Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Poppy fields of Nazimabad

We are all familiar with MQM as a political party and we all know that it was encouraged by Zia as an opponent for then PPP of Bhutto, just like the Sharif brothers were in Punjab. I wanted to write today not about why MQM was created or how it operates but rather the damage this operation is going to cause us.

I grew up in the projects of Nazimabad and saw the MQM network too closely for anyone to question or doubt my impression of this organization. I have witnessed so much wrong this network does personally so before I begin lets keep the idea aside that people only try to tarnish this organization’s name because it represents the oppressed.

My argument is not over the wrong done but upon the manifestations if it continues doing it. We have all heard the Robin Hood explanation for this movement that it takes from the rich and gives it to the needy creating balance & harmony. If this would have worked in the real world what would happen when all the rich have been robbed?

Lets for instance say we all start growing marijuana and poppy, lets market it to the most lucrative buyers of North America and Europe. Build a logistics network across the country so we can effectively move the crop from the fields to the productions plants. Have policy reforms create incentives for farmers, make them the preferred crop, lets ensure the government sets a high floor price. With good packaging and attention to detail we can create a brand stronger than ecstasy.

In no time we will be making insane amounts of money which we can use to rebuild our nation. We will build roads, provide medical benefits to all citizens, Pakistanis will have social security cover, inflation would be controlled, fuel prices will be fixed the government will bear all the international market fluctuations. The Rupee will appreciate, the energy crises will be over we will build wind farms, coal projects and nuclear power plants. We will create massive water storage facilities and hundreds of small dams so our poppy fields will never run short of water.  We will keep increasing our production capacity providing the best quality product and one day we will achieve our dream.

This is the day that worries me, on this day we will have all the fortunes but our major workforce would only know how to grow poppy, how to market it, how to manage the operation, how to dodge the authorities on the destination ports, who to bribe and how much to offer. This is the time when our standard of living would have raised and we due to better education options available will increasingly not want our kids to work in the poppy industry. We would want to be respected globally, our conscious would be becoming clearer and we would want to be associated with more global socially accepted businesses, we would all become activists of change and say no to poppy. Mind you this is the time when the bulk of our GDP contribution would come from this business. What will we do?

Sadly massive build-ups of non-sustainable ideas like above are not new, during the crusades entire Europe was engulfed in creating soldiers to fight off the Muslims. When the war ended these returning knights did not know anything but war and resorted to ceremonial games. The Mujahidins were encouraged to fight the Russians in Afghanistan by the United States and they themselves have been fighting the same group to this day.

A more recent example is of Pakistani banks between 2002-2008 who hired and nurtured thugs and hoodlums as recovery agents for the booming consumer financing business of the time, people who would not pay instalments of cars and other capital items financed through bank agreements would get calls and visits from this special wing. When the consumer financing bubble burst in 2008 these groups were naturally asked to look for jobs elsewhere, this is when a very sharp rise in street crimes, robberies, kidnappings etc. was witnessed. Although many of these individuals already had political affiliations some who did not ended up joining parties since they promised a sanctuary for their kind.

My comparison of MQM or its leader here is not with mad men, I am not trying to equate Kony, Pol Pot, Ivan, Farah Aidid or Idi Amin with Altaf Hussain. The similarities stem from the flawed dream and the idea of empowerment through arms creating generations whose bread n butter is loot & plunder. Although if Mr. Hussain is ever presented before a court he can plea not guilty on an insanity cover, a bit of his singing will win the jury.  In the last decade MQM has been defended and protected by the military and later in the name of democracy, both forms have failed to curtail its wrong. As the operation grows nothing good is being cooked and the hurting bit is there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the tsunami has spared them or maybe it’s the other way around.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Why Pakistan Needs a Baidu?

Pakistan is a country which has been a victim of severe lack of sincerity and honest leadership, from military totalitarian generals to the tampered democracies no one has bothered about the country.  There have been countless examples of decisions made since Pakistan’s inception that make us wonder why was it so difficult for them to make the right choices?

From the agricultural reforms that India enforced in 1948 to renewable energy projects, making dams, creation of several urban centres avoiding over population in the two cities which are now getting impossible to manage. To making nuclear warheads and not making nuclear energy; in the process selling the technology to North Korea & Iran, humiliating the national hero and now buying energy from Iran.

We all know that competition that too in presence of state run companies is always good for the consumer; it forces competitive prices and improved product/service quality. India for instance remained an advocate for developing a local automotive industry from Maruti cars to Bajaj motorcycles India was determined to create an industry that can compete with the Japanese. Today India’s Tata motors own Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands.

In Pakistan Mobilink who was given a cellular operating license free of cost (who later had to renew it at a much higher price USD 291 million to be exact) kept minting money until the PTCL’s (state owned) Ufone came into the GSM market. Now with several licensed GSM operators in the country not only is the government making zillions under taxes but also the consumers get ever competitive offers.

In case of Google and its ever increasing interest in Pakistan, history is repeating itself. Unlike China which identified Google’s intentions and created its own search engine and services under the name of we are as usual not thinking to compete and planning to dive in head first into the trap. If we leave the search engine aside under the internet freedom mumbo jumbo Google products are being used by our corporate sector, from corporate email accounts being hosted on Google servers to navigation maps we are increasingly getting dependent on Google.

I am not suggesting that we throw away our android phones, say no to Google and start drinking Amrat Cola the argument is that why are we not creating the needed competition. Why cant Pakistan have a Baidu? We all know and I have tried to build upon my case above that this competition is going help us keep these service prices low, improve quality, create jobs and conserve foreign exchange. Let me say it in another way, if we create competition for Google locally this will not stop consumers from using Google but will give them alternatives, thus preventing a monopoly. And I assure you this is going to happen and we will create a competition but will do so late as in all other cases. With the presence of Tata, Mahindra and Maruti consumers in India still buy Ford, Skoda, Honda, Nissan and other locally assembled cars but we all know the difference in prices, models, variants and options available in India and Pakistan.  

Unfortunately no one is talking about it, it seems Google has bought everyone. I do not know why but I have a gut feeling that the story behind it is similar to the USAID and Rafipir Theatre incident where none of the news groups agreed to talk about the Rafipir version as all of them had USAID funding. Not even Khadim e Ala or his active IT wing is doing anything about it who is so keen on giving away laptops under a 40 million dollar contract but would not want to create a Pakistani Baidu worth a minute fraction of this amount. Well Mr. Schmidt (executive chairman google) did go and meet him at his mansion!

China is heavily criticized for its internet censorship policies and the golden shield project, where cyber content and traffic is monitored for political reasons. After loosing the battle in China Google has increased its efforts promoting internet freedom in its new target markets including Pakistan, a clear indication that it does not want to face a similar situation ever again. (And yes it wants world peace). On allegations of espionage the Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton went on to compare the Chinese government internet censorship to the Berlin Wall, its worth mentioning here that Mr. Schmidt was a lead sponsor for Obama’s campaign and was even a Commerce Secretary candidate, a CTO position was created in the administration just for him; not implying anything just trying to connect the dots.

I do not support the communist idea to suppress voices against the government but any national policy made should be done so by the country itself, no foreign entity should dictate it for its benefit. We all know that western interpretation of law has always been biased, especially international law. Facebook refused to block blasphemous content but did ban pages made against Nazis and African Americans saying that they spread public unrest.

I am not trying to imply Google being an evil organization but rather highlight our national incompetence and lethargic attitude. Google is responsible for a ROI it needs to ensure for its shareholders, one of the ways to make more money is to gain more customers in emerging markets. Countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Philippines etc. who share some of the largest chunks of world population.  It is our responsibility to safe guard our interests, with all the tax payer funded machinery of ministers, ministries, advisors, export boards, provincial ministries, committees and select committees no one is taking steps to provide a sustainable business infrastructure for tomorrow. Its just convoys and roadblocks, talk shows and ratings.