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

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Hodgepodge Urbanization

In this urbanizing world, cities hold the key to achieving a sustainable balance between Earth's resource base and its human energy. Industrialization in developing countries has led to urban health problems on an unprecedented scale. Cities around the world affect not just the health of their people but the health of the planet. Urban areas take up just 2 percent of the world's surface but consume the bulk of vital resources.

The definition of an urban area, as distinguished from a rural area, differs from country to country. Whilst most demographers would accept that cities are large, densely populated, built-up areas, there is little agreement about how to define urban using objective measures. Most countries use a combination of criteria: typically population size, population density, and the extent of the built-up area. However, few countries use the same measurements. In the United States census takers regard urban areas as that with at least 2,500 people; in the United Kingdom the figure is 1,000.

Cities are home to more people than ever before. In 1900, only 160 million people, one tenth of the world's population, were city dwellers. But soon after 2000, half the world (3.2 billion people) lived in urban areas--a 20-fold increase in numbers.

The location of a city reflects the function of the original settlement. Similarly, street plan, pattern of land use, and architectural style result from the interaction of factors like site and history as well as function.

Many cities conform to a geometric plan that reveals a conscious decision to impose order on the landscape. The most common plan is the grid, in which streets run parallel to each other or intersect at right angles. Such a plan has endured since the time of the ancient Greeks. In the 16th century, Spanish colonial cities in South America were laid out in grid fashion according to a set of planning laws. Many US cities were originally laid out on a grid to facilitate the sale of land. This pattern was not confined to the countries of Europe and their colonies, 15th-century Beijing was laid out on a grid of streets that surrounded the Imperial Palace.

Other city plans, such as those of Paris and New Delhi, incorporate radial thoroughfares and the street plan of Moscow is a series of concentric circles. However, city plans are more than simple exercises in geometric order; they also reflect the values of those groups or individuals that are in a position to exert power over the urban landscape.

Cities that have developed within a common culture often have strong similarities. For example, the older parts of the Islamic cities of Cairo, Damascus, and Fès all share a number of physical features. At the centre of each stand the citadel, the chief mosque, the palace, and the main souk, or bazaar. The city is divided into distinct quarters that resemble villages. The ancient core of Damascus was divided into about 70 quarters. Meanwhile, the arrangement and dimensions of streets and the architecture and orientation of houses conformed to guidelines set down in the Qura’an.

Many people are ambivalent about cities, believing that they embody the best and worst aspects of civilization. On the one hand, the diversity of peoples and activities encourages innovation and creativity, which in turn create opportunities that attract still more people. On the other, problems of overcrowding, crime, poverty, and pollution may be severe. Cities, therefore, have come to reflect the hopes and fears of the modern world.

The urban population growth in Pakistan accelerated from 4.3 percent per annum in 1960-1992 to 4.6 percent in 1992-2000. With some ten million inhabitants, Karachi is one of the largest cities in Asia; in South Asia it ranks only behind Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi. Karachi is one of the fastest growing megacities of the world and expected to rank 7th by the year 2015 with over 20 million inhabitants surpassing Calcutta and New Delhi it will be second to Bombay in South Asia; Lahore will rank 22nd internationally and 6th in South Asia with 12 million inhabitants, as many as Hyderabad (Indian), Bangkok, Osaka or Lima.

There is no policy for alleviating urban poverty in Pakistan. And there are only few economists, who think that poverty has to be removed directly. Macro economic policies of Pakistan need major revisions. The policies of growth without much regard to income distribution needs to be reconsidered with a view to eradicating poverty and unemployment problems.

The government is totally absorbed, politically, in its power struggle, and is financially impotent, due to vast outlays for debt servicing, defense, law and order, and a tendency to ad-hocism, it pursues a policy of laissez-faire, hoping for solving social problems by economic growth and leaving them otherwise to foreign donors and private charity.

With urbanization in Pakistan crime is growing even faster. Proud centers of commerce and culture are becoming armed encampments, unable to ensure the daily safety of average citizens. Crime is also a major impediment to development. If the security of cities cannot be guaranteed, Pakistan cannot be expected to move safely along the path of economic and social development.

Environmental health related problems, including drinking water quality, waste management, housing, air quality, health and welfare related issues including narcotics problems must top the list of to do items.

Unorganized, congested and unplanned, the hotchpotch situation of urbanization in Pakistan is not due to a day's or a month's neglect but the cumulative end product of the decades’ misguided actions. Its responsibility, too, is not restricted to any particular segment but to the overall attitude of shifting policies in decision making leading to inaction, indifference and unconcern. Unless we control rural exodus with employment opportunities, unless we add purpose to city planning, and unless we establish a sustainable balance between earth’s resources and city dwellers, we can’t put a tab on future urbanization. (

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Up and coming Future

The trends on important issues shape the future. We can’t plan future unless we know how the wind is blowing. The human ecological footprint is still increasing despite progress made in technology and institutions. Many crucial sources are emptying or degrading, and many sinks are filling up or overflowing. We are much more pessimistic about the global future than we were in 1972.

Over the last three decades a major cultural shift has taken place in the attitudes of Western societies toward the future. Optimism has given way to a sense of ambiguity, which threatens to stifle hope at a personal as well as a social level.

The recent appearance and spread of bird flu across Asian poultry populations has raised concerns that a devastating new influenza pandemic is imminent. Should the bird flu virus evolve to a form that readily infects humans, widespread loss of life is predicted.

In the past three years, the essential ingredients for a global response have coalesced: cheaper drugs, high-level political will, new money to pay for treatment, and growing grassroots muscle to push government to follow through on its promises.

The masculinization of Asia's sex ratios is one of the overlooked megatrends of our time, a phenomenon that may very likely influence the course of national and perhaps even international politics in the 21st century.

In recent years, despite high rates of deforestation in many regions, progress in implementing sustainable forest management around the world has been steady and encouraging.

University communities are at the leading edge in transportation innovation, developing new approaches that may have broad application, from central cities to suburban corporate campuses.

For the overwhelming preponderance of human history, humans have lived in societies that were characterized by 80% continuities, 15% cycles, and only 5% novelties at best. Now the figures are reversed: 80% of our futures may be novel, 15% cyclical, and only 5% continuous with the past and present.

The human population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion as of mid-2004 to 7.9 billion in 2025 (24% growth) and 9.3% in 2050 (45% growth).

Fiscal pressures associated with aging societies are set to intensify over the next few years, and even more so beyond…deficits and debts are on an explosive path in most large OECD countries, as well as in many smaller ones.

Pervasive computing and documentation will ultimately make all things transparent in all public and private enterprises, with total transparency finally becoming international law in 15-20 years.

With 21st Century technology at everyone's fingertips, the general population will demand accurate 21st Century information about the economic systems that govern their lives. In the Information Society there will be no personal secrets – forget confidentiality. The money-economy will be brought up to date with the real-economy, the majority of people in the World, who are currently excluded, will be included in the money-economy, markets will be hugely enlarged and wealth creation will explode. Poverty will be all but abolished by 2021. If you think this is too fast, just remember using your first computer and the changes since then.

It is probable that, as of 2025, the North-South divide in the world-system will not be significantly reduced; indeed, it might be quite enlarged.

The dangers of global fascism cannot be discounted as imaginary or alarmist.

A few very large international corporations will increasingly dominate global markets in wood products. They will move toward fiber farms of intensively managed engineered trees grown on short rotations. These fiber farms "will certainly have the capacity to meet and grossly exceed global needs for bulk wood fiber for the next century."

The probability of another huge quake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in Missouri, similar to the three quakes of 1811-1812, is roughly 20% between now and 2100. It could incur a cost of $1 trillion, probably bankrupting some state and local governments.

Some preferable futures for a better society or a better world offer exemplary visions worthy of consideration, such as: An ideal scenario for the 2005-2020 period, describing popular movements for peace, reform of the world monetary system, more equitable distribution of recourses, widespread government and corporate reform, etc.

Eradicating disconnectedness in the global economy is "the defining security task of our age…by expanding the connectivity of globalization, we increase peace and prosperity worldwide…making globalization truly global…(is) a future worth creating."

A new layer of governance is needed, but one that differs from the neo-conservative and hyper-liberal views. Emphasis is needed on enhancing community building and on a convergence of interests.

How to promote governance of weak states, improve their democratic legitimacy, and strengthen self-sustaining institutions…(is) the central project of contemporary international politics…because weak or failed states are the source of many of the world's most serious problems.

As soon as powerful personal computers enable every citizen, 90% of whom are innumerate, to count and to follow economic models, global transactions and added-value chains, the mysteries that surround profit and money will evaporate.

Investing in girl's education is "a strategy that will jump-start all other development goals." There is no tool for development that is more effective.

The concept of retirement is outdated and should be put out to pasture in favor of a more flexible approach to ongoing work—one that serves both employer and employee.

By 2021, most factories will be computer controlled automated facilities, many underground near to raw materials, that are switched on and off in response to just-in-time-stock control instructions, by managers perhaps living hundreds of kilometres from the factories.

The hurdles and barriers to these trends and forecasts are not technological nor are they commercial, the barriers are psychological and fiscal/political. The fiscal system is the last of the societal mechanisms to come in line with the rapid pace of change. The major challenges lie in the fiscal and political changes required to accommodate the irrepressible Information Society revolution. (

Monday, August 25, 2008

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Rather than carrying through National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Pakistan desperately needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

By and large, truth commissions are bodies established to research and report on human rights abuses over a certain period of time or in relation to a particular conflict. They allow victims, their relatives and perpetrators to give evidence of human rights abuses, providing an official forum for their accounts. In most instances, truth commissions are also required by their mandate to provide recommendations on steps to prevent a recurrence of such abuses. They are created, vested with authority, sponsored, and/or funded by governments, international organizations, or both.

Truth commissions exist for a designated period of time, have a specific mandate, exhibit a variety of organizational arrangements, and adopt a range of processes and procedures, with the goal of producing and disseminating a report, including conclusions and recommendations. Ultimately, the goals of such commissions are to contribute to end and account for past abuses of authority, to promote national reconciliation and/or bolster a new political order or legitimize new policies.

Closely related to truth commissions are commissions of inquiry into specific events, more narrowly circumscribed by duration, location and/or individuals involved. Similarly, a few nongovernmental human rights investigations have adopted truth commission-like roles in countries in the midst of political transition.

Such Commissions are put together with political leaders, journalists, eminent citizens, retired judges, professors, and human-rights activists as commissioners at national and regional levels.

Many countries have cherished the fruits of Truth Commission. In 2001, for example, a regulation issued by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor established a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation with a three part mandate: (1) to investigate human rights violations committed there between 1974 and 1999, resulting in the death of an estimated 200,000 East Timorese; (2) to facilitate reconciliation and reintegration of minor criminal offenders who submit confessions, through local "Community Reconciliation Processes"; and (3) to recommend further measures to prevent future abuses and address the needs of victims.

In Ecuador a Truth and Justice Commission was established to investigate at least 176 cases of human rights abuses over the past seventeen years.

The Commission on the Truth for El Salvador was set up and mandated by the UN, composed of former Colombian president Belisario Betancur; former Venezuelan foreign minister Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart; and Thomas Buergenthal, George Washington University law professor.

The Enquet Kommission Aufarbeitung von Geschichte und Folgen der SED-Diktator in Deutschland in Germany, was set up by members of the German Parliament in 1992 to investigate human rights violations under communist rule in East Germany from 1949 to 1989.

In 2001, the Parliament of Ghana passed a law establishing the National Reconciliation Commission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during times of instability and unconstitutional governments. The Commission was charged also with making recommendations for redress of victims of human rights abuses and for institutional reforms to prevent such occurrences in the future.

A National Truth and Justice Commission was established in Haiti to investigate human rights abuses over a three-year period.

Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso established a Truth Commission to investigate human rights violations perpetrated during the military dictatorships of General Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega between 1968 and 1989.

In Peru, the caretaker government of Valentin Paniagua approved the establishment of a Truth Commission to investigate human rights violations committed between 1980 and 2000. In early September 2001, upon the request of the Catholic Church, the commission was renamed as Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A peace agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the rebel Revolutionary United Front called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission addressed impunity and provided a forum for both victims and perpetrators of past human rights abuses.

The Commission of Truth and Reconciliation was set up in 1995 by the South African parliament to investigate human rights violations during the apartheid-era between 1960 and 1994. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired the 17-member body. The commission held public hearings throughout South Africa at which former victims of human rights abuses told their stories. A reparation and rehabilitation committee was established to recommend appropriate forms of compensation for human rights victims.

In 2000, President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea inaugurated the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths to investigate the death of citizens opposed to past authoritarian regimes in South Korea.

Truth Commissions are not created in a vacuum. They are set up in response to specific human rights abuses, political harmony, which in turn stimulate outgrowth of the particular history, political culture, and institutional structure of a country. Any given political context provides both enabling and constraining forces.

Like a geographic environment, 'political context' provides a landscape that lays the ground for the defining parameters of truth commissions. For example, types of human rights abuse will shape the kind of investigation that is necessary. The political transition process will determine the extent to which former perpetrators remain in power. The greater, in turn, the power of former perpetrators, the more limited the investigative power of a commission will be. Political culture and public opinion, too, are important factors for the establishment of truth commissions. A national focus on either healing or justice will shape the creation process significantly. Widespread national support for a commission can balance out opposition from former perpetrators.

We have our top political leadership living in exile; we have loan usurpers, looters of exchequer, we have crippled constitution, limping institutions; booming crimes against Mukhtaran Mai(s); we have Baluchistan crisis, inter-faith disharmony, and a broken society. Does this lay of the land not vindicate too good contemporaneity for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? (

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Trends Structuring the Future

On July 1, 2002, the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force, creating the first permanent and independent court capable of investigating the most serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The statute was adopted in July 1998, with 120 nations voting in favor and 21 abstaining. US President Clinton signed on to the ICC in the last days of his term in office. In May 2002, the Bush administration withdrew the US signature, and that August President Bush signed into law the American Service Members' Protection Act of 2002. The new law prohibits cooperation with the ICC and authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a US-allied country being held by the court.

Cellular phones are helping to bridge the telephonic divide between rich and poor. Building cell phone towers is cheaper than stringing traditional wires. With new companies coming into operation, Pakistan has 2 million cellular phones against 4.3 million fixed-lines. The industry trends point to time not far off when Pakistan will have more cell phones than fixed-lines.

Global advertising expenditures hit $444 billion in 2002 (Pakistan spends some Rs 5 billion). The advertisers are marketing to children—both to influence consumption preferences early and to take advantage of the growing amounts of money people are spending on children. Children are bombarded with thousands of ads per year. Half of these ads encourage children to request unhealthy food and drinks.

About 80 percent of the world depends on traditional and complementary/alternative medicine for treating and curing illness. In Pakistan where the government managers yell with full lungs about their wondrous health reforms, it nurtures some 600,000 quacks or in plain language, killers. Pakistan has more or less 40-50 percent of the population using traditional remedies. It’s most serious problem is the existence of an unchecked parallel system run by quack and cluck service providers including barbers.

World military expenditures in 2001 were conservatively estimated at $839 billion—almost $100 million every hour or $2.3 billion each day. The United States is now the world’s sole military colossus, accounting for 36 percent of all military spending, or $302 billion. US spending is now projected to rise to $414 billion by 2009. With 3.9% of the GDP, Pakistan ranks 26th worldwide in military expenditure. If Kashmir conflict with India is resolved, it would require a small military and an inconsequential expenditure.

Infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria cause a quarter of the world's deaths each year. Cancer, heart disease, and chronic respiratory disease cause twice that.

These diseases primarily affect populations at opposite ends of the income scale—the affluent and the impoverished. People in Africa and Southeast Asia, many of whom lack access to clean water, adequate nutrition, or proper healthcare, account for 75 percent of global deaths from infectious diseases, but make up just 36 percent of the world's population. Europeans and Americans constitute just 28 percent of world population, but account for 42 percent of deaths from cardiovascular diseases and cancers—diseases that are often triggered by lifestyle factors such as smoking, being sedentary, and eating foods rich in salt, sugar, and fat. In Pakistan statistics show a very dissimilar picture where death rate is 9.26 per 1000 persons, one quarter of all people attending hospital are ill due to water-related diseases.

Year 2002 was the second hottest since record keeping began in the 1880s. The global average temperature climbed to 14.52 degrees Celsius. The nine warmest years on record have occurred since 1990, and scientists expect that the temperature record set in 1998 will be surpassed by a new high in 2005.

Scientists have linked the warming trend that accelerated in the twentieth century to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses. By burning fossil fuels, people released some 6.44 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2002. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the US is the single largest source of carbon from fossil fuels—emitting 24 percent of the world’s total.

Wind power is now the world’s fastest growing power source. Global wind-generating capacity grew by 27 percent in 2002 and is projected to expand 15-fold over the next 20 years. Europe has nearly 73 percent of global wind capacity, with more than half of this capacity in Germany. In 2002, Denmark, a nation of 5 million people, installed more wind capacity than all of the US, a nation of more than 290 million. Despite many new and more efficient technologies are approaching fast, Pakistan continues to hang upon dam technology that is fast becoming obsolete. Regardless of contrariety for some dams such as Kalabagh Dam, Pakistan intellectualizes that dam technology is the only option.

In 2002, international tourism and related activities generated some 199 million jobs—one in every 13 positions worldwide. Despite an industry slowdown caused by 9/11 events and the global economic situation, tourism-related spending accounted for some $4.2 trillion of global economic activity in 2002.

Europe remained the top tourist destination, capturing 58 percent of arrivals in 2002, though its share of the world's tourists continues to fall from a high of 75 percent in 1964. France was the most visited country in 2002, followed by Spain, the US, Italy, and China. Despite Pakistan blessed with rich scenic beauty, its share in this thriving industry is almost sweet nothing. Contrarily, for the first time, in 2002, the share of the world's tourists visiting East Asia and the Pacific surpassed the portion visiting the Americas.

Meat consumption levels are by no means evenly distributed around the world. In industrial nations, consumers eat more than 80 kilograms of meat per person per year. Comparatively, in Pakistan, consumption sits at just 20 kilograms. (

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trends in Energy Use

The energy intensity—that is, the energy input per dollar of output—of the global economy is declining, and recent decades have seen continuing improvements in energy efficiency. Yet these encouraging developments are being offset by an ever-increasing level of consumption in countries such as Pakistan.

Energy consumption levels in East Asia tended to grow faster than those in South Asia despite being higher initially. Between 1980 and 2001, South Korean and Taiwanese citizens’ per capita consumption expanded an average of 6.7% and 5.1% per year. Pakistani per capita consumption grew 2.5% during the same period.

Everything we consume or use—our homes, their contents, our cars and the roads we travel, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat—requires energy to produce and package, to distribute to shops or front doors, to operate, and then to get rid of.

Most surprising is the dramatic surge in energy use in Pakistan. Compared with just 10 years ago, for example, Pakistanis are buying more cars, bigger homes and more appliances. Still, the average American consumes five times more energy than the average global citizen and nearly 20 times more than the average Pakistani.

Energy Consumption in Pakistan is rising fast. In 2002 it was 1.8 quadrillion Btu (0.44% of world total energy consumption) and Per Capita Energy Consumption was 12.2 million Btu (vs. U.S. value of 339.1 million Btu). Petroleum use alone has quadrupled since 1970. Current trends in energy use simply must not sustain.

Today, transportation is the world’s fastest-growing form of energy use, accounting for nearly 30 percent of world energy use and 95 percent of global oil consumption. Even relatively small shifts in transport choices have significant impacts. Only 0.5 percent of the total distance people travel each year is done by air, yet planes use up about 5 percent of transportation energy.

But the most significant driver of rising energy consumption for transportation is growing reliance on the private car. Many countries have devoted significant resources to public transport while discouraging the use of private vehicles. In Japan and Europe, much of the investment in transportation infrastructure focuses on passenger trains and transit systems. Today nearly 92 percent of downtown Tokyo travelers commute by rail, and the Japanese do only 55 percent of their traveling by car. West Europeans now use public transit for 10 percent of all urban trips, and Canadians for 7 percent, compared with Americans at only 2 percent.

Congestion charges on vehicles entering city centers, combined with investments in public transit, can also reduce car use and pollution. In London, in response to a toll enacted in early 2003, traffic levels dropped by an average of 16 percent in the first few months, and most former car users began commuting by public transit.

As homes become bigger, each individual house has more space to heat, cool, and light, as well as room for bigger and more appliances. Home appliances are the world’s fastest-growing energy consumers after automobiles, accounting for 30 percent of industrial countries’ electricity consumption and 12 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet the same needs could be met with far less energy. Technologies available today could advance appliance efficiency by at least an additional 33 percent over the next decade, and further improvements in dryers, televisions, lighting, and standby power consumption could avoid more than half of projected consumption growth in the industrial world by 2030.

There are extreme differences in the energy intensity of manufacturing industries from one country to another. In the early 1990s, the Japanese and Germans used less than half as much energy per unit of output in their heavy industries as Canadians and Americans did, due primarily to differences in energy prices. Japan, South Korea, and countries in Western Europe have the most efficient manufacturing sectors, whereas Pakistan is among the least efficient.

In the cities, widespread use of low-quality fuel, combined with a dramatic expansion in the number of vehicles on Pakistani roads, has led to significant air pollution problems. A hopeful trend is that Pakistan has become the third-leading country in the world to use compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel vehicles. Currently, government vehicles are being converted and soon over 100,000 taxi that have been using LNG will change to CNG. Although Pakistan's energy consumption is still low by world standards, lead and carbon emissions are major air pollutants in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

The amount and type of energy we consume is a result of two kinds of choices: those we make as a society and those we make as individuals and families. Through subsidies, taxes, standards, and other measures, government policies have a direct impact on energy supplies, demand, and the efficiency of our homes, appliances, cars, and factories. In Denmark, where the tax on auto registrations exceeds a car’s retail price, and where rail and bike infrastructure are well developed, more than 30 percent of families do not even own cars. And where governments or companies subsidize public transit, people are more apt to commute by bus or subway than by car.

Government policies affecting the price of energy are among the most important, as energy prices are among the fundamental factors determining a nation’s energy intensity. Countries with higher energy prices—like Japan and Germany—also have lower energy intensities, while those with lower prices are generally quite energy-intensive, such as the United States for gas and oil, Australia for coal, and Scandinavia for electricity.

Political will and effective, appropriate policies are essential for driving change. Through taxes and subsidies, regulations and standards, and investments in infrastructure, government can influence how, where, how much, and what form of energy we use. But we as consumers are not powerless bystanders. Ultimately, it is consumers who choose what to buy and how to use it, and thus it is consumers who can drive change. (

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Quiescent Traffic Managers

I have already driven the car that gives you driving directions to your desired destination with road descriptions. Feed the address and the car will take you to the destination. Future is coming when drivers will be able to look forward to receiving information on junction location, traffic jams, weather conditions and diversions. They will also be able to know about accidents, advice on speed including in-vehicle information on the current enforceable speed limit. The information will appear on a display controlled by switches on the steering wheel. Messages will be stored, so drivers can access the information they need at any time via the easy-to-use menu. It may be possible also to keep passengers informed about things like flight arrivals and departures, and connecting services.

The developed countries are refining their planning with time and making leaps into the future. Lucklessly, (mis)management of traffic in Pakistani cities has choked the roads, endangering lives of commuters. It seems as if our traffic managers have no role in planning or execution of programs and plans. Taking bribes from motorbike riders has turned out to be the most sacrosanct duty of the cops. The unplanned constructions and rampant encroachments have also suffocated the city’s roads. With overt and covert intentions both the traffic police and the municipal corporation have seemingly demonstrated their lack of skill and ability to handle the problem.

No innovative methods have ever been used in developing a unique approach to road traffic management and congestion control. And never any theoretical continuing research on the fundamental relationship of traffic flow and their interpretation under congested road conditions has been carried out.

Poor planning by the traffic police is causing enormous problems. Cars, motorbikes, cycles, animal drawn traffic and even the pedestrians have not been educated how to use road. In cities some roads have been divided into lanes (some with wrong marks though), the road users have not been told what do they signify.

Research and development on road traffic management methods maybe found physically, but not functionally. Consequently, there is no road traffic monitoring and surveillance, traffic accidents prevention, vehicle safety, road traffic planning and guidance, safety equipment and its inspection, and the application of the Hi—tech to traffic management.

The poor performance of Traffic Police illustrates that no training center for senior traffic management personnel is in place to introduce the modern traffic management theory and the advanced engineering technologies.

Also lacking is an integrated freeway traffic management system intended to improve safety, optimize the real capacity of the highway and provide a better level of service to motorists without the addition of more traffic lanes. This can be accomplished by faster detection and response to incidents on the highway and through balancing of traffic volumes between the highway and other viable alternate routes.

Planning should take account of the likely level of resources, such as improvements to infrastructure, traffic management measures such as reallocation of road space for cycles and motorcycles and realistic targets for growth in cycling. Priority should also be accorded to create an encroachment-free culture with particular priority given to the busiest and most important routes. It is unknown why our traffic managers rampantly neglect downtown and thickly populated areas. Consequently, no rule of law exists there. This doesn’t mean, however, that it exists elsewhere.

In the future more highly developed vehicle devices will open new perspectives for effective transportation and fleet management on the basis of the Toll System. The advantage of the system is by using automatic toll collection the user can settle the charge without having to stop. Modern technology redefines the world of mobility.

Increasing number of marriage palaces, commercial complexes, hotels, restaurants and other public places without parking facilities have added to the chaos. So, if the car owners park at roads, they are not responsible. After all they have to park somewhere, if not on road then where? The presence of fork lifters to move away such vehicles can be interesting scenes for foreign tourists but most dangerous to traffic. This also lay bare the weird policy planning and lacking integration.

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death by injury and the 9th leading cause of all deaths worldwide. Such injuries are projected to become the third leading cause of disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide by 2020, surpassed only by heart disease and major depression. Pakistan must also think about this serious problem.

Planning should use the tools of traffic management to improve the environment in towns and cities, by re-allocating road space and giving greater priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, thus creating better conditions for people to move around. It should introduce traffic regulation orders to restrict the use of vehicles - local pedestrian schemes or speed reduction initiatives.

Most roads are with no posted speed limits. Posting speed limits and strictly enforcing it will virtually stop overtaking. Thus, by reducing number of lanes for cars, a lane exclusively for cycles and motorcycles can be included. This will organize the traffic flow.

The dreadful driving of illiterate rickshaw, wagon, and truck drivers compel us to make the driving permits harder to get. Before allowing someone to drive, driving skills and knowledge about traffic rules must be ensured without any let-up.

The government should revitalize the Traffic Engineering Department for modernizing road traffic management, and to serve the functions of developing road traffic engineering technologies, training traffic management personnel, inspecting traffic safety equipment, and providing traffic management information.

Traffic awareness campaigns can play an important part in the proper use of road on sharing and yielding basis. The traffic managers should wake up for developing awareness campaigns at the local level, working jointly with neighboring local authorities and other interested parties as appropriate. Nevertheless, businesses, community, schools and hospitals also have a part to play in alerting people to the problems and the solutions. (

Monday, August 18, 2008

Toll Tax of Large Dams

A huge dam construction project is under way in China in the Three Gorges area on the upper Yangtze River. Apart from the expected benefits of the project, it will nevertheless cause problems, such as flooding upstream, possibly an earthquake, displacing people, eliminating tourist trade to the area, and destroying important archaeological artifacts.

After completion Three Gorges will become world’s largest dam, sinking 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,352 villages and requiring the resettlement of 2 million people. The dam will also bury hundreds of archeological sites, put several highly endangered species in jeopardy, and infinitely deface the magnificent beauty of the Three Gorges Region. This is the classic example of the devastation that all large dams cause.

In the same category, at Bakun, in Sarawak, Malaysia, the mega dam threatens 70,000 hectares of prime rainforest, and is hugely controversial. Large dams are built in Laos, Lesotho, Argentina, and Chile with the aid of military to suppress opposition.

Despite what promoters say, the academic literature belies that dams and reservoirs are purely benign, they have serious effects including earthquakes, coastal fisheries impacts, mercury pollution of food chains, destruction of local subsistence economies, loss of valuable fisheries and local extinctions, to mention but a few.

Large dams often destroy important, irreplaceable archeological evidence - burial grounds, antiquities, ancient building sites, and more. Although the promoters talk about engineering triumph they have enormous negative side effects that adversaries do not consider as progress, like the forced relocation of millions of people.

In the present planning process, the cost of environmental and social impacts is considered only to the extent required for fulfilling the legal requirements. This does not fully account for the real costs.

Such dams are also short of poverty reduction benefits of decentralized renewables. They are capital-intensive and dependent on large centers of demand and long transmission lines. They are among the most expensive infrastructure projects on the planet. The advocates of large dams regularly underestimate costs and exaggerate benefits. They have regularly underestimated the economic costs of large hydropower projects as well as the number of people requiring resettlement or compensation for lost lands, homes, and sources of livelihood. While costs are on average far higher than predicted, large hydropower dams often generate less power than promised.

The developers of large dams do not take into account the hydrological impacts of climate change. They build dams with designs that do not allow for the new extremes of drought or floods that global warming is predicted to cause. This has serious implications for dam performance – particularly droughts will sharply reduce hydropower generation – and safety.

There is no technology transfer benefit from large dams. Global renewable funds and carbon trading mechanisms are supposed to facilitate the transfer of new technologies from Northern to Southern countries and to provide the support needed to increase production and bring down unit costs of these technologies. These arguments do not apply to large dams, which is already a mature technology and well established in Southern countries.

Large hydro projects have major social and ecological impacts. According to the World Commission on Dams, large dams are responsible for the evictions of 40-80 million people, with many of the displaced receiving no or inadequate compensation. Millions of people have also lost their land and livelihoods, and have suffered because of downstream and other indirect impacts of large dams.

Efforts to mitigate the impacts of large dams typically fail. Many impacts of large dams go unacknowledged or underestimated, and measures to prevent or reduce them frequently fail. Even when people are recognized as eligible for resettlement they rarely have their livelihoods restored.

Large reservoirs can emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Rotting organic matter in hydropower reservoirs causes emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. While there is still much scientific controversy over how to measure hydropower emissions and compare them with emissions from fossil fuel plants, it appears that hydro projects with large reservoirs in the tropics can have a greater climatic impact per unit of power generated than fossil fuel generation.

They are slow, lumpy, inflexible and getting more expensive. Because of their huge size and site-specific requirements, large dams take longer to build and are more expensive than other types of power plants. While large dams take on average around six years to build, wind turbines and solar panels can start delivering benefits and repaying loans within months of entering construction. The World Bank has found that the costs of hydropower capacity are steadily increasing because the best sites for dams have already been exploited.

Large dams add capacity to power grids in large lumps, while power demand usually grows gradually. Lumpy capacity additions can mean power shortages before the new capacity comes on-line, then costly over-capacity once the new plant is available.

Large reservoirs are often rendered non-renewable by sedimentation. They are depleted over time by sedimentation, a problem that eventually seriously impedes or ends the ability of a hydro plant to produce electricity. The great majority of annual sediment loads is carried during flood periods. The higher intensity and frequency of floods due to global warming are therefore likely to increase sedimentation rates and thus further shorten the useful lives of reservoirs.

Despite overwhelming evidence, dam proponents are repeating the deadly mistake of the Soviet government - ignoring years of respected research. Asian dams continue to proliferate. And foreign dam builders are right in there looking for short-term jobs at the long-term expense of poor Asians.

The projects implemented without public participation and consent are likely to face high risk of delay and cost over-run apart from creating serious social tensions.

The day of the large dams might be over, but we have no shortage of challenges. We all need to become better water managers, and one of the important ways we do that is to change the perspective with which we approach present and future challenges.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Worst Performer of Asia

Ranking 142nd among 177 countries and 135th in GDP per capita, Pakistan is the worst performer in South Asia in Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is the average progress of a country in human development. It focuses on three measurable dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Thus it combines measures of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income to allow a broader view of a country’s development than does income alone.

Pakistan sustains diverse HDI between provinces and districts indicative of regional disparities in both the level of economic growth as well as in terms of health, education and the quality of life. There is considerable variation across provinces with respect to literacy rates, which vary from 51% in the Sindh to 36% in the Baluchistan. Similarly the primary enrolment rate varies from 75% in the Punjab, to 64% in the Baluchistan. As a consequence while the HDI for Pakistan, as a whole, is 0.541 the provincial HDI varies from the highest in the Punjab, at 0.557, to the lowest at 0.499 in Baluchistan. Islamabad has a greater weight of affluent citizens in its population with a far better social infrastructure than in any province of Pakistan. It is not surprising therefore that the HDI of Islamabad is 0.612 which is higher than that of any of the provinces in the country.

Among the districts, Jhelum has the highest HDI rank at 0.703 and Dera Bugti the lowest at 0.285. Data indicates the large disparities in terms of human development between the districts of Pakistan.

There is also a wide variation in the human development indices within each province. For example in the Punjab, while Jhelum has the highest HDI (0.703), Muzzafargarh has the lowest (0.459). The size and overall development of a district also affects its HDI rank due to intra district variations in income and social infrastructure. Thus for example Lahore has an HDI rank of 0.558 compared to 0.703 for Jhelum because of the much greater inequality of incomes and level of social infrastructure available to the poor and rich parts of Lahore district respectively.

Building the capacity of women Pakistan ranks 120 out of 144 countries. It is the worst performer in South Asia. The gender empowerment measure implies whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It focuses on gender inequality in key areas of economic and political participation and decision-making. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Economists agree that the greater the gender disparity in basic human development, the lower is a country's gender disparity index relative to its HDI. Pakistan ranks 76 in Female administrators and managers, 79 in female professional and technical workers, and 139 in ratio of female earned income to male earned income.

The poor governance is a leading cause of lack of human development in Pakistan. Economic stagnation, dire poverty and social inequalities are the result of continued corruption, inefficient management of public resources, and the exclusion of the poor in the development process. Transparency and accountability are lacking in Pakistan's government structures. In effect, it encourages a people-centered approach to better governance in Pakistan and highlights the importance of participatory governance for growth, poverty reduction and sustainable human development

Today the changing ideas are about sources of growth. The institutions are seen as fundamental. Development can be thought of as a process of creating and sustaining the economic and political institutions that support equitable and sustainable growth. Rather than building and consolidating institutions, Pakistan’s institutions are lucklessly being hanged loose.

Sustained poverty reduction requires equitable growth-but it also requires that poor people have political power. And the best way to achieve that in a manner consistent with human development objectives is by building strong and deep forms of democratic governance at all levels of society.

Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. Pakistan needs to understand that people are the real wealth. Its development should thus be about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And this implies much more than economic growth, which is only a means —if a very important one —of enlarging people ’s choices.

Fundamental to enlarging these choices should be building of human capabilities —the range of things that people can do or be in life. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible.

The way of looking at development, often forgotten in the immediate concern with accumulating commodities and financial wealth, is not new. Philosophers, economists and political leaders have long emphasized human well-being as the purpose, the end, of development. As Aristotle said in ancient Greece, “Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking, for it is merely useful for the sake of something else.”

In seeking that something else, human development should share a common vision with human rights. The goal is human freedom. And in pursuing capabilities and realizing rights, this freedom is vital. People of Pakistan must be free to exercise their choices and to participate in decision-making that affects their lives. Human development and human rights are mutually reinforcing, helping to secure the well-being and dignity of all people, building self-respect and the respect of others. (

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Illiterates of 21st Century

Futurist Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can not read or write but those who can not learn, unlearn and relearn. In his book Future Shock, he told us that the traditional way of incorporating new information was to learn, learn more, and then learn more. The tasks before us, however complex, allegedly would be solved if we simply worked a little harder, studied a little longer, and applied ourselves more. As Toffler suggests, what's necessary today is to approach your work and life from the perspective of learning, unlearning, and relearning.

When you switch from an old model car to a new model, most of what you know about the earlier model is of little value when it comes to using the new model. You have to unlearn—forget what you have known—and march into completely new territory. Fortunately, the operation will be a success, and you won't go back, but it is painful, and gives you moments of great anxiety.

The next time you need to make a major car change, more fully embrace the concept of learning, unlearning, and re-learning–let go of what you used to know. You'll be far more proficient.

This imperative for learning is clear as we have witnessed in the global corporate world what happened to many so called "corporate dinosaurs" when change surges through faster than their people’s ability and willingness to learn and adapt to the environment.

Learning organizations are therefore those companies that subscribe to the importance of getting all its members to continuously upgrade their skills, knowledge and experience. They provide the necessary support and ensure that learning takes place as a group in the workplace and in the process increases the competencies and capabilities of their organizations to deal with change and compete in the market place.

The learning organization promotes the continuous cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning. It recognizes that the speed of change in the market place will make obsolete some of the knowledge and skills of its people. It puts great value on the ability to constantly innovate and translate learning into new opportunities in the market place.

Leaders of learning organizations have the courage to abandon old assumptions, which are no longer true, although they were the basis of their success in the past. They encourage staff to unlearn outdated ways of doing things, which are no longer suitable in the new market place. They get their people to relearn the latest processes and systems that will enable them to be more competitive. The leaders in a learning organization are not sentimental to old technologies and systems that are no longer effective.

Those leaders realize that an environment of continuous change requires a commitment to continuous learning to prevent their organization from becoming a corporate dinosaur. Let the lesson of failure from the Encyclopedia Britannica be a warning to those who take lightly of the need for change.

Encyclopedia Britannica had their most profitable year ever in 1993 and then went bankrupt in 1995. The company continued to sell only printed encyclopedias, ignoring the powerful CD-ROM technology. They rose to the top of the industry and then became a corporate titanic that sank because they did not see the need for continuous learning and change.

Leaders in learning organizations avoid the tendency to impose their views on subordinates. They understand that leadership is not about monopolizing. It is about liberating. They help employees break free of constraints whether real or perceived to achieve a higher level of performance. They encourage employees to stretch their capabilities to the maximum. They encourage initiative and tap the creativity of their staff to improve work.

To encourage commitment and elevate the self-esteem of employees, they give credit where it is due. They do so because they know that people will be more committed to their responsibilities if they are credited for the ideas or suggestions. They are slow to criticize ideas that do not work and quick to praise those that do. Learning organizations are open to new ideas from their employees as well as those outside such as customers, suppliers, government and even competitors.

Environmental monitoring undertaken by companies help detect early signs of changes in the market place that are about to take place and prepare them to respond swiftly. They study customers, suppliers, competitors, government policies, technology makers and economic conditions of the environment and assess the implications on their business today and the future. They undertake competitor benchmarking and set goals to model after the best companies in their industry. In some areas where they are the market leaders, they innovate and drive the industry by creating the future. Thus they may come up with new products or services, which reinvent the industry and have all other companies trailing their footsteps.

The challenge of learning organizations is to learn and adapt faster than its competitors. The ultimate test of a learning organization is its ability to translate its training and learning into practice. Learning organizations makes it possible for training and learning in the classroom to be translated into practice.

Besides extrinsic rewards leaders also take time to provide people with the intrinsic rewards such as organization-wide recognition, praises, letters of commendations and special dinner invitations.

To keep on in a time of rapid change and also to beat the increasing competition in the market place, Pakistan’s companies are required to produce their products or services faster, better and cheaper. To be able to do this, they need to learn new skills, technologies and processes at a faster rate than their competitors. In fact, to survive the turbulent and accelerating change, and to keep off from becoming the illiterates of the 21st century, they need to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. (

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Founding Fathers of Terrorists

There’s a reason to believe that the past US foreign policies have relevance with the occurrence of terrorism. The terrorists of today are the magnum opus of America’s wrongheaded policies. The American leadership has yet to explore this viewpoint to any depth.

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan galvanized Usama bin Laden. He supported the Afghan resistance, which subsequently became a jihad (holy war). Ironically, the US turned out to be a major supporter of the Afghan resistance. It also helped in setting up Islamic schools (madrassas) in Pakistan for Afghan refugees.

By the mid-1980s, Usma bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan, where he established an organization, Maktab al-Khidimat (MAK), to recruit Islamic soldiers (mujahideen) from around the world who later formed the basis of an international network. The MAK maintained recruiting offices in Detroit and Brooklyn in the 1980s.

The Saudi born millionaire, Osama bin Laden, served as a veteran of the 1979-89 Afghan war against the Soviets where he came to understand the conflict in the light of Muslim versus heretics based on the Qur’an. Interestingly, the US government supplied arms to Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden and the Taliban rulers.

The terrorists are now those recruited, trained, organized, and armed by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s, not to help the Afghans, but for reasons of state, power, the usual kinds. In around 1990, they turned against the US for reasons of their own. In 1993, related groups came very close to blowing up the World Trade Center. According to the WTC engineers, if they had a little better planning, they would have killed tens of thousands of people. That’s in 1993, not 2001. Those groups happened to be organized by the West.

You can say the same about plenty of others. Take Israel’s main terrorist enemies — Hezbollah and Hamas. Where did they come from? In part, the origins of Hamas lie in Israeli sponsorship of radical Islamist groups to undermine the secular Palestinian leadership. Hezbollah came out of a US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon twenty years ago that killed about 20,000 people, and had no defensive purpose whatsoever — it was barely even pretended. It was an attempt to undermine the secular PLO because its efforts at negotiation were becoming difficult to handle. The end result is that it helped create Hezbollah. Incidentally, terrorist acts are just a gift to the most hard line oppressive elements.

The US began covert sponsorship of Muslim extremists five months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. President Carter authorized the covert action. The US foreign policy fomented Muslim extremism as a weapon of policy.

The cornerstone of the program was that the US, through CIA, would provide funds, some weapons and general supervision of support for the mujahideen. The hands-off US role contrasted with CIA operations in Nicaragua and Angola.

In Afghanistan and then in Bosnia, the US sponsored freedom fight was being condemned even officially by the State Department. Because ordinary people would never support such a policy, it was sold to the public as support for freedom fighters (Afghanistan) or as defense of abused Muslims (Bosnia.)

Beginning in 1985, the CIA supplied mujahideen rebels with extensive satellite reconnaissance data of Soviet targets on the Afghan battlefield, plans for military operations based on the satellite intelligence, intercepts of Soviet communications, secret communications networks for the rebels, delayed timing devices for tons of C-4 plastic explosives for urban sabotage and sophisticated guerrilla attacks, long-range sniper rifles, a targeting device for mortars that was linked to a US Navy satellite, wire-guided anti-tank missiles, and other equipment. It was the largest covert action program since World War II.

By the time the Red Army completed its pullout from Afghanistan, in February 1989, the ranks of the Afghan mujahideen groups were swelled with combatants who had been recruited to fight the "Great Atheistic Satan" in Moscow. Out of that operation evolved a mercenary force that shifted its anger from Moscow to the West, and that now comprise the largest labor pool of potential terrorists ever seen.

Fifteen years later, when some of the very Afghan mujahideen who had given Moscow a bloody nose were turned loose as an international terrorist force, carrying out some of their most heinous crimes on the streets of America. When the US first began pouring in billions of dollars in aid to the Afghans, it had never occurred to anyone inside US intelligence that the program would blow back in such a bloody fashion. The hypothesis that the mujahideen would come to the US and commit terrorist actions did not enter into the universe of thinking at the time. It is a significant unplanned consequence.

With the active encouragement of the CIA that wanted to turn the Afghan jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan's fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.

In a cruel irony, while the Islamic jihad --featured by the Bush Administration as "a threat to America"-- is blamed for the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these same Islamic organizations constitute a key instrument of US military-intelligence operations in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union.

One must ask: if the US foreign policy used Muslim extremism as a weapon once, how can one argue in principle that they would not use it again? Why this action was justifiable against other country and a hellish terrorist act against the US?

When a hegemonic global power centralizes power, wealth and knowledge in the hands of the minority, when there are few avenues to ensure accountability, the marginalization and alienation among the many can lead to disastrous results. (

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to School, Vacation's up!

Back to school
Vacation’s up
Heavy bags are back
Everyone’s complaining
No more waking up late
Nor playing with your pup.
School is back!

Lo! It's school time again! Your children must be feeling excited and maybe a little sad that summer is over. Seeing friends afresh following a long vacation can make the first day a good one. Students can make the day feel special by wearing new sneakers and putting a spring in their step. They might also put on a favorite watch, piece of jewelry, or hold a new cell phone to show their personal style. It can make them feel good to be prepared if they possess all the supplies they need.

Whatever is stacked in the backpack, make sure your child packs it the night before. This prevents the morning panic when he/she can't find his/her homework or lunch box. Speaking of lunch, that's something else, that can help your child feel good at school - whether it's the first day or the 100th day. Pack it the night before if your child doesn't like what's on the menu. Try to include a variety of foods in your packed lunch, especially fruits and vegetables.

Backpacks are a necessary item for carrying books to and from school each day. And when used correctly, they distribute weight to the strongest muscles of the body in the most practical way possible. But if a child is carrying the wrong backpack or isn't wearing it correctly, it can lead to serious back problems.

Actually, young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than in previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a significant contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association. A recent study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man.

The backpack should never weigh more than 10 percent of your child's body weight. Spread the items out throughout the backpack. Teach your child to bend at the knees instead of the waist while wearing or picking up a heavy backpack. Have a list of important phone numbers, including your work number, in his backpack.

As children act independently, make choices and mistakes, they learn and grow. Thinking positively about and accepting your children unconditionally as they move through this process helps them develop a positive self-concept. It is important for children to come to school emotionally, physically, and socially healthy. When children feel good about themselves are well rested, and well nourished they are more ready to learn.

At schools in developed countries with strong parent involvement are experiencing profound benefits for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. When parents are involved in students' education, those students generally have higher grades and test scores, better attendance, and more consistently completed homework.

Parents are the first teachers—support learning at home. They can get involved in their children's education and future to ensure they have the best educational experience possible. The more involved you are, the better your child's chances of getting a good education.

Frequent communication with your children's teachers and school is the key to academic success. Encourage exploration and discovery. The world is your children's oyster. By encouraging your children to develop their interests and seek out opportunities to try new things you help them make the most of the world around them.

Help your child develop good relationships. All children want to fit in, be accepted, and feel like they belong. Helping your children develop good relationships can have a positive impact on their future development.

By identifying potential risks and giving clear instructions to your children on how to avoid such risks, children can sidestep danger by knowing what to do in threatening situations. Talking to children about safety also increases their understanding of violence and the need for practicing safe behaviors.

The schools teach children how to read, but the environment of the home must teach them what to read. The school can teach them how to think but the home must teach them what to believe. Television is an enemy of good education. In our homes, TV is the greatest obstacle to learning. I urge you to shut it off from Sunday evening until Friday evening during the school year.

Many students try to avoid it, but teaching and learning research indicates that children who spend more time on regularly assigned, meaningful homework, on average, do better in school, and that the academic benefits of homework increase as children move into the upper grades.

Remember it's your children's homework, not yours. Create a specific homework space that's clutter-free and quiet. Encourage editing and double-checking work, but allow your kids to make mistakes, as it's the only way teachers can gauge if they understand the material. It's also how children learn responsibility for the quality of their work.

As parents you are the most important influence in your child's success in school and in life. Reach for the sky—Set high but pragmatic expectations. Taking some time to really look at your children and notice their strengths, talents, and interests, as well as areas where they need assistance, will help them develop realistic self-expectations, thus making them feel and be successful.

Young buddies! You are going to have a fantastic first day after a long vacation: Get enough sleep the night before. Eat a healthy breakfast. Develop good work habits, like writing down your assignments and turning in your homework on time. Take your time with school work. If you don't understand something, ask the teacher. Practice sportsmanship. Keep your face to the sunshine. Be a waking dream, a dealer in hope. Learn from our national heroes … nation looks up to you as our future. (

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Population: The Doom and Gloom

In 1971, population biologist Paul Ehrlich estimated that if human numbers kept increasing at the high rates of the time, by around 2900 the planet would be teeming with sixty million billion people (that’s 60,000,000,000,000,000). But the rate of population rise actually peaked in the 1960s and demographers expect a leveling-off of human numbers this century.

No kidding. If the current growth rate continued, in 130 years Pakistan’s population will be equal to the population of world today.

The population of Pakistan in mid-2004 was 159.2 million, births per 1000 are 34 and deaths per 1000 are 10. Pakistan’s rate of natural increase in population growth is 2.4 percent, and projected population in the year 2025 and 2050 would be 228.8 and 295.0 million, respectively. The projected population change in 2004-2050 would be 85 percent.

In 1950 Pakistan had a population of about 40 million people. Since then it has grown many times. But the real population explosion in Pakistan will only come over the next few decades, because the country not only has a very young population, but also still an extremely high fertility - much higher. These large numbers of children and young adults will soon come into reproductive age and will produce a large number of offsprings.

The latest facts and figures state that future population prospects are shaped in large part by the age profile of its citizens. More than half of Pakistan's population is below the age of fifteen; nearly a third is below the age of nine. Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world with an inverse sex ratio: official sources claim there are 111 men for every 100 women. The discrepancy is particularly obvious among people over fifty: men account for 7.1 percent of the country's total population and women for less than 5 percent. This figure reflects the secondary status of females in Pakistani society, especially their lack of access to quality medical care.

In population Pakistan ranks sixth in the world and its land area stands at thirty-second position among nations. Thus Pakistan has about 2 percent of the world's population living on less than 0.7 percent of the world's land. In the year 2050, Pakistan would continue to gracefully stand elevated among top 5 population giants. Pakistan cannot be pulled out of the poverty trap with 3 million additional births every year.

Pakistan is poised to more than double its size by 2050 even as supplies of water, forests, and food crops are already showing signs of strain and other species are being squeezed into smaller and smaller ranges.

A huge consumption gap exists between industrialized and developing countries and Pakistan. The world's richest countries, with 20 per cent of global population, account for 86 per cent of total private consumption, whereas the poorest 20 per cent of the world's people account for just 1.3 per cent.

A newborn in the USA or Europe will put greater pressure on the Earth’s carrying capacity than a whole family of newborns in Pakistan. Numbers and the Earth’s ability to provide are increasingly framed by the realities of gender relations. It is now generally agreed that while enabling larger numbers of women and men to use modern methods of family planning is essential, it is not sufficient. By expanding the choices and capacities of women, a central thread can be formed in the population story. Consumption—what we need and what we want—is, too.

Pakistan's people are not evenly distributed throughout the country. There is an average of 146 persons per square kilometer, but the density varies dramatically, ranging from scarcely populated arid areas, especially in Balochistan, to some of the highest urban densities in the world, such as Karachi and Lahore.

Municipal governments in Pakistan are least able to muster the human and financial resources to contend with these problems, especially when the poorest, non-taxable segment of the urban population continues to grow rapidly.

The risks of instability among youth may increase 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 was partly due to the mobilization of large numbers of discontented young men who were unable to put their technical education to use due to party restrictions on entering the elite.

The greatest challenge before government hence is the need to tackle the underlying factors contributing to discontent among young people, including poverty and the lack of economic opportunity. It can address part of the risk associated with youth unemployment by investing in job creation and training, boosting access to credit, and promoting entrepreneurship.

Eventually, 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 and by promoting policies that increase girls’ educational attainment and boost women’s opportunities for employment outside the home.

The stewardship of the planet and the well-being of its people are a collective responsibility. Everywhere we face critical decisions. Some are about how to protect and promote fundamental values such as the right to health and human dignity. Others reflect trade-offs between available options, or the desire to broaden the range of choice. We need to think carefully but urgently about what the choices are, and to take every action that will broaden choices and extend the time in which to understand their implications. We need a decision today not just to bring down the birth rate but also to attain a balance between resources and population. For a secure future this goal must be pursued vigorously through sound population management. (

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Terrorism: Treatment without Diagnosis

Terrorism is beyond reason. While terror can have no reasoned justification, evil always seeks to be plausible. It seeks to clothe itself in the mantle of righteous indignation and presents itself as an evil parody of an apocalyptic 'divine' vengeance. It purports to act on behalf of some oppressed group, to seek redress for some injustice. It appropriates the language for heaven for the works of hell.

If history is a precursor to the future, we will suffer more terrorist attacks in the months and years ahead. The apparent goal of the terrorists is to achieve larger effect in the future. The terrorist target: unwarned, unprotected persons and facilities. When the fanatic sees himself as an actor in a staged performance, death becomes an act of make believe and a theatrical gesture.

9/11 appears to be a major turning point into the future—the end of the brief post-Cold War era, and the beginning of a new Age of Terrorism, perhaps a World War III, albeit a different kind of war than that which we have known. The horrible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and whatever follows as a result, will change many lives, many organizations, many industries, and many nations. It has changed everything, for everyone.

There are three goals to terrorism. Goal one: to demonstrate that government cannot protect you. Put differently, it is to make people fearful, if not most fearful, of those things which they found in the past to be both safe and ordinary: going to work, going out for recreation, shopping. Goal two: to take terrorist actions, which evoke an extreme response, and the more extreme of that response, the better. Goal three: to use the extreme response as a mechanism for recruitment.

There must be a target, ideally one with tremendous symbolic significance to underscore goal one above. In the case of international terrorism, something highly symbolic like the Twin Towers is important because it will be a national symbol and it will be well understood globally. A small action in an isolated community or in a community that does not receive national press and has no eye-catching appeal to an international audience has little attraction for terrorists. An urban, rather than rural, setting for the terrorist act is likely to be more attractive in meeting the goal.

Because of progress in materials engineering and miniaturization of electronics, explosives and the like, weapons are becoming cheaper, lighter, more rugged, more accurate, easier to use, and more powerful. Meanwhile new communication technologies — from satellite phones to the Internet — allow terrorists and criminal syndicates to marshal their resources and coordinate their actions around the planet. As these trends continue, it's easier for smaller and smaller numbers of people to hurt larger and larger numbers. Despite all the utopian hype, the new gadgets entering our lives are distinctly double-edged swords: We've unleashed technological forces that we don't remotely understand and almost certainly can't control.

Terrorism is unconventional warfare. There are no fronts, no armies, and no battlefields. The solutions therefore should not come from militaries, which are largely designed for fighting other armed forces. The solutions should come from new approaches that address the whole person, not just the political and economic components. This is about individual people, their values and aspirations – and cultures, some of which have not changed much over centuries. Different people and groups require different approaches – one size will not fit all. The new solutions seem complex, sophisticated and necessarily not look like the past. But if we are going to safely make it through this extraordinary, historical transition, we must not do the old things – we must invent new ones.

Why can’t we learn from South Africa, which invoked their truth and reconciliation project so the previously warring factions could get on with living together in harmony through forgiveness and honoring their shared humanity?

The war against terrorism can only be truly won when we also declare war on the roots, which cause such acts of barbarity: injustice, freedom, and discrimination. Terrorism does not arise in a vacuum but has it roots in historical, political, social and cultural dysfunctions so deep, so cruel, so systemic that they create and sustain discontent until it spills over into a desperation that sees no recourse other than wanton destruction against those perceived as responsible for the plight of the terrorists. Unless there is an equally dedicated attack on the causes of terrorism, there will never be victory in the war against terrorism.

Addressing the causes of terrorism is the most difficult issue. At one end it starts with the need for us to be confident in our definition of terrorism — one persons terrorist is another person's freedom fighter; at the other end, it needs to attempt to address all the injustices that exist around the world that lead people to undertake hateful and destructive acts and this includes the even more problematic need to address perceptions of these injustices as well. The atrocities being committed on Kashmiris or Palistinians are causing suicidal bombings. The perpetrators are heroes for their nation but terrorists to the oppressors. At its core the atrocities are proliferating terrorism.

We are faced with dilemmas that, together, form a distinct and clear danger to individual liberty and to most systems of government. This alone should be motivation enough to act to stop terrorists in their tracks whenever and wherever we can. We must somehow focus on and achieve an acceptable system of protection, prevention, preclusion and reaction to the scourge of terrorism…without losing the ideals and precepts by which we navigate the difficult pathway into our future. This cannot be done by committee or by independent activity by many agencies and organizations acting parochially. Instead, some form of centralized and evenly applied approach must be devised and undertaken by appropriate leaders. (

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Designing a Sustainable Economy

The choice of who allocates resources is crucial. We see spectacular examples of government mismanagement. The market should be left free to allocate resources. Markets alone can assemble and convey essential information about security and value. Prices and profits will work to maximize production and minimize resource use.

Market mechanisms are sufficient to protect forests, for instance. Growing scarcity will drive up the price of wood, reduce consumption, as well as prompt landowners to plant more trees in anticipation of higher prices.

Traditional economics asks how to produce what for whom. Sustainable economics examines these same questions, but includes future generations in the ‘for whom.’ It asks how irreplaceable resources—water, air, soil, and fish and wildlife—can be adequately conserved. It also recognizes that economic mechanisms that do not efficiently and equitably satisfy human needs are not likely to be sustainable.

Sustainable economics analyze issues complicated by politics, ideology, and nationalism. It tries to ascertain what works to make resource use more efficient. How do people behave in relation to their, natural resources? How does a country’s economic system alter its prospects for survival? Measuring national performance in food security, energy efficiency, environmental pollution and equity can form the beginnings of an answer.

The issue is not socialism versus capitalism; it is the efficacy with which economic systems achieve their intended ends. Ideally nations could be graded for degree of market orientation and assessed for changes in resource use. But no one has invented a grading system for economic philosophy or environmental sustainability. It is instructive, nonetheless, to categorize nations as centrally planned or not and to assess their resource-use efficiency. A centrally planned economy is one that through price controls, state ownership, or allocation of capital effectively, managers more than half of a nation’s industrial and agricultural production.

From the end of World War 11 until a few years ago, centralized state planning has served as a model for almost half the world. Newly independent developing countries faced with the choice between centralized control and market orientation usually chose the former. That their foreign ruler had been capitalists turned them against market systems, while the tradition of colonialism eased the transition to tight central control. In the postwar era, many military states and even most market-orientated nations also expanded the role of government in the day-to-day management of their economies.

The world today is at a turning point in economic management. The abrupt Chinese shift to market mechanisms is the most dramatic example, not only because of the vast number of people affected, but because of the reform’s spectacular early successes. Many African nations, plagued with agricultural decline, have begun to extend market incentives for agriculture. Latin Americans, burdened with debt, have moved to sell off state-owned companies. Meanwhile the Soviet Union, its confidence in uninterrupted growth shaken, is debating the need for economic reform. Ironically, although Western governments have also begun to sell off state-owned concerns, they increasingly subsidize private agriculture, restrict trade, and permit concentration of economic power in industrial conglomerates.

The efficiency with which nations produce food and consume energy provides a useful indicator of their progress toward sustainability. Countries of all political stripes seek to avoid excessive dependence on food imports. Air and water pollution and land degradation are closely associated with agricultural production and energy-use efficiency. Thus, if market pricing and competition provide greater efficiency, both economists and environmentalists have a stake in the changing role of the market in the world’s economies.

Some environmentalists reject both markets and bureaucratic planning as incapable of dealing with the crisis of sustainability. Putting a sober twist on an old joke: ‘In capitalism, man exploits man; in socialism, it’s the other way around,’ they say both exploit nature. But important differences exist between systems, as shown by comparing their efficiency in agricultural production.

Agricultural production can critically affect the consumption and disruption of resources—water, wood, and air. Soil erosion and deforestation can result from low agricultural productivity if new, marginal lands are pressed into production to make up for lost potential. Overuse of chemicals can cause water pollution. Efficiency is consequently an essential ingredient of agricultural sustainability. Economists define efficiency, roughly, as maximizing output while minimizing input. When farmers produce a given value of grain with a least-cost combination of land, labor, fertilizer, and machinery, production is efficient. When grain production increases faster than consumption of the inputs, productivity and the outlook for sustained production improve. When productivity declines, a society is headed for trouble. Inflation, the need for costly imports, even famine can result.

Land and labor productivity, two partial but important measures of performance, reveal several advantages of market orientation. Crop production per hectare is generally higher in market-orientated countries. Of course, factors others than the economic system affect these ratings, such as rainfall levels, inherent soil fertility, and farm price policies that may either encourage or discourage farm efficiency. Japan’s population pressure, for example, has pushed it to increase land productivity, but this explains only about a third of the more efficient record it has than the Soviet Union. The remainder is attributable to policies that, among other things, keep prices high, encourage larger numbers of people to farm, and keep farm size low. Similar policies have placed market oriented Hungary even higher in land productivity.

Ranking nations by agricultural labor productivity shows a dramatic advantage for market economies. European countries enjoy labor productivity rates often double of countries like Poland, Cuba and Lithuania.

Labor productivity naturally tends to be higher when farmers earn high incomes, which in turn indicates higher levels of development, a central goal of economic policy. Strictly regulated prices reduce profitability for farmers, and deprive them of capital to invest in machinery and fertilizers to raise productivity.

Land productivity says little about the ‘total factor’ productivity of an agricultural system, which also takes into account inputs of labor, fertilizer, and machinery or animals. Efficiency can be distorted and productivity diminished by poorly crafted policies. For example, high price subsidies and protective trade barriers account for part of the relatively high land productivity in Japan. Consumers bear the cost of these distortions, paying almost three times the import price of food commodities.

Total factor productivity is relatively easy to determine in a perfectly competitive economy. Ideally, price signals instruct farmers on how much to spend on production, and they maximize their earnings by choosing the least-cost combination of labor, land, machinery, and fertilizer. According to microeconomic theory, they produce at the level at which the cost of their last, or marginal, unit of production—their most expensive ton of grain—just equals the price they receive. They maximize profits in this case, making efficiency and productivity almost synonymous. In non-market economies, on the other hand, prices of resources usually do not reflect their scarcity, and so resources must be allocated by plan, a fact that directly affects productivity.

In Europe resource efficiency in agricultural sector is frequently undermined by heavy farm production subsidies, both with trade barriers and direct budgetary expenditures. The United States is by no means unique among market-oriented countries in failing to adjust agricultural policies properly.

Common Market countries’ agricultural policies drive prices one fourth above world market levels on most products. Such subsidies hurt not only domestic consumers but also exporters of developing countries who could produce more efficiently and sell cheaper. The policies have the aim of preserving and sustaining the farm sector and its way of life. Cut the goal could be equally well served without the damage caused by price distortions if governments substituted direct income transfers for agricultural price supports.

Western nations, nonetheless, have long satisfied basic and fiber needs, and government policies have played a major role in this success. When policies such as minimum price supports are introduced in order to ensure food security and stabilize markets—this is, when supports are set below international market levels—they can be useful. When supports exceed world market levels, however, they interfere with trade, stimulate environmentally disruptive over production, waste taxpayers’ and consumers’ money. These distortions, like their more pervasive counterparts in planned economies, have political motivations that may well be worthy. But their impact on environmental and economic sustainability cannot be ignored. Ultimately, they become counterproductive. (

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Preparing Students for 21st Century

How can we best prepare students to succeed in the 21st century? This is a question that should be of paramount importance to Pakistan’s educators, employers, parents and the public. Alas, this is not their priority.

The accelerating technological change, rapidly accommodating knowledge, increasing global competition and rising force capabilities around the world, make 21st century skills essential. There is a forceful need for a calling on schools to change dramatically.

Today’s education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn. Schools are not even struggling to keep pace with the astonishing rate of change in students’ lives outside of school. Neglecting the fact that students will spend their adult lives in a multitasking, multifaceted, technology-driven, diverse, vibrant world, they are not equipping them to do so. They are seldom committing to ensuring that all students have equal access to this new technological world, regardless of their economic background.

We know more today than ever about how students learn. Our researchers and educators are not making the grades on mapping the remarkable territory of the human mind. They lack scientific insights that can inform educators about the cognitive processes of learning, effective teaching strategies for engaging students in learning and motivating students to achieve. We must incorporate understanding into classroom teaching and learning on a broad scale for preparing our future.

Educators in other countries have focused on improving student achievement—the perennial top priority of their public concern. They have established rigorous academic standards, assessments and accountability measures—a concerted effort that has involved educators, employers and community members. Schools in the West are responding with strategies to improve teaching and learning. They are now closing a gap between knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century. They are thus encouraging development of curriculum and assessments that reflect 21st century realities.

Literacy in the 21st century means more than basic reading, writing and computing skills. It means knowing how to use knowledge and skills in the context of modern life.

The nation needs a compelling vision for education capable of inspiring leaders, teachers, parents and students alike. Clearly we must work together to help schools fully address the educational needs of the 21st century.

A broad-based public-private partnership needs to be forged contributing to improving education in several distinct ways. It should synthesize research, insights and best practices about 21st century knowledge and skills into a powerful vision and sharing this information broadly. It should also define a framework and create a common language for understanding and promoting 21st century skills. The education leaders should be provided with tools, examples and a strategy for action, not rhetoric. It should also build consensus in the public and private sectors about the nature and need for 21st century skills.

We need to increase emphasis on the additional knowledge and skills students need for the 21st century. This is an opportune time to align standards, assessments and accountability measures with 21st century skills.

We can build momentum with following flight of stairs: 1) Embrace a powerful vision of public education that includes 21st century skills. 2) Align leadership, management and resources with educational goals. 3) Use this tool to assess where schools are now. 4) Develop priorities for 21st century skills. 5) Make sure students have equitable access to a 21st century education. 6) Begin developing assessments to measure student progress in 21st century skills. 7) Collaborate with outside partners. 8) Plan collectively and strategically for the future.

There are also some key elements for fostering 21st century learning. Emphasize must be laid on core subjects. Knowledge and skills for the 21st century must be built on core subjects that are mathematics, science, languages, civics, government, economics, arts, history and geography. The focus on core subjects must expand beyond basic competency to the understanding of core academic content at much higher levels.

As much as students need knowledge in core subjects, they also need to know how to keep learning continually throughout their lives. Learning skills comprise three broad categories of skills: information and communication skills, thinking and problem-solving skills, and interpersonal and self-directional skills. The challenge should be to incorporate learning skills into classrooms deliberately, strategically and broadly.

21st century tools must be used for developing learning skills. In a digital world, students need to learn to use the tools that are essential to everyday life and workplace productivity. Skilled 21st century citizens should be proficient in information and communication technologies literacy.

Teaching and learning must be in a 21st century context. Students need to learn academic content through real world examples, applications and experiences both inside and outside of school. In the networked environment of the 21st century, student learning also can expand beyond the four classroom walls. Schools must reach out to their communities, employers, community-members and of course parents to reduce the boundaries that divide schools from the real world.

21st century content should be taught and learnt. There are three significant, emerging content areas that are critical to success in communities and workplaces: global awareness; financial, economic and business literacy, and civic literacy. Much of this content is not captured in existing curricula or taught consistently with any depth in schools today. An effective way to incorporate this content is to infuse knowledge and skills from these areas into the curriculum.

The use of 21st century assessments that measure 21st century skills must be practiced. Schools need high-quality standardized tests that measure students’ performance of the elements of a 21st century education.

Economic, technological, informational, demographic and political forces transform the way people work and live. These changes together with the rate of change will continue to accelerate. For survival and to thrive in 21st century, our schools must adapt changing conditions. (

Monday, August 4, 2008

Snow on President's Roof

For all one knows, by dyeing his hair President Musharraf is trying to bring back the color of his youth and hair color is a very emotional aspect of appearance for him.

Does the color of the President’s hair matter? Yes it does. It’s a waste of time. He’s obviously got nation’s resources and too much time on his hands. We should be concerned with what is happening on top of his head and more so inside it. People can see why a male film star might dye his hair, but for the President it can be seen as frivolous. This is a distinctly grey area in the type of leadership he has preceded. But who believes in Shakespeare?

It's not just your hair to cover up the signs of aging, but your look, the wrinkles, the bags around the eyes—its the look of age and most importantly, it’s the office you occupy, Mr. President.

Even if the president has ‘almond eyes’ and flattering face, what function will they serve? Will they help him with Kashmir issue or his holy war against terrorism? No. Synthetic appearance doesn’t help in any way. Arbab Ghulam Rahim makes no doubt about this.

Hair is practically an obsession with journalists. They poked holes when Jimmy Carter started parting his hair on the opposite side; when people asked if Ronald Reagan used hair color; when Bill Clinton supposedly shut down LAX in order to get a haircut; the endless fuss over Hillary's ever-changing hairstyle; when John Kerry was accused of getting a $150 salon cut; when Gerhard Schroder went to court over reports that he used hair dye. They look at public leaders with microscopic eyes. Quite so, President Musharraf is being followed with the eyes. Dyeing is one of the most fun aspects of hairstyle, and it's one of the things people notice about others.

President Clinton may have troubles with his legacy, but it’s hard to fault his well-groomed head of gray hair that seems to be getting snowier by the minute. He was a very young president—46 years old—when he came to office. He wisely allowed his hair to grey, giving him a look of maturity. Of course, this is not to say President Clinton was not without his fair share of vanity. Civilian flights at Los Angeles’s busy airport were once famously halted as the world’s most powerful man had a $250-haircut aboard the parked-up aircraft.

While certain people are able to accept their greying head with equanimity and grace such as Bush’s mother, Barbara, there are people who proudly think of it as a sign of increasing wisdom. Still many people panic at the sight of that first white hair.

There is evidence that the use of commercial hair dyes can be hazardous to health. Data from the National Cancer Institute suggest that 20 percent of all cases among women of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease that killed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis owing to overly use of hair dyes, are due to women’s regular use of commercial hair dye products.

The global beauty industry—consisting of skin care worth $24 billion; make-up, $18 billion; $38 billion of hair-care products; and $15 billion of perfumes—is growing at up to 7% a year, more than twice the rate of the developed world’s GDP.

Indubitably, president Musharraf doesn’t dye his hair to look more intelligent. Neither he’s trying to promote the idea of dark hair as a sign of a great world leader, nor to gain positive qualities. He’s using it as a symbol of youthfulness, no different than a star. Overtly and covertly, dyeing is an image of bad qualities. The stereotype is as complete as any stereotype ever was.

Hair dyeing is a waste of time. It comes to something when president dyes his hair by wasting enormous time as Chief of Army Staff and as President he is using nation’s time and money to do so.

His popping belly speaks of disrespect for fitness exercises—an unconformable requirement of a soldier, whose uniform is so dear to him. He should spend time on fitness exercises rather than lavishly devoting to periodic hair dyeing; think why Pakistan is in total mess; why the 140 million luckless poor beasts of burden don't have the money for one square meal a day and why are they carrying through suicides. He should veritably believe that his hair color is anything but as Mother Nature intended.

While taking Islamic perspective, hair greying is a natural process and hair dyeing is forbidden. “ … then after strength gave (you) weakness and gray hair.” (Sura Rum 30:54). This rudimentarily means that youth shrinks away to old age and gray hair. On the day of taking Makkah, Abu Bakr’s (raa) father, Abu Qahaafah was brought. His hair and beard were completely white. Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Change its color and stay away from black.” (Muslim, Nisaa’ee, Abu Daud and ibn Maajah). In another hadith Muhammad (pbuh) said, “There will come such nations in the end of time that will dye their hair black like the crop of pigeons. They will not even smell the fragrance of the Paradise.” (Abu Dawood, Nisaa’ee, ibn Hibbaan and Hakim and Imam Haakim).

My own experience is that going grey is a personal triumph. Aging brings along confidence; grey suits men; it makes them stand out instead of just blending in.

If the President cannot be honest about what is happening on his very own roof, there is no rational for us to trust him to be honest in running the country.

In the US, where sales of male hair dyes tripled during the 1990s, a business survey suggested that snow on the roof covered by dye makes one appear less capable, less energetic and even less broad-minded. What matters is that the more politicians dye their hair, the less democratic are the nations they govern. (