Socio-Economic Challenges For South Asian Leadership

Potential of South Asian economy
Problems/challenges faced by the region
How can we cope?
How is our economy growing esp. that of India?
The investment climate here
Importance of regional integration

The South Asia, despite its enormous economic potential, could not emerge as a major economic force of the world as the political antagonism in the member states has dominated the scene since six decades. As a consequence of unresolved conflicts and mistrust among the governments almost 1.5 billion people of south Asia are left far behind in terms of human development and 40 percent of SAARC population lives below poverty line which is nearly half of the world’s poor population.

Consider some of the dramatic numbers that are similarly horrifying as day to day terrorist attacks. For example, South Asia has one of the highest infant and under-five mortality rates after Sub-Saharan Africa and one out of every three child deaths in the world occurs in South Asia and that two-thirds of the total number of malnourished children in the world live in South Asia and the number is even higher than in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have the highest percentage of underweight, stunted and wasted children under five in the world and nearly half of total numbers of maternal deaths in the world occur in South Asia and the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel in the region is the lowest in the world.

Other indicators of human development are equally depressing. In the area of education for instance, a recent UNESCO report states that two countries, India and Pakistan, contain one of the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. Though the enrolment rates have improved over the years, dropout rates are still soaring. At the primary level almost 30 per cent of those who do enroll drop out before reaching Grade 5.Around half the total number of illiterate adults in the world lives in South Asia.

State of Economies

To understand where the tribe of South Asia lost its path we need to look closely into the current macro economic indicators of the major economies of the region. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the three major SAARC member countries and so are their economies. The Indian economy is the strongest and largest among the SAARC economies. It has enormous growth potential and is comparable to that of China. The economic reform program initiated by Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister of India, in early 90s has left behind the "Nehruian Socialist growth rate" of 4 per cent of GDP achieved during post 1947 four decades in an economy dominated by the public sector. Economic growth during early 90s averages to 6 per cent of GDP. In the new millennium under the rule of BJP and than Congress India has developed a strong industrial base and comparatively well developed human resource that makes her the world's 7th industrial state with a potential to increase the pace of growth substantially. Cement, cars, car parts, motorcycles, steel, pharmaceuticals and Information and Communication Technology are performing world class. The world looks towards the Indian economy's potential as something positive for global and regional economic development. These all positives of India shining are really encouraging but what are the reasons that compelled well known Indian author Arundati Roy to write in her new book, “Listening to Grasshoppers,” While one arm of Indian society is ‘busy selling off the nation’s assets in chunks, the other to divert attention, is arranging a buying, howling and deranged chorus of cultural nationalism,’ she proclaim. She claims that the recent economic boom has merely created ‘a vast middle class punch drunk on sudden wealth and the sudden respect that comes with it — and a much, much vaster underclass.’ She is extremely concerned that unless the state steps in to correct the situation, the country may have to face a serious socio-political situation.

Pakistan's terrorism ridden economy is struggling to regain the growth rate of General Musharaf years. The country has suffered the most among the SAARC countries in the post 9/ 11 world because religious extremism, a continuous wave of terrorism and tension on its eastern and western borders. Militants and extremists have an instinctive hatred towards reducing tension between India and Pakistan. They will not accept the changes being envisaged to set pace for economic cooperation and reducing tension without serious reservations. The Mumbai terrorist attacks simply reflect their mindset. Political issues are to be resolved in case militancy and extremism are to be curbed to make regional economic cooperation workable.
Pakistani society is still struggling to establish a viable political democratic system. Repeated interventions by the establishment and lack of political institutionalization have obstructed growth of strong and stable democratic institutions and of an economic order that should have discouraged oligarchy, pursued growth of middle class and checked economic corruption which became the hallmark of state craft in recent years.

Bangladesh's economic growth rate is moderate if not strong. It has a good literacy rate, a good exportable human resource base and lower population growth rate. It has developed a sound cottage and garments industry to improve exports. But, its economy needs to expand and achieve higher economic growth rate to eliminate poverty.
The three economies, which really counter SAARC economic cooperation framework, have macro-economic indicators, which are at variance. They have some common problems also such as attracting foreign investment, expanding technological base for innovative exports, alleviating poverty, increasing per capita income and job opportunities, and reducing fiscal deficit. Equally important is the point that political culture of three countries differs substantially from each other. The Indian democracy is institutionalised, stable and delivering results. Despite a small and strong class of industrialists, India has a big middle class particularly of new generation of educated Indians whose life style is changing on the life style pattern of western countries. They are keen to spend and are setting new trends of consumerism.

It is to be appreciated that commonality of political, economic and social culture works as catalysts towards achieving greater economic cooperation and ultimately economic integration. Europe after the devastating experience of two world wars and end of Cold War was quick to get on the road of reconstruction. It was followed by economic cooperation and launching of common currency 'euro' because of homogenous political, economic and social culture. Variance in SAARC major countries' political, economic and social culture should take more time to integrate the region economically than one can visualize at present.


Several Afghan Strategies, None a Clear Choice

Published: September 30, 2009
Source New York Times

The president, vice president and an array of cabinet secretaries,

intelligence chiefs, generals, diplomats and advisers gathered in a

windowless basement room of the White House for three hours on

Wednesday to chart a new course in Afghanistan.
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Times Topics: Afghanistan

The one thing everyone could agree on: None of the choices is easy.

Just six months after President Obama adopted what he called a

“stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy” for Afghanistan and

Pakistan, he is back at the same table starting from scratch. The

choices available to him are both disparate and not particularly


He could stick with his March strategy, but his commander wants as

many as 40,000 more troops to make it work. He could go radically

in the other direction and embrace Vice President Joseph R. Biden

Jr.’s idea of using fewer troops, focused more on hunting down

leaders of Al Qaeda, but risk the collapse of the Afghan

government. Or he could search for some middle-ground option that

avoids the risks of the other two, but potentially find himself in

a quagmire.

“He’s doing what he has to do: before you make a decision, you

better scrub all your alternative options,” said Brett H. McGurk,

who worked on Afghanistan and Iraq at the National Security Council

under President George W. Bush and briefly under Mr. Obama. “I just

suspect they’ll find, like we found with Iraq, that it’s two

imperfect choices.”

At the heart of the decision is defining America’s strategic

interest in the region. Mr. Obama has called Afghanistan a “war of

necessity” to stop it from becoming a haven again for Al Qaeda to

attack America. The question is, how much danger is there and how

many lives can be lost and dollars spent to minimize it?

Stephen Biddle, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who

has advised Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander in

Afghanistan, said the chances of a new Qaeda stronghold that could

threaten American territory was relatively low but that even a

small risk was a concern.

“It’s like buying life insurance for a 50-year-old,” Mr. Biddle

said. “The odds of a 50-year-old dying in the next year in America

are substantially less than 1 percent. And yet most Americans buy

life insurance.”

The meeting on Wednesday was one of five planned as the president

rethinks his approach in response to a dire report by General

McChrystal. The session was meant to review the worsening political

and security situation, while future meetings will examine options

in detail.

General McChrystal’s preferred option builds on the strategy

outlined by Mr. Obama in March with a substantial infusion of new

troops. The counterinsurgency strategy emphasized protecting

civilians over just engaging insurgents, restricting airstrikes to

reduce civilian casualties and sharply expanding the Afghan

security forces through accelerated training.

Most counterinsurgency specialists say a larger ground force is

needed to clear Taliban-held territory and hold it while

instructors train enough competent Afghan soldiers and police

officers, and Afghan leaders build an effective government.

“Without more troops, the insurgents can continue to maneuver

around us and set I.E.D.’s, which kill our people,” said Peter

Gilchrist, a retired British major general and a former senior

commander in Afghanistan, referring to improvised explosive


“There’s no question that more forces will buy more space and time,

and that will translate into an effort to get more Afghan police

into the hinterlands and more Afghan National Army soldiers through

training,” said Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the NATO commander in

Afghanistan until June 2008.

Critics argue that foreign forces have never pacified Afghanistan

and that more troops will only increase the perception of them

being occupiers. The result would be a long, drawn-out war with

many more American casualties. They say that though the Taliban are

ruthless, they do not pose a danger to America, while Al Qaeda,

which is a threat, is located primarily in Pakistan.

Moreover, widespread allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s

presidential election have left the country’s leadership uncertain

and underscored that America does not have a partner in Kabul with

broad public legitimacy.

At the other end of the spectrum is Mr. Biden’s approach. Rather

than try to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban,

American forces would concentrate on eliminating the Qaeda

leadership, primarily in Pakistan, using Special Operations forces,

Predator missile strikes and other surgical tactics. The Americans

would also accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support

as they took the lead against the Taliban.

This counterterrorism strategy, as opposed to a counterinsurgency

strategy, is predicated on the theory that the real threat to

American national security lies in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Some

call this proposal the “Pakistan First” option.

“Pakistan is the critical focus, the greatest security risk for the

United States,” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts

and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “And all of this

exercise, after all, is about our security.”

Administration officials lately have been pointing to what they

call great success in working with Pakistani authorities to

decapitate Al Qaeda and other extremist cells.

Yet critics note that successful drone attacks require good

intelligence on the ground, something that may be lost without

enough forces. After Mr. Bush sent more troops to Iraq in early

2007, tips about enemy locations soared, a development some

attributed to a larger American presence.

Moreover, a greater reliance on air power could mean more civilian

deaths, making enemies of the very people American commanders are

trying to sway.

In between those two approaches is a menu of options not especially

satisfying to either side of the debate. Mr. Biddle estimates there

are about a half-dozen variants in this territory, from negotiating

a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban to paying off local


Most of these options envision roughly the same number of troops as

are in the country now or a smaller increase than General

McChrystal’s maximum request. With the reinforcements Mr. Obama

ordered earlier this year, the United States will have 68,000

troops on the ground this fall. The Pentagon still has a request

for another 10,000 that was deferred last spring.

Substantially expanding Afghan security forces would be critical.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who heads the Armed

Services Committee, has said that by 2012 the Afghan Army should be

increased to 240,000 troops from 92,000 and police forces to

160,000 officers from 84,000.

General McChrystal’s troop request, said one administration

official, offers alternatives requiring fewer than 40,000 more

troops. If the goal is recalibrated to secure Afghan cities but not

the countryside, then not as many more troops would be needed. And

if the goal is scaled back even further, then the additional 10,000

troops previously requested could be enough.

These ideas, though, may not be big enough to change the trajectory

of an effort that has muddled along for eight years. Critics on

both sides said the worst of all options would be some version of

staying the course.

“The middle options,” Mr. McGurk said, “are either high risk or

they’re status quo or they’re unworkable.”

South Punjab, Pakistan- The Next Target of Al Qaida & Taliban

The recent explosions in a Madresah ( A religious Seminary) in Mia Channu South Punjab, Pakistan, killing almost 21 innocent students, is an alarm call for Pakistani security agencies to act without any further delay. It is reported in the newspapers that the Madresah was operated by an activist of a banned terrorist organisation Sipah e Sahaba and the explosives including grenades and rocket launchers were stocked in the seminary by terrorists.

Jamaat e Islami, a rightwing religio-political party, chief blamed US and its allies for the explosion and said that by explosion in South Punjab the US is trying to strengthen its argument that the area is getting out of the control of Pakistani authorities and NWFP like drone attacks are urgently needed to curb the terrorists. On the other hand independent sources are claiming that Talibans are getting stronger in South Punjab and are capable to launch an offensive at anytime. The interior ministry has already stated that the roots of the recent terrorist attacks in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan, killing hundreds of people, are in the area and some of the top militant leadership belong the fertile region of South Punjab.

Whatever be the reason either any conspiracy by US or a real foothold of Taliban, the question that strikes a common mind, which has some understanding of that region, is that how South Punjab, a land of Sufis and saints preaching love and tranquility without the prejudice of religion and caste, is turning into fold of religious extremism? Bahauddin Zikria Multani, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, Baba Bulleh Shah, Hazrat Sultan Bahoo and several other sufis have dominated south punab’s religious beliefs for centuries and these saints have never discriminated anyone no matter whatever religion he or she follows. Their teachings have inspired millions of South Asians and they are most respected not only in Muslims of South Asia but also widely respected among Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists of the region since centuries.

Bulleh Shah’s famous Qafia ( Couplet) can clear you what the sufi clan believed and preached he said Mandir dhawien masjid dhawien, par dil na kisi ka dhawien meaning demolish Muslim’s mosque or Hindu’s mandir but never break human heart. And there are innumerable citations that can proof that the region of south Punjab and its religious leaders are peace loving Sufis who never taught religious extremism under any circumstance.
The transformation of South Punjab from Sufism to the hardcore religious extremism, if it is really happened, would be most unfortunate for not only the region but for the whole humanity. No one can ever imagine that a handful of religious obscurantist will deprive us from fakirs singing the songs of Bulleh Shah, Ghulam Farid and Sultan Bahoo in their traditional attire and a typical Saraiki tone.

These are testing times for Saraiki culture and tradition and only time will tell what the peace loving Saraikis of South Punjab opt for their future generations? Will the soothing kafias of Ghulam Farid will be overshadowed by a fiery speech of hardcore militant? What will happen to the sacred mazars ( tombs) of thousands of Sufi saints which would be prime targets of Al Qaeda and Talibans? These questions need to be answered not only by the government of Pakistan but also by Seraiki intellectuals. Government should also take notice of the increasing Talibinisation of the region and safe one of the most peaceful culture and civilization of South Asia and of course the common people are most important in stopping militarization of the region once famous for tranquility and love.

A Piper’s Day Out

An Article a day
Keeps Abid Away

Commenting on Blogs
Haseeb remains in lock

Discussions with Jude
Seldom turn me rude

Innovations of Ammad
Make my time hard

With Asim & Aleem I laugh
So my day pass

Imran keeps a check
And Kamran give me the CHEQUE.

Living Under A Terrorist's Shadow- What Is In The Mind Of Baitulllah Mehsud

Despite a full scale military offensive by Pakistan army and continuous drone attacks by US the chief commander of Tehreek E Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has managed to survive and as the passage of time becoming more and more powerful. The killing of Qari Zain Uddin (a former Baitulllah’ commander), who recently criticized TTP chief in an interview and said that Baitulllah is playing in the hands of anti Pakistani and Islamic forces, proved that Baitulllah is power full enough to kill his enemy at his own will.
He has been involved in the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and claimed the responsibility of several deadly suicide attacks all over Pakistan causing the death of thousands of innocent Pakistani Muslim children, religious scholars, leaders and what not.
Even the most hard core of Pakistani religious right, the Deoband faction of Islam, has started distancing itself from this blood thirsty man and it is recently reported in the press that scholars of Deoband have issued a fatwa (religious decree) against the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by Mr. Baitulllah. So the billion dollar question is that if not Deoband than from where this man is getting the inspiration to commit such a mass murder of people?
This question is most confusing because if Baitulllah and his aides believe that it is a religious war than in the presence of the fatwas from religious scholars condemning the killing of innocents proves that Baitullah wrongly believes his war as something holy and pious like Jihad against infidels. No religion on earth permits the killing of innocents be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism or anyone else.
If they have political ambitions than the question is from where they are receiving such a huge support both in term of finance and arms that make it possible to fight such a fierce battle with a professional army of Pakistan fully supported by the single super power of the world the U.S.
Apparently, every state is condemning terrorism in all its form and manifestation but it seems that something very serious is going wrong in the strategy and planning of war against terrorism. The continuous recruitment of suicide bombers, unhindered supply of arms and ammunition, finance and logistic supports compel a thinking min to think in other directions. As it is proved from recorded history that guerilla wars cannot be sustained after a certain period of time without the support of any foreign state. No matter how powerful non state actors are in post cold war world but still the states all around the world have enough authority at its disposal to stop the evil activities of some thousand miscreants living in caves of North and South Waziristan.
If the states all around the world are true in their claim that they are not supporting any kind of terrorism and even than these non state actors are uncontrollable than we need to rethink the very idea of nation estate and it’s power and authority structure as the continued surge of terrorism has posed serious question over the very idea of the state and its power structure. But the above mentioned proposition of the non involvement of any state element in the activities of terrorism seems remote because the weapon terrorist are using are sophisticated enough to be built in any cottage industry without an institutional support and the available finance to terrorists are also a proof of the state involvement at certain scale.

But remember whoever is supporting terrorist network remember that at a certain point terrorist organizations are gone beyond the control of even their creators. And once they become uncontrollable than every state of world will be in the line of fire because terrorists don’t wear uniform of any country and can create disaster at any place be it New York, New Delhi, London, Berlin, Beijing, Tehran, Dubai or Riaz. So remember that we need to be united against terrorism otherwise nothing will remain and there would end of our most beloved civilization of 21st century. Baitullah Mehsud and his asociates want to impose reign of terror on our free world and it is the responsiblity of governments all over the world to stop the advance of terrorism under any circumstance. We need to be more resolute in countering terror as it challenges our very existence.

Government of Punjab not allowed IDP camps

The government of Punjab has decided in principle not to permit camps for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the province.
“The IDPs can cause trouble for the province just like the Afghan refugees. So, we have decided not to allow their entry or setting up of camps for them in the Punjab,” sources in the provincial government said.

However, the Punjab government has formed an inter-provincial coordination committee (IPCC), after discussion with the ANP-led Frontier government, to provide aid to the IDPs at their camps in the NWFP.

The IPCC comprises two members each from the Punjab and the NWFP. “The NWFP members will inform the Punjab government of the requirements of the IDPs.” The director general relief and the district coordination officer (DCO), Attock, would coordinate with the NWFP members of the IPCC as representatives of the Punjab.
“If it becomes mandatory for us to accommodate the IDPs any way, a computerised registration system would be set up to ensure strict check on their activities till their return,” the Punjab official sources said.

As the Punjab describes such restrictions as part of its security policy, the Frontier government believes that such a step would create provincial disharmony as no Pakistani citizen could be barred from staying at any corner of the country.
Director Public Relations (DPR), Punjab, Mohiuddin Wani, while speaking on behalf of the provincial government, said any final decision about the issue would be taken once the IDPs started migrating to the province.
Responding to a query, the DPR said the Punjab government would welcome the displaced persons whenever it deemed necessary. Presently, the NWFP government is absorbing all the IDPs.Also, Director General Relief, Punjab, Rizwanullah Baig, said the people of the province were donating generously for the IDPs. We will provide all kinds of material assistance to the displaced persons through a coordination committee.

However, ANP Vice President Haji Muhammad Adeel said: Yes, we have heard that the Punjab is not willing to take the IDPs and this step will send a wrong message to other provinces. Adeel said the Punjab should also declare war on terror as the Frontier province had done. “Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced assistance for the IDPs, which is only peanuts in view of the fact that Punjab is the elder brother.”

PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, in his talk with this correspondent on Monday, had given “rising temperature” as the major reason for not allowing the establishment of the IDPs’ camps in the Punjab.

A PML-N consultative round held in Islamabad last Monday with Nawaz Sharif in the chair had first discussed to adopt a policy of extending help to the displaced persons while retaining them within the NWFP.

Will Things Fall Apart – The Future Of Pakistan

Salute To The 13 Innocent Martyrs of Dir Lower

The news of martyring thirteen innocent kids of Lower Deer by a toy bomb has shocked everyone across the world. Those kids were not aware of the fact that the toy that brutal terrorist had given them would end their life. They would be happy to get a toy because they were not aware of the fact that they are living with those who doesnot even care about the life of children, who don’t even differentiate between a toy and bomb. Shame on the killers but we know that they are shameless otherwise no one would dare to kill those little flowers of our motherland. Alas these terrorists proved themselves even crueler than Hitler and Genghis Khan and the most pathetic part of the story is that they are doing all these atrocities in the name of religion.

The wound of the killing of innocents everyday becomes deeper when we litsen our media champions rationalizing the terror. Can these anchors and opinion leaders of Pakistan send their own kids in the lovely mountains of NWFP to enjoy the blessings of Taliban? If they can do this then they have the right to advocate the cause of terrorists. It is not justice that the wives and children of our elite enjoy the ice cream parlors of five star hotels and wear branded attires and their husbands in the air conditioned rooms of news channels and newspapers discuss the benefits of Swat Deal and the sons and daughters of poor got killed by toy bombs.

There should be an end to all these miseries to the common man of Pakistan Our elite be it civil or army bureaucracy or journalists, lawyer and NGO’s has to come out with the solution of this menace of terrorism. If you can’t give the innocent kids of Deer toys to play at least not give them toy bombs. Pls for God sake feel the pain of fathers and mothers of innocent martys of Dir Lower. At least I salute them that they will be remembered as the true martyrs of the war against terrorism and because of their blood we will win the war.