Sunday, January 31, 2021

Pakistani Universities Promoting Moringa to Fight Malnutrition

Aga Khan University and Sindh Agriculture University are jointly promoting Moringa tree planting in Pakistan's Thar desert to fight malnutrition, according to multiple media reports. Moringa has gained popularity as superfood in the West in recent years. People of drought-stricken Tharparkar have been suffering from malnutrition and disease in the middle of a long-running drought in the region. Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, and the Aga Khan University will plant 40,000 moringa tree seedlings in Matiari, a rural district in central Sindh, in an effort to improve the health of malnourished mothers, children and adolescents in the area. The moringa tree plantation campaign has been funded by the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment, a $10 million fund dedicated to practical solutions to environmental problems.  

Moringa Flowers

There is high incidence of stunting and wasting among children in Tharparkar district and elsewhere in rural Sindh due mainly to their very limited diet of daal-roti (lentils and bread) which does not supply essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals for good health and early development. Moringa tree packs 92 essential nutrients, 46 antioxidants, 36 anti-inflammatories and 18 amino acids which help your body heal and build muscle. Native to South Asia, the hardy and drought-resistant Moringa tree can contribute to everything from better vision and stronger immune system to healthier bones and skin. Moringa has 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas and nine times more protein than yoghurt,  according to Dr. Shahzad Basra of the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan. “It also has seven times more vitamin C compared to oranges, over 10 times more vitamin A compared to carrots and three times more vitamin E compared to almonds", he added. No wonder the powder made from Moringa leaves is sold as superfood in the West. Global market for Moringa products is estimated at $5 billion and growing at 8% CAGR. 


Child Nutrition in Pakistan. Source: PDHS

Moringa tree is also known as Drumstick tree. In Pakistan, it is called Suhanjana  (سھانجنا) or Mungay (مونگے) tree. Every part of this tree offers uses in nutritional or commercial applications. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root of the tree all have medicinal properties. Oil from Moringa seeds is used in foods, perfumes and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction can be used as a green fertilizer and also to purify well water and to remove salt from seawater.

The Thar project supported by Aga Khan University goes beyond just planting and growing trees. Its goals include educating the people of its benefits and showing how its leaves and other parts of the tree can be cooked and eaten in the form of curries and sauces, according to a report by Voice of America

In 2017, Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam had planted 5,000 Moringa trees with 500 households for human and animal consumption. These drought-resistant fast growing trees have now matured. Their consumption is showing good results in terms of improving nutrition and health of these 5000 families. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Lina Khan: Pakistani-American Lawyer Fighting Big Tech Monopolies

Pakistani-American Lina Khan is seen as the front-runner for appointment to the US Federal Trade  Commission (FTC) as a commissioner in the  Biden administration.  She is a Columbia University Law professor who specializes in anti-trust law.  

Lina's 2017 seminal paper entitled "Amazon's Anti-trust Paradox" broke new ground in the application of anti-trust law against powerful technology monopolies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Traditionally, the US anti-trust actions have been focused on keeping consumer prices low. This narrow focus has helped big technology companies companies like Amazon, with its low prices, or Google and Facebook with their “free” services, to avoid anti-trust scrutiny.   

Lina was born in London in 1989 to Pakistani parents who migrated to the United States when she was 11. She graduated from Williams College with a BA degree and then studied law at Yale University. She is now an associate professor at Columbia Law School in New York City. 

Anti-Trust Scholar Lina Khan

US tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny in Washington over their growing size and power.  In October 2019, an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee issued a 449-page report. It accused the big technology companies of charging high fees, forcing smaller customers into unfavorable contracts and of using "killer acquisitions" to constrain competitors. "To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons," it said. The appointment of Lina Khan as FTC commissioner would send a clear signal to the US tech giants that the Biden administration means business. 

Lina Khan acknowledges the popularity of the convenience and the free services offered by the large technology giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google but she worries about the longer-term implications of their anti-competitive behavior. “As consumers, as users, we love these tech companies,” she said. “But as citizens, as workers, and as entrepreneurs, we recognize that their power is troubling. We need a new framework, a new vocabulary for how to assess and address their dominance", she told the New York Times.     

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Monday, January 25, 2021

India Republic Day: Modi's Hindutva Threatens Secular Constitution and National Unity

India's secular constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950, a day that is celebrated as Republic Day. Today, the national integrity and the secular foundations of the Republic of India are under threat from its current Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi whose leader Madhav Golwalkar wrote: “The non-Hindu peoples in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion” or “may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights.” Recently enacted laws like Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Registration of Citizens (NRC), beef ban and Love Jihad are translating Golwalkar's vision of Hindu Rashtra into reality. 


War on Indian Muslims: 

In a prescient remark back in 1940s, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the framer of India's constitution, warned that “…if war comes in this country and if that war has any relation to the issue with which we are confronted today, it will not be a war on the British. It will be a war on the Muslims”. Rising daily violence against Indian Muslims and recently enacted laws like Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Registration of Citizens (NRC), beef ban and Love Jihad confirm what Dr. Ambedkar feared. 

India Leads the World in Internet Shutdowns


Ex PM Manmohan Singh's Fears:

Former India Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh's fears of India's disintegration are much more tangible now than ever before. In an interview on BBC's Hard Talk with Indian journalist Karan Thapar in 1999, Mr. Singh: "Great Nations like the Soviet Union have perished. If we continue to mis-manage our economy and continue to divide our country on the basis of religion, caste or other sectarian issues there is a danger of that sort of thing happening".  

Today, the rise of Hindutva forces is tearing India apart along caste and religious lines as the country celebrates its Republic Day.  Hindu mobs are lynching Muslims and Dalits. A  Pew Research report confirms that the level of hostility against religious minorities in India is "very high", giving India a score of 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10. Pakistan's score on this scale is 7 while Bangladesh's is 7.5.

Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg

Will India Break Up? 

In a book entitled "The Raisina Model",  British-Indian author Lord Meghnad Desai asks: "A country of many nations, will India break up?" The Hindu Nationalists who are blamed for deepening divisions are themselves divided on the key questions of caste, religion and trade.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" raises the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism".




The Raisina Model:

In "The Raisina Model", Lord Meghand Desai says that India's breakup can not be ruled out. Specifically, he points to three issues that could lead to it:

1.  Cow protection squads are killing Muslims and jeopardizing their livelihoods.  The current agitation about beef eating and gau raksha is in the Hindi belt just an excuse for attacking Muslims blatantly. As most slaughterhouses in UP are Muslim-owned, owners and employees of these places are prime targets.

2. India has still not fashioned a narrative about its nationhood which can satisfy all. The two rival narratives—secular and Hindu nation—are both centred in the Hindi belt extending to Gujarat and Maharashtra at the most. This area comprises 51% of the total population and around 45% of the Muslims in India.

3. India has avoided equal treatment of unequal units. Representation in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) is proportional to population size. If anything, it is the smaller states that may complain about being marginalized, though so far none has. The larger states thus dominate both Houses of Parliament. It would be difficult for small states to object, much less initiate reform. In future, small states could unite to present their case for better treatment. Except for Punjab and Nagaland, there has been no attempt to challenge the status quo.


Map of India(s) on the eve of British conquest in 1764



Hindutva vs Hinduism:

In  "The RSS: The View to the Inside", the author Walter Anderson brings out several areas which could lead to a split within the Hindu Nationalists. These disagreements have to do with low caste Hindus, Muslims and  foreign trade and investment policies.

1. The leadership of the the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is drawn entirely from the upper caste Brahmins. The RSS founder Golwalkar never spoke against the caste system. The RSS opposes affirmative action, called reservations, to benefit low caste Hindus. At the same time, they want to integrate Dalits and OBCs (Other backward classes of which Prime Minister Modi is a member) into the organization to promote Hindu unity.

Anderson believes that it will be extremely difficult to reconcile Hindutva embrace of lower castes with the entrenched Hindu caste system. He says the following:

"..there will eventually be a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva emphasizes the oneness of Hindus, whereas ground realities are very different. Let me give an example. Following the egalitarian ideology, Tarun Vijay, an RSS ideologue and former editor of Panchjanya and Organiser, once led some Dalits into a temple in central India, where they had not been before. He was beaten up, but few in the RSS family vocally supported him. They kept mostly quiet. As one important RSS functionary put it to me, the key question is: how do we keep our organisation intact if we do move towards an egalitarian Hindu society?"

2. When RSS leader MD Deoras invited Indian Muslims to join the RSS, he argued that Muslims were mostly India-born, and therefore Indian. But he made the Muslim entry into the RSS conditional upon accepting India’s “historic culture”.  RSS leaders argue that South Indian Muslims, or Indonesian Muslims are ideal Muslims. South Indian Muslims speak the regional languages; and Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country, has the Ramayana as its national epic.

3. Many RSS ideologues oppose Prime Minister Modi's policies of promoting foreign trade and investment. They view Modi's economic policies with great skepticism.



Summary:

 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's fears of War on Indian Muslims are becoming reality. Former India PM Manmohan Singh has warned: "Great Nations like the Soviet Union have perished. If we continue to mis-manage our economy and continue to divide our country on the basis of religion, caste or other sectarian issues there is a danger of that sort of thing happening". The rise of RSS and its affiliates in India is deepening divisions in the country along multiple fault lines, the most important being caste and religion. The RSS leadership itself is not unified on how to deal with the divisions they have created and promoted. This situation has raised the social hostilities in India to very high levels. Pew scores social hostilities against minorities in India at 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" has raised the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism". And it has caused Lord Meghnad Desai, author of The Raisina Model, to ask the question: Will India break up?



Here's ex PM Manmohan Singh on Hard Talk with Karan Thapar: 



Sunday, January 24, 2021

Pakistan Tech Exports Continue to Soar: Up 40% in last 6 Months Amid COVID19 Pandemic

Pakistan's technology exports are continuing to soar amid the Covid19 pandemic. Tech exports jumped 43% in December, 2020 and 40% in July-December 2020 period over the same period in 2019. This is a rapid acceleration from 21% increase in all of Fiscal Year 2020 (July-June 2020) over FY 2019. Tech exports (up 40%) far outpaced overall exports (up 5.1%) in this period. 

The modest 5.1% increase in Pakistan's overall exports is still commendable in the midst of the global economic devastation caused by COVID19 pandemic. What is even more commendable is the 19% jump in exports in December 2020 over the same month in 2019, indicating a strong upward trend. 

Pakistan Tech Exports Soared in First Half of FY 2020-21. Source: Commerce Department

Total monthly ICT exports hit a record $194 million in December 2020, up 43% from $135 million in December 2019. For the entire 6 month period from July-December 2020, the ICT exports reached $958 million, up 40% from the same period a year earlier. Tech services exports now account for a third of all service exports of the country. 

Pakistan Tech Services Export Share of Service Exports. Source: Commerce Dept

Pakistani diaspora sent home $14.2 billion in remittances in July-December 2020, up 25% from the same period in 2019. Pakistanis settled in the United Kingdom and the United States increased their remittances by 52% and 47% respectively in this period, helping Pakistan achieve a record $1.8 billion current account surplus in the first 6 months of the ongoing fiscal year 2020-21. 

Remittances From Pakistani Diaspora. Source: Arif Habib

While Pakistan's exports increased a modest 5.1%, the remittances from overseas Pakistanis jumped a hefty 25% in response to an appeal by Prime Minister Imran Khan who remains very popular among them. He drew nearly 30,000 Pakistani-Americans to a rally during his Washington D.C. visit in 2019. 

Pakistan Trade 1H of FY 2020-21. Source: Arif Habib

Pakistan's imports increased 5.5%, more than the 5.1% increase in exports, during the first half of the current fiscal year 2020-21. This resulted in $12.4 billion trade deficit, a 5.9% increase. Without the 25% jump in remittances, Pakistan would most likely have a current account deficit rather than a surplus in this period. 

The modest 5.1% increase in Pakistan's exports is still commendable in the midst of the global economic devastation caused by COVID19 pandemic. What is even more commendable is the 19% jump in exports in December 2020 over the same month in 2019, indicating a strong upward trend. 

Emigrants From Pakistan 1990-2019. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Emigration


Pakistani diaspora is the world's 5th largest with more than half a million Pakistanis migrating every year to work overseas. Over 11 million Pakistanis have left home for employment in Europe, America, Middle East and elsewhere since 1971, according to Pakistan Bureau of Emigration. The pace has particularly picked up over the last 10 years.  This phenomenon has helped reduce unemployment in a country where about 2 million young people are entering the job market each year.  It has also helped remittances soar nearly 28X since the year 2000.

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Raast Aims to Create Pakistan's Unified Digital Payments Infrastructure

Pakistan's central bankers have taken the plunge into the world of digital payments with their own offering: Raast. It aims to create an instant low-cost payment system that can seamlessly and securely connect government entities, a variety of banks and State Bank authorized private payment processors like 1Link and NIFT which may choose to take advantage of it.  Currency and coins in circulation account for about 43% of Pakistan's total money supply. The introduction of Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion. It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. 

Raast Digital Payment System. Source: State Bank of Pakistan



Raast Digital Payments:

Raast is a system of digital payment infrastructure. It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost.  

Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs. 


It has been developed in-house by the State Bank of Pakistan  in collaboration with Karandaaz, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and supported by the World Bank, the British government and the United Nations.


Private Payment Apps:

Several private payment apps, including EasyPaisa and JazzCash, are already operating in Pakistan. These apps lack interoperability with each other. Each operates in its own silo. Neither of these offer links to financial institutions and government entities. 

There are also several EMIs (Electronic Money institutions) in Pakistan. These include NayaPay, SadaPay and Finja.  EMIs are not banks, but can store deposits. These are not tied to any banks or telcos. They could all use back-end plumbing offered by Raast. 

Private Payment Processors:

1Link and NIFT payment and switch networks, supported by different groups of Pakistani financial institutions, currently process the bulk of credit/debit card and ATM transactions as well as e-payments in Pakistan. State Bank's Raast promises to be cheaper and faster than these networks,. Raast also offers processing of e-payments by government entities. 

Raast Future Roadmap:

State Bank of Pakistan  intends to demonstrate Raast's usefulness by first processing government payments to individuals, including government employees and Ehsaas welfare beneficiaries, before expanding it for business applications.  SBP’s plan is to start person-to-person (P2P) payments in Q3/2021 and then bring merchants on board by Q1/2022. 


Summary:

State Bank of Pakistan's launch of Raast digital payment infrastructure represents a great leap forward for the use of financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion in the  country.  It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion.  Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize payment systems and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pulwama Attack: Did Modi Order False Flag Operation in Kashmir?

On 14 February 2019, a terrorist attack near Pulwama in Kashmir killed 40 Indian soldiers. It has now come to light that Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami had prior knowledge of it. He wrote in a WhatApp message to BARC TV rating company head Pratho Dasgupta on that day that his channel was “20 min ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir”. "This attack we have won like crazy", he added. Arnab Goswami has close ties to the nation's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi's government implicated Pakistan and ordered air strikes in Balakot.  These recent disclosures are raising serious questions about Pulwama and its aftermath. Was this a false flag operation carried out by Indian intelligence agencies to create a pretext for an attack on Pakistan? Was the killing of Indian soldiers in Pulwama orchestrated by the Modi government to win India's general elections that soon followed in April-May 2019? Could this reckless act by India's leader have escalated into a full-scale nuclear war with Pakistan, leading to hundreds of millions of deaths? 

Goswami's WhatsApp Messages on Pulwama Attack


Arnab Goswami and Pratho Dasgupta have been indicted in Indian state of Maharashtra for manipulating television ratings of Republic TV. As part of the prosecution's case, Mumbai police have submitted evidence that includes transcripts of WhatsApp conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta which suggest that the former had prior knowledge of the Pulwama terrorist attack

The transcript shows Goswami writing to Dasgupta on Feb 14, 2019, the day of the Pulwama attack: “Sir 20 min ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir....only only channel with a ground presence”. It begs the question: How did Goswami's channel manage to have its media team in Pulwama at the time of the attack without prior knowledge of what was going to happen? Who told them about it? 

In addition to Pulwama attack, Goswami also had knowledge of Balakot bombing in Pakistan that Modi ordered on February 26, 2019. This again raises the question: How did Goswami learn about it? 

This must be seen in the context of India's history of false flag operations, starting with Ganga Fokker aircraft hijacking in 1971. According to ex RAW official RK Yadav, the 1971 Fokker hijacking to Lahore was orchestrated by India's RAW. The staged hijacking was used by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as pretext for banning overflights of Pakistani passenger planes in 1971. Here's what Yadav wrote in his book:  

"There was an agent of R&AW-Hashim Qureshi in Srinagar.......R&AW persuaded Hashim Qureshi to work for them.....After the plan was given final shape, on January 30, 1971, Hashim Qureshi along with another operative Ashraf Qureshi, his relative, was allowed to hijack a Fokker Friendship plane Ganga of Indian Airlines with 26 passengers on board, to take the plane to Lahore airport. R&AW allowed him to carry a grenade and a toy pistol inside the plane. Pakistani authorities at Lahore airport allowed the plane to land when they were informed that it had been hijacked by National Liberation Front activist militants of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. All India Radio soon made broadcast of this hijacking and the whole world was informed that the Pakistan Government was behind this hijacking...The incident overtly gave India the right opportunity which was planned by R.N. Kao, to cancel the flights of Pakistan over its territory which hampered the plans of Yahya Khan to send its troops by air to curb the political movement of Mujib in East Pakistan".  

After reading the WhatsApp transcripts of Goswami's conversation with Dasgupta, it is hard to escape the conclusion that both Pulwama and Balakot were orchestrated and timed by Mr. Modi's Hindu Nationalist government to ensure BJP's win in 2019 elections. These were reckless actions that could have escalated into a major nuclear war between India and Pakistan. It was Pakistan's measured response to Indian provocation that prevented widespread destruction and the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent people in South Asia and elsewhere. 


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

British Forensic Audit: Nawaz Sharif Family Owns Assets Worth $820.8 Million

Forensic audit of Nawaz Sharif family's assets has put its value at $820.8 Million, according to Broadsheet Award ordered by arbitrator Sir Anthony Evans. It was disclosed in documents released by Broadsheet LLC and Pakistan government. The forensic audit was conducted by Stroz Friedberg audit firm based in the United Kingdom. It was hired by Facebook to conduct forensic audit of Cambridge Analytica, the analytics firm used by US President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

Broadsheet Arbitration Award 


Broadsheet LLC, incorporated in the Isle of Mann, was hired by Pakistan National Accountability Bureau (Bureau) in Year 2000 to uncover overseas assets hidden by over 200 Pakistanis including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. Pakistan was forced to go into arbitration for breach of contract with the firm.  Here are the key excerpts of the final award dated December 17, 2018:

"Stroz Friedberg was instructed to carry out a ‘forensic audit’ (or ‘inventory’) of the (Pakistan) JIT Report. This consisted of identifying potentially recoverable assets of the Sharif Family that were referred to in it and ascribing a valuation to each. This resulted in a list of 76 items of property in three overseas jurisdictions, namely, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the United Kingdom, as well as in Pakistan, with total values that were corrected in the Revised SF Report to take account of Mr. Bezant’s comments on it. The revised total was US$820.8 million. The third instruction was “to apply the 20% rate due Broadsheet as outlined in the ARA” – a mechanical application of the 20% rate provided four in the ARA clause 4 – which resulted in a total ‘Loss of Revenue’ for Broadsheet of US$164.2 million. The fourth was to establish a ‘borrowing rate of interest’ for each of the 76 items of loss and to apply it from what they considered was the appropriate date. The interest calculation increased the total of ‘Broadsheet’s Entitlement’ to US$304.6 million". 

"The 2017/8 proceedings, however, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, including the JIT Investigation and Report, have produced a very different situation where (subject to pending appeals) there is an authoritative listing of personal and family assets totalling (as corrected) US$820 million, both in Pakistan and abroad, and where certain real property in the United Kingdom valued at US$13 million (“the Avenfield flats”) has been forfeited to the Pakistan State as having been acquired with corrupt assets. These call for separate consideration in this Award".


"As stated above, the total value of assets both in Pakistan and overseas listed by the JIT is agreed by the expert witnesses as US$820 million. Whilst accepting that this figure must be discounted to take account of many factors, not least the costs of recovery etc., Claimant’s representatives have put it forward as what might be called the gross amount of possible recoveries by NAB for the purpose of calculating Broadsheet’s potential entitlement to 20 per cent, under the ARA Clause 4". 

The forensic-audited $820.8 million estimate of the Sharif family is probably conservative. It only encompasses what the investigators have been able to uncover. There could be more assets still hidden. 

Related Links:

Monday, January 18, 2021

Will the New Silk Road Help Revive the Islamic Golden Age?

National Geographic's Paul Salopek recently came upon a site in Pakistan's Salt Range where Muslim scientist Abu-Raihan Al-Biruni accurately measured the size of the earth in the 11th century. In it, Salopek sees the revival of the Islamic Golden Age. He characterizes the ancient Silk Road of as "dynamic but collapsed experiment in multilateralism". He thinks the revival of the Islamic Golden Age is linked to "China's 21st century version of the Silk Road". Salopek believes that President Donald Trump's four years in the White House and the COVID19 pandemic have accelerated America's decline and China's rise. Here's how he describes it in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times entitled "Shadows on the Silk Road: Finding omens of American decline on a long walk across Asia": 

"The most memorable archaeological ruins from the Silk Road’s glory years rot atop a hill about 60 miles southeast of Islamabad (the Capital of Pakistan). No monuments or signs mark the Nandana Fort. Few people go there. But it was where, in the early 11th century, the Central Asian scholar al-Biruni became the first person to measure, with astonishing precision, the size of Earth. His calculations, based on brilliant trigonometry, landed within 200 miles of the 24,902-mile circumference of our shared planet". 
Pakistan Postage Stamp Honoring Al-Biruni. Nandana Fort in Background


It was Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi who took Al-Biruni along with him after his conquest of India. Al-Biruni traveled all over India for 20 years, and studied Indian philosophy, Mathematics and Geography. Pakistan issued a postage stamp honoring Al-Biruni in 1973. The stamp has a picture of Al-Biruni with the ruins of Nandana Fort in the background.

China's New Silk Road. Source: China Daily

Salopek found a lot of history of the Islamic Golden Age as he traveled along the Silk Road. Here's a brief excerpt of his Op Ed in the New York Times:

"The Islamic Golden Age of science and art that predated the Italian Renaissance by 400 years was illuminated by Turkic and Persian thinkers from the eastern rim of the Abbasid Caliphate, in what is today Central Asia, western China and parts of Iran. ..... Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, a ninth-century genius who helped formulate the precepts of algebra, has lent his name to the word “algorithm.” A century later, the brilliant polymathic Abu Rayhan Muhammad al-Biruni wrote more than 140 manuscripts on everything from pharmaceuticals to the anthropology of India. (A typical al-Biruni title: “The Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows.”) Probably the most celebrated Silk Road sage of all was Abu Ali al-Hussein ibn Sina, revered in the West as Avicenna, who in the 11th century compiled an encyclopedia of healing that was still in use by European doctors as late as the 18th century. Avicenna’s “Canon of Medicine” accurately diagnosed diabetes by tasting sweetness in urine. Its pharmacopoeia cataloged more than 800 remedies. A millennium ago, Avicenna advocated quarantines to control epidemics. What would he make, I wondered, of the willed ignorance of today’s anti-maskers in the United States?"  

Salopek sees parallels between America's Trumpism and India's Hindu Nationalism. He is just as pessimistic about India as he is about his home country of the United States. Here's what he sees from the top of Nanada Fort ruins:  

 "I climbed a broken fort wall and peered east. Ahead unspooled 17 months of hiking across India, yet another democracy cartwheeling into an abyss of right-wing populism. Riding a wave of Hindu nationalism, one Indian state all but criminalized marriages between Hindu and Muslim citizens".  

From the top of Nandana Fort, Salopek also sees China which he describes in the following words: 

"In the blue distance beyond sprawled China. Its economic output in 2019, according to one report, hit 67 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product. The gap between China and the United States is shrinking as China is the only major economy expected to report economic growth for 2020 despite the pandemic. And brawling with itself at some crossroad truck stop far over the horizon lay my lost homeland". 

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Al-Khwarizmi: Origins of Artificial Intelligence in Islamic Golden Age

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Obituary of Zarin Musharraf (1919-2021): A Long Life Well-Lived

Obituary By Dr. Naved Musharraf

A Tribute to my mother (Mrs. Zarin Musharraf)

After orbiting the sun 102 times, Ammi’s long and glorious journey of life has come to end. I was fortunate enough to be with her in Dubai, to bid her farewell. She passed away peacefully in her sleep, January 15, 2021 at about 5:30 pm. 

Mrs. Zarin Musharraf with Mr. Musharrafuddin, a career diplomat in Pakistan Foreign Service


Longevity is one thing but quality of life is what really matters. In this respect, she was truly blessed. All through her life she had excellent health and never took any medicines. She had a full life and the means to enjoy all the good things it offered. Much credit goes to my grand father Qazi Fazle Ilahi, a man with a modern outlook on life. He rejected the prevalent societal norms of keeping our womenfolk in purdah (veil). A few that did were rebuked by likes of Akbar Ilahabadi who famously said: 

بے پردہ نظر آئیں جو کل چند بی بی یاں اکبر زمیں میں غیرتِ قومی سے گڑ کیا
 پوچھا جو میں نے آپ کا وہ پردہ کیا ہوا کہنے لگیں کہ عقل پہ مردوں کے پڑ گیا 

On she went to acquire higher education, doing MA previous from Lucknow University. Armed with modern education, she and Nuri Khala were the ‘bold and beautiful’,so to speak, and confident enough to chart their own life. 

After her marriage, ours was a matriarchal household. At least, that’s what I felt as I was growing up. Abba usually was the second fiddle. She ran the household with a firm hand while also being a professional woman and raising three children. Quite a task. But she fulfilled these dual roles admirably. 

She had a strong work ethic and loved working. She taught herself shorthand and typing which were important skills at the time. Our years in Turkey was a life altering event. Travel and a new culture, liberal one that Turkey was, broadened our horizons. She was at her prime of life. 

There was lot of partying, ballroom dancing, hunting trips and picnics and of course music which was her passion. Songs that she loved to sing on the harmonium, which stand out in my mind, are Barso Re from Tan Sen and all the Awara songs. 

The process continued when we came back to Islamabad where the annual New Years party was the event which brought our family together. What great memories of that era in Naghmazar. 

This is a mournful day no doubt. But let us celebrate her life. A life well-lived and all the great memories she left behind. She lived long enough to see her grandchildren growing up and their children too. What a wonderful life. 


Note: This post's author is Dr. Naved Musharraf, MD, Mrs. Zareen Musharraf's son and former Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf's brother. Dr. Musharraf is a retired anesthesiologist in Chicago, IL. He graduated from King Edward Medical College Lahore in 1972.

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Overseas Pakistanis Rescuing Pakistan Economy Yet Again

Pakistani diaspora sent home $14.2 billion in remittances in July-December 2020, up 25% from the same period in 2019. Pakistanis settled in the United Kingdom and the United States increased their remittances by 52% and 47% respectively in this period, helping Pakistan achieve a record $1.8 billion current account surplus in the first 6 months of the ongoing fiscal year 2020-21. 

Remittances From Pakistani Diaspora. Source: Arif Habib


While Pakistan's exports increased a modest 5.1%, the remittances from overseas Pakistanis jumped a hefty 25% in response to an appeal by Prime Minister Imran Khan who remains very popular among them. He drew nearly 30,000 Pakistani-Americans to a rally during his Washington D.C. visit in 2019. 

Pakistan Trade 1H of FY 2020-21. Source: Arif Habib


Pakistan's imports increased 5.5%, more than the 5.1% increase in exports, during the first half of the current fiscal year 2020-21. This resulted in $12.4 billion trade deficit, a 5.9% increase. Without the 25% jump in remittances, Pakistan would most likely have a current account deficit rather than a surplus in this period. 

The modest 5.1% increase in Pakistan's exports is still commendable in the midst of the global economic devastation caused by COVID19 pandemic. What is even more commendable is the 19% jump in exports in December 2020 over the same month in 2019, indicating a strong upward trend. 

Emigrants From Pakistan 1990-2019. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Emigration


Pakistani diaspora is the world's 5th largest with more than half a million Pakistanis migrating every year to work overseas. Over 11 million Pakistanis have left home for employment in Europe, America, Middle East and elsewhere since 1971, according to Pakistan Bureau of Emigration. The pace has particularly picked up over the last 10 years.  This phenomenon has helped reduce unemployment in a country where about 2 million young people are entering the job market each year.  It has also helped remittances soar nearly 28X since the year 2000.

Related Links:


Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan is the 7th Largest Source of Migrants in OECD Nations

Pakistanis Mini-Invasion of China

Inspirational Story of Karachi Rickshaw Driver's Daughters

Pakistan Remittance Soar 21X

Pakistan's Growing Human Capital

Two Million Pakistanis Entering Job Market Every Year

Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia

Hindu Population Growth Rate in Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?


Friday, January 15, 2021

Oxford Disinfo Report: India, Pakistan Among Top Nations With "High Cyber Capacity"

Oxford University's report on global disinformation ranks India and Pakistan among top 17 "high cyber troop capacity" countries. The report defines "cyber troop capacity" in terms of numbers of people and the size of budget allocated to psychological operations or information warfare. "Cyber troop activity" as defined by the report includes social media manipulation by governments and political parties, and the various private companies and other organizations they work with to spread disinformation. Oxford report shows that India's cyber troops are "centralized" while those in Pakistan, US and UK are "decentralized". EU Disinfo Lab, an NGO that specializes in disinformation campaigns, has found that India is carrying out a massive 15-year-long disinformation campaign to hurt Pakistan. 

High Cyber Capacity Countries. Source: Oxford University Disinfo Report 2020


High Cyber Capacity: 
 

Countries ranked among "high cyber troop capacity" group by the Oxford disinformation report include:   Australia, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam.   Oxford report shows that India's cyber troops are "centralized" while those in Pakistan, US and UK are "decentralized". Here's an excerpt of the report:

"High cyber troop capacity involves large numbers of staff, and large budgetary expenditure on psychological operations or information warfare. There might also be significant funds spent on research and development, as well as evidence of a multitude of techniques being used. These teams do not only operate during elections but involve full-time staff dedicated to shaping the information space. High-capacity cyber troop teams focus on foreign and domestic operations. They might also dedicate funds to state-sponsored media for overt propaganda campaigns. High-capacity teams include: Australia, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam". 

Indian Chronicles: 

EU Disinfo Lab, an NGO that specializes in disinformation campaigns, has found that India is carrying out a massive 15-year-long disinformation campaign to hurt Pakistan. The key objective of the Indian campaign as reported in "Indian Chronicles" is as follows: "The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination via ANI and obscure local media networks – at least in 97 countries – to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India, in particular Pakistan".  After the disclosure of India's anti-Pakistan propaganda campaign, Washington-based US analyst Michael Kugelman tweeted: "The scale and duration of the EU/UN-centered Indian disinformation campaign exposed by @DisinfoEU is staggering. Imagine how the world would be reacting if this were, say, a Russian or Chinese operation".  
American Analyst Michael Kugelman's Tweet on Indian Disinformation Campaign


Firehose of Falsehood:

What Kugelman calls "Russian Operation" appears to be a reference to a US government-funded think tank RAND Corporation's report entitled "The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model". Here is an except of the RAND report:

"Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels. This propaganda includes text, video, audio, and still imagery propagated via the Internet, social media, satellite television, and traditional radio and television broadcasting. The producers and disseminators include a substantial force of paid Internet “trolls” who also often attack or undermine views or information that runs counter to Russian themes, doing so through online chat rooms, discussion forums, and comments sections on news and other websites".

EU Disinformation Lab Report on India's Disinformation Campaign Against Pakistan

Indian Political Unity Against Pakistan:  

Former US President Barack Obama has observed that “Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”.  The Indian disinformation campaign is a manifestation of Indians' political unity against Pakistan.  EU Disinfo Lab has found that Indian Chronicles is a 15-year-long campaign that started in 2005 on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's watch, well before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election to India's highest office in 2014. It has grown to over 750 fake media outlets covering 119 countries. There are over 750 domain names, some in the name of dead people and others using stolen identities.  Here is an excerpt of EU Disinfo Lab's report:

"The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination via ANI and obscure local media networks – at least in 97 countries – to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India, in particular Pakistan". 

RAND's Recipe:  

Traditional countermeasures are ineffective against "firehose of falsehoods" propaganda techniques. As researchers Christopher Paul and Miriam Mathews of RAND put it: "Don't expect to counter the firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth." They suggest:

1. Repeating the counter-information 

2. Providing an alternative story to fill in the gaps created when false "facts" are removed 

2. Forewarning people about propaganda, highlighting the ways propagandists manipulate public opinion. 

3.  Countering the effects of propaganda, rather than the propaganda itself; for example, to counter propaganda that undermines support for a cause, work to boost support for that cause rather than refuting the propaganda directly 

5. Turning off the flow by enlisting the aid of Internet service providers and social media services, and conducting electronic warfare and cyberspace operation

Summary: 

Recently released Oxford University Report entitled "Industrialized Disinformation 2020 Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation" has put both India and Pakistan among "high cyber capacity" countries. Oxford report shows that India's cyber troops are "centralized" while those in Pakistan, US and UK are "decentralized". India with its massive disinformation campaign against Pakistan appears to be following what a US think tank RAND calls "Firehose of Falsehoods". Pakistani policymakers charged with countering the Indian propaganda should read the RAND report "Firehose of Falsehoods" for its 5 specific recommendations to the US government to effectively respond to the Russian disinformation campaign. In particular they should heed its key advice: "All other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive.......Don't expect to counter Russia's firehose of falsehoods with the squirt gun of truth. Instead, put raincoats on those at whom the firehose is aimed" 


Monday, January 11, 2021

US Needs to Promote Democracy At Home!

About a week before the world witnessed the storming of the US Capitol by an angry mob on January 6, 2020, the US Congress allocated $15 million for "democracy programs" in Pakistan as part of its latest Coronavirus Relief Bill. Should charity start at home? Should America prioritize democracy at home? With 64% of Republicans supporting Trump's false claim of "stolen election", has pro-Trump extremism gone mainstream in GOP? How to deal with the fervent believers in QAnon conspiracy theories while promoting a fact-based democratic discourse? How can deep divisions in American society be healed? These questions are beginning to be raised after recent shocking events in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the US government-funded think tanks such National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are very active in many developing countries, including Pakistan.  Cato institute says that what NED does "would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation". NED's 2019 recipients include Balochistan rights activists, women and minority rights groups, media groups, data journalism,  digital rights, social justice, etc. All of these groups and the money they have received can be seen on National Endowment for Democracy's website

Storming of the US Capitol


Storming of US Capitol:

Egged on by the outgoing US President Donald J. Trump who lost the 2016 presidential election, the world saw an angry violent mob of tens of thousands attack Capitol Hill as the lawmakers met to certify the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. This was a shocking development for many in the United States and abroad who look up to the United States to set an example of peaceful transfer of power. Violence on Capitol Hill resulted in the death of five Americans, including a protester and a policeman. It is now being characterized as an attempted bloody coup. 

Those involved in the Capitol Hill attack come from all walks of life, including off-duty police officers, firefighters, state lawmakers, teachers, municipal workers and at least one active-duty military officer. About 64% of Republicans support Trump's false claim of "stolen election". Some of them fervently believe the QAnon conspiracy theories claiming that Democrats are evil. They see Democrats as demonic pedophiles bent upon destroying the United States for their own selfish motives. The QAnon conspiracy theory appears to adapt itself to new events and personalities with time. It is a clear sign of deep and growing divisions in the American society. 

Democracy Abroad:

The recent allocation of $15 million for democracy in Pakistan is a small part of America's promotion of democracy abroad. There are also US government-funded think tanks and hundreds of non-government organizations (NGOs) tasked with promoting democracy abroad. 

The most audacious of the Washington DC think tanks promoting democracy abroad is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).  Cato institute says that what NED does "would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation". NED website agrees with this description. Here's how NED describes its origins:

"In the aftermath of World War II, faced with threats to our democratic allies and without any mechanism to channel political assistance, U.S. policy makers resorted to covert means, secretly sending advisers, equipment, and funds to support newspapers and parties under siege in Europe. When it was revealed in the late 1960’s that some American PVO’s were receiving covert funding from the CIA to wage the battle of ideas at international forums, the Johnson Administration concluded that such funding should cease, recommending establishment of “a public-private mechanism” to fund overseas activities openly". 


NED Activities in Pakistan:

A few years ago when I attended my alma mater NED Engineering University's alumni convention in Washington DC area, I met dozens of people from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED think tank). Apparently, they were mostly Pakistani dissidents on the US government payroll who wanted to bring democracy to Pakistan. 

Since that alumni convention I have researched the NED think tank  and learned that it gives large amounts of money to a variety of NGOs operating in Pakistan. NED's 2019 recipients include Balochistan rights activists, minority rights groups, media groups, data journalism,  digital rights, social justice, etc. 

NGO-ization of Pakistan: 

Pakistan has seen more than 10-fold increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country since 911. There is now one NGO per 2000 Pakistanis. A large slice of billions of dollars in US aid has been funneled through non-government organizations. This was particularly true after Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill in 2009 that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan from $500 million to $1.5 billion a year. KLB is long gone but the American money flow has continued to a large numbers of Pakistani NGOs. For example, US government-funded think tank NED's 2019 recipients include Balochistan rights activists, minority rights groups, media groups, data journalism,  digital rights, social justice, etc. 

Summary:

The US Congress allocated $15 million for "democracy programs" in Pakistan as part of its latest Coronavirus Relief Bill.  This happened about a week before an angry violent mob stormed the US Capitol.  It is now being characterized as an attempted bloody coup.  The shocking events of January 6, 2020 are raising serious questions: Should charity start at home? Should America prioritize democracy at home? How to deal with the fervent believers in QAnon conspiracy theories while promoting a fact-based democratic discourse?  How can deep divisions in American society be healed? Meanwhile, the US government-funded think tanks such National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are very active in many developing countries, including Pakistan.  Cato institute says that what NED does "would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation". NED's 2019 recipients include Balochistan rights activists, women and minority rights groups, media groups, data journalism,  digital rights, social justice, etc. The name of these groups and the money paid out to them is listed on NED's website.