Friday, April 11, 2014

Pakistani-American Dr. Asad Qamar Among Top Earners in America

Dr. Asad Qamar, a graduate of Lahore's King Edwards Medical College, received $18.2 million in payments from US Medicare program in 2012, making him the second highest billing doctor in America. Dr. Qamar is a member of APPNA, Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America. He was a candidate for the presidency of APPNA in 2013.

Asad Qamar M.D.

Dr. Qamar, a Pakistani-American cardiologist, and his family have given at least $300,000 to politicians and political causes in the 2012 election cycle and in 2013, according to contribution disclosure records reported by Reuters. Dr. Asish Pal, a Florida-based Indian-American, is the second highest billing cardiologist in America. Dr. Pal was paid $4.5 million by Medicare.

Dr. Qamar has been subjected to lengthy reviews of his billing practices by US Department of Health and Human Services. He has complained to President Obama and other officials that the contractors conducting the reviews for the HHS were slow and unresponsive. Dr. Qamar told New York Times that his payments were high because his practice, which has 150 employees and a caseload of 23,000 patients, routinely handles complicated procedures like opening blocked arteries in the legs of older patients, which normally would be billed by a hospital.

Only Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida Ophthalmologist, billed Medicare for a larger amount than Dr. Qamar did in 2012. Dr. Melgen, too, is a major contributor to Democratic party. Dr. Melgen’s firm donated more than $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. The super PAC then spent $600,000 to help re-elect Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who is a close friend of Dr. Melgen’s. Last year, Mr. Menendez himself became a target of investigation after the senator intervened on behalf of Dr. Melgen with federal officials and took flights on his private jet, according to The Times story.

Top Medicare Billers. Source: Washington Post

The top 1% of 825,000 individual medical doctors accounted for 14% of the $77 billion in billing recorded in the data. There is a pattern of of large Medicare payments and six-figure political donations among several of the doctors whose payment records were released for the first time this week by the Department of Health and Human Services in response to a lawsuit filed The Wall Street Journal. Health-care economists say the data—despite several limitations—could help identify doctors who perform far more surgeries, procedures and other services than their peers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act ( also known as Obamacare) is aimed at achieving universal health care coverage for all Americans. However, as the name indicates, it is also an attempt to make such coverage more affordable, a goal that will remain elusive unless waste, fraud and abuse are brought under control.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-American Demographics

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan is the Richest South Asian in America

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley

Atiq Raza Fined By Securities and Exchange Commission

Silicon Valley Pakistani-American is Mr. 30 Percent

Indian-Americans Found Guilty of Insider Trading

US Mortgage Fraud Funded Bollywood

Sicko Challenges the Power of US Healthcare Lobby


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pakistan Technologist Seeks Support in Silicon Valley

Umar Saif was invited by Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs (OPEN) to an event yesterday at the Palo Alto offices of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pitman Law Firm  in Silicon Valley to talk about the state of technology in Pakistan. The event was appropriately titled: "Presenting Umar-The Force Behind Plan 09- Pakistan's Leading Incubator For Startups"


Umar Saif is just 35 years old and his name is already synonymous with technology in Pakistan. He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010, selected as one of top 35 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review in 2011 and received a Google faculty research award in 2011.

Saif got his PhD in computer science from England's University of Cambridge at 22. Then he joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do post-doctoral research. He worked at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory where he was part of the core team that developed system technologies for the $50 million Project Oxygen.

Saif now wears multiple hats in Pakistan; he is an associate professor at Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS); he works for the Punjab government as the head of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB); he is vice chancellor of Information Technology University and he is the founder of Plan 9, a government-financed tech startup incubator in Lahore. He says there is a possibility that he might soon move to Islamabad to work for the federal government as its Chief Technology Officer.

PITB's work in Pakistani Punjab under Saif has been described in recent World Bank report as "unprecedented in the public sector in developing countries". The objective of these efforts is to reduce corruption, increase productivity and improve service delivery in both private and public sectors. Saif said other provincial governments, particularly KPK's PTI-led govt, are now asking for his advice and help for similar projects in their provinces. 

After a brief introduction by OPEN's Riaz Karamali, Saif started his presentation by talking about his work on SMSall messaging platform and how it has been used by relief workers, protest movements, political campaigns and social activists in the country. In particular, he mentioned Imran Khan's PTI's extensive use of his platform as a tool to organize the party's election campaign last year.

The featured speaker then briefly described a couple of companies in Plan 9 incubator: Groopic and Tunacode. Both of these companies are in a Silicon Valley Immersion Program funded by Google. He said Plan 9 offers facilities such as free office space on the 9th floor in Arfa Karim IT Park, a modern building in Lahore. In addition, there are monthly stipends,  free laptops, uninterrupted power supply, internet connectivity, mentoring, training workshops, legal advice, connection with potential investors and customers, etc.

Saif then sought the help of his Silicon Valley audience in promoting technology. In the ensuing discussion, a number of audience members pointed out some of the work that Saif seemed unaware of.

I mentioned a Forbes story in its current issue that talks about Pakistan as one of a dozen countries where Sequoia Capital funded companies' founders were born. Fireeye and OpenSilicon are two such Sequoia-funded companies with Karachi-born founders. OpenSilicon has a design center in Pakistan. Rehan Jalil, a Pakistani-born Silicon Valley entrepreneur who graduated from NED University of Engineering and Technology, has a development center in Karachi for his latest cloud security startup Elastica. Wichorus, Jalil's earlier startup later acquired by Tellabs for $150 million, also employed engineers in Karachi.  Idris Kothari's Vertical Systems Inc. (VSI), a hospitality IT company, does most of its engineering work in Karachi, Pakistan.

Sajid Sohail of Jadoo TV, who was in the audience, pointed out that his company employs 100 engineers in Pakistan to do the development work for his streaming TV box and network that delivers Urdu channels. Muhammad Irfan, CEO of Whizz Systems, said he too has engineering offices in Pakistan.

As the meeting came to a close, there was broad agreement that Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans can and should do more to help promote technology in Pakistan. Muhammad Irfan of Whizz Systems suggested setting up a basic legal framework and a transparent process to fund young companies in Pakistan through a Pakistani-Americans' angel network. In my view, the first steps toward this goal should be as follows:          

1. Analyze risks, allow the usual risks associated with tech startups and offer legal and financial protection against unacceptable risks from terrorism, violence, corruption and malfeasance.

2. Look at a Silicon Valley style term sheet for high-tech venture capital investors and build a legal and policy framework to ensure enforceability of its terms.

Without creating adequate investment environment, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to attract private venture capital in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Deploys IT Apps in Public Sector

Arfa Karim's Inspirational Legacy

Two Pakistani Tech Start-ups in Silicon Valley Immersion Program

NEDian Rehan Jalil's Startup Elastica Gets $6.3 Million VC Funding

Pakistani-American Stars in HBO Comedy "Silicon Valley"

Pakistani-American's Fireeye Goes Public

Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs 

US Promoting Venture Capital in Pakistan

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pakistani-American Plays Silicon Valley Techie in HBO Comedy Show

“This guy’s a really good programmer, so that makes him arrogant, because of his skills in a very specific world. And then I take that arrogance and apply it to every other aspect of his life that he’s not good at. So I think that guy’s funny ’cause he’s arrogant — about everything, about how he thinks he is with the ladies. He’s not good with the ladies. You know, all that stuff. He thinks he’s cool. He’s not cool. He’s only good at programming.” Kumail Nanjiani on his role in HBO's "Silicon Valley"


Kumail Nanjiani, born in Karachi, Pakistan, has found success as a stand-up comedian in the United States. After completing high school in Pakistan, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa where he graduated in 2001. His comedy has been featured on a number of popular television shows including the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Conan. He has written for and acted on "Michael & Michael Have Issues" and has appeared on The Colbert Report and Burning Love.

Kumail's latest work is HBO’s new comedy, “Silicon Valley”, a half hour live action series that takes a light-hearted look at the start-up culture of Silicon Valley. The show, which premieres on Sunday, April 6, is written and directed by Mike Judge, who was also behind “Beavis and Butt-head,” “Office Space” and “King of the Hill.” The San Francisco Chronicle has praised it not only one of the best shows of the season, but the “best tech show yet” and “a Silicon Valley rarity: a start-up that’s a sure thing.” Here's an excerpt of San Francisco Chronicle's review of "Silicon Valley":

"“Silicon Valley” is full of quips and jabs that those familiar with the tech industry will find amusing, but it’s also broad enough to lure in average HBO watchers in the mood for a comedy. The show debuts on April 6 right after "Game of Thrones" on HBO."

Marvel Entertainment has recently introduced a new Ms. Marvel, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American superhero named Kamala Khan. Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American businessman, became the first non-white owner of an NFL team two years ago. It's good to see Pakistani-Americans making their mark in sports and entertainment in addition to more traditional occupations like engineering and medicine.

Here's a video clip of Kumail Nanjiani's act:


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Burka Avenger: Pakistani Female Superhero 

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pakistan Belongs in Nuclear Suppliers Group

"The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India". US Ambassador Anne Patterson, September 23, 2009
Pakistan has the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal today in the midst of a fierce insurgency waged against the Pakistani state by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. How should the world respond? Should the response be to further isolate and sanction Pakistan as argued by some Indian and western scholars? Or, should the US and its Western allies engage with Pakistan by accepting it as a legitimate nuclear state and admitting it as a full member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

The first response, as advocated by the likes of TV Paul, a scholar of Indian origin at McGill University, has clearly not worked nor likely to work as explained well by former US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson. The alternative, as advocated in a new book "Overcoming Pakistan's Nuclear Dangers" by former US diplomat Mark Fitzpatrick, is to recognize Pakistan's legitimacy as a nuclear-armed state and work with it to limit the risks of nuclear proliferation in future.

Ambassador Fitzpatrick began by exploring why the West  has been so obsessed with stopping Iran's nuclear program and not Pakistan's. In the end, he came to the conclusion that  Pakistan must be provided "a path to normalizing its nuclear program" in the same way that India was with the US-India nuclear deal. Here's how he describes it on the website of London-based Institute of International Strategic Studies (IISS):

The book was inspired by fellow Londoner Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, who asked in a June 2012 column why the West was so obsessed with stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons when, ‘by any sensible measure, Pakistani nukes are much more worrying’. I suppose I was one of those who seemed obsessed with Iran, so Rachman’s words hit home. Let’s take a look at Pakistan, I decided.

Successive chapters of my book examine in detail the dangers Rachman ticked off, plus a few more. I concluded that some of the concerns about Pakistan are exaggerated. While the prospect for nuclear terrorism cannot be dismissed, the government’s efforts to ensure the security of its nuclear programme garner too little attention, and compare favourably with India’s nuclear security management. In the ten years since the leakage of the nation’s nuclear secrets masterminded by A.Q. Khan, lessons have been learnt and reforms adopted.

Other concerns get too little attention. As a nuclear wonk, I cannot help but fixate on Pakistan’s veto over negotiations to ban fissile material production and the nation’s move away from signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The most worrisome danger, though, is the prospect for nuclear war in the subcontinent.

One cannot write about Pakistan’s nuclear programme without examining the ways that it is motivated by India’s actions, and perceptions thereof. Therefore, the manuscript is about more than Pakistan. One key chapter assesses the South Asian arms race. Although it pales in comparison with the nuclear excesses of the Cold War, the strategic competition in South Asia is potentially destabilising.

In the conclusions, I offer a policy suggestion for the West that will be controversial. Pakistan, I argue, should be offered a path to normalising its nuclear programme. This recommendation did not sit well with one of the statesmen who, before reading it, had agreed to write a back-cover blurb commending my book. Having vehemently opposed making an exception for India, allowing it to benefit from nuclear cooperation while outside the confines of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he had to back out because he objected to the idea of creating a second such hole in the NPT for Pakistan.

His is a respectable opinion. It had also been my view when I started the book project. If there is one tenet I have taken to heart at the IISS, however, it is that analysis should guide one’s research direction. I reached my conclusion with more surprise than enthusiasm.

I am looking forward to explaining more about my analysis in upcoming book launches in Washington, London, Geneva, Vienna and Islamabad.

In spite of the West's nuclear sanctions, Pakistan has managed to develop and build nuclear weapons using both uranium and plutonium since the 1990s. The country also has built solid-fueled and liquid-fueled missiles of various ranges from tactical to strategic. It has built multiple reactors at Khushab to produce large amounts of plutonium for its growing nuclear arsenal.

On the civilian nuclear side, Pakistan has acquired four 300 MW nuclear plants at Chashma. Two of these are currently operating and two are under construction. Three 1200 MW newer plants are being supplied by China for installation at Karachi as it ramps up its nuclear power plant manufacturing business. The West has essentially given away this civil nuclear business to China on a silver platter.

The West's decades-long nuclear sanctions on Pakistan have clearly not worked to stop the country. It's time to try a different approach along the lines of what Fitzpatrick advocates If the West follows Fitzpatrick's advice and admits Pakistan to the exclusive international nuclear club called "Nuclear Suppliers Group" (NSG), the US and Europe will have a better chance of persuading Pakistan to agree to signing Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) when India also agrees to these international treaties. These two treaties are the cornerstone of the West's efforts to limit development, proliferation and growth of nuclear weapons stockpiles. In return, Pakistan will have access to the West's advanced civil nuclear technology and materials which it needs to deal with the nation's deepening energy crisis. It will be a win-win deal for both sides.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Is Pakistan a Warrior State? 

Nuclear Power Plants in Pakistan

"Eating Grass" Book Launch in Silicon Valley

India's "Indigenous" Nukes and Missiles

US-India Nuclear Deal

China Signs Power Plant Deal with Pakistan

Pakistan's Defense Industry

Energy Crisis in Pakistan

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is Pakistan a Warrior State? Or a Failed State?

The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by Canada's McGill University Professor Thazha Varkey Paul, a graduate of India's Jawaharlal Nehru University, describes Pakistan as a "warrior state" and a "conspicuous failure". It is among a slew of recently published anti-Pakistan books by mainly Indian and western authors which paint Pakistan as a rogue state which deserves to be condemned, isolated and sanctioned by the international community.

As Pakistanis celebrate 74th anniversary of the 1940 Lahore Resolution calling for the partition of India, it is important to examine TV Paul's narrative about Pakistan and fact-check the assertions underlying his narrative.

Here's a point-by-point response to Paul's narrative:

1. Paul argues: Seemingly from its birth, Pakistan has teetered on the brink of becoming a failed state.

In 1947 at the time of independence, Pakistan was described as a "Nissen hut or a tent" by British Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten in a conversation with Jawarhar Lal Nehru. However, Pakistan defied this expectation that it would not survive as an independent nation and the partition of India would be quickly reversed. Pakistan not only survived but thrived with its economic growth rate easily exceeding the "Hindu growth rate" in India for most of its history.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in 2000 US $. Source: World Bank


Even now when the economic growth rate has considerably slowed, Pakistan has lower levels of poverty and hunger than its neighbor India, according UNDP and IFPRI. The key reason for lower poverty in Pakistan is its per capita value added in agriculture which is twice that of India. Agriculture employs 40% of Pakistanis and 60% of Indians. The poor state of rural India can be gauged by the fact that an Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes.

2. Paul: Its economy is as dysfunctional as its political system is corrupt; both rely heavily on international aid for their existence.

The fact is that foreign to aid to Pakistan has been declining as a percentage of its GDP since 1960s when it reached a peak of 11% of GDP in 1963. Today, foreign aid makes up less than 2% of its GDP of $240 billion.

Foreign Aid as Percentage of Pakistan GDP. Source: World Bank


3. Paul: Taliban forces occupy 30 percent of the country.

 The Taliban "occupy" a small part of FATA called North Waziristan which is about 4,700 sq kilometers, about 0.5% of its 796,000 sq kilometers area. Talking about insurgents "occupying" territory, about 40% of Indian territory is held by Maoist insurgents in the "red corridor" in Central India, according to Indian security analyst Bharat Verma.

4. Paul: It possesses over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorists' hands.

A recent assessment by Nuclear Threat Initiative ranked Pakistan above India on "Nuclear Materials Security Index".

5. Paul: Why, in an era when countries across the developing world are experiencing impressive economic growth and building democratic institutions, has Pakistan been such a conspicuous failure?

Pakistan's nominal GDP has quadrupled from $60 billion in 2000 to $240 billion now. Along with total GDP, Pakistan's GDP per capita has also grown significantly over the years, from about $500 in Year 2000 to $1000 per person in 2007 on President Musharraf's watch, elevating it from a low-income to a middle-income country in the last decade.I wouldn't call that a failure.


Pakistan Per Capita GDP 1960-2012. Source: World Bank 


Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, the economist who coined BRIC, has put Pakistan among the Next 11 group in terms of growth in the next several decades.

6. Paul argues that the "geostrategic curse"--akin to the "resource curse" that plagues oil-rich autocracies--is at the root of Pakistan's unique inability to progress. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the center of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently the post 9/11 wars.

Pakistan is no more a warrior state that many others in the world. It spends no more than 3% of its GDP on defense, lower than most of the nations of the world.

7. Paul says: No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region.The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch the far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions.

"Massive foreign aid" adds up to less than 1% of Pakistan's GDP. Pakistan's diaspora sends it over 5% of Pakistan's GDP in remittances.

8. Paul: Excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan's limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. Indeed, despite the regime's emphasis on security, the country continues to be beset by widespread violence and terrorism.

 In spite of spending just 3% of its GDP which is average for its size, Pakistan has achieved strategic parity with India by developing nuclear weapons. It has since prevented India from invading Pakistan as it did in 1971 to break up the country. Pakistani military has shown in Swat in 2009 that it is quite capable of dealing with insurgents when ordered to do so by the civilian govt.

Growth in Asia's Middle Class. Source: Asian Development Bank


While it is true that Pakistan has not lived up to its potential when compared with other US Cold War allies in East and Southeast Asia, it is wrong to describe it as "conspicuous failure". Pakistan should be compared with other countries in South Asia region, not East Asia or Southeast Asia. Comparison with its South Asian neighbors India and Bangladesh shows that an average Pakistani is less poor, less hungry and more upwardly mobile, according to credible data from multiple independent sources.

Pakistan is neither a "warrior state" nor a "conspicuous failure" as argued by Professor TV Paul. To the contrary, it has been the victim of the invading Indian Army in 1971 which cut off  its eastern wing. Pakistan has built a minimum nuclear deterrent in response to India's development of a nuclear arsenal. Pakistan has responded to the 1971 trauma by ensuring that such a tragedy does not happen again, particularly through a foreign invasion.

Today, Pakistan faces some of the toughest challenges of its existence. It has to deal with the Taliban insurgency and a weak economy. It has to solve its deepening energy crisis. It has to address growing water scarcity. While I believe Pakistanis are a very resilient and determined people, the difficult challenges they face will test them, particularly their leaders who have been falling short of their expectations in recent years.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Looking Back at 1940 Lahore Resolution

Pakistan's Economic History

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Asian Tigers Brought Prosperity

Value Added Agriculture in Pakistan

Are India and Pakistan Failed States?

Musharraf Accelerated Growth of Pakistan's Financial and Human Capital

Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Pakistan on Goldman Sachs' BRIC+N11 Growth Map