computers, flat screens, mobile broadband, indoor plumbing, motorized vehicles, home appliances, air-conditioners, tractors, tube-wells, advanced construction machines and  solar and other technology-based products and services requires a highly skilled workforce to design, manufacture, market, sell, operate and service.

Building this new highly skilled work force must begin with designing curricula and facilities. It also demands a new crop of trainers and educators and closer collaboration between academia and industry.

National University of Technology (NUTech) Campus in Islamanad

NUTech Launch:

National University of Technology (NUTech) has just been launched as a federally chartered institution of higher learning.  It is enrolling students now for its first academic semester starting in September 2018.

NUTech will not only produce hands-on engineers and scientists but it will also serve as an umbrella organization for training skilled technicians and tradespeople to build, service and maintain advanced technology-based plant and equipment.

NUTech will work with a national network of technical and vocational training institutes to produce skilled workers.  It will include representatives of business and industry in design of curricula to ensure these workers meet the needs of the industry.

Specialized Institutions:

Pakistan Air Force's Air University, established in 2002, is an example of a specialized institution aimed at developing human capital in the aviation sector.

Development of a new advanced fighter is a wide-ranging effort that will encompass building human capital in a variety of fields including material science, physics, electronics, computer science, computer software, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, avionics, weapons design, etc.

Air University has added a new campus in Kamra Aviation City. The university already offers bachelor's master's and doctoral degrees in several subjects. Pakistan Air Force Chief Sohail Aman told Quwa Defense News that the campus will “provide the desired impetus for cutting-edge indigenization programs, strengthen the local industry and harness the demands of foreign aviation industry by reducing … imports and promoting joint research and production ventures.”

Higher Education in Pakistan:

There are over 3 million students enrolled in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according to Pakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14.  The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years.  In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA).

Graduation Day at NED Engineering University For 1300 Graduates in 2013
Pakistani universities have been producing over half a million graduates, including over 10,000 IT graduates, every year since 2010, according to HEC data. The number of university graduates in Pakistan increased from 380,773 in 2005-6 to 493,993 in 2008-09. This figure is growing with rising enrollment and contributing to Pakistan's growing human capital.

Source: UNESCO's Global Education Digest 2009



Higher education in Pakistan has come a long way since its independence in 1947 when there was only one university, the University of Punjab. By 1997, the number of universities had risen to 35, of which 3 were federally administered and 22 were under the provincial governments, with a combined enrollment of 71,819 students. A big spending boost by President Pervez Musharraf helped establish 51 new universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008. This helped triple university enrollment from 135,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 in 2008, according to Dr. Ata ur Rehman who led the charge for expanding higher education during Musharraf years. There are 161 universities with 1.5 million students enrolled in Pakistan as of 2014.



Former Chairman of HEC summed up the country's higher education progress well in a piece he wrote for The News in 2012: "Pakistan has achieved critical mass and reached a point of take-off. For this phenomenal growth to continue, it is important for the government and other stakeholders to support and further strengthen the HEC as a national institution and protect its autonomy. If this momentum continues for another 10 years, Pakistan is certain to become a global player through a flourishing knowledge economy and a highly literate population".

Here's an introductory video about National University of Technology (NUTech) Pakistan:

https://youtu.be/ZDQ2dy3cBSY




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

10 Pakistan Universities Among Top 300 in Asia

Pakistan's Growing Human Capital

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Education Attainment in South Asia

Dr. Ata ur Rehman Defends HEC Reforms

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

Business Education in Pakistan

Armed Drones Outrage and Inspire Young Pakistanis

Friday, June 8, 2018

Pakistan Among Top Contributors to Global Plastic Pollution

Pakistan is among the biggest contributors to the 8 million tons of plastic waste that is dumped into the world's oceans every year, says a United Nations Report released on World Environment Day. This year's theme is 'beat plastic pollution'. While disposable plastic bags, bottles and straws are used for a brief time and then thrown away, it takes hundreds of years to decompose them. Fortunately, a Pakistani scientist has discovered a plastic eating microbe to accelerate this degradation process. While it is too early to measure its impact, it could likely prove to be major savior of the planet from growing plastic pollution.

Indus River Plastic Pollution:

A recent study by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research based in Leipzig, Germany says that 90% of plastic flowing into oceans can be traced to 10 rivers. The Indus ranks second on the list, according to media reports. One of Asia's largest rivers, it flows through parts of India and Pakistan into the Arabian Sea, supporting millions of people. While much plastic enters rivers because of a lack of waste infrastructure, sewage systems contribute too.

China's Yangtze River tops the world's ten rivers dumping the most plastic waste into the oceans. It is followed by Indus, Yellow, Hai, Nile, The Ganges, Pearl, Amor/Heilong, Niger and Mekong rivers. Except for Nile and Niger rivers, the rest of the top plastic waste contributors are all in Asia.

FMCG Boom:

Like other developing nations, the plastic waste explosion in Pakistan can be traced to the lack of infrastructure to deal with the consumption boom of branded and package foods, beverages and other products known as fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).

"Developing regions simply don't have the tax revenue for supporting waste management–these communities struggle to provide access to water,” according to Andrew Almack, CEO of Plastics for Change,  as quoted by the Globe and Mail. “We need to focus on creating markets for the waste and ultimately creating dignified employment to reduce plastic pollution."

Disposing Plastic Waste:

"Halving the plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would already be a major success," says Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. Schmidt was lead author on the study that identified the 10 rivers as the main polluters.

Dr. Sehroon Khan, a Pakistani scientist, has discovered plastic eating bacteria in an Islamabad landfill which accelerate decomposition of plastics. His team particularly focused on breaking down polyurethane (PU) which is used to manufacture a wide variety of everyday objects and components, including tires, condoms, hoses, supermarket trolleys, car suspension bushings, etc.

 Dr. Khan who led the study by the World Agroforestry Centre and Kunming Institute of Biology explained the start of the study as follows: “We decided to take samples from a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan, to see if anything was feeding on the plastic in the same way that other organisms feed on dead plant or animal matter”.

It is too early to gauge the impact of Dr. Khan's discovery. However, it does offer hope that the solutions to the growing menace of plastic pollution are within reach.

Summary:

The Indus River flowing through Pakistan has become the second largest contributor to plastic pollution in the oceans. FMCG consumption boom has exacerbated this problem. Pakistan needs to be build the necessary infrastructure to collect and recycle this plastic waste.  Fortunately, a Pakistani scientist has discovered a plastic eating microbe to accelerate this degradation process. While it is too early to measure its impact, it could likely prove to be major savior of the planet from growing plastic pollution.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Eleven Days in Karachi

FMCG Boom in Pakistan

Burn Garbage to Make Electricity

State of Air 2017: India and Pakistan Among Most Polluted

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

South Asia's Rising Consumption Amid Declining Resources

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fighting Hunger in the Holy Month of Ramzan

Going without food and water from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramzan heightens Muslims' empathy for the  world's 800 million hungry. It drives Islamic philanthropy in the form of fitra, sadaqa and zakat during this month of fasting and prayer.  This annual giving puts Pakistan among the ranks of the most generous in the world.  As the faithful choose who to give, it is important to support organized philanthropy that seeks to end local and world hunger in a systemic way. It requires understanding the causes of local and global hunger. It can also inspire social entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to world hunger.

Affordability and Security:

The world produces far more food than needed to feed its entire population of 7.6 billion people today. Yet, there is hunger in many parts of the world with 800 million people going hungry globally. There are two main reasons for it: Affordability and Conflict. The true cost of a meal should be calculated in terms of the percentage of average daily income in each location. By this measure, food is most affordable in North America and Europe and most expensive in Africa. The continent of Africa suffers both the crises of war and affordability.  People going hungry in parts of the Middle East, particularly Syria and Yemen, are also victims of ongoing conflicts.

Simple Meal Cost as Percentage of Average Daily Income. Source: WFP

Basic Meal:

A simple meal consisting of daal (pulses), vegetables, roti (bread) and chawal (rice) costs 7.6% of average daily income in Pakistan, according to a World Food Program report. It is more expensive than the cost of a similar meal in Bangladesh (5.4%), India (4.5%) and Myanmar (7%).  But it is cheaper than Nepal (13%) and Tajikistan (15%).

The costs in Asia and Africa are far higher than the cost of a similar simple meal of just 0.6% of average daily income in New York.  The highest food costs are in the African nations of Malawi (45%) and South Sudan (155%).

Social Entrepreneurs Fight Hunger:

Tons of perfectly good food is discarded daily by restaurants and supermarkets when it reaches its stamped expiration date. It is the same story with leftover prepared food after corporate lunches and dinners and parties. Hannah Dehradunwala and Komal Ahmad, both Pakistani-American, have developed apps to match excess food with those in need of food.

Hannah Dehradunwala co-founded Transfernation, a nonprofit startup with the aim of alleviating hunger beginning with New York City and Karachi. She has partnered with a fellow NYU student Samir Goel, an American of Indian descent. It's essentially an app and a website that enable leftover food at restaurants and corporate events to be distributed to the hungry.

 At this year's conference of Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Komal Ahmad of Copia described how her company is helping solve hunger by reducing waste of millions of tons of perfectly good, healthy and edible surplus food. Her company's smartphone app matches those with excess food with those in need of food. The idea was born when  Komal saw University of California at Berkeley's cafeteria regularly throwing away un-eaten food. It took her a couple of hours to persuade the cafeteria director to donate the food instead of throwing it away. His main concern was liability if someone ate the food and got sick and sued the university. Komal explained to him that a good samaritan law protects donors from liability in such cases. That was the key to getting him to agree to begin donating surplus food to charity.

Komal's business helps donors, recipients and Copia as the match-maker. Donors get tax deduction for the in-kind donation, the hungry get fed and Copia receives a commission for their work.  Cpoia is a Y Combinator company. It received its seed funding from Pakistani-American Amar Hanafi, a charter member of OPEN, Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs.

Local Charity in Pakistan:

Pakistanis donate generously to local charities in the country in the form of religiously mandated donations such as "zakat, sadaqa and fitrana".  One of the key measures of empathy is generosity to others, the kind of generosity demonstrated in Pakistan by the likes of  late Abul Sattar Edhi. The Edhi Foundation set up by the great man is funded mainly by small donations from ordinary people in Pakistan.

 Anatol Lieven, author of "Pakistan: A Hard Country" wrote the following tribute to the Mr. Edhi:

"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its elected representatives - and to see the flag of Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality."  

What Professor Anatol Lieven describes as "human religion and human morality" is the very essence of the Huqooq-ul-Ibad (Human Rights) in Islam. Abdus Sattar Edhi understood it well when he said, "there's no religion higher than humanity".

Edhi understood the meaning of what the Quran, the Muslim holy book, says in chapter 2 verse 177:

"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteous is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."

A recent article written by Shazia M. Amjad and Muhammad Ali and published in Stanford Social Innovation Review said that "Pakistan is a generous country. It contributes more than one percent of its GDP to charity, which pushes it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP), and around twice what India gives relative to GDP."

OECD says corporate donations in Pakistan have increased from  $4.5 million to $56.4 million over the last 15 years. Corporate donations are dwarfed by individual donations made as zakat, sadaqa and fitrana as commanded by the Quran.

In addition to zakat, sadaqa and fitrana, Pakistanis spent about $3.5 billion on Eid ul Azha in 2017, according to analysts. This included sacrifice of $2.8 billion worth of livestock and another $700 million on clothes,  shoes, jewelry and various services. This amount represent a huge transfer of wealth from urban to rural population, including many rural poor, in the country. It also brings philanthropic donations of Rs. 2.5 billion to Rs. 3 billion ($25-30 million) worth of animal hides which are sold to the nation's leather industry.

Empathy Study:

A Michigan State University (MSU) study of 63 countries finds that Pakistanis have higher empathy for others than people in their neighboring countries. It also finds that the United States is among the most empathetic nations in the world.





The MSU researchers, led by William J. Chopik,  analyzed the data from an online survey on empathy completed by more than 104,000 people from around the world.

The survey measured people’s compassion for others and their tendency to imagine others’ point of view. Countries with small sample sizes were excluded (including most nations in Africa). All told, 63 countries were ranked in the study, according to MSUToday, a publication of Michigan State University.

Summary:

The month of Ramzan heightens Muslims' empathy for the  world's 800 million hungry. It drives Islamic philanthropy in the form of fitra, sadaqa and zakat during this month of fasting and prayer.  This annual giving puts Pakistan among the ranks of the most generous in the world.  It can also inspire social entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to world hunger.

Pakistanis are among the most generous people in the world.   They contributes more than one percent of the nation's GDP to charity, which pushes Pakistan into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP), and around twice what India gives relative to GDP, according to Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Average Pakistanis continue to be empathetic and generous in spite of the violence and the terror they have endured for over a decade. It can only be attributed to the strength of their faith and their adherence to what Prof. Lieven describes as "the truth of human religion and human morality".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Study Says Pakistanis Have Higher Empathy Than Neighbors

Comparing Median Wealth and Income in India and Pakistan

Eid ul Azha Economy

Foreign Aid Pouring in India

Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Islam

Philanthropy in Pakistan

Panama Leaks Scandal

Misaq-e-Madina Guided Quaid-e-Azam's Vision of Pakistan

Interfaith Relations in Islam


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Pakistan Among World's Top 10 Tax Losing Countries

Pakistan ranks among the top 10 countries in terms of tax revenue losses due to corporate tax avoidance, according to UN World Institute for Development Economics.  World Economic Forum estimates that the country lost $10.4 billion in taxes last year.




Top 10 Tax Losers:

The top 10 countries losing the most tax revenue in absolute terms as listed by the World Economic Forum are USA ($188.8 billion), China ($66.8 billion), Japan ($46.1 billion), India ($41.2 billion), Argentina ($21.4 billion), France ($19.8 billion), Germany ($15 billion), Pakistan ($10.4 billion), Indonesia ($6.5 billion) and the Philippines ($6.4 billion).



Pakistan and Argentina top this list of 10 in terms of tax revenue lost as percentage of GDP.  Both lose 3.5% of their GDP in corporate tax avoidance, according to World Economic Forum.

Tax Evasion at the Top:

Tax evasion in Pakistan starts at the top. A large number politicians, including ministers and party leaders in the nation's parliament, do not bother to file tax returns or pay taxes.

A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP) identified 461 members in national and provincial assemblies who did not pay income taxes in 2015. This figure includes ministers and other prominent political leaders. Federal Board of Revenue found that many of the 550 lawmakers (54%) falsely claimed they paid taxes.

Elections Act 2017:

Whatever little accountability that exists is now being eroded by Elections Act 2017. 

The nomination forms of candidates for national and provincial assemblies in Pakistan have been redesigned this year to remove all questions on assets, income taxes paid or owed, bank loan defaults, foreign residency (iqama) and  educational qualifications.  This was done based on Pakistan Elections Act 2017 that became law on October 2, 2017 in the wake of several disqualifications from holding office or being a legislator. 

Many legislators from across the political spectrum have  been caught lying on their nomination forms filed in prior elections. Some have been disqualified for false financial declarations while others have been removed for lying about their foreign residency visas (iqama), dual nationality or education. 

Impact on National Development: 

Tax evasion in Pakistan exacerbates budget deficits and forces the government to borrow heavily. It also impacts critical spending on education, health and infrastructure. The result is slow economic growth and persistence of poor socioeconomic indicators. 

Summary:

Pakistan's tax revenue loss of $10.4 billion is ranked among the world's top 10 countries losing tax revenue. Losses of 3.5% of GDP in taxes put Pakistan at number 1 among these countries. Legislators, including government ministers, are among the most prominent tax evaders in the country. Elections Act 2017 limiting financial transparency makes it more difficult to hold the politicians accountable for tax evasion and other financial malfeasance. These developments don't augur well for development or democracy in the country. 

Here's World Economic Forum video on tax evasion:

https://youtu.be/Xe-GSM1k9Ag




  

Saturday, June 2, 2018

US DoD 1999 Forecast: "Pakistan Disappears By 2015"

Asia 2025, a US Defense Department Study produced in summer of 1999, forecast that Pakistan would "disappear" as an independent state by 2015. It further forecast that Pakistan would become part of a "South Asian Superstate" controlled by India as a "regional hegemon".  Two Indian-American "South Asia experts" contributed to this study.  Much of the forecast in its "New South Asian Order" section appears to be wishful thinking of its Indian contributors.



New South Asian Order:

Here are the Key Points of Pentagon's Asia 2025 Report on South Asia region:

1. Pakistan is "near collapse" in 2010 while India is making "broad progress".

2.  Iranian "moderation" in 2010 while Afghanistan remains "anarchic hotbed".

3. Pakistan is "paralyzed" after an "Indo-Pak war 2012".

4. US launches conventional strike on "remaining Pakistan nukes" after the "Indo-Pak war 2012.

5. China "blinks at US-India Collusion".

6. Pakistan "disappears".



Indian-American Contributors: 

The list of people who contributed to this study included two Indian-Americans:  Ashley Tellis and Rajan Memon. Both of these gentlemen are considered "leading South Asia experts" in the United States.  Much of the forecast in "New South Asia Order" appears to be wishful thinking of these two Indian-American contributors.

Ashley J. Tellis is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues.  He was with the US government think tank  RAND Corp at the time the Asia 2025 report was written.

Rajan Menon is currently professor of political science at the City University of New York. He was teaching at Lehigh University back in 1999.



Earlier Forecasts of Pakistan's "Collapse":

Western and Indian forecasts of Pakistan's collapse are not new.  Lord Mountbatten, the British Viceroy of India who oversaw the partition agreed with the assessment of Pakistan made by India's leaders when he described Pakistan as a "Nissen hut" or a "temporary tent" in a conversation with Jawarhar Lal Nehru.

Here's the exact quote from Mountbatten: "administratively it [wa]s the difference between putting up a permanent building, a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more." The Brits and the Hindu leadership of India both fully expected Pakistan to fold soon after partition.




Dire Post-911 Forecasts of Pakistan's Demise: 

Many western analysts have forecast Pakistan's demise as Pakistan struggles to deal with terrorism at home. Among them is former President George W. Bush's adviser David Kilcullen.

"We're now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover -- that would dwarf everything we've seen in the war on terror today", said Bush Iraq adviser, David Kilcullen, on the eve of Pakistan Day in 2009 commemorating Pakistan Resolution of 1940 that started the Pakistan Movement leading to the creation of the nation on August 14, 1947. Kilcullen is not alone in the belief that Pakistani state is in danger of collapse.

Others, such as Shahan Mufti of the Global Post, argued in 2009 that Pakistan is dying a slow death with each act of terrorism on its soil.

Resilient Pakistan:

Pakistan has defied many dire forecasts of doom and gloom since its birth. Some Indian and western writers and journalists present caricatures of Pakistan that bear no resemblance to reality.  They portray Pakistan as a artificial and deeply divided failed state. What they fail to see is  Pakistan is not one or two dimensional; it's much more complex as explained by Christophe Jaffrelot in his book "The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience".

Political, military, religious, ethnic, sectarian, secular,  conservative and liberal forces are constantly pushing and pulling to destabilize it but Pakistan remains resilient with its strong nationalism that has evolved after 1971. Pakistan is neither a delusion nor owned by mullahs or military as claimed by some of Pakistan's detractors.

In a 2015 Op Ed for NDTV titled "What Modi Has Not Recognized About Pakistan", Indian politician Mani Shankar Aiyar recognized Pakistani nationalism as follows:

"..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".

Summary:

A 1999 US Defense Department study titled "Asia 2025" forecast Pakistan's collapse by 2015.  It further said that Pakistan would become part of a "South Asian Superstate" controlled by India as a "regional hegemon". Two of the study's contributors were "South Asia experts" of Indian origin. Much of the South Asia section of this study appears to be wishful thinking rather than serious analysis.  Resilient Pakistan has defied this and many other similar forecasts of its demise since its birth. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pakistani Politicians Change Election Law to Escape Accountability

Pakistan Elections Act 2017 passed by the National Assembly has removed the requirements for key disclosures relating to the ownership of assets, income taxes paid or owed, bank loan defaults, foreign residency (iqama) and  educational qualifications of the candidates for national and provincial legislatures in the upcoming elections. This came in October 2017 after several members of the national parliament were caught lying and subsequently disqualified by the courts under Articles 62 and 63 of Pakistan's constitution. Those disqualified include top politicians like former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the PMLN party and PTI leader and parliamentarian Jahangir Tareen.

Politicians Dominate Off-shore Company Owners in Panama Leaks 


Nomination Disclosures:

The nomination forms of candidates for national and provincial assemblies in Pakistan have been redesigned this year to remove all questions on assets, income taxes paid or owed, bank loan defaults, foreign residency (iqama) and  educational qualifications.  This was done based on Pakistan Elections Act 2017 that became law on October 2, 2017 in the wake of several disqualifications from holding office or being a legislator. 

Many legislators from across the political spectrum have  been caught lying on their nomination forms filed in prior elections. Some have been disqualified for false financial declarations while others have been removed for lying about their foreign residency visas (iqama), dual nationality or education. 

Corrupt Politicians:


A study by Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP) identified 461 members in national and provincial assemblies who did not pay income taxes in 2015. This figure includes ministers and other prominent political leaders. Federal Board of Revenue found that many of the 550 lawmakers (54%) falsely claimed they paid taxes.

Switzerland-based World Economic Forum estimates that Pakistan loses over $10 billion in tax revenue every year. The country's lost tax revenue puts it at number 8 among the top 10 countries with biggest tax losses.

Recent British National Crime Agency (NCA) report identified politicians from developing countries and their families as the biggest culprits of money laundering.  The report listed Pakistan, Nigeria and Russia as the top source countries for money laundering in the United Kingdom, according to British media reports. The NCA report says the UK is a prime destination for foreign corrupt and politically exposed people (politicians and their families) to launder money.

Evidence from a number of recent reports released in the West suggests that politicians in developing nations engage in massive corruption to siphon money out of their countries to build family fortunes in the West.

One indication of it came with the Panama Papers leak that was dominated by politicians.  Mossack Fonseca's 11.5 million leaked internal files contained information on more than 214,000 offshore entities tied to 12 current or former heads of state, 140 politicians, including Pakistan's now ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family.  Icelandic Prime Minister resigned voluntarily and Pakistani Prime Minister was forced out by the country's Supreme Court.

The Panama list included showbiz and sports celebrities, lawyers, entrepreneurs,  businessmen, generals, journalists and other occupations but it was heavily dominated by politicians.

The multi-trillion dollar massive net outflow of money from the poor to the rich countries has been documented by the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI). This flow of capital has been described as "aid in reverse". It has made big headlines in Pakistan and elsewhere since the release of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Leaks which revealed true owners of offshore assets held by anonymous shell companies. Bloomberg has reported that Pakistanis alone own as much as $150 billion worth of undeclared assets offshore.

Conspiracy Theories:

Pakistani politicians' response to evidence of financial corruption and money laundering has been essentially to distract attention and to cover up. While ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party are spinning conspiracy theories to distract attention from their misdeeds, the Pakistani parliament is passing laws to reduce transparency and increase opacity by eliminating financial and other disclosure requirements as part of election process.

Summary:

Pakistani politicians have responded to disqualifications for lying on their nomination papers by passing laws to do away with the requirement for financial and other disclosures. Such a move further reinforces the public distrust in the political class to govern honestly and put the interest of the people above their own interest. Such laws to reduce transparency do not augur well for the future of democracy in Pakistan.