Thursday, January 31, 2013

Karachi Fashion Week January 27-30, 2013

Karachi Fashion Week 2013 is yet another illustration of the fact that life goes on in Pakistan in spite of the terror and violence that makes daily headlines. It's a testament to Pakistanis' extraordinary resilience and great capacity to take it all stride. Here are a few pictures of Pakistani models wearing the creations of Pakistani designers at the show which concluded on January 30, 2013:

 Here's a video clip of Karachi Fashion Week 2013:

Pakistan Pictorial:

Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

WHO Says Pakistan On Track to Be Polio Free in 2013

In spite of setbacks from the US CIA's fake vaccination scheme in 2011 and the killing of polio workers by the Taliban in 2012, the WHO says Pakistan is on track to be declared polio free in April this year.

“We believe that Pakistan is on the right track to become free of poliovirus a  type P3, as the last P3 case was reported in the Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency in the second week of April 2012, whereas all recent sewage samples show no active transmission of the P3 strain across the country,” Dr Elias Durry, the head of the Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO Pakistan told Dawn newspaper.  Type 1 and type 2 strain of the poliovirus have already been eradicated in Pakistan.

Until 1988, the disease was endemic to 125 countries, paralyzing or killing 350,000 people each year--mostly children, according to Time magazine.  Now it remain in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. There were 57 polio cases in  Pakistan in 2012, significantly down from 198 in 2011. The last reported case of polio in Pakistan was in April, 2012. Pakistan will be declared free of polio by the WHO if there are no cases reported by April, 2013.
Here's an excerpt of a recent story in Time magazine explaining the polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan:

Pakistan is putting institutional power behind the sentimental appeals. After the December shootings, the government temporarily suspended the inoculation program, but Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf quickly issued a statement confirming the country's commitment to the campaign. He called for an inquiry into the attacks, promised the safety of polio workers and pledged to proceed with plans to deploy 250,000 health workers to vaccinate 34 million children in 2013. Polio teams will continue to work at toll plazas, boarding buses and looking for children who don't have blue ink staining a finger--a mark applied by field workers after a vaccine has been administered. When they find an unmarked child, they vaccinate on the spot.  Appeals to religion and reason are being deployed as well. Health workers in tribal areas cite Koran verses that encourage the care of children and reach out to local religious leaders for support.

WHO's  Pakistan representative Dr. Durry said last year Balochistan cut the number of polio cases by 95 per cent, Sindh by 88 per cent, Punjab by 78 per cent and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by 66 per cent. “The most promising sign for Pakistan during the last year was a massive decrease in the number of polio cases during the high transmission season,” he said. Dr. Durry explained that all sewage samples collected from cities of Punjab in recent weeks were found negative. “Most samples collected from Peshawar, Gadap Town in Karachi and Hyderabad produced positive results in the past, but they showed negative results now,” he added.

Frontline health workers in Pakistan are in the midst of pulling off a major success under very adverse circumstances. They are taking great risks for a worthy cause and deserve the nation's gratitude for their exemplary commitment.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Indian Security Hawks and Media Whip Up Anti-Pak Hysteria

Deadly skirmishes started between Indian and Pakistani forces along LoC in the disputed territory of Kashmir in early January 2013, barely weeks after Pakistan Army doctrine acknowledged domestic militancy as the biggest threat to national security.

Here's how Najam Sethi, a well-known Pakistani peacenik and a strong advocate of India-Pakistan friendship, described the events in his Friday Times editorial titled "Don't derail Indo-Pak relations":

"It is established that when the Indian army recently started to build some bunkers in Charanda in Haji Pir Sector of the LoC, it violated an agreement in 2005 not to change the status quo. This provoked the Pakistanis to shell Indian positions in a bid to stop the construction of the bunkers. The Indian commander of 161 Brigade in the area countered on January 6th by ordering a raid across the LoC to silence the troublesome Pakistani post. One Pakistani soldier was killed, provoking a protest by Pakistan's DGMO on 7th Jan, followed by a Pakistani counter attack across the LoC on Jan 8th in which two Indian soldiers were killed. At that stage, on Jan 9th, the Indian media erupted with allegations of a "beheading" of one Indian soldier and "castration" and "mutilation" of the other by the Pakistanis. This was an unprecedented act of savagery, said the Indian media, that called for reprisals. The initial reaction of the Indian foreign and defence ministers was measured and cautious no less than that of the spokesmen of the Indian army. But this soon gave way under media pressure, prompting both to become hawkish."

Barkha Dutt, a hawkish TV anchor at NDTV, led the Indian media charge against Pakistan by accusing Pakistani military of "savagery" and "barbarism". Indian prime minister talked of "no business as usual", and Indian Army chief told his "commanders to be aggressive and offensive" and the Indian Air Force chief threatened to  use "other options". Pakistan's offer to have the incidents independently investigated by the United Nations was rejected.

All the talk of "Aman Ki Asha" went out the window when Pakistani hockey players were unceremoniously ejected from India as the right-wing Hindu organizations were aided and abetted by the hawkish anti-Pakistan  Indian media. Hindu Nationalist BJP leader Sushma Swaraj demanded "ten Pakistani heads for one Indian head".

Soon, Barkha Dutt's phony outrage and Sushma Swaraj's bloodthirsty rhetoric about "beheading" were exposed by a quick Google search by Najam Sethi. Sethi found an article in a Nepalese publication Himal in which Barkha described how she was shown a severed head of a Pakistani as war trophy by an Indian Army officer in Kargil in 1999. Here's what she wrote in the article titled "Confessions of a war reporter":

"I had to look three times to make sure I was seeing right. Balanced on one knee, in a tiny alley behind the army’s administrative offices, I was peering through a hole in a corrugated tin sheet. At first glance, all I could see were some leaves. I looked harder and amidst all the green, there was a hint of black – it looked like a moustache. “Look again,” said the army colonel, in a tone that betrayed suppressed excitement. This time, I finally saw.

It was a head, the disembodied face of a slain soldier nailed onto a tree. “The boys got it as a gift for the brigade,” said the colonel, softly, but proudly. Before I could react, the show was over. A faded gunny bag appeared from nowhere, shrouded the soldier’s face, the brown of the bag now merging indistinguishably with the green of the leaves. Minutes later, we walked past the same tree where the three soldiers who had earlier unveiled the victory trophy were standing. From the corner of his eye, the colonel exchanged a look of shard achievement, and we moved on. We were firmly in the war zone."

Further research by Shivam Vu published in India Today found that reports of beheading of soldiers are not "unprecedented". Here's an excerpt from Shivam Vu's piece titled "Cheap Logomachy" :
"Buried inside a report by Shishir Gupta in the Hindustan Times was the claim that two Indian soldiers were beheaded in July 2011 and “three months later, heads of three Pakistani soldiers went missing, with Islamabad lodging a protest with New Delhi.” Don’t you love it that while Indian soldiers are beheaded, Pakistani soldiers’ heads go “missing”—as though they detach themselves from the bodies of the soldiers and just disappear? The report also claimed that similar beheadings (of Indian soldiers) and heads going missing (of Pakistanis) had taken place in 2000, 2003 and 2007. When Admiral Lakshminarayan Ramdas (retd), former chief of the Indian navy, tried to say on Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV that the Indian army has also beheaded Pakistani soldiers, he was cut short by Dutt. But in 2001, Dutt had herself written that she had seen a head displayed as a war trophy by the Indian army during the Kargil war in 1999. Two other journalists were not shy of recalling similar experiences: Sankarshan Thakur of The Telegraph (on his website) and Harinder Baweja of the Hindustan Times on Twitter.

If these incidents happen so often, why did anonymous sources in the Indian army decide to use the defence correspondents to make it seem like an unprecedented provocation from Pakistan? There is little doubt that the beheading of a soldier, and the taking away of his head as a war trophy is sickening and outrageous and every such incident should come to light. But it should also remind us of the brutalities of war, and that the LoC is a ceasefire line where hostilities have merely been halted until the next battle; that the two armies stand eye-to-eye there because of the Kashmir dispute; that Jammu and Kashmir is not a settled question. Such thoughts are apparently anti-national. And bad for TRPs."

Indian media, military and politicians have a history of whipping up anti-Pakistan frenzy on many occasions in the past. Many Indians suffer from what Sashi Tharoor has aptly described as India's "Israel Envy".  The Indian hawks must clearly understand that their miscalculations can lead to devastation in the entire South Asia region.

These recent events and the warmongering response by the Indian govt, politicians and media are a reminder that Pakistan can not afford to become complacent about peace with India. Pakistanis should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Here's a video discussion on the subject:

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kudos to Qadri

 "We do not want lawbreakers to become lawmakers"
                    Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, Januray 16, 2013.

A fearless anti-Taliban cleric has drawn more local and international media attention and focus in a few days than a Taliban-sympathizing cricket icon who has been active in Pakistani politics for more than a decade.

He has addressed a huge rally in Lahore on December 23, 2012, eclipsing an earlier large rally by PTI chief Imran Khan at Minar-e-Pakistan. He has brought the ruling coalition to its knees by forcing its members to publicly accept his demands for electoral reforms to conduct transparent, free and fair elections in front of tens of millions of Pakistanis who watched it live on almost all of Pakistan's many news channels.

 Allama Tahir ul Qadri, a Pakistani Islamic scholar best known to the world for his fearless anti-terrorism fatwa, has proclaimed deep in the heart of Pakistani capital Islamabad that "law-breakers must not be allowed to act as law-makers".

Rather than talk about corruption and incompetence in the abstract, the Allama has clearly and succinctly articulated to tens of thousands of followers gathered in Islamabad and many tens of millions of Pakistanis through television the most egregious transgressions of Pakistani politicians. Here's some of what he said:

1. Most of the Pakistani lawmakers of all parties are in fact law-breakers.

2. Lawbreakers belong in jail, not in parliament. Such lawbreakers are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

3. Over 70% of Pakistani parliament members do not file any tax returns at all. Tax dodgers and lawbreakers can not be allowed to serve in Parliament under Article 62, clause F of the Constitution of Pakistan. Dr. Qadri demanded  that there should be "no representation without taxation".

4. Most of the politicians of all stripes in the national parliament and provincial legislatures steal electricity and gas and do not pay their utility bills. The constitution (Article 63 clause R) says that any defaulter of electricity and gas bill of more than Rs. 10,000 over six months can not serve as a member of parliament. Hundreds of members of parliament, including government ministers, have had electricity cut off multiple times for defaulting.

5. Many members of parliament have fake college degrees. 

6. Pakistani parliament has failed to enact any anti-terrorism legislation even after the killing of over 45,000 Pakistanis in terrorist attacks since 911. 

7. The ruling parties in federal and provincial capitals have failed to make progress on providing basic necessities like electricity, water and gas to the people.

Dr. Qadri's detractors have tried to deflect his genuine criticisms of the political class by attacking him personally as a "foreign agent" and "pro-establishment", establishment being a code word for Pakistani military. His supporters, however, have remained peaceful, disciplined, passionate and committed to his cause for political reform. In spite of rain and bitter cold weather, ordinary men, women and children have refused to be intimidated by threats and warnings of violence. They have flocked to the nation's capital to press for political reforms in response to Dr. Qadri's call for Long March to Islamabad and prolonged sit-in in front of Pakistan's parliament. 

Pakistan needs powerful pressure groups to reform national politics. Dr. Qadri's Minhaj-ul-Quran is the first such group. I hope there will be many more such passionate and eloquent  activists and public interest groups to act as watch dogs over the nascent political process which must be reformed and allowed to continue and mature.

Here's a recent video of a discussion on the subject:

Here's a video clip of Dr. Qadri's speech on January 16, 2013 in Islamabad:

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

US Drone Strikes and Bloody Blowback in Pakistan

What has caused a sudden and tragic jump in mass casualty attacks in Pakistan with over 200 deaths, mostly of Hazara Shias, in a single day on January 10, 2013? Is it just impunity or blow back from intensified US drone attacks early in 2013 as President Barack Obama accelerates US pull-out from Afghanistan? Or is it lack of national political consensus in Pakistan to punish the blood-thirsty Taliban and their murderous sectarian allies like LeJ and SSP?


In a rare public statement on the effectiveness of US drone campaign in FATA, General Officer Commanding 7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood serving in Waziristan in 2011 said: "Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.” In addition, Maj-Gen Ghayur, who led Pakistani troops in North Waziristan at the time, also said that the drone attacks had negative fallout, scaring the local population and causing their migration to other places. Gen Ghayur said the drone attacks also had social and political repercussions and law-enforcement agencies often felt the heat.

In other words, US drone strikes do kill mainly militants in FATA but also cause a blow back in the rest of the country for law enforcement and innocent civilians, and the Pakistani civil administration has failed miserably in dealing with it.

Blow Back:

The January 10 terrorist attacks appear to be a strong and swift blow back to the stepped up  US CIA campaign of seven strikes in the first 10 days of the year 2013. This raises a basic question as to why the Hazara community,  minorities and ordinary civilians are targeted? Here are some of the possible reasons:

1. Hazaras are a soft target. They are easily identifiable by their facial features and known to live in certain neighborhoods in and around Quetta.

2. Police in Baluchistan have miserably failed in bringing to justice the sectarian attackers who are allied with the Taliban and operate with impunity.

3. When the police do arrest and prosecute terror suspects, the conviction rate in Pakistani courts is in single digits. It's either due to inadmissible evidence, poor investigative techniques, lack of witnesses or possibly judges who fear for their lives.  Well-known terror suspects who openly confess to murderous attacks are allowed to walk free by judges for lack of eye-witnesses.

4.  Pakistani parliament has failed to enact serious anti-terrorism legislation in the last 5 years to respond to rising civilian casualties in terrorist attacks. The goverment has also failed to protect witnesses, lawyers and judges involved in prosecuting terrorism suspects.

Possible Solutions: 

1. Enact the “Investigation for Fair trial bill-2012” as soon as possible. This bill makes electronic evidence such as video footage, telephone wire-taps and e-mails admissible in terrorism  cases to reduce reliance on eyewitnesses. 

2. Start a serious witness protection program and provide enhanced security to lawyers and judges in terrorism cases.

3. Train police, prosecutors and judges in modern criminal justice techniques and processes to  increase their effectiveness.

3. Build broad national political consensus for decisive military action in FATA from where the Taliban terrorists and their sectarian allies get support and training to carry out devastating terrorist attacks against innocent civilians throughout Pakistan.


Pakistan must now prepare to better protect its civilian population from the intense blow back  as the US intensifies its drone campaign in FATA to ensure safe withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014.

Here's a recent video discussion on the subject:

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Pakistan's Year 2012 in Review

The year 2012 was a mixed bag. Economy continued its modest recovery with the stock market hitting new records but it was marred by rising civilian casualties and the worsening energy crisis. The coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples' Party is nearing its full term with a new prime minister and the political parties have begun campaigning for general elections in the first half of 2013.

 Below is a summary of positive trends and problems witnessed by Pakistanis in 2012:

 Positive Trends:

1. GDP growth rate doubled from the low of 1.71% in 2009 to 3.67% in 2012.   Consumer price index hit a low of 7.9% in December, the lowest in South Asia region.

2.  Terrorism related fatalities declined from the peak of 11,700 in 2009 to 6,211 in 2012, and slightly decreased from 6,303 in 2011, according to SATP. Sectarian deaths accounted for 507 of the 6,2011 victims of terrorism in 2012.

3. Karachi's KSE-100 index surged nearly 50% (37% in US $ terms) in 2012 to top all Asian and BRIC market indices.

4. Elected coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples' Party is close to completing its term with a new prime minister.

5. Retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim was appointed by consensus of all political parties as  an independent Chief Election Commissioner with broad powers under the 18th amendment.

6.  Fair Trials Bill (aka Patriot Act) passed the House. This anti-terror legislation is now pending approval by the Senate. Witness protection program is being planned for terrorism cases.

 7. The latest Pak Army doctrine named internal terrorism as the #1 threat. 

 8. Relations with US improved after the American apology over the Salala incident. The US aid and CSF funds flow resumed.

 9. Despite the backlash from the CIA-sponsored bogus vaccination campaign and more recent polio worker shootings, the polio cases significantly declined from 198 in 2011 to 57 in 2012.

10.  Domestic cement consumption, an important barometer of national economic activity, was up 8% in  2012, according to a research report compiled by a Credit Suisse analyst.

11.  Al-Twariqi Steel Mill in Karachi to produce 1.28 million tons of steel per year and Byco refinery to refine 120,000 barrels of crude per day in Balochistan were completed in 2012 for full production planned in early 2013.

12.  FFC and Zorlu Energy wind farms with combined 106 MW capacity were inaugurated in Jhimpir near Karachi in December 2012.

13.  Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, journalist and documentary filmmaker, won Pakistan’s first Oscar for her documentary ‘Saving Face’ documenting the stories of resilience and courage of Pakistan’s acid attack survivors. Sharmeen was also featured on TIME’s 100 Most Influential Peoples list for 2012.

14.  Pakistan’s Muhammad Asif won the World Amateur Snooker Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria.

15. Pakistanis set several records for the Guinness Book of World Records. Amongst them, 44,200 Pakistanis sang the national anthem together at the National Hockey Stadium to set a new world record breaking India’s record of 15,243 people. Also, more than 24,000 Pakistanis formed the world’s largest ‘human national flag’, smashing a previous record set in Hong Kong.


 1. There was lack of clear political consensus on military action against the Taliban even as they tried to assassinate innocent civilians like Swat schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai.  She was shot in the head with the TTP claiming responsibility for the attack.

2. Energy crisis, particularly gas shortages, became more acute.

3. Civilian casualties in incidents of terrorism jumped from 2,738 in 2011 to 3,007 in 2012 as the Taliban went after soft targets, including minorities, school girls and aid workers.

4. Karachi saw a dramatic increase in ethnic and sectarian violence claiming over 2000 lives. Bank robberies, extortion and kidnapping increased as the Taliban sought to fund their insurgency.

5. Public finances remained weak with no real progress in improving tax collection and enhancing tax-to-gdp ratio.

6.  Pakistani currency continued to decline nearing Rs. 100 to a US dollar exchange rate. The rupee  slid 7 percent versus US dollar in the past year, with reserves down about 19 percent to $13.8 billion raising fears of another balance of payments crisis. 

7. Worsening energy crisis across the nation and increasing violence in Karachi, the economic hub of the country, present a very serious threat to Pakistan's fragile economy and democracy. 

Here's a video discussion on year 2012 in Pakistan:

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

India Surrender to Pakistan on Home Turf at Eden Garden

"Bharti Sher Ghar Mein Dher" (India's Lions Collapse on Home Turf) was a GeoTV headline that aptly captured the celebratory mood among Pakistani cricket fans as Pakistan cricket team defeated arch-rival India by a wide margin of 85 runs to win the three match ODI series 2-0 at Kolkata's Eden Garden cricket ground. Many Pakistani fans saw it as a great new year's gift to lift the spirits of the nation in difficult times.

 Indian cricket team is the current ODI world champion. India is known to be hard to beat at home in one day international series. Australia ad Pakistan are the only two nations which have the distinction of winning ODI series against India on Indian soil.

Pakistan won big against India in spite of the poor performance of most of its batting line up which collapsed after a stellar opening partnership of 141 runs between Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed's 106 runs. Pakistan set a target of just 251 runs on a ground where average team score for first innings is 294 runs. It fell to Pakistani bowlers to defend this relatively small total of just 250, and they rose to the challenge. Junaid Khan bowled his heart out in an opening spell of 7-1-18-2, removing Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli. Umar Gul came in to claim Virender Sehwag's wicket, and followed it up with the dismissal of Yuvraj Singh. Suresh Raina was tested with short balls before falling to Mohammad Hafeez's offspin. Indian batting line up collapsed from 42 for 0 to 95 for 5. Indian captain M.S. Dhoni was left battling alone, and again, he fought hard till the very end, turning down singles with the 11th man Ishant Sharma and hitting the odd boundary, knowing full well the inevitable defeat with rising required run rate.

 Here are some interesting stats from ESPN Cricinfo website:
  • In nine innings, Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed have added 760 runs for the first wicket with four century stands, Their average of 84.44 is the best for a Pakistan opening pair (min 750 runs added).
  • The 141-run stand between Hafeez and Jamshed is the seventh century opening partnership for Pakistan against India and the second by the pair against India.
  • The number of runs conceded by Saeed Ajmal (20) is the fourth-lowest by a Pakistan bowler in an innings against India (min ten overs bowled).
  • Jamshed scored his third century against India and his second in consecutive ODIs. Only four other Pakistan batsmen have scored more centuries against India.
  • Pakistan won their third bilateral ODI series (two or more matches) in India. Their last series win came in 2005 when they won 4-2. They have also won each of their four matches against India in Kolkata.
  • The 85-run victory margin is Pakistan's fifth-largest against India in ODIs in India. Only West Indies have beaten India in India by an 85-plus run margin more than once.
  • While the aggregate first-wicket stand for both teams in the game was 183, the aggregate for the remaining nine wickets was just 232. This is the second-lowest aggregate for the second to tenth wickets in India-Pakistan matches (all partnerships broken).
  • MS Dhoni's strike rate of 60.67 during his 54 is his lowest strike rate for a fifty-plus score in ODIs. His previous lowest was 65.90 during his 58 against Australia in Kochi in 2007.

Regardless of the result, I welcome the revival of this iconic sports rivalry with the hope that bilateral cricket will continue to be played with greater frequency and intensity for the benefit of the cricket fans around the world. 

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