Tag Archives: Pakistan

Pakistan’s Youth Policy – the paperwork and the paperweight


Pakistan’s development programme 2001 – 11 under the heading of ‘CULTURE, SPORTS, TOURISM AND YOUTH: TEN YEAR PERSPECTIVE’outlines lack of recreational facilities and vocational skill training as the prime issues facing the youth. It further delineates programmes to establish youth hostels and tourist resorts, create youth development centres and providing I.T. training as major goals. Youth empowerment by any other means and involvement in policy making is not at all touched upon, if ever indeed even spoken of as a possibility.

The PC-1 form of the ‘ten year perspective’ was revised in 2005. A deeper analysis may reveal what aspects were revised and how far ground breaking work overweighed paperwork. This article aims just to present the facts and not the analysis. It is up to the thinkers to process it all further. The PC-1 includes at the end, the briefest possible outline. Barely a passing reference is made to the ‘Youth’ sector. See for yourself:

Culture, sports, tourism & youth

•           Existing and projected flow of tourists in the country/project area.

•           Capacity of existing departments to maintain archaeological sites/museums.

•           Relationship of archaeological projects with internal and foreign tourism.

Mass media

•           Indicate area and population to be covered with proposed project.

Research

•          Indicate benefits of the research to the economy.

•           Mention number of studies/papers to be produced.

•           Indicate whether these studies would result in commercial application of the process
developed (if applicable).

The 10-year time period is almost over and in 6 months we will reach 2012. The last two subheadings involve a great deal of paperwork and cannot be judged easily, but the citizens have every right to know what has been done for the first subheading written above. A subheading that ironically stands for four different sectors and mentions only two!

Our youth, the clichéd ‘asset’ of any country are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Will we continue to write papers on ‘indication’ of benefits of such and such a
project or is it time to start work on the paperwork already done in the preceding year. As long as paperwork is the oil that makes the machine go, we may never progress and the machine may continue to churn out … more paper.

Let’s see if in 2012 we finally learn from our decade of the mistake and not turn it into the mistake of the decade.

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KETI BUNDER – TOWARDS EXTINCTION?


Keti Bunder is a small port town and fishing harbour situated 90 km (55 miles) east of Karachi. It lies at the confluence of the Hajamro and Tursian creeks at a distance of 7  km (4 miles) from the Arabian sea.

The estuary region mangrove skyline

Its significance lies chiefly in its geographical bearings which place it in a position suitable for use as an important port for Pakistan if properly developed.

In 1864 A.D., Keti Bunder was closed due to the closure of the branch of Indus on which it was located. History threatens repetition and Keti Bunder may soon become a name of  the past – its Fate being similar to Lari Bunder close to Thatta and Kharakbandar on the confluence of the Habb river and Arabian Sea, both of which were choked with silt during the early 18th century. Navigation may soon become difficult if not downright impossible, endangering the livelihood of the fishermen, who have already been forced to move thrice as the Arabian sea encroaches and the Indus River slowly and surely changes course.

Ecologically, the site holds its own. The wetlands of Keti Bunder North and Keti Bunder South with areas of 8948 ha and 23046 ha respectively, rank amongst important  protected areas according to the Sindh Wildlife Department.

However, to date, the area has mostly met with neglect by both internal and external  sources:

  • The Keti Bunder Project agreement between a Hong Kong based company and the  government was scrapped on June 24, 1997, just 2 years after its initiation, after a cost-benefit analysis by Pakistani officials and lack of physical development by the foreigners. If completed as planned, in 2001, the project would have included a 5280 MW electric plant, a port complex, an industrial zone between Thatta and Jamshoro and jobs for an estimated 7000 people.
  • The locals of Keti Bunder suffer in silence while ecological destruction continues  and natural disasters such as droughts and more recently, floods. In November  1993, a cyclone hitting the coast, created havoc in the area due to the absence of mangroves, while nearby Shah Bunder was saved by its mangrove forest.
  • Public services are scarce. The Rural Health Centre lies in a state of half hearted  maintenance having no doctors or lady health visitors.
  • Literacy figures are low – only 21% males and 3% females are literate.

NGOs and public welfare organizations provide some hope:

  •  The World Bank IDA funded Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) with Aga Khan Planning and Building Services is working to provide access to clean drinking water by water filtration, is installing household latrines and thanks to its  services, many village roads are now paved.
  • WWF Pakistan’s coastal project aims to achieve sustainable use of the ecosystem on which the livelihood of the people depends.

Much more needs to be done for the area and the people, especially from an environmental point of view to keep it inhabitable. Mangroves have almost disappeared and the once lush rice fields are legends already. If the ecosystem is improperly cared for,  it will mutilate this limb of the Indus and have widespread repercussions on the surrounding area in years to come.

Blowing ‘Bubbles’ in Pakistan


“…And now a bubble burst, and now a world.”

All around us in Pakistan, there is chaos waiting to happen nowadays. At times it is an accident, a politically motivated murder or even a suicide bombing. The deeper level outcome of this is at the end, the bubbling up of various aspects of the economy.

One of the implications can be directly seen in the oil and gas sector where again at present we can see a sharp incline. Petrol and gas prices increase almost every month – and the ceiling apparently has not been reached yet. There will come a time when the masses can take it no longer and perhaps this is a slump waiting to happen…

The cost of living is also high and increases by the day. The domino effect latches on to the property market where the bubbles are the most prominent. There are several who want to live in better places but do not have the buying power.

Among economic bubbles, a property bubble or real estate bubble is the inevitable product of speculative investment. It occurs cyclically in both local and global real
estate markets. Typical characteristics include rapid increases in property valuations followed by a severe ‘crash’. This occurs when prices have reached unsustainable levels relative to incomes etc.

Presently we are experiencing local bubbles or a little froth at least, in several parts of the
world including Pakistan. According to the Economist(2005), “the world wide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history”.

Economists have developed ratios and indicators for fair valuation of residential areas. A few indicators might be pointed out courtesy of economists striving to identify bubbles before they burst:
  1.  Bubbles can be identified by comparing current levels to previous unsustainable levels.
  2. The valuation component measures affordability relative to current prices by mainly looking at the price to income ratio that is the ratio of median house price to median familial disposable incomes.
  3. The debt component measures the debt incurred by households and bank loan accumulation by buying such property. When the ratio increases that is home ownership costs increase, households start depending on property values to service their debt or expenditure.

In case of real estate bubbles, the reality of experiencing one may not be as important as the slow and sure but difficult to identify tragedy of an impending house price crash. Some important points to keep in mind about price crashes are:

–      After a bubble, the crash is a slower process, as sellers do not sell their own homes.

–       Due to inflation in nominal terms prices stay flat for 3-5 years before a fall, which makes it trickier to spot the crash.

–       Office, hotel and retail sectors share the same trend as residential sectors.

Pakistan’s macroeconomic foundations seem shaky. Developing countries following inward growth oriented approaches have faced crashes. Growth needs to be sustained
through exports and manufacturing than an obsession with volatile property markets. The select hundred thousand of the main beneficiaries are by and large exempt from the brunt of taxation. Levying tax would surely burst the bubble, but at the same time increase affordability for the masses. Only the landowners get rich when property prices go up while a nation can get rich only when the labour prices (salaries) go up.

After all, the bigger the bubble, the harder it bursts.

The Dried Apricot


The tangy dried apricot

Apricots (prunus armeniaca) belong to a large family of fruits including cherries, peaches and plums. While the fruit is native to China, it is cultivated in cool, dry, and temperate climes in most parts of Asia, Southern Europe, North  Africa and certain regions of  America. The American Pomological Society lists 11 main varieties of the fruit such as Riland, Tiltand, Blenheim, Royal and Chinese.

Come summer, and one can see the fruit and its cousins lining the pushcarts of any fruit seller in Pakistan as Apricots proliferate in the northern coller climes of the country.  However, apricots can be used all the year round if preserved by canning, by using  in jams, or even by drying them out. It is this latter aspect that carries various medicinal properties.

Considering that water content of the body diminishes rapidly during Ramadan, taking with it, important nutrients in our diet, which can make one feel light-headed and dizzy, dried apricots can be beneficial in more than one respect. They are important sources of iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin A and are high in natural sugar which is  metabolized easily and is not harmful like artificial sugar. Moreover, they reduce feelings of thirst during the daytime when consumed at Sehri during Ramadan along with adequate amounts of water. The   potassium in the fruit can help reduce electrolyte imbalance and ward off strokes

Local Hakeems prescribe the fruit to minister to the symptoms of constipation and for killing harmful bacteria in the stomach. People with acidity, piles or stomach ulcers may also find it helpful to have the fruit early in the morning they say. It is also prescribed to those who have fever. However, it is important that the dried apricots are sweet rather than sour as the sour variety may cause gases and consequently, a hard,  swollen  stomach.

Kernels of the fruit can be eaten raw or roasted. Make sure that they are sweet in taste
before consuming them, for a few varieties yield bitter kernels, which can be mildly poisonous until roasted. It is beneficial to eat no more than 8 – 10 kernels at a time.

In general, apricots are good for those on a diet, with 1 apricot containing approximately
17 calories. The fibre content is an added bonus.

Dried apricots also produce a wholesome and highly nutritious jam or halwa especially when put together with roasted kernels of the same.

* Box feature published in Daily DAWN Newspaper. Karachi, Pakistan.