Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lahore fails in protecting its diversity

The brazen attacks on two mosques belonging to the minority Sunni sect known as Qadianis has left over 90 civilians dead. The mosques were attacked as the communal afternoon prayers on Friday were finishing at the two mosques. The militans threw hand grenades, fired bullets and later blasted the suicide jackets killing themselves and almost 90 other worshippers. Mosques in Pakistan, as of late, have become the most dangerous hangout.

Qadianis have been a target of sunni extremists since they were declared non Muslims by then prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in late seventies. Bhutto was being dogged by the religious right in the late seventies who thought of him as a heretic. Bhutto reacted with enacting legislations that tried to build his image as an Islamist. Banning the sale of alcohol (while Bhutto continued drinking), making Friday instead of Sunday as the weekly holiday, and declaring Qadianis non-Muuslims were the desperate, yet radical, acts of the most liberal leader Pakistan ever had.

Hundreds of Qadanis have been killed in senseless violence at the hands of Sunni extremists. The Shiite minority has watached in silence the wholesale murder of the Qadianis. Years later, the Shiites in Pakistan paid a heavy price for their complacency when the Sunni extremists started targeting Shiites as well.

The regional conflicts in South and West Asia as well the internal turmoil in Pakistan has made it one of the most violent places on the planet. Hundreds are being killed daily in Karachi in ethnic violence between Pushtuns and the immigrants from India. The armed forces daily claim killing dozens of Pushtun militants in Pakistan's tribal areas. Mosques have been exploding in all parts of Pakistan and have become a more frequent target since the armed forces attack on the Red Mosque in Isamabad by Musharraf's regime.

Unless Pakistanis decide by themselves that this senseless violence will not deliver any peace or prosperity, the rest of the world can do very littler to bring peace or prosperity to Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Karachi: the murder capital of Pakistan

A spat of senseless violence left 18 dead in Karachi.  Another 21 individuals received serious injuries.  According to the media reports these were the result of target killings.

Over the years, Karachi has emerged as the murder capital of Pakistan.  While being the largest city in Pakistan of roughly 12 million people, Karachi is also the city with excessive violence resulting in a disproportionately large number of murders.  The ethnic, sectarian, and other fissures in the society has stolen the shine from what was once known as the city of lights.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The victims of militant Islam in Pakistan

A bomb blast in Dera Ismail Khan, a traditional hotbed of sectarian violence in Pakistan, killed 10. Unlike the previous suicide bomb attacks in Dera Ismail Khan where victims were mostly Shiite Muslims, the target this time were the Police. Several civilians were also killed in the attack.

The child in the picture below survived the attack. He is yet another victim of militant Islam in Pakistan.


Source: BBC

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pakistanis were the most displaced people in 2009

The Norwegian Refugee Council has reported that Pakistanis were the most displaced people in the world in 2009. The military operations against the Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas forced 3 million people out of their homes.


The economic cost of violence and instability has been even larger. The latest trade statistics revealed that in 2009 Foreign Direct Investment in Pakistan fell by over 44% in the past 10 months. In the 10 months ending on April 30 a piddly $1.77 billion were invested in Pakistan, down from $3.2 billion for the same period a year earlier. Pakistan’s GDP is expected to grow by 3.3% this year, even lower than the rate of inflation!


Things did improve in Pakistan by the end of 2009 when the number of internally displaced in Pakistan reduced from 3 million to 1.2 million. Pakistan reported 2 million refugees returning to their homes, or whatever was left after a (temporary) lull in the hostilities. Given that the disputes in Pakistan’s tribal areas have not yet been settled, it is quite likely that more waves of internally displaced will arrive in the months to follow. The outcome may be different if the military ends its operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

At the end of 2009, 5.0 million individuals were internally displaced in Sudan. The table below shows that Muslim countries represent a large number of internally displaced globally.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where is the freedom and prosperity they were promised?

A series of AFP photographs present a synopsis of the life in a slum in Rawalpindi. A few decades ago, these slum dwellers’ previous generation was promised deliverance in Pakistan. Nothing has yet been delivered on that promise.

How long should they wait in the darkness of despair and prosperity? When will the Pakistani middle class realize that it is the one entrusted with the task to deliver hope to the poor of Pakistan.


Source: AFP Pictures in Dawn, Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When only wholesale murders catch our attention

Bombs and grenades in the Peshawar region killed 5 children in the Peshawar region. However, these gruesome murders of young children failed to become a headline even in Pakistan. The front pages of Pakistani newspapers re now devoted to wholesale murders. If the dead are not in dozens, the newspapers bury the coverage of the rest in the obscurity of hidden column in the inside pages of the newspaper.

From May 13th edition of Daily Times

Five killed in terror incidents in Peshawar

Staff Report
PESHAWAR/LANDIKOTAL: At least five people, including two young girls, were killed in two separate terrorist attacks in Peshawar on Wednesday, police said.
The first incident took place in a house in Ram Kishan village in Khazana area, when unidentified terrorists hurled a hand grenade at the house of Raees Khan.
Two young girls playing in the house were killed as a result. Khazana police station official Hameedullah told Daily Times that the girls were identified as Samia, 10, daughter of Raees, and her cousin Kalsoom, 12.
Raees’ other two daughters, Nayab and Iqra, were also injured in the attack. The second bomb attack took place at a roadside near Shamshatu, an Afghan refugees’ camp in Peshawar’s outskirts. Three seminary students were killed and three others were injured in the attack, police said. SP Khalam Khan said the bomb was detonated by a remote.
Meanwhile in Khyber Agency, an improvised explosives device went off at a roadside in agency’s Landikotal tehsil. The IED went off on the Pak-Afghan highway, however, no casualties were reported.
Soon after the blast, security forces cordoned off the area and barred traffic from plying on the highway in order to secure the bomb site.
A security official said it was so far unclear at whom the IED had been targeted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Has the State gone mad in Iran?

From The New York Times:

Harsh Sentence in Absentia for Newsweek Reporter


A correspondent for Newsweek jailed in Iran for nearly four months last year before leaving the country has been sentenced in absentia by an Iranian court to an extended flogging and more than 13 years in prison for counter-revolutionary acts, the government there announced Monday.

The severity of the sentence, announced a day after five Iranian Kurdish activists were abruptly hanged in a Tehran prison, appeared to be a new signal of repression ahead of the anniversary of the disputed presidential election last June 12, which galvanized Iran’s opposition movement into the biggest political threat to the Islamic theocracy since the 1979 revolution.

The Newsweek reporter, Maziar Bahari, 42, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker, was arrested in the days after the election, when massive demonstrations erupted in Iran over charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had stolen the vote. Mr. Bahari was jailed for 118 days and released on a $300,000 bail. He flew to London after his release to join his newborn daughter and wife.

The court sentenced him to a total of 13 years and 6 months in prison and 74 lashes on charges of conspiring against national security, possession of classified documents, propagating against the regime, insulting the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as Mr. Ahmadinejad. He has the right to appeal within 10 days.

In another official Iranian measure apparently aimed at exerting more control over the capital, the government said it was shutting down schools and universities next Saturday and Sunday which would bring a long weekend in Tehran that begins on Thursday to five days. The move effectively denies student activists a venue for any protests.

The opposition Web site Jaras reported Monday that more than 1,000 students staged a demonstration at Shahid Beheshti University to protest a visit by Mr. Ahmadinejad. He faced similar demonstrations on May 1 when he visited Tehran University.

In the city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan province, the home town of one of the activists executed on Sunday, authorities imposed heavy security to prevent possible protests over the executions, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. “Dozens of members of the Revolutionary Guards paraded around town in military vehicles, showing off their weapons,” the news agency reported, referring to members of the pro-government force set up after the 1979 revolution.

A call for demonstrations near Tehran University on Monday in central Tehran to protest the executions went unheeded, apparently because of massive police presence.

The Judiciary has issued dozens of lengthy sentences for activists in the past weeks and has suspended prisoners’ calls to their families from prison, the Jaras Web site reported.

Mr. Bahari said from his home in London that he would not appeal the sentence because he does not recognize the sentence’s validity. “When you appeal, that means you believe in the essence of the sentence,” he said “I don’t.”

The sentence was issued after Mr. Bahari did not respond to a summons to appear before a court in April. The legal procedure requires the court to summon the accused three times before issuing a sentence in absentia.

Mr. Bahari said his mother in Tehran had received a call from authorities on the same day warning her to urge Mr. Bahari to end his activities abroad in support of other jailed reporters .

“The government wants to prevent people from coming into the streets for the anniversary of the demonstrations with these sentences,” said Mr. Bahari. “In the meantime, with my sentence, it wants to intimidate reporters as well so that they would not cover the protests.”

More immigrants needed

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist at Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam University wrote an op-ed piece for Outlook India in which he explored why young men from Pakistan have been gravitating toward violence. 

The image below is a screen capture of the article in Outlook India. The American system’s resilience cannot be illustrated any better than the advertisement for Green Card Lottery that has been placed there by Google.

Even the story about the immigrant trying to blow-up the quintessential American icon, the Times Square in NY, shows that the US is still shopping for more immigrants of chance (the lottery).


[UPDATE, May 22, 2010: Faisal Shahzad’s wife and children were later reported to be in the Middle East with his in-laws.]

I have, however, not heard a single word about Faisal Shahzad’s immediate family, i.e., wife and kids.  Media reports suggest that they are in Pakistan.  I know that Faisal failed miserably in executing his murderous plans.  I do not know how much of his failure was deliberate, given that he appears to be a reasonably smart man to execute what he intended. 

Could he have done this out of fear rather than being driven by some extremist ideology.  What we do not know is if his immediate family is with his parents or is being held hostage by some extremist elements who may have put him to undertake this task given his ready access to the United States. I raise this because adoptions and kidnapping have become a norm in Pakistan.  Not at the goes by when children are kidnapped for ransom.  Most children are never recovered alive.

I must add that regardless of the circumstances that drove him to contemplate mass scale murder of innocent civilians, his actions reflect a shear collapse of the moral order in Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

York Univerity to open campus in India

York University is heading east in a big way. According to The Economist, York will build its own campus in India and offer an MBA. This should not come as a surprise since the Indian government announced a couple of months earlier a change in policy that would facilitate foreign universities to open campuses in India, which is after all world’s largest English speaking market for higher education.


Canada’s Schulich Business School is planning to build an Indian campus. Although many business schools offer programmes in India, the move is unusual because it is rare for a respected Western institution to set up its own campus—most prefer to partner with Indian schools or to hire smaller offices. Schulich plans to offer an MBA and executive programmes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Setting the minimum wage in Pakistan

The Prime Minister of Pakistan has increased the minimum wage to Rs. 7,000 (US$83.5). While this is a welcome increase of 1,000 rupees, however, given the inflation in Pakistan, this amount is unlikely to have a meaningful impact in the lives of the very poor in Pakistan.

Many employers will not be bothered by the increase in minimum wage. Those who may witness an increase in their wage, they are going to realize that this increase is too little too late.

A recent survey of household expenditures revealed that the average Pakistani family had to spend 8,583 Rupees per month for the purchase of basic items in April 2010. The Prime Minister’s bold initiative falls at least 1,500 rupees short of meeting the basic needs of an average household.

The Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka offers the following details:

The average Pakistani family had to spend Rs 8,583 on the purchase of daily-use items in the month of April 2010, according to the first Household Expenditure Pattern Study published by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN). The highest cost of living was recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the average household expenditure was Rs 9,515, nearly Rs 1,000 more than the national average.

The FAFEN’s study documents the impact of price variations of 70 consumer commodities – including food, monthly house rent, medicines, POL (fuel) products, and toiletries – on average household budgets around the country. This monthly study is based on data gathered from 150 locations in four provinces, including FATA.

The task of recording variations in prices of daily-use items cannot be left alone to the government because fluctuation of prices of daily-use food items is based in part on the lack of good governance, nationally as well as locally. The credibility of the government-sponsored Pakistan Household Integrated Economic Survey has been challenged for this reason. FAFEN’s study provides an independent source for similar data about average household expenditures.

According to the FAFEN Study, an average Balochistan family spent Rs 9,287 on the purchase of daily-use items during April. The average cost of living was lower in Sindh (Rs 8,028) and Punjab (Rs 7,951). Out of a national average household expenditure of Rs 8,583, a typical Pakistani family (with an average of 6.5 persons) spent Rs 3,926 (46 percent) on the purchase of nine basic commodities, namely flour, potato, rice, sugar, vegetable ghee, onions, fresh milk, tea and kerosene oil.

The fact that almost half of an average family’s budget must be spent on basic commodities undermines the ability of a household to spend on other items that would enhance quality of living.

The highest share of basic commodities in average household expenditure was reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where a family had to spend Rs 4,685 (49 percent) on basic items, followed by Balochistan at Rs 4,489 (48 percent), Punjab at Rs 3,763 (47 percent), and Sindh at Rs 3,717 (46 percent).

Kidneys for sale

The rapid increase in poverty in Pakistan has exposed the poor to extreme hazards. The very poor, who are perpetually indebted to the feudals who employ them, have resorted to selling kidneys to pay back their loans.

image An ethnographic study of kidney vendors near Sargodha in Pakistan suggested that high-income patients needing kidney transplant are now heading to Pakistan to buy kidneys in the open (black) market from the destitutes. The trade is now well organized where some hospitals specialize in such practices.

The report revealed that kidney vendors develop serious psychological problems and the money earned seldom helps them with their debt problems. The study also revealed that there were multiple kidney vendors from the same households.

With chronic power shortages racking havoc on society and the economy, exports of traditional items, such as textiles, cotton, and sporting goods are failing. The poor in Pakistan are now forced to export their body parts.


Farhat Moazam, Riffat Moazam Zaman, and Aamir M. Jafarey, “Conversations with Kidney Vendors in Pakistan: An Ethnographic Study,” Hastings Center Report 39, no. 3 (2009): 29-44.