Friday, February 16, 2024

Pakistan Elections: Imran Khan's Supporters Skillfully Used Tech to Defy Powerful Military

Independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party emerged as the largest single block with 93 seats in the nation's parliament in the general elections held on February 8, 2024.  This feat was accomplished in spite of huge obstacles thrown in front of the PTI's top leader Imran Khan and his party leaders and supporters by Pakistan's powerful military to prevent their victory. 

Pakistan's Official Election Results 2024. Source: Aljazeera 

Imran Khan and his top party leaders were thrown in jail on trumped up charges, his party was denied a unified electoral symbol of cricket bat, his supporters' rallies were banned, the mainstream media were prevented from carrying PTI leaders' speeches and the Internet was repeatedly blocked when the party held online events. So how did they succeed in spite of it? The answer lies in how skillfully the PTI activists used technology to get the party's messages out to the country's young electorate. 

Well over 90% of Pakistan's adults have access to the Internet. This allows them to use a variety of  apps ranging from TikTok and YouTube to Facebook, Instagram and X. The PTI supporters used AI (Artificial Intelligence) to produce Imran Khan's speeches using his own voice and words and made them go viral. They used X Spaces to engage with the public. Here's how Uzair Younus, a Pakistani-American analyst at The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based Think Tank, describes what occurred:

"The result of PTI’s technological campaign strategy was a more engaged and informed electorate, which translated into significant electoral gains. Khan’s PTI managed to galvanize a significant part of the electorate, and the party’s success demonstrates the potential of digital tools to democratize political participation and challenge entrenched power structures". 

When it became clear that the PTI was headed for a massive victory with more than half of the 264 National Assembly seats as live results from the polling started to pour in on the evening of February 8, there was a sudden mysterious delay in real time reporting. Most political analysts in Pakistan believe that this delay was ordered by the Pakistani military to rig the results.  This belief is confirmed by the reports that the total votes reported cast for PTI  by the polling stations on "Form 45" add up to a lot more votes than those reported cast on "Form 47" for over 55 constituencies of the National Assembly. These 55 seats plus the officially reported 93 seats add up to 148 seats giving PTI more than half of the total 264 directly elected members in the National Assembly. 

Any coalition government formed by the PTI opponents is unlikely to be stable or long lasting. This unstable situation will likely prolong the deep economic crisis the country now faces. The best course of action for the Pakistani military is to release Imran Khan from jail and allow his party to form the next government. 

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Friday, February 2, 2024

Soaring Illegal Immigration of Indians into the United States

Illegal immigration from India to the United States is soaring. A record 96,917 Indians were detained while attempting to enter the US illegally from October 2022 to September 2023, representing a 50% jump from the corresponding period in the prior year. Vast majority of the arrested Indians came from Prime Minister Modi's state of Gujarat while others came from the state of Punjab. There are about 725,000 undocumented Indian immigrants in the US – the third-largest population of illegal immigrants after Mexicans and El Salvadorans – according to a Pew Research Centre report. 

Illegal Immigration to the US From India. Source: Strait Times

The number of Indians attempting to cross into the United States illegally has accelerated in recent years on Prime Minister Modi's watch. These immigrants take the Latin American route to reach the US-Mexico border before making a run for the US. They cross the Darien Gap, a dangerous thick forest region between Colombia and Panama, taking three days to a week while taking huge risks ranging from lack of food and drinking water, wild animals and violent gangs. 

There are multiple drivers of mass illegal migration of Indians to other countries. These include increasing violence under Mr. Modi's Hindutva rule and lack of jobs for thee growing working-age population. Human traffickers are exploiting these conditions to profit from vulnerable groups most impacted by political and economic problems in the country. 

Christians, low caste Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are among the main targets of the far-right Hindu mob attacks across India. In 2023, the Modi government’s discriminatory and divisive policies led to  growing violence against minorities, creating a pervasive environment of fear and a chilling effect on government critics, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2024

India's labor force participation rate (LPR) has been declining for several years. Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data shows that the labor participation rate fell to 39.5% in 2022-23, from an already low 40.1% in 2021-22. This indicates that more than half of India’s working age population is not employed. This is especially the case for women 90% of whom are out of the labor force. India’s LPR is among the lowest in the world. The global average LPR is 60%.

Labor Participation Rate in India. Source: CMIE Via Reuters

The rapid GDP growth claimed by India is not creating enough jobs for its massive young population. The much-hyped "Make in India" initiative of the Modi government is just not working well enough to keep pace with the demand for jobs. Manufacturing’s contribution to India’s GDP has declined from 17% two decades ago to just 13% in 2022, according to the World Bank. India has added only 5 million factory jobs since Mr. Modi was first elected, for a total of 65 million such jobs now, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unable to find jobs in cities, a very large number of Indians are going back to subsistence farming to eke out a meager living.  

Indian economist Ritesh Kumar recently wrote a piece for Nikkei Asia titled "Few are benefiting from India's rapid GDP growth".  His conclusion: What India really needs is a growth trajectory that is inclusive, sustainable and can foster shared prosperity across all segments of the economy rather than benefiting only a privileged few.

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Friday, January 26, 2024

Indian Muslims: The Poorest Group in Modi's Hindu Rashtra

Muslims are the poorest group in India. They will most likely face further marginalization after the recent inauguration of the Ram Temple built on the ruins of the historic Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The medieval mosque was demolished by right-wing Hindu groups in 1992. While consolidating the power of the upper caste Hindus in India, the newly built Ram Temple, inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will also not benefit the vast majority of Hindus either. It will, however, help Mr. Modi's BJP party win the upcoming election by a wide margin. 

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure in India. Source: Hindustan Times

Analysis of 2021-22 data from AIDIS (All India Debt and Investment Survey) and PLFS (Periodic Labor Force Survey) shows that Indian Muslims have the lowest asset and consumption levels among major religious groups in the country. Even upper caste Muslims (Ashrafs) are poorer than Hindu OBCs (Other Backward Castes). 

Average MPCE (Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure) for Muslims is only Rs. 2,170, lower than Rs. 2,470 for Hindus, Rs. 3,194 for Christians and Rs. 3,620 for Sikhs.  Average MPCE for upper caste Hindus is Rs. 3,321, the highest of all groups. 

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure by Caste in India. Source: Hindustan Times

The economic inequality is the lowest among Muslims, far lower than among various Hindu castes. Average MPCE for lower caste Muslims is Rs. 2,164 while it is Rs. 2,180 for upper caste Muslims (Ashrafs). Inequality among Hindu castes is the highest. Lower caste Hindus average MPCE is only Rs. 2,095, far lower than Rs. 3,321 for upper caste Hindus. 

India is almost totally dominated by the upper caste Hindus. It is not just the 220 million Dalits (untouchables), or the 190 million Muslims, or the 110 million from “scheduled tribes” (Adivasis)  who are under-represented in positions of power and privilege, but also the 40-50% of Hindus who come from the widest tier of the pyramid, the shudras or laboring castes, known as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs), according to a report in The Economist Magazine. Here's an excerpt from The Economist:

"Out of the 89 highest-ranked civil servants in the central government, according to a recent survey, just four are not upper-caste Hindus, and not one is an obc. Two-thirds of the Supreme Court’s 31 judges and more than half of all state governors are high-caste Hindus. When the home ministry recently formed a panel to revise the criminal code, its five experts were all men, all from north India and all from upper castes. The trend is just as stark outside of government. A study published last year of the mainstream Hindi and English press revealed that out of 121 people in senior jobs, such as editors, all but 15 were upper caste. Not a single one was a Dalit."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

South Asian Contrasts: Ayodhya and Kartarpur

India Ranked as Most Racist in the World

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Caste Apartheid in India

Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India

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Friday, January 19, 2024

Iran Chooses to Quickly De-escalate After Pakistan Hits Back Hard

Pakistan swiftly retaliated with "killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions and stand-off weapons" to an Iranian military provocation in Balochistan province this week, according to multiple media reports. Pakistanis felt it was necessary to hit back hard to send a loud and clear message to the Iranians to respect Pakistan's national sovereignty. Within hours of the strong Pakistani military response, the foreign ministers of the two neighbors agreed to de-escalate tensions in a phone call. The Pakistani foreign ministry sent out the following tweet after this phone conversation: "Foreign Minister @JalilJilani spoke with the Foreign Minister of Iran, @Amirabdolahian today. Foreign Minister Jilani expressed Pakistan’s readiness to work with Iran on all issues based on the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation. He underscored the need for closer cooperation on security issues". 

Pakistan Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani (L), Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian

In the early hours of Tuesday, Iran fired missiles and drones at an armed group Jaish al-Adl in Pakistan’s southwestern border province of Balochistan. Pakistan in turn struck anti-Pakistan Baloch militant targets inside Iran on Thursday. Pakistan also recalled its ambassador from Tehran and blocked the return of Iran’s envoy to Islamabad. 

The Iranian attack on Pakistan came without warnings at multiple forums where the two sides were engaging each other. Just prior to the Iranian provocation, the Iranian Foreign Minister met Pakistani Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There were also joint navy drills taking place which were quickly abandoned after the surprise attack. 

The only way to explain it is that the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, initiated the attack on Pakistan without consulting with the Iranian government of President Ebrahim Raisi. The IRG also targeted locations in Iraq and Syria. The IRGC works independently of the Government in Tehran. Its commander reports directly to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

Late IRGC Commander General Qassem Soleimani 

IRGC appears have been personified by its former leader General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated by the US military on former President Donald Trump's orders. He was known for his independence from the Tehran government. There were reports in 2018 of then President Hassan Rouhani lashing out at Soleimani during a meeting with several senior IRGC officers in attendance,  accusing him of hiding the truth from the president and even from the supreme leader. Soleimani left the room in anger. Earlier, when the two met during Friday prayers, Soleimani warned the president about the “folly of not increasing the budget allotted to Quds.

Soleimani sat by Imam Khamenei’s side at key meetings, conveying his importance in the eyes of the spiritual leader. He met Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad in February 2019 together with the supreme leader — but without Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, triggering resignation threats by Iran's top diplomat at the time. 

In February, 2019, Soleimani threatened Pakistan. He boasted of Iran's "independent power and honor". He said: "I warn you not to test Iran and anyone who has tested Iran has received a firm response. We are speaking to Pakistan with a friendly tone and we are telling that country not to allow their borders to become a source of insecurity for the neighboring countries..... Iran enjoys independent power and honor. Some countries have wealth, but no prowess. Trump tells the Al-Saud that if it hadn't been for the US support, Saudi Arabia would not have survived and Saudi Arabia's coalitions in the region have all ended in failure." Soleimani's tone in this message to Pakistan is anything but "friendly".

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Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

General Soleimani's Hardline Against Pakistan

Iran-Pakistan Ties

Iran's Chabahar and Pakistan's Gwadar Ports

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Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Iran Nuclear Deal

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Did America Contribute to the Rise of ISIS?

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PakAlumni Social Network

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Pakistan to Set New Record For Rice Exports in 2023-24

The United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting that Pakistan's rice exports will set a new record of 5 million metric tons in 2023-24.  This is nearly 30% more than the 3.9 million tons Pakistan exported last year. It is being attributed to a bumper rice crop in the country and strong global demand after India imposed restrictions on its exports. A large exportable surplus has helped Pakistani exporters to offer competitive prices in the international market, but prices are likely to remain high due to an increase in demand, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. European Union and Middle East are the main export markets for Pakistani Basmati rice while Africa and the Far East have emerged as the key export destinations for non-Basmati rice from Pakistan. 

Top Rice Exporting Countries. Source: Aljazeera

Pakistan is the world's fourth largest exporter of rice after India, Thailand and Vietnam. Last year (2022-23), India exported an estimated 20.5 million tons of rice, almost 2.5 times that of the second largest exporter, Thailand with 8.5 million tons. Thailand was followed by Vietnam (7.9 million tons), Pakistan (3.6 million tons) and the United States (2.1 million tons).

Pakistan Rice Exports. Source: S&P Global

Pakistan is among the world's largest food producing countries. It produces large and growing quantities of cereals, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. Currently, Pakistan produces about 38 million tons of cereals (mainly wheat, rice and corn), 17 million tons of fruits and vegetables, 70 million tons of sugarcane, 60 million tons of milk and 4.5 million tons of meat.  Total value of the nation's agricultural output exceeds $50 billion.  Improving agriculture inputs and modernizing value chains can help the farm sector become much more productive to serve both domestic and export markets.  

One of the objectives of Pakistan government's Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is to bring in new investments to modernize farming.  Already, Pakistan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait for $10 billion worth of projects, including some focused on food security. The government is also collaborating with China Machinery Engineering Corp., an engineering and construction heavyweight, and China’s Famsun, an agriculture equipment company, according to a presentation about the initiative in November seen by Bloomberg

The initial focus of the Green Pakistan program is on transforming parts of the Cholistan desert to farms and fruit orchards As much as 4.8 million acres of the desert may be allocated fir this purpose.  Many parcels of land available for lease are in arid and underdeveloped regions, supporting irrigation initiatives. Some farmers are already working on their own to implement drip irrigation in Cholistan. Back in 2019, Zofeen Ibrahim of The Third Pole publication met one such farmer named Hasan Abdullah. He uses a measured amount of water mixed with fertilizer via drip irrigation to precisely irrigate his 50 acre citrus farm located on the sand dunes. As much as 60% of the cost of installing drip irrigation system has come from the provincial government. 

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Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Chicken Cheaper Than Daal

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Bumper Crops and Soaring Tractor Sales in Pakistan

Meat and Dairy Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistanis Consuming More Calories, Fruits and Vegetables

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Monday, January 8, 2024

India's Malign Influence in Bangladesh

Shaikh Hasina has won a 5th term in yet another sham election which saw a mere 40% voter turnout. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party, boycotted the election. Months leading up to the elections saw protests in the country suffering from economic slowdown, human rights violations and a crackdown on the opposition parties. Her longevity in office is believed to be largely orchestrated by India. Her own Foreign Minister Abdul Momen acknowledged this fact when he made a trip to New Delhi in 2022 and said,  "I've requested Modi government to do whatever is necessary to sustain Sheikh Hasina's government". 

Bangladesh PM Shaikh Hasina (L) with Indian PM Narendra Modi

Upon her return from India in 2022, Sheikh Hasina told the news media in Dhaka, "They (India) have shown much sincerity and I have not returned empty handed". It has long been an open secret that Indian intelligence agency RAW helped install Shaikh Hasina as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and her Awami League party relies on New Delhi's support to stay in power. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has described India-Bangladesh as one between husband and wife. In an interview with Indian newspaper 'Ajkal,' he said, "Relation between the both countries is very cordial. It's much like the relationship between husband and wife. Though some differences often arise, these are resolved quickly."  Both Bangladeshi and Indian officials have reportedly said that Sheikh Hasina "has built a house of cards". 

British Indian analyst Dr. Avinash Paliwal explains Shaikh Hasina's current dilemma as follows: "Politically reliant on New Delhi, she (Hasina) is finding it increasingly difficult to manage the ramifications of India's turn towards Hindu nationalism that misuses migration from Bangladesh and the Rohingya crisis for domestic electoral gain". Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, Bangladesh's former Chief Justice,  has said India is backing Sheikh Hasina's autocratic government for its own interest. Here's how prominent Indian journalist SNM Abdi explains Indian intelligence agency RAW's influence in Bangladesh: "India wields more influence in Bangladesh than the Security Council’s five permanent members put together. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is the most dreaded outfit in the neighboring country surpassing even the brutally unforgiving RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). Hasina lives in mortal fear of RAW. She knows that she will be toppled if she displeases India. So she has adopted the policy of pleasing India to retain power at any cost".

Bangladesh has received wide acclaim for its remarkable economic success under the authoritarian leadership of Shaikh Hasina over the last decade. She has jailed many of her political opponents and hanged others. She has tamed the country's judiciary and gagged Bangladeshi mainstream media. What has helped her retain power is the fact she has New Delhi's support and she has succeeded in delivering rapid economic growth that has helped improve the lives of ordinary Bangladeshis. However,  a combination of current global inflation and the resulting economic crisis is unravelling this formula. Ordinary Bangladeshis are being hit by high food and fuel prices. There is widespread discontent and anger among the people of Bangladesh against the Hasina government and its chief supporter India. 

Bangladesh's currency taka has depreciated by over 40% against the US dollar in the last two years, import bill has soared by nearly 44%, forex reserves have declined to $20 billion and the revenue from ready made garments export and remittances is not keeping pace with the fast rising imports. Bangladesh is receiving a $4.7 billion IMF bailout to cope with the situation. In addition, India has agreed to trade with Bangladesh in local currencies to reduce pressure on forex reserves. 

Falling Foreign Direct Investment in India. Source: NY Times

Bangladesh is not the only economy in trouble. The European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also experiencing severe economic pain. India's forex reserves are falling and its current account deficit is rising as foreign direct investment declines. High energy prices and the strong US dollar are hurting most of the world economies. Food and energy prices have shot up due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The US currency driven by aggressive US Federal Reserve policy of rate hikes has reached new highs. A stronger dollar for the US means cheaper imports, a tailwind for efforts to contain inflation, and record relative purchasing power for Americans. But the rest of the world is straining under the dollar’s rise, according to the Wall Street Journal

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Great Indian Brain Drain Accelerates

India is losing its best and brightest to the West, particularly to the United States, at an increasingly rapid pace. A 2023 study of the 1,000 top scorers in the 2010 entrance exams to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) — a network of prestigious institutions of higher learning based in 23 Indian cities — revealed the scale of the problem. Around 36% migrated abroad, and of the top 100 scorers, 62% left the country, according to a report in the science journal Nature.  Nearly two-thirds of those leaving India are highly educated, having received academic or vocational training. This is the highest for any country, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Example of The Great Indian Brain Drain. Source: Boston Political Review

Brain drain is defined as the loss of precious human capital of a nation. It is a “consequence of an education system designed for ‘selecting’ the best and brightest in an economy that is still too controlled and cannot create opportunities for its best and brightest”, according to Indian economist Shruti Rajagopalan. High-profile examples of India's human capital loss include Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Sundar Pichai (Google), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe), Arvind Krishna (IBM) and Ajay Banga (World Bank). 

Foreign-Born STEM Workers in America. Source: American Immigration Council

Growing number of Indian students are going abroad for higher education each year and 90% of them never return home after completing their studies.  In 2022, the number of Indian students leaving the country for higher education reached a six-year high of 770,000. And a 2021 report estimated that around two million Indian students would be studying abroad by 2024. 

Many developing countries are experiencing brain drain. But India is losing its best brightest at a much faster rate than others. Some call it "The Great Indian Brain Drain". This is the reason why Indians in the United States are the best educated and the highest earning group.  In a recently published book titled "The Other One Percent", authors Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh explain this phenomenon. 

They write that the vast majority of Indians who migrate to the United States are from privileged backgrounds in terms of caste, class and education. They have gone through “a triple selection” process that gave Indian-Americans a boost over typically poor and uneducated immigrants who come to the United States from other countries. The first two selections took place in India. As explained in the book: “The social system created a small pool of persons to receive higher education, who were urban, educated, and from high/dominant castes.” India’s examination system then selected individuals for specialized training in technical fields that also happened to be in demand in the United States. Kapur estimated that the India-American population is nine times more educated than individuals in the home country. Here's an excerpt of it:

"A major focus of this book is on demonstrating and understanding the multiple selections that shaped the Indian-American population. These selections applied not only to education (that, in terms of attaining college degrees, made the India-born population three times more educated than that in the host country and nine times more educated than the home country’s population) but also to class and caste (favoring, by large margins, the “upper” and dominant classes and castes of India), profession (engineering, IT, and health care), and both the region of origin (Gujarati and Punjabi were overrepresented in the first two phases, and Telugu and Tamil in the third phase) and region of settlement (in specific metropolitan clusters in and around New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Houston and Dallas). In addition to direct selection is what we call the “selection+” advantage: we suggest that group characteristics or norms, such as the fact that Indians had the highest propensity to live in married-couple households of any major immigrant group, added to the advantages of being an already selected group. We show, in particular, how family norms were useful in keeping the Indian-American poverty level low (under 5 percent) and family income high (the highest in the United States). It is also likely that the selection process enabled, without explicitly intending to, the generation of high levels of social capital (through linguistic/ professional networks such as Gujarati entrepreneurs in the hotel industry, Telugu and Tamil workers in the IT industry, IIT engineers, Malayali nurses, Bengali academics, etc.)"

Doctor Brain Drain. Source: Statista

Asian Americans are the best educated among all Americans of various races and ethnicities, including whites. Within Asian Americans, the Indians (three quarters) have the highest educational attainment with at least a bachelor's degree, followed by Koreans and Pakistanis (about 60% each). 

Asian American Educational Achievement by Countries of Origin. Source: US Census

Asians, including Chinese/Taiwanese, Indians and Pakistanis, tend to be concentrated in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology) fields where incomes are generally much higher than in other occupations. 

As of 2019, there were 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM workers in the United States, according to the American Immigration Council. They included information technologists, software developers, engineers and scientists. These figures do not include medical doctors and healthcare workers. 

Foreign-born workers make up a growing share of America's STEM workforce. As of 2019, foreign-born workers made up almost a quarter of all STEM workers in the country. This is a significant increase from 2000, when just 16.4% of the country’s STEM workforce was foreign-born. Between 2000 and 2019, the overall number of STEM workers in the United States increased by 44.5 percent, from 7.5 million to more than 10.8 million, according to American Immigration Council

India and Pakistan Among Top 10 Countries Receiving US Immigrant Visas. Source: Visual Capitalist

India topped the top 10 list of foreign-born STEM workers with 721,000, followed by China (273,000), Mexico (119,000), Vietnam (100,000), Philippines (87,000), South Korea (64,000), Canada (56,000), Taiwan (53,000), Russia (45,000) and Pakistan (35,000).  Enormous number of Indian STEM workers in the United States can at least partly be attributed to the fact that India's "body shops" have mastered the art of gaming the US temporary work visa system. Last year, Indian nationals sponsored by "body shops" like Cognizant, Infosys and TCS received 166,384 H1B visas for work in the United States. By comparison, only 1,107 Pakistanis were granted H1B visas in Fiscal Year 2022.  In addition to H1B work visas, 9,300 Indian nationals and 7,200 Pakistani nationals received immigrant visas to settle in the United States as permanent residents in 2021. 

In addition to 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM workers, there were 12,454 Pakistan-born and Pakistan-trained medical doctors practicing in the United States, making the South Asian nation the second largest source of medical doctors in America.  Pakistan produced 157,102 STEM graduates last year, putting it among the world's top dozen or so countries. About 43,000 of these graduates are in information technology (IT).

Related Links:

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Bibi to Biden: "You Carpet Bombed Germany. You Dropped the Atom Bomb. A Lot of Civilians Died"

At a recent Democratic fundraiser organized by the Israel lobby in the United States, President Joseph R. Biden shared some details of the conversations he has had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu about protecting civilians in Gaza. Justifying Israel's genocidal war on Gaza, Netanyahu told Biden: “You carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died”. Netanyahu is “a good friend, but I think he has to change, and… This (extremist coalition) government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden told the attendees at the campaign fundraiser in Washington hosted by former AIPAC board chair Lee Rosenberg.  Last month, Biden used the word “indiscriminate” to describe Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, according to a report in the Times of Israel

President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu

The Israel Lobby:

American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), also known as the Israel lobby, is considered the most powerful lobby in Washington D.C. The lobby has showered its friendly politicians with money from Jewish donors. It has also ensured the defeat of those politicians who dared to speak out against Israeli policies in the Middle East. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, put it on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, ‘when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: “Help AIPAC.”’

President Jimmy Carter who helped broker peace between Israel and Egypt knows the Israel lobby well. He told Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now" many years ago: "I think it’s accurate to say that not a single member of Congress with whom I’m familiar would possibly speak out and call for Israel to withdraw to their legal boundaries or to publicize the plight of the Palestinians or even to call publicly and repeatedly for good faith peace talks.....  And I would say that if any member of Congress did speak out, as I’ve just described, they would probably not be back in the Congress the next term ". 

Biden-Netanyahu Conversations: 

President Biden recalled how during one of their many conversations since October 7, Netanyahu sought to justify the deaths of civilians in Gaza by recalling how many died in the US response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, according to the Times of Israel

“You carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died,” Biden quoted Netanyahu as having said. “They not only want to have retribution — which they should — for what Hamas did, but against all Palestinians… They don’t want anything to (do) with the Palestinians,” Biden said, reiterating the US stance that Hamas does not represent all Palestinians and that not all of Gaza should suffer because of the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. 

It should be noted that the reason Netanyahu sounds American is because he was raised and educated in the United States. He is essentially an American who was born in Tel Aviv, raised in Philadelphia, and then returned to Israel after finishing higher education at MIT and Harvard. 

The US and Israel: 

While acknowledging the US role in killing large number of civilians during WW II, Biden pointed out to Netanyahu that the conventions and laws agreed to by the international community after the war were designed to stop the kind of excesses Netanyahu mentioned, such as the carpet bombing of Germany and the dropping of the atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

“I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War II to see to it that it didn’t happen again,'” Biden said he told Netanyahu.  Biden also advised Netanyahu not to repeat the mistakes the US made in response to the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001. “Don’t make the same mistakes we made [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to be in a war in Afghanistan [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to do some of the things we did,” Biden said.

While Biden's response makes sense, it is hard not to see the parallels between the  United States and Israel. Both of them are settler colonial societies built on genocide of the native populations and their replacement by Europeans.  This process was endorsed by top British politicians like Winston Churchill.  

This process of Israel's creation was endorsed by top British politicians like Winston Churchill.   “I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger,” former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the Peel Commission in 1937, “even though he may have lain there for a very long time.” He denied that “a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the Black people of Australia,” by their replacement with “a higher grade race.”

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Modi and Netanyahu: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Israel's Gaza Attack is Criminal, Not Defensive

Pictorial Review of Israel's Young Gaza Victims

American College Campuses Rise Up Against Israel's Genocidal War on Gaza

Israeli Settler Colonialism

Islamophobia Driving US Policy in Middle East and South Asia?

Israeli Scholars Offer Insights into Zionist Psyche

Total, Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

What is India Hiding From UN Human Rights Team?

Indian JNU Professor on Illegal Indian Occupation of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

PakAlumni: Pakistani Alumni Social Network

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Pro-Israel Politicians and Donors Assault Academic Freedom in America

Widespread student protests on the US campuses against Israel's genocidal war in Gaza are being labeled antisemitic by pro-Israel politicians and donors. They have now joined forces to intimidate the leadership of top American universities. President Liz MaGill of the University of Pennsylvania has already been forced out. Leaders at Harvard and MIT are also under threat.  The Pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Brandeis Center have called on 200 college presidents to investigate pro-Palestinian student groups. Faculty members and instructors at several public and private colleges have either been placed on leave or fired for comments about the conflict, according to Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman. These actions are a direct assault on the academic freedom in America, with long term negative consequences for the world's most admired institutions of higher education. 

Pro-Palestine Protest at UCLA. Source: Daily Bruin

Academic Freedom: 

Academic freedom is about free exchange of ideas on campus by students and faculty. It is considered essential for learning. Limiting this freedom hurts pursuit of excellence which has helped American colleges and universities become the envy of the world. This freedom must be defended by all Americans to maintain the excellence of institutions of higher learning in America. 

US Congress: 

GOP politicians see these pro-Palestine protests on US campuses as a fundraising opportunity. Harvard alumna Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) aggressively questioned presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT to score points with the Israel lobby. “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?”  asked — to which Gay twice responded that “it depends on the context.” 

GOP politicians like Stefanik are deliberately conflating slogans such as "From the River to the Sea, Free Palestine Free"  with call for genocide of Jews. In fact, this chant is only about ending the long brutal Israeli Occupation of Gaza (along the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (of the Jordan River). 

Jewish Donors:

 Several Jewish donors of major private sector universities have either cancelled their donations or threatened to do so over the Pro-Palestine protests. Investors Bill Ackman and Ross Stevens have been among the most vocal pro-Israel donors at Harvard and Penn. They both called for the ouster of the presidents of these universities over what they call "antisemitism" on campuses. 

The aggressive behavior of Jewish donors is serving to reinforce the antisemitic stereotype of wealthy Jews. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put in a Guardian Op Ed: "As a Jew, I cannot help but worry, too, that the actions of these donors will fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose – based on the perilous stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world". 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

Some right-wing politicians and donors have attacked DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programs as the cause of what they call "antisemitism" on campuses. These programs help bring in faculty and students from under-represented groups to colleges and universities that have traditionally been almost entirely white. They blame DEI because many new students from minority background tend to sympathize with Palestinians who they see as oppressed. Many of them see Israel as a "Western settler-colonialist oppressor par excellence", according to the Wall Street Journal

Israel has long been seen as a settler colonial state . It was established by the displacement of the indigenous population of Palestinians and their replacement by Europeans, similar to  places like America and Australia. This process of Israel's creation was endorsed by top British politicians like Winston Churchill.  

“I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger,” former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the Peel Commission in 1937, “even though he may have lain there for a very long time.” He denied that “a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the Black people of Australia,” by their replacement with “a higher grade race.”

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Modi and Netanyahu: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Israel's Gaza Attack is Criminal, Not Defensive

Pictorial Review of Israel's Young Gaza Victims

American College Campuses Rise Up Against Israel's Genocidal War on Gaza

Israeli Settler Colonialism

Islamophobia Driving US Policy in Middle East and South Asia?

Israeli Scholars Offer Insights into Zionist Psyche

Total, Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

What is India Hiding From UN Human Rights Team?

Indian JNU Professor on Illegal Indian Occupation of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

PakAlumni: Pakistani Alumni Social Network

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

COP28: Pakistan Planting World's Largest Mangrove Forest

Pakistan, which contributes less than 1% of global carbon emissions, is among the countries considered most vulnerable to climate change. About a third of the country was devastated by massive floods in 2022. The nation committed continued pursuit of nature-based solutions to the problem at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. As part of this commitment, the country is planting one of the world's largest mangrove forests in the Indus River Delta, a key component of its Ten Billion Tree Tsunami campaign launched by former Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

Pakistan Mangroves Plantation Project. Source: Delta Blue Carbon

Mangrove Forest:

Also known as Delta Blue Carbon Project, the mangroves plantation will eventually cover 350,000 hectares of Tidal Wetlands on the south-east coast of Sindh. Currently, Pakistan is estimated to have 600,000 hectares of mangrove forest. Mangroves absorb hundreds of millions of tons of atmospheric carbon, reduce the impact of storms on human lives and economic assets, and provide a habitat for fish, birds and other plants supporting biodiversity. It is funded by sales of carbon credits to global polluting industries such as those involved in fossil fuels trade. 

Pakistan NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) For Climate Goals. Source: UN

Massive Floods of 2022:

More than a year after the unprecedented floods of 2022, Pakistan is still dealing with the havoc they wreaked.  Over a thousand Pakistanis died. About 33 million people in two southern provinces became homeless. Sindh was inundated with 784% of normal rainfall in the year. Balochistan saw 522% of average rainfall. Both provinces suffered their worst ever heatwave prior to this unprecedented deluge. Nearly a million livestock were lost, over two million acres of farmland came underwater and 90% of the crops in Sindh and Balochistan were damaged. This was a massive humanitarian crisis. 

Nature Based Solutions:

How are nature based solutions different from man made solutions? Here's how the World Bank explains the difference: 

"Nature-based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural ecosystems, that address societal challenges such as climate change, human health, food and water security, and disaster risk reduction effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. For example, a common problem is the flooding in coastal areas that occurs as a result of storm surges and coastal erosion. This challenge, traditionally tackled with manmade (grey) infrastructure such as sea walls or dikes, coastal flooding, can also be addressed by actions that take advantage of ecosystem services such as tree planting. Planting trees that thrive in coastal areas – known as mangroves -- reduces the impact of storms on human lives and economic assets, and provides a habitat for fish, birds and other plants supporting biodiversity" 

Karachi Mangroves Exhibit. Source: Magnifiscience Center

Saving Karachi:

One of the objectives of restoring mangroves is to prevent a climate disaster in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and the country's economic hub. Mangroves in Karachi are a unique marine ecosystem fringing the coast, and they provide both a vital spawning area for ocean fish and protection from periodic tsunamis and storm surges. 

Karachi's Magnifiscience Center has a special exhibit to help teach citizens the importance of restoring this marine ecosystem. Here's an excerpt of a recent Time Magazine report on the subject:

"On a recent Tuesday morning, several dozen Pakistani schoolchildren barreled down a wooden walkway into a thicket of mangroves. They jostled for space at a small viewing platform and eagerly pointed out fish darting between the exposed tree roots. As the rising tide inched ever closer to the crabs and mudskippers resting on shore, the children’s guide launched into a detailed explanation of the unique marine ecosystem fringing the coast, and how it provided both a vital nursery for ocean fish and protection from tsunamis and storm surges. If mangroves are so important, wondered one child out loud, “Why are they in here, and not out there?” By in here, she meant the soaring glass atrium of Karachi’s newly opened MagnifiScience Centre, where the high-tech centerpiece is the living mangrove exhibit—complete with real trees, live fish, plastic crabs, and an accelerated tidal ebb and flow maintained by underground water pumps. Out there is the crowded coastal megacity of Karachi, where all but a few of the mangrove forests that once defined this Indus Delta port town have been chopped down, paved over, and developed into ocean-view high-rises, golf courses, and container ports".