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Showing posts from 2017

The Big Sick Movie: A Self-Portrait of Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani

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The Big Sick, a cross-culture romantic comedy based on actual events,  breaks new ground by casting a brown-skinned Pakistani-American in a lead role in a movie produced and widely screened in the United States. Acquired by Amazon Studios for $12 million after a bidding war at Sundance film festival, the film has already grossed over $25 million so far.


“The Big Sick” is based on the life of  HBO's "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani, 39, who plays himself.  A Pakistani American man, a part-time Uber driver struggling to succeed as a stand-up comic in Chicago, Kumail notices a heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan), during one of his performances. Thus begins a relationship characterized by a series of emotional highs and lows with a lot of laughter in between.

Co-written with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, the romantic comedy (romcom) is a somewhat fictionalized account of the first year of their relationship, when a sudden medical crisis forces her to be put in a medically-indu…

China-India Standoff; Panama JIT; Indian Asylum Seekers

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What is India-China standoff in Bhutan's Doklam about? What are the risks of either side miscalculating? Can this border conflict spiral out of control and escalate into a full-scale war like the the 1962 war? Can it lead to a wider regional conflict? How would such a war conclude?

What are the political implications of the ongoing Panama case hearings in Pakistan Supreme Court? How are the media and political parties lining up on this? Will the Supreme Court disqualify and remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office for corruption? Will it be seen as normal democratic process of accountability or a conspiracy to subvert an elected government?

Why are Indians among the top 5 asylum seekers in the world along with Syria? What's driving Indians to seek refuge in OECD nations? Is it lack of economic opportunity or increasing religious violence? Or something else?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (www.ria…

CPEC Financing: Is Pakistan Being Ripped Off By China?

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Is China ripping off its all-weather friend Pakistan by charging high interest rates on loans and exorbitant guaranteed returns on investments in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects?  That's a question that is being asked on a frequent basis by Pakistan's friends and foes alike. While friends of China-Pakistan ties are concerned about an undue burden on Pakistanis, the foes see CPEC as an opportunity to create a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about it and its benefits for Pakistan's economy and society. Who's right? Who's wrong? Why? Let's dive into it.


Claims by CPEC Detractors:

Many Western and Indian opponents claim that the cost of CPEC financing will be so high that Pakistan will not be able to bear it. They assert that China is attempting to catch Pakistan in a debt trap from which the country will not be able to escape, eventually turning it into a Chinese colony. The financing costs for Chinese loans and investments they claim are in hig…

Indians Among Top Asylum Seekers in OECD Countries

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India is among the the top 5 sources of migrants seeking asylum in OECD countries, according to OECD's International Migration Outlook 2017. The other four are: China, Syria, Romania and Poland.  Is increasing religious violence in India, like Syria, contributing to growing numbers of asylum seekers from the South Asian nation?

Indian asylum seekers rank 2nd in New Zealand, 4th in Latvia and 6th in Finland and United Kingdom and 8th in Australia, the OECD report says. The numbers of Pakistanis seeking asylum remains stable but they still show up among the top 3 asylum seekers in some OECD nations such as the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece and South Korea.

Indians have sought political asylum in more than 40 countries over the years, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).



There's a long history of India's religious and ethnic minorities seeking asylum abroad after being persecuted at home, starting with the exodus of 8 million Musl…

Harvard Kennedy School CID Projects Pakistan GDP Growth to Average 5.97% Till 2025

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In its latest economic growth projections, Kennedy School's Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University expects Pakistan's annual GDP growth to average 5.97% over the next 8 years, ranking it as the world's 6th fastest growing economy.



The Harvard growth projections are a bit more optimistic that other short, medium and long-term GDP growth forecasts for Pakistan offered by HSBC's 5% through 2050,   IMF's 5.5% till 2020, World Bank's 5.8% until 2019 and  The Economist EIU's 5.7% in 2017

Among the top 10 fastest growing economies, the CID projects Uganda to grow the fastest at 7.73%, followed by India 7.72%, Tanzania 6.66%, Senegal 6.49%, Madagascar 6.07%, Kenya 5.98%, Pakistan 5.97%, Indonesia 5.82%, Mali 5.75%, Turkey 5.64% and Philippines 5.43%.

Among Pakistan's other neighbors,  China is forecast to grow at 4.41%, Sri Lanka at 3.77% and Bangladesh at 2.82%.



CID also released new country rankings of the 2015 Economic Complexity In…

Political Patronage: Pakistan School Enrollment Rate Flat Despite Increased Education Spending

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Data shows that Pakistan's literacy and enrollment rates are not rising in spite of significantly increased education spending over the last several years. Education budgets at federal and provincial levels have seen double digit increase of 17.5% a year on average since 2010. And yet, school enrollment and literacy rate have remained essentially flat during this period.  This lack of progress in education stands in sharp contrast to the significant improvements in outcomes seen from increase education spending during Musharraf years in 2001-2008. Why is it?

Is the money not being spent honestly and wisely? Is the education budget being used by the ruling politicians to create teacher jobs solely for political patronage? Are the teachers not showing up for work? Is the money being siphoned off by bureaucrats and politicians by hiring "ghost teachers" in "ghost schools"? Let's try and examine the data and the causes of lack of tangible results from education…

Pakistan's 4G Speeds More Than Twice Faster Than India's

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Pakistan's mobile broadband operators are offering download speeds of 11.7 Mbps, more than twice faster than neighboring India's 5.14 Mbps as measured. 3G/4G/LTE Subscriptions are rising rapidly at a rate of about a million a month since the initial rollout in late 2014 brining the total number of subscribers to 41.72 million as of May, 2017.  Growing availability and rising speeds are enabling many new Internet applications that are increasing access to education/training, financial services and commerce while reducing the digital divide between the rich and the poor.


4G/LTE Speeds: 

Pakistan wireless carriers offer average 4G speed of 11.7 Mbps, more than twice faster than Indian operators' 5.14 Mbps, according to a report by New York based Open Signal's "The State of LTE" report released in June, 2017. Singapore tops the list with 45.6 Mbps 4G download speed. Worldwide average for LTE is 16.2 Mbps.

Here's an excerpt of the Open Signal report:

"Our …

Pakistan is the 7th Largest Source of Foreign-Born Citizens of Rich OECD Nations

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Nearly 100,000 Pakistanis migrated to and another 50,000 acquired citizenship of the rich industrialized nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015, according to International Migration Outlook 2017 released by the Organization.

OECD Migration Report 2017: 

Nearly 50,000 Pakistani immigrants became citizens of the rich industrialized countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015, according to International Migration Outlook 2017 recently published by the Organization.


India topped the list with 130,000 Indians acquiring citizenship of OECD nations in 2015, followed by Mexico (112,000) ranked 2nd, the Philippines (94,000) ranked 3rd, Morocco (94,000) ranked 4th, China (78,000) ranked 5th, Albania (52,000) ranked 6th and Pakistan (50,000) ranked 7th.

In addition, Pakistan was the 18th largest source of immigrants with 99,000 Pakistanis migrating to OECD nations in 2015. India is 5th on this list with 268,000 I…

US News Ranks Pakistan Among World's 20 Most Powerful Nations

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American journal US News & World Report (USNWR), known for its university rankings, has ranked Pakistan as the 20th most powerful country in the world in 2017. The United States tops the list followed by Russia at number 2 and China at number 3. Among Pakistan's neighbors, Iran ranks 14th and India 16th on the list.  This latest ranking by an international publication is yet another indication of the failure of Indian leader Narendra Modi's sustained efforts to isolate Pakistan since he rose to power in 2014.

USNWR, Y&R BAV Consulting and Wharton Business School:

The US News & World Report says it developed the study and model used to score and rank countries with Y&R’s BAV Consulting and The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.


USNWR Methodology: 

The journal says it identified a set of 65 country attributes – terms that can be used to describe a country and that are also relevant to the success of a modern nation. It surveyed more than …

PSL's Role in Pakistan's Meteoric Rise to ICC Championship 2017

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Pakistan's national cricket team scored a historic win in Champions Trophy 2017 final against defending champions India on June 18th by the highest-ever margin of 180 runs in any ICC international tournament final. New players emerging from Pakistan Super League and the return of players like Mohammad Amir significantly strengthened the bottom-ranked Pakistan side to beat much higher-ranked teams, including India.



Pakistan Team's Defiance:

The Pakistan team that barely made the cut to play in Champions Trophy as the 8th ranked team lost its very first match against arch-rival India by 124 runs in group B on June 4, 2017. Subsequently,  the team to went on to defeat top ranked South Africa, 4th ranked England and 7th ranked Sri Lanka to reach the trophy's final match against India.

Often described as "predictably unpredictable",  Pakistan XI bounced back strongly after being written off by most commentators and pundits. They demonstrated the resilience that also ch…

Dozen British Pakistanis Elected to UK Parliament in Elections 2017

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Twelve British Pakistanis, including 5 women, have been elected members of parliament (MPs) in recent elections held in the United Kingdom, according to media reports.  Seven of them are members of the Labor Party and three belong to the Conservative Party. This sets a new record with the increase of two MPs from the May 2012 elections that resulted in the election of 10 MPs of Pakistani origin. British Pakistanis make up 1.8% of the British population, about the same as their representation in the House of Commons.

British Pakistani MPs and Peers:

In addition to the 12 British Pakistanis in the House of Commons, there are 8 members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, bringing the total strength of British Pakistanis in the UK parliament to 20. Most of them are from very humble backgrounds in rural Pakistan. Majority of Pakistanis in the UK are from Mirpur and its surrounding villages in Azad Kashmir. They or their parents migrated to Britain when they wer…

Trump's Paris Accord Pullout; India's Slowing Economy; Kabul Blast; Panama JIT

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Why did President Trump pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Deal? How will this impact the United States and the world? Can US still lead on matters related to energy? Will China and Europe pick up the mantle of world leadership on climate change and clean energy? Will US growing isolation cost American jobs?

Why has India's GDP growth slowed to 6.1% in Jan-March 2017 from 7.1% earlier? Is it the result of demonetization? Why has bank credit growth declined to just 5%, the slowest in 60 years? Is the growth in non-performing loans taking a toll on new lending by ailing public sector banks? How will it affect job growth in India?

Who is responsible for the massive Kabul blast that caused tragic loss of 100 lives? Did the Haqqanis do it? Why is the Afghan intelligence blaming it on Pakistan? How will the United States deal with the deteriorating situation after 16 years of war in Afghanistan? Will the Taliban accept talking with the Afghan and US representatives?

Does PM…