Friday, July 31, 2015

Pakistan Completes Construction of Over Half of CPEC Western Route

“The Frontier Works Organization (FWO) has built roads with 502 kilometers length on the western alignment of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to link Gwadar with other parts of the country. The FWO took up the challenge to extend the benefits of Gwadar port to rest of the country by building roads in rugged mountainous terrain and highly inaccessible areas. The gigantic task was undertaken on the directives of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif."
Frontier Works Organization

Of the three land routes being constructed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to connect Pakistan's deep sea Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with western China, the western route is the most challenging.  In addition to the difficult mountainous terrain in KP and Baluchistan provinces, the western route runs through Panjgur and Turbat where there is an active Baloch insurgency believed to be aided by India via Afghanistan. It's being built by Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization.

Deep Sea Port at Gwadar


Frontier Works Organization:

Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is an administrative branch of the Pakistan Army that includes active duty officers and civilian scientists and engineers which has been involved with the construction of bridges, roads, tunnels, airfields and dams in Pakistan, on the orders of the civilian government of Pakistan, according a Reuters report.

Three CPEC Routes: Western, Central and Eastern



Major Milestone:

The completion of construction of 502 km of the 870 km length of the western alignment represents a significant milestone for Pakistan Army and the Frontier Works Organization.  It is expected to become operational by the end of 2016.

Indian Opposition:

India has made no secret of its strong opposition to the the CPEC project, and it is believed to be making covert efforts to sabotage it. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “very strongly” raised the issue regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during his visit to Beijing, and called the project “unacceptable”.  Swaraj said Modi was “concerned” about the $46 billion project, adding that the Indian government had summoned a Chinese envoy to raise the issue over the corridor that is to run through Pakistani Kashmir. Needless to say that the Chinese dismissed India’s objections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Balochistan Insurgency:

In spite of Indian RAW's most determined effort to support the Baloch militants' campaign of murder and terror, the Baloch insurgency has been significantly weakened by the Pakistan Army campaign in the province. In 2013 earthquake that struck Awaran,  a stronghold of Baloch insurgents, Pakistan Army moved in with relief supplies to earthquake victims, and managed to gain access to parts of the very volatile district that were considered inaccessible. More recently, the insurgency has been decimated by in-fighting among various Baloch insurgent factions. The 2014 death of veteran Baloch leader Khair Bux Marri has opened up a rift between his sons Mehran and Hyrbyair — who heads the BLA from self-exile in London — and led to the creation of the UBA with other groups also aligning themselves with one side or the other.

Pak Army Chief's Warning:

Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif has shown a strong personal commitment to making it happen by visiting insurgency-hit areas to support the workers and the troops on difficult construction sites. He was emphatic during a ceremony to celebrate the Chinese Army’s 88th anniversary held at the country’s Islamabad embassy where he said, “I reiterate our resolve that any attempt to obstruct or impede this (CPEC) project will be thwarted at all costs".


Summary:

Construction work on CPEC is already stimulating economic activity in Pakistan as indicated by rising domestic cement demand in the country.  It was up 8% year over year in 2014-15.  Cement sales are considered a barometer of development activity.  A recent assessment by Ruchir Sharma, head of Morgan Stanley's emerging markets, has said Pakistan's economy is growing more than twice as fast as emerging markets other than India and China.  In a piece titled "Bucking stagnation elsewhere, the quiet rise of South Asia",  Sharma particularly mentions the Chinese CPEC investment of $46 billion as a positive for Pakistan. "Pakistan’s manufacturing sector is now growing, due to both increasing electric output and the fact that – like Bangladesh – its young population and labour force is expected to continue expanding for at least the next five years", says Sharma.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Gwadar as Hong Kong West

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

Pakistan Army Capabilities

Pakistan Killer Drones to Support Anti-Terror Campaign

Who Killed Sabeen Mahmud?

India's Covert War in Pakistan

Pakistan Boosts Electronic Surveillance to Fight Terror

Growing Fiber Optic Connectivity in Pakistan

Haier Expanding Production in Pakistan

Pakistan's Growing Population

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pakistan Builds Powerful Surveillance System to Fight Terrorism

Pakistan is building digital surveillance capacity to rival America's NSA with broad public support in the country, according to a report by London-based Privacy International.

"Attacks against civilian targets in Pakistan’s cities have also fed popular support for communications surveillance and other efforts to register and monitor the civilian population, including national databases and mandatory SIM card registration", says the report. Pakistan requires universal SIM card registration by fingerprint, and maintains a national biometric ID database.

Pakistan has seen nearly 60,000 of its citizens die in incidents of terrorism since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, according to data reported by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). What is happening in the country now follows a familiar pattern seen elsewhere in the world: Faced with growing terror threat, people are willing to trade privacy for security.

Like the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program, the Pakistani effort includes both voice and data communications. Over 70 per cent of the country's population uses mobile phones, and an estimated 11 per cent of the population has internet access, the report says. This makes surveillance in Pakistan advanced and comprehensive as there are currently 50 operational internet providers and five mobile phone operators. Pakistan government has acquired technology and purchased equipment for surveillance from local as well as some foreign companies such as Ericsson, Alcatel, Huawei, SS8 and Utimaco. Here's an excerpt from the report:


"In June 2013, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s best known intelligence agency, sought to develop a mass surveillance system by directly tapping the main fibreoptic cables entering Pakistan that carried most of the nation’s network communication data. The confidential request for proposals outlines a “Targeted IP Monitoring System and COE [Common Operations Environments]” that aimed to capture and store approximately 660 gigabits of internet protocol (IP) traffic per second under ISI control. This system would make available virtually all of the nation’s domestic and international communications data for scrutiny, the most significant expansion of the government’s capacity to conduct mass surveillance to date. The total intake of data every second sought by Pakistan in the proposal document would rival some of the world’s most powerful surveillance programmes, including the UK’s ‘Tempora’ and US’ ‘Upstream’ programmes. What the ISI wanted to build, according to the request for proposals, was a complete surveillance system that would capture mobile communications data, including Wi-Fi, all broadband internet traffic, and any data transmitted over 3G. According to the documents, the interception activities were to be “seamless” and “must not be detectable or visible to the subscriber”.

Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal

Pakistan has seen a significant decline in terror-related deaths in the last two years. Civilian death toll has declined from 3001 in 2013 to 1781 in 2014 and 577 so far this year, according to SATP. It's attributed mainly to the launch of Pakistan Army's Operation Zarb e Azb against militants in 2013. It is believed that increased electronic surveillance has probably contributed to at least some of this success in reducing death toll.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Biometric Registration Database

Operation Zarb e Azb Launch

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Intelligence Failures in Preventing Daily Carnage in Pakistan

What If Musharraf Had Said NO to US After 911?

Pakistani Computer Scientist Fights Terror

Pakistani Killer Drones to Support Anti-Terror Campaign

3G 4G Rollout Spurs Data Services Boom in Pakistan

Fiber Optic Connectivity in Pakistan


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pakistan's Rising College Education Rates

There are over 3 million students enrolled in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according to Pakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14.  The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years.  In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA).

Graduation Day at NED Engineering University For 1300 Graduates in 2013
Pakistani universities have been producing over half a million graduates every year since 2010, according to HEC data. The number of university graduates in Pakistan increased from 380,773 in 2005-6 to 493,993 in 2008-09. This figure is growing with rising enrollment and contributing to Pakistan's growing human capital.

Source: UNESCO's Global Education Digest 2009



Higher education in Pakistan has come a long way since its independence in 1947 when there was only one university, the University of Punjab. By 1997, the number of universities had risen to 35, of which 3 were federally administered and 22 were under the provincial governments, with a combined enrollment of 71,819 students. A big spending boost by President Pervez Musharraf helped establish 51 new universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008. This helped triple university enrollment from 135,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 in 2008, according to Dr. Ata ur Rehman who led the charge for expanding higher education during Musharraf years. There are 161 universities with 1.5 million students enrolled in Pakistan as of 2014.



Former Chairman of HEC summed up the country's higher education progress well in a piece he wrote for The News in 2012: "Pakistan has achieved critical mass and reached a point of take-off. For this phenomenal growth to continue, it is important for the government and other stakeholders to support and further strengthen the HEC as a national institution and protect its autonomy. If this momentum continues for another 10 years, Pakistan is certain to become a global player through a flourishing knowledge economy and a highly literate population".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

10 Pakistan Universities Among Top 300 in Asia

Pakistan's Growing Human Capital

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Education Attainment in South Asia

Dr. Ata ur Rehman Defends HEC Reforms

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

Business Education in Pakistan

Armed Drones Outrage and Inspire Young Pakistanis

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are Pakistan's Glaciers Melting Away?

A recent headline in Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper declared: "Pakistan's glaciers melting faster than rest of the world". A few days later, I heard an ex-Met Department officer in Pakistan repeat the same alarm on a Geo TV show "Capital Talk" anchored by Hamid Mir. Are these people right?

Recognizing it's too important an issue to let go, I decided to look into the facts and data as reported in science journals. Quickly, I came upon "Karakoram Anomaly". I learned that it's a term used to describe the fact that, unlike other mountainous regions, the Karakoram glaciers which supply most of Pakistan's river water are growing rather than shrinking.


Baltoro Glacier in Karakoram National Park in Pakistan

Pakistan is home to the most heavily glaciated area outside the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica. The massive glaciers of Baltoro and Biafo stretch for over 60 kilometers each in the Karakoram Mountains, according to Bina Saeed Khan who wrote on this subject in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper in 2013.  The area designated as the Central Karakoram National Park in Pakistan has 711 glaciers, which is double the number of glaciers in the Alps in Europe.


A research report published in the journal Nature Geoscience has recently reported that the ice in the Karakoram mountains is sustained by a unique and localized seasonal pattern that keeps the mountain range relatively cold and dry during the summer months.

Other Himalayan ranges and the Tibetan Plateau — where glaciers have increasingly receded as Earth's climate has warmed — receive most of their precipitation from heavy summer monsoons out of hot South and Southeast Asian nations such as India.

The Himalayas

The main precipitation season in the Karakoram in Pakistan, however, occurs during the winter and is influenced by cold winds coming from Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan to the west, while the main Himalayan range blocks the warmer air from the southeast throughout the year. The researchers determined that snowfall, which is critical to maintaining glacier mass, will remain stable and even increase in magnitude at elevations above 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) in the Karakoram through at least 2100. On the other hand, snowfall over much of the Himalayas and Tibet is projected to decline even as the Indian and Southeast Asian monsoons increase in intensity under climate change, according to Princeton News.

Understanding what will happen to the Karakoram glaciers in the next several centuries is an existential question for Pakistanis.  Pakistan needs to sustain and grow its fresh water resources to support a growing population. WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) has recently set up a Glacier Monitoring Research Centre in Islamabad, which intends to conduct mass balance studies of five major Upper Indus glaciers, as well as installing new high-altitude weather stations. The six-year project is funded by the World Bank.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Thar Drought 

Water Scarce Pakistan

Pakistan's Rising Population: Blessing or Curse?

Recurring Floods and Droughts in Pakistan

Helicopter Skiing in Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan

Climbing K2-The Ultimate Challenge

Life of a Siachen Soldier

Extreme Kayak Adventures in Pakistan

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pakistani-American Demographics on Eid ul Fitr

Eid-ul-Fitr celebration this year marked the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with many large prayer congregations across America. Muslims wore colorful outfits.   There were servings of traditional foods and deserts in outdoor melas (fairs) for Muslim families and their friends in all major cities of the United States. Most celebrated on Friday while others waited till Saturday.

Some security fears for American Muslims had arisen after an unfortunate shooting incident in which a US-born Palestinian-American young man killed four marines at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Along with the other Americans, Muslims too mourned for the Chattanooga dead and they prayed for peace for all of America and the world. Fortunately, Eid celebrations have so far passed without an incident.

The Washington Post put the Chattanooga shooting in perspective with a history of several attacks by various groups starting with the anti-war groups during the Vietnam war. The paper cited earlier attacks on US military recruitment offices by Black Panthers, Neo-Nazis and the Japanese Red Army.

President Barack H. Obama offered Eid greetings to all Muslims on the occasion. The President said, "I hope today brings joy to all of your homes, both here in the U.S. and around the world. From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak!" "As Muslim Americans celebrate Eid across America, the holiday is a reminder to every American of the importance of respecting those of all faiths and beliefs."

New York Empire State Building Lit Green on Eid July 17, 2015
My family too joined in the fun as did most of my fellow Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley. We made the required charitable donation called fitra and then prayed in the morning along with thousands of Muslims in Silicon Valley hailing from many parts of the world. Then we went to a large fairground where a local Muslim community association had set up food stalls, amusement rides, face painting and balloons  to create a very festive atmosphere. Since Eid fell on Friday, there are many weekend events planned to a make it a true 3-day celebration.

Pakistani-American Demographics. Source: Migration Policy Inst.

Let me take this opportunity to talk about how Pakistani-Americans are doing. There are 453,000 Pakistanis in the United States as of 2013, according to the US Census Bureau. First-generation immigrants account for 273,000, or more than half of the Pakistani-American population with the remaining 180,000 being children of first-generation immigrants. 56% of Pakistanis 25 years or older have college degrees, much higher than the US national average of 31%. 

Median household income of Pakistani-American families is $60,000, higher than the US median household income of $50,000. A third of the Pakistani-American (vs 25% US) households earn over $90,000 while a fifth (vs 10% US households) have incomes exceeding $140,000.

Pakistan-Americans make up only 6% of the total Pakistani diaspora but they sent home 15% ($2.6 billion) in remittances totaling $18.4 billion received by Pakistan in the last fiscal year, according to figures released by the State Bank of Pakistan for 2014-15. It's important to note that the $18.4 billion in remittances helped Pakistan deal with its gaping $22 billion trade deficit in 2014-15.

In addition to outsize remittances, Pakistani diaspora also contributes generously to education, health care, nutrition and other programs run by NGOs in their country of origin.

Pakistani-Americans are a thriving community in America. While some of them have faced some backlash since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the larger community has been relatively unscathed by the fall-out from multiple wars waged in the Middle East by the United States since 911.