PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

The Global Social Network

Guest Post by Amjad Noorani

Like any young nation, Pakistan has been on a roller coaster ride. Things are looking up now -- and TCF is doing its part.

Here are sample facts about an emerging nation and its modest progress, through sources that underscore Pakistani business, its economy, education, social programs, democratic institutions, an improving infrastructure and quality of life.

TCF is doing its part by addressing the challenges of high illiteracy, access to quality education for the poor, the need for education reform, and providing a replicable model for better education management. Our goal is to make high quality education possible for all children and our commitment was recognized recently by the Clinton Global Initiative.

Good news rarely makes headlines and media stories often depict Pakistan as a problem country subscribing to extremist ideology. Certainly Pakistan has had its ups and downs, reckless spurts and grinding halts. But, against heavy odds, Pakistan is resilient and its people recognize that it must do better to thrive in a competitive world.

From Forbes, there is good news in business. Consumer prices and inflation are checked. Exports in 2011 were up sharply. Despite global recession, its annual GDP growth was 2.8% for 2008-2011 and as high as 7% annually for the period 2004-2007. About 40% of the country's labor force is in services, 40% in agriculture and 20% in industry.

Economists project a 4% GDP growth rate. Sales of consumer electronics is expected to grow 13.3% annually. International icons like Nestle, Pepsi and Unilever are common household names. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most developed hi-tech sectors. In July 2011, a growing middle class pushed car sales up by 61%.

Democratic processes seem to be taking hold. Tax revenues are going up and there are signs of improving infrastructure in many aspects of daily life. College education is more accessible and overall quality of education is steadily improving. Telecom technology is introducing education to far flung areas, with phenomenal growth in media and communications. Also read about women leading a silent social revolution and a new cadre of excellent journalists and writers on social issues. These are solid indicators of Pakistani progress despite the roller coaster ride of the last 64 years. With 60% of its population under 30 years old, huge challenges remain in critical areas such as education, workforce training, employment, housing, water management, healthcare, etc. Gradually, these are being chipped away with homegrown solutions.

We hope to bring you more good news about TCF and other positive initiatives in Pakistan. Do let us know what you think. Support for TCF is the best route to helping Pakistan. Let's make 2012 a great year for Peace and Progress in Pakistan.

Note: The author is a board member of The Citizens Foundation USA.

Here's a video clip of The Citizens Foundation's brief presentation at a recent Clinton Global Initiative meeting:

Here's a short film about Pakistan:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Inquiry-based Learning in Pakistan

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Primary Education Crisis

Indian Students' Poor Performance on PISA and TIMSS

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

PISA's Scores 2011

Teaching Facts versus Reasoning

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

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Tags: Education, Pakistan, TCF, USA

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 31, 2012 at 11:16pm

Here's a SciDev report on Pakistan's Human Genome Project undertaken with Chinese collaboration at the University of Karachi:

A burgeoning genetics research collaboration between China and Pakistan has yielded its first result: the mapping of the genome of a Pakistani national.

The Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi, had agreed last year to work together on seven genomic projects, train Pakistani scientists, set up a genomics centre in Pakistan, and transfer state-of-the-art technology to Pakistan.

The first project involved sending genetic samples of the first volunteer, former science minister Atta-ur-Rahman, who is also ICCBS patron, to the BGI for mapping.

'Genome mapping' involves locating and identifying genes to create a map, akin to identifying towns and cities, to create a road map. Genome maps help scientists locate genes for human diseases, by tracking the complete genetic information of individuals and, families over generations.

Researchers at the Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), under the ICCBS, and BGI mapped Rahman’s genes in 10 months. ICCBS director Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary announced the results to the media last month (27 June). The results are yet to be published in a scientific journal.

This makes Pakistan the world's sixth and the first Islamic country to completely map a human genetic sequence, Choudhary said.

More projects are underway to gain insights into various population groups in Pakistan; genetic predisposition to disorders, including liver and heart disease; anaemia, diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer's disease and blood disorders, Choudhary told SciDev.Net.

It could lead to "significant advances in their diagnosis and treatment" Kamran Azim, assistant professor at the PCMD, said.

"It is going to take more than two years to complete the genome projects and come up with the final conclusions about different aspects of the country's different population groups," Choudhary said.

BGI scientists are interested in studying the genetic structure and physiology of Pakistan's diverse ethnic groups, particularly those along the Makran coast, Balochistan province, and Kalash Desh in northern Pakistan, Choudhary said.

Manzoor Hussain Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, observed that the development could pave the way for better medical management and new drugs discovery.

But, he cautioned, such research could also raise ethical, legal and social concerns over confidentiality and misuse of genetic information by prospective employers, insurers, courts of law and family members.

Soomro said that though it is not yet clear who would safeguard the genome mapping data, it should logically be the responsibility of Pakistan's national bioethics committee under the Pakistan Council of Medical Research.

http://www.scidev.net/en/news/china-aids-first-pakistani-genome-map...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 5, 2012 at 9:10am

Pakistan is a resilient country, says Anatol Lieven according to Dawn:

In Pakistan’s diversity lies a measure of its resilience. This was argued by distinguished journalist and author Anatol Lieven during his talk at the Oxford University Head Office on Saturday.

Mr Lieven’s talk basically gave a sketch of his book ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country.’ He began by asserting that Pakistan was not a failed state and said the people who had gathered to listen to him were proof of it. Pakistan was not Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia. He maintained that his book was about the sources of resilience in Pakistan, which could be sources of stagnation as well (in terms of development). To explain his point, he said he had used the expression ‘Janus-faced’ many a time in the book, and that the editors had made 18 deletions of the phrase, leaving just half a dozen. The book was an attempt at discussing power in the country, how it is exercised and what are its roots – religious, cultural etc. This central theme was set against the background of the war in Afghanistan and the rise of militancy in Pakistan. He told the gathering that when an American publisher read it he was taken aback because he had thought that it would be about the Taliban and an impending Islamic revolution in Pakistan. He added that it also discussed the role of the military and the four provinces and the difference within those provinces.

Mr Lieven said he had spent a lot of time talking about the diversity in Pakistan. For example, how Karachi was different from the rest of Sindh and how Punjab was an immensely varied region. Also, the important role that kinship played in the country’s politics and power struggles. In his view, a measure of its resilience lay in the country’s diversity, because of which, however, it was sometimes difficult to get things done. He argued that Pakistan couldn’t have an Iran-style revolution because it didn’t have a monolithic culture.

Mr Lieven said that as he was a journalist he got quotes from the Pakistani people in their own words. The problem with the West was that it didn’t listen to people directly and therefore had a flawed understanding of things. If you were to know about the tribal justice system in Balochistan, you had to talk to a Baloch sardar, he pointed out.

With respect to militancy in Pakistan Mr Lieven said that although the fear of terrorism was pervasive, and that it had claimed numerous victims, the insurgency was limited, particularly after the 2009 Swat operation in which militants were driven back. However, he added that insurgency was common in the region and, except for Bangladesh, every country had faced it.

Mr Lieven said sympathy for the Afghan Taliban in areas like Peshawar was similar to the support for the mujahideen in the ‘80s. It did not necessarily mean an Islamic revolution. He argued that up to a certain point the situation did appear perilous but the post-Musharraf scenario proved that if the state and the army made a concerted attempt things could be done. He said his book also took issue with the US foreign policy. The US should realise that Pakistan is a much more important country than Afghanistan and that it needs to tread lightly here. He said however that the Osama bin Laden operation had impacted public opinion in the US, and if there was a terrorist attack in the US or India in future, US retaliation could be severe. It was important for Pakistan to continue visible cooperation against international terrorism, he remarked.

Replying to a question, Mr Lieven said one of the reasons he used the word ‘hard’ in the title of the book was that he would often hear the phrase ‘Pakistan is a hard country’ from the locals. He gave the example of a Chaudhry in Punjab who, explaining the killing of his detractors, commented that Pakistan w

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 26, 2012 at 8:58pm

Here's a DNA piece on Western misconceptions about Pakistan:

When Peter Oborne first arrived in Pakistan, he expected a 'savage' backwater scarred by terrorism.
Years later, he describes the Pakistan that is barely documented - and that he came to fall in love with

It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky - and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on racism.

Pakistan, he said, was "humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred". In summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the "vilest and most dangerous regions on Earth".

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens's brash assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly - as Pakistanis themselves are well aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.
----------------
Many write of how dangerous Pakistan has become. More remarkable, by far, is how safe it remains, thanks to the strength and good humour of its people. The image of the average Pakistani citizen as a religious fanatic or a terrorist is simply a libel, the result of ignorance and prejudice.

The prejudice against Pakistan dates back to before 9/11. It is summed up best by the England cricketer Ian Botham's notorious comment that "Pakistan is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid". Some years after Botham's outburst, the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham's mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan - all expenses paid - to see what she made of the country.

Unlike her son-in-law, Mrs Waller had the evidence of her eyes before her: "The country and its people have absolutely blown me away," said the 68-year-old grandmother.

After a trip round Lahore's old town she said: "I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged." She concluded: "All I would say is: 'Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you'll love it'. Honestly!"

Mrs Waller is telling the truth. And if you don't believe me, please visit and find out for yourself.

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_are-we-wrong-about-pakistan_16...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 28, 2012 at 8:33am

Here's a report in The News on Pakistan's growing life sciences and biotech sectors:

Pakistan is a growing market for life sciences and biotechnologies, and a country where they, as well as public health research and related fields, have great potentials for beneficial social, economic and health impacts. Multilateral cooperation of Pakistan with international partners such as European Union (EU) could significantly increase the footprint of this impact.

These views were expressed by Professor Maurizio Martellini, Secretary General of the Landau Network-Centro Volta and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Insubria (Como, Italy), at an in-house talk, organised by the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) on the subject titled ‘Conceptualizing a future cooperation with Pakistan in Bio and Health sectors’.
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Elaborating the prospects of cooperation, Prof. Maurizio took stock of Pakistan’s biotechnology and medical industry and said that research in academia is rapidly developing; publications by Pakistani research teams rose to four-folds in the last decade, and the majority of publications from major universities come from the life sciences.

He said that university departments in Pakistan dealing with life science research amount to over 200, with increasing numbers in general and particularly in the biotechnologies and applied science sectors. He was of the view that Pakistan’s biotechnology industry seems also to have been a priority for the government support and in 2010 the country boasted its first biotech plant.
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Outlining his vision for cooperation, Prof Maurizio said that cooperation projects which are sustainable in both policy and financial terms should increase the S&T exchanges, favour socio-economical impacts of scientific and technological improvements, and implement improved safety and security good practices and standards, all with medium- and long-term strategies and objectives.

Dr Maria Sultan, Director General SASSI, in her remarks stated that the Pakistan will welcome the cooperation in the bio-safety and security field, however, it requires more broad-based understanding of global concerns and Pakistan’s requirements in this field. Highlighting issues of importance from the Pakistani side she said there is a need to develop a national framework which would encompass the entire scale of pathogens as well as possible gaps in the bio-safety and security area and development of a community of bio-safety in Pakistan for more societal awareness about the issue as well as to include all stakeholders especially the factors which are linked to the bio-economy in Pakistan. She said that the emphasis of cooperation should balance between research and development (R &D) sector in high-tech bio-sciences and bio-safety aspects for disease eradication and epidemic eradication programmes and capacity building in surveillance and equipment for the bio-security and safety mechanism in the country and the international collaborative programmes. She said Pakistani bio-engagement programmes if they are to be run have to rest on the policy of transparency and sustainability aimed at developing bio-economy in Pakistan and the region. Subsequent sanctions on its bio-technology sector could in the future retard or restrict the Pakistan’s capacity to fully utilise its immense potential. The international community should take this matter in account as well, she said.....

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=94991&Cat=6

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