Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pakistan's Year 2011 in Review

“You tend to hear the worst 5% of the Pakistan story 95% of the time.” Pakistani Entrepreneur Monis Rahman

Most of the reviews of Pakistan's Year 2011 fit the above description of how Pakistan's story is told by foreign and domestic media engaged in the 24X7 news cycle.

So let me get the worst 5% of the story out of the way before telling you the rest of the 95% of it.

The Worst 5% of Pakistan's Story in 2011:

Pakistan added to the list of multiple serious crises of energy, economy, education, security and the worst ever governance by adding one more--a civilian-military conflict created by the hubris, incompetence and corruption of the ruling Peoples' Party leadership. This ongoing crisis now threatens to discredit and derail democracy yet again with the rapidly declining popularity of the Zardari-Gilani government and growing favorability ratings of the Pakistani military and its leadership.

Now the Rest of the Pakistan Story in 2011:


1. The current PPP-led coalition reached a key milestone of becoming the longest-serving elected civilian government in Pakistan's history.

2. Deep dissatisfaction with PPP-PML(N) duopoly gave rise to a credible third option with the emergence of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by the popular cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. PTI particularly gained considerable momentum with successful political rallies in Lahore and Karachi.


1. Early childhood education received a significant boost with the launch of Sim Sim Hamara, Pakistani adaptation of the popular Sesame Street TV show for pre-school children.

2. Pakistan continued to be ahead of India in graduation rates at all levels, according to 2011 update published by Harvard researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.

3. Pakistan achieved the distinction of having the world's largest Fulbright Foundation program in 2011, with about 200 scholarships for advanced degrees during the year.

4. Punjab government launched elite Danish School system for high-achieving but poor college-bound students in Southern Punjab region. Public-sector Danish schools are intended as an alternative to the best available private schools which are beyond the reach of the poor rural students. There are currently two schools each in Chistian, Hasilpur and Rahim Yar Khan, and ambitious plans for over 600 such schools in the future.

5. The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a private foundation, continued to expand its network of schools, reaching a total of 730 well-equipped schools as of April, 2011, serving over 100,000 mostly underprivileged students. 71 of these TCF schools have been built are being operated with funds from Pakistani-American donors.

6. The British government announced $1 billion in aid for improving primary education in Pakistan over a four year period. The money will fund education for up to 4 million students, train 9,000 teachers, purchase 6 million new text books and build 8,000 schools by 2015.


1. Pakistan's lady health workers were described as "the best in the world" by a Boston University researcher and author of a community-based health care delivery study in Pakistan.

Women at Work:

1. The year 2011 saw a silent social revolution in Pakistan with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder. "More of them(women) than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations", said a 2011 report in Businessweek magazine.

2. Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.

3. In rural Sindh, the government started granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province. Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.


1. Middle class consumers started spending again in 2011. over 10,000 more units of locally assembled cars were sold in July-November 2011 with sales hitting 62,353 units compared with 52,200 units in the same period of 2010. Auto sales in Pakistan hit a two year high, jumping 61% in July, 2011 to 17,563 units from 10,942 units in the same month of last year. Pak Suzuki Motor Company led the auto sales up with 116 percent rise to 11,997 units from 4,503 seen in the same period last year.

2. Away from the violence and the troubles of the big cities, the economy of rural Pakistan experienced a boom. Flush with cash from bumper crops at record commodity prices, the farmers spent on tractors, cars, motorcycles, mobile phones, personal grooming items, packaged foods and beverages and other consumer products like never before. Higher crop prices increased farmers’ incomes in Pakistan by Rs. 342 billion in the 12 months through June, according to a government economic survey. That was higher than the gain of Rs. 329 billion in the preceding eight years, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Companies like Millat tractors, Honda Atlas Motorcycles, Pak Suzuki Motors, Engro Foods, Telnor, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, and Unilever have been big beneficiaries of the rural consumption boom.

3. Pakistan's key share index KSE-100 dropped about 5% in 2011, significantly less than most the emerging markets around the world. Mumbai's Sensex, by contrast, lost about 25% of its value, putting it among the worst performing markets in the world.


1. Significant new investments were announced in the renewable energy sector, particular hydroelectric power plants and wind farms. WAPDA announced 28% completion of the 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project, and ADB took the lead financier role in the 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha dam project. Pakistan has about 1000 MW of wind power plants at various stages of planning and construction, and another 498.5 megawatts of wind programs announced, mostly in Jhimpir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Port Qasim wind corridors along the Arabian Sea coast in Sindh.

2. In addition to billions of tons of coal deposits in Sindh, exploration confirmed the presence of upwards of 60 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in Pakistan, enough for 20 years or more.

Declining Violence:

1. As US-Pakistan relations sank to new lows, there were tentative signs that Pakistan's fight against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is beginning to succeed. There have been no major terrorist attacks in Pakistan since the the Mehran Naval Base siege in Karachi in May, 2011.

2. Death toll from terrorism declined for the third year in row, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. After hitting a peak of 11,704 in 2009, number of deaths fell to 7,435 in 2010 and 6,048 in 2011.

3. Huge political rallies in 2011 passed off without violence, helping boost confidence in the security situation in major Pakistani cities.


While deep concerns remain about Pakistanis' ability to overcome the myriad crises they face today, the year 2011 showed that the people continue to be undaunted and resilient. A significant number of them, like Edhi Foundation, The Citizens Foundation, Pakistan Lady Health Workers and others are showing the way by lighting candles rather than cursing darkness.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Auto Sales Jump in Pakistan

64 Years of Pakistan

British Aid for Pakistani Schools

Pakistan Plans 1000 MW Wind Farms

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Thursday, December 29, 2011

PISA & TIMSS Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

Indian students rank near the bottom on PISA, a global test of learning standards conducted in 74 nations this year. TIMSS, another standardized international test, produced similar results earlier in 2003.

This is the first time that Indian students participated in PISA. Students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu took the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Prior to this participation, students from Indian states of Orissa and Rajasthan took a similar test called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003.

Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh rank high on human development indicators among Indian states. The India Human Development Report 2011, prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), categorized them as “median” states, putting them significantly ahead of the national average. IAMR is an autonomous arm of India's Planning Commission.

Himachal Pradesh ranked 4 and Tamil Nadu 11 in literacy rates on India's National Family Health Survey released in 2007. However, in the PISA study, Tamil Nadu ranked 72 and Himachal Pradesh 73, just ahead of the bottom-ranked Kyrgyzstan in mathematics and overall reading skills. Shanghai, China's biggest city, topped the PISA rankings in all three categories—overall reading skills, mathematical and scientific literacy. The new entrants included Costa Rica, Georgia, India (Himachal Pradesh & Tamil Nadu), Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Venezuela (Miranda), Moldova, United Arab Emirates. PISA 2009+ involved testing just over 46 000 students across these ten economies, representing a total of about 1,377,000 15-year-olds.

In Tamil Nadu, only 17% of students were estimated to possess proficiency in reading that is at or above the baseline needed to be effective and productive in life. In Himachal Pradesh, this level is 11%. “This compares to 81% of students performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on an average,” said the study.

The average Indian child taking part in PISA2009+ is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Even the best performers in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

The average child in HP & TN is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Contrary to President Obama's oft-expressed concerns about American students ability to compete with their Indian counterparts, the average 15-year-old Indian placed in an American school would be among the weakest students in the classroom, says Lant Pritchett of Harvard University. Even the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

The 2003 TIMSS study ranked India at 46 among 51 countries. Indian students' score was 392 versus average of 467 for the group. These results were contained in a Harvard University report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

These results are not only a wake-up call for the "India Shining" brigade, but also raise serious questions about the credibility of India's western cheerleaders like Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria and New York Times' columnist Tom Friedman.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

Sunday, December 25, 2011

IBA's Pakistan Entrepreneurship Report is Flawed!

A recent report by the Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) finds that Pakistanis are less entrepreneurial than their counterparts in the majority of 59 member nations of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), according to Express Tribune newspaper. The report says that the new business ownership rate, which is the percentage of owner-managers of a business that is three to 42 months old, is 2.7% in Pakistan, "considerably less" than the average rate for factor-driven economies (11.8%).

The results of this IBA CED study, as reported by the media, run counter to the findings of a recent World Bank report titled "More and Better Jobs in South Asia" which shows that 63% of Pakistan's workforce is self-employed, including 13% high-end self-employed. Salaried and daily wage earners make up only 37% of the workforce.

Even if one chooses to consider just the 13% who are high-end self-employed as entrepreneurs, it's still much higher than the 2.7% figure reported by CED, and higher than the 11.8% average reported for factor-driven economies covered by GEM.

It seems to me that this discrepancy stems from a very narrow and limited definition of entrepreneurship used in the IBA study which ignores the following realities:

1. The rapid urbanization from massive ongoing rural-to-urban migration in Pakistan is spawning a whole generation of small entrepreneurs who end up working for themselves as small vendors selling their wares on the streets and independent service providers who do basic chores like cooking and cleaning for dozens of clients. Each of these individuals is an entrepreneur by definition. Some of them have also found their way to other nations in Europe and the Middle East where they are earning a good living as street vendors. I saw a recent example of a Pakistani street vendor in Italy who earned enough to send his children to universities....a luxury he didn't have himself.

2. There are many small groups of men and women who are starting businesses at home in both urban and rural areas of the country to sell groceries, sew clothes, raise animals for milk, grow and sell fruits and vegetables, cater cooked food, etc. These small entrepreneurs are managing to put food on their families' tables and put children through good schools. Some of them are being funded and trained by microfinance institutions like Kashf Foundation and others.

People at academic institutions like the IBA who talk about entrepreneurship must research examples like Kraft Foods and Carl's Junior, both of which had humble beginnings on the streets of the United States.

James L. Kraft started Kraft foods by selling milk and cheese from a horse-drawn cart in Chicago in 1903; its first year of operations was "dismal", losing US$3,000 and a horse. Today, Kraft Foods is a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation selling a variety of food products around the globe, including Pakistan.

Carl's Jr, a multi-national fast food giant which operates Hardy's restaurants in Pakistan, began life as a hot dog stand in southern California 1941 with $311 in capital. One cart grew to four, and within five years, Carl's Drive-In Barbecue opened with hamburgers on the menu.

I believe that most Pakistanis are not risk-averse. What is lacking is a supportive environment to help nurture millions of small entrepreneurs to enable them to realize their dreams. The efforts of microfinance sector need to be supported by both the public and private sector through skills training, mentoring and greater funding. Each of us who can afford to help can do so by joining microfinance networks like to lend to such entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Entrepreneurs Survive Downturn

Pakistan Leads in Entrepreneurship Indicators

Microfinance to Fight Poverty in Pakistan

Pakistani Entrepreneurs Summit in Silicon Valley

Social Entrepreneurs Target India, Pakistan

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan

P.I.D.E. on Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Pakistan Tops Job Growth in Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

American Muslim Reality TV Challenges Stereotypes

Do all Muslim women wear hijab and all Muslim men sport beards? Are all members of the Muslim faith terrorists bent on attacking the West? Are they all Martians? Are all Muslim women meek and subservient, and their menfolk tyrants? The first ever reality TV about Muslims in America on TLC channel answers these and other questions by breaking down many common stereotypes.

All-American Muslim follows the daily lives of five Lebanese-American Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan--the Amens, the Aoudes, the Bazzy-Aliahmads, the Jaafars, and the Zabans. Ms. Rima Fakih, a Lebanese Shia Muslim resident of Dearborn, won the national beauty pageant last year to become the first ever Muslim Miss USA.

The show premiered on TLC with record 1.7 million viewers in November, earning critical acclaim from The New York Times, USA Today NPR, Time Magazine, The Atlantic and many other publications, according to Washington Post. The first episode, “How to Marry a Muslim,” helped TLC achieve its highest ever Sunday prime-time ratings in more than a year among women from 18 to 34.

Here are some interesting tidbits from the TV series:

1. The student body at Dearborn's Fordson High School featured in the show is overwhelmingly Muslim--as many as 95% of the students are Muslim. The school football team is coached by Fouad Zaban, a Muslim. Muslim members of the football team fast during Ramadan, even on days they have games. At away games, they are sometimes subjected to epithets like f-ing Arabs, terrorists, camel jockeys, etc.

2. In the first episode of the season called "How to Marry a Muslim", Shadia Amen wants to marry a non-Muslim named Jeff, a Catholic. Her choice is something her father and her brother struggle with. But it doesn't stop her from marrying the man of her choice.

3. Nina Bazzy Aliahmad is a miniskirt-wearing leggy blond Muslim businesswoman who shocks her friends and family by announcing that she plans to open a night club during the first episode. Nina is a strong woman determined to get her way.

4. Samira Amen-Fawaz is struggling with infertility turns to religion and decides to start wearing the hijab again hoping that it will help her overcome her problem. Careful choice of fancy hijabs by her appears to be a fashion statement, and surprising to some that hijab and tight clothing are not considered incompatible.

5. Mike Jaafar is Deputy Chief Sheriff of Wayne County where Dearborn is located.

The reaction from the notorious Islamophobes and xenophobes in America has been predictably strong and negative.

Florida Family Association (FFA), a conservative Christian group, denounced the show as “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.”

Other Muslim bashers in America were quick to add their hateful voices. Pam Geller, notorious anti-Muslim bigot, who has been involved in the anti-Islam protest against "Ground Zero" mosque project chimed in: “Every company is to free to choose where they put their ad dollars. 64 companies have now pulled their ads. And rightly so. It’s is not that the show about Muslims. It is that the show was predicated on a lie and the relentless propaganda of Islamic supremacists.”

The unfortunate effect of the Islamophobes' rhetoric is that Lowe's Home Improvement stores chain caved in and pulled its commercials from the show. Lowe's move was criticized by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, actress Mia Farrow and California state Sen. Ted Lieu, and Simmons offered to buy all remaining spots on the show from TLC. There are fresh reports that the show is now sold out with new advertisers stepping in to fill the holes left by Lowe's and

In a Washington Post blog, John Esposito lambasted the anti-Muslim bigotry in strong terms. He wrote that "the furor over All-American Muslim underscores yet again the extent to which Islamophobia exists despite the adamant claims of its enablers and practitioners that it does not. The fact that one cannot have a single show on a Muslim family without Muslim bashers insisting that portraying a normal family is somehow insidious because the show does not show the “dark side” of Islam demonstrates the extent to which they engage in the creation of a collective guilt, brush-stroking a religion and a majority of its followers with the actions a fraction of 1 percent of Muslims."

Many conservative Muslims have also criticized the show. In a recent call-in show on NPR Radio, some argued that women without hijabs and those wearing revealing clothes do not represent them, while others complained that the show only represents Lebanese-American Muslims who are a small slice of a large, ethnically and racially diverse Muslim population in America.

Talking about the critics of the show on NPR radio, California-based American-Muslim playwright Wajahat Ali said that "it's almost a thankless role for anyone to depict Muslims in the mainstream right now. You can't please people within the communities themselves who, I think, want an unrealistic portrayal of - what I call the avatar of perfection. Or, they need to see their representation, right? So they say like, listen, if that Muslim-American character does not represent me, it ceases being authentic and valid. And I think the - what we have to do instead is say, listen, that is just one story, or some stories, of people who claim to be American Muslim, and I have to respect that space and let them be."

Let's hope that All-American Muslims first season is a great success which leads into its second and third seasons to portray the great diversity of race, ethnicity and thought among Muslims in America. This national exposure on prime-time tv will help demolish all kinds of negative stereotypes promoted by the Islamophobes as part of their hateful agenda against Muslim-Americans.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

NPR Talk-of-the-Nation on All-American Muslim

King's Hypocrisy

Saudi Prince Funding Hate in America

FBI Entrapping Young Muslims

Duke University Study on Muslim Americans

How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation

Early Anthrax Probe of Pakistani-Americans

Violence Against Indians in Australia

First Haji in US Congress

Inside the Mind of Times Square Bomber

Home-grown Terror Plots Seen as FBI Entrapment

Milgram's Experiments on Obedience to Authority

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Culture of Theft on Display at Imran's Kasur Rally

Imran Khan, who often rails against kleptocracy in Pakistan, finds himself increasingly surrounded by the kind of people he fervently denounces. A large number of chairs stolen at his Kasur rally today by attendees in broad day light are Exhibit A for his critics' case against him.

In his defense, PTI Chief Imran Khan argues that the culture of corruption in Pakistan affects all strata of society from top to bottom, and he is forced to work with people, not angels, to achieve his noble goals of clean and competent governance. What happened in Qasur only reinforces Khan's argument.

It would be wrong to dismiss the crime committed in Kasur as an isolated incident of petty theft. In my view, it is symptomatic of the much larger problems of impunity that pervade in Pakistani society. A manifestation of such problems is the widespread power theft in Pakistan which accounts for as much as 40% of the revenue losses suffered by the power sector. These financial losses are partly responsible for the crippling electricity crisis that is badly hurting the nation's economy.

The electricity theft and other forms of corruption plague Pakistan but it is generally only poorer or less influential people who are occasionally held responsible for it. Last year in March, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's night rally in Lahore, the capita of the province his party governs, was lit by power stolen by what is commonly called "kunda", a metal hook illegally connected to live wires to secure the electricity supply. In response to embarrassing media reports, the BBC reported that a low level official at the Lahore power supply company was disciplined for it.

Corruption in Pakistan is highly organized and systematic. It stems from the politics of patronage which trumps everything else. The deep dysfunction of civil and police bureaucracy and the massive red ink flowing at state-owned enterprises ranging from PIA to Pakistan Railway to Pakistan Steel are the result of political favors doled out by the ruling politicians to their corrupt and incompetent family members, friends and cronies in exchange for monetary contributions and political support. Here's how Prof Anatol Lieven, author of Pakistan-A Hard Country explains political patronage in Pakistan:

"Rather than being eaten alive by a pride of lions, or even torn apart by a flock of vultures, the fate of Pakistan's national resources more closely resembles being nibbled away by a horde of mice (and the occasional large rat). The effects on the resources, and on state's ability to do things, are just the same, but more of the results are ploughed back into the society, rather than making their way straight back to bank accounts in the West. This is an important difference between Pakistan and Nigeria, for example."

Pakistan is probably better than Nigeria in terms of corruption, but I don't see this characterization by Prof Lieven as a compliment. What Pakistan needs now is someone to lead a process of social change to fight its widespread culture of stealing. Among the choices open to the people at this juncture, Imran Khan as Mr. Clean stands out as the best choice to lead this social change to reduce the level of corruption and spur the badly needed economic and human development in the country.

Here's a video of the rush to steal chairs after PTI's rally in Kasur, Panjab:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Culture of Corruption

Imran Khan's Lahore Rally

Pakistan's Politics of Patronage

Pakistani Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Transparency International Rankings 2009

Transparency International Corruption Index 2010

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vulnerability of US Supplies in Afghanistan

“Your homeland is like your mother. You can screw people here and there, that’s just business. But you never, ever screw your mother.” Pakistani Transporter Shakir Afridi

One of the biggest challenges of waging war anywhere is supply logistics to deployed troops. The supply challenge becomes even more formidable when the war theater is a landlocked country located thousands of miles away and involves transit through one or more other countries and international border crossings. The United States military has been facing such a challenge since it deployed in Afghanistan in 2001, and it's become only more difficult since the Obama troop surge in 2009 and worsening ties with Pakistan.

There are three different routes being used to supply US troops in Afghanistan: Pakistan Lines of Communication (PLC), Northern Distribution Network (NDN), and Airlift.

Pakistani Lines of Communication:

Pakistan routes are the fastest, shortest and least expensive way to supply US forces in Afghanistan.

The routes begin at the Karachi port in Pakistan. One goes north toward the logistical hub at Bagram Airfield, and the other west toward Kandahar. These have always been the primary option for American forces, being the shortest and cheapest, requiring only one border crossing, and minimal time on the road inside Afghanistan. Nearly 60,000 trucks drive more than 1,200 miles through the length of Pakistan every year carrying supplies and fuel. According to varying figures provided by U.S. and NATO forces, 40 percent to 60 percent of all military supplies used by coalition forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan.

Figures released by the Pakistan Federal Tax Ombudsman illustrate the surge in traffic at Karachi’s port. U.S. military equipment received at the port rose from nearly 16,000 shipping containers in 2005 to more than 54,000 in 2009. Halfway through 2010 the U.S. military had already shipped nearly 30,000 containers to Karachi.

The spike in US supplies through Pakistan has spawned a huge trucking business controlled mostly by Pashtuns from FATA, also known as Pathans, like Shakir Afridi who is quoted at the beginning of this post. His own fleet has grown from a few vehicles in 2001 to nearly 4,000 flatbeds and more than 3,000 fuel tankers that haul military supplies into Afghanistan. His quote is indicative of the depth of anger shared by most Pakistanis at the slaughter of 24 Pakistani soldiers by the US troops last November.

Northern Distribution Network:

The NDN route is longer, slower, and six times more expensive than the PLC route through Pakistan. It involves multiple modes of transport through several countries in Europe and Central Asia. Many are under strong Russian influence, and some do not allow military gear to be transported through their territory, according to a Businessweek report.

A network through Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that crosses through at least 16 countries, using a combination of roads, railway, air, and water to move supplies in from the north. The chain can be complex and circuitous. One path through the network, for example, might involve military cargo that arrives by sea in Istanbul. From there it travels the width of Turkey on truck and crosses the northern border into Poti, Georgia. In Georgia the equipment goes by rail to Baku in Azerbaijan, where it’s loaded onto a ship bound for the Kazakh Port of Aktau, across the Caspian Sea. Then it’s put on trucks for the 1,000-mile ride through Kazakhstan, then a train through Kyrgyzstan and, finally, into Afghanistan.


This is the most expensive option and it, too, relies heavily on Pakistan's cooperation. US Air Force carriers are already airlifting supplies to Afghanistan, but their use, at this stage, is “imperceptible” given the $14,000-per-ton cost of moving goods this way, according to a US government source. Most of these flights are routed through Pakistani airspace. If the relations get worse, the Pakistanis could shut the air-link to the US military.

Switching Routes:

“If you look at the trajectory, it’s clear which way the [US-Pakistan] relationship is going. It will be difficult to overcome yet another serious problem. The policy implication is that we need to diversify [transit routes] as much as we can and as quickly as we can. That’s what the US government has been all about recently,” an unnamed US government official told Deirdre Tynan of Eurasianet.

“But the real question is whether the NDN can fully compensate for what’s happened in Pakistan. We have a good NDN, but we also have Central Asian roads that are not the best,” he added. The NDN’s rail component is expected to pick up most of the extra freight volume.

Regardless of the rhetoric emanating from Washington, the fact is that the US is very likely to remain heavily dependent on Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

At a congressional hearing this year before the border incident of Nov 26, Lieutenant General Mitchell H. Stevenson, the U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, was asked what the “long term impact” would be if the supply route through Pakistan was “suddenly shut down.” After explaining that the Army kept a 45-day supply of reserve fuel on the ground in Afghanistan, the general said they could only “last several weeks” without any significant impact.


Pakistan has the longest border with Afghanistan and wields more influence there than any other country. It also provides the nearest seaport to Kabul. That is the fundamental reason why the U.S. has provided more than $20 billion to the country over the past decade, much of it to ensure supply logistics to US troops. “If we want to be successful in Afghanistan,” as General James L. Jones Jr., former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, said in recent congressional testimony, “the roads to that success have a lot to do with Pakistan.” Given these ground realities, the sooner the US apologizes to Pakistan for the Nov 26 incident to try and restore ties, the better it will be to achieve an end to the longest war in US history.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

Northern Distribution Network

From Pakistan to Afghanistan, U.S. Finds Convoy of Chaos

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?

The Obama Surge Strategy

US War Effort in Afghanistan Relies on Pakistan

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Economic Disparity Between Bangladesh & Pakistan

Economic gap between East and West Pakistan in 1960s is often cited as a key reason for the secessionist movement led by Shaikh Mujib's Awami League and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. This disparity has grown over the last 40 years, and the per capita income in Pakistan now stands at 1.7 times Bangladesh's in 2011, slightly higher than 1.6 as it was in 1971.

Forty years after the Fall of Dhaka and the creation of Bangladesh on Dec 16, 1971, there's still much talk about it. The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, has published a piece on the subject by Akbar Ali Khan marking the 40th anniversary of Bangladeshi independence. In his Op ED, Mr. Khan argues that "political independence provided much more conducive environment for growth in Bangladesh than united Pakistan. Though economic growth in East Pakistan was revived during Ayub Khan's so-called decade of reforms, growth rate in erstwhile East Pakistan was much lower than that of West Pakistan".

In his zeal to rationalize independence based on the economic argument, Mr. Khan has clearly ignored the following facts:

1. In 1969-70, the ratio of per capita incomes between West and East Pakistan was 1.6, as detailed by Mr. Khan. In 2011, however, this ratio has increased to 1.7, according to the IMF data.

2. Bangladesh is still categorized by the World Bank among low income and least developed countries of the world, while Pakistan is a middle income country and classified well above the list of least developed countries of the world.

3. Bangladesh is ranked as 11th poorest country in the world by the World Bank in terms of the percentage of population living on $1.25 or less a day. Neighboring India is the 14th poorest on this list, while Pakistan does not show up on it. The rest of the nations on this list are all in sub-Saharan Africa.

3. In 1947, East Pakistan started with a lower economic base than West Pakistan, and the loss of its Hindu Bengali business elite in 1947 left it worse off. It also didn't have the benefit of the large number of Muslim businessmen who migrated to West Pakistan, particularly Karachi, after partition of India in 1947.

4. Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain explains it well when he says that "although East Pakistan benefited from Ayub’s economic reforms in 1960s, the fact that these benefits were perceived as a dispensation from a quasi-colonial military regime to its colony—East Pakistan—proved to be lethal."

It must, however, be acknowledged that Bangladeshi economy has been outperforming Pakistan's in the last few years, particularly since President Musharraf's departure in 2008. Bangladesh has also made significant strides on various social indicators and it now ranks just one notch below Pakistan on human development index 2011. Bangladesh's family planning efforts have been remarkably successful in lowering the fertility rate of Bangladeshi women, an area where Pakistan significantly lags behind the rest of South Asia.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Comparing India and Pakistan in 2011

Is This a 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation Rates

Pakistan Tops Job Growth in South Asia

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis?

President Musharraf's Legacy

Demolishing Indian War Myths

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is This a 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz's confidential memo to retired US Admiral Mike Mullen on behalf of former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani makes a reference to the 1971 war where it says "this is a 1971 moment in Pakistan’s history". What does it really mean? Does it mean there is another India-Pakistan war in the offing? Or an expansion of US Afghan war into Pakistan? Or further splintering of Pakistan?

Let me try and interpret it by explaining it in the context of civilian-military relations in Pakistan in 1971.

The key result of the 1971 India-Pakistan war was the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh after a humiliating defeat of Pakistani military and Gen Nizai's surrender on December 16, 1971. This military defeat discredited, demoralized and sidelined Pakistani generals and paved the way for the Pakistan Peoples' Party leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to become an all-powerful civilian dictator and Chief Martial Law Administrator of what remained of Pakistan.

It can be reasonably argued that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a key architect of the tragic events that unfolded in 1971. Many analysts agree with late Governor Salman Taseer of the PPP who said that "the lion's share of the blame" for 1971 goes to Mr. Bhutto. Here's what Mr. Taseer wrote in his book "Bhutto: A Political Biography":

"Blame can never be satisfactorily or finally apportioned to the major players in this grisly drama, but that Bhutto, Mujibur Rahman and Yahya Khan share responsibility there can be no doubt. Many, indeed, are inclined to the view that Bhutto, as the most sure-footed politician of the three and thus the best equipped to assess the consequences of his actions, must accept the lion's share of the blame. Argument on this point will remain one of the central themes of Pakistani politics, perhaps for decades."

A number of actions and pronouncements by Mr. Bhutto support Gov Taseer's conclusion. Some of these are:

1. While the rest of the political parties winning two-thirds of the National Assembly seats agreed to attend the 1971 post-election session in Dacca, Mr. Bhutto refused to do so.

2. Not only did Mr. Bhutto announce his PPP's boycott of the assembly, he also threatened to "break the legs" of any one from West Pakistan who agreed to attend.

3. Mr. Bhutto urged the military to act against Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman's Awami Leage which had absolute majority in the National Assembly elected in 1971.

4. After General Yahya Khan was persuaded by Bhutto to act against the Awami League, Mr. Bhutto welcomed the army operation in East Pakistan by saying "Thank God, Pakistan is saved" on the day the military started its action in East Pakistan....knowing full well that it would invite an Indian invasion as it did.

5. There was wide support for a Polish ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council to end the 1971 India-Pakistan war before Dhaka fell. But Mr. Bhutto, as General Yahya Khan's special envoy, refused to go along and walked out of the UN meeting.

All of the above facts lead to only one conclusion: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto engineered the defeat of Pakistani military in East Pakistan in 1971 to discredit and marginalize the generals and consolidate his own power at the expense of the unity of Pakistan.

Is today's PPP inviting the US military to defeat, demoralize and destroy Pakistan's military in 2011? Are Abbottabad and Mohmand part of this strategy? Are US and Pakistan heading towards a dangerous military confrontation in the near future?

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective?

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"?

Pakistan's Memogate

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?

Demolishing Indian War Myths

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pakistani-American: First Non-White NFL Owner

NFL owners are the oldest and whitest of old white guy clubs. Drew Magary

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan made history this week by becoming the first minority owner of a National Football League team. All 31 other owners of NFL teams are white. The deal to purchase Jacksonville Jaguar is for an estimated $760 million and the ownership transfer will be complete Jan. 4, 2012, according to Associated Press. Earlier, Khan agreed in February 2010 to buy a controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams before billionaire Stan Kroenke exercised an option to purchase the 60 percent of the club he didn’t own.

NFL has highly lucrative business because of the extraordinary popularity of football in the United States. Over nine years, starting in 2014, CBS, Fox and NBC will together will pay an average of about $3 billion a year, more than 50 percent higher than their current deals, according to a report in New York Times. Altogether, the four networks, in addition to DirecTV, which pays $1 billion a year for its Sunday Ticket satellite package, will pay the N.F.L. more annually in TV rights than any sports league has ever been paid.

Shahid Khan, a mechanical engineering graduate of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, made his fortune in the auto business. Almost two-thirds of all North American-built pick- up trucks and sports utility vehicles have bumper systems based on Khan’s designs, according to figures released by the Jaguars. Khan bought Flex-N-Gate in 1980 and the company now has more than 10,000 employees at 48 manufacturing plants with annual sales exceeding $3 billion.

Shahid Khan joins the illustrious list of Pakistani-Americans that includes Shering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan, Edible Arrangements Founder & CEO Tariq Farid, former CEO of Healthnet Dr. Malik Hasan, global hedge fund manager Mansoor Ijaz, Founder and Former CEO of AST Research Safi Qureshi, Mayor Haroon Saleem of of Granite Falls, Washington, Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin Weiner, novelists Bapsi Sidhwa and Daniyal Mueenuddin, Emmy nominee singer-songwriter Nadia Ali, and many other prominent Pakistani-American business executives, entrepreneurs, public servants, politicians and performers who have made their name in their adopted country.

Although Pakistani-Americans are still a miniscule fraction of the overall US population, their numbers have more than doubled in the last decade due to increased immigration, according to US Census 2010 data. With 100% increase since 2000, Pakistanis are the second fastest growing Asian immigrant group in the United States.

Here are some of the highlights of Pakistani-American data from US Census 2010 as gleaned from a report titled "A Community of Contrasts Asian Americans in the United States: 2011" published by Asian-American Center For Advancing Justice:

1. There are 409,163 Pakistani-Americans in 2010, the 7th largest Asian-American community in America.

2. Pakistani-American population doubled from 2000 (204,309) to 2010 (409,163), the second largest percentage increase after Bangladeshis' 157% increase in the same period.

3. 6% of Pakistani-American population is mixed race.

4. 65% of Pakistanis in America are foreign-born. 57% of foreign-born Pakistani-American population is made up of naturalized citizens.

5. There are 120,000 Pakistani legal permanent residents of which 42% are eligible to naturalize.

6. There were 69,202 immigrant visas issued to Pakistanis from 2001 to 2010, the 5th highest among Asian nations.

7. 28% of Pakistanis have limited English proficiency.

8. Average per capita income of Pakistani-Americans is $24,663.00

9. 15% of Pakistanis are classified as poor; only 1% of them are on public assistance.

10. 8% of Pakistanis are unemployed, a figure lower than the general population of Americans.

11. 55% of Pakistanis own their own homes.

12. 55% of Pakistanis have a bachelor's degree or higher.

13. Median age of Pakistanis in America is only 29 years, lower than most of the Asian groups and the national median age of 36.8 years.

Pakistani-American community is still relatively young when compared with other immigrant groups. More of the Pakistanis in America are college educated than the general population of whites and various immigrant groups. The youthful energy and higher education levels of Pakistani-Americans are opening doors for them to rise and shine in America, in spite of the current economic difficulties in their adopted land of opportunities.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-American in $500 Million Deal to Buy St. Louis Rams

Edible Arrangements- A Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani Diaspora World's 7th Largest

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision

OPEN Forum 2010

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Huma Abedin Calm Amid Twittergate

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth in 1999-2009

Social Entrepreneurs Target India, Pakistan

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

US Blames Pak Fertilizer For IEDs in Afghanistan

It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” Henry Kissinger 1968

What Dr. Kissinger said about South Vietnam in 1968 is just as relevant today for US allies Mexico and Pakistan. Both nations are paying with their blood every day for being US allies.

In yet another blow to the already fragile US-Pakistan ties, the US Congress has frozen $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it gives assurances it is helping fight the spread of improvised bombs, or IEDs, in the region by regulating the distribution of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer. While the loss of a few hundred American lives to IEDs each year in a war zone needs to be reduced, the hypocrisy US legislators is evident by its failure to legislate to control guns in America that claim 30,000 lives (including suicides) each year in the United States, and tens of thousands more in drug related gun violence in Mexico.

The most recent figure released by the Mexican government on the number of dead during the last 4 years is just over 34,000, according to Los Angeles Times. It's the consumption of drugs in the United States that makes drug smuggling highly profitable for powerful drug cartels, and it's the US made guns smuggled across the border into Mexico that account for the bulk of the Mexican fatalities.

US Military commanders say fertilizer bomb in Afghanistan could be as crucial to the Taliban as the surface-to-air missile was to the Afghan mujahedeen fighters in their war in the 1980s against the Soviets, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In response to US concerns, Afghanistan government banned the use of Ammonium Nitrate last year. Pakistan followed suit by banning its use in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province which borders Afghanistan. The ban has been effective in significantly cutting IED casualties in 2011. There have been 192 IED related deaths till Sept this year, down from 368 last year, according to report in Time magazine. Part of the decline is attributed to the fact that the Taliban are now detonating roadside bombs with electronic signals, serving two purposes: they let the triggerman allow civilian vehicles to pass safely, and also let him time the explosion so the increasingly-sophisticated shaped-charged IEDs would do the most damage to the target vehicle.

As a land-locked and food deficit nation, Afghanistan gets the bulk of what it needs to survive from or through Pakistan across the 1500 mile long border shared by the two nations. Stricter controls on smuggling of Ammonium Nitrate may help reduce it but it's unrealistic to expect to completely eliminate it. Similar fertilizer is used by other Afghan neighbors and it is probably already being smuggled by determined insurgents into the country.

While the number of IED related deaths in Iraq number in hundreds, there are 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones.

There are obvious parallels between the the US-Mexican border and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in terms of cross border smuggling and violence. The key difference is that the number of casualties in Afghanistan is only a small fraction of the death toll in Mexico and Pakistan. Given the Congressional inaction on gun control in the United States, the demands made on Pakistan are just hypocritical. Such demands and threat of punitive action against Pakistan will only worsen the US-Pakistan relations and damage the US efforts in the region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Afghanistan and Pakistan Facts & Myths

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is India Safe For Medical Tourism?

A deadly hospital fire claiming 91 patients' lives in India last week is raising serious concerns about the safety of foreigners being wooed by the nation's growing medical tourism industry.

The fire swept through AMRI, a 180-bed, state-of-the-art facility regarded as one of the best hospitals in India. There were no exit doors or evacuation plan, the windows were sealed, and the local fire department took more than 90 minutes to arrive. Trapped, many of the patients died from smoke inhalation, according to a report in Christian Science Monitor. Most died in their beds, unable to escape the inferno that raged for hours. Residents living in the neighborhood accused the hospital guards of not taking any measures to control the fire and of even preventing others from rushing to the rescue of the victims who were abandoned by the hospital staff. The hospital is known to attract many foreign patients. However, it's too early to tell if any foreigners died in the blaze because most of the charred remains have yet to be identified.

“Large numbers of hospitals are coming up in a big way across India. What we need to look into when issuing the licenses for running the hospitals is that building construction has complied to safety building codes and a safety plan is in place in case of fire,” said Dr. Muzzafer Ahmed, a member of the country's National Disaster Management Authority, speaking to the media.

Though Indians remain among the most under-served in the world in terms of health care, growing for-profit Indian hospital industry has been promoting itself as an inexpensive alternative to high-cost surgery in the United States and Europe. There are a large number of foreign-trained highly-skilled physicians and surgeons in India. And the heart bypass surgery that costs $6,000 in India costs more than $20,000 in the US, according to Yaleglobal. There are similar deep discounts available for joint replacement, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and surrogate mothers' womb rental services.

Many Indians are expecting exponential growth in foreign demand to take advantage of the opportunity to combine medical treatment with vacations at significantly lower costs. "With health care costs going north," says Dr Alok Roy of Fortis Hospital, one of the leading service providers in the medical tourism sector, "patients are compelled to look at cost-effective destinations for medical treatments. And what could be better if they can combine that with sightseeing at scenic locations?"

The safety concerns about India go beyond the fear of being burned in a fire. Other major concerns include:

1. Fake pharmaceuticals are a big worry. In fact, 75 percent of counterfeit drugs supplied world over have origins in India, according to a report released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

2. Lack of proper hygiene contributes to a large number of infections in hospital settings. A recent investigation into the death of 13 women in a Rajasthan hospital found that the poor hygiene standard in the hospital were flagrantly overlooked, according to Times of India.

Will the latest incident at AMRI in Kolkatta, combined with general concerns about unhygienic practices and widespread use of fake pharmaceuticals, hurt India's efforts at growing its medical tourism industry? The short answer is yes. However, the growth prospects could improve in the future when the Indian government and the hospital industry begin to improve the safety situation to regain the trust of prospective foreign customers.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Indians Carry Heavy Disease Burdens

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

WHO Says India Leads the World in TB Cases

Infectious Diseases Kill Millions in South Asia

Infectious Diseases Cause Low IQ

Malnutrition Challenge in India and Pakistan

Hunger: India's Growth Story

Google Baby Boom in India

WHO Report on Medical Tourism in India

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Goldman's O'Neill "Disappointed" as India "Explodes"

For at least two years in a row, BRIC has, in the words of SGS's Albert Edwards, stood for Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept, not an acronym for populous emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China as Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill saw it ten years ago.

In fact, O'Neill has himself expressed disappointment in India, one of the BRICs, a designation that has boosted foreign investment in India and helped accelerate its economic growth since 2001.

"All four countries have become bigger (economies) than I said they were going to be, even Russia. However there are important structural issues about all four and as we go into the 10-year anniversary, in some ways India is the most disappointing," said O'Neill as quoted by Reuters.

Noting India's significant dependence on foreign capital inflows, Jim O'Neill went further and raised a concern about the potential for current account crisis. "India has the risk of ... if they're not careful, a balance of payments crisis. They shouldn't raise people's hopes of FDI and then in a week say, 'we're only joking'". "India's inability to raise its share of global FDI is very disappointing," he said.

United Nations data shows that India received less than $20 billion in FDI in the first six months of 2011, compared to more than $60 billion in China while Brazil and Russia took in $23 billion and $33 billion respectively. Stocks in all four countries have underperformed relative to the broader emerging markets equity index, as well as the markets in the developed nations. Pakistan's KSE-100 has significantly outperformed all BRIC stock markets over the ten years since BRIC was coined.

As India's twin deficits continue to grow and the Indian rupee hits record lows relative to the US dollar, there is pressure on Reserve Bank of India to defend the Indian rupee against currency speculators who may precipitate a financial crisis similar to the Asian crisis of 1997.

In addition to Jim O'Neill, a range of investment bankers are turning bearish on India. UBS sent out an email headlined "India explodes" to its clients. Deutsche Bank published a report on November 24 entitled, "India's time of reckoning."

"Suddenly everything seems to be coming to a head in India," UBS wrote. "Growth is disappearing, the rupee is in disarray, and inflation is stuck at near-record levels. Investor sentiment has gone from cautious to outright scared."

India's current account deficit swelled to $14.1 billion in its fiscal first quarter, nearly triple the previous quarter's tally. The full-year gap is expected to be around $54 billion.

Its fiscal deficit hit $58.7 billion in the April-to-October period. The government in February projected a deficit equal to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product for the fiscal year ending in March 2012, although the finance minister said on Friday that it would be difficult to hit that target.

As explained in a series of earlier posts here on this blog, India has been relying heavily on portfolio inflows -- foreign purchases of shares and bonds -- as a means of covering its rising current account gap. Those flows are called "hot money" and considered highly unreliable.

Indian policy makers face a significant dilemma. If they do nothing to defend the Indian currency, the downward spiral could make domestic inflation a lot worse than it already is, and spark massive civil unrest. If they intervene in the currency market aggressively by buying up Indian rupee, the RBI's dollar reserves could decline rapidly and trigger the balance of payment crisis Goldman Sachs' O'Neill hinted at.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Twin Deficits

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

India Returning to Hindu Growth Rate

Soft or Hard Landing For Indian Economy?

Karachi Stocks Outperform Mumbai, BRICs

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pakistanis Get the Government They Deserve?

"The people get precisely the government they deserve"
US Federal Judge James Zagel, Dec 7, 2011

The above quote is from the judge who handed 14 year prison term to ousted Illinois Gov Rod Blagojevich yesterday after he was found guilty of attempting to sell President Obama's senate seat.

I have a feeling that this event will probably pass unnoticed in Pakistan where politics is characterized by a culture of corruption. But for those who have an interest in bringing some accountability to Pakistan's political class, it's an opportunity to understand the evolution of Chicago politics and its comparisons with Pakistan's.

While Chicago is a highly industrialized major city in the US state of Illinois, its politics in some ways remains essentially corrupt, sectarian and ethnic like Karachi's. Convicted Governor Rod Blagojevich is a product of the Chicago politics, as were many of his predecessors and fellow politicians found guilty of corruption before him.

The obvious difference is that, unlike their counterparts in Pakistan, the corrupt Chicago politicians are being caught, convicted and often sent to jail for their misdeeds.

The phrase "Vote early and vote often" captures the essence of corrupt Chicago politics. The phrase has often been used to describe the razor thin win of President John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, in the 1960 presidential contest. It is attributed to vote fraud in Cooke County orchestrated by the then Chicago Mayor John Daley who was himself an Irish Catholic, and thought to have supported JFK because of his shared ethnic and religious affinity with the Kennedys. Needless to say that Mayor Daley was never indicted for anything. Kennedy's rival Richard Nixon decided not to challenge the result to spare the nation of the potential crisis from it.

It was not just Mayor Daley whose ethnic and sectarian identity was central to his behavior in 1960s. Other Chicagoans felt the same way, as described by newspaper columnist late Mike Royko of Chicago:

"There was...good reason to stay close to home and in your own neighborhood-town and ethnic state. Go that way, past the viaduct, and the wops will jump you, or chase you into Jew town. Go the other way, beyond the park, and the Polacks will stomp on you. Cross those streetcar tracks, and the Irish will shower you with confetti from the brickyards. And who can tell what the niggers might do?"

In "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi", the author Steve Inskeep draws parallels between the Chicago of 1950s and 1960s and the rapidly growing cities in the developing world like Mumbai (India), Karachi (Pakistan) and Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in the following words:

"Karachi was one of many growing cities made turbulent by ethnic politics. In recent years an ethnic political party has controlled Mumbai, India, imposing a regional language on the government of an aspiring world city. In the growing oil city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Internet cafes and churches line the commercial streets, while ethnic militias rule the backstreets and set neighborhoods on fire. None of this will surprise people who study the history of American cities. Chicago, for example, grew explosively from the 1830s onward--it was an instant city in its time--newcomers clustered defensively in their various neighborhoods. As late as the 1950s, immigrants and their children drew battle lines along major streets or railroad tracks.."

It does help to put in historical context the growing pains that Pakistan, and its largest city Karachi, are experiencing now. But it's also important to learn lessons from the way the political leadership is being held accountable for their actions in the United States to help Illinois, and its largest city Chicago, move forward. Let's hope that Pakistan's growing urban middle class will rise to the occasion to meet the challenge of ending the culture of corruption by forcing transparency and accountability at all levels of government in the country. Pakistanis can only expect to have a good government if they truly deserve it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pay to Play is the Norm in Washington

Anti-Corruption Day, Blagojevich and Zardari

Gangster Politicians of Karachi

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistani Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Karachi: The Urban Frontier