Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Pakistan Per Capita Cement Consumption Hit New High of 170 Kg in 2016

Image
Pakistan's domestic cement consumption reached 35 million tons in 2016, up from 30 million tons in 2015, according to a report published by Global Cement.  Using the latest census population of 207 million, it works out to about 170 Kg per person consumption. The increase is driven by a combination of CPEC-related infrastructure projects as well as commercial and housing construction.



While domestic demand for cement is continuing its upward trend, the exports have suffered a major decline. In 2009, the exports hit a high of over 11 million tons, constituting 34% of all cement dispatches at the time. Since then, they have fallen to below 6 million tons or 14% of all sales.

Pakistan cement industry is booming. There is some disagreement about where the biggest demand is coming from.  The CEO of Thatta Cement says it is 60% infrastructure and 40% housing but others say it is 70% housing and 30% infrastructure.

Pakistan's 11 cement manufacturers are investing a combined $2.25 bil…

Pakistani Students Win Silver in International Genetic Engineering Competition

Image
A team of undergraduate students representing Peshawar has won a silver medal in a genetic engineering competition organized recently by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts.



iGEM Team:

The team was made up of students from several cities and towns across Pakistan including Lahore, Attock, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Khyber Agency, Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan.

The team was hosted by Institute of Integrative Biosciences of CECOS University of IT and Emerging Sciences Peshawar. It was sponsored by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP)’s Directorate of Science and Technology, according to media reports.

The team's silver-medal-winning 2017 entry is a genetically engineered fish called "Reporter Fish" that can detect five different heavy metals and change color to indicate the presence of metal contamination in the water. It used an Arduino electronic circuit board with bacterial-human interface device that enabl…

Is US Playing the "India Card" Against China With "Indo-Pacific Quad"?

Image
Has Asia-Pacific become Indo-Pacific? Is George W. Bush's Quad back again? Is this Trump's version of Obama's Pivot to Asia? Let's examine what happened during President Donald Trump's recent Asia Trip.

Obama's Pivot to Asia:

President Barack Obama's Pivot to Asia initiative and his efforts to create Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seemed to have been all but abandoned by President Donald Trump after his inauguration in January 2017. This is part of a pattern of Mr. Trump's campaign to erase the Obama legacy and put his own stamp on all things American. However, it now appears that the Obama legacy is being repackaged by the Trump administration under new names such as "Quad" in "Indo-Pacific" region. Its aim remains the same: To check China's rise.

Trump's Quad in Indo-Pacific:

In a speech to business leaders during his visit to Vietnam, President Trump repeatedly called for a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” describing a region …

Thick Smog in Delhi and Lahore: Is India Crop Burning to Blame?

Image
Thick smog enveloping Pakistan's Punjab province has seriously disrupted road and air traffic and created significant health emergency for the people, according to Pakistani media reports. Indian cities, including the nation's capital New Delhi, are also suffering from it.

Is India Responsible?

Pakistani officials have blamed "the incursion of smoke and particle matter from the burning of crop stubble in the Indian Punjab." Particulate matter of 2.5 microns or larger as measured in micrograms per cubic meter is up to 80 times higher than the upper limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter considered safe by the World Health Organization.

Is the Pakistani claim supported by data? Let's try and answer this question with satellite images of the area released by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).


NASA Satellite Images:

Here's how NASA's Earth Observatory described the situation last year:

"In early October 2016, Eart…

Pakistan's Large Scale Manufacturing Soars By Double Digits

Image
Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) in Pakistan shot up 11.3% in the first two months of fiscal year 2017-18, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS). It represents a big surge from 5.7% LSM growth seen in Fiscal 2016-17.


The broad-based LSM growth was led by 50% jump in iron and steel production and 31% in auto manufacturing sector. Cement production grew nearly 20%, engineering products 19% and Pharmaceuticals 11% in the July-August 2017.

Although production was driven mostly by strong domestic demand, the exports in July-Sept 2018 also increased nearly 11% over the same period last year.

Among the notable sub-sectors driving strong LSM growth in July-August 2017 are: Tractors 115%,  motorcycles 28.3%, deep freezers 16.2%, air-conditioners 26.8%, electric-fans 22.4%, electric motors 17.3% and electric meters 18.3%, and switchgear 20.8%.

Significant improvement in the country's security situation is helping restore confidence of investors, businesses and consumers who are…

Social Media: Blessing or Curse for Pakistan?

Image
Is the rapid growth of social media helping or hurting Pakistani state and society?

What are the consequences of the proliferation and abuse of the new media?

What about terrorist groups like ISIS using viral images and videos to radicalize young people?  Or the state-run intelligence agencies and their agents and bots using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread disinformation to manipulate and divide people in countries and societies seen as hostile to their interests?

Is Pakistan being targeted by India's RAW and other hostile foreign intelligence agencies using social media to divide and manipulate Pakistanis by spreading fake news and doctored videos and images? Are they following the blueprint of the Russian intelligencetroll farms that were used against America before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections?

Should there be any codes of conduct or rules and regulations for social media users? Or should it be free-for-all?

ALKS host Faraz Darvesh discusses the…

Pakistan's Fintech Revolution to Promote Financial Inclusion

Image
Pakistan is ranked 16th among 26 nations ranked by Brookings Institution with an overall score of 69% in "The State of Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report" for 2017.  As the world observes the "World Financial Inclusion Week" this week (October 30-November 3, 2017), the Internet revolution is enabling rapid growth of financial technology (fintech) for increasing financial inclusion in Pakistan. The purpose of the observance of the week is to "hold conversations focused on how new products and partnerships are advancing financial inclusion, not just access", according to the Center for Financial Inclusion. It is important for Pakistan where about 100 million adults lack access to formal and regulated financial services.


Importance of Financial Inclusion:

Access to regulated financial services for all is essential in today's economy. It allows people to save, borrow and invest. Those who lack access to regulated banking services are often forc…

Will Gwadar Grow to Become a Major Metropolis Like Shenzhen?

Image
"We believe Gwadar is following in the footsteps of Shenzhen which represented a historic population rise, from a population of 30,000 in 1980 to 11 million people in 2017. Gwadar is poised to see massive population growth due to incoming industries, and we expect this to be one of the most strategic cities in South Asia." Hao-Yeh Chang,  China Pak Investments Corporation

Gwadar: The Next Shenzhen?

Gwadar is booming. It's being called the next Shenzhen by some and the next Hong Kong by others as an emerging new port city in the region to rival Dubai. Land prices in Gwadar are skyrocketing, according to media reports. Gwadar Airport air traffic growth of 73% was the fastest of all airports in Pakistan where overall air traffic grew by 23% last year, according to Anna Aero publication.  A new international airport is now being built in Gwadar to handle soaring passenger and cargo traffic.


Gwadar Property Boom:

The volume of Gwadar property searches surged 14-fold on Pakistan…

Pakistani Academia's Growing Interest in Decolonizing Minds

Image
There is increasing recognition in Pakistan and other nations colonized in the past by the West of the need to "decolonize knowledge" and to deal with the entrenched "injustices inherited" from colonial masters. Language is being recognized as a "library of ideas" essential for creation and transmission of knowledge in former colonies.

Habib University Conference:

Habib University, Pakistan's leading liberal arts institution of higher learning, is leading the way forward with "Postcolonial Higher Education Conference (PHEC)", an annual conference held each year at the university's Karachi campus since 2014. The conference attracts scholars from around the world.



This year’s PHEC's theme was “Inheritance of Injustice” to highlight the results of historical injustices seen today in many facets across the world, from economic and ecological to geo-political, according to report in Newsline Magazine.  The conference featured top global ac…

Diwali in Silicon Valley

Image
Brightly colored festival gift displays at major retail stores and poor air quality in Silicon Valley are reminding Indian-Americans this year of Diwali celebrations at home.

Big box retailers like Costco know their customers. Merchandizers working for them are stocking up their local Silicon Valley stores with products most in demand before Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to cater to a sizable population of Indian-Americans in the Valley.  A variety of Indian mithais (sweets) and spicy snacks are on display at major mainstream retail stores that are competing with the traditional Indian supermarkets for business. Stores like Costco are now also carrying raw or prepared daals, rice, vegetables, flour, naans and chapatis.


Adding to the ambiance is the particulate matter from multiple major forest fires in the San Francisco Bay Area that are still not under control after several days of fire fighting.  Tragically, the fires have so far claimed 40 precious lives and many are still …

Pakistan Meat Industry Experiencing Strong Growth

Image
Pakistan per capita meat consumption has nearly tripled from 11.7 kg in 2000 to 32 kg in 2016. It is projected to rise to 47 kg by 2020.

Rising Incomes and Meat Consumption:

Pakistan's per capita meat consumption has nearly tripled from 11.7 kg in 2000 to 32 kg in 2016. It is projected to rise to 47 kg by 2020, according to a paper published by the United States National Library of Medicines at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Organization for Economic Development (OECD) explains that meat demand increases with higher incomes and a shift - often due to growing urbanization - to food preferences that favor increased proteins from animal sources in diets.



The NIH paper authors Mohammad Shoaib and Faraz Jamil point out that Pakistan's meat consumption of 32 Kg per person is only a third of the meat capita meat consumption in rich countries like Australia and the United States.

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature magazine reports…

Pakistani Hindu Women Ride High On Thar Development Wave

Image
As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, the Thar development boom is empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving, according to multiple media reports. These pioneering women will hopefully be a source of inspiration for young girls.

Thar Development:

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of the plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.


T…

Khwaja Asif Defends Pakistan Policy at USIP in Washington D.C.

Image
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif was a featured speaker at an event organized by Washington-based think tank USIP (United States Institute of Peace) where he was interviewed by Dr. Moeed Yusuf. The topics of discussion ranged from US-Pakistani relations and President Donald Trump's new Afghan policy to Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan and India.


Here are some of the key Points made by Mr. Asif at this event held in Washington D.C. on Oct 5, 2017:

1. US funded, armed and trained militants to fight the Soviets in 1980s as part of the Cold War, then walked away without helping to rehabilitate them and left it to Pakistan to deal with them.

2. Pakistan does want to deal with these militants who are a liability for the country. Pakistan is working on finding the best way to do it.

3. US domestic politics prevents action on gun violence but Washington expects Pakistan to demolish all militant groups overnight.

4. India has 66 banned armed groups engaged in insurg…