Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Letter to President of Pakistan

Dear Mr. President,

It's quite pathetic and sad that I'm forced to call you that, because the vast majority of this nation as well as myself don't regard you as a President let alone a sane human being fit to live in this world. How you got to where you are now was the... most disgusting display of corruption and heartlessness I have ever seen in my entire life, and I thought rigging polls were bad enough; you killed your own wife! Was that the only way you could have taken over Pakistan? By emotionally blackmailing people to voting for you and your corrupt party? It's hilarious to see you trying to compare yourself to the likes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or even Muhammad Ali Jinnah. You are in no way, shape or form even in the same universe as those people. As stuck up as Bhutto was, he did a lot for this nation and the youth responded to him. When he spoke of development and progress, they listened to him. When you speak, nobody gives a damn. Why? Because you're not really our President, you're just another guy who's filling up his Swiss Bank Account. Mister Ten Percent eh? More like Mister One Hundred Percent now. You promised us democracy, you failed. You promised us a stable economy, you failed. You promised us peace and security, you failed. You promised us a new age in politics, you failed. You promised to eradicate power outages, you failed. What good have you brought this nation? What Gunnah did the people of Pakistan commit to have you as the leader of this nation? Instead of doing what you promised, you have allowed American intelligence agencies to wreek havoc in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and now the rest of Pakistan sadly. And for what? So you can fill up your Swiss Bank Account with American dollars. How do you sleep every night? How do you sleep knowing that God is watching your every move? Do you have any shame? Don't you fear that one day what you have done you will be accountable for? I doesn't seem like it. I'm not criticizing you simply for the sake of it or because I belong to a rival party. Infact, all political parties in Pakistan are run by crooks and thieves be it Nawaz Sharif or any other. You all deserve to die...and die horrible deaths might I add. What I'm writing here is not only the sentiments of one person, but of an entire nation. Trust me on this one, you will pay for what you've done to Pakistan and if not in this life than in the next one surely. If you truly love Pakistan, which I honestly doubt you do, step down and admit to what you've done and what you are doing right now. But we all know it won't happen. You are not of that caliber as people like Quaid-e-Azam, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Allama Iqbal, Abdul Sattar Edhi and countless others who have earned there way into the hearts of everyone in Pakistan. If you have no intention to change and help Pakistan and the people of this great country, then people like you belong in prison. They should rot there until they die, so then they can burn in hell for eternity after that, because that's where you're going - Hell. I'd start packing some ice if I were you. Do humanity a favour. Step down and get lost.

Thank You,

From The People of Pakistan

P.S: Take you retarded EMO son Bilawal Zardari with you

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reasons Why the Nation Loves Pakistan Army

Ask the flood victims. These soldiers are the saints, when they sing, “The saints are coming.”

Because each soldier of the Pakistan Army has a million proud mothers across the country to pray for his safety.

Because they are born to save.

Because they get into the roots of the people to inquire their pains.

Because you look for a savior in them.

Because they know where their Heaven lies.

Because they’re the chosen ones – The messiah for the pariah.

Because they have so many other fronts to fight; Rescue, Code Red, Humanity are the only words they’ve known.

They are the ones who we believe in. They are the ones who teach us a life-code.

I salute each and every troop who constitutes the Pakistan Army. May Allah make you grow in stature, forever and always.

This blog post was prescribed through Pakistan Army’s twitter account and was also quoted by Defense.Pk authorities. *Photos provided by: Inter Services Public Relations – Pakistan.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Remember

This poem is dedicated to my younger brother Fayez (Effi). He passed away at age 24.

I remember a time in youth
Brothers, best friends, together always.
Cricket, and football, - oh those were the days.

I remember, together as teens
The fighting and arguing and all in between
The laughing and joking till tears filled our eyes.

I remember those times each day I wake
Not understanding God's choice in who to take
A brother, a father a good man to all.

I remember our last time together
Sitting and talking well into the night
Together, your sickness we vowed to fight.

I remember you asking, ' Fazi are you sure'
Looking at you, our eyes filled with tears
' Effi you're my brother, - my blood is yours '.

I remember you brother always so strong
I pray every day, I hope you forgive me
I thought I could help you, I guess I was wrong.

Pain And Sorrow

This life is filled with pain and sorrow,
I always wonder if I'll make it through tomorrow.
I don't know what I'm going to do,
I'm always missing you.

I think about the joy, laughter, and tears,
and try not to have any fears.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath,
But once again I start thinking about your death.

You told me you would only be gone a little while,
And told me to always keep on a smile.
But its been longer than a while,
How do you expect me to smile?

I know you will always be in my heart,
But it is slowly breaking apart.
I always loved having you near,
and now I wish you were here.

In loving memory of my brother Fayez (Effi)'. 23-04-1984 to 04-07-2010
When you died, a part of my soul died with you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mud Volcanoes of Balochistan

Pakistan's Balochistan province is gifted with a diverse landscape. Among many geological wonders here, one big attraction is the presence of 18 mud volcanoes. Infact world's largest and highest known mud volcano is located in Balochistan. The altitiude of highest mud volcano here is 300 ft. The mud volcanoes of Balochistan are not only located on the land but from time to time they appear as small temporary islands in the Arabian Sea also.

To reach the most famous group of these mud volcanoes, one has to travel west of Karachi on the Makran Coastal Highway (N10). One has to drive upto a place called Aghor located at the delta of Hungol River. 7 mud volcanoes are located few kilometers North East of Aghor. 11 mud volcanoes are located further west between Kutch and Gwadar.

There are two known groups of mud volcanoes here. One is called 'Chandargup' and other is called 'Jabl-ul-Ghurab'. Very close to Chandargup is an ancient Hindu temple called 'Hinglaj temple' or 'Nani Temple'. Due to close proximity of the mud volcano to a Hindu temple, it is very likely that the word Chandargup is actually derived from the word 'Chandargupt'. Another word which locally mentions this group of volcanoes is 'Chandra coop' which means Volcanoes of the Moon.

It is said that mud volcanoes have roots that go several kilometers underground and act as safety valves for high underground pressure.

The earliest account of the presence of mud volcanoes in Balochistan dates back to 1840. In 1862 Major (later Sir) Frederick John Goldsmid was employed by the Governer of Bombay for special missions. One such mission was a foray into Makran lasting from December 12, 1861 to January 1862. Goldsmid and his party commenced their journey overland from Karachi and wrote a diary of their travels upto Gwadar. This travelogue writes about the mud volcanoes, which gives the first detailed account of their existence. In his journal Goldsmid writes about passing through bubbling springs near Ras Koocheri, taking detours to see ancient Hindu temples of Hinglaj and the mud volcanoes near Ormara. The Hindus worship these mud volcanoes as the habitation of a deity Babhaknath.

It is reported that during the infamous 8.1 intensity earthquake of Balochistan which occured on May 31, 1935 a mud volcano erupted Northwest of Quetta, near the town of Surab and kept spewing out mud for 9 hours continuously.

It is also reported that on November 28, 1945 an earthquake of 7.8 intensity occured in Arabian Sea off the coast of Makran. The earthquake caused a tsunami with a wave reaching as high as 13m at some places. This tsunami killed 4000 people off the coast of Arabian Sea in Sindh and Baluchistan. Widespread destruction was reported in the towns of Pasni and Ormara.

A village called Khaddi got completely wiped off the face of earth with no survivors. Even in Karachi, waves rose several feet through Clifton and Gizri. Sea water entered the compounds of oil storage facilities at Kimari harbor in Karachi. The underwater cable link which existed in 1945 between Karachi and Muscat was interrupted. The Cape Monze lighthouse, 72 km from Karachi, was damaged. The quake was also strongly felt at Manora Island near Karachi Harbour. The 94–feet–high lighthouse on Manora was damaged and a couple of pounds of mercury spilt.

This earthquake shook and vented the mud volcanoes of Hungol so much that the gases coming out of this volcanoes got ignited and flames rose several hundred feet in the air.

The news of fiery volcanoes erupting in Balochistan (1945) spread across India. There were also reports from RAF aircraft flying in from the west of volcanic eruptions in Lasbela State in Balochistan. So one Peter Martin–Kaye who was stationed at Korangi Creek Royal Air Force Flying Boat base and his friend Peter Woolf, who was also stationed at the Korangi Creek base, took two weeks leave from the base commander and set off on the 2nd of December, 1945 on an expedition along the Makran Coast on camels provided by the Wazir of Lasbela State to check out what had happened when the earthquake and tsunami struck. On reaching the location of three active mud volcanoes (which they called Chandragup, Ranagup and Rajagup), concluded that the quake had released a quantity of gas at that location which had ignited in a fiery eruption giving rise to the stories of volcanic eruptions.

Another account of these eruption come from V.P. Sondhi, who in 1947 also wrote in about the same volcanic phenomenon in the area near the mouth of the Hungol River in Baluchistan following the 1945 quake. According to Sondhi, the self-igniting plume of gas had erupted:
“with such great force that the flames leaped thousands of feet high into the sky”.

V.P. Sondhi also documented the emergence of three mud volcano islands in the Arabian Sea just off the coast of Makran. These off shore mud volcanoes didn't live long and the strong wave action of Arabian Sea dissolved the muddy islands within months. By the end of 1946 these mud volcanoes were completely gone.

The geological research says that the mud volcanoes emerging out of Arabian Sea are made from highly viscous mud with high gas content. The mud gets driven up by high buoyancy forces and over time, a high mud ridge or mountain forms out of the water.

A scientist named G. Delisle had described in 2002 the emergence of a new mud volcano island in March 1999 at about the same place, this time apparently not accompanied by an earthquake, but it was also destroyed by wave action a few months later.

Mud volcanoes are generally not considered to be dangerous. In some countries like Azerbaijan which has the largest concentration of mud volcanoes in the world, the gas eruptions from mud volcanoes are more frequent and violent than those in Pakistan, they are actually a tourist attraction. Should Pakistan do the same?

With the opening of N10 - Makran Coastal Highway in 2004, mud volcanoes of Balochistan are now within few hours reach from Karachi. The convenience of a world class highway is also bringing a constant stream of 'city slickers' to this once remote area. People are now climbing onto these sandy volcanoes in large numbers. Some preservation should be provided to these natural wonders otherwise the onslaught of tourist will deface the natural beauty.

Tourism should be allowed but within safe distance of these sandy monuments. I also recommend a visit to these volcanoes and not to mention the joy of travel on scenic Coastal Highway, which deserves a full post on its scenic route alone.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

India-Pakistan Comparison 2010

Dr. Ishrat Husain, a former World Bank senior official and an ex governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, wrote an article captioned "India, Pakistan: a comparison" at the end of the first five decades of two nations' existence as independent states. To my knowledge, Dr. Hussain has not done an update of his article since it was first published. Although about three years too late, this post is my attempt to present a comparison of the two South Asian nations after sixty years of independence.

Here is the opening paragraph from Dr. Husain's article from the late 1990s, which I believe still stands true today:

"India and Pakistan are completing five decades of their independence. Since the partition, the relationship between the two countries has been uneasy and characterized by a set of paradoxes. There is a mixture of love and hate, a tinge of envy and admiration, bouts of paranoia and longing for cooperation, and a fierce rivalry but a sense of proximity, too. The heavy emotional overtones have made it difficult to sift the facts from the myths and make an objective assessment. There are in fact only two extreme types of reactions on each side. Either there are those who always find that the grass is greener on the other side of the pasture or those who are totally dismissive of the accomplishments of the other side."

Not much has changed in the last ten years as far as the above paragraph is concerned. The relationship between the two nations remains as emotionally charged as ever.

Then Dr. Husain's essay talked about what he saw as the common successes of the two nations in the first fifty years:

1. Despite the prophets of gloom and doom on both sides of the fence, both India and Pakistan have succeeded in more than doubling their per capita incomes. This is a remarkable feat considering that the population has increased fourfold in case of Pakistan and threefold in India. Leaving aside the countries in East Asia and China, very few large countries have been able to reach this milestone.

2. The incidence of poverty (defined as $1 per day) has also been reduced significantly although the number of absolute poor remains astoundingly high. However, the level of poverty is lower in Pakistan.

3. Food production has not only kept pace with the rise in population but has surpassed it. Both countries, leaving aside annual fluctuations due to weather conditions, are self-sufficient in food. (Pakistan exports its surplus rice but imports small volumes of wheat).

4. Food self-sufficiency has been accompanied by improved nutritional status. Daily caloric and protein intake per capita has risen by almost one-third but malnourishment among children is still high.

5. The cracks in the dualistic nature of the economy -- a well-developed modern sector and a backward traditional sector -- are appearing fast in both the countries. A buoyant middle class is emerging. The use of modern inputs and mechanization of agriculture has been a leveling influence in this direction. But public policies have not always been consistent or supportive.

Here is the update to the above assessment:

1. Per capita incomes in both nations have more than doubled in the last ten years, in spite of significant increases in population. The most recent and detailed real per capita income data was calculated and reported by Asian Development Bank based on a detailed study of a list of around 800 household and nonhousehold products in 2005 and early 2006 to compare real purchasing power for ADB's trans-national income comparison program (ICP). The ABD ICP concluded that Pakistan had the highest per capita income at HK$ 13,528 (US $1,745) among the largest nations in South Asia. ADB reported India’s per capita as HK $12,090 (US $1,560). Nominal per capita GDP estimates for Pakistan range from US $1000 to US $1022, while the range for India is from US $ 1017 to US $ 1100. Purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita GDP estimates for Pakistan from various sources range from $2500 to $2644, while the same sources put the range for India's per capita GDP from $2780 to $2972.

2. The incidence of poverty (defined as $1.25 per day) has also come down in both nations, although the number of poor in South Asia still remains very high. According to the 2009 UN Human and Income Poverty Report, the people living under $1.25 a day in India is 41.6 percent, about twice as much as Pakistan's 22.6 percent. The most recent estimates by UNDP in Pakistan for 2007-2008 indicate poverty level at 17.2%.

3. Food production has barely kept pace with the rise of population, particularly in Pakistan. There have been higher food prices and shortages of various commodities such as wheat and sugar. There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

4. Though the nutritional status has improved in both nations, there are still very high levels of malnutrition, particularly among children. In spite of the fact that there is about 22% malnutrition in Pakistan and the child malnutrition being much higher at 40% (versus India's 46%), the average per capita calorie intake of about 2500 calories is within normal range. But the nutritional balance necessary for good health appears to be lacking in Pakistanis' dietary habits. Senior Indian official Syeda Hameed has acknowledged that Pakistan and Bangladesh have done better than India in meeting the nutritional needs of their populations.

5. India's economy has grown more rapidly than Pakistan's in the last ten years. However, both nations have accepted and implemented significant economic reforms that have opened up their economies and brought about rapid growth, more than doubling the size of each economy in the last ten years.

Dr. Husain's paper went on to talk about the common failures of the two countries in their first fifty years as follows:

The relatively inward-looking economic policies and high protection to domestic industry did not allow them to reap the benefits of integration with the fast-expanding and much larger world economy. This has changed particularly since 1991 but the control mind-set of the politicians and the bureaucrats has not changed. The centrally planned allocation of resources and "license raj" has given rise to an inefficient private sector that thrive more on contacts, bribes, loans from public financial institutions, lobbying, tax evasion and rent-seeking rather than on competitive behavior. Unless both the control mind-set of the government and the parasitic behavior of the private industrial entrepreneurs do not change drastically, the potential of an efficient economy would be hard to achieve. This can be accomplished by promoting domestic and international competition, reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers and removing constraints to entry for newcomers.

The weaknesses in governance in the legal and judicial system, poor enforcement of private property rights and contracts, preponderance of discretionary government rules and regulations and lack of transparency in decision making act as brakes on broad-based participation and sharing of benefits by the majority of the population.

In terms of fiscal management, the record of both the countries is less than stellar. Higher fiscal deficits averaging 7-8 percent of GDP have persisted for fairly long periods of time and crowded out private capital formation through large domestic borrowing. Defense expenditures and internal debt servicing continue to pre-empt large proportion of tax revenues with adverse consequences for maintenance and expansion of physical infrastructure, basic social services and other essential services that only the government can provide. The congested urban services such as water, electricity, transport in both countries are a potential source of social upheaval.

The state of financial sector in both countries is plagued with serious ills. The nationalization of commercial banking services, the neglect of credit quality in allocation decisions, lack of competition and inadequate prudential regulations and supervision have put the system under severe pressure and increased the share of non-performing assets in the banks’ portfolio. The financial intermediation role in mobilizing and efficiently allocating domestic savings has been seriously compromised and the banking system is fragile. Both countries are now taking steps to liberalize the financial sector and open it up to competition from foreign banks as well as private banks.

Here is the update on the areas of common failures of India and Pakistan:

Though the level of globalization of the two nations remains well below China's, both India and Pakistan have made significant strides in this direction. In Pakistan, exports account for less than 15% of gross domestic product, compared with about 25% in India and 40% in China, according former Musharraf economic adviser Salman Shah. The policy changes in both nations have also opened up greater FDI inflows, though Pakistan's FDI has declined in the last two years due to security perceptions, after several years of strong FDI inflows, particularly in banking, telecommunications, real estate and oil and gas sectors.

Both countries continue to run large budget deficits. India's fiscal deficit for 2008-2009 stood at 6.5 percent of gdp and it is rising, according to Bloomberg. Pakistan has said its fiscal deficit will widen to as much as 4.9% of gross domestic product in 2009-2010, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The banking sectors in both nations have seen major improvements in delivery of new services. India and Pakistan have ranked 31 and 34 respectively, out of 52 countries in the World Economic Forum's first Financial Development Report. Both nations are ranked ahead of the Russian Federation (35), Indonesia (38), Turkey (39), Poland (41), Brazil (40), Philippines (48) and Kazakhstan (45).

Consumer and commercial credit availability and retail services have improved in the last ten years. Microfinance sectors are now well established in South Asia, helping fight poverty, and empowering women economically.

Both nations are suffering from poor governance resulting in lack of responsiveness to the basic needs of the vast majority of their people. In fact, the latest Human Development Report for 2009 shows that both major South Asian nations have slipped further down relative to other regions of the world. Pakistan's HDI ranking dropped 3 places from 138 last year to 141 this year, and India slipped six places from 128 in 2008 to 134 this year.

The level of urbanization in Pakistan is now the highest in South Asia, and its urban population is likely to equal its rural population by 2030, according to a report titled ‘Life in the City: Pakistan in Focus’, released by the United Nations Population Fund. Pakistan ranks 163 and India at 174 on a list of over 200 countries compiled by Nationmaster. The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan's gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.

The increasing urbanization has had the effect of defusing the "population bomb" in Pakistan. With increasing urbanization, Pakistan's population growth rate has declined from 2.17% in 2000 to 1.9% in 2008. Based on PAI Research Commentary by Karen Hardee and Elizabeth Leahy, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Pakistan is still the highest in South Asia at 4.1 children per woman. Women in urban areas have an average of 3.3 children compared to their rural counterparts, who have an average of 4.5 children. The overall fertility rate has been cut in half from about 8 children per woman in 1960s to about 4 this decade, according to a study published in 2009.

Third, Dr. Husain turned his attention to the areas where India surpassed Pakistan:

There is little doubt that the scientific and technological manpower and research and development institutions in India are far superior and can match those of the western institutions. The real breakthrough in the Indian export of software after the opening up of the economy in 1991 attests to the validity of the proposition that human capital formation accompanied by market-friendly economic policies can lift the developing countries out of low-level equilibrium trap.

Indian scientists working in India excel in the areas of defense technology, space research, electronics and avionics, genetics, telecommunications, etc. The number of Ph.Ds produced by India in science and engineering every year -- about 5,000 -- is higher than the entire stock of Ph.Ds in Pakistan. The premier research institutions in Pakistan started about the same time as India have become hotbed of internal bickerings and rivalries rather than generator of ideas, processes and products.

Related to this superior performance in the field of scientific research and technological development is the better record of investment in education by India. The adult literacy rate, female literacy rate, gross enrollment ratios at all levels, and education index of India have moved way ahead of Pakistan. Rapid decline in total fertility rates in India has reduced population growth rate to 1.8 percent compared to 3.0 percent for Pakistan.

Health access to the population and infant mortality rates are also better in India and thus the overall picture of social indicators, although not very impressive by international standards, emerges more favorable. The two most important determinants of Pakistan’s dismal performance in social development are its inability to control population growth and the lack of willingness to educate girls in the rural areas.

Here's the update on areas where India was ahead of Pakistan ten years ago:

In response to the growing concerns about the nation lagging in higher education achievement, Pakistan launched Higher Education Reform led by Dr. Ata ur Rahman, adviser to President Musharraf in 2002. This reform resulted in over fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The reform supported initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterward. The years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.

Although India has about 270 million illiterate adults, India's overall literacy rate is better than Pakistan's. Pakistan's population of illiterate adults is estimated at 47 million, fourth largest after India's 270 million, China's 71 million, Bangladesh's 49 million, according to the latest UNESCO Education For All report for 2010.

But India remains significantly ahead of Pakistan in higher education, with six universities, mostly IITs, ranked among the top 400 universities of the world versus only one from Pakistan, National University of Science and Technology(NUST) ranked at 350, up from 375 last year. Replication of NUST campuses, like the IIT campuses in India, can help spawn more highly rated institutions of higher learning near major cities in Pakistan.

Pakistan's information technology industry is quite young. It is in very early stages of development compared to the much older and bigger Indian IT industry, which had a significant headstart of at least a decade over Pakistan. During the lost decade of the 1990s under Bhutto and Sharif governments, Pakistani economy stagnated and its IT industry did not make any headway. However, the industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. This pales in comparison to over $5 billion revenue a year reported by India's Tata Consulting alone.

India's literacy rate of 61% is well ahead of Pakistan's 50% rate. In higher education, six Indian universities have made the list of the top 400 universities published by Times Higher Education Supplement this year. Only one Pakistani university was considered worthy of such honor.

Pakistan has consistently scored lower on the HDI sub-index on education than its overall HDI index. It is obvious from the UNDP report and other sources that Pakistan's dismal record in enrolling and educating its young people, particularly girls, stands in the way of any significant positive development in the nation. The recent announcement of a new education policy that calls for more than doubling the education spending from about 3% to 7% of GDP is a step in the right direction. However, money alone will not solve the deep-seated problems of poor access to education, rampant corruption and the ghost schools that only exist on paper, that have simply lined the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials. Any additional money allocated must be part of a broader push for transparent and effective delivery of useful education to save the people from the curses of poverty, ignorance and extremism which are seriously hurting the nation.

A basic indicator of healthcare is access to physicians. There are 80 doctors per 100,000 population in Pakistan versus 60 in India, according to the World Health Organization. For comparison with the developed world, the US and Europe have over 250 physicians per 100,000 people. UNDP recently reported that life expectancy at birth in Pakistan is 66.2 years versus India's 63.4 years.

Access to healhcare in South Asia, particularly due to the wide gender gap, presents a huge challenge, and it requires greater focus to ensure improvement in human resources. Though the life expectancy has increased to 66.2 years in Pakistan and 63.4 years in India, it is still low relative to the rest of the world. The infant mortality rate remains stubbornly high, particular in Pakistan, though it has come down down from 76 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 65 in 2009. With 320 mothers dying per 100,000 live births in Pakistan and 450 in India, the maternal mortality rate in South Asia is very high, according to UNICEF.

Finally, Dr. Hussain addressed areas where he thought Pakistan was ahead of India fifty years after independence as follows:

The economic growth rate of Pakistan has been consistently higher than India. Starting from almost the same level or slightly lower level in 1947, Pakistan’s per capita income today in US nominal dollar terms is one-third higher (430 versus 320) and in purchasing parity dollar terms is two-third higher (2,310 versus 1,280). The latter suggests that the average Pakistani has enjoyed better living standards and consumption levels in the past but the gap may be narrowing since early 1990s. Had the population growth rate in Pakistan been slower and equaled that of India, this gap would have been much wider and the per capita income in Pakistan today would have been twice as high and the incidence of poverty further down.

Although both India and Pakistan have pursued inward-looking strategies, the anti-export bias in case of Pakistan has been comparably lower and the integration with the world market faster. The trade-GDP ratio in PPP terms is twice that of all South Asian countries. Pakistan’s export growth has been stronger and the composition of exports has shifted from primary to manufactured goods; albeit the dominance of cotton-based products has enhanced its vulnerability.

Domestic investment rates in Pakistan have remained much below those of India over the entire span primarily due to the relatively higher domestic savings rates in the latter. But the efficiency of investment as measured by the aggregate incremental capital-output ratio or total factor productivity has been higher in case of Pakistan and, to some extent, compensated the lower quantity of investment.

Here's the update on the above assessment:

Although Pakistan's economy has more than doubled in the last decade, the nation's economic growth has been slower than India's since the 1990s. Since 2008, Pakistan's economy has, in the words of the Economist, returned to the "bad old days" of the lost decade of 1990s. According to Economic Survey 2008-09, presented by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Pakistan's economy grew by a mere 2.0 percent, barely keeping pace with population growth. The growth fell significantly short of the 4.5 percent target for the year, which was already very modest compared with an average of 7% economic growth witnessed from 2001-2008.

While it lags behind China, India now exports a larger percentage of its GDP than Pakistan. In Pakistan, exports account for less than 15% of gross domestic product, compared with about 25% in India and 40% in China, according former Musharraf economic adviser Salman Shah.

At 30% of GDP, Indians continue to save twice as much as Pakistanis who save about 15%. Indians' private savings provide a much larger pool for domestic investments than the much smaller private savings in Pakistan.

Let me conclude with an excerpt from a British writer William Dalrymple's article, published on 14 August, 2007 in The Guardian:

"On the ground, of course, the reality is different and first-time visitors to Pakistan are almost always surprised by the country's visible prosperity. There is far less poverty on show in Pakistan than in India, fewer beggars, and much less desperation. In many ways the infrastructure of Pakistan is much more advanced: there are better roads and airports, and more reliable electricity. Middle-class Pakistani houses are often bigger and better appointed than their equivalents in India.

Moreover, the Pakistani economy is undergoing a construction and consumer boom similar to India's, with growth rates of 7%, and what is currently the fastest-rising stock market in Asia. You can see the effects everywhere: in new shopping centers and restaurant complexes, in the hoardings for the latest laptops and iPods, in the cranes and building sites, in the endless stores selling mobile phones: in 2003 the country had fewer than three million cellphone users; today there are almost 50 million."

A familiar yardstick often used to measure progress of a nation is its energy consumption. Per capita energy consumption in Pakistan is estimated at 14.2 million Btu, which is much higher than Bangladesh's 5 million BTUs per capita but slightly less than India's 15.9 million BTU per capita energy consumption. However, South Asia's per capita energy consumption is only a fraction of other industrializing economies in Asia region such as China (56.2 million BTU), Thailand (58 million BTU) and Malaysia (104 million BTU), according to the US Dept of Energy 2006 report. To put it in perspective, the world average per capita energy use is about 65 million BTUs and the average American consumes 352 million BTUs. With 40% of the Pakistani households that have yet to receive electricity, and only 18% of the households that have access to pipeline gas, the energy sector is expected to play a critical role in economic and social development. With this growth comes higher energy consumption and stronger pressures on the country’s energy resources. At present, natural gas and oil supply the bulk (80 percent) of Pakistan’s energy needs. However, the consumption of those energy sources vastly exceeds the supply. For instance, Pakistan currently produces only 18.3 percent of the oil it consumes, fostering a dependency on imports that places considerable strain on the country’s financial position. On the other hand, hydro and coal are perhaps underutilized today, as Pakistan has ample potential supplies of both.

Pakistan's KSE-100 stock index surged 55% in 2009, a year that also saw the South Asian nation wracked by increased violence and its state institutions described by various media talking heads as being on the verge of collapse. Even more surprising is the whopping 825% increase in KSE-100 from 1999 to 2009, which makes it a significantly better performer than the BRIC nations. BRIC darling China has actually underperformed its peers, rising only 150 percent compared with energy-rich Brazil (520 percent) and Russia (326 percent) or well-regulated India (274 percent), which some investors see as a safer and more diverse bet compared with the Chinese equity market, which is dominated by bank stocks.


Goldman Sachs report on "BRIC" and "Next 11" projects that India will be the fourth largest economy in the world by 2025. Goldman also forecasts Pakistan's rank moving up from the 26th largest now to the 18th largest economy in the world by 2025. If the deteriorating security situation and current economic slump in Pakistan are not contained and managed properly, there is a strong chance that Pakistan would be left significantly behind India at the time of the next update of this comparison in 2020. However, Pakistan is just too big to fail. In spite of all of the serious problems it faces today, I remain optimistic that country will not only survive but thrive in the coming decades. With a fairly large educated urban middle class, vibrant media, active civil society, assertive judiciary, many philanthropic organizations, and a spirit of entrepreneurship, the nation has the necessary ingredients to overcome its current difficulties to build a strong economy with a democratic government accountable to its people.

Here are some more recent comparative indicators:

One out of every three illiterate adults in the world is an Indian, according to UNESCO. Pakistan stands fourth in the world in terms of illiterate adult population, after India, China and Bangladesh.

One out of very two hungry persons in the world is an Indian, according to World Food Program. Pakistan fares significantly better than India on the hunger front.


Population living under $1.25 a day - India: 41.6% Pakistan: 22.6% Source: UNDP

The reason for higher levels of poverty in India in spite of its rapid economic growth is the growing rich-poor disparity. Gini index measuring rich-poor gap for India is at 36, higher than Pakistan's 30. Gini index is defined as a ratio with values between 0 and 100: A low Gini index indicates more equal income or wealth distribution, while a high Gini index indicates more unequal distribution. Zero corresponds to perfect equality (everyone having exactly the same income) and 100 corresponds to perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, while everyone else has zero income).


Underweight Children Under Five (in percent) Pakistan 38% India 46% Source: UNICEF


Life expectancy at birth (years), 2007 India: 63.4 Pakistan: 66.2 Source: HDR2009


Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, male Pakistan: 80% India 87% Source: UNICEF

Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, female Pakistan 60% India 77% Source: UNICEF


GDP per capita (US$), 2008 Pak:$1000-1022 India $1017-1100

Child Protection:

Child marriage under 15-years ; 1998–2007*, total Pakistan - 32% India - 47% Source: UNICEF

Under-5 mortality rate per 1000 live births (2007), Value Pakistan - 90 India 72 Source: UNICEF

Here's a video clip of British Writer William Dalrymple comparing in India and Pakistan:

Here's another video clip from Intelligence Squared debate about Pakistan:

Here's recent video of Prof Jayati Ghosh of Nehru University debunking the myth of the "Indian Miracle":

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Global Views of United States Improve While Other Countries Decline

Global views of the United States have improved markedly over the last year while views of many countries have become more negative, according to the latest BBC World Service poll across 28 countries. For the first time since the BBC started tracking in 2005, views of the United States’ influence in the world are now more positive than negative on average.

The survey, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA among more than 29,000 adults, asked respondents to say whether they considered the influence of different countries in the world to be mostly positive or mostly negative. It found that the United States is viewed positively on balance in 20 of 28 countries, with an average of 46 per cent now saying it has a mostly positive influence in the world, while 34 per cent say it has a negative influence.

Compared to a year earlier, negative ratings of the United States have dropped a striking nine points on average across the countries surveyed both years, while positive ratings are up a more modest four points. Ratings of the influence of many other countries, meanwhile, have declined over the past year. On average, positive ratings of the United Kingdom and Japan are down three points, Canada down six points, and the European Union down four points. Ratings of the United Kingdom’s influence in the world declined significantly in 11 countries and rose in only three. (See note at foot of page two for details of how these tracking averages have been calculated)

Germany is the most favourably viewed nation (an average of 59% positive), followed by Japan (53%), the United Kingdom (52%), Canada (51%), and France (49%). The European Union is viewed positively by 53 per cent. In contrast, Iran is the least favourably viewed nation (15%), followed by Pakistan (16%), North Korea (17%), Israel (19%), and Russia (30%).

While it is not among the most favourably viewed nations, the improvement in the ratings of the United States means it has now overtaken China in terms of positive perceptions. Fifteen countries view China favourably on balance, with an average of 41 per cent feeling it has a mostly positive influence in the world and 38 per cent feeling its influence is mostly negative.

Iran attracts mostly negative views in all countries polled except Mexico and Pakistan—on average, 56 per cent rate it negatively. Views of Iran in China and Russia have deteriorated—positive views have dropped 11 points among the Chinese people (30%) while negative views of Iran have jumped up 13 points among Russians (to 45%).

The BBC World Service Poll has been tracking opinions about country influence in the world since 2005. The latest results are based on 29,977 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 28 countries by the international polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between 30 November 2009 and 16 February 2010.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller comments: “People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war. While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again.”

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, “While China’s image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.

After a year it appears the ‘Obama effect’ is real. Its influence on people’s views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States’ image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus.”

Participating Countries

Note: In Azerbaijan, Brazil, Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama), Chile, China, Egypt, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey urban samples were used.

Note on the calculation of tracking averages

  • The year-on-year shift in average views of countries cited in paragraph 3 above is based on the views of the 23 countries in which these questions were asked both in 2009 and 2010. (Please see the methodology section for a full list of the countries surveyed in 2010 and 2009.)
  • All other average figures cited above represent the views across all 2 countries surveyed this year.
  • Where a country was asked to rate itself, these views have not been included in the average views cited here.

Detailed Findings

While positive views of the United States increased in most countries polled, the most significant increases were in Germany (up from 18% in 2009 to 39% this year), in Russia (up from 7% to 25%), in Portugal (up from 43% to 57%) and in Chile (up from 42% to 55%) with negative perceptions also falling significantly.

The only countries where perceptions of the United States became more negative overall were Turkey (where the proportion with positive perceptions of the United States fell from 21 per cent to 13 per cent and negative perceptions increased from 63 per cent to 70 per cent), and in India (where positive perceptions dipped from 43 per cent to 39 per cent and negative views increased from 20 to 28 per cent).

The only two countries to have majorities with negative views of the United States are Turkey (70%) and Pakistan (52%). Russia is also quite negative (50%).

Last year’s poll found that views of both Russia and China had deteriorated. Looking at the views of the countries polled in both 2009 and 2010, they appear to have stabilized somewhat this year. Views of Russia in particular are more muted, with a decline both in the proportion of those rating it positively (from 31 to 29%) and those rating it negatively (42 to 37%). China’s positive ratings remain at 40 per cent, while its negative ratings have fallen a little to 38 per cent.

European countries continue to have quite negative views of China, including Italy (72% negative), Germany (71%), France (64%), Spain and Portugal (both 54%) as do South Koreans (61%) and Americans (51%). In Africa, views are quite positive with majorities viewing it positively in Kenya and Nigeria (both 73%) and in Ghana (63%).

Views of the European Union remain mostly positive in almost all countries polled (53% overall). But there is a difference of views toward the European Union among the European nations surveyed, with Germany (76%) and France (74%) the most positive about its influence, Italy (64%) and Spain (62%) a little less favourable and the United Kingdom (54%) much less upbeat about it. Turkey—which is also highly negative about most other countries—also rates the European Union unfavourably (with only 29% positive).

In total 29,977 citizens in 28 countries, were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between 30 November 2009 and 16 February 2010. Nations were rated by half samples in all countries polled. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In ten of the 28 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.1 to 6.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

For more details, please visit or as well as the GlobeScan Insights blog.

Media Contacts

For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:

Steven Kull, Director
Program on International Policy Attitudes, Washington
+1 202 232 7500
(Mobile: +1 301 254 7500)

Oliver Martin, Director, Global Development
GlobeScan Incorporated, Toronto
+1 416 969 3073
(Mobile: +1 416 721 3544)
Sam Mountford, Research Director
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7253 1447
(Mobile: +44 7854 132625)

GlobeScan Incorporated is an international opinion research consultancy. We provide global organisations with evidence-based insight to help them set strategy and shape their communications. Companies, multilateral institutions, governments and NGOs trust GlobeScan for our unique expertise across reputation management, sustainability and stakeholder relations. GlobeScan conducts research in over 90 countries, is ISO 9001-2008 certified and a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

Established in 1987, GlobeScan is an independent, management-owned company with offices in Toronto, London, and San Francisco.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, undertakes research on attitudes in publics around the world on a variety of international issues and manages the international research project

BBC World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster delivering international, national and regional services in 32 languages. It uses multiple platforms to reach its weekly audience of 188 million globally, including shortwave, AM, FM, digital satellite, and cable channels. It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices. Its news sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to join the global debate. For more information, visit To find out more about the BBC’s English language offerings and subscribe to a free e-newsletter, visit

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Google: Interesting Facts & Figures

I think this a pretty cool chart (by Pingdom) for anyone who takes an interest in Google, and while there is nothing groundbreaking here, it’s a great compilation of key Google Facts & Figures that tick along month after month, with some that you probably didn’t know (and now do!).

Google. Facts and Figures (5 pics)

Google. Facts and Figures (5 pics)

Google. Facts and Figures (5 pics)

Google. Facts and Figures (5 pics)

Google. Facts and Figures (5 pics)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Pakistani men and the myths

I hate to break to all the women out there, but men are not stupid, boorish, or simply clueless (well, at least 90 per cent of the time). These are regrettable (yet mutually advantageous) myths. I will confirm that women are highly complex creatures blessed with tremendous faculties that allow for a great deal of lateral, profound, and esoteric thinking, most of which men are highly unlikely to ever understand, let alone appreciate. But the fact is, men aren’t as limited as women like to believe.

It is in Pakistani men’s interest to perpetuate certain myths about the male psyche and persona, for it is highly convenient. The lower expectations are, the easier it is for guys to meet them (all in the interests of continuing the species). Still, the time has come to clarify a few things.

Myth one: Pakistani men do not listen

Contrary to popular belief, Pakistani men do listen. We also tend to throw away bits of information that are irrelevant to our more immediate concerns and interests.

It’s not that we don’t want to hear everything women have to say, we do, and we do try to, but after repeated, inane details-driven information collects, our brains categorise certain data as superfluous and deletes it.

Unfortunately, most such data seems to stem from girl talk (usually directed at men). Some brave chaps do argue that a woman’s voice contains a powerful hypnotic force that briefly shuts down a man’s faculty for understanding. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

We also only retain as much information as needed. It’s logical and saves space – free market brain storing if you will. A man during his courtship will almost certainly remember that his future wife’s favourite flowers are lilies, but by the eve of their first anniversary forget that she even liked flowers (battle is won, ring is worn…. what’s for dinner?).

Ever wonder why a man will never expect his partner to remember random details about his day? It’s because we think it’s irrelevant. Say what you will, but we are consistent.

Myth two: Pakistani men are calendar averse

Highly untrue! Ask any Pakistani man and he can tell you the exact date and time of the start of the next World Cup as well as his team’s pre-season schedule.

Women tend to take severe issue with men forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, etc. But that’s because women put tremendous store into certain occasions.

Men don’t dream about getting married. For some guys, marriage is the day they stopped being the womanisers they were genetically built to be and became husbands. An anniversary is a reminder of the day a man became a life partner responsible for the happiness of a union. Throw in some family pressure and it’s akin to waking up with a sack of bricks permanently attached to one’s head. It’s a miracle men get married at all. But out of love, we do it anyway. We just don’t need reminders.

Myth three: Pakistani men are actually overgrown boys

Men are not immature, we just have adolescent habits that confuse women. The truth is, once we like something, we are pretty happy to continue doing it (which is why most men only get married once).

Once we develop an interest, we are consistent about adhering to it. One would think that women would appreciate this quality in men. The root of the matter is that men are no good at handling change. We are what we are. You loved us in spite of it once and you will again; just hurry up and get over it.

Myth four: Pakistani men are terrible communicators

The truth is that men are very direct communicators; we don’t deal in nuance and we don’t have the innate desire to recount every detail of our day. Note: Alternate research suggests that men also are highly environmentally conscious and find using scarce oxygen unnecessarily to be an anti-green faux pas. Men say what they mean and are talented at compressing conversational material – deleting the inappropriate bits and concisely explaining themselves.

Maybe it’s actually women who are terrible communicators, or imagine that we want to know the entire story rather than the brief synopsis.

Myth five: Pakistani men don’t have feelings

This myth arises out of the difficulty some men have with emotions: in particular, talking about and sharing feelings. Men are socialised to compress emotions and bury them under as many layers of feces as we can find. Some men choose to drown their feelings, typically in collaboration with their friends Jack D., Johnnie W., Jose C. and Jim B.

Part of being a man means having a sense of stoic control and solely carrying the burden of our emotions, thoughts, and responsibilities, no matter how heavy that may prove to be. It’s what we are taught, it’s what we see, and most importantly, it’s how we function.

Just because men don’t express emotions doesn’t mean we don’t feel. Women can enjoy figure skating competitions, yet not know how to skate. Men express their emotions through their actions, providing for their loved ones. We do as we feel – lip service isn’t a by product we’re comfortable with. If we care, we show it, end of story. “Judge me not by what I say, but as I do.”

In the end…

Women live in some magical alternative universe, where you have to love everything about your mate. When there are certain habits that they don’t appreciate, they add to the store of myths that womankind perpetuates about mankind. It’s unhealthy and causes a lot of heartache. Chill out, ladies, We certainly do.

Murtaza Ali Jafri is a Karachi-based banking professional. He believes in free markets and freedom, and wishes men could get more of the latter. Read his blog at

Friday, February 12, 2010

Recently Released Shocking Pictures of 9/11

Newly released aerial photos of the World Trade Center terror attack capture the towers' dramatic collapse, from just after the first fiery plane strike to the apocalyptic dust clouds that spread over lower Manhattan and its harbor. The images were taken from a police helicopter—the only photographers allowed in the air space near the towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Future Of Kashmir? The Future of Kashmir? "Seven" Possible Solutions!

The Future of Kashmir? "Seven" Possible Solutions!

The status quo

Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years. Currently a boundary - the Line of Control - divides the region in two, with one part administered by India and one by Pakistan. India would like to formalise this status quo and make it the accepted international boundary. But Pakistan and Kashmiri activists reject this plan because they both want greater control over the region.

Kashmir joins Pakistan

Pakistan has consistently favoured this as the best solution to the dispute. In view of the state's majority Muslim population, it believes that it would vote to become part of Pakistan. However a single plebiscite held in a region which comprises peoples that are culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse, would create disaffected minorities. The Hindus of Jammu, and the Buddhists of Ladakh have never shown any desire to join Pakistan and would protest at the outcome.

Kashmir joins India

Such a solution would be unlikely to bring stability to the region as the Muslim inhabitants of Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir, including the Northern Areas, have never shown any desire to become part of India.

Independent Kashmir

The difficulty of adopting this as a potential solution is that it requires India and Pakistan to give up territory, which they are not willing to do. Any plebiscite or referendum likely to result in a majority vote for independence would therefore probably be opposed by both India and Pakistan. It would also be rejected by the inhabitants of the state who are content with their status as part of the countries to which they already owe allegiance.

A smaller independent Kashmir

An independent Kashmir could be created from the Kashmir Valley - currently under Indian administration - and the narrow strip of land which Pakistan calls Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This would leave the strategically important regions of the Northern Areas and Ladakh, bordering China, under the control of Pakistan and India respectively. However both India and Pakistan would be unlikely to enter into discussions which would have this scenario as a possible outcome.

Independent Kashmir Valley

An independent Kashmir Valley has been considered by some as the best solution because it would address the grievances of those who have been fighting against the Indian Government since the insurgency began in 1989. But critics say that, without external assistance, the region would not be economically viable.

The Chenab formula

This plan, first suggested in the 1960s, would see Kashmir divided along the line of the River Chenab. This would give the vast majority of land to Pakistan and, as such, a clear victory in its longstanding dispute with India. The entire valley with its Muslim majority population would be brought within Pakistan's borders, as well as the majority Muslim areas of Jammu.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

THE Powerful Testimony of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui – a daughter, a sister, a mother of three, committed Muslim, social scientist, hafiz of Qur’an – needed to be heard. For years she had suffered in virtual silence…aching to be heard, to be understood, to have certain malicious untruths corrected and exposed for the lies they were. That day finally came on Thursday, January 28, 2010!

The high drama of that day’s proceedings revolved around the question of whether or not U.S. District Judge Richard Berman would grant Aafia’s repeated demand to take the stand in her own defense.

Aafia’s lawyers appeared to be animate in their opposition to her taking the stand, while the prosecution appeared (on the surface) to be in favor of Aafia being entitled to her Fifth Amendment right. Her brother (Muhammad) was apprehensive about her taking the stand, leaning more in favor of her following the advice of her lawyers. Even Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani became involved. During a short visit he was allowed with the defendant, he reportedly advised Aafia to follow the advice of her lawyers.

Aafia’s response to this collective concern was that she would make istiqara (a supplication to ALLAH Almighty for guidance on the matter); and in the end Aafia Siddiqui would be heard.

While I understood the reservations of those who were concerned about Aafia taking the stand (given all that she had already been through), I fully supported our sister’s right to be heard, and was guardedly optimistic about the potential outcome. More than anything, however, I knew that Aafia – like two young Muslim men in an Atlanta courtroom, and several young Muslim men in a New Jersey courtroom (who were eager, but manipulated into not taking the stand in their own defense not long ago) – needed to be heard! Aafia needed to have her day in court!

The process began with a preliminary (test) examination, with Aafia taking the witness stand in the absence of the jury – a kind of hearing within a hearing – to see how she would respond to that type of intensive and focused examination. After the judge determined that she was capable enough to enjoy her constitutional “right” to take the stand in her own defense, the jury was brought back into the courtroom, and it was on. (And what truly spectacular courtroom drama it turned out to be!)

The following summary is based on my notes from January 28th

Open court proceedings began late in the morning, due to a number of procedural issues that needed to be addressed behind closed doors. Once proceedings began, it did so with the judge explaining Aafia’s right, and the possible risks, of her taking the stand. There was extensive discussion about the course and extent of cross examination should Aafia decide to testify.

The government’s support of Aafia taking the stand was full of irony, given the fact that the government had repeatedly argued (during pre-trial and trial proceedings) that Aafia should not even be allowed to remain in the courtroom, because of her periodic outbursts and “uncontrollable” nature (in their view).

The First Witness

It was noted by the government that over a 12 day period, while Aafia was at the Craig Field Hospital at Bagram for critical care medical treatment, following her near fatal re-arrest in July 2008, two FBI agents had continuous access to the injured prisoner (a male and female who did not identify themselves to Aafia as FBI personnel).

FBI Special Agent Angela Sercer was the first to testify. She spoke about how she interrogated Aafia on a daily basis for the purpose of gathering “intelligence.” She described how she sat with Aafia for an average of eight hours each day, and of how they discussed the shooting incident and other related matters (discussions she said Aafia would always initiate). Agent Sercer prepared written reports, and disclosed during testimony that Aafia was never Mirandized (i.e. informed of her rights to remain silent and consult with an attorney before questioning), nor did she have access to a Pakistani consular official.

According to Sercer, Aafia mostly enjoyed her discussions with this special agent. Sercer maintained that she treated Aafia with respect and did her best to respond to Aafia’s needs – i.e. when she requested food, water, bathroom access, or when she requested a Qur’an and a scarf, or when she would complain that the “soft restraints” were too tight and needed to be loosened, etc.

Between 7/19/-8/4/08, FBI agents were posted inside and outside Aafia’s room 24 hours a day, ostensibly to insure that Aafia could not escape and to provide security for hospital personnel – despite the “soft restraints” which secured her hands and legs to the bed (in what Aafia later described as very uncomfortable positions) during her stay at this field hospital in Bagram.

The second witness

The second agent to testify was FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman, who had reportedly been assigned on 7/21/08. He claimed that Aafia made numerous statements, that she seemed lucid and to not be in much pain. He also insisted that there was never any coercion. He testified that Aafia had no visitors, and that no Afghan staff attended to her. He also claimed that there were occasions when Aafia would declare that her children were dead, and other times when she stated they might be living with her sister.

Following the testimony of the second agent, a hearing within the trial was held so that Aafia could give testimony (in the absence of the jury).

Aafia testified that when she first realized she was in a hospital she had tubes everywhere. She was in a narcotic state resulting from the administration of powerful drugs (one or two she could remember by name, others she couldn’t). She recalled how her hands and feet were secured uncomfortably apart. She said the agents never identified themselves as FBI, except for “Mr. Hurley.”

Aafia accused Agent Bruce Kamerman of subjecting her to “psychological torture.” She accused him of being immodest whenever he was present and medical personnel needed to examine her, and complained of how he would stand right outside the bathroom door whenever she needed to use it. She testified that Kamerman would sometimes come in the middle of the night (when he wasn’t supposed to be there), and encourage the person assigned to take a break. Aafia said she remained in a sleep deprived state as a result of his frequent presence.

During this period she never had any contact with family, nor with any Pakistani authorities. She thought that [FBI Agent] “Angela was just a nice person.”

During the cross examination Aafia spoke about being “tortured in the secret prison,” and of how she kept asking about her children. She insisted that she never opined that they might be with her sister.

(I should note here that Aafia’s testimony was consistent with information contained on an audio CD that we’ve produced on the case. On the CD, former Bagram and Guantanamo prisoner Moazam Beg recounts how the un-identified female prisoner at Bagram, known only as Prisoner 650, was identified as a Pakistani national who appeared to be in her 30s, and as someone who had been torn away from her children and who didn’t know where they were.)

Aafia also testified that she had multiple gunshot wounds; and that in addition to the gunshot wounds she had a debilitating back condition (resulting from being thrown on the floor after she was shot), persistent headaches, and an intubation tube. She also emphasized that she was in and out of consciousness; and, at times, mentally incoherent.

The video testimony of an Afghan security chief (by the name of Qadeer) was received by the court. While I had to briefly leave the court, and missed this testimony, it is my understanding that what Qadeer had to say about events at the Afghan National Police station in Ghazni – leading up to the shooting of Aafia – contradicted the testimony of a number of the government’s main witnesses.

Later in the afternoon, when Aafia testified in front of the jury, the overflow courtroom (where I was seated) was full of observers. The majority appeared to be non-Muslims in professional attire – a probable mix of court and Justice Department personnel (including interns), law students, and a few journalists. I would estimate that roughly a quarter of the observers in this overflow courtroom were made up of solid Aafia supporters – and yet the reaction to the testimony at times was both interesting and edifying.

When I returned to the courtroom (about 10 minutes into Aafia’s testimony), she was describing her academic work leading up to the achievement of her PhD at Brandeis University. She testified that after completing her doctorate studies she taught in a school, and that her interest was in cultivating the capabilities of dyslexic and other special needs children.

During this line of questioning, the monstrous image that the government had carefully crafted (with considerable support from mainstream media) of this petite young woman, had begun to be deconstructed. The real Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – the committed muslimah, the humanity-loving nurturer and educator, the gentle yet resolute mujahid for truth and justice – began to emerge with full force.

Testimony then proceeded to the events of July 17-18, 2008. Aafia testified that she remembered being concerned about the whereabouts of her missing children. She also remembered a press conference in an Afghan compound.

She testified about being tied down to a bed until she vigorously protested, and was later untied and left behind a curtain. She later heard American and Afghan voices on the other side of the curtain, and concluded that they [Americans] wanted to return her to a “secret prison” again. She testified about how she had pleaded with the Afghans not to let the Americans take her away.

She testified about peaking through the curtain into the part of the room where Afghans and Americans were talking, and how when a startled American soldier noticed her, he jumped up and yelled that the prisoner had gotten loose, and shot her in the stomach. She described how she was also shot in the side by a second person. She also described how after falling back onto the bed in the room, she was violently thrown to the floor and lost consciousness.

She testified that she was in and out of consciousness, and vaguely recalled being placed on a stretcher, a helicopter, and receiving a blood transfusion – which she protested, drawing laughter in the courtroom when she recounted how she had “threatened to sue” her medical attendants if they gave her a blood transfusion. During this testimony, Aafia animatedly rejected the allegation that she picked up a [M-4] rifle and fired it (or that she even attempted to do so).

The Cross Examination

This is the time when every eye and every ear was riveted on the proceedings. It was the moment that Aafia’s defense attorneys, her brother, and a host of Muslim and non-Muslim supporters (seated within both courtrooms) dreaded. It was also the point in the proceedings that had the prosecution salivating for what opportunities would come there way – or so they thought!

Cross examination began with Aafia revisiting the degrees that she received at MIT and Brandeis universities. She acknowledged that she took a required course in molecular biology; but emphasized that her work was in cognitive neuroscience. When questioned on whether she had ever done any work with chemicals, her response was, “only when required.”

(This opening line of questioning was significant for its prejudice producing potential in the minds of jurors. While Aafia is not being charged with any terrorism conspiracy counts, the threat of terrorism has been the pink elephant in the room throughout this troubling case!)

The prosecutor attempted to draw a sinister correlation between Aafia and her [then] husband being questioned by the FBI in 2002, and leaving the U.S. a week later. Aafia noted that there wasn’t anything sinister about the timing; they had already planned to make that trip home before the FBI visit. To underscore this point, she noted how she later returned to the U.S. to attempt to find work in her field.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in the cross-examination was when Aafia described how she was briefly re-united with a young boy in Ghazni (July 2008) who could have been her oldest son. She spoke of how she was mentally in a daze at that time, and had not seen any of her children in five years. As a result she could not definitively (than or now) determine if that was indeed her son, Ahmed.

When asked whether she had incriminating documents in her possession on the day she was arrested, Aafia testified that the bag in her possession on the day that she was re-detained was given to her. She didn’t know what was in the bag, nor could she definitively determine if the handwriting on some of the documents was hers or not. She also mentioned on a number of occasions (to the chagrin of the prosecutor) how she was repeatedly tortured by her captors at Bagram.

She was also questioned on whether she had taken a pistol course at a firing range while a student in Boston. Her initial reaction was that she did not have any recollection of taking such a course, and when pressed further, answered “No.” When the prosecutor continued to press the issue (infusing sinister motivations in the process), Aafia admonished the prosecutor in the strong, clear voice that was heard throughout her testimony: “You can’t build a case on hate; you should build it on fact!”

Aafia testified that all she was thinking about at the time of her re-arrest in Ghazni, was “getting out of that room and not being sent back to the secret prison.” While discussions were going on between the Afghans and Americans, Aafia was searching for a way out. She repeated her assertion that she startled one of the soldiers who hollered, “She’s free! – before shooting her.

Aafia also elicited an approving reaction in the courtroom when she opined, in reaction to the government’s narration of events, she could not believe a soldier would be so irresponsible as to leave his M4 rifle on the floor unsecured.

In response to government questioning she again took the opportunity to strongly rebuke Agent Kamerman, while rejecting most of his testimony revisited by the prosecutor.

Aafia spoke highly of a number of nurses (and a doctor) who took care of her at Bagram. There was one nurse in particular that Aafia promised to mention favorably if she ever wrote a book. She then produced laughter in the courtroom again when she stated, “Since I don’t think I’m going to write a book, I’m mentioning her now.”

One of the most powerful and revealing moments in the testimony was when she spoke about the people who systematically abused her in the “secret prison” – denouncing them as “fake Americans, not real Americans.” (Because of the way their actions both violated and damaged America’s image!)

She spoke again, under cross examination, about the strong pain medication she was on, and some of the effects this medication had on her.

Aafia also mentioned how she was instructed to translate and copy something from a book while she was secretly imprisoned. During the course of this testimony which repeatedly drew the ire of an increasingly frustrated prosecutor, Aafia noted how she can now understand how people can be framed (for crimes they are not guilty of).

At this point in the proceedings, the judge ordered a brief recess. Clearly the government had thought that they would be able to control and manipulate Aafia in manner that would work in their favor; this ended up being a MAJOR MISCALCULATION. The purpose of this break in the proceedings, in my humble opinion, was to allow the prosecutor to regain her composure, and consult with fellow prosecutors for a more effective line of attack.

When testimony resumed, Aafia spoke of how she was often forced-fed information from one group of persons at the secret prison, and then made to regurgitate the same information before a different group of inquisitors. While it was presented to her as a type of “game,” she spoke of how she would be “punished” if she got something wrong.

On defense cross, Aafia was shown pictures and asked to identify herself in them. She reluctantly did so, but with a little levity, citing how unattractive and immodest the photos were.

I could not see the photos from the overflow courtroom where I was sitting, but I assume that these were the photos of an un-covered, emaciated and emotionally disfigured Aafia Siddiqui – after her horrific ordeal at the hands of American terrorists.

A final note: I sincerely believe that Aafia Siddiqui’s time spent on the witness stand on January 28th was a cathartic experience for her – but one that the prosecution, in retrospect, now deeply regrets. For any truly objective and fair-minded person who witnessed that day’s proceedings, the U.S Government’s case against Aafia Siddiqui was exposed for what it always was…a horrific and profoundly tragic miscarriage of justice!

The struggle continues…

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan