Saturday, February 27, 2021

Construction and Manufacturing Driving Double-Digit Growth in Pakistan Cement and Steel Production

Pakistan steel production grew by 13.3% in 2020,  the second fastest among the top 40 steel producing countries, according to data published by the World Steel Association. At the same time, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics revealed that the nation's steel imports rose by 18% year-over-year. The demand for steel was driven by construction and manufacturing sectors which are leading Pakistan's economic recovery. 

World Steel Production. Source: World Steel Association

Pakistan steel-makers produced 3.7 million tons of steel in 2020, up 13.2% from 3.2 million tons in 2019. Neighboring India saw 10.6% decline in steel production in the same period. Global steel production declined 0.9% in 2020. Pakistan also imported $2.1 billion worth of iron, steel and scrap in the first 7 months (July 2020- January 2021) of the current fiscal year.  It's a jump of 18% from the same period in prior fiscal year.  Pakistan steel industry reached peak production of 5 million tons in 2017 before declining to 4.7 million tons in 2018 and 3.3 million tons in 2019. 

Construction boom helped Pakistan grow its domestic cement consumption by 17% in the first 7 months (July 2020-January 2021) of the current fiscal year. Domestic cement sales rose to 27.65 million tons in this period, while exports grew by 10.23% to 5.71million tons from 5.186 million tons in the same period last year.  The total cement sales (local and exports) were 33.36 million tons,  up 15.77% over the corresponding period of the last fiscal year.  

Related Links: 

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

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Pakistan's Response to COVID19 Pandemic

Pakistan Tech Exports

Pakistan Digital Economy Surged 69% Amid Covid19 Pandemic

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Najam Sethi on Desperation in PDM Ranks

India's Firehose of Falsehoods Against Pakistan

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Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Can SEZ Industrial Parks Help Pakistan Become an Export Powerhouse?

Asian Tigers built their strong economies by becoming export powerhouses. China has done so in more recent decades.  How can Pakistan do the same? An answer to this question came this week from Karen Chen of China's Challenge Apparel. Here's what she said as reported by Dawn News:

“Chinese want to shift their business to a place where they can set up their operations in 3-6 months. You know when you go overseas to invest even in Africa they have industrial parks ready. You just go there and enjoy the ‘plug-and-play’ facility. No firm wants to waste two years in acquiring land and another couple of years in securing utilities to start operations. By the time you get utilities the opportunity is gone and you are already out of business. This is the biggest problem in Pakistan.”


Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation Building in Karachi



Pakistan was the original "Asian Tiger" back in the 1960s when other developing Asian economies sought to emulate Pakistan. It became an export powerhouse in the 1960s when the country's manufactured exports exceeded those of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined.  The creation of major industrial estates in Karachi under President Ayub Khan's industrial policy incentivized industrial production and exports of value added manufactured products such as textiles. Now the country's industrial output lags its neighbors'. 

History of Pakistan's Manufactured Exports


With Chinese looking to relocate some of their industrial production to low-cost countries, Pakistan has a golden opportunity to grow its industrial output and exports again. Here's Karen Chen explaining why:

“Vietnam is too crowded already and moved into automobiles and electronics. There is no space for investment in Vietnam. Myanmar doesn’t have infrastructure. India is terrible. In Bangladesh you don’t have right conditions for setting up fabric units. So Pakistan is the ideal location for such garment manufacturing because of abundance of cheaper labour. The investment and tax policies for SEZs and new projects are also good. We’ve confidence to be at here.”

Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Imran Khan Government's Midterm Review: Economy and Foreign Policy

Imran Khan's government has completed about half of its 5-year term it won in 2018. What are its accomplishments? Where has it failed in terms of economy and foreign policy. 

Economy:

Imran Khan inherited a serious balance of payments crisis cased by flat exports and record high imports in 2013-2018 period under Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government. while the PTI government was still dealing with it, the country and the world were hit by COVID19 pandemic that devastated the global economy. 

Pakistan's Trade July2020-Jan2021. Source: Arif Habib


The 2019 International Monetary Fund's bailout required the PTI government to significantly devalue the Pakistani rupee to make exports competitive, and to raise interest rates to slow down imports. These actions triggered inflation, particularly food inflation, as energy and fertilizer prices rose. 

The global COVID19 pandemic hit Pakistan and the world while the PTI government was still trying to stabilize the economy. The global economy slowed down as a result of lockdowns imposed around the world to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. It impacted South Asian economies but Pakistan was thankfully spared the worst of it. 

Pakistan Vehicle Sales 1H FY20-21. Source: Arif Habib


Now Pakistani economy is finally stabilizing and a strong recovery is underway. The recovery is led particularly by the construction and manufacturing sector as evident from double digit increases in cement consumption and large scale manufacturing growth. 

Cement Sales in Pakistan. Source: Bloomberg

Foreign Policy:

One of Pakistan's key foreign policy successes is the US-Taliban Peace Deal. But now there is uncertainty surrounding it with the inauguration of President Joseph Biden. Biden's election and the growing rivalry between US and rising China have changed the calculus in South Asia and the Middle East regions, impacting Pakistan. Former President Trump's erratic behavior has also contributed to it. 

Based on Biden's record as Obama's vice president, it is expected that the new US president will continue to support a stable Pakistan. A suggestion that has been made by former State Department officials Shumaila Chaudhry and Vali Nasr is for the US to take advantage of Pakistan's free trade deal with China by setting up value-added re-export units in the country. 

Please watch this discussion with Faraz Darvesh as host and Dr. Owais Saleem, Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq as panelists:

https://youtu.be/Cse9j72H1cU



Related Links:


Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan Tech Exports Soaring

COVID19 Pandemic

Pakistan's Balance of Payments Crises

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Pakistan Remittance Soar 21X

Pakistan's Growing Human Capital

Two Million Pakistanis Entering Job Market Every Year

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Development Boom in Thar Brings Hope For Pakistan's Least Developed Region

New roads, an airport and a water reservoir in Tharparkar are opening up Pakistan's least developed region. Jobs are being created, drought-resistant nutritious trees and crops being planted and fish farms being established for the benefit of the the people of Thar. New water pond is attracting migratory birds that feed on fish. 

Tharparkar Peacock


Underground Water: 

Fortunately for the people of Thar, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company has discovered significant amount of underground water, the most precious commodity in drought-hit Tharparkar region of Pakistan.  Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SECMC and Thar Foundation was quoted by Business Recorder as saying, “While carrying out hydrogeological studies for Thar coal project, we found out abundant water reserves of groundwater at the depth of 450 plus feet in the whole of the desert region." The available water in Thar has the potential to irrigate thousands of acres of land by applying modern watering methods such as drip and sprinkler systems, he added. 

Rizvi said in collaboration with Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization of Karachi University, Thar Foundation has produced commercially viable amounts of Apple Ber, guava, dates, Rhodes Grass (for livestock feed), Castor (cooking) Oil, Cluster Bean (guar), and vegetables. Utilizing the underground saline water, the foundation has piloted a 40-acre plot of land to grow fruits, vegetables, and local grass species and established Sindh’s largest private sector nursery which nurtures 500,000 saplings at a time. It has also set up a 68-acre Green Park which has grown local species of trees that comprises Neem, Babur, Roheero, Kandi, Moringa, and other species.

Gorano Pond has begun to attract a lot of migratory birds that feed on fish. Some species, the report said, have even started nesting on the partly submerged tree tops, according to the Turkish Andolu News Agency

Moringa Trees Fight Malnutrition:

Aga Khan University and Sindh Agriculture University are jointly promoting Moringa tree planting in Pakistan's Thar desert to fight malnutrition, according to multiple media reports. Moringa has gained popularity as superfood in the West in recent years. People of drought-stricken Tharparkar have been suffering from malnutrition and disease in the middle of a long-running drought in the region. Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, and the Aga Khan University will plant 40,000 moringa tree seedlings in Matiari, a rural district in central Sindh, in an effort to improve the health of malnourished mothers, children and adolescents in the area. The moringa tree plantation campaign has been funded by the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment, a $10 million fund dedicated to practical solutions to environmental problems.  

Moringa tree packs 92 essential nutrients, 46 antioxidants, 36 anti-inflammatories and 18 amino acids which help your body heal and build muscle. Native to South Asia, the hardy and drought-resistant Moringa tree can contribute to everything from better vision and stronger immune system to healthier bones and skin. Moringa has 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas and nine times more protein than yoghurt,  according to Dr. Shahzad Basra of the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan. “It also has seven times more vitamin C compared to oranges, over 10 times more vitamin A compared to carrots and three times more vitamin E compared to almonds", he added. No wonder the powder made from Moringa leaves is sold as superfood in the West. Global market for Moringa products is estimated at $5 billion and growing at 8% CAGR. 

Fish Production For Protein:

Dewatering operation of the deep aquifers underneath the coal deposits has discovered large amounts of water which has been removed and pumped into a lake called Gorano Pond. This has opened up  organic fish farming in the region. 


Gorano is 35 KMs south of the Islamkot Taulka where an artificial reservoir of 1500 Acres was established, according to Business Recorder.  Dewatering started in April 2017 from SECMC coal mine and so far, 600 Acres of the reservoir have been filled with water. More than 100,000 fish-seedlings (3-4inches in size) were initially released and within 8-9 months with full grown fish reaching more than 1Kg in weight only on natural feed (Zooplanktons, Phytoplanktons, Algae and other marine insects available in Pond) and were declared fit for consumption by an external laboratory.

Jobs For Locals:

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.

When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar,  Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper. SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn newspaper.

Private Sector's Role in Thar:

Most of the social sector improvement effort in Tharparkar is part of what is known as "Corporate Social Responsibility" (CSR). It is led by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Co (SECMC), and the Thar Foundation, funded by SECMC. SECMC is joint venture of Engro Corporation (Dawood Group) and Sindh government.  The Thar Foundation is a special department under SECMC that serves as the CSR office of the Thar project, and handles all the CSR work in the entire Thar area on behalf of all the funding parties. Also helping out are Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund & several universities in Sindh, including Karachi University, Aga Khan University and Tando Jam Agriculture University.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pakistani-American Doctor Fired For Giving Away Expiring COVID19 Vaccine

Dr. Hasan Gokal, Pakistani-American medical director of Harris County COVID Response Team, has been charged with stealing COVID19 Moderna vaccine and fired from his job, according to media reports.  Dr. Gokal's "crime" is to give away unused coronavirus vaccine doses that would have expired and lost if not used within hours. A Texas judge has dismissed charges against him. 

Dr. Hasan Gokal

Each vial of Moderna vaccine has 10 doses. Once it is punctured, the vaccine expires within 6 hours. After administering COVID19 vaccine to all the front-line healthcare workers who showed up for their appointment, Gokal gave the remaining expiring doses of the vaccine to acquaintances and strangers, including a bed-bound woman in her 90s, a woman in her 80s with dementia, several men and women in their 60s and 70s with health issues, and a mother with a child on a ventilator, according to New York Times. After midnight and just minutes before the vial would expire, the final person called and said he wouldn’t make it. Gokal turned to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that causes shortness of breath, and gave her the last dose.

Even after dismissal of charges against him, Dr. Gokal still doesn’t have a job and instead volunteers at a nonprofit health clinic. Now his lawyer is pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit, according to ABC Channel13. “An apology by Harris County Public Health and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office towards Dr. Gokal and his family will not be enough,” Paul Doyle, Gokal’s lawyer, told the news outlet.

Dr. Gokal is among thousands of Pakistani-American doctors who have been at the forefront of saving lives in the middle of the devastating COVID19 pandemic that has taken over 400,000 American lives so far. Among them is Dr. Syra MadadPakistani-American head of New York City’s Health and Hospitals System-wide Special Pathogens Program, who is featured in a 6-part Netflix documentary series "Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak".

Pakistani-American doctors are the 3rd largest among foreign-educated doctors in America. Among the notable names of Pakistani-American doctors engaged in the fight against Covid-19 are: Dr. Saud Anwar in Connecticut, Dr. Gul Zaidi in New York and Dr. Umair Shah in Texas. Their work has received positive media coverage in recent weeks.

Dr. Saud Anwar, a Connecticut pulmonologist and state senator, came up with a ventilator splitter to deal with the shortages of life-saving equipment. Dr. Gul Zaidi, an acute-care pulmonologist in Long Island, was featured in a CBS 60 Minutes segment on how the doctors are dealing with unprecedented demands to save lives. Dr. Umair Shah was interviewed about his work by ABC TV affiliate in Houston, Texas.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

The White Tiger: An Incisive Social Commentary on Religion, Caste, Class and Democracy in India

Few films about India offer the kind of incisive social commentary that the recently released "The White Tiger" does. Based on a novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga, it tells  the story of a poor but ambitious young man from a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The film touches on religion, caste, class and democracy in India. It is directed by Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani and now available on Netflix. 

The White Tiger: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao


The movie opens with a scene showing Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) looking back at his life. It follows up with a series of long flashbacks to tell his story. Along the way, Balram sarcastically compares India's democracy with China's sanitation system. “If I were in charge of India, I’d get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy.” Numerous scenes in the film illustrate poor sanitation in India by showing Balram and others squatting and defecating in the open

Raised in an Indian village, Balram is determined to rise above his "halwai" (confectioner) caste in India's rigidly defined caste system which makes any such escape extremely difficult. He persuades a corrupt landlord known as the Stork (Mahesh Manjrekar) and his son Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) to give him a job as a back-up driver.  Ashok is married to Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), a chiropractor who grew up in the United States.   

Balram soon replaces the primary driver (Girish Pal) by revealing his Muslim identity which he was hiding to work for the Islamophobic Stork. Balram spends most of his time working for Ashok.  Ashok’s older brother, referred to as Mukesh Sir or the Mongoose (Vijay Maurya), doesn't  particularly like Balram. Unlike Ashok who has studied abroad, the Mongoose character accepts India’s culture of corruption and participates in it willingly. The Mongoose visits Delhi regularly to help Ashok distribute bags full of cash to politicians and bureaucrats. He also helps Ashok deal with his sadness when Pinky suddenly leaves him to return to the United States.  

The White Tiger is a well-made film. I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the real life in India

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Haq's Musings

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Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Rich Pakistanis Among World's Top Nationalities Migrating Abroad

Rich Pakistanis ranked third in the world for making inquiries to migrate abroad last year, according to a report by Henley and Partners. High net worth individuals (HNWIs) from India topped the list of those seeking to migrate, followed by Americans and Pakistanis. Pakistan is among nations that experienced "significant wealth outflows" in 2019, according to Afrasia Bank.  There has been a 25% increase in the number of HNWIs enquiring about citizenship-by-investment as opposed to residence-by-investment programs since the coronavirus was first reported nearly a year ago, indicating that wealthy international investors are considering a more permanent change.    

Pakistan Among Countries With Significant Wealth Outflow. Source: Afrasia Bank


In 2019, the UAE initiated a new system for investment-based long-term residence visa called Iqama. It enables foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need of a national sponsor and with 100% ownership of their business on the UAE’s mainland. These visas are issued for 5 or 10 years and will be renewed automatically.

Several countries in Europe and the Caribbean are offering residency visas or a second passport and citizenship. Popular destinations include New Zealand, the Caribbean Islands, Portugal, Malta, Spain, Cyprus and Greece. Requirements for investment-based citizenship vary from country to country but is usually about 10 years of continuous residency. Some countries, like Greece, offer citizenship after a shorter period of 7 years.  Others have no stay requirement at all. European Union (EU) member nations like Cyprus, Greece and Malta offer EU passports. 

Many rich Pakistanis are continuing to flock to the United Kingdom. Recent US FinCEN (Financial Crime Enforcement Network) files show that the United Kingdom (UK) is the biggest global center for money laundering. An earlier report issued by the British Crime Agency put Pakistan among the world's top sources of money laundering in the United Kingdom. 

FinCEN leaks represent just the tip of an iceberg. The leaked 2,100 FinCEN files covering $2 trillion worth of transactions that ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) and Buzzfeed reporters got their hands on represent just a small sliver of the roughly 12 million SARs FinCEN has received since 2011. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly raised the issue of the West's inaction in stopping the illicit flows of hard currencies from developing nations to the developed world. Money laundering and other financial crimes affect the economic roots of a nation like Pakistan and slow down its human and socioeconomic development.

Related Links:


Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Half a Million Pakistanis Migrating Abroad Each Year

The West Enables Corruption in Developing Nations


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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Modi's Popularity: 69% of Hindu Americans Support Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister

The 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) results confirm the anecdotal evidence of India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's massive popularity among Hindu Americans. The findings of a survey sponsored by Washington-based think tank Carnegie Endowment For International Peace reveal that 69% of Hindu Americans approve of Mr. Modi's performance. 70% of Hindu Americans agree or strongly agree that white supremacy is a threat to minorities in the United States, compared to 79% of non-Hindu Indian American. Regarding Hindu majoritarianism in India, however, the data point to a much sharper divide: only 40% of Hindus agree that Hindu majoritarianism is a threat to minorities, compared to 67% of non-Hindus, according to the 2020 IAAS Survey. 

69% of Hindu Americans Support Modi. Source: Indian American Attitudes Survey 2020

The 7 in 10 approval rating of Mr. Modi by Hindu Indian Americans stands in sharp contrast to that of barely one in five Muslim Indian Americans. Indian American Christians are almost evenly divided: 35 percent disapprove, 34 percent approve, and 30 percent did not express an opinion. Twenty-three percent of respondents without a religious affiliation and 38 percent from other faiths approve of Modi’s performance, respectively. The share of “don’t knows” is the smallest for Hindus and Muslims compared to other religious categories, suggesting that views among respondents of these two faiths are the most consolidated.


The IASS survey sample includes 54 percent Hindus, 13 percent Muslims, 10 percent Christians, 8 percent belonging to other faiths, and 16 percent do not identify with any religion.


Indian Hindu Nationalists in America are well organized. Organizations like Hindu America Foundation (HAF), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) provide funding to congressional candidates who support their ideology and policies. Any Indian American who dares to challenge them faces their wrath, as Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna learned in recent elections. 

Khanna had angered Modi's Hindu American supporters by joining US Congress's Pakistan Caucus and rejecting Hindutva. Democrats like Khanna from the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party are finding it increasingly difficult to support Prime Minister Modi as he ferociously pushes his hateful Hindutva agenda to target minorities. However, vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his extended lock-down and brutal actions in Kashmir. Khanna won by a wide margin in spite of Silicon Valley's Hindu Americans's fierce opposition. 



Monday, February 8, 2021

Geopolitically Important Pakistan Brings China, Russia, US Together For 45-Nation Exercises Hosted by Pak Navy

Pakistan is hosting navies from 45 nations, including the United States, China and Russia, for a joint military exercise named "AMAN 2021" in the North Arabian Sea later this month. This is the first time in a decade that Russian naval ships will attend drills with multiple NATO members. 

The news prompted Indian defense analyst Pravin Sawhney to tweet: "Pakistan Navy Aman 21 exercise brings US, China & Russian navies together - what more needs to be said of Pak’s geopolitical importance in times of change!"

Tweet by Indian Defense Analyst Pravin Sawhney


United Kingdom, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and several countries from the African Union are also among participants of "AMAN 2021" The last time the Russian navy conducted joint military drills with NATO members was in the "Bold Monarch" exercise in 2011, which took place off the coast of Spain, according to Voice of America


US-China Compete For Influence in Pakistan



There was a lot of speculation in the western media about the objectives of Pakistan policies being pursued by China and the United States, the two great powers in Asia region, and their impact on the US-China competition for world dominance. Such speculations was centered on the debt related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the US leverage in IMF bailout of Pakistan that was approved in 2019.

American business publication Wall Street Journal has produced a short video explaining how its staff sees what it describes as "US-China conflict brewing in Pakistan". What is at stake in the battle between China and the United States in Pakistan is the prize of global superpower status. Here are the key points it made back in 2019:

1. The US-China conflict brewing in Pakistan is about global dominance sought by the two great powers.

2. If China succeeds, it could become the new center of global trade. If the US wins, it could frustrate China's push to become a global power. The impact of it will be felt around the world for decades.

3. China has already surpassed the United States as the world's biggest exporter of goods and services.

4. The biggest project in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which China is investing heavily and providing massive loans.

5. China could use the infrastructure built in Pakistan under CPEC to gain access to the Indian Ocean and supplant the United States in Pakistan.

6. CPEC-related spending is sinking Pakistan deeper in debt to China. It could force Pakistan to seek $8 billion to $12 billion bailout by IMF where US is the biggest shareholder with veto power.

7. US does not want the IMF bailout money to be used to repay Chinese debt. Not bailing out Pakistan is not an option because it could cost US an important ally in the region.

8. US could, however, use IMF bailout to limit what Pakistan can borrow from China. Such a condition will achieve the US objective of significantly slowing down CPEC and BRI.

9. Pakistan's dilemma is that it needs both the infrastructure improvements financed by China and the IMF bailout to ease pressure on its dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

10. Whoever wins in Pakistan will become the number one global superpower.


Can US "Spend Them (Chinese) Into Oblivion"?

Here's the Wall Street Journal video:

https://youtu.be/wvw-85CC1t4




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Saturday, February 6, 2021

India Farm Protests: Social Media Expose the Ugly Face of Violent Hindu Extremism

"It’s time to talk about violent Hindu extremism”, said a tweet today from Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris. Referring to a headline about "violent Christian extremism", Harris said "it's all connected". Hindu trolls have launched hateful misogynistic campaign against Harris and other western female celebrities who have recently tweeted in support of farm protesters. 

In response to a Hindu troll accusing Meena Harris of "Hinduphobia", she tweeted: "I'm a Hindu. Stop using religion as a cover for fascism".  

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris

It started when singer Rihanna, who has more than 100 million Twitter followers, tweeted “why aren’t we talking about this?!”, with a link to a news story about an internet blackout at the protest camps where tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting for over two months. Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also tweeted a story about the internet blackout, saying: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” Both drew threats of rape and violence from hordes of Hindu trolls rampaging Twitter.  Some hailed the 2009 violent assault on Rihanna by singer  Chris Brown and said it was well-deserved. 

Meena Harris Tweet. Source: Twitter

"Is Rihanna Muslim" started to trend on Google. Many Hindu trolls talked of links between Rihanna and Muslims, Khalistan and Pakistan and even claimed  Rihanna was paid to tweet in support of farmers. 

Modi's India Leads the World in Internet Censorship


The phenomenon of Hindu trolls issuing threats of violence and rape is not new.  It has been well documented by Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi in a book entitled "I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP's Digital Army" as far as 2017. She found that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows hundreds of twitter accounts regularly tweeting abuses and threats of rape and other forms of physical violence against Indian actors, artists, politicians, journalists, minorities in India and individuals of Pakistani origin.

Until recently, the main target of violent Hindu extremists have been primarily Muslims and liberal Hindus. But now the threats of violence and rape against western celebrities are beginning to expose the ugly face of violent Hindu Nationalism. It is  now getting coverage in mainstream western media. 

Meena Harris is absolutely right in her assertion that "it's all connected". It is a historical fact that Hindu Nationalist ideology draws its inspiration from violent European movements like Fascism and Nazism. B.S. Monnje was the first Hindu nationalist who met Mussolini in 1931. 

Hindu nationalists, now led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, have a long history of admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, including his "Final Solution". In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."  

It is important to note that the vast majority of Indian-Americans vote for Democrats but most still support India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Modi who endorsed former President Trump in 2020 presidential elections. In December 2020, the Carnegie Endowment published a study detailing the political attitudes of Indian Americans: 56 percent of Indian Americans self-identified as Democrats, 22 percent as independents, and 15 percent as Republicans; 72 percent of Indian Americans planned on voting for Biden this election, while 22 percent responded with support for Trump. The same survey found that while Indian American Trump voters and Republicans were much more enthusiastic about Modi, a majority of all Indian Americans supported Modi

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Harvard Scientist Debunks Hindu Nationalists "Racial Purity" Myth

Male ancestors of the vast majority of present-day South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis) came from West Eurasia, Central Asia and Iran, according to the latest DNA research led by Harvard geneticist Dr. David Reich. Reich's team came to this conclusion after studying the Y-chromosomes of present-day Indians. Some Hindu Indian scientists have used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) samples, extracted from the bones of recently discovered ancient skeletal remains of a couple in Rakigarhi in Haryana, to claim the local indigenous origins of all Hindus. Y-chromosomes are passed from father to son while mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to children. The Harvard team's findings thoroughly debunk Hindu Nationalists' "racial purity" myth similar to that promoted by White Supremacist racists in the West.  Reich writes: "The Hindutva ideology that there was no major contribution to Indian culture from migrants from outside South Asia is undermined by the fact that approximately half of the ancestry of Indians today is derived from multiple waves of mass migration from Iran and the Eurasian steppe within the last five thousand years". 

David Reich's "Who We Are"

Reich's Indian counterparts were highly resistant to the Harvard team findings of foreign origins of modern-day South Asians. Here's an excerpt from David Reich's "Who We Are and How We Got Here":     

"Based on their own mitochondrial DNA studies, it was clear to them (Indians) that the great majority of mitochondrial DNA lineages present in India today had resided in the subcontinent for many tens of thousands of years.They did not want to be part of a study that suggested a major West Eurasian incursion into India without being absolutely certain as to how the whole-genome data could be reconciled with their mitochondrial DNA findings. They also implied that the suggestion of a migration from West Eurasia would be politically explosive. They did not explicitly say this, but it had obvious overtones of the idea that migration from outside India had a transformative effect on the (South Asian) subcontinent". 


To see why the Indian researchers believed the acceptance of West Eurasian origins of present-day Hindus would be political explosive, it is important to understand the myth of racial purity that underlies the Hindu Nationalists' racist ideology. Here's an excerpt from a book by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) :

"To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." 


Based on DNA studies, Reich divides Indians into two major groups: Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI). He finds that the ANI have much higher percentage of ancestral DNA from Central Asia and Iran than the ASI.  He also finds links between ancestral DNA and castes in India. Here is an excerpt:

"Groups of traditionally higher social status in the Indian caste system typically have a higher proportion of ANI ancestry than those of traditionally lower social status, even within the same state of India where everyone speaks the same language. For example, Brahmins, the priestly caste, tend to have more ANI ancestry than the groups they live among, even those speaking the same language. Although there are groups in India that are exceptions to these patterns, including well-documented cases where whole groups have shifted social status, the findings are statistically clear, and suggest that the ANI-ASI mixture in ancient India occurred in the context of social stratification".


Could there have been out-of-India migration that might explain common genetic origins of Indians and West Eurasians? This is a possibility raised by Indian researchers in response to the inward migration of West Eurasians to India. Reich doubts it based on the absence of any ASI ancestry in West Eurasia.  Here's how Reich responds to it: 

"Although (Indian researchers) Singh and Thangaraj entertained the possibility of a migration out of India and into points as far west as Europe to explain the relatedness between the ANI and West Eurasian populations, I have always thought, based on the absence of any trace of ASI ancestry in the great majority of West Eurasians today and the extreme geographic position of India within the present-day distribution of peoples bearing West Eurasian–related ancestry, that the shared ancestry likely reflected ancient migrations into South Asia from the north or west". 

Reich specifically refers to the racial purity myths of Nazis and Hindutva ideologues.  Here's an excerpt of his book: 

"The Nazi ideology of a “pure” Indo-European-speaking Aryan race with deep roots in Germany, traceable through artifacts of the Corded Ware culture, has been shattered by the finding that the people who used these artifacts came from a mass migration from the Russian steppe, a place that German nationalists would have despised as a source. The Hindutva ideology that there was no major contribution to Indian culture from migrants from outside South Asia is undermined by the fact that approximately half of the ancestry of Indians today is derived from multiple waves of mass migration from Iran and the Eurasian steppe within the last five thousand years. Similarly, the idea that the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi have ancestry from West Eurasian farmers that Hutus do not—an idea that has been incorporated into arguments for genocide—is nonsense. We now know that nearly every group living today is the product of repeated population mixtures that have occurred over thousands and tens of thousands of years. Mixing is in human nature, and no one population is—or could be—“pure.”"



Light Skin Gene Distribution. Source: PLOS Genetics

Genetic studies of common ancestral origins have also shown that populations of the Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan and North India share a light skin gene (allele of SLC24A5) that occurs in Europe. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

PEACE Cable: Pakistan's Highest Bandwidth Undersea Internet Connection to Africa and Europe

Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) is  96 Tbps (terabits per second), 15,000 km long, privately owned submarine cable that will originate in Karachi, Pakistan and run underwater all the way to Marseilles, France via multiple points in the continent of Africa.  It is being built as part of Digital Silk Road sponsored by China. Cybernet and Jazz are the local landing and global connectivity partners of PEACE Cable System in Pakistan. It will enable high-speed access to a variety of content, cloud computing, gaming and video streaming platforms.  

PEACE Undersea Cable Route. Source: Submarine Cable Networks


The laying of PEACE undersea cable in Pakistan's territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi, according to Nikkei Asia. The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year.   

A 820-kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north  and operational since July, 2018. It is currently being extended to Karachi for connection to PEACE cable. 

Broadband Subscriptions Growth in Pakistan. Source: PTA

When completed, PEACE cable will be Pakistan's 7th highest bandwidth, lowest latency undersea connection to the global Internet system. Currently, there are 6 international submarine cable systems connecting Pakistan, including SMW3, SMW4, SMW5, IMEWE, AAE-1 and TW1. PTCL is the landing party in Pakistan for SMW3, SMW4, AAE-1 and IMEWE cable systems, operates cable landing stations in Karachi. SMW3, SMW4 and IMEWE land at Hawksbay, while AAE-1 lands at Clifton. Transworld Associates Private Limited (Transworld, or TWA) privately owns the TW1 cable system and is a member of the SMW5 consortium. Both TW1 and SMW5 land at Hawksbay and terminate at Transworld's cable landing station in Karachi.  


Pakistan has experienced a huge surge in Internet traffic during the COVID19 pandemic. Cellular Mobile Data usage in the country has soared from 2,545 petabytes in 2019 to 4,498 petabytes in 2020.  Total number of broadband subscriptions in the country has doubled from about 45 million in 2017 to 90 million in 2020,  according to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority




Sunday, January 31, 2021

Pakistani Universities Promoting Moringa to Fight Malnutrition

Aga Khan University and Sindh Agriculture University are jointly promoting Moringa tree planting in Pakistan's Thar desert to fight malnutrition, according to multiple media reports. Moringa has gained popularity as superfood in the West in recent years. People of drought-stricken Tharparkar have been suffering from malnutrition and disease in the middle of a long-running drought in the region. Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, and the Aga Khan University will plant 40,000 moringa tree seedlings in Matiari, a rural district in central Sindh, in an effort to improve the health of malnourished mothers, children and adolescents in the area. The moringa tree plantation campaign has been funded by the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment, a $10 million fund dedicated to practical solutions to environmental problems.  

Moringa Flowers

There is high incidence of stunting and wasting among children in Tharparkar district and elsewhere in rural Sindh due mainly to their very limited diet of daal-roti (lentils and bread) which does not supply essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals for good health and early development. Moringa tree packs 92 essential nutrients, 46 antioxidants, 36 anti-inflammatories and 18 amino acids which help your body heal and build muscle. Native to South Asia, the hardy and drought-resistant Moringa tree can contribute to everything from better vision and stronger immune system to healthier bones and skin. Moringa has 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas and nine times more protein than yoghurt,  according to Dr. Shahzad Basra of the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan. “It also has seven times more vitamin C compared to oranges, over 10 times more vitamin A compared to carrots and three times more vitamin E compared to almonds", he added. No wonder the powder made from Moringa leaves is sold as superfood in the West. Global market for Moringa products is estimated at $5 billion and growing at 8% CAGR. 


Child Nutrition in Pakistan. Source: PDHS

Moringa tree is also known as Drumstick tree. In Pakistan, it is called Suhanjana  (سھانجنا) or Mungay (مونگے) tree. Every part of this tree offers uses in nutritional or commercial applications. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root of the tree all have medicinal properties. Oil from Moringa seeds is used in foods, perfumes and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction can be used as a green fertilizer and also to purify well water and to remove salt from seawater.

The Thar project supported by Aga Khan University goes beyond just planting and growing trees. Its goals include educating the people of its benefits and showing how its leaves and other parts of the tree can be cooked and eaten in the form of curries and sauces, according to a report by Voice of America

In 2017, Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam had planted 5,000 Moringa trees with 500 households for human and animal consumption. These drought-resistant fast growing trees have now matured. Their consumption is showing good results in terms of improving nutrition and health of these 5000 families. 

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