Friday, May 20, 2016

Upstream River Projects in India Threaten Bangladesh Water Security

New Delhi is starting massive series of new projects to divert water from major rivers in the north and the east of the country to India's drought-stricken western and southern regions. This news has sounded alarm bells in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, according to the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The $400 billion project involves rerouting water from major rivers including the Ganga and Brahmaputra and creating canals to link the Ken and Batwa rivers in central India and Damanganga-Pinjal in the west. Its target is to help drought-hit India farmers who are killing themselves at a rate on one every 30 minutes for at least two decades.




The Indo-Gangetic Plain, also known as Indus-Ganga and the North Indian River Plain, is a 255 million hectare (630 million acre) fertile plain encompassing most of northern and eastern India, the eastern parts of Pakistan, and virtually all of Bangladesh, according to a Wikipedia entry.

India and Pakistan have a formal internationally-brokered and monitored treaty called Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) signed in 1960 between Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in Karachi.

The IWT allocated water from three eastern rivers of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan, while the water from three western rivers of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus was allocated for exclusive use of Pakistan. The treaty essentially partitioned the rivers rather than sharing of their waters. The treaty also permits India to build run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects on the western rivers but it can not divert any water from them for its own use.

In the east, River Ganga upon reaching the Indian state of West Bengal splits into two main branches, the Hooghly which continues its course south into West Bengal and the Padma that flows into Bangladesh. Similarly, the Brahmaputra upon reaching Bangladesh splits into two main distributaries, the Jamuna and the Meghna. Both enter Bangladesh at different points.

At least 100 million Bangladeshis living downstream in Jamuna (Brahmaputra) and Padma (Ganga) river basins will be hit hard if India carries out the project as planned.

Alarmed by this development, Bangladesh’s minister of water, Nazrul Islam, has pleaded with the Indian government to take Bangladesh’s water needs into consideration, noting that 54 of 56 Indian rivers flowed through his country.

Bangladesh is already suffering from India's increasing withdrawal of Ganges water in recent years. India has built at least 26 water diversion projects upstream the Ganges which has led to crop failure and even desertification of certain areas in the lower riparian Bangladesh, according to Dhaka Tribune.

Unlike the internationally-brokered and monitored Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between Pakistan and India, there is no similar water-sharing treaty between Bangladesh and India. The 1996 Farakka treaty has done little to help Bangladesh.  It is dependent entirely on the good-will of the rulers in Delhi for its water life-line.

Will Modi respond positively to the pleas of his strong ally in Bangladesh's Shaikh Hasina to take its eastern neighbor's water needs into consideration? Will Modi assure Bangladesh by signing a binding water-sharing treaty along the lines of the Indus Waters Treaty? Unfortunately, the history suggests otherwise.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Water-Scarce Pakistan

Indian Farmer Suicide One Every 30 Minutes

Recurring Floods and Droughts in Pakistan

Indian Media Coverage of Regional Issues

Shaikh Hasina's Witch Hunt

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pakistanis Are Largest Foreign-Born Muslim Group in Silicon Valley

Pakistani-Americans are the largest foreign-born Muslim group in San Francisco Bay Area that includes Silicon Valley, according to a 2013 study. The study was commissioned by the One Nation Bay Area Project, a civic engagement program supported by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Marin Community Foundation and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.

 Overall, US-born Muslims make up the largest percentage at 34% of all Muslims in the Bay Area, followed by 14% born in Pakistan, 11% in Afghanistan, 10% in India, 3% in Egypt and 2% each in Iran, Jordan, Palestine and Yemen.

Silicon Valley Pakistani-American by the Numbers:
Bay Area Muslims by Country of Birth 

There are 35,000 Pakistani-born Muslims in San Francisco Bay Area,  or 14% of the 250,000 Muslims who call the Bay Area home, according to the study. Bay Area Muslim community constitutes 3.5 percent of the area’s total population and is one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the country.

As of 2013, South Asian Muslims, including Pakistanis, have the highest income levels, with nearly half (49%) of them having a household income above $100,000. In comparison, those groups with the lowest proportion of household incomes above $100,000 were Hispanic Muslims (15%), Afghans (10%), and African American Muslims (10%).

The Bay Area Muslim community is very diverse in terms of race and ethnicity:

South Asians (30%)

Arabs (23%)

Afghans (17%),

African Americans (9%)

Asian/Pacific Islanders (7%)

Whites (6%)

Iranians (2%)



Based on the survey findings, the majority of Muslims live in the following three counties:

Alameda (37%)

Santa Clara (27%),

and Contra Costa (12%)

Pakistani-American Techies:

Thousands of Pakistan-born techies are working at Apple, Cisco, Google, Intel, Oracle and hundreds of other high-tech companies from small start-ups to large Fortune 500 corporations. Pakistani-Americans are contributing to what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe as "The Second Machine Age" in a recent book with the same title.

A Representative Sample of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, advisers, mentors, venture capitalists, investment bankers, accountants and lawyers make up a growing ecosystem in Silicon Valley. Dozens of Pakistani-American founded start-ups have been funded by top venture capital firms. Many such companies have either been acquired in M&A deals or gone public by offering shares for sale at major stock exchanges. Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) has become a de facto platform for networking among Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Pakistani-American techies presence in Silicon Valley has been recognized in a popular HBO show called "Silicon Valley" that stars a Pakistani actor Kumail Nanjiani playing a Pakistan-born Silicon Valley techie.

Silicon Valley's biggest tech start-up incubator Y-Combinator is now headed by Qasar Younis, a Pakistani-American born in the Pakistani village of Lala Musa. Younis was a keynote speaker at the Pakistani-American entrepreneurs conference called OPEN Forum 2016 just last month in Silicon Valley.

Islamophobia in America: 

Muslim-Americans, including Pakistani-Americans are thriving in the high-tech Bay Area in spite of the recent rise of Islamophobia in parts of America where the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump appears to be popular.

But Muslim-Americans can not afford to ignore the gathering clouds of Islamophobia and xenophobia in America. The economic difficulties of many Americans are being exploited by demagogues like Donald Trump who is blaming foreigners for their unemployment and underemployment which can be traced to the twin forces of automation and globalization.

First, it was the manufacturing jobs that moved offshore in 1980s and 1990s in an effort to save costs and fatten profits. This forced many factory workers to move into service industries and take pay cuts. Now the service sector jobs are also falling prey to outsourcing and automation.

Instead of addressing the root causes of economic difficulties faced by many Americans, Republican front-runner Donald Trump's presidential primary campaign is blaming immigrants and Muslims for their problems. This is  giving rise to forces of racism, bigotry, xenophobia and Islamophobia in America.

Summary: 

It's in the best interest of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, particularly Muslim-American entrepreneurs, to pay attention to the economic difficulties being faced by many Americans who are losing jobs to automation and globalization. These difficulties lie at the root of growing xenophobia and Islamophobia. The Muslim-American entrepreneurs need to think of new ways to help people who are being left behind. They need to explore ideas such as helping build new skills needed for the new economy, promote policy discussions on the idea of universal basic income and expansion of safety nets and development of new gig economy to ensure full employment with decent incomes. Failure to do so could lead to significant social strife and cause irreparable damage to the very foundations of the system that has brought great wealth and power to America as a nation.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

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

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

OPEN Forum 2016: Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Conference

OPEN Forum 2016 in Silicon Valley drew over 700  Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bankers, accountants, lawyers and high-tech executives to Santa Clara Convention Center on Saturday, April 30, 216. The forum featured keynotes by Qasar Younus, the Pakistani-American head of Silicon Valley's top incubator Y-Combinator, and  Atif Rafiq, Chief Digital Officer at fast food giant McDonald's Corp.





OPEN Forum 2016 Agenda:

The conference included presentations and discussions in four parallel tracks to inform and educate attendees on various aspects of starting and building businesses at different stages. In addition, there were panels on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, inspiring Pakistani-American youth and dealing with the rise of Islamophobia in the United States. Also screened was a documentary "K2 and the Invisible Footmen" about the unsung mountaineering heroes of Pakistan's tallest and the world's second tallest mountain peak K2 and the film "The PHD Movie" about grad school.




Silicon Valley's Impact on Jobs in America:

The first keynote I attended in the morning was about order automation at fast food giant McDonald's. The effort is spearheaded by Atif Rafiq, a Pakistani-American who has been hired by the restaurant chain operator as its first Chief Digital Officer. After the presentation, I asked Atif as to how he sees the impact of his work on employment at McDonald's? Given the fact that the service sector is the largest employer in the United States, how would the ongoing service sector automation efforts impact the larger jobs picture?  Would the emerging gig economy a la Uber be enough to make up for service sector job losses?   Rafiq confessed it's a significant issue but he did not directly answer it.



Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Pakistani-Americans, are credited with creating millions of new jobs in new industries ranging from semiconductors to computers, communications and software  and biotechnology over the last several decades. The question is: Will the new industries spawned by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs help or hurt the overall employment in America?

Twin Forces of Globalization and Automation:

The twin forces of automation and globalization are now causing significant unemployment and underemployment in the United States. The impact of job losses and growing inequality are  the subject of the current election campaigns.

First, it was the manufacturing jobs that moved offshore in 1980s and 1990s in an effort to save costs and fatten profits. This forced many factory workers to move into service industries and take pay cuts. Now the service sector jobs are also falling prey to outsourcing and automation.

Instead of addressing the root causes of economic difficulties faced by many Americans, Republican front-runner Donald Trump's presidential primary campaign is blaming immigrants and Muslims for their problems. This is  giving rise to forces of racism, bigotry, xenophobia and Islamophobia in America.

Future of Capitalism and Democracy in America:

The success of American capitalism and democracy is built on the firm foundations of nearly full employment and a large middle class. The erosion of these two ingredients threatens the very foundations of America's peace and prosperity.

In response to high unemployment in 1930s, British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) argued: "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." He advocated massive spending by government to stimulate demand when all else fails.

John Maynard Keynes:

 Who was Keynes?  Here is how UC Berkeley's Robert Reich described him a few years ago: "A Cambridge University don with a flair for making money, a graduate of England's exclusive Eton prep school, a collector of modern art, the darling of Virginia Woolf and her intellectually avant-garde Bloomsbury Group, the chairman of a life-insurance company, later a director of the Bank of England, married to a ballerina, John Maynard Keynes--tall, charming and self-confident--nonetheless transformed the dismal science into a revolutionary engine of social progress."

Keynes was clearly a very smart man. His ideas of modern Capitalism have created unprecedented wealth and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And his ideas may still help save capitalism yet again. However, what Keynes couldn't have imagined are the new heights of avarice and wickedness of the modern political-industrial elite in America that has threatened the very foundations of the system that brought them wealth and power. During recent decades, the behavior of American capitalists and politicians has been unbelievably self-destructive.

What Can Silicon Valley Do?

I think it's in the best interest of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, particularly Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, to pay attention to the economic difficulties being faced by many Americans who are losing jobs to automation and globalization. These difficulties lie at the root of growing xenophobia and Islamophobia. The Pakistani-American entrepreneurs need to think of new ways to help people who are being left behind. They need to explore ideas such as helping build new skills needed for the new economy, promote policy discussions on the idea of universal basic income and expansion of safety nets and development of new gig economy to ensure full employment with decent incomes. Failure to do so could lead to significant social strife and cause irreparable damage to the very foundations of the system that has brought great wealth and power to America as a nation.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can American Capitalism Survive?

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

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

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Did Musharraf Steal People's Money in Pakistan?

A story alleging corruption by former President Pervez Musharraf has appeared recently in Pakistan's Jang Media Group publications  in the aftermath of the Panama Leaks that revealed the names of 220 rich and powerful Pakistanis owning offshore accounts.

The Panama Papers show that Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, the owner of Jang Media Group, owns offshore accounts, as do the family of the current Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007. Other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers include prominent businessmen, politicians, judges, bureaucrats, etc. allegedly involved in corruption. The names of former President Pervez Musharraf or his family members are not among the 220 names from Pakistan.

The Jang Media Group story titled "How Mr clean Musharraf became a billionaire" lists accounts held by Mr. Musharraf in Dubai and London with balances adding up to millions of US dollars. Farrukh Durrani, the story writer, demands that the commission of inquiry looking into Panama Papers also investigate the sources of Mr. Musharraf's wealth. Here's an excerpt of the story:

"Despite having such huge chunk of amount in his offshore accounts, neither did any investigative agency nor did the accountability bureau question him how he got billions of rupees in his foreign accounts. However the commission of inquiry appointed by prime minister in the wake of Panama Leaks has a broader scope and powers which can question ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf from where he got billions of rupees which are kept in his offshore accounts."

Knowing what I know about how western leaders like former US President Clinton and his wife Hillary became wealthy after leaving office, let me suggest to Mr. Durrani to do his homework as follows:

1. Learn about the lucrative speaker series business which brings hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech to celebrity speakers in the West, particularly the United States. This is a well-established, well-organized business that promotes lecture series featuring prominent speakers where attendees pay hundreds of dollars per person to attend in large numbers.

2. Do research into how many such lectures President Musharraf delivered after retiring from presidency in 2008? How much did he get paid for each? What does it all add up to? Does it add up to more than the reported account balances in Dubai and London?

Let me give a few pointers to Mr. Durrani if he's honestly trying to understand the sources of Mr. Musharraf's wealth:

1. A Newsweek story quoted David Wheeler, President of Embark LLC,  just one of the international public-relations firms trying to land Musharraf as a highly paid keynote speaker, as saying, "The [speaking] fee for Musharraf would be in the $150,000-200,000 range for a day."



2. The Newsweek story further added that "Public-relations executives say the articulate and brash 44-year army veteran's earning power could approach that of former U.S. President Bill Clinton".

3. Here's how an Oregon newspaper "The Oregonian" reported about Musharraf's planned appearance in Portland in 2010:  "The folks who attract big international names to Portland each year have done it again, landing Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former president, to speak here in March. The World Affairs Council of Oregon's 2010 speaker series will also feature Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz; Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration chief administrator; and -- in a face-off --Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Karl Rove, strategist for President George W. Bush."

4. A brochure announcing the Peninsula Speaker Series in the San Francisco Bay Area that included Musharraf as a featured speaker, along with Condeleeza Rice, Laura Tyson and Paul Krugman, showed the ticket prices ranging from $294 to $403 per person.

After Mr. Durrani has had a chance to do his homework, I believe he will realize, if he's honest, that he is being used by his employer to deflect attention of the world and of any investigative commission members from the sins of Mir Shakeel ur Rahman and his rich and powerful friends in high places, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, who have either stolen Pakistan peoples' money and/or cheated on taxes they owe to the Pakistani treasury. Any investigative commission must not allow itself to be used to pursue vendettas to obscure the truth.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Leaders in London After Panama Leaks

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

President Pervez Musharraf's Legacy

We Hang Petty Thieves and Appoint Great Ones to High Offices

Capitalism's Achilles Heel by Raymond Baker

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pakistani Diaspora Sends Home $19.3 Billion in Remittances Amid Falling Oil Prices

Pakistani diaspora sent home $19.3 billion in remittances in 2015, representing 12.8 % increase over 2014, according to a World Bank Report titled "Migration and Development Brief" released today.

Pakistan's $19.3 billion in remittance make up 6.9% of 2014 GDP, essentially closing the rising trade deficit amid the nation's falling exports.

The 12.8% increase over 2015 is substantial but it is down from 16.7% jump seen in 2014 over 2013. The report attributes the slower remittance growth from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to falling oil prices.

This report comes soon after the Panama Leaks that show how Pakistan's corrupt elite, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family, are moving and hiding in offshore tax havens the hard-earned dollars sent home by overseas Pakistanis to keep Pakistan's economy afloat.

Overseas Remittances in South Asia Source: World Bank 


In Q4 of 2015, year-on-year growth of remittances to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia and the UAE were 11.7 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, a significant deceleration from 17.5 percent and 42.0 percent in the first quarter, said the report.

Global remittances, which include those to high-income countries, contracted by 1.7% to $581.6 billion in 2015, from $592 billion in 2014, the World Bank said.

India was the top recipient with $68.9 billion in remittances in 2015, a decline from $70 billion in 2014. This marks the first decline in remittances since 2009,  according to the report.

The growth of remittances in 2015 slowed from 8% in 2014 to 2.5% for Bangladesh, from 16.7% to 12.8% for Pakistan, and from 9.6% to 0.5% for Sri Lanka. “Slower growth may reflect the impact of falling oil prices on remittances from GCC countries,” the report said.

The only country in South Asia to see dramatic growth in remittances was Nepal. The overseas Nepalese workers sent home $7 billion in 2015, an increase of 20.9 percent in 2015 versus 3.2 percent growth in 2014. After the devastating earthquake that hit the Himalayan nation, many Nepalese migrant workers returned home to take care of their families, as the average number of returns at the airport jumped five times to around 4,000 per day.

“Remittances are an important and fairly stable source of income for millions of families and of foreign exchange to many developing countries,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group.

“However, if remittances continue to slow, and dramatically as in the case of Central Asian countries, poor families in many parts of the world would face serious challenges including nutrition, access to health care and education,” Lopez-Claros said.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Remittances to Pakistan

Pakistani Names in Panama Leaks

Pakistan Diaspora is Among the World's Largest

Pakistan's Corrupt Elite

Remittances Offer a Lifeline to Pakistan's Poor

Aid, Investment, Trade and Remittances to Pakistan