Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Unprecedented Boom in Pakistan's Technology Sector

Pakistan's technology sector is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. It is being fueled by the country's growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups. A recent tweet by Swedish fund manager Mattias Martinsson captured it well when he wrote, "Have followed Pakistan for 15 years. Can't recall any time time when VC activity was anywhere near we've seen in the last few months. Impact of reforms kicking in?".  New laws have made it easier to create startups and offered greater protection to investors.  Digital infrastructure has expanded with over 100 million smartphones and an equal number of broadband subscriptions. 

Source: Twitter


Pakistan is churning out more than 30,000 information technology graduates every year. Over three-quarters of Pakistanis in the top three metros of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are regularly using the internet. Technology startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in venture capital investments this year, almost 5 times greater than vc investments last year. Technology exports are increasing by double digits every year, reaching $2.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June 2021.  Pakistani freelancers' revenue grew 47% last year, the highest growth in Asia and the fourth highest in the world. 

Over Half of All Pakistanis Are Connected to the Internet. Source: Google-Kantar

Pakistan has seen a phenomenal growth of 3500% in broadband subscriptions over the last 8 years . Pakistanis now own more than 103 million smartphones with mobile broadband subscriptions. In a Youtube presentation of the report, Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online!"  

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth Among World's Fastest

Google Search and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications in Pakistan, according to the study. YouTube is used by nearly 90% of all internet users in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey. 

Pakistan has also experienced an e-commerce boom in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54%  find that online shopping websites or apps give personalized product recommendations, which answer common questions. Two-thirds of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward. They say they will continue to buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviors that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.” 

Global Investors of Pakistani Startups. Source: Google-Kantar


"More people are coming online in Pakistan, creating a great opportunity for eCommerce businesses - if they are ready to seize it. As we see more exploration of the internet beyond social, e-retailers can capture natural cross-category purchasing on its rise, but only if they have first established themselves and their product offering in an online marketplace," he said.

Pakistan Startup Funding. Source: Google-Kantar


With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in funding in 2021, more funds than all the money raised by Pakistani startups in their entire history. A recent example is Kleiner Perkins, a top Silicon Valley venture capital investment firm, that led a series A round of $17 million investment into Pakistani start-up Tajir. The startup operates an online marketplace for small store merchants in Pakistan. The announcement came via a tweet by Mamoon Hamid, a Pakistani-American Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins who led the investment. Last year, Tajir raised a $1.8 million seed round.  The company's revenue has increased by 10x since its seed round. 

Pakistan Technology Exports Trend 2007-2021. Source: Arif Habib


Pakistan's technology exports are experiencing rapid growth in double digits over the last decade. Total technology exports jumped 47% to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2020-21. 

Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of Higher Education

The foundation for Pakistan's digital transformation was laid with the higher education reform starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With a huge increase in higher education funding, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Ata ur Rehman succeeded in establishing 51 new universities during 2002-2008. As a result, university enrollment (which had reached only 275,000  from 1947 to 2003) soared to about 800,000 in 2008. This helped build a significant human capital that drove the IT revolution in Pakistan.      

Please watch the following video presentation for more details on Pakistan's technology startup ecosystem:

https://youtu.be/ePApXOM3vkQ

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Pakistani Security Officials Had Warned of Afghan Army's Collapse

Pakistani security officials had warned Americans and Indians that the Afghan Army would collapse when faced with the Taliban onslaught, according to multiple people including American journalist Steve Coll and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has recently written that Pakistanis' skepticism has been validated. 

Afghan National Army

In response to a question posed by New Yorker staff writer Isaac Chotiner, Steve Coll, author of "Directorate S" about Pakistan ISI, said, "I remember talking to the Pakistani generals about this (US building Afghan Army) circa 2012. And they all said, “You just can’t do that. It won’t work.” They turned out to be right". Here's the relevant excerpt of the New Yorker interview published on August 15, 2021: 

Isaac Chotiner: Why, ultimately, was it so hard to stand up the Afghan military to a greater extent than America did? Was it some lack of political legitimacy? Some problem with the actual training? 

Steve Coll: I don’t know what proportion of the factors, including the ones you listed, to credit. But I think that the one additional reason it didn’t work was the sheer scale of the ambition. And this was visible in Iraq as well. Building a standing army of three hundred thousand in a country that has been shattered by more than forty consecutive years of war and whose economy is almost entirely dependent on external aid—that just doesn’t work. What did work was what at various stages people thought might be possible, which was to build a stronger, more coherent, better-trained force, which has effectively been the only real fighting force on behalf of the Kabul government over the past few years. This force is referred to as commandos or Special Forces, but it is basically twenty or thirty thousand people. That you can build with a lot of investment and hands-on training. But you can’t just create an army of three hundred thousand. I remember talking to the Pakistani generals about this circa 2012. And they all said, “You just can’t do that. It won’t work.” They turned out to be right.

2013 video clip of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has recently surfaced in which he essentially confirms what Steve Coll told The New Yorker.  Doval can be heard saying that the 325,000 strong Afghan Army and police will deliver. He said the Afghan Army is well trained and sufficiently motivated. Doval believed the Afghan National Army will defend the Afghan state and Afghanistan's constitution and democracy irrespective of what happens at the political level, he added. Doval said he didn't believe 15-20 Pakistani security officials who have told him otherwise. He said he never believes anything the Pakistanis say.  

Former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has written in a New York Times Op Ed that "We (Americans) have again validated their (Pakistanis') skepticism".  Here's an excerpt of Crocket's Op Ed:

I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.” We have again validated their skepticism.

In a recent interview with BBC's Yalda Hakim, General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the British Armed Forces, has said that the Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is an upright man. Carter said that General Bajwa wanted to see a peaceful and moderate Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan had to face various challenges. Pakistan sheltered 3.5 million Afghan refugees on its soil. The British military chief said Pakistan had set up barricades on the Afghan border and was keeping a close eye on border traffic.  

Carter Malkasian, former advisor to US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford, has recently talked about how Afghan governments have scapegoated Pakistan for their failures. He said: "Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else". 

In another discussion,  Malkasian explained the rapid advance of the Taliban and the collapse of the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Here's what he said:

Over time, aware of the government’s vulnerable position, Afghan leaders turned to an outside source to galvanize the population: Pakistan. Razziq, President Hamid Karzai and later President Ashraf Ghani used Pakistan as an outside threat to unite Afghans behind them. They refused to characterize the Taliban as anything but a creation of Islamabad. Razziq relentlessly claimed to be fighting a foreign Pakistani invasion. Yet Pakistan could never fully out-inspire occupation.  


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Has Pakistan Achieved Herd Immunity Against COVID19?

How widespread are coronavirus infections and vaccinations in Pakistan? Has Pakistan achieved herd immunity or close to achieving it?  The latest IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) report on Pakistan (dated August 19, 2021) claims that "about 81% of the population have been infected, and about 65% are immune to the Delta variant". It says that the "cases and deaths are declining in Pakistan, but the situation remains fragile".      

The report defines two types of coronavirus variants: escape and non-escape. The escape variants include Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1) and Delta (India) variants while non-escape variants are the original ancestral virus and Alpha (UK) variant.  The report projects Pakistan reaching 75% to 90% immunity to various COVID19 variants through a combination of infections and vaccinations by the end of 2021. 

Immunity to COVID Variants in Pakistan. Source: IHME

The IHME August 19 COVID19 results briefing on Pakistan also warns: "If mobility increases and mask wearing declines as cases are declining (people let down their guard), cases could surge again".  Here is the summary of the IHME report:

"Cases and deaths are declining in Pakistan, but the situation remains fragile. We estimate that about 81% of the population have been infected, and about 65% are immune to the Delta variant (accounting for cross-variant protection). If mobility increases and mask wearing declines as cases are declining (people let down their guard), cases could surge again."

If the IHME modeling of COVID19 in Pakistan is correct, it raises hope that Pakistan is nearing an end to the current pandemic that has badly hurt its people and its economy. Achieving this goal will require that Pakistanis continue to implement the following 5 strategies recommended by IHME. 

1) Increase vaccination through outreach and perhaps vaccine mandates from employers and making it easy to get vaccinated; 

2) Reduce the risk of major transmission if schools are to open through appropriate use of mitigation measures including universal masking, sufficient distancing of students, and periodic testing of all students; 

3) Support hospital systems that will be under severe stress in the next 4–6 weeks; 

4) Implement mask mandates in states or communities with major surges in hospitalization; and 

5) Maintain surveillance on breakthrough infection by type of vaccine and time since vaccination – as well as adequate testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated – in order to accurately track the evolution of the epidemic".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

COVID19 in Pakistan: Test Positivity Rate and Deaths Declining

Fareed Zakaria Never Misses Any Opportunity to Bash Pakistan

Pakistan COVID19 Normalcy Index

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

73 Year After Independence, Caste-Ridden India Dominated By Brahmins

Pakistan's Pharma Industry Among World's Fastest Growing

Is Pakistan's Response to COVID19 Flawed?

Pakistan's Computer Services Exports Jump 26% Amid COVID19 Lockdown

Coronavirus, Lives and Livelihoods in Pakistan

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Pakistani-American Woman Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Coronavirus Antibodies Testing in Pakistan

Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak? 

How Grim is Pakistan's Social Sector Progress?

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India On Disease Burdens

Trump Picks Muslim-American to Lead Vaccine Effort

Democracy vs Dictatorship in Pakistan

Pakistan Child Health Indicators

Pakistan's Balance of Payments Crisis

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Conspiracy Theories About Pakistan Elections"

PTI Triumphs Over Corrupt Dynastic Political Parties

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif's Report Card

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Pakistan Independence Day: Can Religion Be A Basis Of Nationhood?

It is quite fashionable among liberal Indian and Pakistani elite to question religion as a basis of nationhood. Pakistani intellectual Javed Jabbar responded to some of these "liberal" critics at a conference in New Delhi, India. He said as follows: "India was a region, not a country until 1947....Pakistan was NOT carved out of India.... Both India and Pakistan became independent countries in 1947.. Religion can be a basis for nationhood".

Happy Independence Day Pakistan

In his detailed remarks, Jabbar made a reference to British political scientist Hugh Seton-Watson who said there is no scientific definition of nationhood. 

Jabbar also talked about "Imagined Communities" by Professor Benedict Anderson who taught political science at Cornell University in New York. Anderson explored how these "imagined communities" are created by the territorialization of religious faiths and the decline of antique kingship

Talking about pluralism, Jabbar said Pakistan is a diverse pluralistic country with multiple regions, languages, religions, etc. Jabbar added that the creation of Bangladesh reinforced the Two Nation Theory. How? Bangladesh chose to remain independent rather than merge with India. 

A recent Pew survey has revealed that two-thirds of Hindus in India believe only Hindus are truly Indian. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP party's appeal is the greatest among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being “truly Indian.” The Pew survey found that less than half of Indians (46%) favored democracy as best suited to solve the country’s problems. Two percent more (48%) preferred a strong leader. 

Most Hindus Link Hindu Religion and Hindi Language With Indian National Identity. Source: Pew

The majority of Hindus see themselves as very different from Muslims (66%), and most Muslims return the sentiment, saying they are very different from Hindus (64%). Most Muslims across the country (65%), along with an identical share of Hindus (65%), see communal violence in India as a very big national problem. Like Hindus, Muslims prefer to live religiously segregated lives – not just when it comes to marriage and friendships, but also in some elements of public life. In particular, three-quarters of Muslims in India (74%) support having access to the existing system of Islamic courts, which handle family disputes (such as inheritance or divorce cases), in addition to the secular court system.     

Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi – one of dozens of languages that are widely spoken in India. And these two dimensions of national identity – being able to speak Hindi and being a Hindu – are closely connected. Among Hindus who say it is very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian, fully 80% also say it is very important to speak Hindi to be truly Indian.    

Here's a video clip of Javed Jabbar's remarks:

https://youtu.be/0VF_07yT580



Friday, August 13, 2021

Afghanistan: Pakistan's Friend or Foe?

The open hostility of successive Afghan governments toward Pakistan begs the following questions: Why do Afghan leaders scapegoat Pakistan for their own failures?  Is Afghanistan a friend or an enemy of Pakistan? 

Scapegoating Pakistan:

Carter Malkasian, former advisor to US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford, has recently talked about how Afghan governments have scapegoated Pakistan for their failures. He said: "Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else". 

In another discussion,  Malkasian explained the rapid advance of the Taliban and the imminent collapse of the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Here's what he said:

"Over time, aware of the government’s vulnerable position, Afghan leaders turned to an outside source to galvanize the population: Pakistan. Razziq, President Hamid Karzai and later President Ashraf Ghani used Pakistan as an outside threat to unite Afghans behind them. They refused to characterize the Taliban as anything but a creation of Islamabad. Razziq relentlessly claimed to be fighting a foreign Pakistani invasion. Yet Pakistan could never fully out-inspire occupation". 

Afghanistan has been governed by secular Pashtun Nationalists and their Tajik and Uzbek allies for much of the 20th century. These Afghan rulers and their secular Pashtun allies on the eastern side of the border have been hostile toward Pakistan since 1947 when it became independent. Afghanistan's was the lone vote against the admission of the newly independent state of Pakistan to the United Nations. Since then, the anti-Pakistan campaign by Pashtun Nationalists on both sides of the Durand Line has received support from New Delhi.

India's Partition:

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the Frontier Gandhi, led the secular Pashtun Nationalists' opposition to the creation of Pakistan before 1947. Their efforts  to stay with India failed when they lost a referendum and the majority of the voters of then Frontier Province chose to join Pakistan.

After the humiliating loss in the referendum, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, his son Abdul Wali Khan and their supporters decided to seek an independent nation of Pakhtoonistan.  When Ghaffar Khan died, he was not buried in Pakistan. Instead, he was buried in the Afghan city of Jalalabad according to his will. His son Wali Khan then carried the movement forward.

Pakhtoonistan Movement:

After the creation of Pakistan, Ghaffar Khan and Wali Khan launched Pakhtoonistan movement that sought to create an independent state of Pakhtoonistan with the eventual goal of erasing the Durand Line to unify it with Afghanistan. Slogans such as  "Lar o Bar Yaw Afghan" (Afghans are one on both sides of the Durand Line)  and "Loya Afghanistan" (Grand Afghanistan) signify the aims of this movement. 

The central government in Pakistan has responded by assimilating Pakhtoons in civil and military services from the early 1950’s. By the end of 1960’s, the Pakhtoons were holding many top positions in the civil and military bureaucracy. At the time Pakistan was ruled by Ayub Khan, himself a non-Pashtu speaking Pakhtoon. Pakistan's current Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan is also a Pashtun. 

Both the Afghan and the Indian governments continued to back the Pakhtoonistan movement in the1960s and 70s.

In 1960, then Afghan Prime Minister Daoud Khan sent his troops across the Durand Line into the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan to press the Pashtunistan issue, but the Afghan forces were routed by Pakistani Tribals. During this period, the propaganda war from Afghanistan, carried on by radio, was relentless.

Daoud hosted Pakistani Pakhtoon Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi. Daoud started training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Balochs and sent them across the border into Pakistan to start a militancy.

In 1961, Pakistan retaliated against Daoud's support to militias in areas along the Durand Line by closing its borders with Afghanistan, causing an economic crisis in Afghanistan.


On July 7, 1973, Daoud Khan toppled his cousin King Zahir Shah in a coup. This triggered a series of bloody coups ending in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

A former RAW officer RK Yadav has, in his book "Mission RAW", confirmed that Indian intelligence officers met Khan Wali Abdul Wali Khan in Europe on several occasions to provide support and funding for the Pakhtoonistan movement.

In 1975, then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ordered Pakistan's intelligence agency to respond to Afghan provocations. Pakistan ISI trained Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as their Afghan proxies.

Soviet Invasion:

The Soviet troops rolled into Afghanistan in December, 1979 to assert control after several coups and counter-coups in the country. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States responded to it by recruiting, training and arming a resistance force referred to as "Mujahideen". India supported the Soviet invasion and occupation in a United Nations vote in January, 1980.

 Soviet troops were defeated and forced by the Mujahideen to withdraw after 9 years of occupation. The Americans also decided to leave the region with Afghanistan in complete chaos as various Mujahideen factions split along ethnic lines fought for control of Kabul.

Pakistan was the most affected as a result of the Afghan war and instability. Millions of Afghan refugees poured across the border in Pakistan. Many were radicalized, trained and armed to fight. The "Kalashnikov Culture" spread across Pakistan causing instability.

The Taliban:

In the1990s, Pakistan supported the Taliban led by Mullah Omar to try to stabilize the situation. The Taliban defeated all other factions and warlords and took control of most of Afghanistan. The only part of Afghanistan that remained beyond their control was the Panjshir valley in northern Afghanistan that was controlled by Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud.

The Taliban hosted Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. The United States accused Al Qaeda of carrying out the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.  When the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden to Washington, President George W. Bush ordered the US military to invade Afghanistan to force the Taliban out of power.

US Invasion:

The US invasion of Afghanistan forced the Taliban out of power and drove them and Al Qaeda fighters across the border into Pakistan. Pakistani military arrested most of the Al Qaeda leadership and many of the Al Qaeda fighters and handed them over to the United States. Bin Laden was found and killed by the Americans in a raid in Abbotabad, Pakistan in 2011.

Indian intelligence agency RAW has established its presence in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan since the US invasion and the installation of a Kabul government that includes pro-India members of the Tajik dominated Northern Alliance.

India's Covert War Against Pakistan:

Fomer US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said back in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan.  India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan". Secretary Hagel was speaking at Cameron University in Oklahoma. Direct and circumstantial evidence of India using Afghanistan to attack Pakistan has grown to the point that even Indian analysts and media are beginning to acknowledge it:

1. Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, recently acknowledged India's use of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group against Pakistan in an Op Ed he wrote for Hindustan Times.

2. Indian journalist Praveen Swami said in a piece published in "Frontline": "Since 2013, India has secretly built up a covert action program against Pakistan."

3. India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website has since been removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.

4. A story by Indian journalist Karan Thapar pointed out several flaws in the Indian narrative claiming that Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan while engaging in India's covert war in Balochistan, was an innocent Indian businessman kidnapped from Chabahar by Pakistani agents. Writing for the Indian Express, Thapar debunked the entire official story from New Delhi.

ISI Bogeyman:

British Afghan war veteran Major Robert Gallimore says he saw no presence of Pakistan's intelligence service ISI in Afghanistan. The Afghan Army saw the " imagined nefarious hand" and "bogeyman" of Pakistan everywhere but he never saw it. He "saw not one piece of evidence" of it. It was all in their minds.

During his three tours of duty in Afghanistan, he could hear all the radio conversations going on but never heard any Pakistani accent. He did, however, see "buckets and buckets of money" and rising Indian influence in Afghan Army that blamed Pakistan for all their problems. Pakistan is their bogeyman.

The Afghan Army says they'll feel good when they can "invade Pakistan". They do not blame the British but the Pakistanis for the Durand Line that they do not recognize.

Major Gallimore sees the emergence of an India-Pakistan 21st century "Great Game" similar to its British-Russian predecessor. Many Afghans support creation of Pashtunistan by annexing northern part of Pakistan into Afghanistan. They blame Pakistan for the Durand Line, not the British or their own leaders who agreed to it. As a result, Maj Gallimore warns that Afghanistan has become much more volatile and dangerous than ever before.

Summary:

Recent scapegoating of Pakistan by the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul has been criticized by Carter Malkasian, former advisor of US General Dunford.  Malkasian has said, "...on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else".  The animosity of secular Pashtun Nationalists and their Tajik and Uzbek allies against Pakistan is not new. It didn't start with Pakistan's support of the Taliban in the 1990s. Their hostility against Pakistan dates back to the creation of Pakistan.  Afghanistan's was the lone vote against the admission of the newly independent state of Pakistan to the United Nations in 1947. Since then, the anti-Pakistan campaign by Pashtun Nationalists on both sides of the Durand Line has received support from New Delhi. A former RAW officer RK Yadav has, in his book "Mission RAW", confirmed that Indian intelligence officers met Khan Wali Abdul Wali Khan in Europe on several occasions to provide support and funding for the Pakhtoonistan movement.

Here is a video discussion of spillover of Afghan instability into Pakistan:

https://youtu.be/EZuCLz6KzKE

>



Monday, August 9, 2021

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani on US-China Competition

Kishore Mahbubani, a prolific writer, speaker and former Singaporean diplomat, believes that the western domination of the world over the last 200 years is "aberrant" when seen in the context of the last several thousand years of human history.  In his book "Has China Won", he writes that "we are also moving away from a black-and-white world". "Societies in different parts of the world, including in China and Islamic societies, are going to work toward a different balance between liberty and order, between freedom and control, between discord and harmony". 

Kishore Mahbubabi


In a recent interview, Mahbubani made the following points about US-China competition: 

1. The United States with about 240-year history likes to pass judgement on China which has over 2,400 year history. What makes the US think China would listen to the American advice? 


2. The West is in the habit of judging everyone, including the Chinese. The Chinese have just had the best 30 years of their history. Would the Chinese listen to the American advice on "democracy" and political freedoms after they have seen what happened to Russia when the Russians decided to adopt democracy in the1990s and their economy collapsed? 

3. More than 120 million Chinese tourists go to other countries freely and willingly return to China every year. Would they return freely if China was an oppressive stalinist regime? The fact is that while political freedoms have not increased there has been an explosion of personal freedoms in China over the last 30 years.

Global Power Shift Since Industrial Revolution



A recent post-COVID survey conducted by the Washington Post shows that Chinese citizens’ trust in their national government has jumped to 98%. Their trust in local government also increased compared to 2018 levels — 91% of Chinese citizens surveyed now said they trust or trust completely the township-level government. Trust levels rose to 93% at the county level, 94% at the city level and 95% at the provincial level. 

An earlier 2018 World Values Survey reported that 95% of Chinese citizens said that they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the national government. Comparatively, about 69% felt the same way about their local government. 

Here's a video of Mahbubani's interview:

https://youtu.be/KaPFmYxWMzI




Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Digital Transformation: Pakistan is Now Online!

Pakistan's digital transformation is in full swing. Over three-quarters of Pakistanis living in the top three metros of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are connected to the Internet, according to a report titled "Journey to Digital" produced by global tech giant Google and Kantara consultants. Researchers found that two-thirds of urban and nearly half of rural Pakistanis regularly use the Internet in the South Asian country of 220 million, the 5th most populous nation in the world. It has a young population with the median age of 22.8 years. 46% of Pakistanis access the Internet everyday.  They use the Internet for education, entertainment, shopping and to search for information.

Over Half of All Pakistanis Are Connected to the Internet. Source: Google-Kantar

Pakistan has seen a phenomenal growth of 3500% in broadband subscriptions over the last 8 years . Pakistanis now own more than 103 million smartphones with mobile broadband subscriptions. In a Youtube presentation of the report, Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online!"  

Google Search and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications in Pakistan, according to the study. YouTube is used by nearly 90% of all internet users in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey. 

Pakistan has also experienced an e-commerce boom in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54%  find that online shopping websites or apps give personalized product recommendations, which answer common questions. Two-thirds of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward. They say they will continue to buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviors that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.” 

Global Investors of Pakistani Startups. Source: Google-Kantar


"More people are coming online in Pakistan, creating a great opportunity for eCommerce businesses - if they are ready to seize it. As we see more exploration of the internet beyond social, e-retailers can capture natural cross-category purchasing on its rise, but only if they have first established themselves and their product offering in an online marketplace," he said.

Pakistan Startup Funding. Source: Google-Kantar


With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in funding in 2021, more funds than all the money raised by Pakistani startups in their entire history. A recent example is Kleiner Perkins, a top Silicon Valley venture capital investment firm, that led series A round of $17 million investment into Pakistani start-up Tajir. The startup operates an online marketplace for small store merchants in Pakistan. The announcement came via a tweet by Mamoon Hamid, a Pakistani-American Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins who led the investment. Last year, Tajir raised a $1.8 million seed round.  The company's revenue has increased by 10x since its seed round. 

Pakistan Technology Exports Trend 2007-2021. Source: Arif Habib


Pakistan's technology exports are experiencing rapid growth in double digits over the last decade. Total technology exports jumped 47% to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2020-21. 

Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of Higher Education

The foundation for Pakistan's digital transformation was laid with the higher education reform starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With huge increase in higher education funding, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Ata ur Rehman succeeded in establishing 51 new universities during 2002-2008. As a result, university enrollment (which had reached only 275,000  from 1947 to 2003) soared to about 800,000 in 2008. This helped build a significant human capital that drove the IT revolution in Pakistan.      

Here's a video presentation of Pakistan's "Journey to Digital":


Monday, August 2, 2021

Food Prices in Pakistan Are World's Second Lowest Despite Inflation

The cost of living in Pakistan is the world's lowest despite recent inflationary trends, according to the Cost of Living Index for mid-2021 as published by Numbeo.  Numbeo Grocery Index reports that the food prices in Pakistan are the second cheapest in the world. In terms of local purchasing power, Pakistan ranks 101 among 139 nations. 

Cost of Living Map. Source: Numbeo


For overall cost of living as measured by Numbeo, Pakistan ranks 139 among 139 countries of the world. It is cheaper to live in Pakistan than to live in any of its neighboring countries in South Asia or West Asia. India ranks 138, Afghanistan 136, Bangladesh 115 and Iran 87. 

Local Purchasing Power (LPP) is a measure of relative purchasing power in buying goods and services in a given city for the average net salary in that city. If domestic purchasing power is 40, this means that the inhabitants of that city with an average salary can afford to buy on an average 60% fewer goods and services than New York City residents with an average salary.  Pakistan (LPP of 24.56) ranks 101 among 139 countries for Local Purchasing Power. India (42.16) ranks 52, Bangladesh (21.76) 111, Afghanistan (20.53) 112 and Iran (16.82) 124. Switzerland (102.77), the United States (94.32) and Australia (91.07) top the list in terms of local purchasing power. 

Cost of Living Rankings. Source: Numbeo


For food prices, Pakistan ranks 138 among 139 countries ranked. Only Afghanistan ranks below Pakistan at 139 on Numbeo Groceries Index. India ranks 129 and Bangladesh 112. 


Monthly Cost of Food Per Person in Pakistan. Source: Numbeo


Using a basket of Asian food types, the cost of feeding one person in Pakistan with a healthy, balanced diet of 2400 daily calories works out to Rs. 10,364.55 for a month, much lower than Rs. 13,635.77 (INR 6201.40) in India. It consists of bread, rice, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables.  The most expensive components of the food baskets are chicken and beef. Reducing the amount of meat can help bring the cost of the meal further down.  At Rs. 15,248.41 per month, the cost of western food basket is about 50% higher but still significantly lower than Rs. 19,233.35 (INR 8747.13) in India.   

Pakistan is among world's top 10 food producing countries. After a wheat and sugarcane shortfall last year, there are reports of record production of wheat and corn in Pakistan this year. Higher domestic production will hopefully help contain food price inflation in coming months. 

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