Rebutting Western Narrative: "India Rising Pakistan Collapsing"

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

"India is a democracy and a great power rising. Pakistan is a Muslim homeland that lost half its territory in 1971, bounced back and forth between military and nominally democratic rule, never quite clear of annihilation angst despite its nuclear weapons".

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

"I.. saw much in this recent visit (to Pakistan) that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing. Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China....Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India".  

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

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

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

Several prominent Indian journalists and writers have visited Pakistan in recent years for the first time in their lives.  I am sharing with my readers selected excerpts of the reports from Mahanth Joishy (, Panakaj Mishra (Bloomberg), Hindol Sengupta (The Hindu), Madhulika Sikka (NPR) and Yoginder Sikand (Countercurrents) of what they saw and how they felt in the neighbor's home. My hope is that their stories will help foster close ties between the two estranged South Asian nations.

Mahanth S. Joishy, Editor, :  (July, 2012)

Many of us travel for business or leisure.  But few ever take a trip that dramatically shatters their entire worldview of a country and a people in one fell swoop.  I was lucky enough to have returned from just such a trip: a week-long sojourn in Pakistan.

It was a true eye-opener, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.  Many of the assumptions and feelings I had held toward the country for nearly 30 years were challenged and exposed as wrong and even ignorant outright.
 The Western and Indian media feed us a steady diet of stories about bomb blasts, gunfights, kidnappings, torture, subjugation of women, dysfunctional government, and scary madrassa schools that are training the next generation of jihadist terrorists.  And yes, to many Westerners and especially Indians, Pakistan is the enemy, embodying all that is wrong in the world.  Incidents such as the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, 26/11 and the Osama Bin Laden raid in Abottobad have not helped the cause either.  Numerous international relations analysts proclaim that  Pakistan is “the most dangerous place in the world” and the border with India is “the most dangerous border in the world.”
(Upon arrival in Karachi) two uniformed bodyguards with rifles who were exceedingly friendly and welcoming climbed onto the pickup truck bed as we started on a 45-minute drive.  I was impressed by the massive, well-maintained parks and gardens surrounding the airport.  I was also impressed by the general cleanliness, the orderliness of the traffic, the quality of the roads, and the greenery. Coming from a city government background, I was surprised at how organized Karachi was throughout the ride.  I also didn’t see many beggars the entire way.  I had just spent significant amounts of time in two major Indian cities, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as several second-tier cities like Mangalore, and none would compare favorably on maintenance and city planning, especially when it came to potholes and waste management.  This was the first surprise; I was expecting that piles of garbage and dirt would line the roads and beggars would overflow onto the streets.  Surely there is dirt and poverty in Karachi, but far less than I was expecting.  Karachi was also less dense and crowded than India’s cities.

My second pleasant surprise was to see numerous large development projects under way.  I had read about Pakistan’s sluggish GDP growth and corruption in public works and foreign aid disbursement.  This may be true, but construction was going on all over the place: new movie theaters, new malls, new skyscrapers,  new roads, and entire new neighborhoods being built from scratch.  In this regard it was similar to India and every other part of Asia I had seen recently: new development and rapid change continues apace, something we are seeing less of in the West.
 We were also able to do some things which may sound more familiar to Americans: bowling at Karachi’s first bowling alley, intense games of pickup basketball with some local teenagers at a large public park (these kids could really play), or passing through massive and well-appointed malls filled with thousands of happy people of all ages walking around, shopping, or eating at the food court.  We even attended a grand launch party for Magnum ice cream bars, featuring many of Pakistan’s A-list actors, models, and businesspeople.  A friend who is involved in producing musicals directed an excellent performance at the party, complete with live band, singing, and dancing.  This troupe, Made for Stage has also produced shows such as the Broadway musical Chicago to critical acclaim with an all-Pakistani cast for the first time in history.

Even the poor areas we visited, such as the neighborhoods around the Mazar, were filled with families coming out for a picnic or a stroll, enjoying their weekend leisure time in the sun.  All I could see were friendly and happy people, including children with striking features running around.  At no time did I feel the least bit unsafe anywhere we went, and we definitely went through a mix of neighborhoods with varying profiles.
 Lahore is more beautiful overall than Karachi or any large Indian city I’ve seen.  Serious effort has gone into keeping the city green and preserving its storied history.  Historians would have a field day here.  In particular we saw two stunning historic mosques, the Wazir Khan and the Badshahi, both of which should be considered treasures not only for Muslims, Pakistanis, or South Asia, but for all of humanity.  I felt it a crime that I’d never even heard of either one.  Each of them in different ways features breath-taking architecture and intricate artwork comparable to India’s Taj Mahal.  These are must-see sights for any tourist to Lahore.  The best way to enjoy the vista of the Badshahi mosque is to have a meal on the rooftop of one of the many superb restaurants on Food Street next to the mosque compound.  This interesting area was for hundreds of years an infamous red-light district, made up of a series of old wooden rowhouses that look like they were lifted straight out of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, strangely juxtaposed with one of the country’s holiest shrines.  From the roof of Cuckoo’s Den restaurant, we could see all of the massive Badshahi complex along with the adjoining royal fortress, all while having a 5-star meal of kebabs, spicy curries in clay pots, and lassi under the stars.  We were fortunate to have very pleasant whether as well.  This alfresco dining experience with two good friends encompassed my favorite moments in the  city.

We did much more in Lahore.  We were given a tour of the renowned Aitchison College, which one of my friends attended.  This boys’ private prep school is known for its difficult entrance exams, rigorous academic tradition, illustrious list of alumni since the British founded the school, and its gorgeous and impeccably maintained 200-acre campus that  puts most major universities icluding my own Georgetown to shame.  Aitchison has been considered one of the best prep schools on the subcontinent since 1886.  However, it would have been impossible to get a tour without the alumni connection because security is very thorough.

Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg:  (April, 2012)

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Hindol Sengupta, The Hindu: (May, 2010)

Add this bookstore to the list of India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank. The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign policy and subcontinental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting into in India. ...

Yes, that's right. The meat. There always, always seems to be meat in every meal, everywhere in Pakistan. Every where you go, everyone you know is eating meat. From India, with its profusion of vegetarian food, it seems like a glimpse of the other world. The bazaars of Lahore are full of meat of every type and form and shape and size and in Karachi, I have eaten some of the tastiest rolls ever. For a Bengali committed to his non-vegetarianism, this is paradise regained. Also, the quality of meat always seems better, fresher, fatter, more succulent, more seductive, and somehow more tantalizingly carnal in Pakistan. ....

Let me tell you that there is no better leather footwear than in Pakistan. I bought a pair of blue calf leather belt-ons from Karachi two years ago and I wear them almost everyday and not a dent or scratch! Not even the slightest tear. They are by far the best footwear I have ever bought and certainly the most comfortable. Indian leather is absolutely no match for the sheer quality and handcraftsmanship of Pakistani leather wear.

Yes. Yes, you read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and, yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable, wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously — potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur in the North West frontier province, hard hit by the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the highways and motorways.

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

Madhulika Sikka, NPR News: (May, 2010)

This may be hard to believe, but the first thing that crosses your mind when you drive into Islamabad is suburban Virginia — its wide roads, modern buildings, cleanliness and orderliness is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the ancient city of Lahore, some 220 miles east on the Grand Trunk Road.

Islamabad is laid out in a grid with numbered avenues running north to south. The streets are tree lined and flowers abound among the vast open stretches of green space.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful spots is the Margallah Hills National Park. Drive up the winding road on the northern edge of town to the scenic view points and you'll see the broad planned city stretch before you.
It's a Sunday afternoon and you could be in any park in any city in the world. Families are out for a stroll and picnicking on park benches. There's a popcorn vendor and an ice cream seller. Kids are playing on a big inflatable slide. Peacocks strut their full plumage as people are busily clicking away on their cellphone cameras. Lively music permeates the air as souvenir sellers are hawking their wares. Off one of the side paths I notice a young couple lunching at a bench, a respectable distance apart from each other but clearly wanting to be alone.

So what's it like here? It's pretty much like everywhere else. On a quiet Sunday afternoon people are out with their families, relaxing and enjoying themselves, taking a break from the stresses and strains of daily life. For all of us this is an image of Pakistan worth remembering. I certainly will.
Yoginder Sikand, : (June, 2008)

Islamabad is surely the most well-organized,picturesque and endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or, if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never highlights anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only 'bad' news about the country appears to be considered 'newsworthy'. That realization hit me as a rude shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad's plush International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favorably with every other South Asian city that I have visited. That week in Islamabad consisted essentially of a long string of pleasant surprises, for I had expected Islamabad to be everything that the Indian media so uncharitably and erroneously depicts Pakistan as. The immigration counter was staffed by a smart young woman, whose endearing cheerfulness was a refreshing contrast to the grave, somber and unwelcoming looks that one is generally met with at immigration counters across the world that make visitors to a new country feel instantly unwelcome.

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial: 
Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network 


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

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

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

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

“We don’t have to be proud of what we’ve done,” admitted minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla to the Times Of India on Wednesday. “Poverty is the biggest challenge.”
Riaz Haq said…
The Emerging Middle Class in Pakistan: How it Consumes, Earns, and Saves
Dr. Jawaid Abdul Ghani
Professor, Strategy and Marketing Research,
Karachi School of Business and Leadership

During the first decade of the twenty first century, and for the first time in the history of
Pakistan, over half of the households in the country belonged to the middle class (M-class).
During this period (2002-2011) the M-class, defined as households with daily per capita
expenditures of $2-$10 in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars1
, grew from 32 percent to 55
percent of all households in the country, and the number of people in this class doubled from 38
million to 84 million. Real aggregate national consumption increased by about $60 billion, of
which $55 billion was accounted for by the increase in consumption of the M-class. As a result
90 percent of the increase in national consumption during this decade came from the increase in
consumption of the M-class2
. It is not surprising that the Asian Development Bank listed
Pakistan as among the top five countries3
in the Asia Pacific region with the fastest growing Mclass
during 1990-2008 (Chun 2010).
What characterizes the M-class? Bannerjee and Duflo (2008) suggest that holding a relatively
secure job is the single most important characteristic of the M-class. Individuals with higher
levels of “permanent income” are less vulnerable to economic shocks, have lower discount rates
for future rewards and thus invest more in health, education, and other “rent generating”
credentials. Professionals and others in the “service class” with large amounts of human capital
and stable employment relationships are considered the most likely to invest in securing their
own and children‟s future. Indeed, according to Sorenson (2000) it is the level of uncertainty in
“lifetime wealth” and resulting living conditions which result in differences among social
. M-class values are described as optimism and confidence regarding the future, a
preference for moderation and stability, a willingness to pay a little extra for quality, the “ability
to defer gratification”, and income often based on specialized skills. As a result the M-class has
the “base amount of income to invest in productive activities that contribute to economy-wide
welfare” (Chun 2010), and is more likely to accumulate human capital and savings, and more
inclined towards entrepreneurship (Lopez 2012, Meyer 2012).
Riaz Haq said…
After taking a study tour to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, members of an international officers’ delegation made some poignant observations about their stint in the three countries. Some of these observations may be cursory but still reflect certain realities of some South Asian cities. Arriving in and moving through New Delhi was a shocking experience, recalled a German official. According to him, the life outside the grand airport was in sharp contrast to what he had read about the new, shining India. Unlike the image of a clean and vibrant New Delhi reflecting the oft-trumpeted ‘shining India’, he encountered congested roads, vehicular mayhem, and filth and trash all over.

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

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

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

One of the top executives of a multinational communications company complained bitterly about the unpredictability of doing business in India. At the same time, however, he felt that the Indian market is too big to ignore so his company is still sticking its necks out because of the potential the market offers.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan's incredible beauty unveiled in travelogue. …

Fear. It’s both a vital gift housed by human nature and an insidious enemy of the human race. On one hand, it whispers warnings and protects us from danger. On the other hand, it has the tendency to dramatise risk, rationalise rumours, glorify assumptions and conjure terrifying truths in order to fill gaps in knowledge and experience. In this regard, fear often places two hands over our eyes and blinds us from hidden opportunities. It closes the gate on enlightening international relationships, thrilling life experiences and character-building adventures.
I recently stared fear in the face and told it take a back seat. It knew of my plans to explore Pakistan and it was starting to freak out. It kept replaying the frightful imagery and headlines I’d consumed through international media. My inner devil’s advocate didn’t have any good news stories to fight back with – so it seemed, positive tales about Pakistan weren’t getting much airtime.
As I started to share my travel plans with others, fear got it’s “I told you so” face on. Every time I mentioned that Pakistan was my gateway to “The Stans” and Europe, I was met with one of two responses: “Why are you going there? It’s not safe,” or “Good luck!” (backed by incredulous laughter).
As I spent my last night in India, soaking up the intense atmosphere at the infamous Wagah Border Closing Ceremony, my sense of trepidation reached fever pitch. I watched the Pakistani crowd from the Indian bleachers with nervous curiosity. Stretching my neck like a meerkat, I fought to decipher any cultural clues, which would put my mind at ease. From what I could tell, the men and women were sitting in different sections but both sexes were releasing a passion-fuelled fire from their bellies like revved up dragons. Their intense patriotism was hypnotising.
Funnily enough, at this point, my biggest fear wasn’t getting killed in Pakistan. It’s that I’d offend the locals with my cultural naivety and lack of sensitivity and, as a result, represent my home country poorly. I desperately wanted to put a good Aussie foot forward and assure the Pakistani people I was eager to understand their community better. I quickly learned their intentions were exactly the same as mine. The locals knew they were battling against a major international PR challenge, and they were hungry to champion Pakistan’s endearing qualities and little-known strengths.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before Pakistanis became one of the most hospitable communities I’d encountered. From the moment I entered the border at Wagah to the time I left the country through China, they slowly chipped away at my armour with kindness and found their way into my heart. The locals have taught me a lot about Pakistan, Islamic culture and the power of media. They’ve practically demolished my fears and rebuilt my perception of their home country. Let me explain why…
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an Indian Sikh visitor's view of Pakistani roads:

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

See more at:
Riaz Haq said…
Postcard from #Pakistan: #Delhi-Based #British Expat Crosses the Border to Pleasant Surprises in #Lahore #Islamabad

the logistics. At this stage the decision to take Latin over Geography at O Level proved unfortunate as I booked Delhi-Abu Dhabi-Lahore over the more logical Delhi-Amritsar and a walk across the border. My Indian business partners, too polite or perplexed by the escapade, refrained from pointing out the error and so I boarded my flight to Abu Dhabi (a 3,000-mile dog leg to Lahore). Quod erat demonstrandum, as a geography student might like to say.

The flight was a riot of construction workers en route to their expat jobs in the Gulf, and me. But what a contrast with the passengers at the Abu Dhabi departure gate for Lahore. It could have been JFK—vibrant, international, fashion-conscious; all iPads and Tory Burch.

Dawn the next day at Fort Lahore. Heavens, what a place and reason alone to visit Pakistan! A glorious morning, no one there and standing at the foot of Shah Jahan’s Elephant Steps to his magnificent palace. What a thing, what a thought—a stairway for your favorite pachyderm and its very big strides. Something to inspire a man on a gray morning commute and an action item to be more like the Mughals.

Later I toured the hip, up-and-coming city boroughs and saw an outbreak of U.S. burger joints and burgeoning mall developments. Pretty girls, blue skies, ancient places, modern ways, few traffic jams and no trash. Quite a place, and a pleasant contrast to the hard-knock life of Delhi with its press of 25 million people. Surprisingly, it turned out that doing business was easier than India—less regulation and more free trade. This was born out by an out-of-body hour spent cruising the aisles of a Rawalpindi supermarket as good as Whole Foods WFM +0.38% or Waitrose.

And so on to Islamabad and the charming Serena Hotel. Old expat hands would recognize its type in comparable hotels of the day—the places to meet in an era when knowing the right people mattered: the Mandarin, Hong Kong of the ’80s, the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, the King David in 1960s’ Jerusalem, the Okura in Tokyo. At the Serena, the local political crowd mixed with South Asia journalists, Chinese businessmen and the odd Westerner of uncertain provenance.

On the final day. Islamabad sparkling with views of the surrounding green hills: I set off to explore the city through the universal medium of jogging, much to the surprise of the Serena’s security team and their adorable black Labrador sniffer dog. After detouring through a dusty park, I emerged on to Constitution Avenue (think Champs-Élysées) and ran the length of the road past sandbagged machine-gun posts and slow-driving, tinted-window Chevrolet Suburbans bound for the highly defended diplomatic compound.

As the plane took off from Benazir Bhutto International, I felt privileged to see Pakistan before it becomes, in all likelihood, less like itself and more like a modern Middle East or Asian city. When this happens there’ll be no time to wander up Elephant Steps or jog alone on Constitution Ave.

Back in New Delhi I spoke to my young team about the trip. Reassuringly, they were intrigued and asked questions, and many wanted to visit their neighbor. Perhaps the passing of years may lessen the pain of partition and cross-border traffic will increase, surely to the benefit of both these splendid, complex countries.

In the meantime, my wife and I shall take our children to Pakistan for one big reason: to show them they’re able to visit this remarkable land. In the end, providing this permission to travel (the ultimate visa stamp) may be the biggest benefit of being a family abroad. Kids may or may not travel later in life, but they’ll know they can.
Riaz Haq said…
#US @StateDept considers re-hyphenation of #India, #Pakistan. The Hindu …
This will be a reversal of the de-hyphenation policy started by Bush.

Seven years after the State Department was restructured to ‘de-hyphenate’ U.S. relations with India and with Pakistan, it is considering a reversal of the move.

De-hyphenating refers to a policy started by the U.S. government under President Bush, but sealed by the Obama administration, of dealing with India and Pakistan in different silos, without referring to their bilateral relations. It enabled the U.S. to build closer military and strategic ties with India without factoring in the reaction from Pakistan, and to continue its own strategy in Afghanistan with the help of the Pakistan military without referring back to India.

‘Active’ consideration

A proposal to re-merge the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) back with the Bureau of South and Central Asia (SCA) that handles India, the rest of the subcontinent and Central Asian republics is under “active” consideration, senior-level sources told The Hindu.

The re-merger proposal is ostensibly timed with the international troops pullout from Afghanistan.

Ministry of External Affairs officials would not confirm whether they had been informed of the move they described as an “internal” matter of the U.S. government. However, asked about the possible impact of bringing India and Pakistan under one bureau again, the former National Security Adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, said: “It looks like a re-hyphenation of the India-Pakistan equation that is not in our interest. Our relationship has grown because it stood on its own, as it is important that bilateral relations with India won’t be overshadowed by its relations with the region.”

The de-hyphenation policy of the U.S. was crystallised when the SRAP was set up in 2009 soon after President Barack Obama had taken over, with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke.

At the time, Mr. Holbrooke had hoped to include India in his mandate, and even to discuss the resolution of Kashmir as a means to extract greater cooperation from Pakistan. India had strongly opposed the move.

According to a diplomatic cable published by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks which was accessed by The Hindu, the then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had objected to this when U.S. Ambassador David Mulford paid a farewell call on him.

“He expressed his deep concern about a special envoy with a broad regional mandate that could be interpreted to include Kashmir, and shared his hope that the U.S.-India relationship not be viewed through the lens of regional crises,” Mr. Mulford recorded of Mr. Mukherjee’s message. (

Subsequently, Mr. Holbrooke remained only engaged with NATO and Af-Pak affairs until his death some years later, and was followed by subsequent SRAPs. “Even when U.S. officials wanted to discuss the situation in Afghanistan or Pakistan with us, we would insist they didn’t travel to us via Islamabad,” a senior MEA official working on the Americas desk in those years told The Hindu.

Mr. Menon, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, had also repeated the message of de-hyphenating the ties in his talks with the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, other cables from WikiLeaks record. “We didn’t want to be party to U.S. actions in Afghanistan at the time,” explained Mr. Menon.

“We don’t believe in talking to the Taliban, for example, so how would we manage that conversation.”
Riaz Haq said…
Foreign Tourist's Travelogue: "unlike his virgin experience in #India, it was love at first sight (in #Pakistan )".

It wasn’t love at first sight when Lukas Szolc-Nartowski first set foot in India in 2001.....Contrary to his fears, Pakistan proved to be one of the most inspiring, vibrant countries he had ever visited. And unlike his virgin experience in India, it was love at first sight.

“The first person I met in Pakistan was Umair Ghani, a photographer and writer – a very inspiring and wise person,” Lukas shares. “The next couple of days were spent with Umair, learning photography and getting to know the city of kings – Lahore. They have this saying in Punjabi – You are not yet born if you have not seen Lahore.”

He managed to snag a used Minolta 50mm f/1.4 lens for $10 at a flea market in Lahore, which he fell in love with and continues to use to this day.
“It’s just an awesome lens. A great piece of optics engineering. I love the sharpness and the colours it gives, and the bokeh is just beautiful,” he says.

“Very few photographers use vintage lenses nowadays, going for more modern, faster and sharper ones instead. I do not feel like the picture has to be perfect, I like the pictures that “talk” and this lens helps me take this kind of pictures.”

Over the next few years, he continued visiting Pakistan, a place he describes as magnetic. “I have travelled all over, from the beaches of Balochistan, through the deserts of Sindh to the northern areas and mountains of Karakoram and Hindukush, admiring this beautiful country with its unique and vibrant culture, and most gentle and welcoming people you can imagine.”
Riaz Haq said…
What attracted Columbus and other Europeans to India was its reputation as a "golden bird" built under Muslim rule.

Read Paknja Mishra's Op Ed in NY Times:

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

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

Mr. Modi doesn’t seem to know that India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture. The psychic wounds Mr. Naipaul noticed among semi-Westernized upper-caste Hindus actually date to the Indian elite’s humiliating encounter with the geopolitical and cultural dominance first of Europe and then of America.
Riaz Haq said…
"#India's Growing At 5-6%, Less Than #Modi Government Claims" "#Pakistan's prospects bright" Morgan Stanley's Sharma … via @HuffPostIndia

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

"Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh all have bright prospects going forward, with credit growth under control, strong working-age population growth, inflation in check..."
Riaz Haq said…
India’s 17th century Mughal emperor Akbar earned an annual revenue of some £17.5 million, according to Aberdeen. At that time India’s share of the global GDP had been relatively stable at 25% for around 200 years. This began falling during colonisation and the slide continued till the late 1970s. Things got better after liberalisation in 1991 when the country opened up the economy. Since then, India’s share has steadily risen.
Riaz Haq said…
India on Friday released figures of what it claims is the world’s biggest census that it hopes will help plug wastage in government welfare schemes, boost tax revenue and define consumers more clearly.
The census had some grim figures for India’s poor and landless.

Nearly 40 per cent of Indian rural households are landless and derive a major part of their income from manual, casual labour.

Only 4.6 per cent of all rural households in the country pay income tax.

Over one-third of Indian population living in rural areas is illiterate and 23.5 per cent of rural households have no literate adults above the age of 25.

Nearly 60 per cent of India’s rural population in 2011 qualify for “deprivation” estimated through the yardstick of seven socio-economic parameters.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the findings of the “Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011” in New Delhi on Friday.

More than two million census workers covered an estimated 1.2 billion people, defining them in demographic, socio-cultural and economic terms, including such parameters as mobile phone and Internet usage and banking access.

A meager 11.04 per cent of rural households have a refrigerator while 70 per cent own cell phones.

This was also the first socio-economic and caste census in India since 1934 although the caste data has not been made pubic yet and only Indian lawmakers at the Parliament in Delhi will have access to the data.

Caste systems are common in much of south-east Asia. Castes divide people into social groupings; those in the lowest castes are regarded as unclean and are often forced into unpleasant and dangerous work like manual scavenging.

The census findings released on Friday said 180,657 people in rural India are still being forced to clean human excreta from dry toilets and open drains, despite a ban on the discriminatory and undignified practice.

The census in the world’s second-most populous country is held every 10 years. China, with a population of 1.3 billion, also has a census every 10 years.

With about two-thirds of the Indian population in hard-to-reach rural areas, the census is the main source of data for everyone from manufacturers of cars and marketers of toothpaste to government officials planning and implementing key programs.
Riaz Haq said…
An #Indian's Act of #Sedition: "#Pakistanis are the most gracious people in the world". #India #Pakistan #Modi #BJP

A warm welcome
Our flight landed in Lahore, and our friends drove us from the airport to their home in Islamabad. I noticed that my mother was initially a little tense. Maybe it was memories of the violence of her exile; maybe it was just the idea that this was now a foreign land, and for many in India the enemy land.

I watched my mother gradually relax on the road journey to Islamabad, as she delighted in hearing my friends and the car driver speak the Punjabi of her childhood, and as she watched the altered landscape of her journey. Islamabad, of course, did not exist when she lived in the Punjab of her days.

In Islamabad, my friends invited to their homes many of their associates with their parents. They organised evenings of Punjabi poetry and music, which my parents relished. Our friends drove us to Murree, the hill-station in which my mother spent many pleasant summers as a child.

My mother had just one more request. Could she go to see the colony in Rawalpindi where she was born and spent her childhood in? My father also wanted to visit his college, the famous Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

A homecoming
My mother recalled that the name of the residential colony in which she lived as a child was called Gawal Mandi. My friends knew it well; it was now an upmarket upper middle-class enclave.

When we reached there, my mother tried to locate the house of her childhood. It seemed impossible. Everything was new: most of the old houses had been rebuilt and opulent new structures had come up in their place.

She located the building that had housed their gurudwara. It had now been converted into a health centre. But we had almost despaired of actually finding her childhood house. We doubted if it was even standing all these years later.

We were leaving when suddenly my mother pointed to the filigree work on the balconies of one of the old houses. My mother said: “I remember it because my father was very proud of the designs. He said there was none like it in the neighbourhood."

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively on the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened it, and asked us who we wanted to meet.

My mother said apologetically, “We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.”

The house owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate.

"Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome.”
And he led us all in.

Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Take a look: Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it.

We were told: “You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?”

They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.
Riaz Haq said…
View from right-wing India:

Pakistan’s Political Economy Is Changing – And India Must Take Note
Monica Verma
- Mar 30, 2017, 8:35 pm

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators.

The country’s economic performance, along with China’s investment into the CPEC initiative, has encouraged investors to look at the country in a new light.

Such is the dominance of geopolitical narratives in South Asia that any positive news from the neighbourhood does not reach us. While thinking about our neighbours, especially Pakistan, images of a country whose economy is in shambles and polity unstable strike us.

Not that these images have changed completely, nor has Pakistan moved on to become a developed economy overnight, but the changes in the neighbourhood are significant. The country now has the potential to transform itself into a stable polity and healthy economy pending a good deal of caution.

The positive signs

In 2013, Pakistan’s economy was on the verge of a collapse. The foreign exchange reserves were drying up, and fiscal deficit was mounting even as the rate of economic growth was slowing down. It was during this turbulent time that International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended a loan of $7.6 billion to help the country stabilise its economy and protect the vulnerable sections of its population. This three-year IMF-supported programme not only helped the country stave off a foreign exchange crisis, it also laid the foundation for macroeconomic and financial stability in the country.

Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators. The economy witnessed a 4.7 per cent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2016, the country’s highest in the last eight years. Fiscal deficit has also come down to 4.6 per cent from 8.8 per cent. Another sign of revitalised economic activity is the stock market that rose by almost 50 per cent in 2016. These figures might indicate a positive turnaround in Pakistan’s economy, but in comparison to other South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, Pakistan’s growth rate is still miniscule. If the country maintains its fiscal prudence and executes reforms as suggested by IMF fairly, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

Promising sectors

The construction industry has emerged as one of the sweet spots for Pakistan’s economy. Government of Pakistan considers it an important driver of economic growth, where a spurt in economic activity has the potential to positively impact growth in allied sectors as well. The boom in the industry is a result of increased infrastructural activities as well as various residential projects that have been initiated to deliver housing solutions to the people. This boom is aided by favourable fuel prices including oil, electricity and coal. The government has also given tax relief to builders to facilitate growth in the real estate sector.

Along with construction, the Information Technology (IT) sector has emerged as a promising sector for the Pakistani economy. In 2015, Pakistan’s IT sector accounted for $2.8 billion, of which services worth $1.6 billion were exported abroad. This is an almost negligible share of a $3.2 trillion global IT market, but the commitment of the Pakistani government to the IT sector signals that this share may increase exponentially.

The model followed by the Pakistani IT industry has helped it cut through problems like corruption, bureaucratic red tape and security challenges. The software professionals in the country seek clients through popular freelance hiring sites such as Elance, Upwork and Fivver. The freelance software professional community from Pakistan is now the third largest in the world. Various estimates put the number of IT companies in the country at 25,000.
Riaz Haq said…
A rare, more nuanced view of Pakistan, very different from the apocalyptic portrayal of the country common in the books and media published in the West

In Matthew’s own words: “Why do I describe Pakistan as ‘unjustly maligned’? Simply because, it is. The public perception of Pakistan is one of unremitting violence and injustice and this perception simply does not correlate with the facts. It is not representative, and it is not fair. If a cameraman followed me for a day filming everything I did and said and then edited out all of the good things, leaving only the bad – the time I shouted at the kids, the time I swore at a foolish motorist, the time I ignored a beggar by the side of the road – the resulting image would be accurate in parts, but I hope broadly unrepresentative. I would resent being depicted in this way, and yet this is precisely what we are doing to Pakistan. The positive aspects of life here are mostly unknown by people in the West.

The public image of Pakistan is wholly negative but the hidden face of Pakistan is, far more often than not, beautiful, kind, welcoming, gentle and filled with hope. When I stop to think of this hidden face of Pakistan, hundreds of memories come to mind: the files of smartly-dressed children wending their way to school in the morning, the crowds of intelligent young people thronging the Lahore Literary Festival in the hope of catching a glimpse of their favourite authors, the unfailing warmth of the hospitality, the taxi drivers who regularly refuse my money on the grounds that I am a guest, the sight of the elegant minarets of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore or the soaring mountains of the Kaghan Valley or a squadron of emerald-green parakeets screeching over the pine-clad hills of Murree. This side of Pakistani life, while well known to Pakistanis themselves, is rarely, if ever, documented by people in the West, and yet it is far more representative of normal Pakistani life than the negative narratives of the media. Pakistan is by no means perfect, but after living here for four years the phrase.“This Sacred Land” seems less and less incongruous to me with every passing day.”

While Matthew is also concerned about problems that Pakistan faces e.g. eight hours of power cuts a day except during religious festivals, widespread poverty, violence and religious extremism, on book shelves where books related to Pakistan have apocalyptic titles, this book will be a good read – something positive and new!
Riaz Haq said…
From Seeking Alpha :


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That night, we had dinner atop a block of stunning historic buildings adjacent to a large Mughal-era mosque. The spread consisted of kebab, lamb chops, several types of delicious breads, and my new favourite Pakistani dish - goat brain masala (also called “bheja fry” in the local language across most parts of South Asia).
Riaz Haq said…
From Seeking Alpha...Part 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional disclosure: The AFC Asia Frontier Fund is invested in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
'Desperate housewives': Why so many young #women are dying by #suicide in #India. India accounts for almost 40 per cent of #female suicides worldwide — and young, married women are most at risk. #Modi #BJP via @ABCNews

Women in India are also 2.1 times more likely to die by suicide than the global average, accounting for 71 per cent of deaths in women aged under 40, according to a study published in medical journal The Lancet.

Suicide was the leading cause of death in women aged 15 to 29, with death rates higher among women than men in that age group, it said.

The study also found "arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status and domestic violence" were factors contributing to the nation's high suicide rates.

"In Western countries a marriage is protective to women but in India it seems that marriage is not protective," said Dr Manjula O'Connor, a Melbourne-based psychiatrist who works closely with Australia's Indian community.

"It relates to the patriarchal factors and the level of oppression and lack of autonomy that women feel within a marital situation."

University of Adelaide associate professor Peter Mayer, who is an expert on suicide in India, has coined it the "desperate housewives" effect.

Though the female suicide rate has actually fallen since 1990, nearly two in five global female suicides are recorded in India, making it a "public health crisis" in the country, Dr Mayer said.

As in most countries, overall suicide death rates in India are higher among men than women, at 21.2 and 14.7 per 100,000 people respectively, but globally Indian men account for about 25 per cent of male suicides, the Lancet study said.

Dr O'Connor said she believed suicide was also a problem among young women in Australia's Indian community.

However, statistics are difficult to pin down, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not release information on suicide deaths based on ethnicity or culture.

Family violence and murder in Australian Hindu and Sikh communities

There are growing concerns about a recent, significant increase in domestic violence in Hindu and Sikh communities, a crisis which has become public in a spate of horrific deaths.
Many of those affected were young women who travelled from India to Australia to enter arranged marriages, arriving with "dreams of freedom" only to find their new husband is "coercive or controlling", Dr O'Connor said.

"They fight back against the demand for dowry or control over their wages, and when they fight back it leads to family violence," she said, which can compound with stressors such as social isolation and mental health issues.

The practice of dowry — common in India and among Indian communities overseas — involves a bride's family giving money or goods to her husband once they are married.

A Senate inquiry into dowry abuse in Australia is due to hand down its report on Thursday December 6.

Discussion of suicide and related mental illness still carries a heavy stigma in India, with researchers saying it presents a barrier to addressing some of the root causes.

"In India the idea that you might have some kind of mental health problem is not only a problem for you, it will affect your sister's ability to get married," Dr Mayer said.

"There are all sorts of constraints to one's ability to admit depression."
Riaz Haq said…
The Times Columnist Roger Cohen on the Future of India

By Isaac Chotiner September 24, 2019

I spoke by phone with Cohen on Monday about his column and his views of Modi. Born in London, he has reported from numerous countries throughout Europe, South America, and the Middle East, for the Times and the Wall Street Journal. The interview, edited for length and clarity, is below.

Isaac Chotiner: You refer, in your latest column, to Modi as “measured, ascetic, not driven by impulse.” Is that the best way to describe someone who is a right-wing ideologue and has gleefully waved away reports of mass murder that he presided over?

Roger Cohen: .... It is also a human right, in my view, not to have to defecate outside. And he is moving India forward, I think, in a very powerful and interesting way. And he just got elected in a landslide, by more than six hundred million people. You will tell me that Orbán was elected, too, and so was Hitler, for that matter, but six hundred million votes—that’s the world’s largest democracy in action.

To be clear, his party didn’t get six hundred million votes. That’s the number of people who voted in that election.

Yeah, sorry, yeah. It’s clear also that he comes from a Hindu-nationalist background, and that his base, his party—there have been some very ugly incidents. But there are a hundred and fifty million-plus Muslims in India. How many Hindus are there in Pakistan? In general, I am a little skeptical of the knee-jerk liberal reaction across the board. I think one has to think very carefully. Even with Trump, you have to step back and think, What is actually happening here? Why was this guy elected? Trump is us. We elected him. Let’s look at what caused that.

Sure. I am curious what you think the knee-jerk liberal reaction is to Modi. He was the Prime Minister of a state and presided over a mass murder that was carried out by his ideological allies, that he waved away. Since he got into office, there has been a massive rise in hate crimes—

There was never, I mean, Modi—it went all the way through the courts in India. Yes. Clearly, he looked away. Whether he did more than that, I don’t know. And, yes, that is grave, that is very serious. And I certainly recognize that.

I think many analysts would argue that previous governments did more on social indicators like defecation. Have you read about what is happening in the state of Assam, where they are trying to remove Muslims from the citizenship roles and are building camps? Modi’s party has talked about doing this nationwide.

Well, obviously if that happened—if there was an attempt to remove a hundred and fifty million Muslims from the electoral rolls in India—then we are in a whole new ball game, and we are in a completely unacceptable trashing of Indian democracy. But, you know, I stand by what I wrote.

But what is the knee-jerk liberal reaction to being upset by right-wing movements—

No, no, there is nothing wrong with being upset at all. But to make the perfect enemy of the good, to write this man off, to write Modi off, I am not ready to do that. I think he is changing India in some very important and positive ways.

Such as?

He is modernizing it. He’s taking the country forward.

What does that mean?

Well, economic development. Better conditions. All these people in the countryside who voted for him, they are voting for him because their lives are getting better. And I don’t think what you said about the previous government having done as much as Modi—if Modi’s numbers are to be believed, and I don’t see any reason why they aren’t—where do you get that information? It is not what I have seen or read.

You are making the assumption that he is doing well because he is winning. If Trump won reëlection, would your assumption be that he made poor people’s lives better?
Riaz Haq said…
#India falls to 102 in global #HungerIndex, 8 ranks below #Pakistan. It was the lowest ranked among #SouthAsian countries. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva via @timesofindia

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

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

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


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

Perhaps one day the politicians who run India and the generals who run Pakistan will feel secure enough to allow Indians and Pakistanis to visit each other freely and experience each other’s countries for themselves. Until such contact becomes commonplace, the odds of South Asia becoming more like Southeast Asia – united by economics rather than divided by politics – remain vanishingly slim.
Riaz Haq said…
#India Doesn’t Want #Monkeys Attacking #Trump During Taj Mahal Visit. Police plan to use slingshots during the president’s upcoming visit to ward off 100s of aggressive monkeys living near centuries-old mausoleum #TajMahal #TrumpInIndia via @HuffPostPol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The terror of the monkeys is so pervasive that women and children are scared of going up on the roof of their houses, which have almost been taken over by monkeys,” the resident told India Today. “If such a large troop of monkeys attacks Donald Trump’s entourage, it will be a disaster.”
Riaz Haq said…
Black Lives Matter – for Pakistan's Sheedi community too

Pakistan has the largest African immigrant population in all of South Asia, known as the Sheedi community.

• The Sheedis continue to face colourism, racism and prejudice from mainstream Pakistani society.

• The South Asian community has a collective responsibility to educate ourselves about anti-Black racism in our countries, and how we have benefited both from systematic oppression of Black people and their efforts to overturn it.

Despite being the largest African immigrant population in South Asia, Sheedis – as they are known – in Pakistan face restrictions to social, economic and political progress. This community was initially brought to the country as slaves between the first and 20th centuries, and entered the subcontinent through the ports of Sindh and Balochistan in present-day Pakistan, where many remain as dock workers, domestic workers, carpenters and blacksmiths.

As they assimilated into local life, many lost their languages and traditions, with several Sheedis deliberately marrying outside of the community. In Pakistani culture and among its diaspora (including in the United States), the very term Sheedi has come to be used as a derogatory term. Many see it as a form of bullying, something that has kept the Sheedi community from progressing, and a public backlash is beginning to build.

Levels of poverty, illiteracy and crime among the Sheedi are higher than in other ethnic groups in Pakistan. In Karachi, the majority of Sheedis are confined to Lyari, a city slum known for drugs, gangs and struggling education systems.

Sheedi have been historically under-represented in Pakistani government. The groundbreaking election of the first Black Pakistani to parliament in 2018, Tanzeela Qambrani, was marred by dissent, including the resignation of a fellow party member. Qambrani is vocally outspoken on the discrimination against Sheedi people in Pakistan. In March 2019 she pushed through a resolution that penalized educators who displayed racist behaviour towards Sheedi students. She is also leading a protest resolution in the provincial assembly against anti-Black racism in the US, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Many grassroots efforts in Pakistan are similarly campaigning to safeguard the heritage and culture of Sheedis in Pakistan. The most prominent festival of the Sheedi calendar, known as the “Sheedi Mela”, was recently restored after a seven-year hiatus, signaling a major breakthrough towards government recognition of the significance of Sheedi heritage in the country.

“Colourism” has been linked to the marginalization of the Sheedi in South Asia. The colonial-era preference for fair skin is disappearing from Pakistani culture, but it can still be seen in the success of the skin-whitening industry and inclusion of whiteness as a criteria in marriage proposals.

Pakistani people in the US: the 'model minority'
There are clearly parallels between the mistreatment of Black Americans and Pakistani Sheedis. American society is no stranger to bias against minorities, and is seeing the result of that bias in barriers to access to capital and educational funding for minorities, as well as discrimination in hiring and lack of political representation.

The Pakistani diaspora in the US must acknowledging that Black people fought for the very civil rights that allow Pakistani-American communities to exist. After all, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allowed the majority of Pakistanis currently living in the US into the country in the first place, by eliminating restrictive immigration quotas and allowing family-based immigration. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow globally, it is critical for us to support it and acknowledge the contributions of Black Americans that enabled Pakistani and South Asian success in the US.
Riaz Haq said…
Reporter Rukmini Callamachi caught reporting false #ISIS "Caliphate" stories in #NYTimes, fake stories linking #Pakistan & #Canadian #Pakistani young man Shehroze Chaudhry with the #terrorist group in #Syria. Yazidi slave girls stories also questionable

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Obama's Book Excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joe (Biden) weighed in against the (Usama Bin Laden) raid (on compound in Pakistan)”
Riaz Haq said…
Tony Ashai
I designed the concept for this Iconic project at the direction of then PM ⁦
⁩ for #Damenekoh #Islamabad #Pakistan as a #Tourist destination in 2021. Am still hopeful one day it will get built.
Riaz Haq said…
An Indian CEO shared a beautiful story from her Harvard days.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Look at us on the famous flag day at #harvard - flaunting our flags and smiling away at the joy of “breaking barriers” - not just literally between India and Pakistan, but also for the countless little girls from India and Pakistan who are scared to shoot for the stars.
Riaz Haq said…
Mani Shankar Aiyar: What #India's #Modi Has Not Recognised About #Pakistan: ITS RESILIENCE AND NATIONALISM … via @ndtv

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

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

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

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

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

Riaz Haq said…
Four key trends - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

By Umair Javed

The cultural indicators are about how people understand the world around them and the degree to which they are engaged with it. The first of these relates to consumption of information, especially among young people, who constitute a majority in the country. For this, we can turn to Table 40 of the last census, which reports that 60 per cent of households rely on TV and 97pc rely on mobile phones for basic information. The corresponding figures in 1998 were 7pc and 0pc respectively.

What this overwhelmingly young population is watching on TV or through their mobiles is something that we can never completely know. But what is clear is that a lot of information is being accessed, and a lot of ideas — about politics, about religious beliefs, and about the rest of the world — are circulating. Controlling or regulating this flow is an impossibility. Will it lead to an angrier population or a more passive one? A more conservative one or one with some transgressive tendencies? So far, the outcome leans more towards anger and conservatism.

Another slow but steady sociocultural transformation is the vanishing gender gap in higher education. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 have university degrees at roughly the same rate (about 11pc). Between 20 and 30, a slightly higher percentage of women have a college degree compared to men. And just two decades ago, women’s higher education attainment in the same 20 to 35 age bracket was 3pc lower than men. This gap has been covered and there are strong signs that it will reverse in the other direction as male educational attainment stagnates.

What does a more educated female population mean for societal functioning? Will these capabilities threaten male honour (and patriarchy) in different ways? Will there be new types of gender politics and conflicts? And will the levee finally break in terms of the barriers that continue to prevent women from gaining dignified remunerated work? As in other unequal countries, Pakistani men hold a monopoly over economic benefits and public space. And they are unlikely to give these privileges up passively.

In the socioeconomic domain, there are also two things worth highlighting. The first is urban migration, not just in large metropolitan centres, but in smaller second- and third-tier cities as well. Fragmenting land holdings and climate change are compelling young men in particular to move to cities in large numbers. A 10-acre farm inherited by five brothers will lead to at least three seeking work outside of agriculture.

The official urbanisation rate may be at around 38pc but this is a significant underestimate. Many villages are now small towns, and small towns are now nothing less than large urban agglomerations. The perimeters of these urban areas are dotted with dense informal settlements that provide shelter — often the only type available — for working-class migrants.

Finally, the last trend is employment status in the labour force. In the last 20 years, the percentage of people earning a living through a daily/weekly/monthly wage (as opposed to being a self-cultivator, self-employed, or running a small business) has increased by 10pc. Much of this increase is taking place in the informal economy and that too in the services sector.

Starting your own business, however small, requires money, which most do not have. Getting higher-paying, formal-sector jobs first requires getting credentials and training, which again is beyond the budget of most. Large swathes of the working population will grind out a living by taking care of the needs of the better off — fixing their cars, cleaning their houses, serving them food. Given the condition of the economy, this trend is unlikely to change.
Riaz Haq said…
Watch: 'Pakistan Is My Second Favourite Country,' Says Mani Shankar Aiyar
Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan.

In an interview to discuss his four years as India’s Consul-General in Karachi, a key part of his recently published autobiography Memoirs of a Maverick, as well as his overall view of Pakistan – a country he has visited 40 times in the last 40 years – Mani Shankar Aiyar says Pakistan is his second favourite country.

In an extensive interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Aiyar presents a picture of Pakistan that is not just different to, but almost the polar opposite of, everything Indians have been told about and led to believe of Pakistan. He shatters the false misconceptions and outright lies that colour the traditional Indian perception of our western neighbour.

This interview is full of the most delightful stories and anecdotes, told with Aiyar‘s riveting sense of drama and laced with his irresistible humour.

Many of his stories will astound Indian viewers because they speak of a Pakistan we know nothing about. They portray a country that far from being narrow and fundamentalist is fun-loving, welcoming of Indians and Hindus and where Islamisation has not impinged on the right of people to drink alcohol in their homes. And, boy, do they!
Riaz Haq said…
EIU (Economic Intelligence Unit)report

China Going Global Investment Index 2023
This year’s edition of the China Going Global Investment Index ranks 80 economies across nearly 200 indicators to identify opportunities and risk for Chinese firms and investors looking to expand globally.

A decade since Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013, Chinese firms have become formidable investors globally, and the flow of overseas investment is set to increase over the next decade.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani YouTubers And Praise India Movement in Pakistan - India Today

"Indians love people from abroad lauding their achievements, but seem to derive the biggest satisfaction when Pakistanis gush over India's success. Pakistanis have understood that and have tapped into that, creating an entire industry of YouTubers in Pakistan"


There is a Praise India Movement in Pakistan if one goes by the pro-India videos being churned out by Pakistani YouTubers. If some are praising India's space programme, others are talking about its economic and political successes. Why are Pakistanis creating such YouTube videos, and that too, in such huge numbers?

"India did a big favour to Pakistan. It was also a tight slap for those Pakistanis who said India would deliberately lose to the USA to get Pakistan out of the T20 World Cup tournament. India is the world's number one team, and can never lose to the US," a man in a black salwar kameez states emphatically, looking at the camera. The person isn't an Indian gushing at India's victory over the USA in a T20 World Cup match, but a Pakistani speaking to a popular Pakistani YouTuber at a market in Pakistan.

The video by YouTuber Shaila Khan on her channel Naila Pakistani Reaction has over 3 lakh views in a day.

Indians love people from abroad lauding their achievements, but seem to derive the biggest satisfaction when Pakistanis gush over India's success. Pakistanis have understood that and have tapped into that, creating an entire industry of YouTubers in Pakistan.

There are 5,500 channels and over 84,000 videos just with the hashtag pakistanireactiononindia on YouTube. The number of channels, tracked by IndiaToday.In since November 2023, has grown by 1,000 in a matter of six months. Over 5,000 videos have been added under this hashtag since November.

We are talking about just one hashtag. There are several others with India-related content, some of which every Indian would have come across while scrolling through shorts and videos on YouTube.

This content boom by Pakistani YouTubers has sparked a Praise India Movement in Pakistan.

Seeing is believing, especially if it is about YouTube.

So, just try keying in #Pakistani on the YouTube search bar. The first few results are Pakistani Reaction, Pakistani Reaction on India and Pakistani Public Reaction -- all to do with content related to India.

Such is the rage that even #PakistaniDrama, one of Pakistan's biggest cultural exports, trends below the #PakistaniReaction.

There was a flood of videos by Pakistani YouTubers lauding Team India right after their victory over the USA.

Though cricket is one of the favourites, the range of 'praise India' videos spans from India's economic might to infrastructural developments; from gastronomic delights to space programmes. Then there are videos of Pakistanis describing in amazement their wonderful discoveries during their first visit to India.

You name it, and they have it. There are Pakistani reaction clips to every Top 10 video, featuring India's shopping malls, highways, airports, college campuses, cars, bikes and even golgappas.

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