Wednesday, February 25, 2015

India Rising? Pakistan Rapidly Collapsing?

Is it true that "India is rising and Pakistan is rapidly collapsing", the currently accepted western narrative recently re-iterated by Roger Cohen in his New York Times Op Ed from Lahore, Pakistan? Let's examine it by reviewing reports filed by several Indian journalists after their recent visits to Pakistan:

"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".

Roger Cohen's  New York Times Op Ed "Pakistan in Its Labyrinth"

"I.. saw much in this recent visit (to Pakistan) 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....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".  

Pankaj Mishra's Bloomberg Op Ed "Pakistan’s Unplanned Revolution Rewrites Its Future"

Compare and contrast the two narratives of two seasoned journalists, American Roger Cohen and Indian Pankaj Mishra, on their  recent Pakistan visits. Note Mishra's explanation of why the western media is parroting the standard post Cold War western narrative about India and Pakistan as "seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests", "born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies".

Now read the following post titled Indians Share "Eye-Opener" Stories of Pakistan that I wrote in July 2012.  It's reproduced below:

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.

Road to Daman-e-Koh, Margalla Hills, Islamabad, Pakistan

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


Majumdar said...

Prof sb, Wonderful article but that is par for the course. Some of the comments are a bit outdated of course. For instance, if bhai Yogi Sikand were to visit the new Delhi or Mumbai or Hyd or Blore terminal he will not feel too embarrassed to be an Indian. And Hindol dada since he is now based in Delhi could take the Yamuna Expressway from Noida to Agra.


Anonymous said...

Haq bhai, what the matter with you? posting all the old news again and again? Ran out of ideas? Delhi IGI, Mumbai CSI, Hyderabad, B'lore, began modernisation in 2008 and now are well into the best. BTW I have been to Singapore Changi, London Heathrow, Sydney so I have the idea what is world class. Meanwhile, Pakistan with Islamabad Bhutto airport sucks big time. Not just me, renowned websites are also saying this.

To quote them, "Likened to a central prison, ISB is criticized for the crowds (and absence of crowd control), the pervasive corruption, the aggressive-yet-inconsistent security checks, and the overall lack of cleanliness and technology."

If we narrow down to Asia only, India has just one entry, at 10. Chennai, which too has made good progress from going from 4th to 10th. To quote them..

India’s Chennai airport has made some improvements in the past year, that have dropped it to our tenth spot from fourth last year. That said, the airport continues to aggravate travellers with its lack of cleanliness, its long queues and its serious lack of comfortable seating."

Mike Z. said...

So very true Riaz Bhai,
We need to talk.
There is one thing Pakistan has to get rid of to truly leave India in dust, that is false presumption of what Mohammad (PBUH) would have wanted his Ummah to do in 21st Century. Mohammad (PBUH) was the most progressive reformer, philosopher, thinker, leader ever born, brought his people from tribal war lords to a united front, in his life time. The recipe was so potent that it kept growing and number now is in Billions. The emergence of astronomy and medicine from that united power base was no coincidence. The problem is that the day he died we froze the rituals, the value system and stop evolving. He was all about change that actually helps you evolve. Present day Islam is not what Mohammad (PBUH) would have ever wanted for his Ummah, knowing how brilliant he was. We are at the fading portion of diminishing return curve, we will be finished, self-destruct or will be hunted down like insects from the power of science, when we will be established as a source of nuisance and of little value.
“Bring down those Walls” Riaz Bhai. Let those neurons run wild, open the flood gates of Thinking ‘cause that is where the good has to come from. Let not the brick from the Berlin Wall fall on our heads. Let’s be proactive, let’s not trail behind, be the leaders and the pioneers. Iqbals did not have to be born only in the past. How about a present day Iqbal?
Let’s show the world whose Ummah we really are?
Why tomorrow and not today?
If not by you than by who?

With profound Regards,

Shermaine said...

Recycled Musings?

I was on a journey last year to Pakistan, Nepal and then India. Of all India seems most promising and you can palpate the takeoff that is happening or is about to happen. There are social problems of course in all three countries but the despair is greatest in Pakistan.

On a diesel train in Pakistan, it ran out of fuel midway and we had to get on a private coach to Islamabad to catch a flight to Kathmandu! There the flight got delayed because the entire airport lost power due to "load shedding". They started the generators but that took 2 hours and all the lights and monitors would flicker from time to time!

Thanks for the glossy portrayal of Pakistan but underneath that there is lot more dirt!

Riaz Haq said...

Shermaine: "There are social problems of course in all three countries but the despair is greatest in Pakistan"

The number of Pakistanis reporting they are better off now has increased from 25% in 2002 to 51% (vs 44% of Indians) in 2014, according to Pew Research Center report from its 43-nation survey on life satisfaction around the world. However, only 36% of those surveyed in Pakistan express personal optimism over the nest five years.

Among Pakistan's neighbors, 44% of Indians and 34% of Bangladeshis say they are now better off. Large majorities of Bangladeshis, Thais, Indonesians, Chinese, Filipinos and Indians expect their life in five years to be higher on the ladder than it is today. Pakistanis are considerably less sanguine about the future, but many say they don’t know where they will stand in five years (32%).

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: As the country continues to take steps in an attempt to tackle the persistent energy crisis, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan on Wednesday said the government intends to approve 10,400-MW projects that fall under the Pak-China Economic Corridor by March.
He said this while talking to media during his visit to the head office of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to expedite the work on energy projects to overcome the energy crisis,” he said, while declaring 2017 as the year in which the nation will see huge changes on both fronts — terrorism and energy crisis.

The commerce minister’s visit to FPCCI was part of the events scheduled to take place on the inauguration of the Expo Pakistan 2015 – the biggest annual trade fair of the country.
The event will be held at the Karachi Expo Centre from February 26 to March 1.
“I am here to take the business community in confidence so that they can plan their investments well before 2017,” said Dastgir, “Because with the help of recent steps to overcome terrorism and energy issues, Pakistan’s economy will get a massive boost in 2017.”
The Expo Pakistan 2015 has given the government confidence to display a strong image of Pakistan through its exportable goods, he said, adding that it has also planned a single country exhibition this summer in the United Kingdom to get business orders for our industries.
Replying to a question, Dastgir said that he was not promising to end load-shedding in 2017. “What I am saying is that Pakistan will be able to considerably resolve its energy crisis,” he added.
He said that his visit to FPCCI is also linked with the government’s efforts to start collecting budget proposals for the upcoming federal budget.
Speaking on a specific question on slow tax reforms in the country, he said that Pakistan definitely needs innovative solutions to overcome its problem of low tax-to-GDP ratio.
The minister also faced tough questions on why the government was not taking all provinces on board on the Pak-China economic corridor.

Riaz Haq said...

With a collection of over 200,000 individual titles, Saeed Book Bank in Jinnah Super Market is considered to be one of Asia’s largest bookstores. The founder and owner of the store, Saeed Jan Qureshi, has been involved in the business for almost 60 years. Dawn spoke to Mr Qureshi about the business of selling books.

Q. How did you end up in the book business?

A. After leaving my hometown in Tando Ghulam Ali in Sindh in 1956, I took up employment at the London Book House because I love books. To this day, I stay up reading till 3am every night. I also liked the kind of people who came to bookstores - educated and generally well-mannered. In 1964, I opened my own bookstore in Peshawar called Saeed Book Bank.

We did good business. We were the biggest bookstore in the north-western Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was frequent movement of people, tourism thrived and people would travel all the way from Kandahar and Kabul to shop at our store.

Thirty-six years later, politics had changed Peshawar. We also wanted to expand so in 2000, we opened the Islamabad branch.

Q. There is a general global decline in book sales, how is that affecting your business?

A. There may be a decline in sales globally, but fortunately in Pakistan and India, book sales are actually going up. The reason is the growth in population and even literacy rate. The trend of reading e-books on handheld devices may have affected book sales in the developed world but not here.

This is despite the fact that the Pakistani government has never taken steps to encourage the book business. Importing a book costs 18 per cent of the price, including taxes and transportation costs. In India the book business is thriving because the government offered publishers lucrative incentives.

The government even buys back any unsold book stocks from publishers at 10 per cent higher than the cost.

For Saeed Book Bank, in particular, business is good because of our scale. We import much of our stock. Publishers around the world know us and offer us better prices than smaller buyers. This allows us to offer competitive prices. Some publishers in the United Kingdom and the United States even offer us refunds on any unsold stock.

Secondly, even though it is a small city, Islamabad is a big market for books. It’s a city of diplomats and officers, so many people read. Book lovers from all over the region, come and shop at Saeed Book Bank. We even export books to South Africa, Nigeria and China.

Q. How do you choose the titles for your stock?

A. One needs years of experience and a lot of research to know which titles to stock. There are some obvious choices, such as authors who always sell such as Pervez Musharraf.

People place orders for books by these authors, before the book is even out. Then there are current topics in non-fiction books such as Taliban, terrorism, Kashmir which we know people are interested in and we stock-up on them.

To order latest titles, my sons and I travel to the world’s biggest book fairs. At these fairs, the biggest one of which is in Germany, publishers from around the world display latest titles. Booksellers like us, place orders with publishers at the fair and later stocks are delivered. This is how we ensure that we have all the latest titles.

Q. Is it true that your bookstore drove smaller shops selling cheap and second-hand books out of business?

It is true, although it was not our intention. Most other book sellers in the city buy containers of what we call pulp books from the United Kingdom and the United States. These are books which would otherwise have been recycled and are instead sold by weight to booksellers in the developing world. So, they are sold at very cheap prices and even if five to 10 per cent of the stock is sold, it is profitable for the seller.

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: Auto sales outlook remains bright as import of completely knocked down (CKD) kits of locally-produced heavy vehicles, cars and bikes rose by 37, 51 and 23 per cent, respectively, in the first seven months of this fiscal year from the same period last year.

According to the figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), import of CKD kits for buses, trucks and heavy vehicles increased to $91.4 million in July-Jan 2014-15 from $66.5m in the same period last year.

Import of CKDs of locally-produced cars and bikes swelled to $280m and $51.5m from $185m and $42m, respectively.

However, higher imports of used cars seemed to have not caused any serious blow to the locally-produced cars whose sales went up to 74,497 units in July-Jan 2014-15 as compared to 64,835 units in corresponding period of last year.

Total import of cars, in which the share of used cars is over 90pc, rose by 32.5pc to $148.5m in the period under review compared to $112m in the same period last year.

Declining trend in imports of completely built up (CBU) buses, trucks and other heavy vehicles in the recent months has been giving much support to the sales of locally produced vehicles.

The import of buses, trucks and other heavy vehicles fell by 43pc to $59m in July-Jan period of 2014-15 as compared to $103m in the same period last year.

Sales of locally-produced trucks and bus jumped to 2,027 and 2,326 units from 1,249 and 1,579 units, showed Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (Pama) data.

The rising trend of purchasing costlier heavy bikes (new and used ones) has now slowed down which is evident from 52pc fall in CBU imports of bikes to $987,000 from $2m.

Sales of locally-produced Honda and Suzuki bikes plunged to 355,174 and 12,647 units in July-Jan 2014-15 as compared to 376,003 and 13,852 units in same period last year.

Around 3,563 units of DYL Motorcycles were sold in the first seven months of this fiscal year as compared to 9,592 units in the corresponding period last year. Hero bike sales fell to 6,937 units from 8,823 units.

Published in Dawn February 26th , 2015

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign delegates participating in the Expo Pakistan 2015 have shown interest in the Pakistani products and number of MoUs signed here on Friday.
The signing ceremony was attended by SM Muneer, Chief Executive and Ms. Rabiya Javeri Agha, Secretary TDAP.
An MoU has been signed between a Moroccan company, M/s Materials Agricolas Automobiles & Industries and Balochistan Wheels Limited for the purchase of tractor wheel rims. The Moroccan Company has agreed to purchase tractor wheel rims worth $1.1 million from Balochistan Wheels in the next eighteen months. Hassane Berkani, member of Moroccan Parliament were also present.
More buying orders are likely to be placed before the end of the Expo. It may be mentioned that an eleven-member delegation of prominent businessmen from Morocco is attending the 9th edition of Expo Pakistan 2015 being held at Expo Centre Karachi. The businessmen working in different sectors held a number of meetings with the exporters. Another MoU between Chinese and Pakistani Gems and Jewellery Association signed.
A strategic Cooperation Memorandum has been signed on Friday between Gems and Jewellery Trade Association of China (GAC) and All Pakistan Gem Merchants and Jewellers Association (APGPA). This step will enhance bilateral cooperation and will establish a win-win co-operation model. Pakistan has rich sources of precious gems and stones. Exchange of delegations, sharing of information and participation in trade fairs will open up avenues in ever expanding Chinese market. In addition to trade, there is a huge scope of promotion of allied industry like mining, finishing and jewelry making.
Yet another MoU by Saudi Company for purchase of tents and canvas cloth, a contract worth $6 million was signed for export of tents and canvas cloth from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia between Abid Hassan Sabri of Al-Farooq Enterprises, of Pakistan and Abdullah Muhammad, Al-Ghamdi Trading Estate of Saudi Arabia. Ghamdi expressed his confidence in the Pakistani product and hopes to double the tent order in next year.
Meanwhile, officially staged by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), JETRO Pavilion at 9th Pakistan Expo 2015 received an overwhelming response from the local business communities, investors, importer and traders who witnessed a wide range of modern, high-quality Japanese products and machineries on show.
Including newly-introduced automobiles, electronics, industrial machinery, surgical instruments, home appliances, and retail items, etc., these made-in-Japan products outpaced the rest of the items displayed by other countries and regions here at the Pakistan Expo 2015, said a press release of JETRO. Set up in the prominent Hall 4 of the Expo Center, JETRO Pavilion appeared to be the highly-visited exhibition area so far, showing unsurpassed reputations which Japanese companies have earned globally during last few decades.
Being held from February 26 to March 1 2015 at the Karachi Expo Centre, Pakistan Expo tends to be the country’s biggest trade fair.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s bubble. Pervasive Poverty, Banning #IndiaDaughter, #BeefBan in #Maharashtra #Mumbai. Secular Democracy?

Yasser Latif Hamdani: "Things changed drastically on the fifth day when I started reporting on the abject poverty I experienced in South Delhi and old Delhi; one uncle, whom I have known for a decade and a half and who is a renowned food journalist in India, even threatened to get me deported for “misusing my visa”. It is about marketing boss and no one can be allowed. Shining India sans marketing is a third world country with huge disparities and social inequities. This is an unforgiveable criticism even from someone like me who has principally refused to look at India as the enemy.This is a strange kind of psychosis. Now, if India were a person, it would be an extremely insecure, egoistic and overly prickly individual, ready to draw daggers at anyone who dares criticise it. Much of this was confirmed in the way India reacted to the film India’s Daughter. Many reasons are given for this opposition. One argument was that the airing of the film amounts to contempt of court. This is a flimsy excuse. Another one is that there was no “informed consent”. Without getting into the merits of these arguments, suffice it to say that these arguments would have made sense if India had attempted only to block the airing of the video in its territorial jurisdiction. The Indian government’s notice to the BBC clearly indicates that its aim was to block the airing of the video globally. Not only were YouTube and Google too eager to please the Indian government, even the BBC was threatened and cowered into withdrawing the video from YouTube, citing “copyright infringement”. Basically, theBBC has admitted that it cannot take on the government of India. For people like me — I was the counsel in the YouTube case before the Lahore High Court (LHC) –this complicates things further. On the one hand, the world’s largest democracy, which talks of democracy and secularism with a forked tongue, has effectively censored criticism of misogyny in its society and, on the other hand, the champions of free speech — Google and theBBC — have bent over backwards to accommodate India’s humongous ego. All the moral arguments one had about freedom of speech and open society have gone out the window. ..Amazingly, the ban on India’s Daughter came the same week the state of Maharashtra, where the great cosmopolitan city of Mumbaiwith its huge Muslim population is located, decided to criminalise slaughter and possession of beef. Any person possessing or eating beef in the great state of Maharashtra can now be imprisoned for a period of up to five years and fined Indian Rs 10,000. Consider the fact that Pakistan, which is officially an Islamic state, does not criminalise possessing or eating of pork. This makes this ban even more unconscionable for a country that is so self-righteously pompous about its secular democratic credentials.Of course, this has been a longstanding project of Indian nationalists pre-dating even partition. Gandhi had justified his support for the reactionary Khilafat Movement in the 1920s by saying that he wanted the cows to be spared the Muslim knife. The reasons had nothing to do with vegetarianism or love for animals (lamb slaughter or chicken slaughter has never had any political appeal) but the fact that the cow is a holy animal for the Hindus. Hindu cultural life thus was the bedrock upon which Indian nationalism was sediment. The project has reached fruition in 2015"

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s bubble. Pervasive Poverty, Banning #IndiaDaughter, #BeefBan in #Maharashtra #Mumbai. Secular Democracy?

Yasser Latif Hamdani: "Things changed drastically on the fifth day when I started reporting on the abject poverty I experienced in South Delhi and old Delhi; one uncle, whom I have known for a decade and a half and who is a renowned food journalist in India, even threatened to get me deported for “misusing my visa”. It is about marketing boss and no one can be allowed. Shining India sans marketing is a third world country with huge disparities and social inequities. This is an unforgiveable criticism even from someone like me who has principally refused to look at India as the enemy.This is a strange kind of psychosis. Now, if India were a person, it would be an extremely insecure, egoistic and overly prickly individual, ready to draw daggers at anyone who dares criticise it. Much of this was confirmed in the way India reacted to the film India’s Daughter. Many reasons are given for this opposition. One argument was that the airing of the film amounts to contempt of court. This is a flimsy excuse. Another one is that there was no “informed consent”. Without getting into the merits of these arguments, suffice it to say that these arguments would have made sense if India had attempted only to block the airing of the video in its territorial jurisdiction. The Indian government’s notice to the BBC clearly indicates that its aim was to block the airing of the video globally. Not only were YouTube and Google too eager to please the Indian government, even the BBC was threatened and cowered into withdrawing the video from YouTube, citing “copyright infringement”. Basically, theBBC has admitted that it cannot take on the government of India. For people like me — I was the counsel in the YouTube case before the Lahore High Court (LHC) –this complicates things further. On the one hand, the world’s largest democracy, which talks of democracy and secularism with a forked tongue, has effectively censored criticism of misogyny in its society and, on the other hand, the champions of free speech — Google and theBBC — have bent over backwards to accommodate India’s humongous ego. All the moral arguments one had about freedom of speech and open society have gone out the window. ..Amazingly, the ban on India’s Daughter came the same week the state of Maharashtra, where the great cosmopolitan city of Mumbaiwith its huge Muslim population is located, decided to criminalise slaughter and possession of beef. Any person possessing or eating beef in the great state of Maharashtra can now be imprisoned for a period of up to five years and fined Indian Rs 10,000. Consider the fact that Pakistan, which is officially an Islamic state, does not criminalise possessing or eating of pork. This makes this ban even more unconscionable for a country that is so self-righteously pompous about its secular democratic credentials.Of course, this has been a longstanding project of Indian nationalists pre-dating even partition. Gandhi had justified his support for the reactionary Khilafat Movement in the 1920s by saying that he wanted the cows to be spared the Muslim knife. The reasons had nothing to do with vegetarianism or love for animals (lamb slaughter or chicken slaughter has never had any political appeal) but the fact that the cow is a holy animal for the Hindus. Hindu cultural life thus was the bedrock upon which Indian nationalism was sediment. The project has reached fruition in 2015"

Riaz Haq said...

#India is home to more poor people than anywhere else on Earth. One-third of world's poor in #India via @TIMEWorld

One third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India, according to the latest Millennium Development Goals report by the U.N.

India only managed to reduce its poverty rate (the ratio of the number of people who fall below the poverty line and a country’s total population) from 49.4% in 1994 to 42% in 2005 and 32.7% in 2010. By contrast, regional rival China brought it down from 60% in 1990 to an impressive 16% in 2005 and just 12% in 2010.

India also accounted for the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children not reaching their fifth birthday.

“We don’t have to be proud of what we’ve done,” admitted minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla to the Times Of India on Wednesday. “Poverty is the biggest challenge.”

Riaz Haq said...

From Wall Street Journal: Pakistan’s Economic Management Gets Thumbs Up From IMF

Pakistan’s economy has improved, thanks to prudent monetary and fiscal policies, strong capital inflows, robust remittances from abroad and lower oil prices, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

“The authorities have made progress with consolidating macroeconomic stability, strengthening public finances and rebuilding foreign-exchange buffers,” Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, said in a statement following a recent visit to Islamabad and Lahore.

As a result, economic growth is strengthening and inflation is slowing, he added.

Pakistan’s central bank slashed its key interest rate in January by a full percentage point, to 8.5%, citing a slowdown in inflation, among other factors, amid plummeting oil prices and declining global prices for other commodities. January’s interest-rate cut came after a half-percentage point easing in November.

Mr. Ahmed called on Pakistan’s government to further bolster revenue by broadening the tax base and improving compliance, which would allow it to further reduce public debt while increasing spending in key areas such as health and education.

The Pakistani government should also “reinforce and build on recent stability gains to work towards achieving higher, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

Priorities for the government should include addressing longstanding imbalances in the energy sector, restructuring and privatizing public-sector enterprises, proceeding with investment-climate and trade reforms as well as continuing with financial-sector reforms, the IMF official noted.

Riaz Haq said...

Bombs, Protests and Blackouts Fail to Cripple Pakistan Economy

Lower oil prices, higher remittances and increased consumer spending are pushing (Pakistan economic growth) growth toward a seven-year high. Corporate earnings are soaring, stocks have surged and the currency is among the world’s top performers.
The steady economic upturn as growth prospects weaken in many emerging markets has underpinned Sharif’s political support, with his party gaining in a Senate election held this month. While much more needs to be done to fix an economy dependent on financing from the International Monetary Fund, the perception of Pakistan is starting to change.
“Sharif’s government has improved things with the help of the IMF,” Sayem Ali, head of investments strategy and advisory at Standard Chartered Plc’s Karachi unit, said by phone. “They have put Pakistan back on the radar in terms of international investors.”
When Sharif took power in May 2013, he faced a balance-of-payments crisis that forced him to seek help from the IMF. Foreign exchange reserves have doubled in the past year to $16 billion, the budget deficit has narrowed and inflation is easing as global oil prices fall.
Pakistan last month said it regained its eligibility to borrow from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, making it eligible for $2 billion of credit over the next four years. The IMF also is optimistic it will meet the conditions of the $6.6 billion loan it received two years ago.
‘Good Foundation’
“I see Pakistan breaking with past precedent of failed IMF programs and half-completed reforms, which set the stage for a crisis,” Jeffrey Franks said last month, when he was IMF mission chief. The country has a “good foundation” for further growth, a delegation led by his successor said on March 9.
The IMF forecasts Pakistan’s economy to expand 4.3 percent this year, compared with the five-year average of 3.6 percent. Pakistan’s moves to bolster its public finances are credit positive, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report on Monday.
“It is striking that reforms have continued despite disruptive domestic political challenges over the last year, and heightened security threats from Islamist terrorism,” Moody’s analysts wrote.
Pakistan’s middle class more than doubled to 84 million in 2002-2011, according to a study by Jawaid Abdul Ghani, a professor at the Karachi School for Business and Leadership. That’s brought almost half the nation into that segment for the first time, boosting profits at Nestle Pakistan Ltd. and Lucky Cement Ltd. to record levels.
Stocks Surge
Sharif is aiming to raise $2 billion from asset sales in the year ending June 30 to meet conditions attached to the IMF loan. Up for grabs in the next few years are stakes in Habib Bank Ltd., the nation’s biggest lender by assets, and Pakistan International Airlines Corp., the national carrier.
The benchmark KSE100 stock index has rallied 63 percent since Sharif took office, the sixth-best performance among 93 world gauges tracked by Bloomberg. Over the past six months, Pakistan’s rupee has outperformed every major global currency.
“The private sector is coming into play,” said Nadeem Siddiqui, Pakistan head at the International Finance Corp. “But the main problem will not be solved overnight.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone has grown by 150 nautical miles, adding around 50,000 square kilometres of international waters to its territory.
A United Nations commission has accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles, according to a statement issued by the Pakistan Navy on Friday. “This adds over 50,000 sq kms of continental shelf to the existing 240,000 sq kms of EEZ under Pakistan’s jurisdiction,” its added.
Pakistan now enjoys exclusive rights over the seabed and subsoil resources, allowing it to drill for petroleum or lay submarine cables or pipelines in the added area.
Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal states to extend their continental shelf beyond 20 nautical miles. However, the state is required to prove its case through technical data to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf – a body of 21 experts in geology, geophysics, hydrography and related disciplines.
In 2005, the navy and the National Institute of Oceanography with the science and technology ministry had started this project. After years of processing technical data, a submission was made to the UN on April 30, 2009.
A seven-member commission after over a year-long scrutiny, adopted the recommendations for extension of the country’s continental shelf. Pakistan’s delegation gave the final presentation on March 10. The UN has now announced the adoption of Pakistan’s claim.
The navy statement termed the decision a landmark in the country’s history which would bring vast economic benefits through the exploitation of extensive natural resources.

Shyam S said...

KhudKhusi Saab :) .. wait few more year...Pakistan fed on lies,now breeding on terror ...

Riaz Haq said...

Shyam: "KhudKhusi Saab :) .. wait few more year...Pakistan fed on lies,now breeding on terror ..."

Look who's talking...someone from a nation that just elected Hindu fascist Modi, a KKK wizard, according to Pakistan-bashing analyst Christina Fair.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excepts of Nisid Hajari's NPR Fresh Air interview promoting his book "Midnight's Furies":

"This rivalry between India and Pakistan has been going on now for nearly 70 years and it seems like a feature of the landscape ... as if it has always existed, and once you created two countries out of one that it was inevitable," Hajari says. "I don't think it was inevitable and a closer look at what happened in 1947 teaches you how the seeds of this rivalry were planted. It was obviously worsened over the years by various actors, but this is where it all started."

They (Hindus) controlled the schools, they controlled the educational curriculum, they oversaw the police and they gave out jobs and patronage to their own followers. And Muslims could see, particularly professional Muslims, Muslims who would otherwise have perhaps won these jobs, could see that they would have very little power in a democratic system, a parliamentary system after independence.

On that (Direct Action) day (1946), the speeches that were given were fairly inflammatory, and some of the Muslim listeners of these speeches went out and started burning and looting in Hindu areas. At the same time, Hindus in different parts of the city were also throwing bricks and stones at Muslim marchers. It's very hard to say exactly how it started or who started it [but] both sides behaved violently.

The Sikhs really were the accelerant to the riots in August 1947, which is, when people talk about partition, this is what they're talking about. These are the massive riots that broke out around the time that the British withdrew from India, and anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million people were killed.

As independence was approaching, all sides were forming militias, which they claimed were for self-defense. The Sikhs, because so many of them had served in the army, were the best trained and the best armed and the best organized of these militias, and therefore the rampages that they engaged in were more effective and bloodier and more damaging.

The Pakistani support for the Taliban had to do with their desire to have an influence in Kabul and to block Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistani strategists have this idea of strategic depth that if they were engaged in a major conflict with India that they would be able to use Afghanistan as a sort of rear-guard area to fall back to. They have a fear of being encircled by Indians and there have always been rumors that the Indians were trying to gain influence with various Afghan governments and that they had spies in Afghanistan and so on. Afghanistan has never fully agreed to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that creates more tensions.

But this fear of Indian encirclement, that's what goes back to partition in 1947. The seeds of that rivalry were planted in these weeks and months of violence and bloodshed back when both countries were still being born and they were exacerbated over the years by further conflicts and by various military dictators and politicians and so forth, but the basic pattern was set very quickly. As a smaller, weaker country, this asymmetric strategy of using surrogates to do your fighting for you seems appealing, but it has very destructive repercussions.

Riaz Haq said...

After taking a study tour to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, members of an international officers’ delegation made some poignant observations about their stint in the three countries. Some of these observations may be cursory but still reflect certain realities of some South Asian cities. Arriving in and moving through New Delhi was a shocking experience, recalled a German official. According to him, the life outside the grand airport was in sharp contrast to what he had read about the new, shining India. Unlike the image of a clean and vibrant New Delhi reflecting the oft-trumpeted ‘shining India’, he encountered congested roads, vehicular mayhem, and filth and trash all over.

The delegation visited the Taj Mahal too; the Taj itself is grand but the road up to and from Agra as well as its vicinities often make you nauseous as you see countless people openly squatting along the roads, recalled an official from England. How else would you feel when you came across these images in a country that boasts a nuclear arsenal and is investing billions in nuclear submarines and the latest combat aircraft? Unfathomable that such a country is host to about 400 million people living on less than two dollars a day and a huge number of them don’t have toilets in this day and age.

Big advertising billboards, recalled a British officer, display a yearning for a Western lifestyle, with light-skinned models. Discussions are very much centred on a nationalistic ethos and self-confidence, he said. It is good to be nationalistic and self-confident, but misplaced over-emphasis is not, he remarked. This over-emphasis reflects a disconnect between the marketing gimmickry of the corporate sector and the discourse on ground.

An official from Ukraine was disappointed with his experience in Bangalore and Chennai; these are rightly touted as IT cities, but the life on the roads doesn’t reflect the order and prosperity that comes with the IT-related development. Poverty and disorder is omnipresent, he recalled. Officials from Belgium, France and Spain found Colombo and Islamabad to be much more organised, cleaner and quite orderly. A Japanese delegate complained of “very few women at work” at the Islamabad airport. They also wondered as to who is really running the government. But most officers, who had visited places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, did appreciate what they described as the “resilience of Pakistani society”, despite nearly 14 years of unrest.

One of the top executives of a multinational communications company complained bitterly about the unpredictability of doing business in India. At the same time, however, he felt that the Indian market is too big to ignore so his company is still sticking its necks out because of the potential the market offers.

Riaz Haq said...

Swedish professor and TED talk phenomenon Hans Rosling has slammed the media for being 'ignorant and arrogant' and failing to see the big picture with regard to developments in a world which, he argued, is moving in a positive direction.
A new video of the swashbuckling Swede whose straight-talking upbeat missives about the state of the world have made statistics sing off the page, has gone viral in the wake of this week's tragic news of the death of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach.

The Danish news presenter is left speechless as Rosling explained that the message sent out by the global media of a divided world in crisis is failing to inform the public of the bigger (more positive) picture.
"You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world. If you think that the majority of the world population is very poor and if you believe that the girls don't attend school, and that all of these people are trying to flee to wealthier countries, then you don't understand anything," he told broadcaster DR.
He cites the example of Nigeria as a case where a successful transition of power in a recent democratic election has been overshadowed by news of atrocities committed by Boko Haram.
"You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. If you choose to only show my face then that is another part of me," Rosling argued.
Rosling presented several indicators such as birthrates which are no longer growing, the widespread use of contraception and an increasing number of girls attending school, to argue that the world outside the borders of the western world is developing positively and that war and conflict is only a small part of the bigger picture.
When challenged for the source of his facts, Rosling replied:
"Statistics from The International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, nothing controversial."
"These facts are not up for discussion. I am right, and you are wrong," he concluded.

Unknown said...

The youth of Pakistan look up to people like you, who have the passion and vigor to lead us forward realizing out true potential. jazakAllah khair keep it up

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Indian Sikh visitor's view of Pakistani roads:

The Lahore Ring Road is much like the Delhi Ring Road, only much wider and with lesser traffic. It merges into the Lahore-Islamabad motorway which is even bigger and better. The drive to Nankana Sahib was pretty smooth through the town of Sheikhupura and the only roadblock we hit was on the outskirts of the town which was in a state of lockdown due to the rush of Indian devotees. Massive police presence could be seen and street after street was cordoned off with cement road blocks and razor wires to prevent access to the Gurdwara. -

See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

#China Railway Construction & Zahir Khan Constructors win bid for 1100 Km of #Karachi-#Lahore Motorway in #Pakistan

China Railway Construction Corp. said on Wednesday it has secured a 9.38 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) contract jointly with a Pakistani company to build a highway in Pakistan.

The company said that its unit, China Railway 20th Bureau Group Co, and Zahir Khan & Brothers Engineers & Constructors won the bid to build a 1,152 km section of a highway between Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Pakistan and China signed energy and infrastructure deals worth $46 ..

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...

#India's ex foreign secretary Shyam Saran's account of recent #Pakistan visit. Wants more "benign narrative" of ties …

Though I have visited Lahore earlier, this was the first time I was able to experience the vibrant life in the city away from officialdom. It remains a city of people who celebrate its rich and varied cultural heritage and embrace its tradition of intellectual discourse, poetry, music and sophisticated cuisine. Its Sufi shrines are overflowing with throngs of gentle worshippers defying the monochromatic urgings of the Wahhabi-inspired jihadi groups. It is only the pervasive presence of security all around the city which reflects the unseen threat that strikes and kills without warning. Pakistan's diversity is real and should be factored into our policies. There is universal resentment over the highly restrictive visa regime, the little humiliations heaped on those brave enough to cross national boundaries, and the constant discouragement to the coming together of scholars, artists and writers - all in the name of reciprocity and exaggerated security concerns. And yet, these are the constituencies that may be able to craft a different and more benign narrative of India-Pakistan relations over time. A self-confident India should be able to create opportunities for expanded engagement with these constituencies even as it confronts the hostility of the Pakistani state. The affinities across the border are real and need to be nurtured for their own intrinsic value.

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...

#Pakistan to Host an Arts Biennale of Its Own in nation's culture capital #Lahore @RashidRanaRR

"Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here. “Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”
Rashid Rana

Pakistan will join the roster of countries hosting contemporary art fairs with the announcement of the inaugural Lahore Biennale, which is scheduled for November 2017.

Rashid Rana, a native of Lahore and one of Pakistan’s best-known artists, will be the artistic director of the show, which will be announced Tuesday. Mr. Rana, 47, has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, including a retrospective in 2010 at the Musée Guimet in Paris.

“Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan,” Mr. Rana said Monday by telephone from Lahore. “Why not create the opportunities and platform so the audience can see the work in the context in which it is being produced and, in doing so, bring international art into Pakistan.”

Mr. Rana said that the biennale would feature public art projects as well as new commissioned works, with an emphasis on engaging with the public. The exact sources of financing have yet to be determined, but Mr. Rana said that his team would be seeking both private and government support to pay for the exhibition.

The artist said he expected that logistics would be the biggest challenge in planning the show, which he described as a “different kind of bienniale, taking place not in a white cube museum space.” He said that his team would begin selecting artists and venues for the show in the coming months.

Mr. Rana acknowledged that censorship could be an issue, but, he said, “Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here.”

“Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”

The show is being presented by the Lahore Biennale Foundation, a collective of prominent Pakistanis from the art and business communities. Mohsin Hamid, the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” is one of the foundation’s directors, and Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation, is an adviser.

Last year, the foundation helped present “My East Is Your West,” an event at the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition featured work by Mr. Rana alongside the Indian artist Shilpa Gupta in a rare, if unofficial, collaboration between India and Pakistan on an international platform.

“I think one very simple reason for the biennale is to bring attention to the fact that Pakistan has a very vibrant artistic scene,” Ms. Morgan said in a telephone interview. “It has produced a number of artists that have become very well known internationally but hasn’t yet had an internal event that can celebrate what has been happening there in the last few years.”

Anonymous said...

Is India a Flailing State?: Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization

India is an emerging global superpower as its rapid growth has transformed its economy and has maintained itself as the world’s largest democracy. But at the same time India lags in many dimensions—its malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world, its immunization rates are lower than most African countries, and Bangladesh has a better infant mortality rate. I argue that this is in part because the India state is “flailing”—its very capable head is not longer reliably connected to the arms and legs of implementation. In the four-fold transition of economy, polity, administration, and society the administrative capability of the state is lagging. I use examples from services like health, education, and routine transactions like issuing driver’s licenses to show that the agents of the state routinely do not implement the tasks they are assigned—causing a massive divergence between de jure and de facto reality. The paper concludes with speculations about the causes of flailing and possible future trajectories.

Riaz Haq said...

What attracted Columbus and other Europeans to India was its reputation as a "golden bird" built under Muslim rule.

Read Paknja Mishra's Op Ed in NY Times:

India, V.S. Naipaul declared in 1976, is “a wounded civilization,” whose obvious political and economic dysfunction conceals a deeper intellectual crisis. As evidence, he pointed out some strange symptoms he noticed among upper-caste middle-class Hindus since his first visit to his ancestral country in 1962. These well-born Indians betrayed a craze for “phoren” consumer goods and approval from the West, as well as a self-important paranoia about the “foreign hand.” “Without the foreign chit,” Mr. Naipaul concluded, “Indians can have no confirmation of their own reality.”

Mr. Naipaul was also appalled by the prickly vanity of many Hindus who asserted that their holy scriptures already contained the discoveries and inventions of Western science, and that an India revitalized by its ancient wisdom would soon vanquish the decadent West. He was particularly wary of the “apocalyptic Hindu terms” of such 19th-century religious revivalists as Swami Vivekananda, whose exhortation to nation-build through the ethic of the kshatriya (the warrior caste) has made him the central icon of India’s new Hindu nationalist rulers.
A Harvard-trained economist called Subramanian Swamy recently demanded a public bonfire of canonical books by Indian historians — liberal and secular intellectuals who belong to what the R.S.S. chief in 2000 identified as that “class of bastards which tries to implant an alien culture in their land.” Denounced by the numerous Hindu supremacists in social media as “sickular libtards” and sepoys (the common name for Indian soldiers in British armies), these intellectuals apparently are Trojan horses of the West. They must be purged to realize Mr. Modi’s vision in which India, once known as the “golden bird,” will “rise again.”

Mr. Modi doesn’t seem to know that India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture. The psychic wounds Mr. Naipaul noticed among semi-Westernized upper-caste Hindus actually date to the Indian elite’s humiliating encounter with the geopolitical and cultural dominance first of Europe and then of America.

Riaz Haq said...

"#India's Growing At 5-6%, Less Than #Modi Government Claims" "#Pakistan's prospects bright" Morgan Stanley's Sharma … via @HuffPostIndia

Sharma says: "I think India is growing at a pace between 5 and 6%, or about two points lower than the government claims. That is a huge difference -- but these days a pace better than 5% is actually quite good, even for a relatively lower income country. At a time when slower population growth, high debts, falling growth in global trade and capital flows, and other forces are slowing the global economy, every class of nations needs to lower its expectations. It may be a long time before we see another emerging nation post growth in excess of 7-8% in this new era. The risk for India is that the state will try to push growth faster than is possible or practical, in this slow growth era"

"Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh all have bright prospects going forward, with credit growth under control, strong working-age population growth, inflation in check..."

Riaz Haq said...

#India writer Yoginder Sikand says in his book "Beyond the Border" that he was taught to hate #Pakistan at age 4. …

Indian writer Yoginder Sikand in his book "Beyond the Border":

When I was only four years old and we were living in Calcutta (in 1971) was clear that "Pakistan" was something that I was meant to hate and fear, though I had not the faintest idea where and what that dreaded monster (Pakistan) was.

What I heard and read about the two countries (India and Pakistan)--at school, on television and over radio, in the newspapers and from relatives and friends--only served to reinforce negative images of Pakistan, a country inhabited by people I necessarily had dread and even to define myself against. Pakistan and myself were equated as one while India and the Hindus were treated as synonymous. The two countries, as well as the two communities were said to be absolutely irreconcilable. To be Indian necessarily meant, it seemed to be uncompromisingly anti-Pakistani. To question this assumption, to entertain any thought other than the standard line about Pakistan and its people, was tantamount to treason.

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...

"Mr. Modi’s rule represents the most devastating, and perhaps final, defeat of India’s noble postcolonial ambition to create a moral world order. It turns out that the racist imperialism Du Bois despised can resurrect itself even among its former victims: There can be English rule without the Englishman. India’s claims to exceptionalism appear to have been as unfounded as America’s own." --- Pankaj Mishra

India at 70, and the Passing of Another Illusion

AUG. 11, 2017

August 15, 1947, deserved to be remembered, the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois argued, “as the greatest historical date” of modern history. It was the day India became independent from British rule, and Du Bois believed the event was of “greater significance” than even the establishment of democracy in Britain, the emancipation of slaves in the United States or the Russian Revolution. The time “when the white man, by reason of the color of his skin, can lord it over colored people” was finally drawing to a close.

It is barely remembered today that India’s freedom heralded the liberation, from Tuskegee to Jakarta, of a majority of the world’s population from the degradations of racist imperialism. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, claimed that there had been nothing “more horrible” in human history than the days when millions of Africans “were carried away in galleys as slaves to America and elsewhere.” As he said in a resonant speech on Aug. 15, 1947, long ago India had made a “tryst with destiny,” and now, by opening up a broad horizon of human emancipation, “we shall redeem our pledge.”

But India, which turns 70 next week, seems to have missed its appointment with history. A country inaugurated by secular freedom fighters is presently ruled by religious-racial supremacists. More disturbing still than this mutation are the continuities between those early embodiments of postcolonial virtue and their apparent betrayers today.

Du Bois would have been heartbroken to read the joint statement that more than 40 African governments released in April, denouncing “xenophobic and racial” attacks on Africans in India and asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate. The rise in hate crimes against Africans is part of a sinister trend that has accelerated since the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

Another of its bloodcurdling manifestations is the lynching of Muslims suspected of eating or storing beef. Others include assaults on couples who publicly display affection and threats of rape against women on social media by the Hindu supremacists’ troll army. Mob frenzy in India today is drummed up by jingoistic television anchors and vindicated, often on Twitter, by senior politicians, businessmen, army generals and Bollywood stars.

Hindu nationalists have also come together to justify India’s intensified military occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir, as well as a nationwide hunt for enemies: an ever-shifting and growing category that includes writers, liberal intellectuals, filmmakers who work with Pakistani actors and ordinary citizens who don’t stand up when the national anthem is played in cinemas. The new world order — just, peaceful, equal — that India’s leaders promised at independence as they denounced their former Western masters’ violence, greed and hypocrisy is nowhere in sight.

Riaz Haq said...

Trashing #India sells better for #Western audiences. #Slumdog #Ray #Roy #Gidla #Dalit #Boo #Economist … via @dailyo_

More contemporaneously, Slumdog Millionaire by British director Danny Boyle was a rage abroad. The one stomach-churning scene in the movie starring Frieda Pinto, Anil Kapoor and Dev Patel where a child falls into an excreta-filled sewer was played and replayed on foreign television networks with feigned horror. (The excreta was, in fact, a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate sauce.)

Books receive the same treatment. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity which retells her experiences living in a Mumbai slum for three years, sparing no gory detail, was published to international acclaim in 2012.

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness received an equally rapturous welcome abroad as it wended its laborious way through India’s graveyard of troubles: Kashmir, Maoism, poverty, communalism, violence. Roy’s sense of bitter hopelessness about India enthrals foreign publishers.

Now a book by Sujatha Gidla, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, is the latest toast of the West. A Dalit Christian, Gidla tells the story of her uncle Satyamurthy, a Maoist leader who fought the Indian state from the jungles of central India.

In a gushing review, The Economist (July 29, 2017) described Gidla as heralding the “arrival of a formidable new writer.” The magazine added: “Ants among Elephants is an interesting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.”

The names trip of the tongue nicely: Ray, Roy, Boo, Gidla. Of course The Economist wouldn’t dare review Shashi Tharoor’s excellent book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India which exposes Britain’s horrific crimes during its colonial occupation of India.

Even the British edition of Tharoor’s book was re-titled to make it less offensive to the British. An Era of Darkness became the anodyne An Inglorious Empire: What the British Did To India. In an interview with the BBC for the book’s British launch earlier this year, one of the panelists was dismissive of Tharoor’s evocative and detailed description of the brutalities of the British Empire and the financial ruination it brought upon India.

In contrast, Arundhati Roy’s dark vision of India has been lapped up by newspapers like The New York Times and television channels in Europe and America. Should all of this matter? Emphatically not. India has many flaws – violence, poverty, rape, corruption, casteism. It is right for journalists and authors, Indian and foreign, to write about them.

It is equally right for filmmakers to show the underbelly of India – from the coal mines of Dhanbad to the slums of Mumbai. Sunlight is a disinfectant. Shine it mercilessly on our imperfections. Only then will change take place. The problem though is balance.


In its review of Gidla’s book, The Economist gives its Western readers a detailed tutorial on India’s caste system: “One in six Indians is a Dalit, which means 'oppressed' in Sanskrit. That is to say, 200 million Indians belong to a community deemed so impure by the scriptures that they are placed outside the hierarchical Hindu caste system and are commonly called ‘untouchable’. Upper-caste Hindus traditionally treated untouchables as agents of pollution. To come into contact with them was to be defiled, they believed. Indian villages depended on untouchables to provide field labour and clear away human waste. Yet untouchables were excluded from village life.

Riaz Haq said...

From Seeking Alpha :


Pakistan continues to be a misunderstood and under-researched market.

Though there are near-term macro concerns, stock market correction has made valuations attractive.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can have a positive impact on future GDP growth.

In line with our process of being on the ground in the countries we invest in, Investment Analyst Scott Osheroff travelled to Pakistan in October 2017 to meet with companies on the ground. All photos are by Asia Frontier Capital.

Pakistan is a perfect example of an information disconnect where what is reported in the mainstream media is starkly different from the day-to-day reality on the ground and does not show the full picture. I travelled to Pakistan last month for an investment tour with our local broker, visiting 19 listed companies in Lahore and Karachi, as well as seeing some tourist sites along the way, and was pleasantly surprised by the monumental opportunity Pakistan offers to investors.

My first realization of the current reality in Pakistan occurred when I was boarding my Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Lahore. The Boeing 777 was fully booked and the only foreigners on the plane, in addition to myself, were about 50 Chinese businessmen. A Chinese presence would be a recurring theme throughout my trip, as the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (“CPEC”) is in its infancy and has driven Chinese workers and entrepreneurs alike to come to Pakistan to partake in the country’s economic growth.

Arriving at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on a Saturday evening at 11pm, I proceeded to apply for a visa on arrival. The process was time-consuming, taking about 30 minutes despite being the only person in the room, but was easy enough. Upon receipt of my visa and exiting customs, I departed for the Pearl Continental Lahore, previously the Intercontinental Hotel. My driver was very friendly and acted as a useful tour guide helping me to get my bearings. Immediately upon leaving the airport, he pointed out two new buildings under construction and identified them as the up and coming Sofitel and Hyatt Regency hotels. With underinvestment in the hotel sector over the past several years, there is now a shortage, which is leading to renewed investment.

The next morning, I met the other attendees of our investment tour in the hotel lobby, and we headed out for a day of Lahori site seeing. We started with a visit to Packages Mall, owned by publicly listed Packages Group. It was reminiscent of the malls in Indonesia or Bangkok in relation to their massive scale. Seemingly every international retailer and F&B chain could be found (including McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts (NASDAQ:DNKN), etc.), in addition to several home-grown retail giants such as “Ideas” which is owned by publicly listed Gul Ahmed Textiles and has 40 stores throughout the country.
After departing Packages Mall, we made our way to the historic bazaar - Anarkali, followed by the Shalimar Gardens and a trip to the Wagah Border. Situated 29 kilometres from Lahore, the Wagah Border is the only land crossing between Pakistan and India opened to international travellers. Every day about an hour before sunset, there is a ceremony conducted by the military from each side to officially close the border for the day. A tourist attraction among locals and foreigners alike (of the handful of foreigners in attendance nearly all were Chinese), it was a memorable experience.

That night, we had dinner atop a block of stunning historic buildings adjacent to a large Mughal-era mosque. The spread consisted of kebab, lamb chops, several types of delicious breads, and my new favourite Pakistani dish - goat brain masala (also called “bheja fry” in the local language across most parts of South Asia).

Riaz Haq said...

From Seeking Alpha...Part 2:

The next day, Monday, we departed early from the hotel for a day of meetings before catching an evening flight to Karachi. We visited a leading insurance company with operations in Pakistan, as well as the UAE, and who foresees the domestic insurance industry growing at a CAGR of 10-15% over the coming years. Being that insurance penetration in Pakistan as a percentage of GDP is only 0.08%, the industry has ample room for growth. Another notable meeting that day was with a top 5 cement producer who is expanding capacity as they project robust domestic demand growth of 8-10% per year over the next three years due to an improving construction market, alongside further investments related to the CPEC. Though domestic cement demand has been quite strong over the past year, higher coal prices as well as pricing pressure has impacted profits in the most recent quarter, and worries over these two issues have led to a pretty big correction in cement stock prices. Thus, at current levels, there appears to be value in some of the cement names.

Among the other interesting companies whose management we met was the leading private hospital group in Pakistan. They currently have 600 beds and 700 nurses across multiple hospitals, though they have growth plans to see them reach 1,000 beds within five years and a potential expansion into Lahore, a city of 7mln, as well as plans to enter Sialkot, a city about 125 km north of Lahore. Recently, this company also announced plans of expanding operations overseas by setting up a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The private healthcare industry in Pakistan is still in its infancy, like with many such industries, meaning that penetration rates can only grow.

I found the issue of low penetration across multiple sectors fascinating, as Pakistan has a population of 190mln, but penetration of refrigerators, air conditioners, and washer machines is only 47%, 10%, and 57%, respectively. That is not to mention that the country has smartphone penetration of only 25-30%.

That evening, we drove to Allama Iqbal International Airport and departed for Karachi, the commercial and financial capital of Pakistan, on the national carrier Pakistan International Airways (PIA). Interestingly, as I was on the boarding platform preparing to enter the plane, I peered out the window expecting to see the “PIA” logo on the side of the plane. Instead, I saw “VietJet.” VietJet is currently leasing 4 planes to PIA, and this flight was staffed with a mix of Pakistani and Vietnamese cabin crew.

The next two days in Karachi were a mix of meetings at our hotel and site visits. We met a variety of companies, including banks, leasing groups, garment manufacturers and industrial manufacturers. The broad number of industries represented on the stock market was present in the diversity of companies we met, and it was encouraging to see the level of professionalism and transparency expressed by their management teams compared to other countries in the region.

Our last meeting of the trip was with a privately-owned car parts manufacturer supplying mainly window glass to the domestic auto manufacturers. The conversation focused on the current and future potential of the industry, which is clearly robust. Auto manufacturers currently have a 3-6-month backlog for new orders depending on the model (motorcycle manufacturers have the same issue). At present, the ratio of autos per 1,000 people in Pakistan stands at 15. As consumer financing becomes more readily available, we would expect this number to accelerate rapidly and become more in line with India with 22 autos and Vietnam with 23 autos, according to 2015 statistics.

Riaz Haq said...

From Seeking Alpha...Part 3:

Our last meeting of the trip was with a privately-owned car parts manufacturer supplying mainly window glass to the domestic auto manufacturers. The conversation focused on the current and future potential of the industry, which is clearly robust. Auto manufacturers currently have a 3-6-month backlog for new orders depending on the model (motorcycle manufacturers have the same issue). At present, the ratio of autos per 1,000 people in Pakistan stands at 15. As consumer financing becomes more readily available, we would expect this number to accelerate rapidly and become more in line with India with 22 autos and Vietnam with 23 autos, according to 2015 statistics.

Besides the company meetings, one of the major talking points in Pakistan these days is the CPEC. These projects can be one of the longer-term growth drivers for the Pakistani economy as a majority of the >USD 50 billion investments over the next 10-15 years will be in power projects. Pakistan has an acute power shortage, with power cuts ranging from 8-12 hours in the peak season (summer), and this lack of power supply is also cutting 1-2% from GDP growth. With power availability expected to improve over the coming years as new capacity comes online, it is expected that GDP growth rates should also improve.

The other benefit of the CPEC investment is that it has led to a marked improvement in the security environment as it would be important to have a relatively stable security environment for the CPEC to succeed. This improvement in security has also led to a more positive economic sentiment amongst corporates and consumers.

While Pakistan is likely to experience continued near-term uncertainty surrounding the political environment and a potential devaluation of its currency to repair its balance of payments, long term, as increased stability and security persist along with investment policies to attract more FDI, Pakistan will remain a highly attractive investment destination. In addition to the long-term potential, we see significant value in the Pakistan Stock Market at the current time, with the KSE100 Index trading at a current PE multiple of 8.1x, a valuation which the market had prior to the 2013 national elections, which could be an indication that political and macro risks have been discounted to a large extent.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: The AFC Asia Frontier Fund is invested in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Strategic Insights by #India's Sunil Sharan : #Pakistan, a rising power … via @TOIOpinion

Yet, one nation is a rising power, ready to take its rightful place in the comity of nations, while the other is deemed a global pariah, a jelly state if not a failed state. Huh? How did this happen?

The reality is different. The world pays lip service to India for its large middle class and its ability to buy arms on a large scale. India seems to consider this courting as its emergence on the world stage.

Scratch the surface, and you will find something else. The US is denying Indians H1-B visas. The US has delinked the Haqqanis, who they want, from Hafiz Saeed, who they couldn’t care less about, so that they can give dollops of aid to the Pakistanis.

Today the Yanks hector the Pakistanis, but that is empty bluster. The Pakistanis have trumped them; the Yanks’ wails appear like crocodile tears. The Yanks forgot when they invaded Afghanistan and enlisted the Pakistanis’ help by threatening to bomb them into the stone age that the Pakistanis had been there once before.

That time they trumped the Russians, with significant money and arms from the Americans and the Saudis. But the Americans never took to battle in Afghanistan the first time round. Sure they had read that Afghanistan was a graveyard for empires, from the British to the Soviet, but they believed, foolishly, that they themselves would win out.

They struck a Faustian bargain with the Pakistanis, without ever realizing that they were dealing with the devil. In the nineties, the Pakistanis used Afghanistan to hijack Indian planes and launch jihad in Kashmir. Afghanistan had become both strategic depth as well as a launching pad for them. How were they expected to give up this twin treat?

Once the Yanks entered Kabul, the Taliban vanished. Into thin air? Oh no, many of them disappeared into Pakistan. The Yanks forgot about Afghanistan, until first the Iraqis, and then the Taliban, started knocking their teeth out. One by one their Nato brethren fled Afghanistan, until the Yanks realized that they had to flee as well.

Go to Kabul today, and you will find disdain for Pakistan everywhere. But the Pakistanis don’t care. The real people who matter in Afghanistan are the Taliban, and you don’t find many of them in Kabul. The writ of the government of Afghanistan extends over only Kabul, much as the later-day Mughals were derided as the mayors of Delhi.

The Taliban control over sixty percent of the country. The Talibs don’t like the Pakistanis, referring to them often as blacklegs. But the Talibs need Pakistan to capture Kabul, much as the Pakistanis need the Taliban to capture Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis are disdainful of the threats emanating from the Yanks. The Yanks need Pakistani territory to transport supplies to their legionaries in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis blocked their land routes once, and all hell broke loose then. It’s almost impossible to transport goods from the west of Afghanistan.


Today Pakistan stands on the cusp of victory in Afghanistan. It spurns the Americans for the Chinese, and lo and behold, the Russians, the very people it had helped kick out of Afghanistan. Politics, or rather realpolitik, sure does make for strange bedfellows.

Pakistan is able to stymie India at every international forum, be it the UN or the nuclear suppliers group. There have even been strong rumours about the Obama administration offering the Pakistanis their own nuclear deal. Trump yells and curses at the Pakistanis, but is the first one to give it gobs of military aid.

Pakistan sure doesn’t seem like a loser. It appears to have come out of Afghanistan smelling of roses. It can blackmail America to its heart’s content, and what is more, happily get away with it. Does it seem like a failed state? A terrorist state? A terrorized state? At least not now. For now it seems that Pakistan’s star, that star in their beloved crescent, is rising. And rising.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian Author/Activist Harsh Mandar: "I have travelled to many countries in the world in the sixty years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in #Pakistan"

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively at the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened the latch, 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.

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. ‘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.

After we returned to India, news of our adventure spread quickly among family and friends. The next year, my mother-in-law, a wheel-chair user, requested that we take her also to Pakistan to visit her childhood home, this time in Gujranwala.

Given the joys of my parents’ successful visit, I was more confident. But then many elderly aunts and an elderly uncle joined the trip, and in the end my wife and I were accompanying six older people to Pakistan.

Our experience this time was very similar to a year earlier. The owner of their old ancestral haveli in their Gujranwala village took my mother-in-law around the sprawling property on her wheel-chair, and after we had eaten with them asked her, ‘Would you not like to check out your farmlands?’

On both visits, wherever my wife visited shops, for clothes, footwear or handicrafts, if the shopkeepers recognised her to be Indian, they would invariably insist on a hefty concession on the price. ‘You are our guests’, they would say. ‘How can we make a profit from our guests?’

As news of these visits travelled further, my associates from an NGO Ashagram for the care and rights of persons living with leprosy in a small town Barwani in Madhya Pradesh—with which I had a long association since its founding—demanded that I organise a visit for them also to Pakistan.

Once again, the Pakistani High Commission granted to them visas and they were on their way. There was only one catch, and this was that all of them were vegetarian. They enjoyed greatly the week they spent in Pakistan, except for the food.

Every night they would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night they found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice.

‘We will not charge money from our guests from India,’ they would say each time. This happened for a full seven days.

I have travelled to many countries in the world in the sixty years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan.

This declaration is my latest act of sedition.

Riaz Haq said...

#India falls to 102 in global #HungerIndex, 8 ranks below #Pakistan. It was the lowest ranked among #SouthAsian countries. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva via @timesofindia

Riaz Haq said...

#India is home to almost a quarter of the global poor. Five countries with the highest number of world's extreme #poor are (in descending order): #India (24%), #Nigeria (12%), Democratic Republic of #Congo (7%), #Ethiopia (4%) & #Bangladesh (3%). #poverty

Of the world’s 736 million extreme poor in 2015, 368 million—half of the total—lived in just 5 countries. The 5 countries with the highest number of extreme poor are (in descending order): India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. They also happen to be the most populous countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions that together account for 85 percent (629 million) of the world’s poor. Therefore, to make significant continued progress towards the global target of reducing extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day) to less than 3 percent by 2030, large reductions in poverty in these five countries will be crucial.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the numerous other countries with high poverty rates. As poverty projections to 2030 for these five countries reveal, uneven outcomes are likely (see figure 2). When projections are based on countries growing in line with past growth rates (the regional average over the last ten years), extreme poverty in India and Bangladesh approaches zero by 2030 but extreme poverty in Nigeria, DRC, and Ethiopia remains quite elevated. The uneven progress across these 5 countries is indicative of the broader uneven progress globally. An outcome where extreme poverty is nearly eliminated throughout the world except in one region, sub-Saharan Africa, certainly does not portray a picture of a world free of poverty. As emphasized in the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2018, we should go beyond the focus on reducing the global poverty rate to below 3 percent and strive to ensure that all countries and all people can share in the benefits of economic development.

Riaz Haq said...

A passage to #Pakistan by @dhume: #Indians may have a distorted view of their neighbor, but Pakistanis don’t quite get #India either. #Delhi’s Pakistan policy is a's based on a combination of hubris and hatred that are the opposite of realism

Cliches about the warmth of Pakistani hospitality are true. But you can also encounter kindness among ordinary Pakistanis that has nothing to do with a culture of looking after your guests. At the Pakistan International Airlines counter in Lahore, a young man helpfully suggests that i check my carry-on bag at the gate to avoid paying for excess baggage. In the Indian imagination, particularly on the Hindu Right, Pakistan brings to mind only fanaticism and violence. But a visitor can experience it instead as a land of many small kindnesses.

The Indian view of Pakistan is increasingly shaped by a kind of national hysteria, an inability to view the country dispassionately as a geographical space that happens to be inhabited by a kindred people whose ancestors were Indians. In general, educated Pakistanis are less ignorant about India than their Indian counterparts are about Pakistan. (They are alarmingly up-to-date on Bollywood gossip.) But here too distortions abound. For Pakistanis, India is north India. Indian politics is the politics of the Hindi heartland.


On television, Indians are fed a diet of jingoism that is detached from reality. For instance, while Pakistan’s global influence may have declined precipitously – in large measure because of its sclerotic economy – the idea that India can isolate a nuclear-armed nation with more than 200-million people is preposterous. As things stand, Pakistan enjoys a strong relationship with China, has largely repaired its once strained relations with America, and is open to overtures from Russia.

Perhaps one day the politicians who run India and the generals who run Pakistan will feel secure enough to allow Indians and Pakistanis to visit each other freely and experience each other’s countries for themselves. Until such contact becomes commonplace, the odds of South Asia becoming more like Southeast Asia – united by economics rather than divided by politics – remain vanishingly slim.

Riaz Haq said...

#India Doesn’t Want #Monkeys Attacking #Trump During Taj Mahal Visit. Police plan to use slingshots during the president’s upcoming visit to ward off 100s of aggressive monkeys living near centuries-old mausoleum #TajMahal #TrumpInIndia via @HuffPostPol

When President Donald Trump visits India next week, officials will be going bananas trying to prevent him from being attacked by monkeys at the Taj Mahal.

The city of Agra, where the famous building is located, will be under security lockdown during Trump’s visit, India Today reported. That means that no one will be allowed out of their homes when the president is traveling from the local airport to the Taj Mahal.

That’s fine and dandy for humans. But try convincing the 500 to 700 monkeys living near the nearly four-century-old mausoleum. The rhesus macaques have a reputation for being very aggressive toward the 25,000 tourists who visit the Taj on a typical day.

Slingshots, police say, are the solution. Officers assigned to Trump’s visit will be armed with the devices to chase off any monkeys that menace the president and first lady Melania Trump during their visit.

“We found that monkeys get scared by just seeing us brandishing these slingshots,” Brij Bhushan, head of the Taj Mahal security force, told Reuters last year.

The weapons work on monkeys individually or in small groups, but they’re “completely ineffective” in warding off packs of maurading macaques, a law enforcement official told India Today.

In May 2018, monkeys attacked two French tourists as they were taking selfies, according to the Independent. Later that year, monkeys reportedly snatched a 12-day-old baby from its nearby home and killed it.

One Agra resident lamented that persistent efforts to control the monkey population have come to nothing.

“The terror of the monkeys is so pervasive that women and children are scared of going up on the roof of their houses, which have almost been taken over by monkeys,” the resident told India Today. “If such a large troop of monkeys attacks Donald Trump’s entourage, it will be a disaster.”

Riaz Haq said...

Reporter Rukmini Callamachi caught reporting false #ISIS "Caliphate" stories in #NYTimes, fake stories linking #Pakistan & #Canadian #Pakistani young man Shehroze Chaudhry with the #terrorist group in #Syria. Yazidi slave girls stories also questionable

While it’s scrubbing down “Caliphate” for factual problems, the New York Times review team might consider the sensibility that drove the entire enterprise: sensationalism.


The problems with “Caliphate,” however, run deeper than just the placement of Chapter 6. On a substantive level, the chapter fails to reckon with the inconsistencies it does raise, comes off as a mishmash of confession and narrative squirming and leaves out crucial inconsistencies reported in other outlets. At the start of the chapter, Callimachi describes spearheading a deeper look into Abu Huzayfah’s history. A long flight, she says, gave her the opportunity to “methodically go over what Huzayfah had told me. And it was at that point that I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach,” she says. (The Daily Beast reported on the internal discussions that led to Chapter 6).

The scrutiny ultimately leads the “Caliphate” team to conclude that Abu Huzayfah had given them a phony timeline — that he wasn’t in Syria, for example, in early July 2014, as he claimed to Callimachi in another episode. (That was when Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a much-remarked-upon public appearance.)

Then an astounding thing happens: The “Caliphate” team members retrofit Abu Huzayfah with a brand-new terrorist timeline. They dig into his passport stamps and transcripts from a Pakistani university he claimed to have attended. They put all the data on a whiteboard to piece together the puzzle. Working together, the group discusses the possibility that he did go to Syria months later than he’d said. Callimachi: “There’s one big gap of time, from September of 2014 until April of 2015. His, his Canadian passport has him as being in Pakistan, right? It’s a stretch of seven, almost eight months.”


That imperative suffuses the reporting on Bashar, the Islamic State detainee who had enslaved a Yazidi girl. After Callimachi expressed doubt about the detainee’s claims to have sought to save the Yazidi girl, Bashar challenged her: “Go find this girl,” he says. Callimachi returns to the prison the next day and conducts a call with the girl on one end (flanked by her father) and herself and Bashar on the other end. Callimachi asks the girl if Bashar had raped her. She responds: “Yes. I swear to God, all of them have taken my virtue and my honor.”

Putting a girl on the line with her rapist reeks of exploitation. Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch, says it would have been difficult to secure “free and informed” consent from the girl via telephone. What’s more, it is clear from the conversation that the girl didn’t want to be “explicit,” says Wille. Nonetheless, Callimachi is “pushing her to be explicit for the purpose of capturing a sound bite,” says Wille.

Riaz Haq said...

Discussion on India in President Barack Obama's memoir titled "A Promised Land" reveals what the former US President thought about India, particularly Indian hostility against Pakistan. Obama also reveals that President-elect Joseph R. Biden opposed the US Navy Seals raid to kill Usama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011. Biden was Obama's Vice President at the time.

Obama's Book Excerpts:

“Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”.

"Violence, both public and private, remained an all-too-pervasive part of Indian life”.

All politics and violence in India revolves around "religion, clan and caste".

"Despite genuine economic progress, India remained a chaotic and impoverished place: largely divided by religion and caste, captive to the whims of corrupt local officials and power brokers".

Indians take "great pride in the knowledge that India had developed nuclear weapons to match Pakistan's, untroubled by the fact that a single miscalculation by either side could risk regional annihilation".

"(Manmohan) Singh had resisted calls to retaliate against Pakistan after the (Mumbai) attacks, but his restraint had cost him politically. He feared that rising anti-Muslim sentiment had strengthened the influence of India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)"

"Across the country (India), millions continued to live in squalor, trapped in sunbaked villages or labyrinthine slums, even as the titans of Indian industry enjoyed lifestyles that the rajas and moguls of old would have envied".

“Joe (Biden) weighed in against the (Usama Bin Laden) raid (on compound in Pakistan)”

Riaz Haq said...

Tony Ashai
I designed the concept for this Iconic project at the direction of then PM ⁦
⁩ for #Damenekoh #Islamabad #Pakistan as a #Tourist destination in 2021. Am still hopeful one day it will get built.

Riaz Haq said...

An Indian CEO shared a beautiful story from her Harvard days.

The post gives a description of a blooming friendship between Early Steps Academy CEO and her Pakistani friend.
She shared a picture with her Pakistani friend.
An endearing post shared by the CEO of Early Steps Academy has won the hearts of netizens. The LinkedIn post by Sneha Biswas gave the perfect example of friendship that broke all barriers. Biswas wrote about one of her classmates from Harvard Business School who happened to be a Pakistani citizen. The beautiful story of friendship received a thumbs up from people.

The post gave a detailed description of the blooming friendship between Biswas and her friend from Pakistan. “Growing up in a small town in India, my knowledge about Pakistan was limited to cricket, history books and the media. All revolving around rivalry and hatred. Decades later I met this girl. She is from Islamabad, Pakistan. I met her on my Day 1 at Harvard Business School. It took us 5 seconds to like each other and by the end of first semester she became one of my closest friends on campus,” Biswas wrote.


Growing up in a small town in India, my knowledge about Pakistan was limited to cricket, history books and the media. All revolving around rivalry and hatred.

Decades later I met this girl. She is from Islamabad, Pakistan. I met her on my Day 1 at Harvard Business School . It took us 5 seconds to like each other and by the end of first semester she became one of my closest friends on campus.

Over multiple chais, biryanis, financial models and case study preps, we got to know each other. Her stories of growing up in a conversative Pakistani backdrop, but blessed with supportive parents who gave her and her younger sister the courage to break the norms and chase their dreams, resonated with me. Her stories of fearless ambitions and bold choices inspired me.

I realized that while pride for your individual nations stand strong, your love for people transcends geographies and boundaries. People, fundamentally, are similar everywhere. Boundaries, borders and spaces are built by humans, and while it all might make sense to the head, the heart often fails to understand them.

Look at us on the famous flag day at #harvard - flaunting our flags and smiling away at the joy of “breaking barriers” - not just literally between India and Pakistan, but also for the countless little girls from India and Pakistan who are scared to shoot for the stars.

Riaz Haq said...

India woman's post on Pakistani friend wins hearts on social media

An Indian woman's post about her friendship with a Pakistani classmate is being praised on social media.

The two are students at Harvard Business School, and the post shows them holding the national flag of their respective countries.

Sneha Biswas wrote that her friendship with a Pakistani student broke the stereotypes she knew about the neighbouring country.

The two nations have shared hostile relations for decades.

India has banned Pakistani artists and cricketers from performing and playing in India. Pakistan has banned Bollywood films.

Celebrating the sentiment of unity depicted in the post, one user commented "we built walls between each other and thus it's up to us to bring it down." Another user hoped that the two women would "share a lifelong friendship that may bring changes across the borders for girls on both sides".

Ms Biswas, who is also an entrepreneur, shared the post about her friendship with her Pakistani classmate on LinkedIn. She did not name her friend.

In the post, she said that growing up in a small town, her knowledge about Pakistan and its people was limited. She got all her information through books and media, which often espoused narratives of hatred and rivalry.

She met her friend, who is from Islamabad, on her first day at Harvard and the two have developed a close friendship since then.

Over many chats enjoyed with tea and biryani (a flavourful rice dish), she discovered her friend's similar background - that of growing up in a "conservative Pakistani backdrop" but having family that supported her dreams.

"I realised that while pride for your individual nations stand strong, your love for people transcends geographies and boundaries," wrote Ms Biswas.

Her post championed unity between the people, saying "boundaries, borders and spaces are built by humans." She talked about "breaking barriers" not just between the two countries, but also for little girls from India and Pakistan who are "scared to shoot for the stars."

The post has received social media attention in the week running up to India's and Pakistan's independence anniversaries, celebrated on 15 and 14 August respectively. Both nations' independence is also linked to the Partition in 1947, which led to the division of India into India and Pakistan. The partition was one of the bloodiest events in history, and one that experts say laid the seeds of animosity between the two nations.

Riaz Haq said...

Mani Shankar Aiyar: What #India's #Modi Has Not Recognised About #Pakistan: ITS RESILIENCE AND NATIONALISM … via @ndtv

Note: Mani Shankar spent some time in Pakistan posted as a diplomat, serving as India's first consul-general in Karachi from 1978 to 1982. He's a former federal cabinet minister and current member of Rajya Sabha

"unlike numerous other emerging nations, particularly in Africa, the Idea of Pakistan has repeatedly trumped fissiparous tendencies, especially since Pakistan assumed its present form in 1971. And its institutions have withstood repeated buffeting that almost anywhere elsewhere would have resulted in the State crumbling. Despite numerous dire forecasts of imminently proving to be a "failed state", Pakistan has survived, bouncing back every now and then as a recognizable democracy with a popularly elected civilian government, the military in the wings but politics very much centre-stage, linguistic and regional groups pulling and pushing, sectarian factions murdering each other, but the Government of Pakistan remaining in charge, and the military stepping in to rescue the nation from chaos every time Pakistan appeared on the knife's edge. The disintegration of Pakistan has been predicted often enough, most passionately now that internally-generated terrorism and externally sponsored religious extremism are consistently taking on the state to the point that the army is so engaged in full-time and full-scale operations in the north-west of the country bordering Afghanistan that some 40,000 lives have been lost in the battle against fanaticism and insurgency.

"And yet," as was said on a more famous occasion, "it works!" Pakistan and her people keep coming back, resolutely defeating sustained political, armed and terrorist attempts to break down the country and undermine its ideological foundations. That is what Jaffrelot calls its "resilience". That resilience is not recognized in Modi's India. That is what leads the Rathores and the Parrikars to make statements that find a certain resonance in anti-Pakistan circles in India but dangerously leverage the impact on Pakistani public opinion of anti-India circles in Pakistan. The Parrikars and the Saeeds feed on each other. It is essential that both be overcome.

But even as there are saner voices in India than Rathore's, so also are there saner - much saner - voices in Pakistan than Hafiz Saeed's. Many Indians would prefer a Pakistan overflowing with Saeeds to keep their bile flowing. So would many Pakistanis prefer an India with the Rathores overflowing to keep the bile flowing. At eight times Pakistan's size, we can flex our muscles like the bully on the school play field. But Pakistan's resilience ensures that all that emerges from Parrikar and Rathore are empty words. India is no more able than Pakistan is to destroy the other country"

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Diplomat Sharat Sabharwal on Pakistan's "Resilience", "Strategic" CPEC, China-Pakistan "Nexus"

Retired Indian diplomat Sharat Sabharwal in his recently published book "India's Pakistan Conundrum" disabuses his fellow Indians of the notion that Pakistan is about to collapse. He faithfully parrots the familiar Indian tropes about Pakistani Army and accuses it of sponsoring "cross-border terrorism". He also writes that "Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity". "Pakistan is neither a failed state nor one about to fail", he adds. He sees "limitations on India’s ability to inflict a decisive blow on Pakistan through military means". The best option for New Delhi, he argues, is to engage with Pakistan diplomatically. In an obvious message to India's hawkish Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he warns: "Absence of dialogue and diplomacy between the two countries carries the risk of an unintended flare-up". Ambassador Sabharwal served as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad in the 1990s.

Riaz Haq said...

Adani’s business empire may or may not turn out to be the largest con in corporate history. But far greater dangers to civic morality, let alone democracy and global peace, are posed by those peddling the gigantic hoax of Modi’s India. Pankaj Mishra

Modi has counted on sympathetic journalists and financial speculators in the West to cast a seductive veil over his version of political economy, environmental activism and history. ‘I’d bet on Modi to transform India, all of it, including the newly integrated Kashmir region,’ Roger Cohen of the New York Times wrote in 2019 after Modi annulled the special constitutional status of India’s only Muslim-majority state and imposed a months-long curfew. The CEO of McKinsey recently said that we may be living in ‘India’s century’. Praising Modi for ‘implementing policies that have modernised India and supported its growth’, the economist and investor Nouriel Roubini described the country as a ‘vibrant democracy’. But it is becoming harder to evade the bleak reality that, despoiled by a venal, inept and tyrannical regime, ‘India is broken’ – the title of a disturbing new book by the economic historian Ashoka Mody.

The number of Indians who sleep hungry rose from 190 million in 2018 to 350 million in 2022, and malnutrition and malnourishment killed nearly two-thirds of the children who died under the age of five last year. At the same time, Modi’s cronies have flourished. The Economist estimates that the share of billionaire wealth in India derived from cronyism has risen from 29 per cent to 43 per cent in six years. According to a recent Oxfam report, India’s richest 1 per cent owned more than 40.5 per cent of its total wealth in 2021 – a statistic that the notorious oligarchies of Russia and Latin America never came close to matching. The new Indian plutocracy owes its swift ascent to Modi, and he has audaciously clarified the quid pro quo. Under the ‘electoral bond’ scheme he introduced in 2017, any business or special interest group can give unlimited sums of money to his party while keeping the transaction hidden from public scrutiny.

Modi also ensures his hegemony by forging a public sphere in which sycophancy is rewarded and dissent harshly punished. Adani last year took over NDTV, a television news channel that had displayed a rare immunity to hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories. Human Rights Watch has detailed a broad onslaught on democratic rights: ‘the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government used abusive and discriminatory policies to repress Muslims and other minorities’ and ‘arrested activists, journalists and other critics of the government on politically motivated criminal charges, including of terrorism’. Last month, as the BJP’s official spokesperson denounced the BBC as ‘the most corrupt organisation in the world’, tax officials launched a sixty-hour raid on the broadcaster’s Indian offices in apparent retaliation for a two-part documentary on Modi’s role in anti-Muslim violence.

Also last month, the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was expelled from parliament to put a stop to his persistent questions about Modi’s relationship with Adani. Such actions are at last provoking closer international scrutiny of what Modi calls the ‘mother of democracy’, though they haven’t come as a shock to those who have long known about Modi’s lifelong allegiance to Rashtriya​ Swayamsevak Sangh, an organisation that was explicitly inspired by European fascist movements and culpable in the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi in 1948.