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Pakistani Film Cake Breaks Sindhi Stereotypes

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Pakistani movie "Cake" is a Sindhi family drama set in Karachi and rural Sindh.  I had the chance to see it on a Silicon Valley theater screen in California.

Cake is nothing like the usual Bollywood fare featuring an "item song" included in a series of song-and-dance sequences. It tells a story accompanied with a great soundtrack showcasing the classic Sindhi poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Shaikh Ayaz, some of it sung by Allan Fakir in his mournful voice.

Directed by Asim Abbasi, the movie has an interesting plot and it tells a good story. What makes its  plot especially relevant to the Pakistani diaspora is that it involves a theme familiar to them: Ailing elderly parents  (Jamalis ably played by Mohammad Ahmed and Beo Raana Zafar) in Pakistan with two of their three children living overseas. It also defies the stereotypical depiction of patriarchal Sindhi men as cruel landlords oppressing their women and peasants.

At the center of the story is Zareen (Aami…

Pakistan Daal Consumption Declines Sharply As Meat Consumption Rises

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Pakistan's per capita daal (pulse) consumption has sharply declined to about 7 kg/person from about 15 Kg/person in 2000, according to data released by Food and Agriculture Organization and reported in Pakistani media. Meat has replaced it as the main source of protein with per capita meat consumption rising from 11.7 kg in 2000 to 32 kg in 2016. It is projected to rise to 47 kg by 2020, according to a paper published in the Korean Journal of Food Science of Animal Resources.

Rising Incomes:

FAO report titled "State of Food and Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific Region" said rising incomes in developing nations are causing a shift from plant proteins — such as those found in pulses (daal) and beans — to more expensive animal proteins such as those found in meat and dairy.

According to the Household Integrated Surveys of Pakistan, the average monthly household income in the country jumped 15% from Rs. 30,999 in 2013-14 to Rs. 35,662 in 2015-16.

Pulses Consumption:

Per capi…

How Industrialized West Enables Corruption in Developing World

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Some have called London the "Money Laundering Capital of the World" where corrupt leaders from developing nations use looted wealth from their people to buy expensive real estate and other assets. Private individuals and businesses from poor nations also park money in the west and other off-shore tax havens to hide their incomes and assets from the tax authorities in their countries of residence.

The multi-trillion dollar massive net outflow of money from the poor to the rich countries has been documented by the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI). This flow of capital has been described as "aid in reverse". It has made big headlines in Pakistan and elsewhere since the release of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Leaks which revealed true owners of offshore assets held by anonymous shell companies. Bloomberg has reported that Pakistanis alone own as much as $150 billion worth of undeclared assets offshore.

Aid in Reverse:

In 2012, the latest year for which da…

India Top Recipient of Private Charity; Pakistan Ranks 12th

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India tops the list of charity recipients from private foundations while Pakistan is ranked as the 12th largest recipient of philanthropic giving in the world, according to a report released by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).



Global Philanthropic Foundations:

Philanthropic contributions of major international private foundations in Pakistan totaled  $267 million out of the $42 billion global contribution in  2013-2015.  This compares with $1.6 billion in top-ranked India and $498 billion in second-ranked China.  US-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) contributed nearly half of the $42 billion in global charity by private foundations.

Private foundations are filling the huge gaps in public funding of health and education sectors in developing nations. . They contributed  $11 billion for the health sector alone in the three year period, ranking third behind the United States and a global fund for fighting disease.

Massive Western Aid to India:

In …

Alibaba and Amazon Entry to Accelerate E-Commerce in Pakistan?

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Media reports suggest global e-commerce behemoth Amazon.com could purchase substantial stake in Pakistan's e-commerce site  Clicky.pk.  This comes on the heels of a Bloomberg story that quoted anonymous sources indicating Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is in serious negotiations to acquire Daraz.pk.  Online sales in Pakistan's $152 billion retail market are doubling every year,  according to Adam Dawood of Yayvo online portal. He expects them to pass $1 billion in the current fiscal year (2017-18), two years earlier than the previous forecast.

Amazon's Presence in Pakistan:

Amazon already owns about 33% stake in Clicky.pk through its acquisition in 2017 of Dubai-based online retailer Souq.  Souq acquired this stake in the Pakistani company in late 2016.

In March this year, Bloomberg cited sources saying that Alibaba and Daraz.pk are negotiating a a price for the acquisition. It said that the "deliberations are an early state and no decisions have been made".

E-Co…

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway Construction Amid Baloch Insurgency

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Construction on the recently completed 893 kilometer long Gwadar-Ratodero motorway, also known as M8, was started by a Chinese contractor back in early 2004 on former President Pervez Musharraf's watch. The work was soon abandoned when three Chinese engineers were killed by a car bomb during the first week of May, 2004.  In 2003, a year before this incident, Indian intelligence agency RAW had recruited Kulbhushan Jadhav as an undercover agent. He was issued a passport under an assumed name of Hussein Mubarak Patel and sent to Chabahar in Iran to orchestrate insurgent attacks next door in Balochistan.

After the Chinese left the project, another contractor who was awarded the project could not continue M8 construction. Eventually, Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization (FWO) completed the project 13 years later in 2017. This success has come at great cost in terms of time, money and human lives. FWO has lost dozens of military and civilian employees and many more have been …

Why is PIA Losing Money Amid Air Travel Boom in Pakistan?

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What is behind the domestic and international aviation boom in India and Pakistan? Why is Pakistan doing better than India in terms of international passenger growth while badly lagging in domestic air travel?

What has happened to the global airline industry since the passage of the US Deregulation Act of 1978? Why did many big airlines of yesteryears die in spite of huge growth of air travel? How did so many upstart low-cost carriers succeed while state-owned airlines failed?

Why are the domestic air fares in Pakistan three times higher than those in India for similar distances? Why does state-owned PIA control two-thirds of Pakistan's domestic market? Why isn't there more competition on domestic routes in Pakistan?

Why are state-owned airlines, including PIA and Air India, losing a lot of money, requiring massive taxpayer subsidies and still performing poorly? Why aren't these airlines run more efficiently? Are PIA jobs used for political patronage? Why does PIA fly so m…