Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Silicon Valley Rises to Help Pakistan Flood Victims

For every Pakistani hit by floods, there are eight who are still standing and ready to help. That was the theme that guided the recent Silicon Valley Iftar and Fundraiser organized by Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN Silicon Valley) at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

About 300 attendees contributed over $500,000 at the event. It was specially gratifying to see that my fellow NED alumni were at the forefront and donated $60,000, with a pledge to give another $40,000 to match any additional contributions made within a week of the event. There was another offer of $70,000 match by an unknown contributor.

In addition to various fundraisers to aid twenty million flood victims, Pakistani-American employees have persuaded their high-tech employers to make significant matching contributions for flood relief. For example, Cisco is matching over a million dollars in employee contributions, and Intel's Pakistani employees expect their employer to contribute about $250,000. Google has announced $250,000 grant for flood victims, and set up a special page for additional fundraising.

While each of these reported amounts at individual events and companies in the valley appear too small to meet the massive challenge ahead, I believe that it will all add to up to a substantial amount of several million dollars for at least the initial phase of rescue and relief effort.

Beyond that, the community and their friends and neighbors will need to be energized to support the much bigger and longer term effort required for the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase for about twenty million victims.

Here is a list of some of the organizations actively raising funds for flood relief:

- Imran Khan Flood Relief Fund

- Edhi Foundation


- HumanityFirst

- Developments in literacy


- Human Development Fund

- Naya Jeevan


- The Citizens Foundation

- Hidaya Foundation

- American Red Cross

- HelpingHands


- Islamic Relief

- Relief International

As Pakistan faces the worst natural disaster of its 63 year history, the failure to aid the victims could perpetuate the misery of the poor victims and play right in to the hands of the extremist forces of intolerance who are actively taking advantage of the human misery amidst social inequities of Pakistan's rural feudal society.

As heart-wrenching and destructive as this deluge has been, I believe it could also be a blessing in disguise for the millions of poor peasants who have been toiling on the feudal lands from time immemorial. If the reconstruction and rehabilitation effort is designed and implemented to help the victims escape the degrading life as slaves of their feudal lords, Pakistan could see a new beginning toward greater human development and a prosperous future that is free of violence and terrorism.

Here is a video clip showing scenes of great devastation and widespread human suffering caused by the unprecedented flooding in Pakistan:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Middle Class Responds to Challenge

Taliban Target Landed Elite

Disaster Dampens Spirits on Pakistan's 63rd Independence Day

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Democracy

Failure to Aid Pakistan Flood Victims Will Be Costly

HDF Silicon Valley Fundraiser For Pakistan

Aid versus Trade, Investments and Remittances

Microfinancing in Pakistan

HDF Silicon Valley Fundraiser 2008

Aid to Pakistan Bill 2009

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Facebook Group-Zimmedar Shehri

Helping Children Become Responsible Citizens

Orangi Pilot Project

Three Cups of Tea

Volunteerism in America


Anonymous said...

Chris Andersen of TED dedicates his blog to report stories of insight and ingenuity, generosity and heroism from Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

There have been widespread allegations that Pakistani feudals, including many powerful politicians, deliberately flooded the poor peasants villages to protect their own crops and farms in recent monsoon rains. Here's a BBC report that says Pakistan's US ambassador is calling for an investigation.

A senior Pakistani diplomat has called for an inquiry into allegations that rich landowners diverted water into unprotected villages during the floods to save their own crops.

UN ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said there was evidence that landowners had allowed embankments to burst.

This led to waters flowing away from their land, he said.

More than 1,600 people have died in the floods, which have affected about 17 million people.

"Over the years, one has seen with the lack of floods, those areas normally set aside for floods have come under irrigation of the powerful and rich," Mr Haroon told the BBC's HardTalk programme.

"It is suggested in some areas, those to be protected were allowed, had allowed, levies to be burst on opposite sides to take the water away. If that is happening the government should be enquiring."

At the height of the floods, it is estimated that one-fifth of the country - an area the size of Italy - was underwater.

The flood waters are beginning to drain away to the Arabian Sea but inundations continue in parts of Sindh province.

Anonymous said...

Dear Riaz,

Sadly, South Asian politicians and bureaucrats - who anyway are among the richest people in the world, while their people are among the poorest - cannot be trusted with relief aid.
Expatriate South Asians are well aware of this.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Sadly, South Asian politicians and bureaucrats - who anyway are among the richest people in the world, while their people are among the poorest - cannot be trusted with relief aid.
Expatriate South Asians are well aware of this. "

I agree. That's why the $500,000 raised at Si valley Iftar were given to non-profit charities and NGOs with a good track record of service and delivery in Pakistan.

Many of these orgs are listed in the post.

Anonymous said...

As the world economy begins to register a tentative recovery and some nations continue to wrestle with ongoing conflict and insecurity, it is clear that no region of the world is immune to the perils of corruption, according to Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a measure of domestic, public sector corruption released today.
Pakistan 2.4, India 3.4, China 3.6

Anonymous said...

remember last year's Sydney match where Pak could not chase 178 runs.

Akmal fixed it. What a fool we have been to support our team.

BTW why have you stopped comparing India with Pakistan these days. Too ashamed?

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from the World Bank blog on poverty reduction in Pakistan from 2000-2008:

A World Bank report released on July 30 finds that poverty in Pakistan fell by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08). Three out of Pakistan’s four major provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Punjab, and Sindh – saw significant declines in poverty during this period. The largest fall in poverty was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Bank report “high level of remittances, both foreign and domestic, seem to have facilitated” the decline in poverty in KP.

Pakistan saw migrant remittances reach a record $ 8.9 billion in fiscal year 2010, an increase of 14 percent compared to the 2009 fiscal year despite the global economic crisis (Pakistan’s fiscal year runs from July to June). The World Bank report says “Continued strong growth in worker’s remittances in the past few years has also contributed to improvements in the external current account balance” and “have facilitated improvement in the country’s external position”.

Migration and remittances have provided a source of income for households in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other provinces in Pakistan. A recent Asian Development Bank study found that foreign remittances constituted 9.4 percent of household income in KP, compared to 5.1% for Punjab, 1.5% for Baluchistan, and 0.7% for Sindh.

There is now a risk that devastating floods that have hit Pakistan, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving 2 million people homeless, could reverse some of the gains in poverty achieved in the last few years, which were already believed to have been weakened in the wake of the recent financial crisis and rise in food prices.

During past natural disasters, migrants have sent additional remittances to help their families and friends in need – for example, during the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, in Philippines after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, after an earthquake in Haiti in early 2010, and in other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is likely that the Pakistani diaspora will send additional financial resources to help their family, friends and even larger communities. These person-to-person transfers could complement official aid efforts.

The official aid community and Pakistan’s government should welcome and facilitate the overseas Pakistanis’ help by quickly restoring the payments and financial infrastructure in affected areas, so that family members affected by the floods can continue to receive remittances. Some useful lessons can be learned from the example of the recent US-led efforts tokeep remittances flowing to Haiti after the earthquake in early 2010.

Riaz Haq said...

World Bank blog on Pakistan poverty contd:

Some issues for discussion:

1. How can the Pakistani migrant community continue to provide assistance through remittances to their friends and relatives, and help their communities through direct giving? How can the international aid community and Pakistan’s government facilitate this process?

2. How can the payments and settlement infrastructure for remittances be quickly restored in the flood- affected areas to enable these person-to-person flows to reach the intended beneficiaries?

3. How can the international aid community and Pakistan’s government involve (and coordinate with) the Pakistani migrant communities in North America, Europe and the Gulf for post-disaster relief and reconstruction?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report about wheat situation in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The government has shelved plans to export two million tons of wheat because of an estimated loss of about one million tons in the floods.

An official told Dawn on Wednesday that Punjab had asked the federal government not to consider its earlier wheat export proposal.

He said Punjab’s three major wheat producing districts — Rajanpur, Rahimyar Khan and Muzaffargarh — had been badly affected and stocks in government warehouses had been inundated. Private stocks of producers have also been damaged.

The provincial food department has reported a loss of about 550,000 tons of wheat, although final estimates are still being worked out.

Another 80,000 tons have been washed away in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The official said the estimates of stocks lost in Sindh had not yet been prepared because several areas in the province were still inundated, but the overall losses were likely to be around one million tons.

Officials said there was no cause of concern in the local market because the government had sufficient stocks to meet domestic requirements.

The nation consumes about 23 million tons of wheat a year and it has about two million tons of surplus even after the estimated loss of one million tons.

For the past couple of years, the government has been maintaining about one million tons of buffer stocks to meet any shortage.

“Even after keeping the buffer stock, the government still has around a million tons in surplus, but it cannot take the risk offloading it, just in case there is a bad crop next season,” an official said.

He, however, expressed the hope that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would reap bumper crops next season because of fresh fertile layer brought in by the floods. “The floods may be a blessing in disguise for the wheat crop in Punjab, the country’s food basket, which will more than compensate for a lower output in Sindh.”

The government had decided in July to export two million tons of wheat, but rescinded the decision because of lower international prices. The exports required about Rs15 billion subsidy and the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet vetoed the export proposal, saying the amount should be passed on to consumers.

The next wheat sowing begins in October.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's another report, this one by Christian Science Monitor from Muzaffargarh, alleging that powerful feudal lords inundated and devastated poor populations to protect there own lands and crops from flood water:

One of the most flood-ravaged districts of Pakistan would not be under water today if flood management recommendations had not been overruled at the last moment by powerful political interests, according to senior officials here.

In Muzaffargarh, the deaths of 51 people, displacement of 1.5 million, and destruction of 337 schools could have been mostly avoided if water had been diverted onto land set aside as a flood basin. The basin is vacant except for fields of sugar cane and cotton grown there surreptitiously by feudal families of the elite.

In a long interview with five dam engineers entrusted with the upkeep of the Taunsa Barrage, the engineers reiterated that belief. "This is nothing more than a political game, but we aren't hopeful the truth will come out," said one engineer.

One of only two officials willing to criticize the government on the record is Asrar ul-Haq, chief engineer of the Irrigation & Power Department whose office is located at the provincial capital of Lahore.

Mr. Haq said that breaching the right-hand side would have brought its own danger. But, he conceded: "In hindsight, the people of Muzaffargarh can rightly feel very, very miserable about this. The flooding in their area would have been far less severe [if the right bank had been breached]."

Similar stories emerging all over the country suggest that while nature sent the waters, powerful men directed some of the deluge. The allegations threaten already tenuous confidence in the Pakistani government, among both its own citizens and Western reconstruction donors.

"Most of the flood damage would simply not have occurred in Muzaffargarh district if the right side of the dam had been breached [in] time," says a senior town official, waving his arms around a map of the district. "You can say this was man-made." The official, fearing for his job, asked that his identity be withheld.....

On Aug. 2, as the Indus waters swelled perilously close to the known breaking point of the Taunsa Barrage, officials led by the Punjab secretary of irrigation made the decision not to breach the right bank. In the early hours of Aug. 3, the Indus burst through the left bank instead, inundating some 400,000 acres of the district.

Standing on the Taunsa Barrage, the contrast between the two areas cannot be clearer. The vast tracts of unharmed land, which fall in the neighboring district lie to the west, while the inundated Muzaffargarh district is to the east.

Many locals allege that two powerful families, the Hinjras and the Khosas, both from the PML-N party, which rules Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, illegally occupy the flood-basin area.

"They put pressure on the irrigation secretary and the district coordination officer," says Jamshed Dasti, a politician from an opposing party.

Workers on the land did not dispute the identity of their bosses. "Many of us villagers who work for the Hinjras cross the river each day to till the fields or graze the animals," Noman, a man traveling to the area on foot, added.

When asked about the land, Ahmad Yaar Hinjra, a member of the provincial government, denied the land was his. "Neither I nor any member of my family hold any land on the right-hand side of the barrage," he said, adding: "Who are these people who named me? Tell me their names. They are being used by my political enemies to ruin my name."

More striking still was the denial offered by Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, a former governor of Punjab who is known to have very close ties with the Sharif brothers – both Nawaz Sharif, the twice-former prime minister of Pakistan, and Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab's chief minister.

Riaz Haq said...

The floods that swept across Pakistan since July caused an estimated $9.7 billion in damage to infrastructure, farms, homes, as well as other direct and indirect losses, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank said today.

The estimate was presented in the Damage and Needs Assessment (DNA), a survey conducted nationwide by ADB and the World Bank to assess the extent of the flood damage. The concluded survey was earlier submitted to the Government of Pakistan and today made public at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is the latest news from State Bank of Pakistan reported by The Nation newspaper:

KARACHI – In the backdrop of widespread losses caused by the unprecedented rains and devastating floods to the economy in the early months of current fiscal year, the State Bank of Pakistan has predicted that the real GDP growth would be in the range of 2 to 3 per cent in FY11 against the annual plan target of 4.5 per cent.
The SBP, in its Annual Report on the State of the Economy for the year 2009-10 released here on Monday, stated that the annual average inflation for FY11 is likely to remain between 13.5 to 14.5 per cent, up from both, the 9.5 per cent target and earlier SBP forecast of 11.0- 12.0 per cent for the year.
Moreover, the provisional SBP projections indicate that the current account deficit will likely to rise between 3-4 per cent while the fiscal deficit is anticipated to be in the vicinity of 5 to 6 per cent of GDP during FY11. In addition, it projected that workers’ remittances are likely to stay between $9.5 billion to $10.5 billion whereas exports and imports are likely to be between $20 billion to $21 billion and $34 billion to $35 billion, respectively in the entire course of ongoing fiscal year.
The Report pointed out that financing even the moderate increase in the current account deficit may prove stressful for the economy, with rising pressures on the country’s foreign exchange reserves and exchange rate.
The Report said, “Negative shocks stemming from the floods have further exposed the existing structural weaknesses in the economy. Addressing these will require improvements in macroeconomic discipline as well as continued reforms to improve the resilience of the economy. The required reforms include those to improve productivity, strengthen public institutions, improve economic governance, and build social safety nets to protect vulnerable segments of the population.”
The Report while referring an independent study, warned that the occurrence of poverty, which started to decline over the last decade, is expected to increase in the wake of the floods in the time to come.
According to the Report, the direct impact of the flood-related supply shock is likely to be limited. For example, the impact of flood/rain damages and shortages of minor crops are not expected to persist beyond 2 to 3 months as supply line improves and as fresh crops (e.g., vegetables) enter the market. Similarly, for some other products, any rise in domestic prices would be capped by low international prices.
It is important to note here that prices of dairy products were already continuing on a secular rise, even prior to the floods, due to sustained strong domestic and external demand. Livestock losses in the flood would exacerbate this rising trend, but only to a small extent.
It said that the extended persistence of double-digit inflation had already been a source of concern even ahead of the floods, particularly given the risk that an upward trend in food-commodity prices (e.g. wheat, edible oil, sugar, corn, etc.) could be compounded by any weakness in the exchange rate. Moreover, inflationary pressures were also expected to strengthen as a result of the recent 50 percent increase in government sector salaries, and anticipated rise in energy tariffs (as the government continued to reduce subsidies) and removal of GST exemptions to broaden the tax base.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's agriculture sector remained robust in spite of heavy flooding last year, according to Dawn:

ENCOURAGING news from export front, mainly about wheat, dominated trading on the Karachi wholesale markets last week where prices showed tendency to rise as some exporters covered their forward sales to meet their shipment deadlines.

A major breakthrough on the wheat front was widely welcomed by commercial traders and exporters who hoped the exportable surplus would add to foreign exchange earnings, market sources said.

But leaders of flour mills association opposed the official move fearing rise in flour prices in coming weeks. But the government was seized with the problem of disposing of the surplus of over a million tons well before the arrival of new crop, they said.

“It is a good beginning on wheat export front,” said a commercial exporter. He said the “profit-margin is not attractive but new export outlets are being explored to dispose of future surplus.”

With a loaded consignment of 27,000 tons of wheat for some African destination, a loader has already left, while another Bangladesh ship is on the port loading a consignment of 20,000 tons for Chittagong, exporters said.

But the news from sugar front was not encouraging as price tussle between growers and mill owners continued after the later reduced the cane procurement price from Rs230 per maund to Rs210 without any reason. The growers in some areas had stopped supply of sugarcane to mills.

However, sugar prices in retail and wholesale markets rose further high despite mills’ claim that supplies of new crop to commercial dealers are being made
regularly and prices should remain stable around previous levels.

Much of the physical activity, meanwhile, remained confined to some essential counters where floor brokers reported pressure on supplies.

Arrivals from upcountry markets remained steady, which, in turn, did not allow speculative increase in prices and most of the increases were orderly. Dealers said changes in prices were mostly orderly and did not reflect speculative rise on any counter amid two-way activity and higher ready off-take.

The industrial sector showed two-way active trading as some commodities showed rise under the lead of guar seeds and cotton-based items because of a record rise in cotton prices owing to a short crop, they said.

On essentials’ counters, including wheat and sugar, prices remained stable despite higher demands followed by reports of steady arrivals from upcountry market.

Sugar prices remained stable early but rose later, although dealers reported a fairly large business at the unchanged rates in an apparent effort to sell it later at higher rates, they said.

Rice exporters said the recent increase in global prices was expected to significantly add to export earnings of the private sector exporters. They said talks were going on with some importers and hopes of some deals were bright during the next couple of days.

On the other hand, cotton prices showed wild either way movements amid alternate bouts of buying and selling but late in the week a sharp decline in New York cotton futures pushed them lower around Rs9,000 per muand, which spinners said were still higher than their export parity level for textiles.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a couple of reports on flood recovery in Pakistan:

World Food Program Report: "Six months after Pakistan was hit by devastating monsoon flooding, the recovery is at different stages in different parts of the country. In the north and central Pakistan, most families have been able to return to their homes, rebuild their houses, plant crops and take back their former lives.

But in a few areas of the southern province of Sindh, many communities are still surrounded by floodwaters. Thousands of families in Balochistan, in the southwest, are also unable to return to their homes. Between the two provinces, some 600,000 flood victims are still living in temporary camps and for these people recovery seems some way off."

BBC Report: " A village in Pakistan devastated by flooding has been renamed Midlands after a West Midlands charity raised money to help rebuild it.

Walsall-based Midland International Aid Trust raised £113,000 to help the 20 million people thought to be affected by the monsoon floods last year.

The village of Lal Pir, now named Midlands, had been cut off by water.

Mohammed Aslam MBE, the trust's founder, has been visiting the country to oversee how the aid is spent.

Mr Aslam, 71, originally from Kashmir, said he wanted to make sure every penny of aid went to the people living in the region.

He said in August he could only reach Lal Pir by boat.

Now all 36 homes which were destroyed have been rebuilt, at a cost of £2,000 each, after the charity provided the villagers with materials and tools.

The floods struck the north of the country in August. At least 1,500 died in the deluge."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a report on how Pakistani techies are helped in the flood-relief effort:

One of the biggest problems in flood relief is locating people displaced by the flood who need food, shelter or medicine. So Sohaib Khan, a computer-science professor at the Lahore University of Management Scientists, put together a widget to help. Floodmaps relies on Google Earth and Google Maps to track the path of the flood and monitor devastation like washed-out bridges that need to be rebuilt. His maps page provides detailed views of over 9000 villages affected by the downpour, broken down by region.

The primary customer for Khan’s maps are non-governmental organizations at work in Pakistan. “Our goal is to get as much data out there as possible,” he says. “We are now working with other NGOs to help them with their mapping needs, both for the current phase as well as planning for the upcoming rehabilitation phase.” But it’s not just independent aid groups that have made use of Floodmaps. The Punjab government’s detailed flood-relief website runs Floodmaps on its mapping page.

Khan’s website makes it easy to get one of his widgets: Just file a request through a provided form and receive a Floodmap. But that’s about as far as his efforts go in terms of social media. The maps themselves track data provided by affiliated aid groups about broken dams, damaged roads and other affected infrastructure. But those groups — or citizens themselves — can’t adjust the maps themselves. “We have not yet really exploited crowdsourcing,” Khan says.

That falls to a group called PakReport, an impromptu collection of Pakistani technologists and their mostly-American academic friends. PakReport is a donor-supported SMS effort that allows people affected by the flood to send in their location and a message about their need. Using a mapping tool called Ushahidi, flood-stricken Pakistanis can find their emergency information tracked by type and location, giving official and independent aid agencies a view into the evolving landscape of people’s needs. Text to 3441 and help create a distributed database of crisis information.

Riaz Haq said...

In flood-stricken Pakistan, a good wheat harvest is expected, reports Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

Islamabad/Rome, 30 Mar 2011 -- A large-scale distribution by FAO of wheat seeds to the victims of last year’s floods in Pakistan is now ripe to yield enough food for half a million poor rural households.

With an average family size of eight, this translates into a harvest large enough to feed four million people for the next six months.

FAO spent $54 million of international donor funding buying and distributing quality wheat seeds as part of its emergency intervention that began last August. . Once the harvest is completed, this donation will have produced a crop worth almost $190 million in wheat flour, the main staple, at current local retail prices. “The investment made by donors has been quadrupled,” said Daniele Donati, Chief, FAO Emergency Operations Service. “Moreover, farmers will be able to save the seeds from this year’s harvest to plant again later this year.”

More than 18 million people in Pakistan were affected by last summer’s severe flooding, which caused extensive damage to housing, infrastructure and crops.

Farming nearly fully-funded

In responding to the immediate and critical challenges of the 2010 floods, FAO led the Agriculture Cluster, comprised over 200 organizations, reaching 1.4 million farming families across Pakistan.

FAO received $92 million of its $107 million appeal, which has enabled it to shore up the smallholder agricultural system in the four Pakistan provinces affected by the flooding. The donors were Australia, Belgium, Canada, CERF, the European Commission, IFAD, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

As well as supporting the “Rabi” wheat planting season, it is estimated that FAO saved the lives of almost a million livestock by supplying temporary shelter and enough de-worming tablets and dry animal feed for almost 290,000 families. Green fodder is now becoming available as the harsh Pakistan winter turns to Spring.

“The livestock interventions really paid off,” Donati said. “It costs ten times more to buy a new animal, which often represent a family’s lifetime savings”.

Canals cleared

FAO is overseeing a thousand cash-for-work schemes by which workers are paid to clear irrigation canals blocked with silt and flood debris.

One severely affected province not to have received much help is Sindh. This was because the fields remained waterlogged until well after the end of the Rabi planting season, and in some cases are still inundated. The UN Agency will shortly distribute quality rice seeds to almost 25 000 families in Sindh for the upcoming planning season, but over 700 000 families will require assistance over the coming months.

Recovery priorities

FAO, in partnership with the Government of Pakistan has identified recovery priorities for the next two years. These are increasing crop, livestock, fishery and agro-forestry production, improving diets and nutrition and boosting agriculture extension services to offer advice to landless and smallholder farmers.

“Pursuit of these core objectives will significantly reduce the vulnerability of the populations in question, improve food production and income generation, and increase affected communities’ resilience to future shocks,” said Donati. FAO expects its recovery programme to cost $94 million, enough to assist 430 000 families in 24 districts.

An Early Recovery Working Group, co-chaired by the Pakistan Government’s National Disaster Management Authority and the United Nations Development Programme, has been set up with eight sectors covered including one on Agriculture and Food Security, co-chaired by FAO, WFP and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Riaz Haq said...

US funding of huge dam project in Pakistan angers India, according to Miami Herald:

ISLAMABAD -- Even as U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on anti-terrorism programs is withering, the United States is considering backing the construction of a giant, $12 billion dam in Pakistan that would be the largest civilian aid project the U.S. has undertaken here in decades.

Supporters of a U.S. role in the project say American participation would mend the United States' tattered image, going a long way toward quieting widespread anti-Americanism amid criticism that the U.S. lavishes money on Pakistan's military while doing little for the country's civilian population.

Approval of the project still faces many hurdles. India objects to the dam because it would be in Kashmir, an area that India also claims. The project also is likely to face opposition from Pakistan's critics in the U.S. Congress, who've called for all aid to be cut off after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in northern Pakistan earlier this year. Recent Pakistani actions, including allegations this week that Pakistan had allowed Chinese military experts to inspect the wreckage of an American stealth helicopter that crashed in the bin Laden compound, are likely to inflame such criticism.

Still, proponents of U.S. aid for the project recall that the United States was popular in Pakistan in the 1960s and '70s, when Washington backed the construction of two enormous dams, Tarbela and Mangla.

"Getting involved in a long-term project like this is very compelling for us," said a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified because no final decision on the project has been made. "This would be a huge demonstration of our commitment to Pakistan and our faith in the country's future."

The Diamer Basha dam would provide enough power to overcome Pakistan's crippling electricity shortage. Proponents of the project also claim that its water storage capacity, in a 50-mile-long lake that would be created behind the dam, would be so great that it would have averted last's years devastating floods, which deluged a fifth of the country, pushed 20 million people out of their homes and caused an estimated $10 billion in damage.

The U.S.-Pakistani alliance since 2001 has been plagued by accusations in Washington that Islamabad is playing a "double game" by secretly supporting Afghan insurgents, while Pakistan thinks it's been bullied into acting against its own interests and that it's been unfairly blamed for American failures in Afghanistan. The unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden in May humiliated Pakistan's powerful military, causing anti-terrorism cooperation to be all but halted.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Nation's story on allocating parliamentary seats for Pakistan diaspora:

In the wake of disqualification of lawmakers holding dual nationalities by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran has called for amendments in the constitution, enabling overseas Pakistanis to be elected for parliament through reserved seats, as remittances from abroad proved a lifeline for Pakistan’s economy.The APAT urged the government as well as the opposition parties to allocate at least 10 per cent reserved seats for overseas Pakistanis in the parliament. The government will have to amend the constitution with the support of all opposition parties to facilitate those Pakistanis having dual nationality, living abroad, he said. In this way, their interest in affairs of their motherland will further increase, as remittances have been playing a key role in the economic performance of Pakistan, it observed.Continuous rise in remittances in the last few years has saved Pakistan from serious economic problems including default on debt repayments, stated general secretary Naeem Mir.He said that presently, several countries including all the seven states of South Asia, counting India as well, and Pakistan’s share has been phenomenal during 2011-12 when overseas Pakistanis sent home record $13.21 billion that eclipsed all the receipts of several decades. Pakistan has now become among top five countries of the world which are receiving big remittances from overseas workers, majority of them might have dual nationality, he added.“This goes without saying that remittances from abroad proved a lifeline for Pakistan’s economy at a time when energy shortages, high inflation and missing revenue collection targets have hurt gross domestic product (GDP) growth.” He appreciated the right of vote for the overseas, calling for their representation too in parliament, as in this way, they will turned to be the ambassadors of Pakistan. They will not only remit their income but also pursue foreign investors to make investment in Pakistan. He said that if more incentives are introduced for sending money home in easier way by overseas Pakistanis, they might send more than $20 billion remittances as experts expect. He said that except for September ($890.42 million) and November ($924.92 million) in last fiscal, Pakistanis remitted $1 billion or more in each of the remaining 10 months of 2011-12.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan orders AW139 twin-engine helicopters for search and rescue. Adds to 11 Pratt & Whitney PT6-powered helis

Pakistan has ordered an undisclosed number of AgustaWestland AW139 intermediate twin-engined helicopters configured for search and rescue missions.

Deliveries are due to start in 2017, says parent company Leonardo-Finmeccanica, with the deal part of a fleet renewal programme “spread over several batches”, it adds. Signed in Islamabad, the contract also covers its provision of personnel training and logistics support.

A total of 11 of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered helicopters are already operated in Pakistan. Of this number, Flightglobal's Fleets Analyzer database records five as used by the government for disaster relief and transportation missions.