Tag Archives: potential

Will the Japan trade deal revive globalization?

Japan Trade Deal May Revive Globalization

By the Editors

The U.S. and Japan agreed to terms last week allowing Japan to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, another step toward creating the world’s most important free-trade initiative. The emerging pact has far- reaching implications for domestic policy in Japan and elsewhere, and could offer a new approach to global as well as regional trade liberalization.

Japan’s participation would widen the TPP to 12 members, accounting for 40 percent of global gross domestic product. The Japanese economy is bigger than all the other non-U.S. members combined. By taking part, Japan is making a commitment to long- overdue domestic economic change. Supply-side reform is one of the “three arrows” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised will revive Japan’s stagnant economy (the others are monetary stimulus and fiscal expansion). In the long term, it’s the one that matters most — and it’s the one that the TPP can provide.

Abe deserves much credit for pressing this part of his program so determinedly. Special interests, especially farming, have supported protectionism in Japan for years. (Rice farmers are shielded by tariffs approaching 800 percent.) The TPP will mobilize Japan’s manufacturing exporters, which will gain directly from the deal, as a countervailing political force.

Farmer Resistance

According to the government’s estimate, annual farm and marine production might decline by 3 trillion yen ($30.3 billion) under the TPP, though other sectors would expand more than twice as much, raising aggregate GDP by 3.2 trillion yen. That’s probably an underestimate, because the benefits would build over time. One independent study puts Japan’s potential gain at more than $100 billion a year (2 percent of GDP) by 2025. ….

Read more » Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-14/japan-trade-deal-may-revive-globalization.html?alcmpid=view

The great game

Western World’s opposition to Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline is seen as a reiteration of its economic interests and geopolitical hegemonic designs in the region

By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

In the face of threats of sanctions from the United States, President Asif Ali Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on March 11, 2013 launched the groundbreaking work on the 781-kilometre-long pipeline on the Pakistani side of the border. The Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline Project, initialed in 1995, has been facing perpetual opposition from the United States and its allies. Heads of both the countries, in their speeches at the occasion, reaffirmed their commitment to go ahead with the project “despite threats from the world powers”.

President Zardari said that the project would promote peace, security and progress in the region besides improving economic, political and security ties between the two neighbouring states. Stressing that the project was not against any country, President Zardari said such steps forging better understanding would also help fight terrorism and extremism.

President Ahmadinejad, while pointing towards foreign states and criticising what he called “their unjustified opposition to the project under the excuse of Iran’s nuclear issue”, said: “They are against Iran and Pakistan’s progress and have used the nuclear issue as an excuse”. He added, “We never expected [Western] companies to make an investment in this pipeline which guarantees progress, prosperity and peace in the region; if they don’t want to join this project for any given reason, they are not entitled to rock the boat and disturb the project”.

Pakistan on the completion of IP is to receive 21.5 million cubic meters of natural gas on daily basis. Faced with extraordinary energy crisis, Pakistan needs natural gas badly — its shortage has caused miseries to millions of Pakistanis and closure of industries. Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometres of the pipeline on its side. The Tehran-based Tadbir energy development group has undertaken all the engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project. It will also carry out the second segment of the project and also extend the financing of $500 million to Pakistan. Iran and Pakistani are optimistic to complete the project by December 2014.

Continue reading The great game

Pakistan’s exports to India rise 27%

By India Blooms News Service

Delivering a key-note address at the two-day annual conference on ‘Normalising India-Pakistan trade’ being organised by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) here, Bansal said: “Consequent to the trade liberalisation measures, bilateral trade between the two countries increased from US$ 0.6 billion in 2004-05 to US$ 1.9 billion in 2011-12.”

“Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, Pakistan’s exports to India rose by 27% from US$ 333 million to US$ 422 million. Further, Pakistan’s exports to India during April 2012 to January 2013 registered a 50% increase over the same period in the previous year – to US$ 475 million from US$ 320 million,” he said.

The important items imported from Pakistan include dates, cement, woven cotton fabrics, petroleum oil, organic chemicals, and plastics.

Bansal said: “We are very happy to note that Pakistan’s market access to India has improved considerably- indicating that there are no non-tariff barriers. India has also reduced its sensitive list by 30%.

“There should not, however, be any room for complacency- we will have to continue to take trade facilitating measures that will increase imports from Pakistan to much greater heights.”

Bansal said as India and Pakistan move towards normalizing their bilateral trading regimes, there will be new trading opportunities for both countries.

“There is a large untapped trade potential between the two countries, and various estimates suggest that potential trade could vary between 0.5 to 20 times of actual trade.

“A large part of this has been taking place through informal channels – largely through third countries- and goes unaccounted for. But I am sure that as both countries move towards normal trade relations, with the removal of the trade barriers and the subsequent reduction of trade costs, a significant part of informal trade will shift to formal trade channels,” he said.

Continue reading Pakistan’s exports to India rise 27%

“Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player”- Mark Lowcock

Politicians challenged to secure Pakistan’s global economic future

Mark Lowcock said:“Pakistan has everything it takes to be a successful, thriving, prosperous Islamic democracy.’

Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player.  It’s a powerful vision which can be realised if there is a focus on economic growth and implementing the vital reforms needed to stimulate and underpin growth a representative for the UK Government signalled yesterday.

Speaking at the Karachi School of Business and Leadership Mark Lowcock, the UK government’s most senior aid official, told business leaders and students that countries succeeding in today’s global race are those reforming the fastest to generate growth and reduce poverty.

Mark Lowcock said:

Pakistan has everything it takes to be a successful, thriving, prosperous Islamic democracy.”

“If you develop a clear and shared vision, sustain a long term commitment to travelling the long road of reform, and refuse to be deterred by the problems that will inevitably arise, then you can transform your country within a generation.”

Citing examples from across Asia and Africa, Mark Lowcock pressed that Pakistan’s stake in the global economy, and future investment potential, could be transformed. It has enormous potential for trade. Population dynamics mean that over the coming decades it could reap a demographic dividend, if the economy develops in a way that creates jobs for all young people.

Mr Lowcock stressed elections as an important watershed in embedding an inclusive political system, emphasised the importance of greater transparency in public operations, and highlighted the need to broaden the national dialogue on economic reform.

Mark Lowcock said:

Pakistan cannot sustain high rates of economic growth without a sufficient, reliable supply of energy…. The sector needs to be put on a more commercial footing, including a regulatory and tariff structure that is attractive to investors.”

“A tax system that collects less than 10% of GDP is unsustainable for any modern country. Without agreement and tangible progress on broader and fairer taxation, Pakistan will be unable to invest in a more prosperous future.”

Pakistan needs to invest in its best asset, which is your own people, especially in health and education to build human capital. It is also critical to promote women’s participation in the economy.  This is an issue of fairness and good governance. But it is also crucially an economic issue.”

Continue reading “Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player”- Mark Lowcock

PAKISTAN IS A SLEEPING ECONOMIC GIANT THAT’S READY TO WAKE UP! – An Australian’s REBUTTAL to TIME Magazine’s story on Karachi, Sindh

By Tony Lazaro

The Editor, Time Magazine

Dear Editor,

I recently returned from a charitable trip to Pakistan, whereby I visited both Karachi and Islamabad. I spoke with several universities, key businesses, prominent business leaders and several religious people from all generations…

On the day I returned to the office, someone had placed your magazine (January 16, 2012), on my desk. I read with interest your article on Karachi and the city in doom. For a person to have just returned from the very same place that your magazine described was somewhat bizarre, so I read with great detail your writer (Andrew Marshall’s) account.

Let me begin by saying that I often flick through your magazine and find the articles of great interest, but on this particular day and this particular article, I found certain comments to be both one sided and indeed very negative. I say that because I saw a different Pakistan to what was portrayed in your article. I do not and will not comment on the political or religious problems that the country faces, but I will go so far as to say that not everything is as bad as the image that your magazine paints.

Sure there are deaths in the cities. Please show me a city in the world, that is free from political fighting and unrest. Sure there are differences in the political party opinions. Please show me a country in the world where the political parties agree. Sure the innocent are suffering. Please show me a country in the world where wealth and power is equal and the innocent don’t suffer. Sure corruption is in Pakistan. Please show me a country in the world that is corruption free.

My list could go on, but my point is that Pakistan does have problems…but so does every other country in the world in some way or another. However, in the case of ALL other nations, there are often good things to report and the media goes out of its way to promote these good things across the globe, whenever possible. The ridiculous amount of shootings in the USA are balanced off by the success of Google, Microsoft and Apple. The financial dilemmas of Greece are lost in the marketing of the Greek Islands as a holiday destination of choice. The child slave industry of India, is brushed under the carpet in favour of the nation’s growth in the global software boom. What I am trying to say, is that someone needs to look further into Pakistan and see that there are millions of great stories to write about, which would portray the country in a different light, to that what is being portrayed by your article.

When I was in Pakistan, I visited a towel manufacturing company (Alkaram Towels). They produced some $60million in export in 2011 and are aiming at $85million in 2012. A substantial increase in sales…in a recession I would remind you. The company was started by the current Chairman, Mr. Mehtab Chawla, at the tender age of nine, after his father passed away. Today the very man employs 3000 staff. Now that’s a story.

I visited universities of NED, Hamdard, Karachi, Szabist and NUST. The students are unbelievably intelligent. They spend their spare time developing APPS for android and apple. They are involved in cutting edge technology and no one in the world knows this. Why not send a reporter to Pakistan to look into this. Why not research good things in this nation, rather than just the bad things. At NUST (National Institution for Science and Technology – Islamabad)) there were 38,000 applications for medicine. There are only 83 seats for the medicine course on offer. The competition is unbelievable. In short it pushes the best to be even better. But the world doesn’t know this. Why ? Because no one wants to report on it, or no one knows about it…or both !!

Continue reading PAKISTAN IS A SLEEPING ECONOMIC GIANT THAT’S READY TO WAKE UP! – An Australian’s REBUTTAL to TIME Magazine’s story on Karachi, Sindh

Chinese takeover of Gwadar port

President Zardari announces Chinese takeover of Gwadar port

By:

ISLAMABAD: China took control of Pakistan’s Gwadar port on Monday as part of its drive to secure energy and maritime routes that also gives it a potential Arabian Sea naval base, sparking Indian concern. ….

Read more » DAWN

Link – http://dawn.com/2013/02/18/president-zardari-announces-chinese-takeover-of-gwadar-port/

State Department warns Americans against travel to Pakistan

WASHINGTON – (Reuters) – U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Pakistan, the State Department said on Thursday, in a fresh warning that follows numerous protests, demonstrations and rallies in Pakistan that U.S. officials said are likely to continue.

Officials upgraded their ongoing caution about the travel risks in Pakistan, explicitly advising Americans to put off any non-essential travel to the country. They also “strongly urged” those who are already there to avoid protests and large gatherings.

The State Department said the presence of al Qaeda, Taliban elements, and “indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan.”

Continue reading State Department warns Americans against travel to Pakistan

Indo-Pak Borders blur as experts brainstorm on education

Borders blur as experts brainstorm on education

The Aman ki Asha Education Committee met in New Delhi last Thursday to decide on ways in which India and Pakistan can collaborate to bring about reforms in education on both sides of the border. The Indo-Pak Education/Skills Development Committee is one of the six committees formed after the Aman ki Asha Business Meet in May 2010, to take forward cooperation in the areas that delegates had identified as having the greatest potential for cooperation – Education/Skills Development, Textiles, Information Technology (IT), Agriculture, Energy and Healthcare.At a day-long meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), The Times of India, the Jang Group, and Pakistan India CEOs Business Forum at India Habitat Centre, luminaries from both countries shared problems and achievements in their education sectors followed by some brainstorming for effective solutions. ….

Read more » Aman Ki Asha

A national challenge

By Saad Hafiz

Excerpt;

….. Pakistan is being left behind as more developing countries make an effort to capitalize on the full human potential of their female population to drive economic development and social transformation. Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia have made significant progress in implementing gender equality in five critical areas: economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and well-being. If Pakistan is to make economic and social progress in the near future it needs to educate its women from primary to the highest levels, open up economic opportunities to women, introduce social infrastructure and services to unburden women of the domestic and child care burdens and enforce laws to protect women’s rights. Hopefully, the education and empowerment of women in Pakistan will also result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful society.

To read complete article » PaK Tea House

Sharif brothers: The pot calling the kettle black

By Iqbal Tareen

The alleged “Memo-Gate” controversy has sucked air out of Pakistan and has stolen attention from the real problems facing unfortunate common men and women of the country. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the corrupt, opportunistic, and power hungry politicians are busy jump-starting their otherwise hopeless political careers.

Although the charges against PPP look pale in comparison to what Sharifs had previously enacted but the spineless PPP leadership has neither courage nor an ability to fight back the pack of wolves, which is after the remains of its slimy body politics.

The paper written by Bruce Riedel – a former Bill Clinton White House official, reveals how Sharif brothers had sought American help against a potential coup by then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf.

I really wonder why this act of Sharifs has never been considered treason by Pakistani military, media, politicians, pundits and even the judge of the highest court – Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.!!!!?

Courtesy » Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 19 Dec 2011.

Social Psychosis and Collective Sanity – By Winslow Myers

We know from the sad experience of Nazi Germany or Khmer Rouge Cambodia that it is possible for whole nations to become mentally ill, with horrendous consequences. At the time, however, the Nazis or the Khmers had no idea that they were deeply out of touch with the reality that all people are equally worthy of respect and care.

The population of the earth recently surpassed 7 billion. As we move further into the condition of global villagehood, it becomes more important than ever to assess our shared mental health. Collectively we can less and less afford the distortions that afflict the psyches of individual persons, such as denial, regression into infantile rage, fantasy ideation, or blind projection outward onto “enemies” of our unresolved inner tensions. Everyone is aware of the potential horror, for example, of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of someone not in the clearest of minds. …

Read more » COMMON DREAMS

Turkish warships to escort any Gaza aid vessels: Erdogan

CAIRO: Turkey said on Thursday it would escort aid ships to Gaza and would not allow a repetition of last year’s Israeli raid that killed nine Turks, setting the stage for a potential naval confrontation with its former ally.

Raising the stakes in Turkey’s row with Israel over its refusal to apologise for the killings, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Al Jazeera television that Turkey had taken steps to stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean.

“Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorised to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdogan said in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.

“From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdogan said.

Referring to Erdogan’s comments, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: “This is a statement well-worth not commenting on.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel, two close US allies in the region, have soured since Israeli forces boarded the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010.

Ankara downgraded ties and vowed to boost naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in the escalating row. …

Read more → DAWN.COM

Religious fascism – a threat within

by Shafqat Aziz

The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views… which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering.” –Dr Who

How true is the above quote in regard to prevailing fascist mindset deep rooted in Pakistani society. Yes, fascist tendencies could be found in any society. These are however fringed and alienated from mainstream. Besides, the state, law of land and society itself always remains vigilant about the activities of such fringed elements and never allow them to impose their views on others by use of any coercive tool. It is so because civilized societies are fully aware of the potential of this threat. They have observed and experienced the devastation done by fascist approaches for entire humanity and especially, for the societies that perpetuate such tendencies.

However, the case of Pakistan society vis-à-vis fascism is all together different. Here, fascism is not an isolated phenomenon. Instead, a significant chunk of the entire population including the majority of the urban middle class is now fully inflicted with this disease. The rests are also drifting towards this trend with an unchecked and alarming pace. The urban youth, belonging to upper and lower middle class has developed themselves as brainless zombies, devoid of any reasoning and logic. Their thought patrons are amazingly indistinguishable from each other. Yes, their looks and life style could be different. But they are all equipped with same set of absurd conspiracy theories with an extremely narrow and dangerous worldview. …

Read more → ViewPoint

Shouting about Indian repression in Kashmir is hypocrisy

A weaker insurgency, but with new contours

By Cyril Almeida, dawn.com

QUETTA: The decline in insurgent violence over the past year, at the cost of savage violence by the state, has produced a fragile recovery in Quetta and other insurgency-hit parts of Balochistan.

Continue reading Shouting about Indian repression in Kashmir is hypocrisy

BIN LADEN – PAKISTAN LOSES A STRATEGIC ASSET

The curious case of Osama bin Laden

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Excerpt:

….. But then it turned out bin Laden was not hiding in some dark mountain cave in Waziristan. Instead, probably for at least some years, he had lived comfortably smack inside the modern, peaceful, and extraordinarily secure city of Abbottabad. Using Google Earth, one sees that the deceased was within easy walking distance of the famed Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul. It is here where General Kayani had declared on April 23 that “the terrorist’s backbone has been broken and inshallah we will soon prevail”. Kayani has released no statement after the killing.

Still more intriguing are pictures and descriptions of bin Laden’s fortress house. Custom-designed, it was constructed on a plot of land roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area. Television images show that it has high walls, barbed wire and two security gates. Who approved the construction and paid for it? Why was it allowed to be away from the prying eyes of the secret agencies?

Even the famous and ferocious General Hamid Gul (retd) — a bin Laden sympathiser who advocates war with America — cannot buy into the claim that the military was unaware of bin Laden’s whereabouts. In a recorded interview, he remarked that bin Laden being in Abbottabad unknown to authorities “is a bit amazing”. Aside from the military, he said “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, the Military Intelligence, the ISI — they all had a presence there”. Pakistanis familiar with the intrusive nature of the multiple intelligence agencies will surely agree; to sniff out foreigners is a pushover.

So why was bin Laden sheltered in the army’s backyard? General Pervez Musharraf, who was army chief when bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad was being constructed in 2005, unwittingly gives us the clearest and most cogent explanation. The back cover of his celebrated book, In The Line Of Fire, written in 2006, reads:

“Since shortly after 9/11 — when many al Qaeda leaders fled Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan — we have played multiple games of cat and mouse with them. The biggest of them all, Osama bin Laden, is still at large at the time of this writing but we have caught many, many others. We have captured 672 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars. Here, I will tell the story of just a few of the most significant manhunts”.

So, at the end of the day, it was precisely that: A cat and mouse game. Bin Laden was the ‘Golden Goose’ that the army had kept under its watch but which, to its chagrin, has now been stolen from under its nose. Until then, the thinking had been to trade in the Goose at the right time for the right price, either in the form of dollars or political concessions. While bin Laden in virtual captivity had little operational value for al Qaeda, he still had enormous iconic value for the Americans. It was therefore expected that kudos would come just as in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Kuwaiti-born senior al Qaeda leader who was arrested in Rawalpindi, or Mullah Baradar, the Taliban leader arrested from Karachi.

Events, however, have turned a potential asset into a serious liability. Osama’s killing is now a bone stuck in the throat of Pakistan’s establishment that can neither be swallowed nor spat out. To appear joyful would infuriate the Islamists who are already fighting the state. On the other hand, to deprecate the killing would suggest that Pakistan had knowingly hosted the king of terrorists.

Now, with bin Laden gone, the military has two remaining major strategic assets: America’s weakness in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But moving these chess pieces around will not assure the peace and prosperity that we so desperately need. They will not solve our electricity or water crises, move us out of dire economic straits, or protect us from suicide bombers.

Bin Laden’s death should be regarded as a transformational moment by Pakistan and its military. It is time to dispense with the Musharraf-era cat and mouse games. We must repudiate the current policy of verbally condemning jihadism — and actually fighting it in some places — but secretly supporting it in other places. Until the establishment firmly resolves that it shall not support armed and violent non-state actors of any persuasion — including the Lashkar-e-Taiba — Pakistan will remain in interminable conflict both with itself and with the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.

To read complete article : The Express Tribune

HEC: Planning New Institutions

by Dr. Azhar A. Shah

When asked why almost all the federal universities are located in Islamabad and why there are thick clusters of public sector universities in the capital cities while other regions of each province have been deprived of both provincial or federal public universities; the beneficiaries of the centralized Higher Education Commission (HEC) claim that it is the fault of the politicians who are not interested in the education of their local people and that HEC has nothing to do with the location of the universities!

Can we ask these supporters of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to kindly read what HEC claims on its website:

“Since its inception, HEC has established about 31 new universities and more than 50 sub-campuses of the existing universities in public sector throughout the country. As a step forward, Planning and Development Division has prepared a map to get the clear view of geographical areas where there is a potential for new institutions.”

This said, the website continues:

“The Division is planning to identify the potential areas where new institutions for higher education can be developed. In this regard P&D Division is acquiring the discipline wise data of students appeared in higher secondary examination from all the education boards of the country from 2005 to 2009. On the basis of that data P&D division will identify the potential areas where new institution may be developed.”

(http://www.hec.gov.pk/InsideHEC/Divisions/FPD/Pages/GoalsObjectives.aspx)

One really wonders which statistics and criteria did HEC use for the establishment of its 30 universities and 50 sub campuses? How much expenses were incurred on each university/campus? Will it be possible for HEC to make the list of these new universities along with their expenditures available on its website? This list is essential to see where the returning thousands of PhDs will be inducted in!

From what we can see on its website, we can observe the severe failure of central planning and development that is being advocated by Prof Attaur-Rahman and others. It has made over-provision of higher education services to the a few big cities, ignoring the bulk areas/ regions of our country. Universities are the agents of social change and we should have at least one comprehensive public sector university in each city/ town so that the development, the change, gets shared homogeneous across the regions and across the country!

PS: Please compare the central planning of Pakistani much acclaimed Higher Education Commission (HEC) with that of Indian UGC to see how Indian central universities are dispersed throughout the country (http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/centraluni.html).

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 15, 2011.

States formed on the basis of religion can never survive a peaceful future (Bertrand Russell) e.g; Pakistan and Israel!

Pakistan’s identity war — II

By Saleem H Ali

What does it mean to be an Islamic state? Was there ever such an entity? Can modernity, as it pertains to developing a functional society in a globalised world, be realised within the context of a theocracy? These are fundamental questions which Pakistanis need to resolve, within this generation, in order for Pakistan to develop and reach its potential.

Pakistan shares the distinction, along with Israel, as being one of only two states to have been crafted, in the post-colonial worlds, on the basis of religion. In both cases enormous migrations were involved with questionable legitimacy for the migrants. The ‘muhajir’ identity continues to be perpetuated, as such, on this basis. The creation of both Israel and Pakistan present a perplexing paradox: Created on the basis of religion, their champions were largely secular individuals. The founders of Zionism as a political force, such as Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, were secular. So too were Pakistan’s founders, most notably the Quaid-i-Azam. I would argue that Ben Gurion and Jinnah made a dangerous bargain when it came to conflating cultural identity on the basis of religious adherence.

Pakistan and Israel — two states which don’t recognise each other diplomatically — are facing a similar radicalisation because of that initial crisis of identity which was never fully resolved. Theocratic forces are gaining power in both countries. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

As Pakistan battles extremism, it needs allies’ patience and help

By Asif Ali Zardari, The writer is president of Pakistan.

Just days before her assassination, my wife, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, wrote presciently of the war within Islam and the potential for a clash between Islam and the West: “There is an internal tension within Muslim society. The failure to resolve that tension peacefully and rationally threatens to degenerate into a collision course of values spilling into a clash between Islam and the West. It is finding a solution to this internal debate within Islam – about democracy, about human rights, about the role of women in society, about respect for other religions and cultures, about technology and modernity – that shall shape future relations between Islam and the West.”

Two months ago my friend Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was cut down for standing up against religious intolerance and against those who would use debate about our laws to divide our people. On Tuesday, another leading member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in our cabinet, was murdered by extremists tied to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

These assassinations painfully reinforce my wife’s words and serve as a warning that the battle between extremism and moderation in Pakistan affects the success of the civilized world’s confrontation with the terrorist menace.

A small but increasingly belligerent minority is intent on undoing the very principles of tolerance upon which our nation was founded in 1947; principles by which Pakistan’s founder, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, lived and died; and principles that are repeated over and over in the Koran. The extremists who murdered my wife and friends are the same who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and who have blown up girls’ schools in the Swat Valley.

We will not be intimidated, nor will we retreat. Such acts will not deter the government from our calibrated and consistent efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism. It is not only the future of Pakistan that is at stake but peace in our region and possibly the world.

Read more : The Washington Post

Sindh: Gorakh Hill Station

Sindh’s cold mountain resort in cold storage

Gorakh Hill Station: The one place Karachi can escape to in the summers has been ignored despite its fantastic tourism potential

By Razzak Abro

JOHI: As Karachi sweltered in the summer’s heat, it was a cool night at Gorakh Hill in district Dadu, which is otherwise known for its cooking 40-degree plus temperatures.

It was the weekend and a group of people, including journalists, had gathered at the hill station for a festival organized by ActionAid and local NGO Village Shadabad Welfare Organization. Those who knew about Gorakh had brought warm clothes, especially the people from the surrounding areas, who even brought blankets for the night’s stay at the proposed summer resort located at the Khirthar mountains at a height of 5,866 feet.

But some of the guests from Karachi, Hyderabad and other parts of the province were caught by surprise. “I did not expect such cold weather here during the hot summer,” exclaimed Asghar Azad, a journalist from Karachi. He was one of the 100-strong group a majority of which were visiting the site for the first time. Over two hundred local people turned up as well. The hosts had arranged 4-wheel jeeps to the hilltop but the old ones spluttered out and it was only the locals who managed to complete the trek on motorcycle. An elderly gentleman in his 60s made it before us city folks. According to guests Muhammad Nawaz and Nabi Bux they had to drag the bikes up at some points, much to their misery.

PPI reported that hardly 15 km of a narrow strip, with sharp and steep turnings, has so far been built contrary to the claims of the previous government that 53km of road had been completed.

PPI reported that WAPDA has completed its work of erecting poles, installing cables from the foothills to the top where a transformer could also be seen but it needs to be activated. Moreover, the Gorakh Hill Development Authority (GHDA) has laid a water supply line and the boosting stations are under-construction in addition to a single-room police check post at Khawal pass, 15km below Gorakh peak.

A two-room rest house, built during late Abdullah Shah’s government, was in a dilapidated condition, and the only addition made by previous coalition government was a two-room rest house made from fiber at another peak.

According to the revised PC-I, approved on February 24, 2003, the cost of Gorakh Hill Station project was Rs 198.269 million including the construction of roads, bridges and a water supply scheme. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved the project and the Sindh Government had started the work on the 53km road strip from Wahi Pandhi, a small town at the foothills to Gorakh peak. Later, the federal government agreed to share 30 percent of the cost of the entire project.

The strip would have 10 viewpoints and would have a 10-bed emergency hospital, waterfalls, a filter plant, security posts, horse and camel riding tracks, cable cars and chair lifts.

The then prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali had also visited Wahi Pandhi road and had directed the Sindh government to initiate an inquiry into the matter, which still was pending.

The topography of Gorakh peak is 1,340 acres in Sindh and 1,000 acres in Balochistan. The weather in summer is very pleasant, with moderate temperatures during the day, dropping to slightly chilly at night. In winter, however, the temperature goes down to almost -8 to -12 degrees centigrade. Being the highest peak in a region, the hill offers a beautiful view of a valley from the top. The area is surrounded by arid mountains with small green pastures at certain points. During the rainy season, one can see various streams of water flowing throughout the area.

Due to bad road conditions, the 53km distance takes about 5 hours. The track is not dangerous but since it has a few sharp turns at some places, visitors get trapped at certain turns where work has not been carried.

There is no communication system in case any tourist is trapped there. No landline or mobile phone works beyond Wahi Pandhi. But somebody told PPI that the V-PTCL Wireless Phone works there.

Courtesy – Daily Times – Site Edition, Thursday, May 29, 2008