Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nothing for it but . . .

Ever since independence technology has sneaked in tardily. Paradoxically, these years have produced equally strident laments concerning the state to which Pakistan’s education has sunk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.

When information technology was approaching in the sixties the US changed the school curricula for preparing students for the future. Contrarily we continue to turn our eye from the need to adopt new technologies and consequently our students are not being prepared (IT students included) to live in a competitive world.

We have managed to survive without adoption of IT for forty years. It will be impossible to continue to exist even for a day if we failed to adopt the approaching technologies. For instance Nanotechnology—examining the world at a millionth of meter and utilizing the ability to manipulate our universe at a molecular or atomic perspective—has united scientists across developed world in the belief that the worlds of medicine, computers, biotechnologies and eventually all manufacturing will never be approached in the same way again. We can’t afford to respond as laggards and follow the same doom which ancient civilizations faced. They perished for resistance to new technologies.

In ancient Greece then, all of the energy sources in use today, with the exception of nuclear power and hydroelectric power (both used exclusively to produce electricity) were known, available, and in limited use. Why then did it take so many centuries for energy sources and technology to come together to produce the Industrial Revolution?

From ancient Greece into the early Renaissance technological development was not only frowned upon, it was downright discouraged. People with money did not invest in it. It was socially unacceptable for the elite to involve themselves in what they considered a degrading activity.

The Greek philosophers, for all of their delving into how the world was made up and how things worked, had a strong aversion to the development of technology. They called it banausikon, meaning, fit for mechanics. It was considered a filthy business beneath the dignity of any intelligent, thinking person. Aristotle held that industries that earned wages degraded the mind and were unworthy of the free man. He would not stoop so low as to attempt to verify by measured observation his reasoning concerning physics or dynamics. As a result, some bad science went unchallenged for almost 2,000 years.

The Museum and Library at Alexandria, established in 290 BC by the rulers of Egypt, was a research facility that attracted scientists from around the known world. Researchers would use valves, expanding gases, solar thermal power, cams, screws, pulleys, levers, springs, siphons, and cogs—the basics for an industrial revolution. They developed double-action pumps and a compressed air cannon. It was there that Hero demonstrated a steam reaction turbine in 60 AD. The Library at Alexandria could have been an ancient model for Silicon Valley, but the research did not lead to improved manufacturing processes, better machines for industry or agriculture, or even for increasing wealth. Rather it was used to amuse royalty or to amaze worshipers in temples.

A valid argument can be made that metallurgy, manufacturing processes, and transportation facilities were too primitive to allow for exploitation of energy and technology at that time. But, absent the social barrier to technological development that existed, it is likely that the great minds, the available wealth, and the power concentrated in the likes of Alexander the Great, and the Roman Emperors could have laid the groundwork for a much earlier development and diffusion of technology.

We are accustomed to resist technological change with full force. We not only refuse to recognize it; we close our eyes to evade it. The attitude that we demonstrate confirms our nasty characterization as a nation of laggards.

Embracing technology is a laudable objective for which our society must aspire. It should provide a classic demonstration of the principles of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and attempt to explain the pros and cons of investing in new technology. It must transform itself as innovators, early adopters, and not as laggards on a technology adoption timeline.

We should inculcate education of technology at every level of learning. If we claim to know more about how people learn, if we have better tools for facilitating learning, why do so many studies of technology in education show no significant difference from traditional methods? Why are we producing graduates less able to cope with the issues facing them?

Making matters worse, the criteria for success have changed. Our institutions were designed not for an industrial society. Now we've entered the Information Age. Increasingly, even blue-collar jobs require critical thinking, rather than monotonous task performance. To meet these demands, our graduates need different competencies than we typically provide. Intuitively, one would expect technology to be a powerful tool for meeting these new requirements.

We are entering a world in which jobs are requiring technological competency--a world in which they must continue to update their occupational and technological skills in order to be successful. We must enable them to become technologically competent. We must take advantage of the capacity of technology to enhance our traditional classroom presentations and to engage our students in active learning.

Pakistan’s decision-makers must focus on new challenges and issues instead of waiting for emergencies to react. They need to focus more on policy than management issues. They need to be knowledgeable about what rest of the world is doing to achieve change. They should know that change and implementing technology often go hand in hand. The key to success in both is a thorough, inclusive planning process. The disregard of new technologies by ancient civilizations offers us a choice: to embrace new technologies or perish.(

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Child Labor

We often hear about goals of education relate to ‘meeting our children’s needs,’ ‘responsible citizenship’ and ‘equipping students for the future.’ Yet, what do such goals mean when millions of our children are forced to work? How much actual attention is given to the circumstances of this segment of our future? How much consideration is given to the needs not only of this generation but future generations? How seriously do we care about human values when we see around innocent child laborers selling newspapers at traffic lights, serving tea at kiosks, or weaving a carpet? Is this the future we are talking about? How might we enhance the quality of our responses to unmet poor children’s needs? How might we begin to contribute more effectively to building cultures of peace and sustainable futures? No easy answers.

That the shameful practice of child labor should have played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset is not to be wondered at. The displaced working classes, from the seventeenth century on, took it for granted that a family would not be able to support itself if the children were not employed. The children of the poor were forced by economic conditions to work, as Charles Dickens, with his family in debtor's prison, worked at age 12 in the Blacking Factory. In 1840 perhaps only twenty percent of the children of London had any schooling, a number which had risen by 1860, when perhaps half of the children between 5 and 15 were in some sort of school, if only a day school (of the sort in which Dickens's Pip finds himself in Great Expectations) or a Sunday school; the others were working.

Child labor is a pervasive problem. Children work for a variety of reasons, the most important being poverty and the induced pressure upon them to escape from this plight. Though children are not well paid, they still serve as major contributors to family income in Pakistan. Schooling problems also contribute to child labor, whether it is the inaccessibility of schools or the lack of quality education which spurs parents to enter their children in more profitable pursuits. Traditional factors such as rigid cultural and social roles in Pakistan further limit educational attainment and increase child labor.

There are 19 million working children in Pakistan, 7 million below the age of 10 and 12 million between the ages of 10-14. Everyday sun sets by shoving over 100 children into the labor market. The number of child workers under 15 years is estimated to be not less than 8 million. Punjab accounts for 60% of the total child labor. More than two-thirds of child laborers are working in the agricultural sector. Of 20 million bonded laborers 7.5 million are children and 1.2 million children are bonded in the carpet factories. Nearly 250,000 children working in brick kilns are bonded laborers, driven into a miserable state by the fact that their entire families have been 'pawned' to the owners by virtue of their having pledged their labor in return for some money taken. Children are sometimes kidnapped to be used as forced labor.

The newly emerged affluent class in urban cities employs some 6.7% of female child workers in domestic help. These domestic workers generally have to work for 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

Bonded labor, a contemporary form of slavery according to the UN definition, unfortunately holds strong in certain sectors in Pakistan, such as brick manufacture, construction, sports goods manufacture and carpet-weaving.

Demand for child labor is so high that children are often sold by desperate parents. They are then forced to work long hours, day and night, unable to attend school, and often subject to abuse and malnourishment. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty since most of these children never get the education and training needed to obtain a livable wage.

As a peace educator, human rights activist and a father of seven year old son, I am the first to admit that we have done nothing to halt child labor and just about 19 million child laborers continue to work in Pakistan. What inconsequential the government has done is measly cosmetics. This is just to show to the West that child labor is not involved in the production of export oriented goods. We have done nothing to remove the horrific and reckless conditions that push children to child labor. Rather than working together to help build a better world, in which poor children have the possibility to live, to laugh, to play, to share, to care and to transform into responsible citizens, we may fatalistically accept a foreclosed future. Rather than building intergenerational partnerships, the well being of children today and of successive generations may be stolen or colonized through our lack of quality responses.

We can, we must, and we should stop the exploitation of children. In 1999, when the member states of the ILO unanimously voted to adopt Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the world community made a commitment to stop the suffering of millions of children. It was recognized that ending the commercial exploitation of children must be one of humankind's top priorities. It was accepted as a cause that demands immediate attention and a high priority action. Caught in a nightmare that never seems to end, a significant part of Pakistan’s future endures the worst forms of child labor. More than just words and passing resolutions, child labor is a part of the reality of our world today. No one will say that children should suffer. No one will support that children should work 14 hours a day. But who will step forward to stop this? (

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Change, change

Why can't things just stay the same? I shouted angrily at the TV news anchor and threw a pillow at the screen and clicked it off with a snort. Suddenly a hissing noise arose from the corner of the room and a white, shimmering mist filled the air. I stood in shock as a tall, wrinkled old man emerged. He was my distant uncle, a grizzled fellow with a long flowing white beard and was saintly dressed from head to toe in white. His eyes twinkled with mischief as he flashed a gap-toothed grin. “Hi, I can take you to a place where people don't have to deal with change and things stay the same all the time.”

Before I could say a word, uncle asked me to simulate a graveyard and look at the polished gravestones stretched far out to the horizon. He said, “Here’s a place where things stay the same and people don't have to deal with change. Life is change,” the aged butch said with a chuckle as he leapt to the top of a headstone. “It's one of nature's mighty laws.” Eons ago, I had this conversation with this old chum.

After I started thinking about change I thought the single biggest change management failure of the 20th century was the old Soviet Union. With highly centralized planning, the politburo tried to tightly control the lives of an entire block of nations. There were to be few surprises and activities that weren't in the official plan. Bureaucratic organizations often try to do the same thing. So do many static, low growth individuals. We need to be on guard against our own rigid thinking and hardening of the attitudes.

The faster the world changes around us, the further behind we fall by just standing still. If the rate of external change exceeds our rate of internal growth, just as the day follows night, we will surely be changed. To the change-blind with stunted growth, it will happen suddenly and seemingly out of the blue.

Change forces choices. If we’re on the grow, we’re embracing many changes and finding the positive in them. It's all in where we chose to put our focus. Even change that hits us in the side of the head as a major crisis can be full of growth opportunities — if we choose to look for them.

We don't always get to choose the changes that come into our lives. But we do get to choose how to respond. Crisis can be a danger that weakens or destroys us. Or crisis can be a growth opportunity. The choice is ours. Which ever we chose — we're right about that crisis. We make it our reality.

Change is life. Successfully dealing with change means choosing to continuously grow and develop. Failing to grow is failing to live. Life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of ourselves.

Accepting responsibility for choices starts with understanding where our choices lie. There is a long list of things we can't control, but may have a major impact on us as individuals or as clusters. These include economic and political trends, technological changes, shifts in consumer preferences and market trends, as well as catastrophes wrought by human beings (war, terrorism and etc) and so-called Acts of God, such as earthquakes.

The best approach to dealing with things that cannot be changed is to accept them. When the doo-doo starts to pile deep, we ought not just sit there and complain; we ought to grab a shovel. We may not choose what happens to us, but we do choose how to respond – or not.

Choosing to make changes is hard. It's so much easier to blame everyone else for our problems and to use this as an excuse for doing nothing. We must not give away our power to choose. In his bestseller, The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck writes, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity, be it fate or society or the government or the corporation or our spouse. It is for this reason that Erich Fromm so aptly titled his study of Nazism and authoritarianism, Escape from Freedom. In attempting to avoid the pain of responsibility, millions and even billions daily attempt to escape from freedom.”

It takes real courage to accept full responsibility for our choices – especially for our attitude and outlook. This is the beginning and ultimately most difficult act of leadership.

We must engage ourselves into lively debates about those things over which we have the power to act. We can easily classify them as belonging to three categories: No Control; Direct Control; and Influence. It's rarely black and white. For example, we often underestimate the influence we might have in our functions – or in the world at large. Each time a man stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

We're either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no neutral ground. Strong folks make the choice to be part of the solution and get on with it – no matter how small their ripples of change may be. (

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Compulsive worship at the altar of consumption has brought humanity to the edge of an environmental abyss—depleting resources, spreading dangerous pollutants, undermining ecosystems, and threatening to unhinge the planet’s climate balance.

Endless economic growth driven by unbridled consumption has been elevated to the status of a modern philosophy. Contemporary economies are capable of producing huge quantities of goods at very low cost. This leads both producers and consumers to regard more and more products as little more than commodities that can be discarded relatively quickly rather than items that embody valuable energy and materials and that should be well maintained and designed for long life spans.

From the standpoint of global justice and equality, the solution cannot be a system of consumer apartheid that upholds western binge habits but denies the poor a decent standard of living. Instead, the rich need to curb their outsized material appetites.

To support the move toward a less consumptive economy, consumers and producers need to pay close attention to the full lifecycle of products. This means they need to concern themselves not just with the characteristics of the product itself, such as how much energy its use may require, but also with the materials and production methods used to manufacture the product and the kinds and types of wastes generated in the process. In addition, both consumers and producers need to consider how effectively goods actually deliver wanted services and comforts, how long products last, and what happens to them once they reach the end of their useful life.

A range of tools is at the disposal of governments, companies, and individual consumers to make progress toward the overall goal of a less consumptive economy. To make a difference, however, these efforts need to be scaled up considerably, and political and structural barriers to change must be struck down.

Most material flows in industrial economies—including waste materials from industry, carbon dioxide and other emissions, and soil loss from farmlands—serve no useful purpose whatsoever and never actually pass through the hands of any consumer. Dealing with these hidden flows will require downsimaterial, zing some of the most destructive activities, such as mining, smelting, and logging. Improving energy and materials efficiency, boosting recycling and reuse, and lengthening the lifetime of products can accomplish this, so that there is far less needs to extract virgin raw materials. But there is also ample space for reducing the environmental impact of the goods and services delivered to consumers—including through dematerialization, clean production, and zero-waste closed-loop systems.

It is much more likely that resource consumption will be minimized and the generation of wastes and emissions avoided if manufacturers factor environmental considerations in from the very beginning when they design products, develop production technologies, and select materials.

Around the world, a growing number of governments are adopting extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws that require companies to take back products at the end of their useful life. These typically ban the landfilling and incineration of most products, establish minimum reuse and recycling requirements, specify whether producers are to be individually or collectively responsible for returned products, and stipulate whether producers may charge a fee when they take back products.

The goal of EPR is to induce manufacturers to assess the full lifecycle impacts of their products. Ideally, they will then eliminate unnecessary parts, forgo unneeded packaging, and design products that can easily be disassembled, recycled, remanufactured, or reused. The EPR approach has spread beyond packaging to encompass a growing range of products and industries, including consumer electronics and electric appliances, office machinery, cars, tires, furniture, paper goods, batteries, and construction materials.

Durability, repairability, and upgradability are essential to lessen the environmental impact of consumption. For easy refurbishing and upgrading, a “modular” approach permits access to individual parts and components, which allows them to be replaced easily. By working to extend and deepen useful product life, companies can squeeze vastly better performance out of the resources embodied in products rather than selling the largest possible quantity. Although fewer goods will be produced, there will be greater opportunity and incentive for companies to maintain, repair, upgrade, recycle, reuse, and remanufacture products, and thus greater business and job potential throughout the life of a product.

Governments and communities can strike a better balance between private and public forms of consumption by expanding organized sharing of facilities and amenities. Government action is also indispensable in overcoming the immense structural impediments to lower consumption levels and to more public forms of consumption. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in transportation: low-density, sprawling settlement patterns translate into large distances separating homes, workplaces, schools, and stores—rendering public transit, biking, and walking difficult or impossible. Improved land use planning, environment-oriented norms and standards, and the creation of a reinvigorated public infrastructure that allows for greater social provision of certain goods and services will help ensure that consumers are not overly compelled to make consumption-intensive “choices.”

Another key area where government action is needed is consumer credit. The savings rate in most countries is falling, while household debt is on the rise. Credit card spending is also expanding rapidly among emerging middle-class consumers. Governments could help consumers by offering advantageous credit terms for certain efficient, high-quality, durable, and environment-friendly purchases. Governments can also design policies that offer tax rebates for the best-performing products, while taxing those that fall short of standards.

An important tool that governments can wield is procurement. By buying environmentally preferable products, government authorities can exert a powerful influence on how products are designed, how efficiently they function, how long they last, and whether they are handled responsibly at the end of their useful lives. Well-designed purchasing rules can drive technological innovation and help establish green markets.

Prominent among the measures governments can take are recalibrating tax and subsidy policies that encourage greater consumption, pursuing pro-environment procurement rules, and establishing appropriate product standards and labeling programs. (

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Business Principles

The development of the business principles is a first stage for developing and raising the standards of practice in countering bribery. The fair business principles provide a practical tool to which companies can look for a comprehensive reference to good practice to counter bribery. Business principles are becoming an essential tool in the future for businesses and the companies of today should encourage using them as a starting point for developing their own anti-bribery systems or as a benchmark.

I had heard and even observed how the Indian businesses add the extras to win export orders. For toting up luster to the evenings of the visiting business partners particularly from Gulf States, they fix up their visits to discotheques and nightspots. They also maintain luxury flats outfitted with floozy beauties for making the stay of the business guests a unique affair.

Unfortunately, such unethical practices have sneaked into our system via some (not all) Pakistani businesses. That’s what I personally experienced when once as member of a foreign business team visiting Pakistan and staying at a hotel in Karachi, a Pakistani knowing that a Pakistani was member of the importers group, tried unethical tricks to win business contracts. He called from the lobby and told about the undeserved and undesired gift he brought for me.

Years ago in a Lahore-Islamabad flight a passenger seated next to me told that he was visiting Islamabad about a tender business. He was confident that he would win the contract. When I asked about the source of his confidence he pointed to two girls seated in the rear and said, “Those butterflies (exquisite women) will make it happen.”

Most of Pakistan’s private sector contributes to election campaigns of this candidate or that. Interestingly sometimes some companies sponsor candidates of two opposing political parties. The idea is to get unjustifiable favors after the horse wins.

There can be endless list of such companies, which are ready to do anything to get business favors.

It is no mystery that a lapse in business ethics or even the appearance of one can significantly harm the reputation and business of a company. Once a company is suspected, accused, or found guilty of corporate wrongdoing, it often becomes subject to the scrutiny of governmental agencies, the corporate community and the general public.

Private sector organizations must now take account of increasingly stringent domestic and international regulatory frameworks. There is growing corporate awareness of the risks posed by bribery, particularly in the light of scandals, and the public is expecting greater accountability and probity from the corporate sector.

Emphasis needs to be laid on business principles for enterprises to prohibit bribery in any form whether direct or indirect. They should also commit to implementation of programs for countering bribery. These principles are based on a commitment to fundamental values of integrity, transparency and accountability. Firms should aim to create and maintain a trust-based and inclusive internal culture in which bribery is not tolerated.

Thus an enterprise’s anti-bribery efforts including values, policies, processes, training and guidance will become tools of future corporate governance and risk management strategies for countering bribery and unethical practices.

As part of civil society, at macro level, Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan, should work out a framework reflecting size of the companies, business sectors, potential risks and locations of operations. This should, clearly and in reasonable detail, articulate values, policies and procedures for preventing bribery from occurring in all activities under their effective control.

Such programs should be consistent with all laws relevant to countering bribery in all the jurisdictions in which an enterprise operates, particularly laws that are directly relevant to specific business practices.

At micro level each enterprise should develop programs in consultation with its employees, trade unions or other employee representative bodies. It should ensure that it is informed of all matters material to the effective development of the program by communicating with relevant interested parties.

While developing its program for countering bribery, the companies should analyze which specific areas pose the greatest risks from bribery. The programs should address the most prevalent forms of bribery relevant to each firm but at a minimum should cover areas such as bribes, political contributions, facilitation payments, gifts, hospitality and expenses.

A company should prohibit the offer, gift, or acceptance of a bribe in any form, including kickbacks, on any portion of a contract payment, or the use of other routes or channels to provide improper benefits to customers, agents, contractors, suppliers or employees of any such party or government officials.

It should also prohibit an employee from arranging or accepting a bribe or kickback from customers, agents, contractors, suppliers, or employees of any such party or from government officials, for the employee’s benefit or that of the employee’s family, friends, associates or acquaintances.

The enterprise, its employees or agents should not make direct or indirect contributions to political parties, organizations or individuals engaged in politics, as a way of obtaining advantage in business transactions.

Each company should publicly disclose all its political contributions, charitable contributions and sponsorships. It should ensure that charitable contributions and sponsorships are not being used as a subterfuge for bribery.

The enterprise should prohibit the offer or receipt of gifts, hospitality or expenses whenever such arrangements could affect the outcome of business transactions and are not reasonable and bona fide expenditures.

The board of directors, CEOs and senior management should demonstrate visible and active commitment to the implementation of the business principles.

The business organizations should assert elimination of bribery; demonstrate their commitment to countering bribery; and make a positive contribution to improving business standards of integrity, transparency and accountability wherever they operate. Business principles are going to evolve reflection of changes in anti-bribery practice as well as the lessons learned from their use and application by business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bureaucracy and Change

While new technologies, new paradigms of governance, and new management structures are being put forward the bureaucracy of Pakistan is driving into the future using only rear view mirror.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, change is everywhere. The reality of yesterday proves wrong today, and nobody really knows what will be the truth tomorrow. Social, political and economic change has come fast like a small boat dancing on the waves. People feel that they do not have any influence In the mainstream of this environmental milieu, people of Pakistan are detesting bureaucracy, from inside and outside: red tape, punctiliousness, delay, extra social overhead, unresponsive monopoly of authority; professional deficiency; and obsolete policy planning.

Below the politically appointed ministers is the civil service. Efforts to reform and modernize the traditional civil service were never made to improve the professional competencies of senior civil servants. The prevailing unanswered issues demonstrate that the training acquired by government officers at NIPA or Pakistan Administrative Staff College is ineffective, redundant and unproductive. Thus the need to reform has fallen behind its expansion in size and functions, making Pakistan an over-administered society. All governments pared back the state's control over the economy but failed to restrain the growth of the state bureaucracy and allowed its standards and efficiency to decline.

Our bureaucracy tries to fulfill government strategies, which had been formulated years ago, under totally different baseline conditions. Service quality is often not more than an empty phrase. The competence of our bureaucracy can be measured from the fact that it could not workout a policy for urbanization. Consequently, luckless consumers continue to be treated worse than one-time colonial rulers. Everyone has tales of dealing with bureaucrats who seem utterly unsympathetic to real problems and explain why the rules don’t allow a solution.

Our bureaucracy has utterly failed in using creativity in policy making. Thus, it could not generate new ideas for issues like unemployment, economic development and poverty alleviation. Management creativity is about using simple techniques to find innovative solutions to prevailing problems. And creativity, which is extraterrestrial skill to our bureaucracy, isn't just nice-to-have. In a fast change, furious public administration, it's a matter of survival.

Change happens. And while we can't control much of the world changing around us, we should know how to respond. We can choose to anticipate and embrace changes or resist them. Resisting change is like trying to push water upstream. Our bureaucracy is recognized as the one that resists change. It's much harder for bureaucracy to admit to its own change resistance.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status. (Status Quo Ante Erat is, literally, state of things as it was before, meaning the present current, existing state of affairs. "Maintaining the Status quo" usually connotes to "keep things the way they presently are").

There are some problems with bureaucracies: red tape, duplication, and waste. Red tape is the existence of complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done. Duplication occurs when two government agencies seem to be doing the same thing, such as when the Customs Service and the Narcotics Control Board both attempt to intercept illegally smuggled drugs.

Our bureaucratic structure has failed owing to lack of management scientists, competent economists, and outstanding professionals. Brain drain is another reason. No institution has ever attempted to develop a national agglomeration of competent managers. All academic institutions are ineffective.

Today's bureaucracy continues without an object, multiple layers of unneeded staff, endless reports with little value, and gridlock. The basic managerial models and practices within government are behind those used today. The system itself facilitates entrenchment, mediocrity, decay and inertia. Given these assertions as premises it should be explored what can be learned and translated from the private sector's organizational structures and practices to cause a renaissance in bureaucracy. Organizational schema as well as leadership and managerial practices can be explored for their potential to contribute to bureaucracy.

The amount of information and data is doubling every few years. Even in poorer economies Intranet is being used for inter-department data transfer, files exchange, and information share, but our bureaucracy is far from the fundamental concepts of Management Information Service. In this situation of sheer chaos, suddenly computer network offers a new order. When the world has largely benefited from the fruits of computer use, a question might be asked: do our government managers know computer basics?

The bureaucracy of Pakistan should move away from rule governance to value-based management. Value-based management seeks to give employees more freedom when carrying out their job functions. In a time of radical change, increased public expectations and many new tasks, the bureaucratic structure needs to be able to provide a flexible service. Rules and procedures, which are far too rigid, can prevent the public obtaining a service that matches their needs and wishes. But if value-based management is to work, a common set of values is required.

The goal - or vision - for value-based management should be the set of values adopted by Pakistan’s civil bureaucracy. These values require that Islamabad, as the capital and influential center for South Asian Region, must act as the driving force behind human, cultural and economic development. It is imperative that our bureaucracy can provide services, which transforms it to a role model.

We need to inculcate professionalism, expertise, competence and systems to make our civil services, meet the realities of the 21st century. This is high time to part ways from poor governance, inertia, lack of knowledge that spawned a culture in which wasteful expenditures, leakages of resources and low efficiency are the norm. Sound policies cannot see the light of day until our institutional capacity is strengthened and reoriented. Change in the brass tacks of our bureaucracy provides a way into the future. (

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Globalization & the Poor

The urbanization of poverty is being propelled by a tremendous increase in the transnational movement of people and capital. The rapid transfer of money and jobs to cities and countries where cheap labor can be found has fueled by a race to the bottom. For the urban poor who are impacted by this race, there are no winners, and the losers will most likely find themselves among the projected two billion people who will be living in slums by 2030.

Hardest hit by globalization are women and children - the most vulnerable of urban dwellers. Poor women are becoming increasingly marginalized as the feminization of poverty manifests itself in many parts of the world.

The positive aspects of globalization, including greater longevity, increased literacy, lower infant mortality and wider access to infrastructure and social services, mask the unfortunate truth that these benefits are not being shared equally. The effects of globalization on cities – both positive and negative – need to be better understood if public policy is to be effective in bettering the lives of those who live in them.

Under globalization, manufacturing activities in cities have been relocated offshore to the developing economies whose lower labor costs, lower taxes and less rigorous environmental protection enable higher profits. The socio-economic consequences of globalization weaken access to basic infrastructure and housing, fuel the creation and expansion of slums, and reinforce the negative environmental and health impacts affecting the urban poor in many cities.

Demographic shifts, including transnational migration and poor integration of ethnic and racial groups, add impetus to these changes. So, too, does the ability (or not) of households and individual people to cope with rapid economic change. Those on the losing end of these changes can easily find themselves confronted with the loss of jobs, and the consequent sale of assets in order to survive, converting them into the new poor, leaving them even more insecure and vulnerable in the face of economic change.

The last two decades have witnessed a transformation of the global economy, which has led to vast economic, social and political realignments in many countries and cities. The trend towards open markets has enriched some countries and cities tremendously, while others have suffered greatly. World trade in this period has grown from about US$580 billion in 1980 to US$6.3 trillion in 2004—11-fold increase. Flows of capital, labor, technology and information have also increased tremendously.

Among the losers in this race are female workers, whose wage levels and working conditions have declined as a result of the dropping of barriers to footloose industries. This same dynamic is evident inside individual cities as well, leaving many people unable to obtain stable jobs and incomes. This leads to changes in patterns of social inclusion and exclusion across cities, often along racial and ethnic lines.

The distribution of the fruits of globalization reflects private-sector judgments about the expected financial returns to these investments, their security, and the economic and political environments in which they occur. Corporations have tended to concentrate direct investment in ten countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand. In stark comparison, the poorest countries have seen no such investment.

The vacuum created by footloose industries is rarely filled by job opportunities for the poor. Rather, any new jobs tend to be in knowledge-intensive industries, many requiring university-level education.

The race also occurs within individual cities, resulting in job losses where large segments of the labor force have to shift from one sector to another. The urban poor are losing jobs and benefits and must now find other income-generating opportunities in the informal sector, which offer no security or benefits.

The loss of secure jobs with secure community roots fosters an informalization of the urban economy, with more people eking out a living in unregulated sectors. Several economic processes converge to informalize employment and other aspects of urban life. The closing of formal-sector enterprises often coincides with the downsizing of ancillary industries and services. As one industry declines – as with light engineering in Karachi - incomes in the city as a whole reduce. Former employees are no longer able to purchase services on the street; hence, street vendors also suffer. Simultaneously, if utility tariffs increase, other enterprises suffer and are forced to reduce their operations or close altogether.

Globalization has set cities against each other in a desperate competition for a share of highly mobile capital and trade. The needs and desires of global capital must be balanced with policies based on the needs of the region’s own inhabitants. Otherwise, any effort to alleviate urban poverty will expire, as meaningless gestures that provide little more than temporary relief – and the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow larger.

Jobs, consumption patterns and opportunities for social mobility are all easily influenced by external factors. This instability can be manifested in both national and local contexts through at least four important channels: patterns of investment, labor markets, prices and public expenditures. Moreover, they occur in different locations within the city, creating patchworks of decay, renewal, and economic revitalization. The challenge for national and local authorities is to identify which kinds of changes are occurring, or better still, which types of changes can be anticipated, in order to consider whether there are measures that can cushion or mitigate these impacts. To do that, changes must be anticipated and capital set aside to deal with them.

While government may feel its budget is severely constrained, it needs to apply discipline to save some of their resources for these future needs. This does not mean borrowing and thereby passing on debts to future generations. It means saving for the future. In reality, this saving is an insurance policy against future unknowns. Having such resources at hand allows decision-makers to face the future more confidently and to smooth out the impacts of volatile changes in the global economy at large. (

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Brain Drain

The future trends explain that the nanotechnology will elongate life spans and thus the West and the Japan is going to have enlarged older population and diminishing youth. To fill in the demographic gap those countries will hire skilled youth from Asia. This will intensify the stream of brain drain from Pakistan. This calls for use of strategic human management and economic reasons as key actions needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The term brain drain was popularized in the 1960s with the loss of skilled labor-power from a number of poor countries, notably India. Of particular concern was the emigration of those with scarce professional skills, like doctors, engineers and management scientists, who had been trained at considerable expense by means of taxpayers' subsidies to higher education.

UNESCO defines the brain drain as an odd form of scientific exchange among states because a movement in one direction that inevitably flows to developed countries characterizes it.

Pakistan is suffering from two main problems, one is poverty, which is increasing day by day and the other is increasing rate of crime. Both are result of unemployment. The wrong distribution of wealth due to wrong policies and over-population has made the situation even worst. This paved a way for skilled citizens to go abroad especially, the educated youth.

Other reasons include: they feel that they have a better future, a greater security; will be better off financially, and they feel that they and their children will get better education.

The receiving countries are the winners while the sending countries are the losers. The receiving countries include the US, England, Australia and West Germany. The sending countries include beside others, Pakistan. The rulers of Pakistan who remain indifferent to prevailing problems, and fail to respond to the employment problem creatively, contributes to brain drain.

Pakistanis who completed their studies in Europe and the US are not returning to Pakistan. Since one in three Pakistani professionals will like to live outside Pakistan, Pakistani universities are actually training one third of their graduates for export to the developed nations. We are thus operating one third of Pakistani universities to satisfy the manpower needs of Great Britain and the United States. Stated differently, the Pakistani education budget is nothing but a supplement to the American or British education budgets. In essence, Pakistan is giving developmental assistance to the wealthier western nations, which makes the rich nations richer and the poor nations poorer.

It is the best and brightest that can emigrate, leaving behind the weak and less imaginative. We cannot achieve long-term economic growth by exporting our human resource. In the new world order, people with knowledge drive economic growth. We talk a lot of poverty alleviation in Pakistan. But who is going to alleviate the poverty? Or the uncreative bureaucracy that created poverty? Hypothetically, the most talented should lead the people, create wealth and eradicate poverty and corruption.

In theory, overseas Pakistanis are morally obliged to return back home. In truth, it is unrealistic thinking that that a Pakistani professional will resign from his $60,000 a year job to accept a $3,000 a year job in Pakistan. A more meaningful question will be to ask: What measures can be taken to entice Pakistanis leaving abroad to return home and what can be done to discourage those professionals in Pakistan to remain in Pakistan?

The brain-drain seriously affects the quality and delivery of public and private services there are two obvious solutions (a) make it worthwhile for highly-trained professionals to stay and (b) replace them with competent locals at a rate as fast or faster than their departure brain train.

Another solution is to devise strategies of brain gain. These can take the development of a brain gain network. Pakistan is not effectively encouraging the use of its diaspora in contributing to development at home (e.g., 80 per cent of recent foreign investment in the People's Republic of China came from overseas Chinese). The brain gain network can help in the promotion of joint research and teaching posts, the use of medical specialists in periodic return visits, short-term training assignments and even systematic professional and research collaboration on electronic networks. These could be effective ways of harnessing the skills of some of the distinguished scientists, medics, artists and educators with Pakistani origins living abroad.

With good employers, attractive working conditions, improved telecommunications and the entrepreneurial climate in India today, young professionals are moving back and strengthening the economic sector. Then IT professionals in India are quite often paid in foreign currency at international rates to prevent brain drain and hence exports of Indian software industry is now in the range of $10 billion.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies and frustrating professional fragmentation also pushed people away. Pakistan is a mess, a haze of over-regulated and overcomplicated bureaucracy smothering the rare flames of true entrepreneurial brilliance.

Lack of opportunities compelled me to leave Pakistan in early 80s. Since then I acquired not just high education from prestigious universities of Europe and America, my practice also earned global recognition with rain of medals and achievement awards. Now that I have voluntarily come back, rather timorous of my credentials, government officials are keeping me at bay. The President House vainly tried to get me Consulting jobs at two federal departments. It failed for I was undesirable most probably due to my high credentials. Government managers who have utterly unsuccessful in planning for even paltry matters such as payment of utility bills only creates road blocks for such Pakistanis who want to come back. Thus in a society comprising sycophants and greedy relatives, I am twiddling with no job in hand. Rhetoric aside, one question dominates my mind: does Pakistan have any repatriation policy for such Pakistanis who are globally recognized and who are capable of offering prescriptions for prevailing ills? (

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Perishing from Earth

As in the experience of all other civilizations it can be with us if we do not recognize the principles for survival. If we failed to learn from history and recognize the future trends we will eventually go back into darkness from whence we came, and we the people will perish from the earth.

If you retrace your thoughts back to where there were those old civilizations, some five or six thousand years ago, the Egyptians, you will find that they were very intelligent, highly advanced but through corruption, selfishness, prejudice and moral degradation went into the debris of ancient history. We, in this advanced civilization, are representing similar predilections, can also follow the same destiny and go back into the dark-age from whence we came.

Egyptian civilization has been forgotten. It went down, not just mentally, scientifically, intellectually, but also physically, to let us see and know that those who go down mentally and do not alter their ways also go down physically.

After the Independence, we lost our vision, transformed into one of the corrupt nations worldwide, all the nasty crimes once akin to the West are now dominating our national life, and last but not the least each individual of Pakistan seems to be on the looting binge. Instead of contributing our role in nation building, we started pillaging our own land. When we are nurturing the same traits that caused extinction of Egyptian Civilization, why then our destiny would be any different?

The societies that sustain physically, mentally, and otherwise are those which undergo a series of divergences in development, much like the branching of a tree. The dynamic people are those who are responsive to issues, essentially open, fast paced, balanced, and tend to survive and prosper on a fairly reliable basis. Problems come to them, but they usually manage to work them out.

The struggling society of Pakistan, contrarily, outdoes the people in narrow areas of endeavor from time to time, and becoming more retarded in overall development as time goes by.

Outwardly, we are a developing society. But like a muscular athlete with a terminal cancer, a disease is eating away at us from the inside. A well-balanced nation cannot be destroyed from the outside until it falls first from the inside.

No matter how well we might arm ourselves against enemies outside our borders, we need to primarily identify the more detrimental enemy. And this greatest enemy is none else but us, who place destructive devices inside our destructive minds, causing us to morally implode, like an imploding building.

Ever since independence in 1947, we have experienced a complete abandonment of our sense of good and evil. The true crisis of our time has nothing to do with monetary troubles, unemployment, or terrorism. The true crisis has to do with the fact that we have lost our way.

If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, the relaxed frog will just swim around, growing accustomed to the increasing warmth until it eventually boils to death. This is what is happening to us and our cultural decay. It is a gradual process that slowly dulls our senses until what was once seen as unacceptable somehow becomes acceptable.

After the death of Quaid-e-Azam, we have allowed corruption to creep into our society as a way of life. Thus, we have become desensitized to corruption and our moral judgment is impaired. Even worse, at each step along the way, we eliminated Islamic injunctions from our lives and culture.

What will remain of civilization and history if the accumulated influence of Islam, both direct and indirect, is eradicated from literature, art, practical dealings, moral standards, and creativeness in the different activities of mind and spirit?

Consequently, a flood of immorality, corruption and violence has entered into our national life, and we have unfortunately been recognized as a culture of death from the womb to the streets. Many of our young people have no concept of the true spirit of Islam and are connoting falsely to satisfy their political agendas. Hence, many are tragically engaged in dying or killing the innocents. A sense of hopelessness prevails, a feeling of fear surrounds.

We have forgotten our true nature, divinity, because scientifically it cannot be proved! We are ignorant of true purpose of life. Values like solidarity, natural love, forbearance, compassion, generosity, and altruism do not find any place independent of an 'individual'.

The culture shows signs of degeneration into lawlessness, disease, and want on one hand, and affluence and sense gratification of wanton degree on the other. With this decline in cultural values, ethical values are also eroded. Not one particular field is afflicted with this 'virus of corruption'; all departments of human interaction show the same trend. It is difficult to find an isolated island of purity in the sea of corruption all around.

Ethics is the reflection of cultural health of the society. In course of evolution of human societies, man creates progressive cultural and moral ethos. But then a stage comes when cultural growth slows down for want of fresh ideas. Consequently ethics also remain a mere shadow of its own previous glory. However, when matter is worshiped as supreme and privileges are sought after, ethical decline is not a surprise. The remedy lies in adding spiritual dimension to existing culture and in course evolving a new moral and ethical code for coming generations. Time is still not gone. We can learn lessons from Egyptian civilization or else face extinction. Choice is only ours. (

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Emphasizing Well-being

In recent years, psychologists studying measures of life satisfaction have largely confirmed the old adage that money can’t buy happiness—at least not for people who are already affluent.

A nation is successful not when it’s rich but when its people are happy. If you are very poor, there is no doubt that greater income can improve your life. But once the basic needs are secured, well-being does not necessarily correlate with wealth. The social and psychological needs of human beings also shape our cultures, and help to determine whether our civilization is sustainable or not. Good life is redefining prosperity to emphasize a higher quality of life, rather than the mere accumulation of goods.

The Prime Minister is busy sketching up plans for making continuing increases in gross domestic product (GDP) as a chief priority of domestic policy, under the assumption that wealth secured is well-being delivered.

Whether due to curbs on hundi business as a post-9/11 scenario or owing to connoisseur planning, foreign exchange reserves (FER) of Pakistan touched highest levels ever in the previous government. With increased GDP and FERs the number of suicidal deaths also grew larger when poverty ridden people take their lives. This situation demonstrates that some link was broken somewhere. And that’s about social moorings and calls for a shift in paradigm.

The government must focus on delivering what people most desire. Indeed, a new understanding of good life can be built not around wealth but around well-being: having basic survival needs met, along with freedom, health, security, and satisfying social relations. Consumption would still be important, to be sure, but only to the extent that it boosts quality of life.

Pakistani society if focuses on well-being will involve more interaction with family, friends, and neighbors, a more direct experience of nature, and more attention to finding fulfillment and creative expression than in accumulating goods. It should emphasize lifestyles that avoid abusing our own health, other people, or the natural world. In short, it will yield a deeper sense of satisfaction with life than many people report experiencing today.

What provides for a satisfying life? The disconnection between money and happiness in wealthy countries is perhaps most clearly illustrated when growth in income is plotted against levels of happiness. In the United States, for example, the average person’s income more than doubled between 1957 and 2002, yet the share of people reporting themselves to be very happy over that period remained static.

Happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s social connections. People who are socially connected tend to be healthier—often significantly so. More than a dozen long-term studies in Japan, Scandinavia, and the United States show that the chances of dying in a given year, no matter the cause, is two to five times greater for people who are isolated than for socially connected people.

International development professionals also now acknowledge that strong social ties are a major contributor to a country’s development. The World Bank, for instance, sees social connectedness as a form of capital—an asset that yields a stream of benefits useful for development.

Creating a higher quality of life requires us to help create new political, physical, and cultural infrastructures of well-being. Pakistan has no such infrastructure and is thus ranked 167 out of 180 countries in Well-being Index. Sri Lanka ranks 49 and Bangladesh 131. Interestingly, Nigeria ranks 133, a position better than Pakistan.

Year after year, the Human Development Index report shows Pakistan lagging behind the rest of the regional countries. Our investment in realizing the human potential remains the lowest in South Asia. The HDI report lists a shocking situation of the poor quality of life in Pakistan.

The standard tool used to measure societal health, GDP, is much too narrow to serve as a yardstick of well-being because it sums all economic transactions, regardless of their contribution to quality of life. It also ignores entire swaths of non-market activity that contribute to individual and society well-being.

A well-being society would offer consumers a sufficient range of genuine choices rather than a large array of virtually identical products. Businesses would be encouraged through economic incentives to deliver what consumers really seek—reliable transportation, not necessarily a car; or strong neighborhood relationships in lieu of a large house with a big yard. Choice would be redefined to mean options for increasing quality of life rather than selections among individual products or services.

If focused on well-being Pakistani society would ensure that everyone in it has access to healthy food, clean water and sanitation, education, health care, and physical security. It is virtually impossible to imagine a society of well-being that does not provide for people’s basic needs.

Making the transition to a society of well-being is a challenge to the new premier given people’s habit of placing consumption at the apex of societal values. All the same, any move in this direction starts out with two strong advantages. First, the human family today has a base of knowledge, technology that can be invested in well-being rather than in continued material accumulation for its own sake. A second advantage is simple but powerful: for many people, a life of well-being is preferred to a life of high consumption.

By nurturing relationships, facilitating healthy choices, learning to live in harmony with nature, and tending to the basic needs of all, the PPP Government will leave its indelible footprints in history if it shifts from an emphasis on consumption to an emphasis on well-being. This could be an apposite response to the growing number of suicidal deaths due to poverty, and to be his great achievement in the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Desperate need for apt policy planning

The stump oratory must have reached people about sharpshooter or inept public managers’ actions, GDP growth rate is declining; foreign exchange reserves are depleting fast, record downfall in exports and of foreign investment. Ipso facto, no previous government in past decades confronted issues like these when financial stability has become a forgotten song, it has miserably. Yes, the government has completely failed in efficient service delivery to the poor. Consequently, it has contributed sweet nothing in reducing poverty and hunger that goes on to sustain stark national inequalities in wealth, assets, incomes and opportunities.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that 40 million people in Pakistan live below the poverty line. In its stated bid to ensure national security, Pakistan is spending more on arms and defense, and less on social security and protection, public distribution systems and welfare programs.

In the direst situations suicide rates among the poor are on the rise. Ironically, while national level defaulters on debt benefit from enhanced facilities to restructure debt and continue borrowing, the overwhelming burden of national debt is borne by the poor.

Lacking job opportunities in rural areas cause migration to urban cities. This takes the form of low quality jobs in the informal economy, or in the case of women and girls, prostitution or domestic service. Migration under conditions of economic stress exacerbates food insecurity. Owing to weak economic and social profile of the country, the adult population could not be gainfully employed, resulting in an 8.3 per cent current unemployment rate (more than 10 per cent in urban areas), plus substantial under-employment. Today, of the current workforce of some 48.40 million- as many as 8 million- are unemployed.

More and more workers, especially women, are being forced from the relatively protected formal sector to the unprotected informal sector. This is accompanied by concentration of assets and resources in the hands of the rich and newly prosperous, who have been able to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by modernization and globalization.

Graft and corruption in government are a significant cause of continuing poverty and hunger. Despite NAB being there, corruption is on the increase and being accentuated by the companies of the developed countries through their underhand dealings with the national officials.

Sitting in luxurious offices the economic managers of Pakistan juggle with statistics rather than conducting surveys. This is often done to draw statistics acceptable to donors or financial institutions. To duck the WB in 2001, for instance, it drafted the poverty reduction strategy, just about the time when the WB initiated a new line of credit (PRGF) for countries that were equipped with such a strategy.

The increase in the tax-GDP ratio is apparently marginal but in the numerical terms, bulk of the burden has been shifted from direct to the indirect taxes and the share of the regressive sales tax being recovered at the highest rate over the globe has sharply gone up. It is affecting the whole population. The sales tax formed over 44 per cent of the total tax collection during the fiscal 2002-03. The result is that quantum of sales tax has grown from 27.11 in 1998-99 to 42.33 per cent during July 2004-January, 2005.

The Oil Companies' Advisory Committee fixes the prices of various products on fortnightly basis. It is claimed that the committee fixes the prices in a very transparent manner keeping in view the international prices. But the transparent formula was never made public either by the government or the committee. Oil companies have thus been licensed to plunder the poor.

Pakistan currently has about 74 percent of the population living on $1 per day and 86 percent living on $2 per day, implying that one out of every three households going to sleep hungry every day.

The narrow focus on economic growth has not only failed to eliminate poverty, it has also resulted in policies that have created new forms of, or aggravated existing conditions of poverty and hunger. Shaukat Aziz institutionalized policies that opened up economy and shrunk government’s direct responsibility for redistribution of assets and benefits. Public support and subsidies were systematically torn down, and market based price systems were made the primary determinant of allocation and distribution. With privatization and withdrawal of government subsidies for domestic industry, a significant proportion of the work force was shunted into the informal sector. By and large, previous government achieved economic growth at the cost of well being of workers, small-scale agricultural producers and consumers. The greatest beneficiaries of PM Shaukat Aziz’ adjustment programs were the rich, large private producers, distributors, traders, and MNCs.

Poverty and hunger are violations of human rights. They result in exclusion and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. The human rights of people to housing, water, and sanitation—guaranteed under international law and commitments of development targets made at global summits, including the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development—drag on to erode. By ratifying a number of international human rights instruments, such as, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Pakistan has voluntarily accepted the obligations to progressively realize human rights to food, health, adequate housing, water and sanitation, which are essential for the well being of its citizens.

Pakistan needs policies that protect the rights of people to water, land, forests, other natural resources, biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. Policies are also needed that ensure people’s access to a services essential to their development especially among the poor and historically marginalized, this includes education, social security, healthcare and information, etc. Access must be equitable and the quality of services must not vary according to socio-economic or gender backgrounds. (

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Advice to Defectors

These days political defection is on the up and up. People of mark from significant and not so significant political organizations are falling away and joining Muslim League (N) or the PPP. General public identify these turncoats as opportunists and lotas (ewer), I don’t. I hold them in high esteem, as they are intelligent people who have a nodding acquaintance with trends in power corridors. They know and rightly so, that in number games, or for this or that reason, PML (N) or the PPP will remain in power. I dedicate this column to such wheeler-dealers.

I feel it pertinent and this is what I can do to equip the defectors with a patrimony—I can tip them off with some rough and ready thoughts. I want them to climb the ladder and go up in life and not get lost in milling crowds at the bottom rung.

You’ve rightly seized the opportunity, Mr. Defector. Your decision to turn your coat is indeed to suit the times. What could the Duke of Savoy do expect to turn his coat by turns when his lands passed into the hands of the invading French army first and back into the hands of the Spanish army? No one is patted as much as a political apostate. In politics, as on a sick bed, one tosses from side to side in the hope of getting better comfort.

Pedants might tell that success is for those who work hard; are courageous, tenacious, so and so forth. Wrong—absolutely wrong. Through and through, these are hidden landmines to destroy. Success comes only to those who circumvent these impediments by taking shortcuts. Concentrate all your faculties on one point—your success. The guy who cuts a wide path rarely cuts a long one.

You might have been told to abominate the filthy lure by some fox that failed to reach the grapes, or by those who want to keep it all to themselves. Do not build treasures in heaven, for they in heaven, I am told, have no need for cash, but live on their creditworthiness. Joining the ruling party is the right place to be wealthy. At the very least your bank loans will be written off and you also stand a good chance of becoming a minister.

Now that you’re in the ruling party, you must know that the two cannot go together—man and honesty; one gets broken. The Greek god Hermes was patron of both trade and of thieves.

Your decision to defect to the ruling lot and that too from the front door is hunky dory. All the good horses have been whipped away. Today’s insects are tomorrow’s stars. You only have to remember the rules of the game.

Invoke curses on the politicians who are without power and have been thrown out of the ring by the referee. You must find a sycophant to become a sycophant yourself. In the West dogs that look into the eyes are not allowed at public places. Win the ruling class with flattery and sycophancy. This will qualify you for a minister’s slot. And, remember, more people worship the rising sun than the setting. To his dog, every man is Napoleon. That is why dogs are so popular among the gentry. In today’s wheeling dealing people need those around them who wag their tails.

Stoop as low as you want if it is to pick up a prize (a slot of a minister or any other public office), for he that humbles himself shall be exalted here and hereafter. Everyone has his ego and vanity. There is nothing people need at the top so much as nourishment for their self-esteem. Flattery and sycophancy have always been popular with those in power and authority. When the Czar had a cold, all Russia sneezed, they say.

To pose big is half the way to success. To hide your crimes is the other half. Try to trump up some connections with Uncle Sam. You can learn from some cabinet ministers who rear such connections. Who else would know this better than General Pervez Musharraf how to swap country’s sovereignty? Go play golf with him and take lessons.

The successful politician surrounds himself with all status symbols—(un)attractive attire, mobile telephone, starched shalwar qameez, and a security guard with deadly gun. Keep in mind that is the way to impress. If you have status, what you say becomes important. Play the game on a grand scale. Keep an imaginary appointment with the man in uniform, the President or the Quaid of PML (N).

And pay court to the harem of the sultans in intelligence agencies. Today they make or unmake the politicians. Be useful to them for they obtain more often favors by your judicious efforts. You must be sweet of tongue and ready with a smile. And never make the mistake of making your demands modest. Always inflate them.

These are the days of specialization. You must try to become an expert, specialized in politics in some innovative ways. Old ways of getting kickbacks are now risky. Invent new ways of making politics as money spinning. Only sometimes men come by the name of genius in the same way that certain insects come by the name of centipedes, not because they have a hundred feet but because most people can’t count beyond fourteen.

These are the days of publicity. Publicity gives you the outsize figure. Send a dog in spaceship and he will return a celebrity. You will be a notability if you win media publicity on hollow slogan mongering. You will learn such flags of convenience from your new Party. Remember, when a goose lays an egg, she just waddles off as if she were ashamed of it. When a hen lays an egg she calls on heaven and earth to witness it by her cackles. Be a successful politician and thus a hen. You must cackle loud even if there is no egg. That is the norm today. (

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Evolution to Academic Excellence

In 21st century there is a need to develop a new entity in higher education - one that educates and develops graduates for meeting the challenges of this century. Such an institution must emphasize the creation and development of knowledge into practical, sustainable solutions to today's problems, and the commercialization of those solutions to create wealth. This must be done within a learning community that emphasizes communication and teaming skills leading to creative problem solving and within an environment that emphasizes a sound appreciation of humanity’s ethical and moral principles. Anthony G. Collins, President of Clarkson University, has expressed this in: “The Evolution to Academic Excellence.”

He asserts that with the advent of the industrial revolution during the nineteenth century, some liberal arts institutions added faculties that supported economic growth and spurred business development. At the same time, technological institutes sprang into action to create manufacturing professionals and some colleges even specialized in the art of business itself. After WWII a new emphasis began to emerge on research - the creation of scientific knowledge.

Those who have a vision to track the process of economic development – the connection of science to engineering to business coupled with liberal arts to provide the humanistic elements are best suited to create this type of institution. Ideally this type of institution would have engineering at the core of its being and value interdisciplinary activity rather than a culture that wants to retain disciplinary purity. The very interdisciplinary intellectual capacity and fundamental mathematics and sciences needed for engineering, technology and business degrees create the academic institution of the future.

General Francis Walker, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology once said: “In the present stage of social and industrial change, change almost bewildering in the rapidity of its movement and in the extent of the field over which it is taking place, it is most reasonable to believe that great gaps exist between the public needs and the supply of those needs by the existing institutions of learning. As a result of their freedom from obligation to the general system of education, they not only will be at liberty, but they will be strongly impelled to search out those real needs of the people in the matter of education which are at present unsupplied. It is essential to this function that they should remain in a state of flux; open to all impressions; mobile under all influences; not too soon assuming that they have found their ultimate resting place and have taken on their distinctive character.”

The mission of the institution has to be of graduating and developing students who lead and practice technology. Our focus must be on this “product.” While we must recognize the influence of nanotechnology, we have to fully grasp that “technology” and also the engineering to embrace a new knowledge-age definition that includes biotechnology and info-technology. We have to broaden our vision of technology to include contributions from the life sciences, to embrace the vitality of new disciplines within engineering, and to appreciate how businesses operate with the sophistication of integrated technology systems.

We have not recognized the dramatic changes in demographics - the changing fraction of underrepresented individuals, the geographic shifts in population centers, the socioeconomic profile of our constituents - nor have we fully recognized the need to introduce new majors to draw more women into the technological workforce so that their talents can be developed and utilized. In short, we need to and should be obligated to deliver education that is appealing to a broader range of potential students.

In addition to lagging behind in reacting to changes in student interest, the marketplace, and the demands of employers, we have failed to react to the roles our educational institutions must play in the economy. We must now recognize that the creation of knowledge can no longer be our end goal. We must also develop intellectual property, transferring technology to the marketplace, and become a central part of the economic enterprise that values innovation, creativity and creates wealth. Implicit in this direction is the development of research at all levels of the institution.

Given this unsettling background of an institution dependent upon its external environment, our institutions must revitalize higher learning in order to provide a more comprehensive, unique image that remains true to core mission and values.

The students ought to know that they are the center of the educational process and all academic staff demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to creating a person-to-person connection within our living, research and learning environments. The faculty needs to collaborate, innovate and create knowledge across disciplinary boundaries and educate students to have a particular appreciation for the opportunities that lie at the intersection of traditional disciplines.

Our campus community must stimulate the intellectual environment that attracts a diverse pool of exceptionally talented women and men who will rise to be leaders of the 21st century with the passion to create enterprises that benefit society.

The evolving strengths and vision for the future must intersect precisely with the growing technological needs of the society – a society that must depend upon a workforce capable of creating, adapting and managing technology regardless of discipline of study or natural individual talents.

To fulfill this vision for academic excellence, our educational institutions should uniquely position to further stake their legacy to society based on commitment to technology and leadership in marrying coursework, research and extracurricular pursuits in engineering, business, science, health sciences and arts.

We should create a distinctive place in the higher education order as attainable as we each ought to continue to promote and explore innovative ways to arrange the basic building blocks of traditional fields of study to reflect new avenues for interdisciplinary education, research breakthroughs, and solutions for society.

Our education system is a pack of confusion disorder. Can we transform it for delivering academic excellence as envisioned by Anthony G. Collins? (

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ballooning Youth of Pakistan

In more than 100 countries, people are getting not only more numerous, but younger. Youth bulges, combined with economic stagnation and unemployment, can burden these countries with disproportionately high levels of violence and unrest—severely challenging their hopes for social and economic stability. Pakistan is one such country

Pakistan currently has the largest number of young people in its history, with approximately 25 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. Pakistani youth makes up 63% and adolescents nearly 43 % of the total Pakistani population. Illiteracy, lack of awareness, poverty and dearth of focused attention to youth-related problems add to the complexity of the problems currently faced by the country in social sector development.

The predominance of young adults can be a social challenge and a political hazard. Our economy and labor markets have been unable to keep pace with population growth, contributing to high rates of unemployment. While unemployment tends to be high in Pakistan in general, it is among young adults three to five times as high as overall adult rates.

Young men in rural areas are often hardest hit relative to their expectations. Agriculture is the single largest source of livelihood worldwide, but many young rural men expecting to inherit land increasingly find themselves disinherited.

With few opportunities in rural areas, young people in Pakistan are increasingly forced to leave behind more traditional lifestyles and migrate to cities in search of work, education, and urban amenities.

Many urban areas are thus now home to significant, and potentially volatile, youth bulges. Rapidly industrializing cities and frontier areas can be spawning grounds for political unrest because thousands of young men migrate to these sites in search of already in short supply livelihoods.

Yet urbanization is proceeding faster than municipalities can provide infrastructure, services, and jobs. Municipal governments in Pakistan are the least able to muster the human and financial resources to contend with these problems, especially when the poorest, nontaxable segment of the urban population continues to grow rapidly.

Most young people, men and women, work in agriculture. Other types of work are segregated by gender, with females engaged in stitching, embroidery, and knitting (largely based at home) while young men work in factories, are self-employed, or perform skilled labor. Young people’s attitudes about gender roles remain traditional, with well-defined lines between the domains of males and females.

The UN projected that by 2007, for the first time ever, more people would be living in cities than in rural areas. This urban share could top 60 percent by 2030—with almost all of this growth projected to occur in the developing world.

We have a large number of youth between 18 and 35 who are properly educated, but have nothing to do. Urban discord, more than the rural sort, afflicts diverse social classes, including the angry unemployed. The risks of instability among youth are increased when skilled members of elite classes are marginalized by a lack of opportunity.

It isn’t difficult to find contemporary parallels. The collapse of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union in the early 1990s in part to the mobilization of large numbers of discontented young men who were unable to put their technical educations to use due to party restrictions on entering the elite. And Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard professor and author of the controversial treatise on the Clash of Civilizations, has pointed to connections between tensions in the Middle East (where 65 percent of the population is under the age of 25) and the unmet expectations of skilled youth. Many Islamic countries, he argues, used their oil earnings to train and educate large numbers of young people, but with little parallel economic growth few have had the opportunity use their skills.

Pakistan where a large youth bulges, coupled with high rates of urban growth and shortages of employment opportunities, is already creating a very high risk of conflict.

The US has begun to take notice. In April 2002, in a written response to congressional questioning, the US, CIA noted that “several troublesome global trends—especially the growing demographic youth bulge in developing nations (Pakistan included) whose economic systems and political ideologies are under enormous stress—will fuel the rise of more disaffected groups willing to use violence to address their perceived grievances.” The CIA warned that current US counter-terrorist operations might not eliminate the threat of future attacks because they fail to address the underlying causes that drive terrorists.

Fortunately, demographics are not destiny. But the likelihood of future conflict may ultimately reflect how Pakistan chooses to deal with its demographic challenges.

There are nevertheless examples of some countries, where policies were in place that provided young men with occupations and opportunities—including land reform and frontier settlement schemes, migration abroad, industrialization, and the expansion of military and internal security forces. The latter strategy probably helped regimes such as North Korea, China, and Turkmenistan that maintain political stability during the post-Cold War era despite large proportions of young adults.

In the short term, Pakistan government will need to tackle the underlying factors contributing to discontent among young people, including poverty and the lack of economic opportunity. And the government can address part of the risk associated with youth unemployment by investing in job creation and training, boosting access to credit, and promoting entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, however, the only way to achieve the necessary long-term changes in age structure will be through declines in fertility. Government can facilitate fertility decline by supporting policies and programs that provide access to reproductive health services—voluntary family planning services and maternal and child health programs and counseling, including providing accurate information for young adults—and by promoting policies that increase girls’ educational attainment and boost women’s opportunities for employment outside the home. (

Friday, November 7, 2008

Latching on Nanotechnology

Today I reassemble excerpts of my lectures, delivered at various local universities, on Nanotechnology—the largest breakthrough of 21st Century—the act of purposefully manipulating matter at an atomic scale and has the ability to manage universe at a molecular perspective. The nano-era is just around the corner and I see a multi-trillion dollar industry coming for a jumpstart within 5-10 years.

Nanotechnology is going to change the face of present day solutions to health problems. For instance the tiny autonomous robots that will work in bloodstream, clearing out plaque deposits, fixing various genetic flaws, looking for and eliminating cancer cells, and working in tandem with brain cells will vastly increase the human intellectual capacity. They will be like built-in doctors—cruising about, taking samples, communicating diagnosis, and finally, at your design, they will deal with whatever problem they encounter by administering drugs, or performing minute surgery.

The story of nanotechnology in medicine will be the story of extending surgical control to the molecular level. The easiest applications will be aids to the immune system, which will selectively attack invaders outside tissues. Immune machines will have no difficulty identifying cancer cells, and ultimately be able to track them down and destroy them wherever they may be growing. Destroying every cancer cell will cure the cancer.

Devices working in the bloodstream will nibble away at atherosclerotic deposits, widening the affected blood vessels. Cell herding devices will restore artery walls and artery linings to health, by ensuring that the right cells and supporting structures are in the right places. This would prevent heart attacks.

With constant monitoring of our every bodily function, and continuous removal of dead cells, nanites will keep us at 100% peak health, giving us life-spans far exceeding those we can expect today—100, 200 or even 300 years; cancer cells—gone; poorly functioning kidney fixed; broken bone repaired; funny looking nose tweeked. Out and out, memory of one human being will be more and sharper than of several PCs of today.

It will impact the practice of medicine in many ways. The tools of medicine will become cheaper and more powerful. Research and diagnosis will be far more efficient, allowing rapid response to new diseases, including engineered diseases. Small, cheap, numerous sensors, computers, and other implantable devices may allow continuous health monitoring and semi-automated treatment. Several new kinds of treatment will become possible. As the practice of medicine becomes cheaper and less uncertain, it can become available to more people.

With real-time monitoring of the body's systems, it will be possible via nanotechnology to detect undesired effects far earlier, allowing a more aggressive and experimental approach to treatment. Researchers will be able to gather far more data and process it with computers millions of times more powerful. The result will be a detailed model of the body's systems and processes, and the ability to predict the effects of any disease or treatment. Diagnosis will also be far easier and more informative. It will be possible to build thousands of diagnostic tests, including invasive tests and imaging tests, into a single, cheap, hand-held device. A variety of single-molecule detection technologies will be available even with early nanotechnology. Trustworthy diagnosis will make medicine far more efficient, and also reduce the risk of malpractice.

The practice of medicine today involves a lot of uncertainty. Doctors must guess what condition a patient has, and further guess how best to treat it without upsetting the rest of the body's systems. By contrast, when pathogens and chemical imbalances will be directly detected, many conditions will be treatable with no uncertainty, allowing the use of computer-selected treatment in common cases. This may further reduce the cost of medical care, although doctors, regulatory agencies, or the patients themselves may resist the practice initially.

Many organs in the body perform fairly simple functions. Already, sophisticated machinery can replace lung function for hours, heart function for months, and kidney function for years. Since nanotechnology can build machines smaller than cells, many other organs will be candidates for replacement or augmentation, including skin, muscles, various digestive organs, and some sensory functions.

With nanotechnology, we should be able to build mass storage devices that can store more than a hundred billion billion bytes in a volume the size of sugar cube. RAM that can store a mere billion billion bytes in such a volume and massively parallel computers of same size that can deliver a billion billion instructions per second

One aspect of nanotechnology is about building working mechanisms using components with nanoscale dimensions, such as super small computers (bacteria sized) with today’s MIPS capacity, or super computers the size of sugar cubes, possessing the power of a billion laptops, or a regular sized desktop model with the power of trillions of today’s PCs

The nano-engineered materials will have superior physical properties—stronger, cheaper and lighter. Material strengths are currently limited by lattice defects and intermolecular bond energies. Nanoscale materials, in contrast, might be produced with microstructures that are ordered over the long range. This could lead to stronger and lighter materials. In a similar way, the hardness and surface smoothness of nano-engineered materials would be controllable to a greater extent than at present. They will be much cheaper than the products produced by conventional industry.

The military aspects of nanotechnology have gotten more attention. We see upcoming weapons that are simultaneously more effective and less lethal. Weapons that are enormously powerful, but non-lethal, might tend to be used a lot. Pentagon is doing research for development of nano-weapons. Mastery of nanotechnology could lead to the kind of military supremacy that mastery of steam power and repeating firearms gave the West in the 19th Century

Pakistan should create awareness, prepare for nano-era, include nanotechnology as a subject matter in core curriculum and most importantly our industry needs to stay vigilant and stop making un-informed decisions for investment. (

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Technical Education

In Pakistan technical education and vocational training systematization focuses on the development of human resource in terms of skill up-gradation, which is demand-driven, meeting the current needs and hence unapt, obsolete and not futuristic.

Although the market and its needs ought to be taken into account, they cannot be the sole guideline for vocational training systems and policies. Markets have short-term views and reasons which if followed unconditionally, may lead to decisions apparently correct for immediate purposes but counterproductive in the long term. The necessary matching of training supply and demand at micro level must not be taken as a substitute for serious long-term policies and preparation our youth for up and coming technological changes.

Pakistan’s technical institutions should contribute to the strengthening of industry and to the full and sustainable development; promote technical education for industries of today and tomorrow; and impart vocational training in line with modern technologies.

In the coming decade we will see body amplifiers that expand human endurance and strength. We will see novel devices that do not rely on wheels, where our own limbs are augmented, where we can traverse very rough terrains with a very high metabolic economy or efficiency. The forecast is that people for certain situations will not want to use wheels anymore, because their legs, augmented by technology, far outperform wheeled vehicles. The technologies—from carbon nano-tube microprocessors and self-driving cars to biosensors and quantum cryptography—are works in progress. Each development holds the promise. The question that can be asked: Are we preparing our workforce for such changes?

A great revolution is coming next—Nanotechnology is a revolution more radical than the industrial revolution is probably occurring. All scientists unanimously agree that this is going to be the largest breakthrough of 21st century.

The present economies are largely based on the scarcity of (materialistic) products. This kind of economy will therefore quite likely disappear almost completely. Within ten years nano-products will dominate a multi-trillion dollar market. All conventional industries will be turned to obsolete chunk.

India prepared its workforce in IT. Pakistan focused on supplying unskilled labor to Gulf and did not adopt IT in management and production functions. It is once again ignoring the upcoming technologies.

Demographic factor is another catalyst for strategic change. Today, national and global demographic changes are a potential catalyst for a long-term systemic imbalance.

According to the Employment Policy Foundation of the USA, a systemic labor shortage is expected to transform the workplace over the next 25 to 30 years as the gap between aging population and entrants of college-educated workers widens due to the senior population’s mass retirements. If the US economy continues to grow at three percent per year—the economy’s consistent average since 1948 — the workforce will have to increase by 58 million employees over the next three decades if the same rate of productivity is maintained. Yet, if the current population trend continues, the number of workers will only increase by 23 million. This trend would create an overall US labor shortage of 35 million workers. Most of these projected shortages are expected to involve workers having specific skills. To counter this systematic shortage the US will import skilled labor force from Asia and Africa.

Europe’s total fertility rate is about 1.4—well below the 2.1 replacement level. Over the next 15 years, West European economies will need to find several million workers to fill positions vacated by retiring workers. European countries will thus accommodate growing immigrant populations (chiefly from Muslim countries). Otherwise they will face a period of protracted economic stasis that could threaten the huge successes made in creating a more United Europe.

The aging of Japan’s work force will reinforce dependence on migrated workers from South East Asia.

The demographic structures in the West and Japan over the next decade produce considerable challenges to education planning and vocational training in Pakistan. Herein lies a potential training challenge for preparing the workforce meeting the technological needs of those countries.

Migration has the potential to help solve the problem of a declining work force in the USA, Europe and, to a lesser degree, Japan and probably will become a more important feature of the world of 2020, even if many of the migrants do not have legal status.

The likely emergence of Pakistan as a new major Asian player—similar to the rise of Germany in the 19th century and the United States in the early 20th century—can transform the geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those of the previous two centuries.

Is Pakistan ready to prepare its workforce for meeting the needs of USA, Europe and Japan? How Pakistan exercises its growing power and whether it relates competitively in the international system depends largely on the way it plans (or plans not in the slightest)?

Pakistan must prepare workers for offshore employment. It needs to develop a workforce at par with the workforce of industrialized countries; respond to the industry demands of today and of the future; prepare workforce to meet the demographic gap of the West; push a program to modernize the system of technical education and vocational training; increase the supply and productivity of skilled labor in key sectors of the economy; increase, relevance, internal efficiency and quality of existing technical education and vocational training; and least but not the last, improve the opportunities for gainful employment in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

According to Neil Edmunds, former president of the American Vocational Association, those who will lead vocational education into the 21st century must be shareholders in a unifying vision; these leaders must understand the broad scope of vocational education. They must be skilled communicators; they must be as comfortable outside the educational setting as within it, moving easily among people from government, education, and business. The question: does Pakistan offer this leadership? (