Tag Archive: Asia


Transparency International Pakistan has been in national news for its bold projection of public perception of corruption in Pakistan. It has been accused by the democratic government of creating chaos and unrest in the country. The government had even ordered investigations into its in-country operations. TI-Pakistan is a National Chapter of Transparency International, a civil society organization. According to its mission, it is dedicated to curbing both international and national corruption. Its primary objective is to counter corruption in business dealings and to curb corruption on a national level. It seems that taking advantage of the weak and corrupt government, the organization in Pakistan is in total blackmailing mould and has started encroaching upon the jurisdiction of executive agencies of the government and is prima facie involved in corrupt practices.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is Pakistan. If Hajj operations can be corrupted, as a rule there should not be any institution escaping corruption, not even TI.

The Express Tribune has reported that the detained chairman of NICL has revealed that the top guns of Transparency International (TI), Pakistan, had offered to help him clear his name in corruption cases presently with the Supreme Court, if he signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to award all lucrative contracts on their recommendation in the future. An absconding NICL board member, Qasim Amin Dada, wanted by the FIA in this same Rs4 billion land scam, tried to convince his colleagues to strike a deal with TI representatives. TI volunteered to present a fact-finding report to the SC establishing the innocence of NICL officials. In return NICL would award contracts solely to private parties cleared by TI and advertise tenders in newspapers after referring to the agency for advice.

The Tribune report does not contain TI-Pakistan version.

NICL is also facing charges of misappropriating millions of rupees paid to a private party for office renovation. Payment to the contractor has been made in full but the job is still continuing. The allegation against TI is considered to be very serious, NICL detained chairman has given details of TI officials’ involvement in the alleged blackmail in his 30-page written statement to the FIA officials. He said he and his colleagues refused TI’s unconventional offer.

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Those who brought you to the corridors of power are hungry and sick and shelter-less. The statistics released by the World Food Program is chilling and shocking. It says that many million “vote” are in such a situation that it can put anyone to shame. You are going to need them in the near future but they need you now. Can you act quickly enough to help them at least with the intention to grab their votes two years from now, if you can still enjoy your dinner? This should also shock Angelina Jolie who could not believe her eyes when she saw your dinner table. No one with a heart and right mind can reconcile to the situation of the voters and the voted.

The World Food Program has listed the following 8 hunger facts about Pakistan:

a)      The Pakistan floods this summer impacted the lives and livelihoods of some 20 million people, around 10 million of whom required emergency food assistance.

b)     Pakistan suffered from widespread hunger even before the monsoon floods, with an estimated 82.6 million people – a little less than half the population – estimated to be food insecure.

c)      An estimated 36 percent of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and almost half are illiterate. Poorer households typically spend over 60 percent of their income on food.

d)     50 percent of all Pakistanis have little or no access to clean toilets and drinking water, a condition that renders them vulnerable to infectious diseases.

e)      The biggest killers of children under five in Pakistan are diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. Undernourishment is an underlying cause in 38 percent of those cases.

f)       Conflict along Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan has forced millions of people to flee their homes. Since 2008, WFP has provided over 2.6 million of them with food assistance.

g)     Volatile food prices over the past seven years have pushed the number of people who depend on food assistance in Pakistan from 38 percent of the population in 2003 to 49 percent in 2009.

h)     Wheat is Pakistan’s main staple crop and most important source of calories. As a result of the flooding, which submerged around 16 percent of all arable land in Pakistan, the upcoming wheat harvest is expected to be around 15 percent smaller than usual.

According to some reports, telecom minister of India had to resign after Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India unearthed a telecom scandal costing a minimum of $39 billion to Indian taxpayers.  But those who know India’s black economy are of the view that this could be just a tip of the iceberg. The Indian economy, despite its claims of growth is marred by illegal flow of black money to and from India, mostly stashed in foreign banks. This also means that corruption and illegal transfer of ill-gotten wealth is not the issue of Pakistan alone.

According to Taiwan News, India has lost hundreds of billions of dollars over the past six decades as companies and the rich stashed cash overseas to avoid taxes and hide ill-gotten gains, widening inequality and depriving the poor of crucial resources. The flood of illegal cash has swelled to ever greater heights since the early 1990s, and averaged $16 billion a year from 2002 to 2006, as India’s opening of its economy created more wealth and opportunities to move it across borders, according to the study by Dev Kar, a former International Monetary Fund economist. Kar, now senior economist at Global Financial Integrity, a Washington D.C. group that researches the flow of illicit money, said India’s black money _ at least $462 billion since the late 1940s _ could have paid for its entire infrastructure needs and much else.

The gap between India’s rich elite and the poor who number in the hundreds of millions has widened amid rapid economic growth over the past two decades, adding to social tensions, and the report says the funneling of wealth overseas has contributed to that inequality. Other analysts aren’t taking issue with Kar’s research methods but question whether the blame should be pinned on companies and privately wealthy individuals. They argue the government and corrupt politicians are the main culprits.

Kar used a World Bank model to measure the gap between the nation’s recorded sources of funds, like borrowing and foreign direct investment, and its recorded use of funds, like financing the current account deficit and foreign currency reserves. Illicit outflows are considered to exist when a country’s recorded source of funds exceeds its recorded use of funds. Kar supplemented that by looking at differences between the value of what India says it exports and what other nations say they import from India. This captures practices such as understating the value of export contracts to hide money overseas.

Adjusted for inflation, that all added up to $213 billion missing since 1948, the first full year of India’s independence from British rule. Using the short-term U.S. Treasury bill rate to estimate a conservative investment return, Kar calculated that money would be worth, at minimum, $462 billion today. The figure could be understated by half, Kar said, partly because it doesn’t cover harder to track activities including smuggling and cash transfers outside of the financial system.

Nishith Desai, founder of Nishith Desai Associates, an international tax and corporate law firm based in Mumbai, argues that corrupt officials and government agencies have more to do with illicit money than tax avoidance in the private sector, which he says is more transparent than in the past. As individual tax rates dropped _ from as high as 97.5 percent in the 1970s to about 30 percent today _ the major motivation for tax avoidance evaporated. In its wake however, is a cultural habit of evasion, which is only now beginning to erode, he said.

Desai said officials, who face public scrutiny when they accumulate wealth while on a low government salary, have more motivation to stash illicit money overseas than company executives, and the government, as India’s biggest trader, likely indulges in more manipulation of export and import contracts. Much private-sector corruption is also done under government compulsion, he said. Though economic liberalization ended the so-called License Raj _ during which New Delhi kept tight, lucrative control of business permits _ many opportunities for corruption remain.

Private players pouring into sectors like telecoms and banking still need licenses. This week, the telecom minister resigned over alleged licensing irregularities that may have cost the treasury 1.76 trillion rupees ($39 billion). The government is also the major intermediary in land deals. Desai and others say bribes are common in land sales, which are proliferating as India’s growth spurs the development of mines, factories, buildings and special economic zones.

Regardless of debate about who is most to blame, the report shows the tide of money has been unrelenting even as India makes some efforts to clamp down on the hidden economy. The government has ramped up tax collection efforts and renegotiated its tax treaty with Switzerland to give it greater access to information for investigations of tax fraud. It already has good access to information from Mauritius, a major offshore financial center for rich Indians and companies. Many hope the government’s ambitious plan to give every citizen a unique identity number will also widen the tax net and make evasion harder.

And under pressure from opposition politicians, the Congress Party in recent weeks forced three high-ranking officials including the telecoms minister to step down amid corruption allegations. But critics say such gestures are cosmetic and will do little to stem growing popular frustration at India’s elite.

“Catch some of those high-profile guys, Bollywood fellows and cricket stars and make an example out of them,” Kar said. “If they don’t address this now, they’re going to be stuck with a much bigger problem which will tear at the heart of India. Mark my words. People are losing patience.”

Those who think that Pakistan is not their preferred destination for making investment should sit back, relax and give reason a chance. They should have a second thought and see if they can do any better if they chose to take their money elsewhere to places like India who claims to be a fast growing economy. India’s most dreaded news magazine, Tehelka has a different story to tell. It says that India may be thumping its chest for being the second fastest growing economy and being one of the few countries that was relatively unscathed by the global economic downturn. But when it comes to doing business, it fares worse than most neighbors, including archrival Pakistan.

According to a report titled Doing Business 2011: Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs prepared by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, India is 134 in a ranking relating to the ease of doing business, while Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal are ranked 83, 102, 107 and 116, respectively. China is ranked 79. Among its neighbors, Bhutan, ranked 142, is the only country ranked below India.

Worse, among the nine parameters based on which countries have been ranked, India’s position has declined in five and shown improvement on only three fronts. It has been able to maintain status quo on only one of the yardsticks. India has shown improvement in terms of paying taxes, starting a business and closing a business, while it has slipped on the counts of dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors and trading across borders.

“India is one of the most preferred destinations for investments in the world today and is likely to remain so for next few years,” said DK Joshi, chief economist at credit rating agency and industry tracker Crisil Ltd. “As far as reasons for India being ranked so low in terms of ease of doing business, this could be because of procedural hassles, time taken in approvals, among others. The pace of reforms, too, is slower than anticipated and all these factors results in lower ranking,” Joshi added.

 

Pakistan’s present dispensation put together by US, UK and other stakeholders and named as democracy has lost its appeal in a matter of less than three years. Ever since its installation, prophets of doom are working overtime to foretell its demise. And they have good reasons to foretell, provided by those running this system. The stories of corruption and nepotism together with economic meltdown has created the sickening feelings for democracy. Now even the intelligentsia is crying hoarse, “we don’t want democracy”. Those calling shots in the system, whenever feel threatened scream at the top of their voice that democracy is in peril. There is no denying the fact this dispensation christened as democracy will not survive to see the light of another year but is it democracy?

Well, consider the following in a system; the mantle of leadership is passed on to immature teenagers through a will and the masses are treated like cattle and sheep to be inherited through the bloodline and no one else is allowed to lead the political party and this happens in all the political parties, and all the political parties unanimously amend the constitution to scrap the provision obliging intra-party elections. If the world still insists to call it a democracy simply because votes were cast, then this democracy is not needed by anyone in a country where people are sick and tired of this system.

An article titled, Pakistan – the dying democracy has appeared in the latest edition of Guardian. The very title suggests that the world has approved the prevailing system in Pakistan as a democracy. The paper says that the last 63 years of Pakistan’s history, democracy is found only as an interval before the arrival of the next military regime. Democracy was doomed when Liaquat Ali Khan, the first elected prime minister, was shot at a public gathering. From there onwards, the balance of power shifted in the favour of the military. An interesting comparison reveals this shift: from 1951 to 1957 India had one prime minister and several army chiefs while during the same period Pakistan had one army chief and several prime ministers.

The paper has failed to mention that military was in power in 1960s, 1980s and 2000s. During all these three decades, economic grew at a higher rate and infrastructure for economic development including mega projects was built. As soon as the “democratic” government took over, the economy was the first casualty and country had to go for IMF program like a fixed ritual.

Although every person in Pakistan, whether in a position of power or not, is very vocal about the very idea of democracy, no collective effort is seen to establish it as an institution. As the political and government culture in Pakistan is a product of its links to the pre-partition British rule, Pakistan’s leaders knew best from this inheritance the vice-regal system that made little or no provision for popular awareness or involvement. Consequently, even after more than half a century of the country’s independence, we are still entangled in age-old feudal, tribal and panchayat systems.

Feudalism is one of the key factors responsible for the weakness of the democratic politics in Pakistan and the supremacy of the bureaucracy. The landed aristocracy has always dominated Pakistan’s political, social and economic life. If you look at history it very clearly shows how land reforms introduced in 1953 played a key role in creating a democratic Indian state. On the contrary no such reforms were ever introduced in Pakistan – for which reason the poor masses remain under the control of feudalism. Given the fact that feudalism is prevalent in the rural areas, no investment is allowed in these areas.

During the modest time in which democracy has been experimented with in Pakistan, uneducated, unqualified and incapable candidates, from the feudal class – totally incapable of dealing with multifarious problems faced by the country – are elected merely on the basis of their birth in a particular family, caste or place. Political parties voted into power for the purpose of institutionalizing democracy blow their own trumpet and that, too, only for their own personal advantages. This, in turn, has marred Pakistani politics with an orgy of corruption, incompetence, spiraling economic decline and chaos.

The failure of Pakistan’s democratic rulers is evident from the fact that no agrarian reforms have ever been introduced to abolish feudalism. National oppression continues as a festering wound on the body politic of this country. The task of the formation of a modern nation-state is far from being achieved. Issues of electricity shortfall, floods and terrorist activities every now and then have only made things worse. This state of affairs has wrought havoc on the social and economic life of Pakistani society. Even the present theory of “reconciliation” initiated by imperialism is the most blatant and insidious form of class collaboration and is in no manner serving the purpose. The very fabric of democracy that could have been the driving force behind this country becoming one of the most powerful and well-respected countries in the world is now being unravelled before our eyes and we prefer being silent spectators. Alienation and disengagement from politics has already led Pakistan to its lowest ebb of catastrophe and ignominy. It is beyond comprehension why we fail to understand the need of active citizenry, especially from the bourgeoisie, exercising accountability or an effective method of recalling elected representatives if they do not perform.

Today, democracy is more seen as a peaceful way of tyranny and suppression; a reductionist version of justice, a fallacious idea of the rule of law and a deceptive concept of equality before law. Those who once comforted themselves that a democratic government would never let all this happen might now abandon a last delusion, that their freedom is inviolable. From liberty to equality, fraternity to sovereignty, an independent judiciary to the rights of the people, all are denied and demonized by the defective democratic system.

Opportunities for a fair governance, true democracy and civil society in Pakistan can only flourish when democratic practices are allowed to prevail in form and substance under the supremacy of an unchanged constitution. The repeated alterations in the constitution to suit existing rulers leave no positive memory and little chance for institutions to adapt and support values at the root of democracy.

Pakistan’s President has announced that his government plans to tax the rich to help the poor i.e. flood-hit people. This sincere initiative is a happy development which should be appreciated but will the rich and mighty pay up or will they live up to their reputation of plundering but not paying back. Pakistan’s floods have placed the country at the head of a bumpy road ahead when the country is forced to make tough choices. To start with, Pakistan’s Central Bank has jacked up the interest rate which will have many implications for the flood-hit fragile economy, but the question is: did the new Governor who is an economist of international standing, have any other viable option? Businessweek in its current issue has reported that Pakistan’s deadliest floods ruined crops alone worth 281.6 billion rupees ($3.27 billion), destroying rice, cotton and sugar. And this is one of multiple official versions this time coming from the horse’s mouth, the Agriculture Minister himself. However, the floods have damaged about 10 million tons of crop, which Credit Suisse values at about $1.9 billion.

In this backdrop when Pakistan’s major contributor to the GDP has suffered so badly, the inflation was already out of control and the Bretton Woods sisters had no mercy on the devastated economy and battered populace, this was probably the only thing in his power that a Central Bank governor could do to arrest the inflationary trends. Wall Street Journal has reported that it’s a decision he had to make with incomplete information. Total assessments of the damage to Pakistan’s economy from floods that began in July are still pending….He chose right. The State Bank of Pakistan on Wednesday raised its policy rate by half a percentage point to 13.5%.

The paper says that holding off would have meant a risky delay of action against a worsening inflation problem. Consumer prices in Pakistan have been rising too fast for three years, with gains close to a 12% rate throughout 2010. The floods will amplify the problem, but floods aren’t the only source of a price shock in Pakistan. Islamabad is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to increase electricity tariffs and raise general sales taxes and import duties—all of which would add fuel to the inflation problem. Not taking these steps could have the country miss out on a $3.2 billion IMF payment due by the end of this year. Pull it all together and economists at Standard Chartered expect inflation to average 15% in the fiscal year that began in July.

Then there’s the fragile state of Pakistan’s economy. Flood damage means Pakistan’s critical agriculture sector will contract 1.7% this fiscal year, the sector’s first decline in a decade, Credit Suisse predicted. It means economic growth could slow to 2.5%, much slower than last year’s 4.1%, and a crawl by Pakistan’s standards. Add to this the infrastructure damage—from power plants to highways—and industrial growth, too, will suffer. The International Labor Organization estimates 5.3 million people will lose their jobs because of the flood. Raising rates, and promising to keep doing so, in such an environment is certainly not going to win Mr. Kardar any friends in the business community. But inflation is the more frightening of Pakistan’s economic challenges. Price stability is far more critical to Pakistan’s long-term growth. Foreign aid and remittances from overseas Pakistanis will ensure money flows into the economy.

Sehberg has recently been working in three areas in Charsadda: Dildar Garhi, Darya Garhi and Akberabad. 150 families from these areas have been identified as poorest of poor and will be adopted jointly by Sehberg, For Humanity and Pakistan Fellows. As the emergency phase is over, we are now focusing on the rehabilitation of these families and would provide assistance in food, clothing, household items livelihood and reconstruction. We aim to do this by December, 2010, Inshahllah.

Sehberg has also been offered assistance by Sq. Ldr. Imran and Major Nasr for disinfection of wells in Noshehra, Charsadda and Kamra. This activity will also be started immediately. As this Saturday is the weekend before Eid, NGO will be providing the following to 150 families (approx. 1000 persons):

  • Ration for Eid (includes 2.5 litre oil, 10 kg flour, .5 kg powdered milk, .5 kg tea, 4 kg sugar, saviyan, 5 kg rice)
  • Clothes for women
  • Clothes for Children (0-12)
  • A hygiene pack (including 3 towels, 2 pcs Life Buoy Soap, 2 pcs Sufi soap, comb)
  • Bangles and Mehndi for girls

Sehberg has intimated that it needs volunteers for packing all these items on Friday 3.9.10 at 8 pm. . We also need volunteers for distributing these packs in Charsadda on Saturday 4th Sept. Please call Faisal at 0321-5540407 for confirmation of your availability at either date. Take some time to look at the attached photos for reference in case you are carrying out independent activities and need info on where to get kids clothes at a good rate.

The catastrophe of the floods had many Ds, Death, Destruction, Diseases leading the nation to Debt trap. The story of this multi-dimensional onslaught of Nature and the ramifications thereof has already been published on this blog.  There are some brave people who, in spite of their modest means, are fighting the resultant human miseries. One of these is Sehberg Trust. This week the Trust worked together with some other organizations namely Humanity First, Islamabad Jeep Club and Pakistan Fellows in various areas such as Dildar Gari, Pushtoon Garhi, Pir Sabak, Chowky Drab, Kaptan Kalay in Nowshera and Charsadda Districts and also one village in Sargodha.

A very short account of relief activities carried out in Dildar Garhi in Charsadda District are being shared for any one who might be planning relief activities.

Humanity First had identified a pocket in District Charsadda through Pakistan Fellows another NGO which also provided support in transportation of goods. The name of the area was Dildar Garhi and it was located at 200 km from Islamabad, 20 km from Charsadda and 48 kms from Nishata Interchange on Islamabad- Peshawar motorway. It was badly hit by flooding as it is situated at the bank of Swat River one end of Dildar Garhi Bridge which has succumbed to the flooding cutting off this area from Peshawar. On the way, the roads and small bridges were broken and the terrain was very difficult the last 3 kms was not accessible by trucks and jeeps and light vehicles had to be used.

250 families were provided with packets of food each containing 1 kg sugar, quarter kg black tea, 8 packs of 200 ml milk and ten roghani nans plus 20 liters cans filled with clean water and chlorine tablets to make the water safe for the next ten days. 5000 naans, 2000 milk packs, 50 kg tea and 200 kg of sugar was distributed. Humanity first had provided dates, biscuits etc and dry food rations like oil, flour and lentils were provided by Pakistan Fellows.

We all felt that at least as far as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is concerned, the emergency phase seems to be over in Nowshera, Charsadda and Swat districts and has entered the transition phase. People now have temporary shelters some in the form of tents, others in relief camps and majority with their relatives. Currently, there is acute shortage of clean drinking water and raw material for cooking. Skin and other water-borne Infections were now very obvious and it seems like soaps, combs, hand fans and clothing should also be considered.

Next week we are going to provide flour, oil and daal (lentils) to the same 250 families in the area. We have also now started collecting clothes and shoes for the week before Eid to be distributed in various relief camps that have already been established. Also, in the plan is the collection of Bangles and Mehndi for little girls and toys for little boys to be distributed in the camps.

Remembering Hakim Salik….

Floods are not the only catastrophe visiting this poor hapless country. The Almighty’s wrath is reflected in many ways; most notably for common folks, in the events being unfolded by Him every day, and the 18th day of August, 2010 was no exception. At around Iftar time, Pakistan‘s legendary herbal physician, who was honored with the civil award of Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in recognition of his meritorious services, Hakim N Salik, a poet of now-a-days rare classical order, an excellent human-being with the heart of gold and above all a great friend, suddenly left us all, for his heavenly abode.

This was a sudden shock to all of his friends, his admirers and his patients around the globe. He was not seriously ill, but he was a heartbroken man having lost his faith in his adopted country for which he had abandoned his kith and kin and which he served beyond his capacity. He was a Pakistani not by accident or compulsion like all of us, he was a Pakistani by choice. Lately, he was extremely disturbed on what has become of his adopted motherland in the last two decades. He would voice his concerns for the country and disdain for the perpetrators of its disaster very candidly. His patients all around the world would testify to his sincerity. He will be mourned by a widow, a grown up son, three married daughters and three sons of very tender age . He will also be mourned by friends, admirers and countless patients.  After having married off his elder son and three daughters, he had some sense of relief but they all are now devastated and will miss him at every step in life. Rest in peace Salik bhai, you may have left this world but you will always live in our hearts. We will always remember you in the hour of our pain and distress, that is if we ever forget you momentarily.

Click here to go to Hakim N Salik Herbal Medicine website.