Pakistan's Economic Recovery Amid Violence in 2012

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

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

 Positive Trends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's GDP Grossly Underestimated, Shares Highly Undervalued

Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan

Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012

Pak Consumer Boom  Fuels Underground Economy

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding

Hypermart Pakistan


Riaz Haq said…
Here's Re-charge report on Nordex supplying wind turbines for wind farms in Pakistan:

German wind group Nordex has completed its first project in Pakistan.

The 50MW Jhimpir wind park, which consists of 33 1.5MW Nordex turbines, is 100km northeast of Karachi.

The project was bankrolled by fertiliser group Fauji, a subsidiary of the Fauji Foundation industrial conglomerate.

Nordex has signed supply deals for five more wind farms in Pakistan, each comprising 20 of its N100/2500 turbines. Fauji, Gul Ahmed Energy, Metro Power and Yunus Energy are the customers for those projects.

Nordex expects construction at two of those other wind farms, with a combined capacity of 100MW, to start this year.

With a growing power demand and blackouts common, Pakistan is committed to expanding renewable energy, Nordex says.“The fixed feed-in remuneration of around $0.1466 per kWh for a period of 20 years for wind-produced electricity is making the market attractive for investors," it adds.

Nordex initially oversaw the Jhimpir project via its Beijing subsidiary, but has now established a separate local company in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a ET report on new company registrations in Pakistan in December 2012:

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) registered 332 companies in December 2012, a growth of 22% over the corresponding month of previous year.

Authorised and paid-up capital of these companies amounted to Rs1.7 billion and Rs745 million respectively.

The new incorporations included 302 private companies, 17 single-member companies, seven non-profit associations, four public unlisted companies and two foreign companies – one each from Turkey and Germany.

Nationals of Cyprus, Panama, China, Belgium and the Netherlands also made investment in five new local companies. These companies were associated with the areas of software development, construction and services.

The trading sector has the largest share in new incorporations with 44 companies, followed by services with 39 companies, tourism 37, information technology 19, food and beverages 15, broadcasting and telecasting 14, pharmaceutical, textile and construction 13 companies each, communications and corporate agricultural farming 12 companies each.

The Company Registration Office (CRO), Lahore registered the largest number of companies in December, at 108. It was followed by CROs of Islamabad and Karachi where 98 and 81 companies were registered respectively.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Nation story of a Gallup poll on rising hopes for better economy in 2013 in Pakistan:

A global poll released on the eve of New Year conveys a hopeful message that economic gloom is subsiding world-wide and hopes about the economy have risen from -2pc to 7pc, a rise of 9pc points from a year ago.

The gloomy trend in West Europe appears to have been arrested while North America is slightly less gloomy than it was. There is a notable upsurge of economic hope in China and India. The global survey was carried out by the world’s largest independent network of opinion pollsters, WIN-Gallup International in 54 countries, among more than 55,817 men and women, covering vast majority of world population. The network has conducted this annual poll for 35 years since 1977.

A key question in the global survey asked: Compared to this year, in your opinion, will next year be a year of economic prosperity, economic difficulty or remain the same? According to the WIN-Gallup International global barometer of hope and happiness, 35pc of the world is hopeful about economic prospects in 2013, while 28pc expect it to be worse than the year which is just ending; 29pc expect no change from previous year while 8pc were unable to give an answer.

According to the poll, Pakistanis are rising on the global ladder of hope. Compared to a year ago, net hope rises by 17 percentage points from last year. Among those interviewed here, 32pc of Pakistanis are hopeful about economy, 27% believe it will be of economic difficulty while 30pc believe this year will be the same as last year. However, 12pc did not give a view.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Daily Times on Twariqi Steel Mill plant inauguration in Karachi:

KARACHI: Tuwairqi Steel Mills Limited (TSML) Pakistan’s first private sector integrated environment-friendly steel manufacturing complex of Al-Tuwairqi Holding (ATH)/ISPC of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia inaugurated by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at Port Qasim Karachi on Saturday.
The plant in its first phase has the capacity to produce up to 1.28 million tonnes of high quality Direct Reduced Iron (DRI), which is evidently steel’s most versatile metallic and a preferred raw material for quality steel making worldwide.
Raja Pervez Ashraf congratulated the entire team of TSML on the successful completion of the first phase and committed to extend all possible support from the government for the expansion plans of ATH and POSCO in Pakistan. He said, “It is a matter of great pride for us Pakistan has now started producing DRI, with the completion of the first phase of TSML. We are committed to transform our country into an industrial hub and for that we seek more projects-especially in the steel sector, since steel is the backbone of the industrial growth. TSML in poised to serve as a catalyst for the industrial growth of Pakistan.”
He was of the view currently Pakistan was among the countries that rely mostly on imports when it comes to heavy mechanical structures and engineering goods. By producing high quality steel within Pakistan we can manufacture such equipment locally by value addition with the help of downstream industries, he concluded.
He distributed shields among outstanding employees of TSML as a token of appreciation of their hard work and dedication to successfully complete the first phase.
The first phase has been completed with an investment of over $350 million. The plant spreads over an area of 220 acres at Bin Qasim Karachi and employs the world’s most advanced DRI technology of the MIDREX process owned by Kobe Steel of Japan. ATH/ISPC and POSCO have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Pakistan for the backward and forward integration with an estimated investment 3 times higher than of the DRI plant. Forward integration would be a further value addition through a Melt Shop, producing world standard steel grades, while backward integration would be to the extent of exploring iron ore locally in Balochistan, its beneficiation and pelletisation as well.
Dr Hilal Hussain Al-Tuwairqi, Chairman Al-Tuwairqi Holding appreciated the efforts of TSML employees. He said Al-Tuwairqi’s vision was to participate in the development of national economy in order to have a long sustaining growth of Pakistan.
“We are looking forward to create for our younger generations, ample job opportunities to build a strong and prosperous nation on the face of this plant. Al-Tuwairqi sees Pakistan as a land of opportunities and we are very clear in our perception that Pakistan as a country has to grow and we are determined to play an instrumental role in its development, he remarked.
Joon Yang Chung Chairman and CEO POSCO of South Korea congratulated the entire team of TSML. He said it was heartening to learn that TSML has increased the production capacity of Pakistan by 1.28 million tonnes per annum, which would help meet the ever growing demands of steel in Pakistan.
Zaigham Adil Rizvi Director (Projects) TSML said TSML has massive expansion and modernisation plans not only to enhance production capacity at an exponential rate but also to improve productivity and efficiency, matching the highest global standards. Pakistan’s current per capita steel consumption is only 40 kilogramme, which is exuberantly low, when compared with the global average of 215 kilogramme. This establishes a dire need increased emphasis on achieving international benchmarks to become a modern and an efficient economy.\01\13\story_13-1-2013_pg5_2
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Daily Times on fiscal deficit in 1H of 2012-13:

The country’s budget deficit for the first half (July to December) period of the ongoing fiscal year 2012-13 has been estimated provisionally on the lower side at 2.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), mainly because of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) arrears released by the United States otherwise it would have been at 3.0 or 3.1 percent of the GDP, a senior official informed
on Saturday.
The revenue shortfall owing to political uncertainties, power subsidies over and above budgetary allocation and gas and power shortages in the country with increased election-related expenditure are likely to take the budget deficit to around 6.3 percent of the GDP by the end of the ongoing fiscal year, in case the Public Sector Development Programme was not slashed to adjust the extra expenditures, experts believe.
However, uncertainties on federal tax collection and power subsidies are the main areas of concern for the economic managers of the country as the federal tax collection is witnessing a shortfall and annual budgetary allocation for power subsides have been consumed in just six months of ongoing fiscal year.
The authorities have estimated that budget deficit for the entire fiscal year would increase by 0.6 percent of the GDP in case the federal tax collection falls short of the annual tax collection target. Similarly, the budgetary allocation of power subsidies which was Rs 170 billion have already been consumed in just six months and subsidies to be required to finance the tariff differential of the second half (January to June) period of the ongoing fiscal year 2013 would increase the budget deficit by around 1.0 percent of the GDP, economic experts in the private sector believe.
The Ministry of Finance has paid Rs 117 billion to Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and Rs 22 billion to Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) to subsidise their tariffs for the consumers during July to November period and Rs 23 billion has also been paid to power sector as subsidy during the month of December. This subsidy is mainly financing the gap between generation cost and power tariff charged by the power companies from the consumers. At present the difference between power tariff is determined by the regulator and power tariff charged by the power companies.
According to the estimates, tax collection of the federal government, which has been set at Rs 2.381 trillion is also going to be missed and collection to end up at around Rs 2.1 trillion, as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates under the prevailing political, geo-strategic and energy crisis situation.
However, the sources informed that Ministry of Finance has its own view on tax collection and it strongly feels that tax collection would be around Rs 2.231 trillion against the annual tax collection projection of Rs 2.381 trillion, and expected shortfall of Rs 150 billion in this fiscal. The sources further informed that efforts are there to take tax collection near to its budgetary target with enforcement of tax amnesty scheme for whitening undisclosed and undeclared assets and money.
The official at Ministry of Finance informed that the ministry has not slashed its annual tax collection target downwards as this would relax the tax authorities in putting up of their maximum efforts for increasing tax collection. The ministry has no authority to slash the annual tax collection target downwards as it is approved the federal cabinet and is only authorised to do so. The ministry has sent no summary to the cabinet for revision in tax collection target so far, added the official.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET report on cement sales in July-Dec 2012 period in Pakistan:

Cement consumption in the country increased 11% to 2.24 million tons in December 2012, the highest-ever sales for the month, industry people say.

However, a slump in exports persisted with overseas shipments declining by 10.55% to 580,000 tons in December.

The numbers were released by the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association here on Friday.

In a statement, a spokesman for the association said cement sales in the domestic market rose 7.61% to stand at 11.728 million tons in the first six months (July-December) of financial year 2012-13. Exports remained under pressure, dropping by 5.28% to 4.22 million tons.

In southern parts of the country, sales of cement units in the first half registered a growth of 7.98% in the domestic market, but exports fell by 16.34%.

In the north, where most of the cement is produced, the industry posted a growth of 7.52% in domestic sales while exports edged down 1.31%.

The spokesman was the view that despite much hype, trade with India had not significantly benefitted the cement industry as sales to the neighbour stood at only 209,000 tons in the past six months, down a whopping 40.41%. “This is well below expectations of the cement sector,” he commented.

In fact, he said, exports to India had been on a constant decline ever since the two countries opened their borders for liberal trade. “The decline is not due to lack of demand, but because of very stringent non-tariff barriers imposed by our neighbour,” he said and pointed out that Pakistan’s cement was preferred by the Indians because of better quality.

Stressing that cement exporters have a potential to export a big quantity to the Indian market, he said they were facing strict resistance with barriers still in place even after discussions on the matter in different rounds of official and unofficial talks between the two countries.

Setting aside India, Afghanistan’s market has proved to be quite lucrative for the cement industry. In the past six months, the industry exported 2.41 million tons to the neighbour, where demand stood high in the wake of reconstruction work.

Exports to other destinations through sea also remained stable in the period under review.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a SteelFirst report on steel imports in Pakistan:

Pakistan's imports of iron and steel products were 13% higher year-on-year in November, as troubles at state-owned Pakistan Steel continued to encourage purchasing from outside the country.

Imports reached 155,517 tonnes in November, up from 137,548 tonnes a year earlier and a little down from 156,427 tonnes in October this year.

The struggling Pakistan Steel, the country's main producer with 1.1 million tpy of capacity, has been operating at an average utilisation of 20% during 2012 because of financial troubles. Steelmakers in Pakistan also faces higher costs and problems with intermittent power supply.

Both these factors have kept output restrained, encouraging more imports of finished products to fill the gap.

At the same time, the production problems have led to much lower scrap import volumes.

Inbound shipments of ferrous scrap in November dropped to 100,673 tonnes, down 48% on the month and 25% year-on-year.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's PakistanToday on expansion of re4fining capacity to 18 million tons:

Karachi - country’s largest oil refinery at Mouza Kund, District Lasbella, Balochistan. At present the refinery is in a state of pre-commissioning and preparatory activities wherein different plants, equipment and instrumentation are being put to confirmatory checks and tests.

The cold circulation of crude oil has already been established and sustained. Also furnaces of different process units have been test fired. The refinery is ready for hot commissioning and start up.

This newly-commissioned petroleum refinery would have an installed refining capacity of 120, 000 barrels per day.

Combined with existing and fully operative smaller refinery, the cumulative capacity shall be over 155,000 barrels per day which is 55% higher than the existing largest refinery in Pakistan.

Thus it would enhance overall crude oil refining capacity in the country from existing 12.25 to 18 million tons per year and would significantly contribute in reducing import of deficit refined petroleum products in the country.

This refinery can be further expanded up to 180,000 bpd.

“This milestone, for sure, has been made possible with sheer hard work of our Employees and support & cooperation of all our valued contractors. Upon commissioning this Refinery, with the blessings of the Almighty, will become the single largest in the country,” said Qaiser Jamal CEO Byco Oil Pakistan while declaring the completion.

Along with this new Refinery, the Country’s first isomerisation plant is being commissioned, he said.

The introduction of isomerisation technology in Pakistan would not only enable this refinery to produce higher volumes of motor gasoline to meet the country’s demand but this will be the first environment friendly motor gasoline, with almost nil content of Benzene.

The first parcel of crude oil for this refinery will be brought to the country’s first single point mooring installed 10km into the Arabian Sea for direct discharge to the Refinery storage tanks. This facility can discharge tankers carrying over 100,000 metric tons of crude oil.

With an investment of significantly over $600 million and rising, Byco also operates as a fast growing petroleum marketing business network comprising of 222 retail outlets.

Amir Abbassciy, CEO of Byco Industries Incorporated, parent company of Byco’s operating companies in the country said: “These are the first significant steps toward achieving our aim to be in integrated oil to chemicals and related infrastructure businesses.”
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Dawn on Pakistan's narrowing trade deficit:

KARACHI: Pakistan’s trade deficit narrowed by 14 per cent for the first six months of the fiscal year 2012/13, to $9.871 billion, compared to the same period last year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said.

Exports rose 7.58 per cent to $12.051 billion during the July-Dec period compared to the same period last year,and imports eased to $21.922 billion from $22.678 billion.

On a monthly basis, the trade deficit fell to $1.703 billion in December from $1.711 billion the previous month.

Exports totaled $1.969 billion in December and imports were $3.672 billion.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's PakistanToday on record remittances from Pak diaspora:

KARACHI - Economic observers expect the inflow of ever-increasing worker remittances to the country rise to a historic $ 16 billion by the end of this financial year.
“Home remittances continue to remain upbeat reaching the level of USD 7.1 billion during the first six months of FY13,” said analysts at InvestCap Research.
Terming it as one of the major supporting tools for the current deficit, the remittances from expatriates, they said, continued its upward trajectory.
During the first half of FY13, remittances posted a colossal growth of 12.5% YoY to USD 7.12 billion, in absolute terms increasing by USD 791 million.
However, on a monthly basis, the head registered a growth of 11% reaching USD 1.13billion in December 2012.
Such increase was however misleading, emanating from a low base effect of November, 2012, rather than depicting an actual increasing trend.
“The country witnessed a huge influx of remittances, touching USD 1.37 b, in October, 2012, due to the Eid factor,” viewed Abdul Azeem at the InvestCap Research.
Following this, the analyst said, remittances in November, 2012, remained extraordinarily depressed at the level of USD 1.02 billion thus leading to a low base effect in December, 2012.
The huge chunk of remittances received from the Middle East continued to play a significant role in the overall inflows into the country.
Within this region, the major oil economy, Saudi Arabia remained the key contributor with 28% weight in total remittances; remittances from Saudi Arabia posted a growth of 18% YoY to USD 1.96 billion during the first half of FY13. One of the strongest economies of the world, Saudi Arabia continued to import employees from Pakistan, therefore, a positive impact was observed in remittances from this country.
Another region of the Middle East, United Arab Emirates also remained a key source of remittances as it maintained 21% weight in total remittances from where the over all remittances increased by 3% YoY to USD 1.46 billion in the first half of FY13.
Amongst the Western countries, USA was the most important contributor, accounting for 16% share in the total home remittances although the growth was flat (0.5% YoY) but inflow of USD 1.16 billion was witnessed during the first six months of FY13. Furthermore, remittances coming in from the UK experienced massive growth of 38% YoY during the same period. UK ranked second amongst the major contributors to increase in remittances in the first six months of FY 13.
“We expect the consistent upward trend in remittances to provide support to the current account (C/A) during the remaining period of FY13,” Azeem said.
However, he warned, IMF payments were likely to exert pressure on the current account deficit, as the country has to pay USD 1.7billion during the second half of FY13.
Although, lower imports and rising exports continue supporting the trade deficit, in the latter half of FY13, we expect a significant draw back to be evident in the form of shortage of gas, absorbing any such positives. We foresee such shortage to injure exports of the country, mainly the textile sector, being a major contributor to the country’s exports.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's NY Times on a huge protest march in Islamabad:

An enigmatic preacher is camped before the gates of Parliament with thousands of followers, demanding the government’s immediate ouster. The top court on Tuesday suddenly ordered the arrest of the prime minister. Violence is surging, with militants stepping up deadly attacks against both government forces and religious minorities. And relations with India have dipped, after ill-tempered border skirmishes in which soldiers on both sides were killed.

As it is all unfolding, the country’s powerful military command, long at odds with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, is in sphinx mode. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and his commanders have maintained a cool distance from the unfolding political chaos, their silence stoking speculation about whether the military’s days of political intervention are really, as it claims, over.

“It’s the silence of the legions that is unnerving,” said Ayaz Amir, an opposition member of Parliament.

“There’s a sense that things are snowballing — hard to predict in any way,” said Cyril Almeida, a senior writer at Dawn newspaper.


A giant rally in Lahore last month signaled the start of Mr. Qadri’s assault on Pakistan’s political classes, which he derides as incompetent and irredeemably corrupt — a resonant message in a country of high unemployment and crippling electricity shortages. He drove home his message with an intensive television advertising campaign, paid for with generous amounts of money, the origins of which he has not fully explained.

On Monday evening, he stepped up the attack, leading tens of thousands of followers into the heart of Islamabad, where he renewed demands that Mr. Zardari resign immediately. The crowd fell short of the promised “million-man march,” but was enough to spook the government: by Tuesday morning, he had pushed forward to a square in front of the Parliament.

“There is no Parliament; there is a group of looters, thieves and dacoits” — bandits — he said in a thundering voice, pointing to the building behind him. “Our lawmakers are the lawbreakers.”

The dramatic climax of that speech, however, came not from the preacher himself, but from the marble-walled Supreme Court about 200 yards up the street.

As Mr. Qadri spoke, news broke that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had issued an order for the arrest of the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf. The report visibly thrilled the crowd, prompting loud cheers and a sense that the promised “revolution” was going their way.

The difference with Egypt, of course, is that Pakistan has no dictator to overthrow. And while Mr. Zardari’s government has faced criticism as having governed poorly in many respects, it has made considerable strides in anchoring the country’s democratic structures.

Through a series of constitutional amendments, all of them approved by the opposition, Mr. Zardari has gradually devolved power to the provinces, reduced his presidential powers and made the electoral process more transparent. Now, advisers say, he is intent on completing the government’s term in March — the first time in Pakistan’s history that a civilian government would have seen out its five-year term.

But first that government must make it through the coming days.

Having shut down the center of Islamabad, and dominated the news cycle, Mr. Qadri is unlikely to surrender the limelight easily. His well-organized supporters insist they will not budge until their demands are met, and are encouraging other Pakistanis to join them.

If that happens, the government may have little option but to break up the protest by force. And it would be at that point that the army, sitting quietly on the fence, would be most likely to step in.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Bloomberg on Pak stock market outlook:

Muddassar Malik, chief executive officer of BMA Funds, who oversees the equivalent of $120 million in stocks and bonds, comments on his outlook for Pakistan’s stock market after the benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100 index sank 3.2 percent to 16,107.89 yesterday, its steepest drop since Aug. 9, 2011.

Stocks fell after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in a corruption case involving rental power projects. Prior to that announcement, Tahir-ul-Qadri, a popular cleric, rallied thousands of protesters in the capital Islamabad, calling for the government to be dismissed. Malik spoke in a phone interview from London late yesterday.

On the impact of the court order:

“The events are very significant, disruptive events for Pakistan’s political landscape. But I feel this is not the end, perhaps it’s the beginning. I believe the likelihood is that these events will be driving the position into positive territory.

“The structural and the fundamental story in Pakistan remains unimpaired; high population, a country with significant demand driven by domestic consumers and located in one of the fastest growing regions in the world. What is missing is a set of economic and political policies which create the right environment for investment and I think the disruption can bring about that change in confidence. There is a certain degree of optimism that we have to look forward to.”

On investors’ fears:

“There are concerns about the future direction post- elections. Investors are looking for clarity. In the last four or five years, Pakistan has been through a very difficult and challenging period in terms of politics and economics as well as the war on terror. So investors see a landscape that is starving of investment, and I think people are hungry to get back into the game.”

On market sentiment:

“The unexpected announcement was obviously a jolt for the market and it caught the market unaware and wrong-footed in the context of the political demonstrations taking place in Islamabad. Market sentiment is 100 percent driven by politics at the moment and I think it’s unrealistic to assume that sentiment will change very quickly for the next week to fortnight.”

On BMA Fund’s index target for 2013:

“Our index target for the calendar year 2013 is 20,000, and we don’t feel that the current set of events will derail that target for the time being. With the market showing the declines it has done and also the declines it could do in the coming days, it will certainly set up some of the good high- quality stocks to give healthy returns in excess to 20 percent to 30 percent.”
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET blog post taking media to task:

A recent article in Wired, Danger Room highlighted the resurgence of the US drone campaign in Pakistan. While it focuses on the war, a lot was left untold about the nation’s story that is as heartening as it is heartrending, and as inspiring as it is seemingly dismaying.
The story of four of these start-ups, that launched in 2012 speak volumes about the resilience, commitment and resourcefulness of its founders.

The first is Vital Agri Nutrients, a young, agricultural Research and Development focused company that is working on developing innovative products for farmers. It has had some recent breakthroughs with their micro-nutrients and soil amendments which are currently in field trials. Given the expected shortage of water and growing prices of fertilisers world-wide, the company and its products present a promising opportunity for small and large farmers to improve the crop yield and lower their input cost per acre by employing soil amendments that help with more efficient use of fertilisers and water in plants.

Next, four young entrepreneurs at Eyedeus, aided by decades of joint research in computer vision, have developed technology that enables mobile devices to have eyes and intelligently process real-world imagery using an increasingly powerful mobile processors. Unlike the cameras on mobile devices that just allow ‘dumb’ recording of images or videos, Eyedeus technology allows developers to augment the reality around users. The company’s first product, called ‘Groopic’ (beta available on the AppStore) is already getting rave reviews. Groopic allows group pictures to be taken in a way never before possible. The person taking the picture can now be part of the group picture, go figure!

Eyedeus, by the way, is part of a full-service technology incubator called Plan 9, that’s a visionary initiative of the government of Punjab, and it hosts at least a dozen other start-ups alongside Eyedeus, working on equally innovative products and services.

Similarly, Invest2Innovate is another accelerator that is supporting at least five entrepreneurial ventures focused on businesses with a large social impact.

Third is a new age production house called JugnooMedia, developing interactive, digital musical toys for mobile devices with an aim of providing toddlers and young children new avenues of learning that are more fun and effective than the traditional, classroom teaching. The demos of their first title are very impressive and the company has announced that it will be released on the Apple AppStore and Android Marketplace soon.

And finally, there is BLISS – a social venture that is aimed at improving the livelihood of women in Pakistan alongside educating them. BLISS has already done a pilot program in a small village of Pakistan where women were taught embroidery skills alongside formal school education in the first phase. In the second phase, BLISS provided the same women an opportunity to co-op with the company and develop handbags designed by professional designers which were then marketed by BLISS through its online store as well as an impressive list of global brand ambassadors. The women who made the bags got the lion’s share of the revenue from those sales and the rest of the money is being used to sustain the operations of the organisation and scale the program.
The next time a story is told about the problems Pakistan is having with the political instability, corruption, energy shortage and terrorism the world must know, that to the same land belong some of the best, battle-tested and inventive entrepreneurs working on shaping the future of the world!
Riaz Haq said…
Here's PakistanToday on vehicle sales data in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD - Tractors and trucks production during last five months of current financial year registered growth of 83.50 percent and 15.47 percent respectively.
About 21,550 tractors were produced during first five months of current financial year as compared to 11,744 tractors during same period last year.
According to the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics about 732 trucks were produced in first five months of current financial year as compared to the 866 trucks production of same period last year.
Meanwhile, 257 buses and 45376 jeeps produced during the period from July- November 2012-13 as compared to the same period of last year.
The data revealed that 6165 numbers of light commercial vehicles were produced in first five months of current financial year as compared to the same period of last year.
About 688492 numbers of motorcycles were produced during the period under review as compared to the 691818 numbers production of same period last year.
During the month of November 2012, about 4777 numbers of tractors
Were produced as compared to 4017 numbers of tractors production in November 2011 where as 108 numbers trucks were produced as compared to 134 numbers production same month of last year.
About 35 buses produced in month of November 2012 as compared to the production of 48 buses of same month of last year.
Jeeps and car production was recorded at 8009 during the months of November 2012 as compared to the 10030 cars and jeeps produced in November 2011.
Motorcycles production during the month of November 2012 was recorded at 142497 as against the production of 137825 motor cycles produced in the month of November 2011.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's BR on renewable energy projects in Sindh:

KARACHI: Sindh government is working on 40 different power projects in its wind corridor, with a total generation capacity of 2000 MW in next two years, said Mir Hussain Ali, provincial Secretary for Environment and Alternate Energy Department.

This will also allow the electrification of about 120 schools in rural Sindh, he said addressing a session on the Renewable Energy organized by IUCN - Pakistan on Sunday.

Talking about the opportunities in the wind corridor, he said, that the government is working on about 40 projects with various investors with total generation capacity of 2000 MW in the next two years.

"This is despite the fact that Renewable Energy projects often do not get a green light in public sector because of the initial costs," he said.

The Sindh secretary for environment and alternative energy said the government is also supplying solar stoves and working on a biogas project worth Rs. 200 million rupees.

The secretary for environment and alternative energy mentioned that in Mirpurkhas, Solar Water Pumping Stations have been installed to meet the electricity crunch.

Mir Hussain Ali also talked about having immense potential of biogas at the Cattle Colony in Karachi and prospects in coastal areas of Pakistan in lieu of wind related projects.

On the occasion Carl Pope, a renowned expert on renewable energy in his presentation,"Renewable Energy Cheaper in the Long Run," said that presently over 1.3 billion people in the world are estimated to be living without electricity.

One billion of these people, including 700 million residents of South Asia will remain without electricity until 2030 if the switch to alternatives does not happen, he warned.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Bloomberg on KSE-100 rebounding on earnings expectations:

Pakistan’s (KSE100) stocks rose to a three- week high, led by Fauji Fertilizer Co., the biggest maker of the farming material, which reports earnings tomorrow.

The Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index gained 1.5 percent to 16,894.09, the highest close since Dec. 31. Fauji Fertilizer rose 1.5 percent to 120.36 rupees, the biggest contributor to the benchmark index’s advance. Lucky Cement Ltd. (LUCK), due to report profit on Jan. 28, rose 1.6 percent to 153.46 rupees.

“Investors are confident that the earning season will be pretty good this quarter,” Khurram Schehzad, head of research at Arif Habib Ltd., said by phone.

Arif Habib, a Karachi-based brokerage, forecasts overall earnings to rise as much as 15 percent in the three months to Dec. 31 from a year earlier, he said. The KSE 100 trades for 6.9 times estimates for this year’s profit, the lowest among 15 Asia-Pacific benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg.

The KSE 100 tumbled 3.2 percent on Jan. 15, the biggest drop since August 2011, after the nation’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The gauge has climbed 4.9 percent since then, after the chairman of the anti- corruption agency told the chief justice Jan. 17 there isn’t enough evidence to arrest the prime minister and others accused of graft in awarding power contracts.
Riaz Haq said…
New shopping mall to open in Islamabad, reports The Nation:

ISLAMABAD (PR) - The Centaurus Mall, Pakistan’s mega shopping and entertainment destination, is all-set to open its doors by the middle of next month, says a press release.

“We are all set to make a soft launch. Quite a few brands have confirmed their readiness by the date we have communicated to them, and others are working day in and day out to make sure they don’t miss out on this opportunity,” the release stated.

The Centaurus Mall, located at the heart of federal capital, is a multi-facility complex featuring a deluxe mega shopping mall (covering 400,000 sq. ft), 5-screen Cineplex, a state-of-the-art kids entertainment area, and food court offering a variety of cuisines.

“The word is out now, and we are mulling the date of 17th February to make this luxurious dream become a reality. Dozens of top-of-the-line brands are going to be there and the rest of the mall features like Cineplex, and kids play area, health club etc will be up and ready within 20 days of the launch, ShahbazRana, Head Business Development of The Centaurus confirmed.

The multi-billion project is a joint venture of Al-Tamimi Group of Saudi Arabia and Sardar Builders of Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Harvard Business Review piece on women in Pakistan:

"Pakistan is a highly complex and ambiguous country," Ehsan Malik, Country Manager for Unilever Pakistan, told me. "The media projects Pakistan as conservative, but there is a large segment of society that is liberal and broad minded." (Disclosure: Unilever is a client of mine globally, but not the Pakistan branch particularly.)

"My predecessor at Unilever Pakistan was a woman who went to run L'Oreal Pakistan. My wife runs a business and both our mothers and sisters have always worked, as do many in our families and friends. So for me Unilever's gender balance drive is not something extraordinary." Two of the people on Malik's six-person Management Committee are women, and he sees the possibility that his successor could be female. "There are three senior women who have been listed as high potential so we could have a majority female Management Committee in the foreseeable future."

"We aimed to set an example and become a model on gender balance. Now, virtually all our competitors are doing the same... In Pakistan, despite the bad press, when it comes to gender, employers are progressive."

How do the men react? "There was a debate two or three years back, around a concern that we were favoring women. We made it very clear: between two equal candidates, we said we would pick the woman because there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected." In Pakistan, as in a growing number of countries, women perform better academically. "Medical colleges are 70% women but less than half of them continue working beyond a few years of qualifying, partly because of family reasons but also due to working conditions," notes Malik.

In many companies I work for, some of the greatest openness and action on gender balance is in emerging market operations. I have found managers in Brazil, India or Malaysia more enthusiastic and convinced of the business case than their Western colleagues, in much more challenging contexts. And ready to go to much greater lengths to adapt to women's needs.

Like Pakistan. Unilever Pakistan has achieved its gender balancing targets internally (ahead of most Western countries), which Malik considered "relatively simple," yet by doing things that might appear inconceivable elsewhere. So, for example, to recruit female engineers in its remote factories, Unilever provides security-guard staffed housing for the women next to the facilities, ensuring their safety and reassuring their families. Flexible working from different locations — home, distributor premises, or ad agency offices — is another step that benefits all managers. However, he observed, "some female managers prefer coming to the office — there is a day care center to look after their children, they want to get away from extended families that many in Pakistan live with, [and] they can escape the power cuts that plague large cities."

These seemed like obvious investments to Malik who is now setting his sites on "a much bigger agenda" with gender as a competitive advantage with consumers, and a condition for working with suppliers.


For the moment, there are 900 women who have gone through the training, and Malik is planning on increasing this to 7,000. "The rural population's bank is usually a couple of villages away. So we are finding that not only do other women come for beauty advice, they also start coming for advice on how to open bank accounts and start a business. And it seems the men are starting to come too, looking for the same guidance."

"Where government fails," concludes Malik, " global companies can fill the void by building concepts that become platforms for change and progress."
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Guardian Op Ed on latest blowback from Mali in Algeria:

To listen to David Cameron's rhetoric this week, it could be 2001 all over again. Eleven years into the war on terror, it might have been Tony Blair speaking after 9/11. As the bloody siege of the part BP-operated In Amenas gas plant in Algeria came to an end, the British prime minister claimed, like George Bush and Blair before him, that the country faced an "existential" and "global threat" to "our interests and way of life".

While British RAF aircraft backed French military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali, and troops were reported to be on alert for deployment to the west African state, Cameron promised that a "generational struggle" would be pursued with "iron resolve". The fight over the new front in the terror war in North Africa and the Sahel region, he warned, could go on for decades.

So in austerity-blighted Britain, just as thousands of soldiers are being made redundant, while Barack Obama has declared that "a decade of war is now ending", armed intervention is being ratcheted up in yet another part of the Muslim world. Of course, it's French troops in action this time. But even in Britain the talk is of escalating drone attacks and special forces, and Cameron has refused to rule out troops on the ground.

You'd think the war on terror had been a huge success, the way the western powers keep at it, Groundhog Day-style. In reality, it has been a disastrous failure, even in its own terms – which is why the Obama administration felt it had to change its name to "overseas contingency operations", until US defence secretary Leon Panetta revived the old title this week.

Instead of fighting terror, it has fuelled it everywhere it's been unleashed: from Afghanistan to Pakistan, from Iraq to Yemen, spreading it from Osama bin Laden's Afghan lairs eastwards to central Asia and westwards to North Africa – as US, British and other western forces have invaded, bombed, tortured and kidnapped their way across the Arab and Muslim world for over a decade.

So a violent jihadist movement that grew out of western intervention, occupation and support for dictatorship was countered with more of the same. And the law of unintended consequences has meanwhile been played out in spectacular fashion: from the original incubation of al-Qaida in the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union, to the spread of terror from western-occupied Afghanistan to Pakistan, to the strategic boost to Iran delivered by the US-British invasion of Iraq.

When it came to Libya, the blowback was much faster – and Mali took the impact. Nato's intervention in Libya's civil war nearly two years ago escalated the killing and ethnic cleansing, and played the decisive role in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. In the ensuing maelstrom, Tuareg people who had fought for Gaddafi went home to Mali and weapons caches flooded over the border.

Within a couple of months this had tipped longstanding demands for self-determination into armed rebellion – and then the takeover of northern Mali by Islamist fighters, some linked to al-Qaida. Foreign secretary William Hague acknowledged this week that Nato's Libyan intervention had "contributed" to Mali's war, but claimed the problem would have been worse without it.

In fact, the spillover might have been contained if the western powers had supported a negotiated settlement in Libya, just as all-out war in Mali might have been avoided if the Malian government's French and US sponsors had backed a political instead of a military solution to the country's divisions.....
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a ET overview of plans for Karachi:


Karachi has perpetually evolved ever since Sir Charles Napier first set foot on the once sleepy backwater in 1843 and discovered its potential. Around 170 years later, the growth shows no signs of stopping. From flyovers and exotic animals to the country’s tallest building – there will be lots of new additions to look forward to in 2013. There may be a lot of pessimism, but as architect Shahid Abdulla says, “We have already been battered and now it’s time to bounce back just like [Pakistan’s performance in] hockey and cricket!” Here is what some of prominent personalities had to say about what’s lined up for over 18 million people who call Karachi their home:

Director of the Karachi Zoological Gardens, Bashir Sadozai:

Bashir Sadozai

“This year we will import a pair of white tigers and bigger enclosures will be constructed for all the big cats. This year will also see a veterinary hospital within the zoo. We are also trying to ensure that animals breed and their offspring survive – a miniature horse is pregnant.”

Architect Shahid Abdulla:

Shahid Abdulla

“A lot of people will be interested in the completion of the remaining part of the Dolmen City Mall in Clifton. Around 60 per cent of it has been opened to the public. The Ocean Towers [near Do Talwar] will also stand out. It will have the finest movie theatre and the building is beautiful.”

Town planner Arif Hasan:

Arif Hasan

“It’s a myth that more flyovers can help improve traffic congestion. We need a mass transit system, which includes Karachi Circular Railway. But how long it will take for to actually start working is anyone’s guess. Our vision should be to make the roads pedestrian-friendly.”

DIG Traffic Police Khurram Gulzar

Khurram Gulzar

“People need to change their mindset. Please be patient. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. We have around 3,200 police constables deputed every day to manage traffic. Even then, it’s very difficult to convince people to follow traffic rules.

We must move bus and truck stands to the outskirts. The infrastructure cannot sustain them anymore. But the completion of the other track of the Lyari Expressway will help a lot in easing traffic woes.”

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s director-general of technical services, Altaf Memon:

Altaf Memon

“Five flyovers will be constructed this year. Four of them are being built on Shahrae Pakistan and one on Sharae Faisal near the Jinnah International Airport. We also plan to start work this month on two more overheard bridges at Shaheen Complex intersection and Golimar.

Another important project is the improvement of Banaras Chowk. The place underneath the Banaras Flyover is in shambles. We couldn’t construct the roads before because of multiple reasons.”

Director-general of parks and horticulture, Niaz Soomro:

Niaz Soomro

“The renovated Hill Park will be ready by February. It will have a series of water fountains and a safer view point on the hill. [The previous spot] was closed for public after it was declared dangerous.

I am also sure people will love to visit Aziz Bhatti Park once we are done reconstructing the pond there. A wooden skating platform for children has also been planned. Hopefully, work on Clifton Aquarium will also start this year.”
Riaz Haq said…
Pak textile exports rose 8.55% in July-Dec 2012 period, reports Fiber2Fashion:

With a year-on-year rise of 8.55 percent, Pakistan’s textile and garment exports for first half of the current fiscal increased to US$ 6.458 billion from US$ 5.590 billion worth of exports made during the corresponding period of last year.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), exports for December 2012 grew to US$ 1.058 billion, compared to exports of US$ 1.009 billion in December 2011.

Product-wise, cotton yarn exports grew by 38 percent year-on-year during July-December 2012, while that of cotton cloth by 12.31 percent, yarn by 53.94 percent, towels by 10.98 percent, tents by 25.39 percent, readymade garments by 13.29 percent and other textile materials by 62.95 percent.

On the other hand, raw material exports plummeted by 51.46 percent year-on-year, cotton carded by 85.15 percent, knitwear by 2.02 percent, bed wear by 9.61 percent, art silk and synthetic textiles by 19.69 percent and made-up articles by 6.89 percent, the PBS data showed.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's the Guardian on an off-road car race in South Waziristan tribal area:

With its rugged hills, narrow valleys and green plains, South Waziristan has long been perfect terrain for the sort of guerrilla warfare favoured by the Taliban in its fight with the Pakistani army.

Now it's the turn of the country's fledgling off-road car-racing community to have the run of the landscape.

In an effort to persuade a sceptical public that it has got the better of the Taliban and that life in one of the country's seven troublesome tribal "agencies" is improving, Pakistan's army is inviting car enthusiasts to hold a motor rally on a 80-mile (130km) route in the region in the last week of March.

The race will start just outside the agency and pass through various key locations, including the town of the Kotkai, a former Taliban-controlled town where militants once trained child suicide bombers until the army retook the area amid heavy fighting in the summer of 2009.

Organisers hope about 50 cars and their back-up vehicles will take part in the race, which they want to become an annual fixture in Pakistan's motor sports calendar.

"Peace has returned to this area and locals will feel confident once foreigners and people from other parts of the country come," said Major Farooq Virk, a military spokesman. "It is very secure and no incident has happened in this area for the last year and a half."

So far just a handful of car enthusiasts have signed up. One of them is Asad Marwat, president of the Islamabad Jeep Club, who said some car owners may stay away because of the perceived security threats.

"If it is something for the benefit of country, and it can bring some positive images around the world, we will take our chances," he said. "Hard-core rally buffs won't have any problem."

Just three months ago authorities did their best to dissuade the politician and former cricketer Imran Khan from travelling along exactly the same route to Kotkai with a few thousand of his supporters by arguing it was too dangerous.

The army now insists that South Waziristan is safe and ready to open up for business – or at least the small portion of it that has benefited from near-saturation coverage by Pakistani troops.

Critics say peace has been achieved at the expense of the people of the area, particularly members of the Mehsud tribe, who were forced to leave South Waziristan when operations to clear the Taliban were launched in 2009.

"Such gimmicks have been tried in the past with no impact," said Rustam Shah Mohmand, a retired political agent who served in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He recalls football and basketball matches being held in other areas where the army has dislodged militants.

"With 80% of the Mehsuds having left the area, staging such shows cannot really achieve anything," he said.


Car clubs have sprung up around Pakistan in the last 10 years with enthusiasts meeting for organised races that take advantage of the country's varied terrains, including deserts and snow-capped hills.

The most prominent Pakistani petrol-head is Mir Nadir Magsi, an elected politician once described as the "Pakistan's Michael Schumacher" for his winning streak in various rallies.

Asad Sethi, the founder of the Frontier 4x4 Car Club in Peshawar, has just returned from a weekend event in Malam Jabba, a hill town once overrun by the Taliban.


But critics are unlikely to be convinced as long as the tribesman who used to live in the area stay away.

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a CSM story on Opposition using energy crisis as an election issue:

Right now the opposition is slamming the government on this point, claiming there's an easy solution: Pakistan is sitting on the world’s sixth-largest coal deposit, the Thar Coalfields in Sindh Province, but since the reserves were discovered 22 years ago, little has been done to develop them.

But negotiating the complex political web that has kept Pakistan in the energy dark ages is not as simple as opposition leaders suggest, say analysts. What should be a mere technical challenge has escalated as the government has become paralyzed.

RECOMMENDED: How much do you know about Pakistan? Take this quiz.

“It is not a lack of political will to address the energy crisis,” says Adil Najam, vice chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences and a leading Pakistani expert on environment and development policy. “It is a lack of political ability.”

For the past 22 years, plans to develop the Thar Coalfield have been stuck in limbo because of disagreements between the provincial and federal governments. The federal government wants a majority stake in any mining ventures, and has suggested a 80/20 split with the province. Though it has accepted investment from the federal government, the Sindh provincial government wants absolute control over the coalfields and has been adamant in insisting that Sindh alone should benefit from its natural resources.

So the two are in a bind: The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government is unwilling to force development plans for fear of splitting what has traditionally been its strongest support base. Fear of creating a surge of Sindhi nationalism in the country’s second-most populous province tempered even former President Pervez Musharraf's attempt to develop the coalfields during Pakistan’s nine-year military rule.

For any candidate to campaign on the promise of quick fixes is to ignore the reality of Pakistan’s political system, says Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst in Pakistan. “It is an attractive slogan,” says Mr. Rizvi, “But it is overly ambitious and unrealistic.”

Get our FREE 2013 Global Security Forecast now

The next Pakistan government will be a coalition made up of diverse forces and their first priority will be figuring out how to pull together and move in one direction, Rizvi says.

Pakistan generates 38 percent of its electricity using imported oil, according to the International Energy Agency. Gas and hydro make up another third, a figure that would be higher if investment in both areas wasn’t marred by political brinkmanship. Energy from coal makes up a tiny 0.1 percent of the country’s energy mix.

Despite a history of gridlock, cricketer-turned-candidate for prime minister Imran Khan has made developing the coalfields the central piece of his energy policy in his campaign manifesto. He has claimed that his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Pakistan Movement for Justice), can transform Pakistan from an energy importer to an energy exporter by 2016.

The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League Narwaz (PML-N) has similarly made vague promises to “provide the full energy needs of an expanding industrial sector through maximum exploitation of domestic sources of energy, namely coal.”

A web of more than 20 different provincial and federal entities are involved in powering Pakistan. This has created an energy sector devoid of any long-term integrated planning, headed up by a government that is caught in a debt trap by its own unsustainable subsidies....
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt of an ET Op Ed on education in Pakistan:

.. Thomas L Friedman wrote in an article recently, “nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimage higher education than the massive open online course, MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity.” Within one year, the coverage provided by Coursera has increased from 300,000 students taking 38 courses taught by Stanford professors and a few other elite universities to 2.4 million taking 214 courses from 33 universities, including eight international ones.

There were reports that Pakistan was already one of the beneficiaries of the exponential development of the MOOC. A story on the 2013 Davos World Economic Forum singled out for special mention the presentation given by Khadija Niazi, a 12-year girl from Lahore, who may not have been the youngest speaker ever at the forum but was certainly captivating. According to this account, “hundreds of the conference’s well-healed attendees listened intently as Ms Niazi described her experience with massive online courses known as MOOC that are spreading around the globe … Her latest enthusiasm is for astrobiology because she is fascinated by UFOs and wants to become a physicist.”

According to another assessment, “enterprising academic institutions have taken the lead in online learning. Harvard and MIT, for instance, worked together to introduce EdX, which offers free online courses from each university. About 753,000 students have enrolled, with India, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia among the top 10 countries from which people are benefitting.” What seems to be happening is that while the government continues to neglect education, a variety of private initiatives are helping to fill some of the gaps that have been left.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's the latest cement report on Pakistan:

The All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association reported a 10.10% increase in domestic cement consumption in January. The country, which has almost 45 million t of cement capacity, has seen exports fall in recent years as expansion programmes increase capacity in Pakistan’s traditional export markets and new exporters have joined the competition. However, domestic demand is on the rise, hitting an all-time high of almost 24 million t in FY11/12.

January saw domestic sales reach 2.135 million t, comprised of 1.706 million t from the north and 429 000 t from the south of the country. Demand has been pushed by private construction as well as government infrastructure projects, a trend set to continue as the per capita cement demand in the country is well below average at 152 kg.

Energy shortage threatens production

However, a new threat is energy shortages, which the APCMA says hampered production in northern areas last month. The Islamabad High Court recently removed the Rs.50/mmbty Gas Development Infrastructure Cess (GIDC), declaring it illegal. Though this will bring down input costs for cement producers in the south, it is reported that it will have no benefit for the more numerous northern producers, who ‘have now been given least priority for gas supply’ (The Nation, 3 February). Some plants are looking into alternative energy supplies – DG Khan Cement, for example, is set to be one of the first applications for Kalina cycle technology in the cement industry.

Lucky Cement prospers

Meanwhile, Lucky Cement Limited has recorded a 42.15% y/y increase in half yearly profit for 2012/13. As of the end of December, the company reported profits of Rs.4.29 billion and improved net sales of Rs.17.511 billion, up 13.9% y/y. The company reportedly plans to upgrade its existing mills and packing machines to reduce operational costs. More information about the company can be found in the February issue of World Cement in the article ‘Pakistan: Cementing its Position’ from Lucky Cement. Subscribers can download the issue by signing in.

Lafarge appoints new country CEO

Finally, Lafarge Pakistan Cement has appointed Amr Reda as the new country CEO of Lafarge Pakistan. Reda had previously been the regional business controller of Lafarge Middle East and Pakistan and has been on the board of directors of Lafarge Pakistan since January 2007.
Riaz Haq said…
Gold imports in Pakistan up 23% July-Nov 2012, reports Daily Times:

KARACHI: Yellow metal imports during July to November 2012 in the country increased by 23 percent or Rs 7.12 billion as against Rs 5.78 billion in July to November 2011, precious metal importers said on Thursday.

The traders imported around 1,393 kilogrammes (kgs) of gold during this period, they added.

In November 2012, gold imports stood at 298 kgs worth Rs 1.57 billion, which was up around 357 percent as compared to November 2011.

Due to lower international prices of the yellow metal, import reamined on the higher side in November 2012 as it dipped around $128 an ounce, said a metal expert in London Saleem Ahmad.

Usually yellow metal importers make deals for the precious commodity with traders in Dubai, India and South Africa.

Major deals are made with Dubai based gold traders while due to lower gold future prices in India, the domestic traders also made deals. In India the gold prices are hovering around Rs 32,000 per 10 grammes while in Pakistan 10 grammes of gold is available at around Rs 53,200.

Rising demand in domestic markets for the wedding season also pushed gold imports up besides declining international prices also attracted the domestic importers to fortify their long position in anticipation of futures rising prices. Gold remained a haven for the hedging purpose besides it is the safest investment for hedgers as compared to stocks, where shares prices are always uncertain.

Gold prices in Pakistan bullion market are hovering at around Rs 62,200 per tola. Safest haven for investment hedging became the driving force behind buying, he added.

The yellow metal import’s rise was attributed to large buying by institutional and hedge fund that kept the momentum of the gold price to go up besides physical buying from India and China.

Hedging in gold is still on the higher side as it touched a new high around 80 percent in 11 months of 2012.

Meanwhile, the gold importers demanded of the government to announce duty cut on import of the commodity.

The government should announce around Rs 100 per tola duty cut in order to lower its prices in the domestic market besides providing relief to exporters of gold ornaments in the international market.

Currently the duty on import is around Rs 550 per tola and due to higher dollar value against the rupee, the local demand for the commodity is declining.

The government should provide duty relief on 3.0 kgs imports of gold on every 10 kgs of jewellery exports, exporters demanded.

Gold is expected to touch $1,800 an ounce in the next year or so on back of the Fed measures to boost interest in gold exchange-traded funds, among the vehicles that issue securities, backed by physical metal.\12\28\story_28-12-2012_pg5_3
Riaz Haq said…
Gold imports up 29.15% in first half of FY 2012-13:

ISLAMABAD: The gold imports of Pakistan during first half of current fiscal year grew by 29.15 percent as against the same period of last year.

According to data revealed by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the yellow metal weighing 2054 kilogram worth of $111.185 million was imported during the period under review as compared to the import of 1594 kg valuing $86.091 million during same period of last year (2011-12).

On month on month basis the gold imports in December 2012 registered an increase of 85.56 percent and 121.96 percent when compared to the imports during the months of December 2011 and November 2012 respectively.

Gold imports in December 2012 stood at $36.373 million against the imports of $19.602 million and $16.387 million in December 2011 and November 2012 respectively. The overall imports of metal group, registered an increase of 11.03 per cent during July-December (2012-13) against the same period of last year.

The metal imports in to the country during the period under review were recorded at $1.529 billion against imports of $1.38 billion during same period of last year. Imports of iron and steel scrap registered a growth of 18.27 percent during July-December (2012-13) as compared to the imports during July-December (2011-12). Iron and steel scrap imports into the country were recorded at $336.839 million during the first six months of current fiscal year against imports of $284.803 million during July-December (2011-12).

Imports of iron and steel edged up by 5.16 percent by growing from $653.196 million to $686.899 million whereas the imports of aluminum wrought and worked decreased by 7.24 percent by going down from $60.453 million to $56.074 million. The imports of all other metal and articles were recorded at $337.84 million during the period under review against the imports of $292.393 million in last year posting a growth of 15.54 percent.

The overall imports into the country decreased by 3.33 percent during first six months of current financial year whereas exports from the country witnessed positive growth of 7.58 percent, indicating a positive trends in the overall trade volume of the country.

The imports into the country decreased from US$22.677 billion last year to US$21.922 billion during the current fiscal year, the data revealed.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's PakistanToday on Non-Bank Financial services (NBFS) report:

KARACHI - The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) on Monday unveiled a document titled ‘Report of Non-Bank Financial Sector’ (NBFS) Reforms Committee’ for public feedback.
Prepared by senior SECP officials and leading market professionals, the report contains proposed reforms for the development of the non-bank financial (NBF) sector in Pakistan.
SECP Chairman Muhammad Ali, commissioners and leading professionals and businessmen from the financial sector attended the ceremony.
Addressing the ceremony, Ali said it was imperative that the SECP and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) work in close cooperation for effective and seamless regulation across the financial sector in a globally integrated market.
He said Pakistan’s financial sector was bank-centric with NBF sector accounting only 4.9 percent (excluding insurance sector) of the financial sector’s total assets. This dependence on the banking sector, he said, made the country’s financial system vulnerable to risks through lack of diversification and also restricted the scope of product innovation
In terms of the proposed regime, capital market activities of all entities including that of commercial banks and DFIs are to be regulated by the capital market regulator (CMR), i.e., SECP and deposit taking/financing/lending activities of all the financial sector participants would be regulated by the banking regulator (BR), i.e., SBP. This recommendation is in contrast with the prevalent concept of entity based regulatory
domain in Pakistan.
Other proposed reforms for the mutual fund industry include distribution of mutual fund units through stock exchanges, reduction in the annual regulatory fee provided more than 50 percent of a funds’ net assets are held by retail clients, introduction of concept of expense ratio, introduction of multiple classes of units based on the investment amount, improving the skill set of key personnel such as fund managers by specifying a minimum criteria among others.
Investment finance services are broken down and redefined as stock brokerage, investment advisory, corporate advisory, securities financing and securities underwriting services and each component has been further defined. Flexibility has been offered to an entity to be reclassified as non-bank finance company to obtain either a full scope or limited scope. The suggested regime for IFS outlines a mechanism to transform existing brokerage houses as NBFCs to become part of NBF sector. The inclusion of brokerage services in NBF sector is expected to open up a new era of licensed activities for brokers including advisory and other ancillary services.
To facilitate the launch of the real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Pakistan, the committee has proposed a reduction in REIT fund size to address the issue of
capital constraints and allow launching of medium-size REIT projects having better potential for growth and return.
In order to develop non-banking financial services, the committee, in line with best international practices has proposed the implementation of the concept of activity based regulatory regime in Pakistan for cluster one entities. In terms of the proposed regime, capital market activities of all entities are to be regulated by the SECP and deposit taking, financing and lending activities of all financial sector participants will be regulated by the SBP....
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET report on Elixir Securities CEO's projections for Pak equities:

KARACHI: The sales pitch employed by Elixir Securities CEO Junaid Iqbal to global fund managers at the Pakistan Capital Markets Day in New York last month was simple: even if the incumbent government returns to power after the upcoming elections, the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)-100 Index is still likely to post returns of over 21% in 2013.

In case a more pro-business government – supposedly led by the PML-N – comes into power, the stock market will rerate from the current multiple of 6.9 to 7.9, if the projections of the Elixir Securities research team are to be believed. That would push the index to 23,200 points by the end of 2013, which translates into an annual return of 38%.

In the best-case scenario, wherein the new political leadership tries to fix the taxation system in its first months in power, Elixir Securities estimates the KSE-100 Index will likely touch 26,000 points by December 2013, which means a staggering 54.8% annual return.

“The market is operating at an average multiple. In the absence of any leverage, there are no associated risks. It is being driven purely by earnings growth right now,” Iqbal told The Express Tribune in an interview.

Initially planned as a one-day event (hence named the Pakistan Capital Markets Day), Elixir Securities’ two-day road show in the global financial centre was attended by 35 fund managers, partners and principals from 25 major international asset management companies and hedge funds. Elixir Securities also took along representatives from Engro Corporation, Engro Foods, Lucky Cement and United Bank Limited. Iqbal was accompanied by the heads of his research and sales departments.

“All of them wondered how Pakistan’s capital markets could perform so well amidst bombings and violence,” he said, while noting that the KSE remained the third best-performing stock exchange of the world in 2012 by posting 37% returns in dollar terms, despite political instability and frequent terrorist attacks.

“I told them, honestly, that we cannot defend Pakistan on its human rights record: but the fact remains that the annualised growth in profits of the corporate sector for the last four years has been 17%,” he said.

“They understand that a political metamorphosis is taking place in Pakistan. At the same time, they are supremely impressed by the quality of management in our corporate sector,” he added.

Without naming the funds or giving their exact number, Iqbal said many of the companies he interacted with in New York have already consented to visit Pakistan in the near future. He said that it is not possible to state the exact amount of foreign institutional portfolio investment that is likely to come in as a result of his road show, but added that he was confident that investment will soon be coming into Pakistan’s capital markets.

He cited two reasons: firstly, all of the participants, which included some of the largest global funds, had sent their senior team members – something that shows how seriously they viewed Pakistan’s financial sector. Secondly, he noted, they were all ‘knowledgeable investors’ who had already developed deep understanding of issues ranging from the suspension of gas to Engro’s $1.1 billion fertiliser plant, to turf wars in Karachi involving the People’s Aman Committee.

“Pakistan is already on their radar. Our market will skyrocket once the law and order situation improves,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt of an Express Tribune Op Ed on youth vote in Pak elections:

Figures released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) show that a significant proportion of this year’s electorate is made up of people under the age of 35. Nearly half of the 84 million registered voters — 47.8 per cent — are aged between 18 and 35, while 19.77 per cent, or 16.88 million voters, are under the age of 26.

There is no doubt that political parties are aware of this sizeable youth vote and its potential voting power. Perhaps, the most obvious example is Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which has targeted much of its campaigning at young people over the last two years. It has a greater online presence than the other, more established parties, using Facebook and Twitter to disseminate information and engage supporters. PTI campaign material also places emphasis on the concerns of disillusioned youth, pledging to build a better economic environment with more job opportunities. These efforts have been reflected in its pubic rallies, largely populated by young people. While the PTI — a relatively new entrant to the political scene — has an obvious interest in utilising the youth vote to challenge the status quo, the more established parties have also made attempts to court the young. For its part, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been aggressively encouraging registration for Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC). Without one, you cannot vote and many of the new registrations are expected to be in rural areas where the PPP can rely on support. There is also the fact that along with a CNIC comes eligibility for vote-winning public welfare and loans, which young people can benefit from. Meanwhile, in Punjab, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has given away thousands of free laptops to college students.

It is obvious, then, that the big parties don’t want to miss out on the votes of young people. But how important will this group actually be in deciding the election result? The first thing to note is that no one knows how these voters are going to behave. Many of them — around eight million — are new voters, created when the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 2002. There is no guarantee that these newly registered voters will even make it to the polling stations and there isn’t much data available for comparison. The ECP does not collate information on how people have voted according to age group, so it is a mystery what under-35s have done in past elections. Certainly, the influx of new voters didn’t have much impact on the status quo in either the 2002 or 2008 elections. This lack of information makes it difficult to predict the future with any accuracy.
The political parties may all be engaging with youth when it comes to winning votes, but after the next government has been formed, whoever emerges victorious would do well to focus on the things that will actually keep this young population happy, productive and engaged with society. Rather than free computers or welfare handouts, the only things that will make a difference in the long term are education, economic development and the jobs that go with it.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's how PPP boasts of its record of the last 5 years, as reported by PakistanToday:

The Pakistan People’s Party on Saturday released a 29-point report on its five year performance, highlighting major achievements during the period.
It makes special mention of the constitutional reforms, particularly the 18th, 19th and 20th amendments which provided provincial autonomy, transfer of presidential powers to parliament, smooth installation of caretaker governments and striking down of president’s power to dissolve the assemblies.
Munir Ahmad Khan, the PPP in-charge policy and planning cell, presented the report before the media at a press conference. He said that credit goes to the PPP for ensuring independence granted to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Khan also came up with a list of important decisions and steps taken by the PPP government to mitigate sufferings of the people despite terrorism in the country.
In this regard, he mentioned a record increase in wheat production, increase in salaries of govt officials up to 158 percent, disbursement of Rs 70 billion among 7.5 million deserving families through the Benazir Income Support Programmed and financial help to 135,000 deserving people by Pakistan Baitul Maal.
On steps taken by the government for economic revival, Khan cited the Pak-Iran agreement on the gas pipeline, agreement with China on Gwadar Port, increase in foreign exchange reserves from $6 billion in 2008 to $16 billion in 2013, increase in export from $18 billion in 2008 to $29 billion in 2012, boost in stock market from 5,220 points in 2008 to 18,185 points in 2013 and reduction in interest rate from 17 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in 2013.
He believed that these measures would help improve the economy and ameliorate the people.
Talking about the measures taken to increase production of electricity, the PPP leader told reporters that the PPP-led government added 3,600MW of electricity to the system besides initiating additional work on Mangla and Tarbela dams for increase of 4,500MW in the system.
The previous government, he added, also got $3.5 billion for Basha Dam, initiated Neelum-Jhelum, Gomal and Satpara dams and Thar Coal project to get electricity from coal besides Jamphar project to get electricity out of air.
He said further the PPP government also reinstated thousands of government servants who were dismissed during the last 13 years and also regularised thousands of contract employees.
Among steps taken by the government for welfare of the masses, Munir Khan listed resumption of trade union activities, distribution of shares among 500,000 industrial workers, cheep tractors to farmers through Benazir Tractor Scheme, increase rural economy from 50 billion in 2008 to 800 billion rupees in 2013.
He said Faisalabad-Multan Motorway and construction of thousands of kilometres of roads.
Riaz Haq said…
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The leader of a banned Sunni extremist group that is believed to have killed hundreds of Pakistani Shiites in a series of bombings died in a shootout Wednesday after supporters tried to free him from police custody, the Pakistani authorities said.

Thirteen supporters of Malik Ishaq, the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, were also killed in the clash early Wednesday morning in Punjab Province, said Shuja Khanzada, Punjab’s home minister. Mr. Khanzada said armed supporters attacked a police convoy that was transporting Mr. Ishaq, his sons and three of his aides, all of whom had been arrested Saturday on suspicion of involvement in sectarian killings.

The two sons were among the dead, Mr. Khanzada said. Six police officers were wounded, and some of the attackers escaped, according to the police.

Commuters in Karachi last week passed a mosque run by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a group that is ostensibly banned by Pakistan.Extremists Make Inroads in Pakistan’s Diverse SouthJULY 15, 2014
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Shiites, including two bombings in the western city of Quetta in early 2013 that killed nearly 200 people. Additionally, Mr. Ishaq was accused of having masterminded a 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore.

Mr. Ishaq was imprisoned from 1997 to 2011 and had been accused in more than 60 criminal cases, but he was never successfully prosecuted. Analysts called that a reflection of Pakistan’s weak judicial system, in which militants are able to intimidate judges and witnesses, as well as political leaders.

Arif Rafiq, an adjunct fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, who has written extensively on sectarianism and militancy in Pakistan, said Mr. Ishaq’s killing had “significant symbolic value.” His release from prison in 2011 “represented the impunity that anti-Shia terrorists enjoyed in Pakistan,” particularly in Punjab Province, Mr. Rafiq said.

In recent years, however, Mr. Ishaq had been supplanted by a younger generation of militants, Mr. Rafiq said. “Still, his killing is an indication that the Pakistani state is serious about targeting anti-Shia militants,” he said.

Mr. Rafiq noted that Pakistan had seen a substantial decline in sectarian attacks in the past year, since the Pakistani military began an offensive against militant hide-outs in the country’s rugged semiautonomous tribal regions.

Some Pakistanis expressed skepticism about the official account of Mr. Ishaq’s killing, noting that Pakistan, and Punjab Province in particular, has a history of extrajudicial killings of militants by the security forces.

“Malik Ishaq’s killing in a suspect police encounter shows that the state itself does not seem to have faith in its own legal and justice system,” said Omar R. Quraishi, an editor at the ARY News network.
Riaz Haq said…
By tracing cellphones, #Pakistan makes inroads in war against #polio

The 85 percent decline in new cases this year is boosting confidence that Pakistani officials are on pace to stop the spread of the virus here, perhaps as early as next year. If Pakistan can achieve that goal, the world will take a major step toward becoming polio-free.

In late September, the World Health Organization declared that polio was no longer “endemic” in Nigeria, leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list of countries where the crippling virus continues to spread.

The revelation that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign to gain intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in 2011 had been a huge blow to Pakistan’s efforts against the disease, especially in areas where Islamist militant groups were strong.

But as the militants have loosened their grip on Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, health officials are now vaccinating hundreds of thousands of children for the first time.


That coordination began late last year as Pakistan’s army pressed into North Waziristan, which had been controlled by Taliban militants and was largely off-limits to vaccination teams.

When more than 100,000 families were evacuated from the area, they were stopped at roadside checkpoints and forced to take a drop of the polio vaccine.

Later, when the displaced residents were registered at refugee camps, they were given a surprising offer: free SIM cards for their phones.


Unbeknownst to North Waziristan residents, health officials used the SIM cards to track them as they resettled in other parts of the country. Their locations were mapped in new polio-eradication command centers. When clusters of residents from North Waziristan were identified on the map, teams of vaccinators were sent to those communities to, once again, administer the vaccine.

“We were able to trace them, map them and follow up with them,” said Safdar Rana, head of Pakistan’s Program on Immunization.

The controversial strategy was combined with outreach to religious leaders, the creation of community health centers and a renewed push to put women — not men — on the front lines of the country’s campaign to eradicate polio. But as with many other aspects of life here, the battle against polio is inextricably linked to efforts to overcome the threat posed by Islamist militancy.

Attacks on polio vaccination teams, provoked by the CIA ruse in 2011, resulted in the deaths of 74 people from 2012 to 2014, including 41 last year. So far this year, however, the number of deaths has dropped to 10, according to government figures.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan to build country’s first Naphtha Cracker Complex. #petrochemicals #manufacturing #materials #CPEC

In an unprecedented development to boost the economy, Pakistan is set to build the country’s first ever Naphtha Cracker Complex (NCC), a state-of-the-art “grand infrastructure” to change petrochemical raw substances into value-added products ranging from construction, home d├ęcor, appliances, furniture, medical care, paints, cleaning stuff and top of the line military gadgets.

The absence of a naphtha cracker complex means Pakistan has to buy all petrochemical feedstock from international market that take heavy toll on import bill and prices of long range of items.

India has nine naphtha cracker complexes providing it tremendous mileage in industrial and economic progress.

The creation of this complex will revolutionise the industrial landscape.

The game-changing development came after an 18-member delegation of Pakistan Chemical Manufacturing Association (PCMA) met recently with Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms in his office, Islamabad where NCC was announced to be built to catalyse the economic progress.

Acknowledging NCC as a strategic need, Minister suggested PCMA to prepare feasibility report and viable business plan in consultation with market experts and technologists to help ministry to make it a reality.

NCC will have an impactful role in all industrial zones to be placed along the route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it was said at the meeting.
Riaz Haq said…
‘What the hell is going on?’ Polio cases are vanishing in Pakistan, yet the virus won't go away
By Leslie RobertsJan. 11, 2018 , 1:00 PM

Just a year ago, poliovirus seemed on its last legs in Pakistan, one of its final strongholds. Polio cases were steadily falling, from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016, and, by last count, eight in 2017. Blood tests showed that, overall, immunity to the virus had never been higher, even among children aged 6 to 11 months, thanks to years of tireless vaccination campaigns. Surely, there were not enough susceptible kids to sustain transmission, and the virus would burn itself out within a year.

Unsettling new findings, however, show it is far from gone. In the most extensive effort in any country to scour the environment for traces of the virus, polio workers are finding it widely across Pakistan, in places they thought it had disappeared. They are wondering “just what the hell is going on” and how worried they should be, says epidemiologist Chris Maher of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, who runs polio operations in the eastern Mediterranean region. Does this mean the virus is more entrenched than anyone realized and is poised to resurge? Or is this how a virus behaves in its final days—persisting in the environment but not causing disease until it fades out?

“We have never had this level of environmental sampling anywhere else. We have nothing to compare it to,” Maher says. “We don’t understand the dynamic,” agrees Michel Zaffran, who leads the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO. “But we take it very seriously.” In response to the sampling data, he and his colleagues are already changing their tactics—and their definition of success.


One possible explanation for the disconnect is that AFP surveillance is missing cases. Maher doubts that the number is significant, but others suspect that too many children among the mobile populations, including the marginalized Pashtun minority, still aren’t being vaccinated despite ramped up efforts to reach them. “I don’t think polio is entrenched across Pakistan, but this last reservoir of ‘people on the move’ is sustaining the virus,” says Steve Cochi, a polio expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Maher has another view. “My own suspicion is this is part of what we see at the end,” he says. “The lack of cases means immunity is high, but because of the very difficult circumstance in Pakistan,” the virus still has a tenuous hold. Ultimately, he says, “The virus will die out because it is not getting enough purchase.”

The program is not taking any chances. The response to each positive environmental test is now as aggressive as to a case of paralysis. And the program is hammering the virus with repeated vaccination campaigns throughout the “low season,” between December and May, when cold weather makes it tougher for the virus to survive. Whether the strategy works will become clear later this year when the weather turns warm. But one thing is certain: The absence of cases is no longer enough to declare victory over polio. Going forward, a country will not be considered polio-free until 12 months have passed without a case—or a positive environmental sample.
Riaz Haq said…
Unlike the Pakistani political class, the Pakistani military is much more representative of the average people in the country. Here are a couple of excerpts of Anatol Lieven's book "Pakistan: A Hard Country" on this subject:

"The middle class composition of the officer corps increases contempt for the "feudal" political class. The army sees itself as superior to this class and far more modern, progressive and better educated."

"According to Shuja Nawaz, who obtained internal army documents, 65 percent of the military by 1990 was made up of people from Punjab, 14 percent of people from NWFP and FATA, 15 per cent from Sindh and Balochistan, and 6 per cent from Kashmir (reflecting large number of paramilitary units along the Line of Control."

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