Thursday, July 26, 2012

Indians Share "Eye-Opener" Stories of Pakistan

Several prominent Indian journalists and writers have visited Pakistan in recent years for the first time in their lives.  I am sharing with my readers selected excerpts of the reports from Mahanth Joishy (, Panakaj Mishra (Bloomberg), Hindol Sengupta (The Hindu), Madhulika Sikka (NPR) and Yoginder Sikand (Countercurrents) of what they saw and how they felt in the neighbor's home. My hope is that their stories will help foster close ties between the two estranged South Asian nations.

Mahanth S. Joishy, Editor, :  (July, 2012)

Many of us travel for business or leisure.  But few ever take a trip that dramatically shatters their entire worldview of a country and a people in one fell swoop.  I was lucky enough to have returned from just such a trip: a week-long sojourn in Pakistan.

It was a true eye-opener, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.  Many of the assumptions and feelings I had held toward the country for nearly 30 years were challenged and exposed as wrong and even ignorant outright.
 The Western and Indian media feed us a steady diet of stories about bomb blasts, gunfights, kidnappings, torture, subjugation of women, dysfunctional government, and scary madrassa schools that are training the next generation of jihadist terrorists.  And yes, to many Westerners and especially Indians, Pakistan is the enemy, embodying all that is wrong in the world.  Incidents such as the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, 26/11 and the Osama Bin Laden raid in Abottobad have not helped the cause either.  Numerous international relations analysts proclaim that Pakistan is “the most dangerous place in the world” and the border with India is “the most dangerous border in the world.”
(Upon arrival in Karachi) two uniformed bodyguards with rifles who were exceedingly friendly and welcoming climbed onto the pickup truck bed as we started on a 45-minute drive.  I was impressed by the massive, well-maintained parks and gardens surrounding the airport.  I was also impressed by the general cleanliness, the orderliness of the traffic, the quality of the roads, and the greenery. Coming from a city government background, I was surprised at how organized Karachi was throughout the ride.  I also didn’t see many beggars the entire way.  I had just spent significant amounts of time in two major Indian cities, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as several second-tier cities like Mangalore, and none would compare favorably on maintenance and city planning, especially when it came to potholes and waste management.  This was the first surprise; I was expecting that piles of garbage and dirt would line the roads and beggars would overflow onto the streets.  Surely there is dirt and poverty in Karachi, but far less than I was expecting.  Karachi was also less dense and crowded than India’s cities.

My second pleasant surprise was to see numerous large development projects under way.  I had read about Pakistan’s sluggish GDP growth and corruption in public works and foreign aid disbursement.  This may be true, but construction was going on all over the place: new movie theaters, new malls, new skyscrapers, new roads, and entire new neighborhoods being built from scratch.  In this regard it was similar to India and every other part of Asia I had seen recently: new development and rapid change continues apace, something we are seeing less of in the West.
 We were also able to do some things which may sound more familiar to Americans: bowling at Karachi’s first bowling alley, intense games of pickup basketball with some local teenagers at a large public park (these kids could really play), or passing through massive and well-appointed malls filled with thousands of happy people of all ages walking around, shopping, or eating at the food court.  We even attended a grand launch party for Magnum ice cream bars, featuring many of Pakistan’s A-list actors, models, and businesspeople.  A friend who is involved in producing musicals directed an excellent performance at the party, complete with live band, singing, and dancing.  This troupe, Made for Stage has also produced shows such as the Broadway musical Chicago to critical acclaim with an all-Pakistani cast for the first time in history.

Even the poor areas we visited, such as the neighborhoods around the Mazar, were filled with families coming out for a picnic or a stroll, enjoying their weekend leisure time in the sun.  All I could see were friendly and happy people, including children with striking features running around.  At no time did I feel the least bit unsafe anywhere we went, and we definitely went through a mix of neighborhoods with varying profiles.
 Lahore is more beautiful overall than Karachi or any large Indian city I’ve seen.  Serious effort has gone into keeping the city green and preserving its storied history.  Historians would have a field day here.  In particular we saw two stunning historic mosques, the Wazir Khan and the Badshahi, both of which should be considered treasures not only for Muslims, Pakistanis, or South Asia, but for all of humanity.  I felt it a crime that I’d never even heard of either one.  Each of them in different ways features breath-taking architecture and intricate artwork comparable to India’s Taj Mahal.  These are must-see sights for any tourist to Lahore.  The best way to enjoy the vista of the Badshahi mosque is to have a meal on the rooftop of one of the many superb restaurants on Food Street next to the mosque compound.  This interesting area was for hundreds of years an infamous red-light district, made up of a series of old wooden rowhouses that look like they were lifted straight out of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, strangely juxtaposed with one of the country’s holiest shrines.  From the roof of Cuckoo’s Den restaurant, we could see all of the massive Badshahi complex along with the adjoining royal fortress, all while having a 5-star meal of kebabs, spicy curries in clay pots, and lassi under the stars.  We were fortunate to have very pleasant whether as well.  This alfresco dining experience with two good friends encompassed my favorite moments in the city.

We did much more in Lahore.  We were given a tour of the renowned Aitchison College, which one of my friends attended.  This boys’ private prep school is known for its difficult entrance exams, rigorous academic tradition, illustrious list of alumni since the British founded the school, and its gorgeous and impeccably maintained 200-acre campus that  puts most major universities icluding my own Georgetown to shame.  Aitchison has been considered one of the best prep schools on the subcontinent since 1886.  However, it would have been impossible to get a tour without the alumni connection because security is very thorough.

Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg:  (April, 2012)

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Hindol Sengupta, The Hindu: (May, 2010)

Add this bookstore to the list of India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank. The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign policy and subcontinental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting into in India. ...

Yes, that's right. The meat. There always, always seems to be meat in every meal, everywhere in Pakistan. Every where you go, everyone you know is eating meat. From India, with its profusion of vegetarian food, it seems like a glimpse of the other world. The bazaars of Lahore are full of meat of every type and form and shape and size and in Karachi, I have eaten some of the tastiest rolls ever. For a Bengali committed to his non-vegetarianism, this is paradise regained. Also, the quality of meat always seems better, fresher, fatter, more succulent, more seductive, and somehow more tantalizingly carnal in Pakistan. ....

Let me tell you that there is no better leather footwear than in Pakistan. I bought a pair of blue calf leather belt-ons from Karachi two years ago and I wear them almost everyday and not a dent or scratch! Not even the slightest tear. They are by far the best footwear I have ever bought and certainly the most comfortable. Indian leather is absolutely no match for the sheer quality and handcraftsmanship of Pakistani leather wear.

Yes. Yes, you read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and, yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable, wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously — potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur in the North West frontier province, hard hit by the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the highways and motorways.

Madhulika Sikka, NPR News: (May, 2010)

This may be hard to believe, but the first thing that crosses your mind when you drive into Islamabad is suburban Virginia — its wide roads, modern buildings, cleanliness and orderliness is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the ancient city of Lahore, some 220 miles east on the Grand Trunk Road.

Islamabad is laid out in a grid with numbered avenues running north to south. The streets are tree lined and flowers abound among the vast open stretches of green space.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful spots is the Margallah Hills National Park. Drive up the winding road on the northern edge of town to the scenic view points and you'll see the broad planned city stretch before you.
It's a Sunday afternoon and you could be in any park in any city in the world. Families are out for a stroll and picnicking on park benches. There's a popcorn vendor and an ice cream seller. Kids are playing on a big inflatable slide. Peacocks strut their full plumage as people are busily clicking away on their cellphone cameras. Lively music permeates the air as souvenir sellers are hawking their wares. Off one of the side paths I notice a young couple lunching at a bench, a respectable distance apart from each other but clearly wanting to be alone.

So what's it like here? It's pretty much like everywhere else. On a quiet Sunday afternoon people are out with their families, relaxing and enjoying themselves, taking a break from the stresses and strains of daily life. For all of us this is an image of Pakistan worth remembering. I certainly will.
Yoginder Sikand, : (June, 2008)

Islamabad is surely the most well-organized,picturesque and endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or, if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never highlights anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only 'bad' news about the country appears to be considered 'newsworthy'. That realization hit me as a rude shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad's plush International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favorably with every other South Asian city that I have visited. That week in Islamabad consisted essentially of a long string of pleasant surprises, for I had expected Islamabad to be everything that the Indian media so uncharitably and erroneously depicts Pakistan as. The immigration counter was staffed by a smart young woman, whose endearing cheerfulness was a refreshing contrast to the grave, somber and unwelcoming looks that one is generally met with at immigration counters across the world that make visitors to a new country feel instantly unwelcome.

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial:
Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network
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Anonymous said...

so riaz anecdotal evidence of a a few journalists on a guided tour is better than reports of UN,WB,IMF etc etc

very unbiased post riaz!keep it up!

Pavan said...

For most Indians, Pakistan is a failed state. A few years ago Bangladesh was a basket case. These cliched views will only change when people cross borders without hassles. I want to visit Kunjah where my ancestors came from. Am hoping that they will exempt people above 65 from obtaining visas soon.

Krishnaswamy said...

Pavan, my ancestors are not from Pak. thank god.

I am sure these worthies must have seen the equivalent of IITs, BITS, IIMs in Pakistan too.

BTW in yesterday's WSJ
"Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, a victory that involved 2.4 million volunteers administering vaccines to nearly 172 million children. Only three endemic countries remain—Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria—and the 24-year global effort to eradicate the disease is now within striking distance of its goal. But the entire campaign could come undone if obstacles to vaccination stall further progress."

Anonymous said...

They then woke up and it was all dream!

Seriously, this just shows how Pakistan is seen by people who only want see what they want to see and never see the real Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Sashi Tharoor's report on his recent Pakistan visit:

The most striking thing about being an Indian in Pakistan is the warmth of the welcome one receives. We were bowled over by the kindness and hospitality extended to us by all — from the hosts, most of whom we had never met before, who offered us elaborate meals in impressive company, to the paanwallah who refused to take money from us and ran after us with tissues to ensure his succulent concoctions did not drip onto our clothes. The eminent Pakistani designers Amir and Huma Adnan, learning of our visit, sent us outfits that fit us perfectly even though we had never been measured for them. The editors Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, facing death threats that have sent them into temporary exile and turned their Lahore home into a fortified camp, insisted on offering us dinner with friends there. The liberal columnist Marvi Sirmed threw us a party on the eve of her teenage daughter’s birthday and showered us with gifts of traditional handicrafts; Nestle chairman Syed Yawar Ali arranged a tourist guide to show us Lahore on either side of a magnificent lunch with the city’s who’s who; the educational philanthropist Aziz Jamal and the rockstar Salman Ahmed flew up from Karachi just to spend time with us. An official of the Punjab chief minister’s media cell took us on a midnight drive to the Anarkali area and discussed politics over steaming cups of salty Kashmiri pink tea. My Fletcher classmate Tehseen Sayed, on leave from the World Bank in Nepal, and her daughter Raniya introduced my wife Sunanda to the delights of shopping in Islamabad. Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, fresh from his entry into Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and his wife Mehriene not only organised a dinner to welcome us but, on learning we would be in transit for several hours at the airport on our way back to India, came to the airport to take us home for a family brunch. No doubt some Pakistani visitors have similar stories to tell of their Indian experiences, but for us, given that we were relative strangers and that many of my views (notably in this newspaper) have not been palatable to the Pakistani establishment, all this was truly overwhelming. To me the one attribute of Pakistan that charms utterly is the graciousness of their hospitality to people from what is still considered an “enemy country”. One leaves feeling that these are kinfolk with whom misunderstandings are possible to overcome.

Krishnaswamy said...

"Seriously, this just shows how Pakistan is seen by people who only want see what they want to see and never see the real Pakistan."

and what is real pakistan.I see your TV talk shows on youtube and if that is real pakistan, then thank god i am not a pakistani.

Remember Pakistan is that country where supporters came out in support of Osama Bin Laden.

Anyhow Pak can easily earn excellent reputation if it sends educated people to west who earn a name.

Shams said...

Dil ko khush karne to ko Ghalib ye khyal accha hey

Raz said...

I don't blame people in India about not knowing how welcoming and warm-hearted MOST Pakistanis are...
their media just doesn't like to show the good side of our country.

Riaz Haq said...

Raz: "I don't blame people in India about not knowing how welcoming and warm-hearted MOST Pakistanis are...
their media just doesn't like to show the good side of our country."

I agree. Here are a few examples:

1. Noam Chomsky in interview with Outlook:

"I spent three weeks in India and a week in Pakistan. A friend of mine here, Iqbal Ahmed, told me that I would be surprised to find that the media in Pakistan is more open, free and vibrant than that in India.

In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don’t interfere with it.

The media in India is free, the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things. What I saw was a small sample. There are very good things in the Indian media, specially the Hindu and a couple of others. But this picture (in India) doesn’t surprise me. In fact, the media situation is not very different in many other countries. The Mexican situation is unusual. La Jornada is the only independent newspaper in the whole hemisphere."

2. Alice Albinia in the preface to her book "Empires of the Indus":

"It was April, 2000, almost a year since the war between Pakistan and India over Kargil in Kashmir had ended, and the newspapers which the delivery man threw on to my terace every morning still portrayed Pakistan as a rogue state, governed by military cowboys, inhabited by murderous fundamentalists: the rhetoric had the patina of hysteria."

3. John Briscoe, Harvard Professor and water expert on coverage of India-Pakistan water dispute:

Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas an important part of the Pakistani press regularly reported India's views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way in which India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar. How could this be, I asked? Because, a journalist colleague in Delhi told me, "when it comes to Kashmir – and the Indus Treaty is considered an integral part of Kashmir -- the ministry of external affairs instructs newspapers on what they can and cannot say, and often tells them explicitly what it is they are to say."

Anonymous said...

Indian elites have close links to the west(this is way way before India shining) the media mannagement manipulation is much more sophisticated.

Reading Indian/Wesstern press you actually have to be at the recieving end of the situation and know the facts on the ground you will always consider Indians as the good reasonable rational people and pakistanis as cavemen with nukes(That cavemen can't build nukes or missiles is pretty well distorted)

Still congratulations are in order truth is the first casualty of conflict and Indians have known it from Chanakya's time their media management and psyops capability is very very advanced and someone has clearly done a lot of behind the scenes groundwork very dilligently at RAW and other Indian agancies.

Hell they are an hon member of the Arab league/Have excellent relations with Iran and are ALSO Israel's closest ally in Asia.

Unknown said...

I like your narration. In your next update please also detail the great achievement, unparalleled in the world, of the private effort in the health sector for the POOR. SIUT, the SIND INSTITUTE OF UROLOGY, is one such example.....Last year they provided 187000 Dialysis Sessions, 107292 Emergency cases, 358 Renal Transplant, 9958 Chemo/Radio Therapy, 66146 Surgeries, 203216 Radiology Tests, 4249 Lithotripsies, 6086547 Lab Tests. All this FEE with dignity to the needy.
In addition, LRBT, EDHI, Shaukat Khanum etc are the private ventures which I am not aware can be matched anywhere in the world.........Let us be proud of it and let us project such efforts and help as much as we can.
S M Hasan

Anonymous said...

@pavan from Kunjah - I like that suggestion of relaxing the visas for elderly. My father visited India last in 2005 and I can feel the pain for him. I once responded to an Indian friend of mine (who was being very sarcastic about giving visas to Pakistanis) that imagine a few years from now US imposes the same restrictions on you or on your kids for traveling to India. I hope that you get the visa and visit your own country again.

Anonymous said...

We don't get to choose our neighbors, therefore, we need to accept each other the way we are and we should care less about how each one of us is perceived, we are what we are, accept us or reject us, we will always be what we are, irrespective of commonalities in culture and languages. The hatred is intentionally created by the governments and the milataries of both countries to ensure that majority of the budget is spent on arms rather than on development projects for masses, thus we would always continue to remain underdeveloped and hate each other.

Dr. Ali said...

To add in the list of "private effort in the health sector for the POOR";
1. Al-Shifa Trust -

2. Sahara for life -

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on housing market in Pakistan:

In Pakistan, average monthly expenditure on rent per household has increased at an annual rate of over 13% for the last nine years, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

A look at the Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) released by the PBS reveals that an average Pakistani family spent Rs888 every month on house rent in 2001-02; which rose to Rs2,693 in 2010-11; signifying an annualised increase of 13.12% over a period of nine years.

Interestingly, in the same period, annual rise in average house rent in rural areas was 2.7% higher than the corresponding increase in urban areas – even though 85.63% of the populace of rural areas lives in owner-occupied houses. In contrast, 75.79% of the urban population lives in houses that they own.

Urban housing

The highest number of people living in rented houses in urban areas belongs to the third quintile of the population in terms of income distribution at 22.38%. The third quintile in income distribution is representative of the middle class in a society.

The lowest number of people living in rented houses in urban areas – 15.93% – belongs to the fifth quintile of the income distribution. This suggests that the richest people in urban areas are most likely to own the house they live in.

The HIES figures also reveal that the poorest people, belonging to the first quintile in urban areas, end up spending 83% more on house rent as compared to a comparable group living in rural areas. Similarly, the richest people belonging to the fifth quintile living in urban areas tend to spend 220% more on average house rent per household, as compared to a comparable segment of the population living in rural areas.

Home ownership and per-capita incomes

“Rise in per-capita income does not seem to display any correlation with the percentage of owner-occupied houses in Pakistan,” economist Kaiser Bengali said, while talking to The Express Tribune. “In many cases, someone who works as a peon and earns a low monthly income can still own a house in Pakistan. This is so because people belonging to certain professions – such as the civil service, military, police, government teachers, journalists etc – receive free or subsidised land from the government or other trusts.”

Data supports Bengali’s view. Pakistan’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, formerly known as the Gross National Product per capita, increased by 9.62% annually between 2002 and 2011; but the number of persons living in owner-occupied houses over the same period remained almost stagnant at around 79% of the population.

Bengali says an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis can afford to live in their own houses because the free-market mechanism does not actually operate in the country’s real estate sector. Many people receive land on subsidised rates, he informs us, because of professional affiliations. “The government announces housing schemes regularly for its employees in different ministries and departments. That enables people to acquire land at negligible costs,” he says; adding that land is the primary expense in real estate, because physical structures can be built gradually over an extended period of time.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog post on screening of Pakistan's Oscar-winning "Saving Face" documentary in India:

Earlier this month, India and Pakistan concluded foreign secretary-level diplomatic talks that didn’t yield much in the way of rapprochement. Yet on July 23 and 24, the two nations shared a bonhomie typical of their cultural diplomacy, when the Oscar-winning documentary “Saving Face,” filmed in Pakistan, premiered in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Brought to India by the Asia Society, the short film drew packed audiences in both cities, with over 550 people turning up in Delhi and about 475 in Mumbai.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, one of the co-directors, was present after the film’s screening in Mumbai to discuss and answer questions. The interaction, led by the producer and director Kiran Rao of “Dhobi Ghaat” fame, was a spirited one, with the audience asking about unrelated subjects, from filmmaking to terrorism, in Pakistan.

The Mumbai audience was enthusiastic about “Saving Face,” which deals with the difficult subject of female acid attack victims in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The film follows the lives of two such victims, Zakia, 39 and Rukhsana, 23, who simultaneously try to obtain justice (in both cases, the attackers are their husbands) and try to repair their faces.

One of the film’s protagonists is Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a skilled plastic surgeon who leaves a thriving medical practice in London to help acid attack victims. With his irreverent humor and relaxed personality, Dr. Jawad helps lighten some especially traumatic and tense moments in the film. In one scene, for instance, he high-fives Zakia, the incongruity of which elicits chuckles from the audience.

“It was pretty hard hitting,” said Abhi Chaki, a Mumbai resident who saw the film with his wife. “It struck a fine balance between the lighter moments and the more morbid.” Another viewer, Jai Bhatia, said that he “loved the way the film was made, because you see the change that takes place.” Mr. Bhatia was referring to a scene in which a path-breaking bill is passed by Pakistan’s legislators to punish perpetrators of acid attacks.

The film aside, the audience appeared to marvel at the articulate and poised Ms. Obaid-Chinoy. Ms. Obaid-Chinoy said she initially rejected the offer to work on the film, the brainchild of her co-director, Daniel Junge, because she was just about to give birth in Canada. But after she moved to back to Pakistan, she changed her mind.
“We as a nation need to discuss these issues,” she said. “Pakistan does need India. Our generation must broaden the conversation.”

Asked by an audience member if she thought she had a future in Pakistani politics, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, who lives in Karachi, smiled. “Perhaps. I never close that door.”

Born and raised in Pakistan, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, the eldest of five daughters, said she grew up believing she could do anything as well as a man. At 17, she went undercover as a journalist to expose Pakistani children from rich feudal families who had access to guns and consequently terrorized their less privileged peers. In response, filthy graffiti about her was sprawled across neighborhoods in her hometown of Karachi.

She thought her father would tell her to give up journalism there and then, but he surprised her by saying, “If you speak the truth, I will stand by you and so will the world.” This year, Time magazine named Ms. Obaid-Chinoy one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

big deal the best and brightest immigrate and are also from the upper castes so they are richer than the US average.

You should compare this group with top 5% of US whites not the average.

much ado about nothing!

Anonymous said...

"You should compare this group with top 5% of US whites not the average."

Who have been living in the country for centuries. It is their country. They have so many advantages over immigrants.
How is that comparison valid?

If you want to compare, compare hindus with other immigrants and one can see that the brightest and best talent of other countries (hint) are not as bright as hindus.

Anonymous said...

'If you want to compare, compare hindus with other immigrants and one can see that the brightest and best talent of other countries (hint) are not as bright as hindus.'

Well if we were so smart we won't be a third world country would we?

Lets face facts...a much higher strata of Indians sociological/IQ immigrate to the US than other countries.Most of the top 5% of countries stay in their own countries the bulk of immigration is 75-85%ile ability of the country.

An Indian doctor/engineer/i banker should be compared with corresponding doctor/engineer/i banker of the native population or other immigrant populations.

Mexico has a per capita income of $12,000 most of its best and brightest live very well in Mexico city only the poor rural people migrate to do menial jobs.

Is it fair to compare this with Indian americans and claim that Indians are superior??

Lets get realistic!!

Anonymous said...

"Is it fair to compare this with Indian americans and claim that Indians are superior??"

this claim was never made by me. You interpreted like that, may be due to inferiority complex usually seen in Pakistanis. So stop beating a strawman.

However this can definitely be said that indian americans as an immigrant community have proved themselves to be much superior to almost all other immigrants in achievement.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "indian americans as an immigrant community have proved themselves to be much superior to almost all other immigrants in achievement."

Here's a Times of India story on Indian exaggeration of Indian professionals in US:

It's an Internet myth that has taken on a life of its own. No matter how often you slay this phony legend, it keeps popping up again like some hydra-headed beast.

But on Monday, the Indian government itself consecrated the oft-circulated fiction as fact in Parliament, possibly laying itself open to a breach of privilege. By relaying to Rajya Sabha members (as reported in The Times of India) a host of unsubstantiated and inflated figures about Indian professionals in US, the government also made a laughing stock of itself.

The figures provided by the Minister of State for Human Resource Development Purandeshwari included claims that 38 per cent of doctors in US are Indians, as are 36 per cent of NASA scientists and 34 per cent of Microsoft employees.

There is no survey that establishes these numbers, and absent a government clarification, it appears that the figures come from a shop-worn Internet chain mail that has been in circulation for many years. Spam has finally found its way into the Indian parliament dressed up as fact.

Attempts by this correspondent over the years to authenticate the figures have shown that it is exaggerated, and even false. Both Microsoft and NASA say they don't keep an ethnic headcount. While they acknowledge that a large number of their employees are of Indian origin, it is hardly in the 30-35 per cent range.

In a 2003 interview with this correspondent, Microsoft chief Bill Gates guessed that the number of Indians in the engineering sections of the company was perhaps in the region of 20 per cent, but he thought the overall figure was not true. NASA workers say the number of Indians in the organization is in the region of 4-5 per cent, but the 36 per cent figure is pure fiction.

The number of physicians of Indian-origin in the US is a little easier to estimate. The Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has 42,000 members, in addition to around 15,000 medical students and residents. There were an estimated 850,000 doctors in the US in 2004. So, conflating the figures, no more than ten per cent of the physicians in US maybe of Indian-origin – and that includes Indian-Americans – assuming not everyone is registered with AAPI.

These numbers in themselves are remarkable considering Indians constitute less than one per cent of the US population. But in its enthusiasm to spin the image of the successful global Indian to its advantage, the government appears to have milked a long-discredited spam - an effort seen by some readers as the work of a lazy bureaucrat and an inept minister.

The story has attracted withering scrutiny and criticism on the Times of India's website, with most readers across the world trashing it. "The minister should be hauled up by the house for breach of privilege of parliament (by presenting false information based on hearsay). We Indians are undoubtedly one of the most successful ethnic groups in USA, be it in Medicine, Engineering, Entrepreneurship. BUT, that does not translate to those ridiculous numbers that have been presented....this is a circulating e-mail hoax," wrote in Soumya from USA, who said he worked at the NASA facility in Ames, California, and the number was nowhere near what was mentioned in the figures given to Parliament.

Anonymous said...

"Here's a Times of India story on Indian exaggeration of Indian professionals in US:"

well the hard-data shown in the link I provided does not seem to be indian exaggeration.

And of course millions of muslims exaggerate how islam is peaceful and all extremists are not following true islam.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "well the hard-data shown in the link I provided does not seem to be indian exaggeration.

And of course millions of muslims exaggerate how islam is peaceful and all extremists are not following true islam. "

Your data and your comments are a crude and bigoted attempt to try to prove that Hindus are rich because of their Hindu religion and Muslims are violent because of their Islamic faith.

Well, you are wrong on both counts. Here's why:

1. Vast majority of Hindus are extremely poor. If Hindu religion was the path to riches, then India would not be home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates who still defecate in the open.

2. Far more numerous human beings have perished in violence committed by non-Muslims than all of the victims of Muslim violence put together in recorded human history. Just look at the death toll in European and American wars and WW I and WW II, Korea and Vietnam and you'll get a sense.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on public sector development projects in Pakistan:

The groundbreaking of roughly 70 projects in the next five months hinges on the timely allocation of funds and the ability of ministries to deliver, according to Planning Commission.

In a briefing regarding the possibility of completing the projects before announcement of next general elections, the Planning Commission told Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf that roughly 170 mega projects can be completed in one year and half of them by December this year provided these bottlenecks are removed. The Commission has outlined about 250 projects, both mega and small, that could be inaugurated within a year.

After assuming charge, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had directed the Planning Commission to prioritise the projects that could be inaugurated before the PPP-led coalition government completes its five-year term.

However, Planning Commission sources said that the existing Rs360 billion total PSDP portfolio is not sufficient to meet the requirements. They added, the Commission cannot divert all funds against the projects where less than 40% work is completed as already allocations were made which were sufficient to pay the salaries of the employees.

There are roughly 1,044 projects having total estimated cost of Rs1.8 trillion in 2012-13 Public Sector Development Programme document. The projects which are near completion are in the sectors of water are 11, power (14), transport and communication (39), physical planning and housing (65), health (10), higher education (33), education (6) and rest are in the others category.

Sources said in the last quarter of the last fiscal year the government delayed billions of rupees payments to contractors to avoid development budget overruns. These payments have shifted to this year’s Rs360 billion budget affecting the allocations of other schemes.

A finance ministry official said that the ministry suggested in the meeting to divert funds from the existing pool instead of seeking additional resources for completion of priority projects. They added the ministry cannot pool funds until the executing agencies were serious enough to take on the task. Furthermore, many of projects were being delayed due to litigation and land disputes.

Meanwhile, according to Prime Minister House, the government has decided to focus its efforts and pool its resources for the expeditious completion of the Kachi Canal project within this year. The premier directed the finance ministry to immediately release Rs6 billion required for the completion of the project.

The meeting also decided to complete Dadu-Khuzdar Transmission line on fast-track basis. It was also decided that Kallat-Quetta-Chaman road be completed before end of this year. The Prime Minister also directed the fast-track completion of Kalat-Rato Dero, Khori-Qubi Saeed Khan section (Kuhzdar-Rato Deo road) and Gawader-Rato Dero road.

The prime minister observed that though the allocation of public sector development funds have been increasing over the years, their impact has been missing since the projects could not be completed in time for one reason or the other leading to cost over-runs and delay, said the PM House.

The premier directed that the approval of the projects should be accorded keeping in view their national and strategic importance. The prime minister also observed that all health related projects should be completed on priority basis.

Anonymous said...

big deal?

India came second in the physics olympiad last year I think 4 Gold 1 silver medal of the 5 member team.not too sure about this year....

Anonymous said...

The actual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Pakistan is nearer to $300 billion and not $210 billion, as is shown officially.

well there is an undocumented economy in most third world countries a much larger one in India.$1.4 trillion of Indian money in Swiss Banks is but the tip of the iceberg of this enormous pile.

HOWEVER most decisions should be based on measurable facts not non mesaurable speculation.

Incidentally another interesting statistical 'feel good' fudge is the dramatic rise in GDP when the unpaid work done by housewives is transformed at market wages.GDPs shoot up typically 40-50%.

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,

a very intrestiung detail of Pakistan. It appeared in today's Tribune pak. Pakistan seems to have taken lead from India on open defication- your favorite subject.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: " Pakistan seems to have taken lead from India on open defication- your favorite subject."

Pakistan has a long way to go to fix its sanitation problems but it's certainly nt the worst in South Asian region.

India will not reach its Millennium Development Goal on sanitation before 2047, while Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal will not achieve the target before 2028, according to a United Nations report released on World Toilet Day last year.

The WaterAid report titled "Off-track, off-target: Why investment in water, sanitation and hygiene is not reaching those who need it most" says that 818 million Indians and 98 million Pakistanis lack access to toilets. It also reports that 148 million Indians and 18 million Pakistanis do not have adequate access to safe drinking water.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting ET report on animal welfare efforts in Karachi:

If your cat swallows a ball of fur or your dog eats chocolate, don’t panic. All you have to do is call the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and they will help your distressed pet.

The society, which was founded in 2004 by Mahera Omer and Maheen Zia, is currently trying to establish a shelter and medical facility exclusively for animal emergencies. It will be equipped with X-ray and ultrasound machines as well as operation theatres. The facility will also have a 24-hour ambulance service. Treatment will be provided not only to cats and dogs, but other animals such as donkeys, horses and mules as well.

But Omer acknowledges that this will be a challenging task, given that the society has limited resources at its disposal. PAWS does not have an office, shelter or clinic of its own and relies entirely on volunteers to help pick up injured animals from the streets and coordinate with private veterinary clinics for treatment. The founders hope to launch the 24-hour ambulance service first, which they feel is achievable with a little help from animal lovers.

Most of the rescued animals are currently given shelter at Karachi Animal Hospital, which is a private clinic in DHA, or PetVet Emergency Veterinary Clinic. But since the facilities have limited space, the co-founders sometimes have to take abandoned cats to their houses.

PAWS also provides advice on animal care and helps find foster homes for animals. Dr Ayaz Ali, one of the vets who treat animals for PAWS, said that the organisation gets between four to 12 calls per week for rescuing stray animals.

“If the animal is badly injured, I take it to a shelter in a taxi or a rickshaw,” he said. “If there is no shelter available, I take it to my house.”

Omer lamented the lack of infrastructure for animal welfare in Karachi.

Though the government has established the Richmond Crawford Hospital, the quality of its services has been waning. She said that most people usually don’t care about ailing animals. “They need to realise that if we help a donkey or a goat, then we might be indirectly helping those people who need them to earn a living,” she said.

Omer said that people weren’t always apathetic to the suffering of animals. Until the early 90s, the Society for Preventing Cruelty to Animals, which comprised of civil society members as well as government officials, was very active.

Back then, they had the authority to punish people for being cruel to animals, which the NGOs cannot do today.

She pointed out that the even if PAWS establishes a shelter and vaccinates animals, very few people would be willing to adopt them. She feels that people like to own only pedigreed animals. “This mentality needs to be changed. People need to open their hearts for all animals.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan auto sales rose 23% in FY 2011-12, reports The Nation:

The Pakistan car industry grew by 23% to 178,753 units YoY in FY12 where PSMC contributed 60% followed by INDUS contributing 29% to the total industry sales. The increase can be attributed primarily to 1) good agricultural income 2) deferred sales due to reduction in Sales Tax and 3) Yellow cab scheme.
In Jun12,car sales stood at 19,140 units, depicting an exceptional increase of 158% from 7,419 units sold in Jun11 mainly because of the low base effect as the government was expected to reduce Sales Tax by 1% in Jun11.
PSMC had a phenomenal FY12 as it witnessed a 40% YoY jump in its sales figures contributing more than 50% to the industry’s total sales pie. This growth in units from 79943k to 112157k units was mainly triggered by Punjab Government Yellow cab scheme where PSMC was the prime beneficiary.
INDU also saw its sales units go up to 54477 units from 50015k (9% up in FY12) on the back of good agricultural growth and subsequently good rural income.
Segment wise YoY analysis makes Corolla(+58%), Cultus(+ 20%) and Mehran(+ 46%) the star performers in 1300cc, 1000cc and 800cc respectively. We believe Corolla on the back of agricultural income and Cultus and Mehran as substitutes to Alto and Cuore will continue to capture the customer interest.
Auto sales in June-2012 clocked in at 19.2k units, which is an increase of 15%MoM. This improvement in sales is most likely due to anticipated price hikes by the manufacturers owing to conversion to Euro II compliance and steep depreciation of Rupee. On a YoY watch, auto sales soared by 155%.
However, this growth is misleading as sales last year in June abnormally declined owing to expectation of price cuts. As a result, auto sales reached 179k units (up 22%YoY) in FY12 vs. our expectation of 175k units. In expectation of stiff competition from imports, we expect growth to slowdown to 6% in FY13. We presently have a ‘Market-Weight’ stance on the sector, with Indus Motor (INDU) as our preferred play.
FY12 culminated with a growth of 22%YoY, with sales touching 179k units. The improvement in demand was largely led by the subsidized Yellow Cab scheme offered by the Punjab government. We expect the growth to slow down to 6% in FY13 (sales likely to reach 190k units) owing to a lower amount allocated to the cab scheme this year and stiff competition from imports.
The announcement of a new long term auto policy (termed as AIDP-2) will be pivotal for the sector going forward.
Significantly lower duties on CBU imports in the policy can substantially hurt the local manufacturers. We retain our outlook on the sector at ‘Market-Weight’, with INDU as our preferred play. The stock trades at an FY13 PE of 5.8x, and offers a dividend yield of 7.4%

N. Jayaram said...

I mention your blog "Indians Share 'Eye Opener' Stories of Pakistan" in my latest: "Celebrating With The People Of Pakistan"
(My blog via Countercurrents) Countercurrents.org

Best Regards


Riaz Haq said...

N. Jayaram: "I mention your blog "Indians Share 'Eye Opener' Stories of Pakistan" in my latest: "Celebrating With The People Of Pakistan"

I read your post and enjoyed it. Thank you for promoting better understanding among neighbors in South Asia.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Gulf News on growth of upscale real estate developments in Pakistan:

Apart from ultra-modern residential and commercial projects undertaken on a massive scale, the concept of gated communities ensconced in the lap of extravagance isn’t just changing the dynamics of Pakistan’s luxury realty segment, but also the way residents of these projects are living in the country’s major cities like Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. “The luxury property market in Pakistan has traditionally been unorganised and fragmented. However, the recent past has seen consolidation of a few developers who are stretching their capacities to the maximum to meet the growing market demand,” says Naveed Merchant, Managing Director, Merchant & Associates.

“REIT [real estate investment trust] regulations are in the process of formulation which will encourage large projects with sourced financing. While the Pakistan real estate market still lacks transparency and liquidity compared to more mature real estate markets, REITs would provide an opportunity to diversify the investor base in the sector through a regulated, tradable investment,” he says.

Nida Zahoor, Group Marketing Manager, Bahria Town, touted to be Asia’s largest private real estate developer, also vouches for this maturity in the market. “Generally the Pakistani luxury home buyer in this day and age, expects nothing but the best in quality. Most of them have travelled extensively to countries abroad, making them abreast with the latest trends in construction. Then there is also the growing middle class which is not as aware, but that too is changing over time” she says.

Zahoor says there is a shortage of one million homes in Pakistan with a 0.6 million (backlog) demand growing every year, which includes in it a large ratio of demand for luxury homes. In the next five years, predicts Zahoor, Pakistan will experience a tremendous growth in the luxury realty segment as awareness among the people, the trends, the policies by the government will give a fillip to this segment. So, what would Bahria Town’s benchmark project be? “It would be Bahria Golf City, Pakistan’s first ever branded luxury resort designed over a total area of 5.5 million square metres,” Zahoor says.

Bahria Golf City is expected to accommodate 18,000 people in about 7,500 housing units. “From architects such as BEAMS construction to Nayyar Ali Dada, interior designers such Wingchair, Cracknel landscape designers; and Kroll security consultants; we are working with the best in the world who have been involved in prestigious projects like the Burj Al Arab, KL towers, Atlantis Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Resort,” says Zahoor.

Bahria Town isn’t the only player in the market, there are several interesting offerings such as Lake City, a 2,104-acre development on the outskirts of Lahore, which has a plan to have almost 4,000 residences, hundreds of shops, malls and dozens of office buildings. “When the project was envisaged in 2004, it was obvious that future developments in real estate in Lahore could only take place towards the south and south west. The trend in Pakistan, outside Karachi, is not towards vertical expansion but horizontal expansion,” says Farouk Khan, ED Coordination, Lake City Holdings and Rida Sarfraz, GM Marketing and Events, Lake City Holdings.

Besides, there are other attractive projects such as Defence Raya, a 400-acre development and The Centaurus, a project featuring a five-level shopping mall, two residential complexes, the corporate complex and a luxurious five-star hotel in Islamabad...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times piece on how Bollywood portrays Pakistan and Pakistanis:

...the need for patriotic films arose as the newly formed nation was looking for a reason to remain united. Pakistan became a convenient excuse. As India’s national identity began to strengthen in the 1960s, jingoistic films began to emerge.

Manoj Kumar’s 1967 classic, “Upkar,” for instance, had covert references to Pakistan, but never named the country outright. The protagonist in the film is suggestively called Bharat (Hindi for India), who takes a moral high ground when his younger brother asks for the family property to be divided between them.
The younger brother (Pakistan is metaphorically called the younger brother of India) is the evil one, who exploits the older one’s tolerance. “Such family metaphors were used by the industry until much, much later,” said Namrata Joshi, associate editor of Outlook magazine.

Professor Kumar said it wasn’t until 1973, in Chetan Anand’s “Hindustan Ki Kasam,” which was based on the 1971 war between the two countries, that a movie made unambiguous references to Pakistan. “But Pakistan still remained an unnamed malevolent power on Indian screens,” he said.
The 1990s saw a sudden spurt in Hindi films talking about the tensions with Pakistan. “The problem was that Indian filmmakers chose to see Pakistan in only military terms. No one tried to portray or even find out what Pakistani society looked like,” Professor Kumar said. “They began to equate Pakistan to its ‘evil’ military.”

Films like “Border,” based on the 1971 war with Pakistan, were released, where patriotism took on a new definition. “You loved India only if you hated Pakistan,” said Ms. Joshi of Outlook.
A typical modern-day Hindi film on the tension between the two countries would have morally upright Indians and sinful Pakistanis. “However, they always distinguished Indian Muslims and Pakistani Muslims. The former were always the good guys,” said the journalist and film critic Aseem Chhabra.

The cross-border tensions on screens portrayed a rather subtle gender politics as well. “I don’t remember a film where the girl is from India and the boy from Pakistan,” said Ms. Joshi. “India had to have an upper hand sexually as well.”

The Hindi film industry witnessed some high-octane nationalism in the early 2000s with films like “Gadar” and “Maa Tujhe Salaam” having blatant Pakistan-bashing scenes. Pakistan was the evil enemy, much like what the former Soviet Union was to the United States during the Cold War
The way the Hindi film industry has looked at Pakistan has always been dependent on the mood of the nation and government policies. “But now, filmmakers keep in mind the mood of the market as well,” Professor Kumar said, “because Pakistan is emerging as a huge market for Bollywood films.” As Pakistani diaspora increases in number, this market would further expand....
Despite these changes in sentiment, films featuring cross-border espionage like “Agent Vinod” and Salman Khan’s “Ek Tha Tiger,” which released Wednesday, still face problems with the censors on both sides of the borders.

“With Indo-Pak films, as with Indo-Pak relations, it is always one step forward and two steps back,” said Professor Kumar.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistanis believe in the value of hard work, reports Express Tribune:

No matter what the prophets of doom say in nightly news shows on TV day in day out, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis still believes that hard work is duly rewarded in the country and leads to material success, according to a recent poll by Pew Research Center — a nonpartisan “fact tank” in Washington DC.

In fact, of all the 21 countries where the survey was conducted, Pakistan came on top with 81% of respondents saying people succeed if they work hard as opposed to 15% who believe hard work is no guarantee of success.

The United States followed Pakistan with 77% of respondents saying hard work assured success. India, China and Japan were more sceptical with only 67%, 45% and 40% of the respondents recognising a close link between hard work and success, respectively.

“Fundamentally, the survey reveals that Pakistanis haven’t lost faith in the country. The Pakistani youth believes that current problems are short-term and can be resolved,” said Asad Umar, who joined politics in April after resigning from Engro Corporation, Pakistan’s largest conglomerate, as its CEO. “That’s why Pakistanis believe in hard work — and its direct relationship with material success – more than the people of the United States, Germany or Japan.”

The survey was conducted between March 28 and April 13 in all provinces face-to-face with 1,206 people of the age of 18 years or more.

While a majority of Pakistanis tend to have faith in the existing economic system to reward them with success if they work hard, less than half of Pakistanis approve of the free-market economy, reveals the survey. About 48% of the respondents think people are better off in a free-market economy, down from 65% three years ago.

“I’m not surprised that the percentage of people having faith in the free-market economy has dropped significantly in recent years. We don’t have a free-market economy. The sham system that’s in place is actually reflective of a rent-seeking economy, where self-interest is pursued shamelessly at the highest level of the government,” Umar said.

Talking to The Express Tribune, first-generation entrepreneur Shakir Husain, who is involved in several national and international ventures, said most Pakistanis don’t even understand the basics of the free-market economy.

“I’ve found that even educated Pakistanis are least versed in economics and the working of the free market. TV channels have added to the problem, where they tend to politicise structural issues that confuses people further,” he said.

The Pew survey also revealed that about 76% Pakistanis think that the economy will either worsen or stay the same in the next 12 months. The corresponding figures for India and China are 49% and 11%, respectively.

When asked if their standard of living is better than the standard of living of their parents when they were of their age said they are worse off.

Among those who think the economy is doing poorly, roughly one-third of the respondents in Pakistan held the United States responsible for bad economic conditions. Another one-third said that people are themselves to be blamed for the bad economy. On the other hand, almost two-thirds of the respondents in India blamed themselves for the bad economy.

“It’s easier for the average Pakistani to simply blame the entire ‘system’ without understanding the root of the problem. Also, our politicians and bureaucrats are not honest about their own shortcomings. Hence, the blame is put on ridiculous things,” Husain said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story of real estate boom in Faisalabad, Pakistan:

Yet unlike stories of most other business shutdowns, Crescent Sugar Mills’ decline came not because of economic slowdown, but rather the economic success of the city – and especially the neighbourhood – it is located in. The factory is 100-acre complex in Nishatabad, a neighbourhood in Faisalabad that used to be on the outskirts of the city, but has increasingly become host to residences that house the city’s growing affluent middle class.

In the 1960s, Nishatabad was on the outskirts of the city, which allowed farmers to bring their sugar cane to the factory easily, using large trailers and trucks. As the decades wore on and Faisalabad’s middle class grew, however, many of the outer areas of the city began going through gentrification, and became residential neighbourhoods.

With the advent of more residences, the city government began placing restrictions on the movement of trucks and trailers that brought in the sugarcane to the factory. Many of the roads that had been used by the trucks were blocked off altogether for heavy traffic. As a result, the company’s logistics cost increased significantly, making it difficult for the mill to compete in the highly commoditised sugar market.

“With every passing crushing season, our mill’s financial health was going from bad to worse. We had no choice but to close down the unit permanently,” said Naveed Gulzar, a director at Crescent Sugar Mills.

But the higher transportation cost appears to be only one reason for the mill’s closure. Another, more compelling reason, appears to be the gentrification of the neighbourhood itself. The Crescent Group owns 150 acres in Nishatabad, with the sugar mill taking up 100 acres and a paper board mill (shut down about a decade ago) taking up the remaining land.

While both of these businesses were going through squeezed margins, the value of the real estate on which they were sitting was skyrocketing. At a certain point, it no longer made sense to manufacture low-margin commodities on prime residential real estate less than 10 minutes drive from the Faisalabad city centre.

And so the group has decided to shut down the factory, sell off the machinery, bulldoze the factory buildings and instead construct a residential colony, with all sorts of amenities, including a shopping mall, a hospital, schools, and colleges, said Gulzar.

The Crescent Group is not looking to exit the manufacturing business altogether but will no longer be in the sugar business. Instead, the board of directors has decided to open up a cotton spinning mill – that manufactures cotton yarn – for export. The factory, however, will be in a rural area, for which the group has already bought land.

“This land is too expensive to set up a factory here,” said Gulzar. “It is prime Faisalabad real estate.”

Hopewins said...

Dr. Haq,

This Indian fellow is once again trying to spread the same malicious propaganda that you have discredited so well in this article.

Would you comment on his article and put this hateful Code-coolie in his place?

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "This Indian fellow is once again trying to spread the same malicious propaganda that you have discredited so well in this article."

The picture in Reuters' Sanjeev Miglani's article, tells volumes about his ingrained's picture of a camel herder that could have been taken anywhere in Dubai, Australia or Rajasthan India to suggest "backwadness" of these countries.

S K Miglani said...

I appreciate your comment on my blog at:

Just to let you know, I visit Pakistan almost every year. I have traveled all over the place on my own and do not need a "guide" like the people you are quoting.

I have personally witnessed the total collapse of real industry. While Pakistan does have excellent malls, shopping centers and restaurants, the total absence of
real industrial depth and the lack of industrial diversity was shocking to say the least.

From what I have observed over the last ten years, the entire economy has been irresponsibly refocused towards the frivolity of the ostentatious consumption with scant regard to the heavy
investments needed in core industries for stable growth in the future.

I stand by what I wrote in my article. Please read it again carefully.


Riaz Haq said...

SKM: "I have personally witnessed the total collapse of real industry"

If it's really true that the "real industry" has totally collapsed, I wonder who at Pak auto factories is producing cars, tractors and motorcycles to respond to double digit annual increases in demand?

If the "real industry" has really collapsed, where the increasing cement production is coming from to build all the real estate needed for " excellent malls, shopping centers and restaurants" that you have seen in Pakistan?

I wonder who's manufacturing to respond to growing demand for home appliances and air-conditioners if not companies like PEL and Dawlance?

I wonder how Pakistani companies are making record profits in both durable and non-durable goods sectors, and pushing Pakistan's KSE-100 index to new highs, making it one of the best performing markets in the world?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's link to an interesting thread on Made in Pakistan products:

LCD TV by TCL Nobel Flat Screens

Hopewins said...

^^^^LCD TV by TCL Nobel Flat Screens


Dr. Haq,

Why is this pioneering company that makes all these high-tech products not LISTED ON KSE?

Why is it that this industrial powerhouse has only 135 employees?

Where do they make the parts & components for their LCD & CRT Televisions?

What is the actual internal Value-Added at this company for its branded products?

Would you please elaborate?


About Dynasel Limited

TCL NOBEL is the brand under which Dynasel Limited manufacturers televisions. By the grace of God we are now Pakistan's televisions Leading TV brand. This success has come about due to the sheer hard work and dedication of our team due to which TCL NOBEL is now perceived as "Real Value" for money by its customers.

Hopewins said...

^^^^If it's really true that the "real industry" has totally collapsed, I wonder who at Pak auto factories is producing cars, tractors and motorcycles to respond to double digit annual increases in demand?


Are these companies really "producing" cars or are they mostly glorified screw-driver assemblers?

What is the average "localization" or "deletion" rate today?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Are these companies really "producing" cars or are they mostly glorified screw-driver assemblers?"


About half of all parts used in Pak auto manufacturing are made in Pakistan which is more local content than most of the autos assembled in US.

Here's a excerpt from
the Nation newspaper story on the subject:

The share of local content in vehicles needs to be increased, as the country is still importing almost 50 per cent of the automotive parts. There is an opportunity for Japanese investors to fill the remaining half, as it will cut manufacturing costs in Pakistan and enhance profitability of Japanese investors.

Pakistan's auto parts supplier's business is worth at least a billion US dollars if not more.

But even if your claim of "glorified screw-driver assemblers" were true, it would still not prove Miglani's assertion of "the total collapse of real industry".

Sanjeev K Miglani said...

@Hopewins Junior: With regard to your reference to "Hateful Code Coolie", I will point out that it is easy to use invective against my person from the anonymity of an internet name. If you really have the courage of your convictions, please come out in the open with your real identity and then shower me with your ill-mannered invective.

@Riaz Haq: I think you have been swallowing the GOP propaganda of rosy figures. I have personally met with the SBP officials and they are deeply worried on three counts:
1) A crumbing macroeconomic foundation with vanishing savings rates and collapsing core investment rates.
2) Horribly incompetent Governance with hare-brained schemes being favored purely on a biradari or kickback basis.
3) Dangerous and rapidly escalating levels of dependence on foreign capital with a currency or BOP crisis just around the corner at the smallest next economic shock.

I admire your optimism, but I fear it is not based on the realities of Pakistan's economy.

And being ethnically of Pakistani origin myself, I have a lot of friends in the Karachi business community who have confirmed what I am saying.

I will leave it at that. I welcome you to comment on my blog articles so that we can get a number of different views....

Riaz Haq said...


Thanks again for your new comment.

In your comment, you say that "I think you have been swallowing the GOP propaganda of rosy figures."

The fact is that I am not a passive consumer news or propaganda from any source. I do not rely exclusively on govt figures for my analysis.

The auto sales and cement sales figures I quoted are not government figures...these are industry figures released by industry groups.

The FMCG growth figures are from companies like Nestle, Engro, Unilever, etc....not from govt.

The revenue and profit growth figures of KSE listed companies are also not from the government but from company reports.

Last quarter, KSE-listed Indus Motors announced 57% jump in profits on record sales of Toyota Corolla cars. It was followed by Lucky Cement Ltd. (LUCK), Pakistan’s largest producer of the building material, announcing 71 percent surge in profits to a record as an increase in domestic sales offset a decline in exports. Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), the country’s second largest oil and gas explorer, said its profits soared 30% to Rs40.9 billion in fiscal 2012. Strong earnings have also been reported by Unilever Foods and Bata shoes in the last few days.

The KSE investors are not being fooled by govt figures when they choose to invest...they are too savvy for that.

Hopewins said...


About half of all parts used in Pak auto manufacturing are made in Pakistan....


Dr. Haq,

The engines, transmission, instruments and electronic components are all imported.

What is left?

Steel Frame/Body, Seats, Upholstery/Lining, Paint & Plastic Fascades.

Of these, the Steel Frame/Body is the most expensive.

But currently Pakistan (PSM) produces only 15% of the raw steel we need; the other 85% is imported.

That means that of the "locally-made" frame/body, the principle component, Automobile-grade Steel, must be imported.

The point I am making is this:

1) First, we must ask the OEM how much of the car is made by local suppliers and how much is directly imported.

2) Then, we must go to the local suppliers and ask them how much of their inputs are locally obtained and how much is imported.

3) Then, we must go through the whole supply chain and add up all the imported (not available locally) inputs.

The 50% to which you are referring is only (1). When we go through (1), (2) & (3), we find that over 85% of what goes into these "local" cars is actually imported.

This is caused by lack of industrial depth and diversity.

In fact, once the cars have been sold, if they need to be filled with diesel or petrol, these too have to be imported, because we do not have sufficient refineries due to lack of investment.

So not only are the "local" cars mostly imported, but the diesel/petrol they consume from "local" oil companies is also mostly imported.

This is not a situation that inspires much confidence.

Thank you.

Sanjeev K Miglani said...

@RiazHaq: "The KSE investors are not being fooled by govt figures when they choose to invest...they are too savvy for that."

I am sorry to say that you appear to have misunderstood the mechanisms underlying the KSE bubble you mention.

Portfolios-equity investments into Pakistan have collapsed (along with FDI). Therefore, it is not foreign investment that is driving the KSE. So it must be local market participants.

But who are these local market participants?

If you look closely, you will see the following pattern:

1) Credit-creation in the Pakistani banking system is off the charts.
2) Much of this money is being borrowed by the same companies you name as high-flyers on the KSE.
3) Instead of investing this money in the "real" economy, these companies are ploughing these borrowings into the KSE via shell holding companies to raise stock prices.
4) They then flip these shares amongst each other to generate synthetic accounting profits.
5) The listed company then declares massive increases in profits, which, in turn, justifies the inflated share price.
6) This results in a feedback cycle that keeps increasing money-supply, synthetic profits and share prices.
7) However, this is not sustainable. This debt-based party must end. And when it does, it will end very, very badly with massive amounts of bad debts.
8) The whole banking system will be brought to the brink of collapse.
9) Massive government bailouts of Banks and large companies (with printed money & inflation) will naturally follow.
10) Pakistan will then look exactly like Greece; with massive government debt, bankrupt banks, escalating capital flight and mass lay-offs from the failed speculator-companies. The PKR will tank to 150-200 Rs per USD. The unemployed & poor will resort to riots in the face of uncontrolled inflation, even as the hard-line Islamic groups (e.g. Taliban) gain power.

You don't have to take my word. Speak to any of your friend inside the KSE and they will confirm this dangerous cycle of unsustainable credit-induced speculation.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "The engines, transmission, instruments and electronic components are all imported."

Not entirely accurate.

For example, Bolan Castings in Karachi manufactures and supplies cylinder block, cylinder head, gear box, axle housing, brake drums, hubs, etc to auto industry.


Riaz Haq said...

SKM: "I am sorry to say that you appear to have misunderstood the mechanisms underlying the KSE bubble you mention."

And I am sorry to say that you don't understand what a bubble is...a bubble is when the underlying fundamentals like earnings and valuations do not support share values.

In Pakistan's KSE's case, the listed companies are seeing investors, both local and foreign, because they see strong top-line and bottom line growth and valuations (P-E multiples) about half of those in India and elsewhere in the region.

In fact, eve the technical analysts are now bullish on Pakistan along with fundamental analysts.

Elliot Wave theorist Mark Galasiewski is now forecasting continuation of multi-year bull market in Pakistan. This forecasts marks an unusual agreement of a technical analyst with fundamental research done by Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs who recently reiterated Pakistan's place on its growth map.

Riaz Haq said...

SKM: "Pakistan will then look exactly like Greece; with massive government debt.."

Any comparison of Pakistan with Greece is totally ludicrous.

Pakistan's debt-gdp ratio is among the lowest in the region...lower than India's too.

And, unlike Greece, Pakistan's GDP is still growing, albeit slowly but still forecast to be over 3% for 2012-13.

And Pakistan's underground economy is thriving.

Sanjeev K Miglani said...

@RiazHaq: "And I am sorry to say that you don't understand what a bubble is...a bubble is when the underlying fundamentals like earnings and valuations do not support share values."

Yes, you are correct. That is indeed what a bubble is.

And that is precisely what I said was happening in the KSE.

Please read my comment once again.

Especially note the part in which I described how much of the recent "profit increases" of the listed companies were actually coming from increasing prices of shares obtained by the same companies by reckless borrowing. There is nothing new here, this is a textbook example of leveraged speculation and has happened in the US/UK many,many times in the last two hundred years. And it always ends the same way: Massive debt defaults, collapsing banks, government bailouts and a recession/depression.

KSE is in an unsustainable leveraged-bubble. It will collapse. And it will bring down the banking system. No two ways about this. All it needs is a small exogenous shock, like forex shortage, IMF interference, withdrawal of US Aid or sanctions-- and it will all come down like a house of cards.

Hopewins said...


Dr. Haq,

I am surprised at you.

You are now providing links that actually discredit the very point you are trying to make.

If you look at the link you provided to this "Bolan" whatever, you will see that they DO NOT make engines & transmission for the AUTO industry.

They make engine and transmission parts for the TRACTOR industry. And if you research this issue, you will see that these low-HP tractors are part of the Soviet Goodwill gesture to Bhutto in the 1970s.

These engine & transmission parts they are making are circa 1950's designs and production techniques obtained from an BELURUS based soviet-owned tractor company in the 70s. By international standards, what they are making is mostly uncompetetive junk-yard scrap.

You can confirm this with further research.

Thank you.


"A car part vendor said that presently less than 40 per cent parts were manufactured locally by auto vending industry, the balance and the most technological and high-tech parts like engine, transmission parts, fuel filters etc., were imported..."

Read more:

Sanjeev K Miglani said...

@Riaz Haq: "Any comparison of Pakistan with Greece is totally ludicrous. Pakistan's debt-gdp ratio is among the lowest in the region...And, unlike Greece, Pakistan's GDP is still growing.....And Pakistan's underground economy is thriving..."

I don't know if it is sub-consciously deliberate,but you seem to have misunderstood me.

I meant WHEN the debt-fueled speculative stock market bubble bursts, THEN the phony profits of today will suddenly appear as REAL losses. THEN there will be massive debt defaults and the banking system will have a huge hole in its balance sheet. The government will THEN be forced to bail out the banks by issuing huge debt.

AFTER this happens:
(a) Government debt will sky-rocket to over 100% of GDP.
(b) Growth will vanish and may even turn negative as companies go bankrupt and capital flight occurs.

At THIS stage, Pakistan will look like Greece.

As for the "informal" economy, as you can verify, this is precisely one of the reasons that Greece and the other Clud-Med economies are in trouble-- they too have large "informal" economies and everybody loves to evade taxes.

Pakistan will then look like a very backward version of Greece.

Hope this explains my point.

Riaz Haq said...

SKM: "Especially note the part in which I described how much of the recent "profit increases" of the listed companies were actually coming from increasing prices of shares obtained by the same companies by reckless borrowing."

Shares buy backs are common in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

There's nothing reckless about it. It's an indication of a company management seeing their shares as undervalued by the market and a sign of confidence in the company's future.

Pakistani companies are not any more leveraged than companies elsewhere in the region.

Not only Pak company valuations significantly more attractive than other markets in the region, these companies are growing BOTH TOP-LINE and BOTTOM-LINE numbers faster by double digits.

Riaz Haq said...

SKM: "I meant WHEN the debt-fueled speculative stock market bubble bursts, THEN the phony profits of today will suddenly appear as REAL losses. THEN there will be massive debt defaults and the banking system will have a huge hole in its balance sheet. The government will THEN be forced to bail out the banks by issuing huge debt...At THIS stage, Pakistan will look like Greece."

There's no bubble with the current low levels of valuations with average PE ratio of around 7..far below PE ratio of 15 in India.

And Pakistan is not Greece, not likely to become one in future for the following reasons:

1. Pakistan controls its own currency and most of its debt is denominated in its own currency.

2. Underlying dynamics in Pakistan, such as its demographics, are very very different from Greece.

3. Greece was able to borrow huge amounts of money in Euros after lying its way into EU as documented by several books and papers recently. Pakistan can not do the its external debt will remain relatively small.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "You are now providing links that actually discredit the very point you are trying to make."

This whole discussion started with SKM's assertion about Pak "industry collapse" and your claim that Pak auto industry is just "glorified screw-driver assemblers".

Having failed to make a persuasive case, you are now arguing about the lack of significance 50% local content.

It's clear that your agenda is nothing but a campaign to bash Pakistan regardless of facts.

I think it's you who stands discredited here.

Rakesh said...

it is pathetic that you cherry picked some specific articles by a few extreme left, mentally disturbed journalists from India or abroad.

But, it is even more pathetic that even in this handful of articles, you had to cherry pick the specific lines to conform to your illusions.

Exhibit 1A: Take the hindol Sengupta article you reproduced nearly in full. You put in his paragraph about his love of meat in Pakistan and then continued with the next para about leather and footwear.

What is really funny is that you cut off his paragraph about meat at the exact point where his next words were:

I have a curious relationship with meat in Pakistan. It always inevitably makes me ill but I cannot seem to stop eating it.

Remember: its pathetic enough that you had to cherry pick articles, but you had to cherry pick lines too? We all know Indian street food isnt known for hygeine either, but at least dont be such a coward that you have to cherry pick lines from the handful of articles that say something nice about Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Rakesh: "What is really funny is that you cut off his paragraph about meat at the exact point where his next words were:

"I have a curious relationship with meat in Pakistan. It always inevitably makes me ill but I cannot seem to stop eating it."

Here's the rest of para that talks about "such rich food" making him ill. Nowhere does it say anything about lack of hygiene which you assume makes him ill:

"It always inevitably makes me ill but I cannot seem to stop eating it. From the halim to the paya to the nihari, it is always irresistible and sends shock shivers to the body unaccustomed to such rich food. How the Pakistanis eat such food day after day is an eternal mystery but truly you have not eaten well until you have eaten in Lahore!"

So who's cherry-picking?

Bilal Marwati said...

Sanjeev Miglani Wrote:
"3) Dangerous and rapidly escalating levels of dependence on foreign capital with a currency or BOP crisis just around the corner at the smallest next economic shock."

This seems correct.

Here is the confirmation from our own Economists and Financial Managers:

I wonder how well the cement industry and the KSE will be doing when the Tsunami of the BOP crisis hits.

Riaz Haq said...

Bilal: "I wonder how well the cement industry and the KSE will be doing when the Tsunami of the BOP crisis hits."

BOP crisis is still possible but its chances have diminished with the doubling of remittances from Pakistan's huge and growing diaspora to $12 billion from $6 billion in 2008.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from The Hindu story on Tendulkar's eating preferences:

The first time in Pakistan was a memorable experience. I used to just have a couple of keema parathas and lassi for breakfast, skip lunch and have nothing till dinner as it used to be so heavy and delicious and one wouldn’t think of having lunch in the afternoon. But on that tour I was 16 and was growing up. It was a phenomenal experience and when I came back from Pakistan to Mumbai and stood on the weighing scale I couldn’t believe myself. Whenever we have toured Pakistan, the food has been simply delicious and one has to be careful about not putting on weight. When you are 16 though, you can afford to, but not any longer.’’

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times story on Honda launch of a new motorcycle:

KARACHI: Pakistan will be amongst top 5 countries producing and exporting high quality motorcycles in next few years, T Oyama senior Managing Director Honda Motor Company Japan said at the launch of new model ‘Pridor’.

With the hard work of associates, Atlas Honda today stands at the turning point from where the sales and production will touch the ever highest in the history of the country, he said.

It is encouraging after investing $35 million this year, Atlas Honda has increased its motorcycle production capacity to 750,000 vehicles annually keeping in mind the growing local demand, one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world and export potential to regional countries, he said. The leading motorcycle manufacturer is currently conducting a study for an expansion to 1 million units’ production capacity, which is estimated to cost around an additional $50 million. He said the seed of relationship sown by Atlas Group Pakistan’s Yusuf Shirazi and Suichiro of Honda Japan is today the oldest joint venture of Honda Motor Company anywhere in the world i.e Atlas Honda Ltd.

By launching yet another state of the art model Pridor, surpassing all available technologies in the country, Atlas Honda has also proven its commitment to Pakistan’s market, he said.\11\04\story_4-11-2012_pg5_8

Hopewins said...

^^^"Yet, at the grassroots, Pakistan is in perpetual motion, with ceaseless creativity as people find affordable solutions to their basic needs. These largely hidden forces of resilience offer the best hope for the country’s future. In Pakistan, the state may be fragile but society is far stronger than many think"


This is true.

However, no amount of individual resilience, hard-work, optimism, creativity and ingenuity can make up for the most basic contraint on future growth in Pakistan:

An ABYSMALLY LOW domestic savings rate that is further DETERIORATING.

Without domestic savings, investment cannot be sustained in a macroeconomically stable manner.

Without sustained investment, stable growth is not possible in the future.

Without future growth, no amount of individual capabilities will amount to anything.

This is also true.

"This is the truth. Even though you might not want to hear" --Quran 5.171.

"The ones who suppress the truth; indeed, the ones who cover (Kfr)it: These are the Kaffirs; they shall have no success in this life or in the hereafter" -- Sahih Muslim 12.7.3

Hopewins said...

^^^"Pakistan will be amongst top 5 countries producing and exporting high quality motorcycles in next few years...."


Dr. Haq,

See this 2011 report from JAMA:

This is a large file and it may be easier if you download it directly rather than trying to read it inside your browser.

Please go to *PAGE 53* and see the Table of "Global Motorcycle Production" for all countries. On the next page, they have the table for cars & trucks.

I thought you might find it useful.

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters report titled "Dismal trade, production data deepens fears about Indian economy":

India's economic gloom deepened on Monday with a surprise contraction in industrial production, a fall in exports and higher retail inflation, dashing hopes of a quick revival in an economy on track to post its slowest growth in a decade.

The data will add pressure on the government to boost economic growth by fast-tracking stalled tax and regulatory reforms. It will also bolster calls for an interest rate cut by the country's central bank, which has so far ruled out any before January, citing high inflation.

Two of the country's biggest business chambers expressed alarm at the data, which caused the rupee to fall to a two-month low. They said it was clear that the slowdown in manufacturing growth had not yet bottomed out.

"At this juncture, it is important that government does not lose momentum on the reform front and needs to take courage now to implement some big ticket reforms," said R V Kanoria, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The data underscored the scale of the challenges facing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in trying to revive an economy that once boasted double-digit growth but has been hard hit by the global economic downturn and a series of policy missteps.

Credit Suisse said India's October trade deficit of nearly $21 billion was the country's worst on record and could prompt the government to impose measures to curb the deficit, such as further increases in import duties on gold.

Industrial production unexpectedly shrank an annual 0.4 percent in September, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). That came as a nasty surprise to economists who had forecast a rise of 2.8 percent in a Reuters poll.

Analysts had hoped India's festival season, which began in September and will peak this month, would boost sales.

Production of consumer goods fell 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier. Capital goods, a proxy for capital investment in the economy, shrank an annual 12.2 percent.

"Investment plans have slowed down. It takes a long time for investment plans to pick up again," said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's influential Planning Commission.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told Reuters earlier this month that growth for this financial year could be as low as 5.5 percent, which would be the slowest rate of expansion since 2002/03.

Delays in environmental and other regulatory clearances, coupled with high interest rates, have hurt many industrial and infrastructure development projects.

The government has launched a slew of initiatives, including raising subsidized diesel prices and opening sectors like supermarkets to foreign players to revive the economy.

But Indian business leaders said it needed to swiftly take more steps, including speeding up approval of infrastructure projects, overhauling the tax system and, reducing its huge fuel, food and fertilizer subsidies burden.

Business leaders also called on the central bank to reduce interest rates that are the highest among the major economies.

Chidambaram has been arguing for lower rates, saying monetary policy has limitations in controlling inflation in an emerging economy such as India and that policymakers must learn to live with some inflation....

Anonymous said...

The propaganda here reminds me of what people say about China: Shanghai is like Paris. The interior is like Africa.

It's not the fattened kleptocrats of Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi that are suffering. It's the rest of a still, remarkably rural population.

Mr. Haq, why don't you talk about the life expectancy of anybody born in the FATA or Khyber Pakthunhwa? Or why don't we discuss how many nice malls there are in Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu or Mardan?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "It's not the fattened kleptocrats of Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi that are suffering. It's the rest of a still, remarkably rural population. Mr. Haq, why don't you talk about the life expectancy of anybody born in the FATA or Khyber Pakthunhwa? Or why don't we discuss how many nice malls there are in Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu or Mardan?"

Life expectancy in FATA and KP today is higher than it was 5 and 10 years ago and it's certainly much higher than Afghanistan's 50-year life expectancy.

Nice shopping malls are popping up in small towns like Dera Ismael Khan and Mardan now.

Rural population has actually done better under PPP's pro-rural and pro-farm policies than the urban population in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Barron is reporting that Vanguard has set up an ETF for FTSE emerging market index that includes KSE-100 stocks Abbott Pakistan and Unilever Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates are probably two markets many U.S. investors haven't given much thought to, but that's beginning to change after news that one of the most popular emerging-market ETFs will have some exposure to these countries.

Vanguard recently said it would start tracking the FTSE Emerging Markets index rather than the MSCI Emerging Markets index for its popular Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (ticker: VWO), which will soon be renamed. That means the fund won't have exposure to Korea, which FTSE doesn't consider an emerging market, and it will now have some holdings in Pakistan and the UAE. With those countries combined only making up about half a percentage point of the index, investors won't exactly be loading up on the Middle East. But the switch is already attracting interest to a region that has largely been ignored by investors.

That attention may be warranted. Despite the turmoil in Syria and concerns about Iran, the region has plenty to offer investors, including some of the world's best-capitalized banks, a young population, and governments spurred by the Arab Spring to invest in infrastructure and try to address high unemployment. So says Julie Dickson, equity product manager for emerging-markets specialist Ashmore Investment, which oversees $68 billion in assets. The MSCI Pakistan index is up 20% this year; MSCI UAE is up 21%.

Even with the run-up, Andrew Brudenell, manager of the HSBC Frontier Markets fund (HSFAX) in London, says Pakistan is one of the cheapest markets he follows, at about seven times earnings. He notes that earnings growth has kept pace with the market. The firms, he adds, are typically cash-rich, boast strong return on equity levels in the 20% range, and pay good dividends.

In Pakistan, the informal, cash-based economy for goods and services is larger than the formal economy. Consumer-oriented firms can tap into that demand, so they are a favored play for managers, especially subsidiaries of well-respected global firms like Abbott Pakistan (ABOT.Pakistan) and Unilever Pakistan (ULEVER.Pakistan) that give them more comfort about governance.

While the story attracting investors to Pakistan is domestic, the United Arab Emirates is more of a play on the rest of the Middle East, since it is increasingly a trade and financial hub and has recently acted as a safe haven for people elsewhere in the region. Many people associate the UAE with lavish construction projects and a property bubble, but that bubble popped and the industry is on the mend, with occupancy rates beginning to rise. The country's firms are also well managed and attractively priced, says Brudenell, who favors property developers, banking-service firms and global-ports operator DP World (DPW.Dubai).

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg on outsize returns of KSE-100:

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

The country’s 190 million people are boosting purchases three times faster than Asian peers as higher rural incomes and record remittances outweigh fighting on the Afghan border, violence in Karachi that led to at least 2,100 deaths this year and power outages that sparked rioting. The region’s fastest earnings growth may increase economic stability, according to Karachi-based Atlas Asset Management Ltd. Foreign investors added to holdings for five straight months, lured by Asia’s lowest valuations and biggest dividend yields.

“Stocks are very cheap and there are some very good businesses in Pakistan,” said Andrew Brudenell, whose HSBC Frontier Markets Fund has returned 18 percent this year, beating 92 percent of peers tracked by Bloomberg, and holds more shares in the country than are represented in benchmark indexes. “We still think there’s some positive growth to come from the markets.”

Earnings in the KSE 100 index advanced 45 percent during the past year, the largest gain among 17 Asian equity indexes, and this month hit the highest level since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2005.

Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. While the growth in Pakistan may slow to 6.6 percent in 2012, it will still exceed the 5.3 percent pace in Asia, according to Euromonitor estimates.

Engro Foods Ltd. (EFOODS), a Karachi-based seller of dairy products, reported a 214 percent jump in net income for the third quarter, while Unilever Pakistan Ltd. (ULEVER), a unit of the world’s second- biggest consumer-goods company, had a 36 percent gain, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Dividends in Pakistan have also climbed at the fastest pace in the region. Payouts increased 49 percent in the past 12 months, giving the KSE 100 index a dividend yield of 6.6 percent, double the 3.3 percent average in Asia, Bloomberg data show.
Foreign investors have purchased a net $153 million of Pakistan shares since the beginning of July, according to data from the Karachi Stock Exchange. Overseas holdings amount to about 20 percent of the bourse’s free float, or shares available for trading, according to Adnan Katchi, the head of international equity sales at Arif Habib Ltd.

Bond investors are also growing more confident. Pakistan’s international debt, rated Caa1 at Moody’s Investors Service, or seven levels below investment grade, has returned 32 percent this year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Next Generation Markets Index. Yields hit a two-year low of 8.5 percent on Oct. 26.


The country is luring more of the world’s biggest consumer brands as spending increases. Debenhams Plc (DEB), the U.K.’s second- largest department-store chain, and Nine West Group Inc., a seller of women’s shoes and handbags owned by New York-based Jones Group Inc. (JNY), opened their first Pakistan outlets this year.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on rise in worker remittances to developing world:

Developing countries are expected to receive $406 billion in remittances in 2012, which is 6.5% higher than the remittances they received in 2011, according to a recent World Bank report.

The World Bank projects that remittances to developing countries will grow by 7.9%, 10.1% and 10.7% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, to reach $534 billion in 2015.

While the international economic downturn has adversely affected remittance flows to Europe and some other regions, South Asia is expected to fare much better than previously estimated, the report says. Remittance flows to South Asia are expected to clock in at around $109 billion in 2012, up by 12.5% over 2011, it said.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country received remittances of $13.2 billion in fiscal 2012, which were 17.7% higher than the preceding fiscal year.

Similarly, in the first four months of the current fiscal year, remittances to Pakistan stood at $4.9 billion, higher by 15% compared to remittances received in the corresponding four-month period last fiscal year.

“Regions and countries with large numbers of migrants in oil-exporting countries continue to see robust growth in inward remittance flows, compared with those whose migrant workers are largely concentrated in the advanced economies, especially Western Europe,” the World Bank report says.

According to the Bureau of Emigration’s Assistant Director Farrukh Jamal, more than 80% of the manpower that Pakistan has exported resides in Saudi Arabia. “Almost 90% of recent emigrants from Pakistan currently work in the Middle East,” he told The Express Tribune in an interview two weeks ago.

The largest single-country chunk of remittances that Pakistan received in fiscal 2012 – amounting to $1.1 billion – was from Saudi Arabia. It was followed closely by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with $963.1 million remitted from the country in the same period. The United States ($795.3 million) was the third biggest source of remittances during fiscal 2012...

Hopewins said...

^^^RH: "..Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. While the growth in Pakistan may slow to 6.6 percent in 2012.."


Dr. Haq,

Why don't you post a direct link to the actual Euromonitor data, instead of quoting someone's interpretation of someone else's citation of the Euromonitor data?

That way, people can see the data for themselves and make up their own minds. So here is the link to the actual (or original) Euromonitor data--

What do we see?

A) The Bloomberg journalists are correct that growth rate of consumer expenditure dropped to 6.66% during FY12.

B) The Bloomberg journalists are WRONG that growth rate of consumer expenditure averaged 26% over the previous three years. The reality is that consumer expenditure increased by 15%, 13%, 26% and now 6.6%. So that 26% increase was for ONE year ONLY; and that too came only in nominal dollar terms because of a favorable difference between the inflation-rate differential and the exchange rate between the PKR & the USD. Real consumption increase was much lower as seen in point (D) below.

C) Did you notice the changing ratio of "Consumer Expenditure" (Row 6) to "Annual Gross Income" (Row 7)? What does this tell you?

D) Did you notice the changing ratio of "GDP Measured at Purchasing Power Parity" (Row 5) to "Annual Gross Income" (Row 7)? What does this tell you?

E) Most "other Asian countries" are available at the linked site. So you could do comparative checks with Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Thailand et cetera. Do you notice anything w.r.t (A),(B),(C) & (D)?

Something to reflect upon as we move beyond the superficial analysis by the Bloomberg journalists.

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

In a recent piece tiled "Pakistan Staring into the Abyss", Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi captures the highly pessimistic mood of the press coverage and books about Pakistan.

Historically, purveyors of books and magazines predicting doom and gloom have mostly been wrong but sold lots of copies.

Matt Ridley, the author of "The Rational Optimist", says that the prophets of doom and gloom from Robert Malthus to Paul Ehrlich(both predicted catastrophe of mass starvation) have always found great acceptance as "sages" in their time but proved to be completely wrong because they discount human resilience and ingenuity.

The reasons for wide acceptance of pessimists have to do with how the human brain has evolved through the millennia.

It's been established that once the amygdala starts hunting for bad news, it'll mostly find bad news.

Peter Diamandis explains this phenomenon well in his book "Abundance-Why Future is Better Than You Think".

Here's a excerpt from Diamandis's book:

"These are turbulent times. A quick glance at the headlines is enough to set anybody on edge-with endless media stream that has lately become our lives-it's hard to get away from those headlines. Worse, evolution shaped human brain to be acutely aware of all potential dangers...this dire combination has a profound impact on human perception: It literally shuts off our ability to take in good news."

In Pakistan's case, the good news continues to be the emergence of a large and growing middle class population and a vibrant mass media and civil society which underpin the country's extraordinary resilience.

Pakistan needs such resilience to complete its difficult ongoing transition to democracy which, the history tells us, has never been easy for any nation.

I believe Pakistan is making good progress toward becoming a prosperous urban middle class democracy.

Hopewins said...

^^^HWJ: "...And if you research this issue, you will see that these low-HP tractors are part of the Soviet Goodwill gesture to Bhutto in the 1970s. These engine & transmission parts they are making are circa 1950's designs and production techniques obtained from an BELURUS based soviet-owned tractor company in the 70s. By international standards, what they are making is mostly uncompetetive junk-yard scrap..."

Dr. Haq,

As you know, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Please go here:

And look at your own picture:

Zoom in... Look closely..

Can you see the BELARUS tractor that I mentioned? Do you now agree with what I wrote?

Especially when I said, "..By international standards, what they are making is mostly uncompetitive junk-yard scrap.."

What are your views on this?

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Especially when I said, "..By international standards, what they are making is mostly uncompetitive junk-yard scrap.."

What are your views on this?"

You expose your own ignorance when you claim that Belarus tractors are all Pak makes.

In fact, Belarus is a very small player when compared with Millat and Ghazi who make Massey Ferguson and Fiat tractors in Pakistan in larger volumes.

And Belarus has been in Pakistan since well before Bhutto era in 1970s.

Anonymous said...

Well great if pakistan is anice place and u people have good life!! gud for you. I dont undertstand ur obsession with India why dont u comapre performance with other countries. if u r good and happy in your country smply cool.. u have right to good life.. best wishes.. filthy media who is so bad about pakistan. good luck. but best if u work on efforts to make it better than waste your efforts compaing with India and keeping ur selves happy.

you know why Indian media doesnt give weightage to paksitan because they want to be at a better place like developed countries so they compare india with at.

Good thing for you will be to improve and improve and not comapre and compare with India.

be relaistic and not dreamy parttime adrenaline feeded person.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "you know why Indian media doesnt give weightage to paksitan because they want to be at a better place like developed countries so they compare india with at. Good thing for you will be to improve and improve and not comapre and compare with India"

A cursory look can confirm that Indian media and the ubiquitous Indian trolls are far more obsessed with Pakistan than Pakistanis are with India.

As to me comparing Pakistan with other countries, I have done that frequently.

Here are a couple of posts:

Pakistan Offers Higher Economic Mobility Than US, China

Faith in Hard Work: Pakistanis Lead the World

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Peter Osborne in Daily Telegraph on Pakistan:

It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky – and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on racism.

Pakistan, he said, was “humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred”. In summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the “vilest and most dangerous regions on Earth”.

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens’s brash assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly – as Pakistanis themselves are well aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.

Yet the reality is far more complex. Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.
Many write of how dangerous Pakistan has become. More remarkable, by far, is how safe it remains, thanks to the strength and good humour of its people. The image of the average Pakistani citizen as a religious fanatic or a terrorist is simply a libel, the result of ignorance and prejudice.

The prejudice against Pakistan dates back to before 9/11. It is summed up best by the England cricketer Ian Botham’s notorious comment that “Pakistan is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid”. Some years after Botham’s outburst, the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham’s mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan – all expenses paid – to see what she made of the country.

Unlike her son-in-law, Mrs Waller had the evidence of her eyes before her: “The country and its people have absolutely blown me away,” said the 68-year-old grandmother.

After a trip round Lahore’s old town she said: “I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged.” She concluded: “All I would say is: ‘Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you’ll love it’. Honestly!”

Mrs Waller is telling the truth. And if you don’t believe me, please visit and find out for yourself.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Telegraph's Bob Crilly on Pakistan:

It is true that Pakistan is a dangerous place. If you are a Shia, a Pakistani politician from Karachi, a 15-year-old girl who criticises the Taliban or if you venture into the tribal lands that butt up against Afghanistan, this is a country filled with danger.

Yet that is not the country that I know. Islamabad is a gentle city of roundabouts and parks. Today teams of gardeners are tidying verges ready for replanting. Yesterday, I strolled into the Margalla hills surrounded by families having picnics. Nowhere in Lahore or Karachi have I been made to feel anything other than welcome. Not once have I been concerned for my safety.

Too often the outside world seems to think it knows better. The bleak portrayal of the country in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (I can assure you that American diplomats are not sleeping on sofas or slumming it with shared kitchens) or video games such as Medal of Honor, seem to suggest terrorists on every corner.

Forget all that. Instead follow the example of former Spurs star Graham Roberts and Irish rugby player Justin Fitzpatrick who have both had coaching stints here. Geoff Lawson has apparently let it be known he'd like to coach one of the PSL teams and Julien Fountain, from Sussex, is the current fielding coach of the Pakistan team, working under Dav Whatmore, an Aussie.

So my message to England's players is: forget the dire warnings, and come and see for yourselves. My spare room is at your disposal. Although I would advise you not to kidnap anyone in Peshawar.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian review of Zero Dark Thirty movie's depiction of Pakistan:

"For me the biggest problem was that the production design was so weak," says Wajahat Khan, a television journalist. Not only is he unconvinced by many of the locations used to stand in for Pakistan, Khan is, like many others, bemused by the depiction of Pakistanis speaking Arabic to each other. And he thinks the film-makers are guilty of "imagining Pakistan to be what they want it to be".

"It does a disservice to how complex the society is," Khan explains. "This society may have housed Bin Laden but it's not the backyard of a local mosque in Jeddah."

Expatriate life is also shown to be grimmer than the reality of large and spacious houses enjoyed by diplomats in Kabul. Perhaps the foreign press corps is to blame for disabusing Zero Dark Thirty's screenwriter, Mark Boal. During a visit to Pakistan before filming began, Boal asked a group of hacks whether foreigners in Islamabad enjoy "crazy parties where everyone gets naked in the pool". The poor man looked crestfallen when told the (all too depressing) truth that Islamabad is a pretty subdued place.

Although it was described by Bigelow as a "reported film", Zero Dark Thirty offers a feast for fact-checkers. Inaccuracies abound, largely due to the need to compress the decade-long hunt, create composite characters and make the whole thing work as a piece of drama.

A single character, Maya, is used to carry the film. She is portrayed as a lone voice challenging the CIA's bureaucratic inertia after Bin Laden trail goes cold and she is placed at the centre of the action. She is shown dining in a poor imitation of Islamabad's Marriott hotel even though it was blown up in 2008. Her car is attacked by gunmen as she drives out of her house – something that has happened more than once to US government employees in Peshawar, but not to anyone's knowledge in Islamabad.

One of the CIA's overseas "black sites" used for interrogating members of al-Qaida is shown in Pakistan itself, presumably to place Maya in both the torture scenes and where the action was in the CIA's Islamabad station.

Her character appears to be based on a real CIA agent named as Jen in an account of the Bin Laden raid written by former Navy Seal Matt Bissonnette. But Peter Bergen, a journalist and author who has researched Bin Laden more deeply than anyone else, claims the CIA officer who worked on the search for eight years up until his death and was convinced he was hiding in the Abbottabad compound was actually a man.

In December the acting director of CIA went public to criticise the film for taking "significant artistic licence, while portraying itself as being historically accurate".

The film, which claims to be based on "firsthand accounts of actual events" adds tantalising and colourful details that build on what has been reported elsewhere.

But it's hard to know what to believe when the film makes an astonishing error in portraying one of the gambits used to try and identify whether Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. A controversial hepatitis B vaccination programme run on behalf of the CIA in the town in an attempt to get hold of Bin Laden family DNA is clearly shown as an anti-polio campaign. It's a truly sloppy mistake given how widely reported the incident was.

And it's also potentially dangerous. The scandal of the CIA using aid workers as cover for operations has helped to inflame deep mistrust in Pakistan's tribal areas towards vaccination programmes. Two Taliban commanders have banned polio eradication from their areas of control. In December, six polio vaccinators were murdered by gunmen while going about their work....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece in WSJ on how Pakistanis view Zero Dark Thirty, the movie:

Pakistani commentators have seized on the film even though it is not being officially distributed.

Nadeem Paracha, senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper, one of Pakistan’s leading English-language newspapers, catalogued what he considered flaws in its depiction of Pakistani society in a blog post on Thursday.

He went on to suggest, through a series of comic photographs, that the Oscar-nominated film reinforces American and Pakistani stereotypes about each other.

Similarly, Dawn’s film critic, Mohammad Kamran Jawaid, in a freewheeling and, at times, contradictory review, suggested that viewers’ response to the film would depend “on the individual’s level of hurt.”

In a review for the Express Tribune, Noman Ansari, a freelance writer, sought to add some perspective.

“Yes, Zero Dark Thirty portrays a dark corner of Pakistan, but the film never claims that this is all there is to the country,” the piece said. “It doesn’t have to, because this is a film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and not about Pakistan’s glorious win at the cricket world cup. And like it or not, our national army was completely clueless about an operation by a foreign military on its own soil, near its own naval compound.”

It added: “So if Zero Dark Thirty makes us look completely incompetent and stupid when it came to the events of May 2, 2011, perhaps it is because we were.”

The raid depicted in the movie caused huge consternation among ordinary Pakistanis when it happened, according to a survey. In a poll conducted by YouGov in association with Polis at Cambridge University shortly after the raid, 75% of Pakistani respondents said they disapproved of the U.S. operation and 66% didn’t believe that Osama Bin Laden had been killed at the compound in Abbottabad.

The association between bin Laden and Abbottabad continues to rankle residents of the town.

“I am disappointed that my town harbored a terrorist who had caused damage to my country,” said a 31-year-old woman in Abbottabad, who declined to be named. “My town is now notorious. My cousins in Canada no longer tell people that they are from Abbottabad.”

But when she was whether Zero Dark Thirty should be shown in Pakistan, she said: “Pakistanis watch Indian movies and, if you read the Pakistani press, we are led to believe that they are the enemy, too.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Nadeem Paracha in Dawn on Zero Dark Thirty, the movie:

Recent Hollywood blockbuster, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, was quite an experience. Though sharp in its production and direction and largely accurate in depicting the events that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, it went ballistic bad in depicting everyday life on the streets of Pakistan.

With millions of dollars at their disposal, I wonder why the makers of this film couldn’t hire even a most basic advisor to inform them that

1: Pakistanis speak Urdu, English and other regional languages and NOT Arabic;

2: Pakistani men do not go around wearing 17th and 18th century headgear in markets;

3: The only Urdu heard in the film is from a group of wild-eyed men protesting against an American diplomat, calling him ‘chor.’ Chor in Urdu means robber. And the protest rally was against US drone strikes. How did that make the diplomat a chor?

4: And how on earth was a green Mercedes packed with armed men parked only a few feet away from the US embassy in Islamabad? Haven’t the producers ever heard of an area called the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad? Even a squirrel these days has to run around for a permit to enter and climb trees in that particular area.

I can go on.

The following is what I have learned …...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed in the Independent on Bina Shah:

Lately, I've been seeing an Internet meme doing the rounds on Facebook. It's the image of a TIME magazine cover about Pakistan: the tagline reads “Pakistan’s Dark Heart” and shows a dead body sprawled on a street. Andrew Marshall’s accompanying article calls Karachi, my hometown “desperate, chaotic, and ungovernable – and essential to global security”.

This melodramatic image is accompanied by a letter to the Editor written by Tony Lazaro, tagged “An Australian’s Rebuttal to Time Magazine’s Story on Karachi”. Mr. Lazaro relates how on a recent charitable trip to Pakistan, he saw the beautiful side of a much-maligned nation, and feels that the Western media must promote “something positive” about the country. “If we really care about global partnerships… I suggest we try and give Pakistan a helping hand… given a little help from the Western world, Pakistan can become a dominant economy. She doesn’t want aid and she doesn’t need money… I believe we have a fundamental obligation to assist.”

I appreciate the good spirit in which this letter has been written. I'm trying very hard to control my inner cynic, which whispers to me that this is an attempt to improve Pakistan's image in the eyes of the world, not a blatant attempt at self-promotion. I'll ignore Tony Lazaro's full contact details and link to his Web site, although I'll also resist the urge to click on it and see what business he represents. Tony's come to Pakistan, he's clearly loved what he's seen, and he wants Western media to adjust the bias when it comes to reporting about Pakistan. There's so much good here, why spend all your time focusing on the bad?


What we need is to pull up our boots and transform ourselves. We know who we are, we know what we're capable of, and how short we are falling. That's our tragedy, and we have to own it. Millions of us realize this, and we're working on changing it. How successful we will be, and how we manage to raise ourselves in the eyes of the world is solely our responsibility.

What we need from Western media and Western philanthropists and Western organizations, is to be truthful and honest in their dealings with us. Don't use Pakistan to sell your newspapers, your elections, your drone wars, your military weapons. Don't use Pakistan to ease your conscience one way or the other. You don't have to pretend that we're a nation of Osama bin Ladens, or a nation of poor, helpless brown people who need saving from ourselves. How about just seeing us for what we are: a nation that's screwed up, with a little help from our friends, but mostly due to our own hubris, inadequacies, and short-sightedness? Editors, reporters, correspondents: how about not "promoting" one image or another, but just being objective, like you're supposed to be?

Oh, and one more thing: Stop calling Pakistan "she". Pakistan does not have a gender; neither do ships, abstract values (such as justice or liberty), or nature. Pakistan is not a damsel in distress that needs rescuing by strong, masculine arms. Now come back and see us again soon, you hear?

Unknown said...

Sir riaz haq....I m an Indian Muslim and I truly accept your findings...they(the Pakistanis are very hospitable, intact,streets ahead of the Indian one) wd be surprised to know that my family used to live in Karachi before partition and we are one of those few Muslims who decided to choose India....
Let me tell you....we don't and at all regret their decision...I love Bombay...and all other Indian cities..
I have significantly done some travelling across the globe...BT the heart of the matter is that Indian cities are far far far better than not only pak ones but also many others....u may disbelieve this...but I say this from my experiences...u can't ape India cities...I m a proud Indian Muslim..
Just as someone had said once,"there is absolutely no comparison between glittering Bombay and gloomy Karachi"...this is a fact u cant just deny....same goes for new Delhi and Lahore (if u want to put that in an even scale)...
Besides,I haven't even started with the south indian cities..
This all keeping in mind that pakis are much hospitable to indies than otherwise...thanx and khuda hafiz...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time Magazine article on Hollywood bending to get Chinese business:

We already knew some filming of Iron Man 3 took place in China, and that the movie has a Chinese co-distributor and that Chinese actor Wang Xueqi has a role — but, as of late last week, Chinese Iron Man fans have another reason to feel special: they’re getting their very own version of the movie.

(MORE: Licence to Cut as Skyfall Censored in China)

After the May 3 release of the Marvel tentpole, another edition will be released in China and will be marketed and distributed by Chinese distribution company DMG Entertainment. (DMG is listed as a co-producer for the film on IMDB, but this latest press release clarifies that, in China at least, the movie is a Marvel production distributed by DMG.) The announcement, available on Deadline, told fans that the Chinese version would include bonus footage:

The Chinese version of the film will also feature a special appearance of China’s top actress, Fan Bingbing, and will offer specially prepared bonus footage made exclusively for the Chinese audience. Marvel Studios’ experience working on this film with Fan Bingbing and Wang Xueqi and in shooting in China has been very positive and has created a springboard for future collaboration with China’s talented stars and its growing film and television industry.

DMG has experience with this kind of situation, as the Los Angeles Times points out: Looper also received financing from the company and had a Chinese version that showed more of Shanghai than U.S. audiences saw.

These little nods to the appetites of Chinese fans — or, in some cases, the potential future decisions of Chinese censors, as other movies have learned the hard way — may not seem like much. But studios must be betting that a few extra Chinese location shots or scenes with Chinese actors could pay off in a big way, and they’ve got reason to think it’s possible: analysts predict that China, currently the No. 2 box-office market in the world, will surpass the U.S. within the next decade.

Riaz Haq said...

I never spoke much of my parents’ language, Sindhi, but I did know it. One of the most interesting elements of the trip was visiting my father’s town, Rohiri, his birthplace. I found there was still a sizeable Hindu community there. That totally took me by surprise. We still think there was a massive religious cleansing in Pakistan and there were no Hindus left.
Then I came across this family of shopkeepers who said, “Don’t worry about anything. Stay with us.” They gave me lunch and dinner and put me on the night train to Lahore. Talking to this family in the neighbourhood where my father grew up and was married was fascinating. The question that came to mind was why did my father’s family leave Pakistan and why are these people still here?
Official figures suggest 14 million people were displaced after partition and that half a million to a million people were killed. And yet 60 years later these Hindu people in Rohiri are still there. They felt connected to the place where they were born.
In the three towns I passed through I kept meeting Hindus — traders, professionals. Their numbers were small, 300 or 400 families in each of these towns. They have their own places of worship. I dared to ask: “Are you happy here?” and they said, “Yes, this is the land where we were born.”
But living as a minority in a society does put you in a delicate situation.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's The Hindu on Shobha De's visit to Islamabad:

Shobhaa De, author and columnist, said here on Friday that she had not encountered even a moment of hostility in Pakistan. It was all hospitality and no hostility, she added.

Ms. De is here to attend the second Islamabad Literature Festival organised by the Oxford University Press.The three-day festival, which will showcase some of the best writers in Pakistan, has Ms. De, Ritu Menon, writer and publisher, and a group performing Dastangoi, an Urdu storytelling art form, from India.

Ms. De had attended literature festivals in Karachi and Lahore, but this is her first visit to Islamabad. To start with, she said she had been keen on visiting the capital since it was a city which was neither here nor there. An Indian diplomat had told her it was like a small European city, but at first glance, it seemed more like Chandigarh.

She arrived to a warm welcome, and hoped that every city in Pakistan would have a literary festival.

If it had not been for the festival, she would not have been able to visit here. It was an important moment for her. The festivals she had attended in Pakistan were liberal, progressive and relaxed, and stood for all that was good for the region.

Opening the festival, Zehra Nigah, writer, said it was important for people to read and enjoy books.

She told The Hindu that it was important to hold such festivals and people were enjoying them despite the prevailing conditions.

Aamer Hussain, writer, and Asif Farrukhi, festival organiser, spoke.

Riaz Haq said...

PRI story on Modi and Pakistan:

Growing up in India, I'd sometimes drop my cricket bat in the middle of the game and say to my friends, "I'll be right back. Going to Pakistan."

None of them would raise an eyebrow. They knew I meant I was off to the bathroom.

I grew up with strong feelings about Pakistan. It was my enemy.

My friends and I wished the worst things for Pakistan, and disliked losing to them — on the battlefield, or the cricket field.

Every time a terrorist attack happened in India, we blamed it on Pakistan and wished our prime minister would declare war.

I thought that's how every Indian should feel; the more you hated Pakistan, the more patriotic you were.

Then, 10 years ago, I moved to the United States, and, for the first time in my life, I met a person from Pakistan. Then I met another Pakistani. And then, another.

We spoke the same language, ate the same food, told the same jokes and felt passionate about the same sport. We had so many things in common that I often forgot we were not from the same country.

Right now, a general election is taking place in India. Narendra Modi, the candidate for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is expected to become the next prime minster. He’s the chief minister of Gujarat, the northwestern state bordering Pakistan.

Modi is controversial. In 2005, he was denied a US visa because of his alleged role in the Gujurat riots in 2002, where about 1,000 people died, most of them Muslim.

Some of my friends from Pakistan express concern about Modi and they've asked me what I think of him.

In my previous life, I might have voted for Modi.

But now, he makes me nervous.

Riaz Haq said...

From Hindu: Comparison of Azad Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir:

As a resident of Baramulla, I should have been able to make it to Muzaffarabad, the capital on the other side, within five hours by road, had the governments of India and Pakistan allowed our three-member delegation to travel on the much-vaunted cross LoC bus.

However, the walls between the two sides built over 60 years forced me to travel via Delhi-Lahore-Islamabad — the journey thus took me almost three days.

Nevertheless, this longer route was interesting in itself. The 180-km Islamabad-Muzaffarabad road reminded me of the winding Srinagar-Jammu highway, while the mountainscape and the gushing waters of the Jhelum resembled Patnitop and the waters of the Chenab.
Muzaffarabad, with a population of just over 6,00,000, looks cleaner than Srinagar (PoK has 10 districts with an estimated population over three million in 2009). Even during my previous visit in 2004, I found that the stories of “under development in PoK,” fed to us on this side, are off the mark. This time, I noticed road connectivity and power supply to houses even on the upper reaches of a hill. In contrast, many villages in Jammu and Kashmir even today are without basic facilities. Neither does Muzaffarabad seem to be lagging behind in education and health compared to the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir though progress is more in tune with Pakistani literacy rates. In the past few years the development in these two sectors has been rapid. The literacy rate in PoK has touched 65 per cent which is higher than for any other area in Pakistan. In conversations, both the young and old in Muzaffarabad say that Pakistan has “never discriminated” against the region.

Riaz Haq said...

I thought about how an average Indian thinks about everything that is wrong with Pakistan. And just a week spent like that tells you how beautiful and kind, the place and the people are.....

Things in Pakistan won’t change overnight. But a mere visit does shatter many misconceptions. For all those who call Pakistan a failed state, I have a suggestion: go to Lahore.
That’s the city I can confidently vouch for, though I am sure other places are no less.

saima said...

Mr. Riaz Haq, your argument is very logical, strong and informative. It is enough to open the eyes of many who think that Pakistan is a failed state. But you can't do anything for ones who don't want to open their eyes because they want to live in their dreams and think what they want to think.

Riaz Haq said...

The following post in NY Times is just another representation of the standard western narrative that Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra describes as follows: "I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing. .Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China..."

"There is a bit of a hermetic feel to Pakistan these days, as if the country that lies on the ancient road from the West to Asia, a natural bridge, had somehow contorted itself into a self-imposed isolation. The border with India, dividing the Punjab, lies not far from this great city. It is a barrier rather than a gateway. The border with Afghanistan is problematic in its nonexistence. The beast nurtured in the name of Islamabad’s policy of “strategic depth” (whatever that may be), the Taliban in its Pakistani iteration, massacred 134 children at Peshawar’s Army Public School late last year. Not surprising then that tourism is down to a trickle. I made my way to the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort — high-walled, dusky-red, magnificent in extent. There was not a foreigner in sight, not a camera clicking.

President Obama goes to India and Pakistan is way down on his agenda — if it is there at all. Nobody in Washington frets any longer about balancing visits to New Delhi and Islamabad. Oh, yes, Afghanistan, American treasure and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), or top spy agency: Well, the less said about that, the better.

India is a democracy and a great power rising. Pakistan is a Muslim homeland that lost half its territory in 1971, bounced back and forth between military and nominally democratic rule, never quite clear of annihilation angst despite its nuclear weapons, its prime ministers as susceptible to a violent end as Henry VIII’s wives, struggling to define its identity almost 68 years after it came into being. The fog of war is rivaled only by the fog of Pakistan, in which Osama bin Laden lived and paced for several years.

But perhaps something new is stirring in the penumbra. There is much chatter about Beijing. China needs Pakistan to keep India busy; it does not want an India freed of its Pakistani headache. So Beijing helps Pakistan with military technology. It builds nuclear power stations. (The Saudis help Pakistan with big gifts, too, widely seen as informal insurance of protection with those Pakistani nukes if ever needed by the Royals or Riyadh.)

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's incredible beauty unveiled in travelogue. …

Fear. It’s both a vital gift housed by human nature and an insidious enemy of the human race. On one hand, it whispers warnings and protects us from danger. On the other hand, it has the tendency to dramatise risk, rationalise rumours, glorify assumptions and conjure terrifying truths in order to fill gaps in knowledge and experience. In this regard, fear often places two hands over our eyes and blinds us from hidden opportunities. It closes the gate on enlightening international relationships, thrilling life experiences and character-building adventures.
I recently stared fear in the face and told it take a back seat. It knew of my plans to explore Pakistan and it was starting to freak out. It kept replaying the frightful imagery and headlines I’d consumed through international media. My inner devil’s advocate didn’t have any good news stories to fight back with – so it seemed, positive tales about Pakistan weren’t getting much airtime.
As I started to share my travel plans with others, fear got it’s “I told you so” face on. Every time I mentioned that Pakistan was my gateway to “The Stans” and Europe, I was met with one of two responses: “Why are you going there? It’s not safe,” or “Good luck!” (backed by incredulous laughter).
As I spent my last night in India, soaking up the intense atmosphere at the infamous Wagah Border Closing Ceremony, my sense of trepidation reached fever pitch. I watched the Pakistani crowd from the Indian bleachers with nervous curiosity. Stretching my neck like a meerkat, I fought to decipher any cultural clues, which would put my mind at ease. From what I could tell, the men and women were sitting in different sections but both sexes were releasing a passion-fuelled fire from their bellies like revved up dragons. Their intense patriotism was hypnotising.
Funnily enough, at this point, my biggest fear wasn’t getting killed in Pakistan. It’s that I’d offend the locals with my cultural naivety and lack of sensitivity and, as a result, represent my home country poorly. I desperately wanted to put a good Aussie foot forward and assure the Pakistani people I was eager to understand their community better. I quickly learned their intentions were exactly the same as mine. The locals knew they were battling against a major international PR challenge, and they were hungry to champion Pakistan’s endearing qualities and little-known strengths.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before Pakistanis became one of the most hospitable communities I’d encountered. From the moment I entered the border at Wagah to the time I left the country through China, they slowly chipped away at my armour with kindness and found their way into my heart. The locals have taught me a lot about Pakistan, Islamic culture and the power of media. They’ve practically demolished my fears and rebuilt my perception of their home country. Let me explain why…

Riaz Haq said...

Saeed Book Bank: A Storied #Bookstore and Its Late Oracle Leave an Imprint on #Islamabad #Pakistan

That approach helped Mr. Qureshi make an extraordinary future for Saeed Book Bank, particularly in an era when online sales have been driving independent bookstores out of business, and in a region where unfettered book piracy adds to retailers’ travails.

With his passion for books, Mr. Qureshi built one of the biggest bookstores in the world — mostly selling books in English, in a country where that is a second language for most people.

Saeed Book Bank has 42,000 square feet of usually busy floor space over three stories, displays 200,000 titles, and stocks more than four million books in its five warehouses — all, Ahmad Saeed said, “by the grace of the almighty.”

(His visitor had not read “Fallen Leaves,” so Mr. Saeed sent one of his 92 employees to fetch a copy. “It is so good, you must read this book.” Another visitor to the office, an aged doctor named S.H. Naqvi, agreed, having himself read it at their insistence: “It will touch your heart,” he said.)

Saeed Jan Qureshi came from a family that worked for a feudal landlord named Mir Banda Ali. His estates in southern Sindh Province were so vast that five railway stops reputedly lay within his property lines. His library was similarly scaled, and as a 9-year-old, Saeed was put to work dusting the shelves. One day Mr. Ali found him reading instead of working, and told the boy to get back to work immediately — but added that he could take a book home every night, so long as he returned it in mint condition.

Saeed never got past high school but he was exceedingly well-read, and after school he found a job as a book salesman for a company that sent him to its Peshawar branch. Later, in the 1950s, he opened his own bookshop in Peshawar.

During the Cold War years that followed, Pakistan was an outpost in the American rivalry with the Soviet Union, and Peshawar became an important military base, and later a vital C.I.A. base of operations, particularly during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Say what you will about the spooks, they were readers, and Mr. Qureshi built his business around catering to their literary tastes.

(Speaking of Afghanistan, Mr. Saeed said: “Have you read ‘The Spinner’s Tale,’ by Omar Shahid Hamid? No?” He seemed mildly shocked. Moments later a Pan Macmillan paperback copy of the novel materialized. “I am sorry, we’ve sold out of ‘Fallen Leaves’ — it’s so hard to keep in stock — but read this,” Ahmad said. “A lot of it is set in Afghanistan.”)

Later the rise of terrorism and fundamentalist Islam made Peshawar, capital of the wild frontier lands of Pakistan, a dangerous place for a bookseller — especially one who insisted on carrying magazines like Cosmopolitan and Heavy Metal, books by Karen Armstrong on Islam, and even the scientist Richard Dawkins’s atheist treatise, “The God Delusion.” (“You just wouldn’t believe how that sells,” Mr. Saeed said. “We buy a thousand copies from Random House every year, year after year.”)

On the other hand, he said, another best-seller is “The Message of the Qur’an,” an English translation of the holy book by Muhammad Asad, a European Jewish scholar and diplomat who converted to Islam.

Forced to close shop in Peshawar, Mr. Qureshi focused his efforts in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, a place heavily insulated from the country’s more extremist elements. Hard times followed as even Islamabad became a “no families” posting for diplomats and aid workers, but by then the bookstore was so big that its sheer breadth kept it viable, as plenty of Pakistanis read books in English.

Riaz Haq said...

Postcard from #Pakistan: #Delhi-Based #British Expat Crosses the Border to Pleasant Surprises in #Lahore #Islamabad

the logistics. At this stage the decision to take Latin over Geography at O Level proved unfortunate as I booked Delhi-Abu Dhabi-Lahore over the more logical Delhi-Amritsar and a walk across the border. My Indian business partners, too polite or perplexed by the escapade, refrained from pointing out the error and so I boarded my flight to Abu Dhabi (a 3,000-mile dog leg to Lahore). Quod erat demonstrandum, as a geography student might like to say.

The flight was a riot of construction workers en route to their expat jobs in the Gulf, and me. But what a contrast with the passengers at the Abu Dhabi departure gate for Lahore. It could have been JFK—vibrant, international, fashion-conscious; all iPads and Tory Burch.

Dawn the next day at Fort Lahore. Heavens, what a place and reason alone to visit Pakistan! A glorious morning, no one there and standing at the foot of Shah Jahan’s Elephant Steps to his magnificent palace. What a thing, what a thought—a stairway for your favorite pachyderm and its very big strides. Something to inspire a man on a gray morning commute and an action item to be more like the Mughals.

Later I toured the hip, up-and-coming city boroughs and saw an outbreak of U.S. burger joints and burgeoning mall developments. Pretty girls, blue skies, ancient places, modern ways, few traffic jams and no trash. Quite a place, and a pleasant contrast to the hard-knock life of Delhi with its press of 25 million people. Surprisingly, it turned out that doing business was easier than India—less regulation and more free trade. This was born out by an out-of-body hour spent cruising the aisles of a Rawalpindi supermarket as good as Whole Foods WFM +0.38% or Waitrose.

And so on to Islamabad and the charming Serena Hotel. Old expat hands would recognize its type in comparable hotels of the day—the places to meet in an era when knowing the right people mattered: the Mandarin, Hong Kong of the ’80s, the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, the King David in 1960s’ Jerusalem, the Okura in Tokyo. At the Serena, the local political crowd mixed with South Asia journalists, Chinese businessmen and the odd Westerner of uncertain provenance.

On the final day. Islamabad sparkling with views of the surrounding green hills: I set off to explore the city through the universal medium of jogging, much to the surprise of the Serena’s security team and their adorable black Labrador sniffer dog. After detouring through a dusty park, I emerged on to Constitution Avenue (think Champs-Élysées) and ran the length of the road past sandbagged machine-gun posts and slow-driving, tinted-window Chevrolet Suburbans bound for the highly defended diplomatic compound.

As the plane took off from Benazir Bhutto International, I felt privileged to see Pakistan before it becomes, in all likelihood, less like itself and more like a modern Middle East or Asian city. When this happens there’ll be no time to wander up Elephant Steps or jog alone on Constitution Ave.

Back in New Delhi I spoke to my young team about the trip. Reassuringly, they were intrigued and asked questions, and many wanted to visit their neighbor. Perhaps the passing of years may lessen the pain of partition and cross-border traffic will increase, surely to the benefit of both these splendid, complex countries.

In the meantime, my wife and I shall take our children to Pakistan for one big reason: to show them they’re able to visit this remarkable land. In the end, providing this permission to travel (the ultimate visa stamp) may be the biggest benefit of being a family abroad. Kids may or may not travel later in life, but they’ll know they can.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Tourist's Travelogue: "unlike his virgin experience in #India, it was love at first sight (in #Pakistan )".

It wasn’t love at first sight when Lukas Szolc-Nartowski first set foot in India in 2001.....Contrary to his fears, Pakistan proved to be one of the most inspiring, vibrant countries he had ever visited. And unlike his virgin experience in India, it was love at first sight.

“The first person I met in Pakistan was Umair Ghani, a photographer and writer – a very inspiring and wise person,” Lukas shares. “The next couple of days were spent with Umair, learning photography and getting to know the city of kings – Lahore. They have this saying in Punjabi – You are not yet born if you have not seen Lahore.”

He managed to snag a used Minolta 50mm f/1.4 lens for $10 at a flea market in Lahore, which he fell in love with and continues to use to this day.
“It’s just an awesome lens. A great piece of optics engineering. I love the sharpness and the colours it gives, and the bokeh is just beautiful,” he says.

“Very few photographers use vintage lenses nowadays, going for more modern, faster and sharper ones instead. I do not feel like the picture has to be perfect, I like the pictures that “talk” and this lens helps me take this kind of pictures.”

Over the next few years, he continued visiting Pakistan, a place he describes as magnetic. “I have travelled all over, from the beaches of Balochistan, through the deserts of Sindh to the northern areas and mountains of Karakoram and Hindukush, admiring this beautiful country with its unique and vibrant culture, and most gentle and welcoming people you can imagine.”

Riaz Haq said...

#UAE- #Pakistani Friendship Road opens in Pakistan's tribal areas- #FATA #Waziristan #Infrastructure

The UAE- Pakistani Friendship Road, with length of 72 km and width of 9 metres, is one of the biggest development projects in the tribal region, and links south and north of Waziristan regions.
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The UAE- Pakistani Friendship Road, funded by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development at cost of US$60.6 million, has been inaugurated in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan.

The move follows the directives of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and follow up by His Highness Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, to provide the humanitarian and development aid to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The UAE- Pakistani Friendship Road, with length of 72 km and width of 9 metres, is one of the biggest development projects in the tribal region, and links south and north of Waziristan regions. The project opened by General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, in the presence of, Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli, Director of the UAE Project to Assist Pakistan (PAP), members of the project, senior Pakistani army officers, senior local government officials of the tribal areas, and tribal dignitaries.

During the inauguration ceremony, the audience thanked the UAE President for his kind gesture. General Sharif extended his thanks to Shaikh Khalifa for continuous support, citing the UAE- Pakistani Friendship Road, deemed one of the development projects in Pakistan. He delivered the message of gratitude on the behalf of inhabitants of the tribal areas to the UAE leadership.

For his part, Al Ghafli stressed that the bilateral relations between the UAE and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have a unique and special character demonstrated through the fraternal spirit, appreciation, mutual respect and shared vision between the leaders and peoples of the two countries.

He pointed out that the opening of "this vital road is nothing but the product of a long history of love, togetherness and cohesion between the leaders and peoples of the two friendly countries."

Al Ghafli said that the directives of the political leadership of the UAE have leveraged the success of the project and translated it into a reality. He appreciated the kind gestures of the UAE President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, which focussed on helping the poor and needy in Pakistan.

He also praised the support and continuous follow-up enjoyed by the PAP by His Highness Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. He stressed that the support and follow-up by Shaikh Mansour was a catalyst for the successful implementation of 416 development projects in Pakistan.

Al Ghafli referred to the success of partnership, cooperation and coordination with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, which has been keen to contribute to several development projects in the areas of roads, bridges, health, education being implemented by the UAE Project to Assist Pakistan.

A number of beneficiaries told Emirates News Agency (WAM) that they were appreciative about the UAE leadership's stance to offer all forms of assistance in time of their need. While welcoming the opening of the road which would facilitate transport in the tribal region, the beneficiaries noted that the naming of the project, the UAE- Pakistani Friendship Road, "reflects intimacy in the relationship between the peoples of the UAE and Pakistan."

Riaz Haq said...

An #Indian's Act of #Sedition: "#Pakistanis are the most gracious people in the world". #India #Pakistan #Modi #BJP

A warm welcome
Our flight landed in Lahore, and our friends drove us from the airport to their home in Islamabad. I noticed that my mother was initially a little tense. Maybe it was memories of the violence of her exile; maybe it was just the idea that this was now a foreign land, and for many in India the enemy land.

I watched my mother gradually relax on the road journey to Islamabad, as she delighted in hearing my friends and the car driver speak the Punjabi of her childhood, and as she watched the altered landscape of her journey. Islamabad, of course, did not exist when she lived in the Punjab of her days.

In Islamabad, my friends invited to their homes many of their associates with their parents. They organised evenings of Punjabi poetry and music, which my parents relished. Our friends drove us to Murree, the hill-station in which my mother spent many pleasant summers as a child.

My mother had just one more request. Could she go to see the colony in Rawalpindi where she was born and spent her childhood in? My father also wanted to visit his college, the famous Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

A homecoming
My mother recalled that the name of the residential colony in which she lived as a child was called Gawal Mandi. My friends knew it well; it was now an upmarket upper middle-class enclave.

When we reached there, my mother tried to locate the house of her childhood. It seemed impossible. Everything was new: most of the old houses had been rebuilt and opulent new structures had come up in their place.

She located the building that had housed their gurudwara. It had now been converted into a health centre. But we had almost despaired of actually finding her childhood house. We doubted if it was even standing all these years later.

We were leaving when suddenly my mother pointed to the filigree work on the balconies of one of the old houses. My mother said: “I remember it because my father was very proud of the designs. He said there was none like it in the neighbourhood."

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively on the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened it, and asked us who we wanted to meet.

My mother said apologetically, “We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.”

The house owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate.

"Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome.”
And he led us all in.

Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Take a look: Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it.

We were told: “You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?”

They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: What’s there not to love? by Natasha Badhwar:

If you are a Pakistani and this list makes no sense to you, then you are probably not my Pakistani relative. Most of them are based in Karachi and are originally from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. They are charming and fun. They love Indian street food but never confuse chhole-bhature or sambhar-dosa with real food. Snacking is for entertainment, fruits are for decoration, but real nutrition only comes from proper meals. They love paan and participate in searching for good paan everywhere they travel in India. It is safe to say that they are into food. This is also why they have grudging respect for Hing Goli and Isabgol.

When you visit them, do not offend them by not eating enough. I have done it once by having only dal-chawal at a feast hosted in my honour and now I am afraid to visit them again. They are very generous with gifts. Sometimes the khussas (handmade leather slip-ons with embroidered or painted uppers) are the wrong size but they are so beautiful that you keep them forever.

Their children love binge-watching American TV serials and uploading hashtagged photos on Instagram. They carry their own packets of chips and Oreo and consume all the Wi-Fi in your home. Some of them wear more foundation than their peerless skin requires. They love shopping and I have no clue how they deal with storage in their homes or remember where their things are. They have the first position in the world as far as the size of their suitcases is concerned.

I also know many Pakistanis who are not my relatives. Posh Pakistanis are very posh. Really, there is no Indian who has not spent his or her first visit to Pakistan just gawking at how worldly-wise, good-looking, fashionable, literary, articulate, comfortable and friendly Pakistanis seem to be. They also laugh full-throated laughs, leaving us wondering where to hide the pieces of our shattered notion of India’s superiority over neighbours. They make us feel not-posh-enough.

Besides the elite, urban upper class, I know another Pakistan. In 2007, I conducted a workshop in documentary film-making at the Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) in Lahore. When Farjad Nabi, a film-maker who was consulting for IRC, first called to invite me, I told him that the only thing I wanted in return was four visas for my family. Armed with their invitation letter, I went to the high commission of Pakistan in Delhi and agreed with the visa officer that everything was better in Pakistan, particularly the prices of vegetables in his hometown, Jhang, versus those in Delhi’s Khan Market. He gave us non-reporting visas to Lahore.

In my class at IRC, there were trainees from rural areas near Mardan, Multan, Peshawar, Larkana, Gujranwala, Hyderabad and many other far-flung cities of Pakistan. There were young men and women. There were Muslims, Christians and Hindus. They reminded me of trainees I had worked with in Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. The same energy and insights and an organic aptitude for their cameras and editing software. The same combination that every workshop has of the very quiet techie, the theatrical performer, the friendly asker of too many questions, the slow and steady one, and the enthusiastic one who gives a demonstration of all the mistakes one can make.

Riaz Haq said...

#India has been a post-truth society for years. #Modi #Trump #alternativefacts … via @_TCGlobal

India: home of post-truth politics

That was the global context of post-truth politics and its advent in the West. But as the US and UK wake up to this new era, it’s worth noting that the world’s largest democracy has been living in a post-truth world for years.

From education to health care and the economy, particularly its slavish obsession with GDP, India can be considered a world leader in post-truth politics.

India’s post-truth era cannot be traced to a single year – its complexities go back generations. But the election of Narendra Modi in 2014 can be marked as a significant inflection point. Ever since, the country has existed under majoritarian rule with widely reported discrimination against minorities.

India’s version of post-truth is different to its Western counterparts due to the country’s socioeconomic status; its per capita nominal income is less than 3% of that of the US (or 4% of that of the UK). Still, post-truth is everywhere in India.

It can be seen in our booming Wall Street but failing main streets, our teacher-less schools and our infrastructure-less villages. We have the ability to influence the world without enjoying good governance or a basic living conditions for so many at home.

Modi’s government has shown how key decisions can be completely divorced from the everyday lives of Indian citizens, but spun to seem like they have been made for their benefit. Nowhere is this more evident than with India’s latest demonetisation drive, which plunged the country into crisis, against the advice of its central bank, and hit poorest people the hardest.

Despite the levels of extreme poverty in India, when it comes to social development, the cult of growth dominates over the development agenda, a trend that Modi has exacerbated, but that started with past governments.

The dichotomy of India’s current post-truth experience was nicely summed up by Arun Shourie, an influential former minister from Modi’s own party. He disagrees with the prime minister, just as many Republicans share sharp differences of opinion with President Trump.

Shourie said the policies of the current administration were equal to his predecessors’ policies, plus a cow.

...there is an argument to be made that the US and the UK have been living in denial of facts and evidence for years. In 2003, after all, both the countries went to war in Iraq over the false notion that Saddam Hussein was harbouring weapons of mass destruction.
Major social change does not happen within the space of a year. Yet, to a large number of observers around the world, the “post-truth” phenomenon seemed to emerge from nowhere in 2016.

Two key events of 2016 shaped our understanding of the post-truth world: one was in June, when Britain voted in favour of leaving the European Union. The other was in November, when political maverick Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America. Trump’s administration spent the third day of his presidency speaking of “alternative facts”, and making false claims about the size of the crowds that had attended his inauguration.

For the rest of the world, the importance of both Trump and Brexit can best be gauged by understanding that they happened in the USA and in the UK. The UK was the key driving force of the world from the 19th century until the second world war, the US has been ever since. The US and the UK often have shared a similar point of view on many global geopolitical developments, as strategic allies or by virtue of their “special relationship”.

Riaz Haq said...

View from right-wing India:

Pakistan’s Political Economy Is Changing – And India Must Take Note
Monica Verma
- Mar 30, 2017, 8:35 pm

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators.

The country’s economic performance, along with China’s investment into the CPEC initiative, has encouraged investors to look at the country in a new light.

Such is the dominance of geopolitical narratives in South Asia that any positive news from the neighbourhood does not reach us. While thinking about our neighbours, especially Pakistan, images of a country whose economy is in shambles and polity unstable strike us.

Not that these images have changed completely, nor has Pakistan moved on to become a developed economy overnight, but the changes in the neighbourhood are significant. The country now has the potential to transform itself into a stable polity and healthy economy pending a good deal of caution.

The positive signs

In 2013, Pakistan’s economy was on the verge of a collapse. The foreign exchange reserves were drying up, and fiscal deficit was mounting even as the rate of economic growth was slowing down. It was during this turbulent time that International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended a loan of $7.6 billion to help the country stabilise its economy and protect the vulnerable sections of its population. This three-year IMF-supported programme not only helped the country stave off a foreign exchange crisis, it also laid the foundation for macroeconomic and financial stability in the country.

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators. The economy witnessed a 4.7 per cent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2016, the country’s highest in the last eight years. Fiscal deficit has also come down to 4.6 per cent from 8.8 per cent. Another sign of revitalised economic activity is the stock market that rose by almost 50 per cent in 2016. These figures might indicate a positive turnaround in Pakistan’s economy, but in comparison to other South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, Pakistan’s growth rate is still miniscule. If the country maintains its fiscal prudence and executes reforms as suggested by IMF fairly, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

Promising sectors

The construction industry has emerged as one of the sweet spots for Pakistan’s economy. Government of Pakistan considers it an important driver of economic growth, where a spurt in economic activity has the potential to positively impact growth in allied sectors as well. The boom in the industry is a result of increased infrastructural activities as well as various residential projects that have been initiated to deliver housing solutions to the people. This boom is aided by favourable fuel prices including oil, electricity and coal. The government has also given tax relief to builders to facilitate growth in the real estate sector.

Along with construction, the Information Technology (IT) sector has emerged as a promising sector for the Pakistani economy. In 2015, Pakistan’s IT sector accounted for $2.8 billion, of which services worth $1.6 billion were exported abroad. This is an almost negligible share of a $3.2 trillion global IT market, but the commitment of the Pakistani government to the IT sector signals that this share may increase exponentially.

The model followed by the Pakistani IT industry has helped it cut through problems like corruption, bureaucratic red tape and security challenges. The software professionals in the country seek clients through popular freelance hiring sites such as Elance, Upwork and Fivver. The freelance software professional community from Pakistan is now the third largest in the world. Various estimates put the number of IT companies in the country at 25,000.

Riaz Haq said...

#Dubai's Abraaj invests in #Pakistan #cinema operator; Plans to build 80 new screens in next 4 years. #FDI #Theaters

Dubai-based Abraaj Group has announced it has invested in Cinepax Limited, Pakistan’s leading cinema operator.

With Abraaj’s investment, the value of which has not been disclosed, Cinepax plans to develop 80 new screens across multiple locations over the next four years and also grow other entertainment related ventures, Abraaj said in a statement.

Arif Baigmohamed and Pir Saad Ahsanuddin established Cinepax in 2006 and launched their first multiplex in 2007. Since then, the company has established itself in the market and today has 29 screens in 12 locations.

Pakistan’s entertainment industry has significant growth potential, with a low ratio of cinema screens (0.5 per million population).

Abraaj said it will support the company in establishing international standard multiplex cinemas in new and upcoming areas.

Omar Lodhi, partner for Asia at The Abraaj Group, said: “Our investment into Cinepax demonstrates our faith in the opportunity that Pakistan’s young growing population and expanding middle class represents.

"As one of the most active investors in Pakistan, with a strong on-the-ground presence, we see a long-term market opportunity in the cinema operator and video streaming business.”

Arif Baigmohamed, chairman of Cinepax, added: “We are delighted to welcome Abraaj as an investor into our business and look forward to partnering together to reach more people across the country, providing much needed entertainment options.”

The Abraaj Group has been present in Pakistan since 2004. This transaction marks Abraaj’s ninth investment into Pakistan across a number of sectors including healthcare, power distribution, renewable energy and industrials.

Riaz Haq said...

Watch: 'Pakistan Is My Second Favourite Country,' Says Mani Shankar Aiyar
Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan.

In an interview to discuss his four years as India’s Consul-General in Karachi, a key part of his recently published autobiography Memoirs of a Maverick, as well as his overall view of Pakistan – a country he has visited 40 times in the last 40 years – Mani Shankar Aiyar says Pakistan is his second favourite country.

In an extensive interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan. He shatters the false misconceptions and outright lies that colour the traditional Indian perception of our western neighbour.

This interview is full of the most delightful stories and anecdotes, told with Aiyar‘s riveting sense of drama and laced with his irresistible humour.

Many of his stories will astound Indian viewers because they speak of a Pakistan we know nothing about. They portray a country that far from being narrow and fundamentalist is fun-loving, welcoming of Indians and Hindus and where Islamisation has not impinged on the right of people to drink alcohol in their homes. And, boy, do they!