Is MQM working in cahoots with Lyari Gang?

My cousin calls me. I don’t recognize his number on the cellphone so I ask him why has he changed his number. He says he is receiving extortion threats. He runs a School in Federal B Area (an MQM strong hold). He tells me that all other private schools in the area have received a similar threat. I ask him is it MQM? He said MQM are nicer people, they have minimum monthly donation of 20k per month and that is it. So I asked if it is notorious Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? He says, “No! it’s Lyari gang.”

Now my cousin lives in a neighborhood that is self contained in terms of his needs i.e. all his near and dear ones live in the same locality and kids study in same school so it’s not like that he is afraid that he or his family will be targeted when he travels out of that MQM stronghold because he rarely has any need to. And a threat is not useful unless TTP can enforce it at short notice.

Now if you have lived in MQM area, you know that MQM has local on the ground intelligence i.e., guy smoking cigarette at the street barricade all day long, Sabzi wala, corner shop wala, hardcore MQM supporters that is your neighbor etc. To send threat and then to enforce it in MQM area, Lyari people need local intelligence to not only to gather info but most importantly to enforce their threat. It is hard to fathom how they would have been able to gather this information without being noticed by local MQM intel.

Anyway my cousin and other private school owners in the area go to meet IG Sind Shahid Hayat but according to him Hayat wasn’t willing to listen and with non-Urdu speaking people around him as officers and advisors kept on saying that it’s the Urdu speaking people who are to be blamed. Where can one go to seek redress if the police keeps on blaming the victim? So my cousin is shifting rather opening a new school in Lahore and starting there from April session.

I live in Korangi_another MQM stronghold. Shopkeepers in our area get MQM “donation” slips every month depending on the size of the business from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Last month, the meat shop walah refused pony up Rs 5,000 when every one around him did. Following week he, and him alone among 100s of shops, receives an extortion demand from Lyari Gang and he pays up Rs100,000 to get them off his back.

This is all anecdotal. With all the caveats that go along with such statements, my conclusion is bloody MoFos MQM is either in cahoots with Lyari Gang or they pretend to be Lyari Gang when it suits them. Bastards pretend to be the last stand against Lyari gang and Taliban but are not above working with them or pretending to be them when it suits them.

Nothing surprising here because our chowkidaars (the army, police) have already been stealing from the till but it hurts slightly more when your ethnic brother saviors also engage in similar tactics.

 

Who is responsibe for violence in Karachi? It’s Sattar Buksh

I had written a few posts earlier about killings in Karachi and if anyone is interested in serious study or resources about it, I refer you to my earlier post Resources on Karachi Killings. Its has links to very rich and in-depth studies on violence in Karachi. But they all miss the angle that has come to light recently while I was browsing through a Karachi food forum on Facebook.

Karachi is a dichotomous city and probably Pakistan is dichotomous as well. There is a part of society that though complains of violence and inflation yet throngs to new food outlets in Karachi that “are popping up like windows on Macbook screens.” and has no qualms spending 5 to 10 thousand rupees on a lunch/dinner or even a snack out for four. It is customary to add here —> for 5 to 10 thousand rupees, a poor family of four can manage to feed themselves for a month.

One of those outlets is Sattar Buksh, a play on Starbucks. Sattar and Buksh are pretty common names in parts of the country.

The owners even got the low standard newspaper Express Tribune to report on its opening as a news.

Everyone’s talking about Sattar Buksh

Sattar Buksh is the latest addition to the list of cafes opened up to cater to the insatiable Karachi appetite, which is ready to engulf everything as people reach new heights of desperation in the entertainment-starved, terror-stricken metropolis. The new place has opened up in Clifton Block 4, that is fast picking up as the next swanky lane catering to the discerning and privileged. It has restaurants such as China Kitchen, Hook, Line & Sinker and the newly opened, Monte Cristo. The Sattar Buksh team says it wasn’t their first venue choice; the cafe was supposed to be in another location in Clifton.

You can read the whole article by clicking on the header. It makes for interesting read. Do not miss the comments as they provide an interesting perspective.

There is also a very active food forum on Facebook known as SWOT’s Guide for Karachi’s Restaurants, Cafes, Dhabas, Khokas and Take-outs and where people critique these food outlets. They can be brutal. Probably Sattar Buksh received one such brutal review which resulted in this

 

But probably that wasn’t enough. So he went on defending it with these arguments

 

All this time we have been looking for political, ethnic or financial reasons for people being killed mercilessly in Karachi. But now we find out that its rich entrepreneur kids who are opening eating outlets for rich people but upon receiving negative reviews go on a killing spree.

Bloody hell.

Post script: I didn’t know Pakistanis were giving HEADs to foreign outlets. That is why service at recently opened Burger King in Karachi was so bad as all the servers were busy receiving head.

Resources on Karachi Killings

I had linked to the below resources earlier but for anyone interested in doing some serious research or study about killings in Karachi, below links provide very useful resources:

As and when I come across new sources, I will update the list.

Where is Bahria Town Karachi? Is it a scam? Is it Naya Nazimabad?

Bahria Town

Bahria Town has opened registration for three projects in Karachi

  • Bahria Town Icon
  • Bahria Town Tower
  • Bahria Town Karachi

The registration fees are range from Rs. 15,000 for Bahria Town Karachi to Rs.100,000 for Bahria Town Icon. In case of former Rs.5,000 is non-refundable processing fee and in case of latter, processing fee is Rs.15,000. Balance of payment can be used towards installment credit if you are successful in booking yourself an apartment. This is a registration fee and not booking fee as Bahria puts a disclaimer on its website

Disclaimer: This is not the sale of the project but entitles you to the right of booking at the time of project launch.

Emaar Properties Logo
Emaar Properties Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The registration process is right out of Emaar’s sales strategy or may be Emaar picked it up from Bahria Town as I recall a similar run for Bahria Town application forms somewhere in 2003-2005. The form used to have a five rupee note attached to it with serial number of rupee note matching the serial number of the form and the form alone used to sell at premium. I used to work in a bank in Pakistan at the time and I remember receiving requests from many corporate clients who were millionaires themselves if I can get them an application form.

You can read about Emaar’s abuse of such tactics in Dubai and its role in Dubai bubble here.

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Compared to rest of country, Karachi has a few peculiarities:

There is real shortage of affordable housing in Karachi. Most people find themselves in a position that they cannot afford a decent house or flat in cash or even on mortgage. There are no reputable builders working in Karachi that have a track record as Bahria Town for delivering projects in Lahore and Islamabad. So when Bahria Town announces a project which people deem would provide them with affordable housing or even a quick buck by flipping it to people who are genuinely searching for affordable housing, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

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Malik Riaz, owner of Bahria Town, is a crook when buying or occupying land but when it comes to selling houses or projects to its clients, I have only heard good things about Bahria Town from its residents. But that has just been the experience of people I know. Other people might have had a different experience.

However his crookedness knows no bounds:

Bahria Town encroached 1,400 kanals of CDA land: Report

ISLAMABAD – Though the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has submitted a report to the Suddle Commission which states that around 1,400 kanals of civic agency’s land located in Zone-IV has been encroached by Bahria Town…..

“In the report we have mentioned two ways how CDA would resolve the encroachment issue with the Bahria Town. Bahria Town will be given two options, either to vacate the land or pay the price of encroached land,” said an official who prepared report.

“Bahria Town will be charged Rs 12 million per Kanal. It is the same price that the Authority has earlier charged against one kanal of land in the Park Enclave,” official said. This shows that according to CDA’s estimates Bahria Town has encroached land worth Rs 16.8 billion.

Official sources said that Bahria Town had already started selling commercial plots carved out on encroached land.

Then there was a time when Malik Riaz duped even the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Pakistani nation into believing that he will be building world’s tallest tower in Karachi.

Abu Dhabi Group to invest $45 billion in Pakistan

ABU DHABI: Former chairman and present consultant of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz Hussain has signed an agreement with His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, Chairman Abu Dhabi Group, Union National Bank and United Bank Limited under which $45 billion will be invested in Pakistan.

The investment will be made in various construction projects, and is the biggest-ever foreign investment in Pakistan. Out of the total investment value, $10 billion will be invested in Islamabad and Lahore whereas $35 billion will be invested in Sindh.

The story was given critical examination only by Amir Mateen in The Spokesman as Malik Riaz had bought all the other newspapers with full page announcements and advertisements

The biggest-ever media con

Is this funny, sad or simply stupid. The clarification by Abu Dhabi Group about their alleged $45 billion investment in Pakistan may have exposed lots of things — and lots of people. One Malik Riaz of Bahria Town for sure.

He virtually conned the Abu Dhabi Group, Pakistani media and the public. We already knew about his hold on the Pakistani media….The Bahria advertisements worth billions of rupees have simply blinded media owners who ensure that nothing is published against Bahria Town.

The announcement of a whopping $45 billion investment in Pakistan was a dream-come-true story. This too at a time when nobody wants to invest a penny in Pakistan, and half of my foreign friends want to send their mothers-in-law for ‘sight-seeing’ in FATA.

It was simply mind-blowing. The UAE sacrificed its pride for having the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. And because Malik charmed them so well, they let Karachi have the honour. Apart from building the world’s tallest building in Karachi, the other attractions included a financial hub, sports city, international city, media city, educational and medical City, miniatures of the world’s seven wonders. It was amply flashed that “these projects would employ more than 2.5 million people and boost more than 55 industries like cement, bricks, iron, steel and glass.”

The so-called most credible English newspaper went a step ahead by giving a joint dateline of Karachi and Islamabad instead of Dubai. It added colour to the story by quoting a Karachi magnate, of course on the condition of anonymity, that the construction site would be “Kutta Island,” which is 3 to 4-km off the coast of Karachi. It went a step further than what Malik Riaz had claimed, informing readers that “the Abu Dhabi Group-Malik Riaz would, apart from the above mentioned projects, also launch into building of 125,000 houses on the island.” (sic)

Not a single journalist bothered to even check if there was any news of this sort on any website of the UAE companies or whether Sheikh Nahayan had actually said those words. The half-page advertisement on newspapers’ front pages, showing Malik shaking hands with the Sheikh seem to have blinded everything. Or perhaps they were told not to test their editorial discretion.

My Dubai friend, knowing Bahria’s leverage on Pakistani media, could understand that the news got carried on the first day. “But how about the five days after that,” he asked, confused. “Why nobody followed-up on the story that was supposed to be the biggest investment in the country’s history.”It turns out that the Abu Dhabi Group and the UAE government was aghast at the development. But since they have lots of investment here they did not want to embarrass Pakistanis.

Obviously, the Dubai rulers knew they were duped into that photo-up and their reputation was being used for petty benefits. It is easy to understand the benefits. This kind of news changed the scenario for Malik Riaz. He was being hounded by the courts in numerous cases, some of them seriously heinous. He was in conflict with LDA over opening new housing schemes in Lahore without permission. He was also in conflict with the army for land dispute with DHA that affects thousands of former army officers and jawans. All of this may have shaken the public confidence in his housing projects. In monetary terms this could mean a loss of billions of rupees for him. Such news about building the tallest building in Karachi is worth a lot though.

But you don’t get to where Malik Riaz is without having nerves of steel. The Abu Dhabi group story is dated 16 Feb 2013. IWhen the story finally broke down that there was no Abu Dhabi Group behind the fantastical project after a week, Malik Riaz went and got himself another savior. The following story is dated March 12, 2013.

Pakistan’s 1st Island City: Bahria Town signs $20b deal with US tycoon

ISLAMABAD: American real-estate tycoon Thomas Kramer and Bahria Town CEO Ahmed Ali Riaz Malik signed a $20 billion agreement for Pakistan’s first-ever Island City, Bundal & Buddo Islands, Karachi.

A joint consortium of international investors will join hands to develop this project and the deal with Kramer is the first level of this agreement. Announcement of other global investors from the Middle East and around the globe will be made soon.

Covering 12,000 acres of land, this project will be developed in a span of 5-10 years but the residential communities will start being handed over to people in 2016. The global attractions of the project comprise world’s tallest building, world’s largest shopping mall, sports city, educational & medical city, international city and a media city – all having the most modern facilities and amenities and the most advanced infrastructure.

So the project moves from Kutta Island to Buddu and Bundal Island yet still no newspaper questions its credibility. However, Malik Riaz had wisened this time. He even involved Thomas Kramer in this scam as evident from Thomas Kramer’s own website. It is reproduced in full below just to give you a flavor of what happens when one con artist meets another con artist (they may have been successful developers earlier but recently both Riaz and Kramer are acting more like con artists).

Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

A bold step was made for the future of Pakistan: Its biggest real estate tycoon Malik Riaz was able to convince the US-German real estate visionary Thomas Kramer to jointly develop the first Island City off the coast of Karachi, named Bundle & Buddo Islands.

A spokesman of Bahria Town expressed what an honor it was to join hands with a entrepreneur of Thomas Kramer’s caliber: After all, the “quick change artist,” as Thomas Kramer is described in a recent New York Times article, has a reputation for knowing how to get impossible things done.

In the early 90’s Thomas Kramer took a helicopter ride over South Beach and had a vision: to create an international hot spot on the Southern tip of Miami Beach. What happened there, in less than a decade is absolutely mind boggling. The area was then a slum and full of dilapidated buildings. Thomas Kramer invited 11 world-renowned architectural firms to his world famous Charette. With his vision and foresight, he pioneered luxury living in Florida by transforming the once-blighted neighborhood of Miami Beach “South of 5th” into a sophisticated world-class destination.

Newspaper Karachi Master 2 Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

Thomas Kramer’s South Beach Vision and South Beach today

Almost five years ago, Thomas Kramer met Malik Riaz in Islamabad where he invited him to visit his developments in South Beach.A year and a half later, Thomas Kramer was able to welcome Malik Riaz to 5 Star Island, his luxurious mansion. Malik Riaz was highly impressed by the degree of efficiency, innovation and quality that he saw in Thomas Kramer’s projects. Actually seeing the realization of a world-class development is better than any PDF presentation.

Newspaper Karachi Master 3 Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

Mailk Riaz and TK visiting Apogee Towers in Miami Beach in front of Portofino Tower

Convinced that he found the right man for the job, Malik Riaz invited Thomas Kramer back to Pakistan where he offered him the use of a helicopter to spot potential development sites along the coastline. After days of inspection flights, Thomas Kramer was most impressed by the beauty of a chain of unoccupied islands, roughly 16,000 acres, located 2 miles outside of Karachi and just 12 miles away from Jinnah International Airport.

Most striking to him are the similarities between the Island of Karachi and Miami Beach in terms of climate and vegetation – obvious when comparing historic Miami Beach pictures, prior to its development in the early 20th century, with the Island of Karachi today.

Newspaper Karachi Master 4 Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

View of the Island of Karachi today and Miami Beach in 1910

 Finally, through unwavering persistence, Malik Riaz was able to secure a 100-year lease with an automatic additional 100-year lease renewal option on this land. Having signed the initial contract in March 2013 (The Express Tribune), both parties are now ready to bring their vision a high-end, self-sufficient waterfront hot spot to life.

Newspaper Karachi Master 5 Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

Ali and Malik Riaz signing MoU with Thomas Kramer in March 2013

The deal is worth USD 20 billion and the project is expected to be completedwithin 10 to 15 years. The first committed financier was Abu Dhabi. At the deal signing, Thomas Kramer stated that this project − along with boosting the region’s economy and garnering the interest of international investors in the realty sector − will likely help eradicate terrorism in Pakistan. Furthermore, he believes that this is a unique opportunity that will put Pakistan back on the map of leading nations in the world.

Newspaper Karachi Master 6 Karachi is getting the Biggest Island Development in the World!

Birds view of Miami’s South Beach and Bundle & Buddo Island

The project covers 16,000 acres of land. The global attractions of the project include the world’s most sophisticated marina, some of the world’s tallest buildings, the world’s most beautiful shopping arcades, a Sports city, an Educational and Medical city, an International city and a Media city. Each will have the latest in modern facilities and amenities as well as the most advanced infrastructure. Like in Miami Beach, Thomas Kramer was able to negotiate a connecting highway, 12 mile long and 8 lane wide, from the Island City to Jinnah International Airport.The entire city will be a “high security zone” with its own desalination plant that will convert sea-water into potable water. Power generation plants will enable it to be completely self-sufficient. Moreover, the project will have mosques, cinemas, spas, golf clubs, schools, hospitals and other global standard amenities to furnish a modern lifestyle. The first phases of the development will be available in 2016.

And again it was only Amir Mateen of The Spokesman who did some excellent work and ask pertinent questions:

Kramer versus Malik Riaz : Not Again

Malik Riaz has pulled another rabbit out of his Bahria hat. As the Abu Dhabi Group backs out of the $45 billion deal that never existed in the first place — enter Thomas Kramer.

Again, the same dazzling picture of the world class retreat, encompassing the world’s tallest building 3.5 km off the Karachi coast was painted. Only the protagonist of the fairy tale was changed from the Abu Dhabi Group to US investor Thomas Kramer. Geo TV quoted Bahria Town spokesman claiming that Kramer had committed $15 to 20 billion investment in developing “Bodha Island city,” which will have “Net City, Education City, Health City, Port City and other infrastructure projects.”

The spokesman claimed, “the worlds’ most modern shopping mall will also be built” and link Karachi to the Island through a six-lane bridge.

Interestingly, the same group had published news on Monday, quoting the same spokesman, who bragged about an investment of 15 to 20 billion ‘rupees.’ During the day, rupees turned into dollars. 

Transparency International says Bahria could not be given the project as it was declared as “cheats and frauds” by three statuary and regulatory authorities -the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Lahore Development Authority.Transparency quotes the State bank of Pakistan and the SECP which issued advertisements on February 23 warning that “the public should beware and not be misled by the fraudulent activities of deposit, loan, and investments through such advertisement.”

Bahria Town, it says, took advance money from investors illegally, besides the tax evasion of Rs 119 billion as mentioned by the FTO. The report lies with the FBR and may be taken up by the next government to recover this huge amount from Malik Riaz. May be!

Transparency mentions numerous cases where Malik Riaz was found involved in, to name a few, “corruption, black-mailing, extortion, land-grabbing, forgery, fabrication of evidence.”

So where does this leave the glamourous project? Frankly, it suits everybody. Malik Riaz got the island through dubious means and will not mind to give a huge stake to the American investors. Money will come from the public who are already being shown the dreamy image of the recreated Miami. The media story flashed on Monday shed light on the dazzling projects that Kramer had accomplished in Florida and how he turned around the pirates’ den across Cuba into one of the priciest real estate in the US. And why should Kramer not be interested. He gets a good deal — the island, the naive public dying to book an apartment in the dream world, the official approvals — for just showing up. 

Who was investing $20 Billion? Was it $20 Billion or Rs.20 Billion? As a follow up to above story, I am at a loss to quote first the Kramer story or Buddu Island story. Let me start with Kramer story:

Thomas Kramer’s South Beach Story Ends With $200 Million Court Judgment

That morning marked a new low in one of the most incredible rise-and-fall stories in Miami Beach’s storied history of booms and busts. In the 1990s, Kramer was SoBe royalty, the man who’d spearheaded the South of Fifth revival and ruled from a waterfront mansion where wild shindigs sometimes turned into outright orgies. More than anyone, he symbolized an era of glamour, decadence, and carefree excess.

Now it was all over thanks to a Swiss court ruling in January that Kramer had to repay nearly $200 million to a German currency-printing dynasty. His appeals were up. Everything had to go — the house, the staff, the jewelry, the extensive cellar of vintage wine, even the taxidermied giraffe that greeted visitors in the hallway. Because of my job in Kramer’s mansion, I had a unique front-row seat for his last days in Miami Beach. I saw one man’s desperate efforts to salvage his name and his livelihood, afraid but hopeful that some last-minute opportunity would save him from financial ruin.

In fact, by the time he dismissed his staff, Kramer had already found the man he believed could be his long-shot savior: a scandal-tarred Pakistani plutocrat named Malik Riaz who wanted a partner to build a $20 billion island city in Karachi. Riaz, Kramer said that morning between sobs, was his last best hope.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring Pakistan back on the map of the leading nations in the world,” Kramer later said of the project.

If he succeeds in Karachi, Kramer could pull off the ultimate coup in a career full of remarkable comebacks. If he fails, though, it’s anyone’s guess how low he could fall.

Excuse my french, but you would be right in asking what Chutyapa is going on here. Now for the Island story

PQA, others stopped from working on twin islands

KARACHI, June 13: The Sindh High Court on Thursday restrained the Port Qasim Authority and other respondents from carrying out construction or any other activity on islands located at the western end of the Sindh coastal zone near Karachi.

The petition was filed by Shahid Hussain Soomro, a worker of the Pakistan Muslim League (Functional), who impleaded the chief secretary, port and shipping secretary, PQA chairman, senior member of board of revenue and the chief executive officer of the Bahria Town, Islamabad, as respondents.

The counsel stated that the PQA was an authority of the federal government that had nothing to do with the allotment of valuable lands and islands belonging to the provincial government. He said it was a matter of record that the then chief minister had in 1974 approved the summary for allotment of 13,000 acres for the PQA. However, he said, it was clearly mentioned that the PQA would not use the allotted land for commercial purposes.

The counsel argued that the deal between the PQA and the Bahria Town was contrary to fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19-A read with Article 4 of the Constitution.

The petitioner prayed to the court to declare that the allotment of the islands to Bahria Town was illegal, unlawful and ultra vires of the law and without jurisdiction. He also prayed to the court to restrain the respondents from carrying out any construction and agreement on the impugned property.

It wouldn’t be Malik Riaz if he stayed out of news for long.

SC directs FIA to probe Rs40 bn EOBI scam
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered to bring the looters of the public money to book, directing the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the alleged Rs40 billion corruption in the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and submit a report to it within 10 days.

At the outset of the hearing, former director Town Planning, Defence Housing Authority DHA, Col (retd) Tariq Kamal alleged that some 400 kanal land near Rawalpindi was handed over to Bahria Town without any financial consideration and the land was later purchased by the EOBI for investment purposes.

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So far we have established three things:

1. Karachi has a real shortage of housing

2. Malik Riaz as a developer has reputation of delivering to clients

3. Malik Riaz is a criminal (but then everyone is. Here is ‘PAF forcibly occupied CAA land & convert it into private housing society‘. PAF acquired that land in national interest to build a radar station but ended up selling it as a residential housing society.

So where does that leave the current projects in Karachi. I have a few issues with them.

1. Above is a logo Bahria Icon Tower. How an under construction tower be a SUCCESS? On what basis did the tower won the property award? Who gave it an award and based on what: architectural drawings?

2. Above is one of the term of registration of Bahria Town saying that size of the house, plot, its price and rest of the details would be finalized at the time of booking.

Registration fees that you are paying is for the privilege of being invited to the booking event. Why would any investor put up money for something for which he has no idea he is buying or whether he can even afford to or would like to buy.

3. Finally, there has been no infomration where is this Bahria Town located.

One must be crazy for putting money for a project for which we don’t know where it is located, what is the size of the project, what is the shape of project, what are we buying in the project. Even small projects need approval from municipal development authorities but in Karachi whose infrastructure is already creaking, a project of this size would need major approvals for bringing in water, gas etc to the development but no one seems to care.

A friend who works in foreign bank in Karachi says colleagues around him are going crazy filling in multiple application forms. Friends in other banks also told me similar stories. People are calling in from up country even overseas (one friend received four phone calls from his friends and family abroad in one day inquiring about how to invest in the project).

But no one is asking where is the project located?

Talked to a few people and they don’t care about the project much. They are in it to make a quick buck by flipping the property to the next sucker. Most of them also know that this might be a game of “pass the parcel” with the last one holding the parcel being the ultimate sucker. In the words of disgraced Citibank CEO

“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing,” he said in an interview with the FT

And then music stopped and we all knew what happened to Citibank.

1. Arif Habib couldn’t sell the project because of its location. However, by duping in people with Bahria name and probably with significant cash, Bahria Town may just be able to kick-start the project

2. For the project of this size to be located anywhere else in Karachi, lot of approvals will be required from KBCA and KDA and other agencies for provision of utilities. There has been no record of Bahria Town seeking any approvals from civic agencies or negotiating with utility and infrastructure companies in Karachi. This means two things: either the project is outside Karachi or all those approval have already been obtained. For the latter case, only Naya Nazimabad qualifies as they have all such approvals.

3. Sources within Arif Habib tell me that Arif Habib has already sold its significant stake in Naya Nazimabad.

Why is Altaf Hussain not tried in UK?

MQM flag

When Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai made threatening speeches covered here, quite a lot of people wanted to know if he could be tried under UK law. Someone sent me the following laws under which he could be tried in UK for his hate and murder inciting speeches.

Section 18(1) Public Order Act, 1986 – using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir up racial hatred.

Section 23 Public Order Act, 1986 – threatening, abusive or insulting recordings of sound, with intent to stir up racial hatred.

Section 59 The Terrorism Act, 2000 – Inciting Terrorism Overseas.

Section 1 The Terrorism Act, 2006 – Encouragement of Terrorism.

Section 4 Offences Against the Person Act, 1860 – whosoever shall solicit, encourage, persuade, or endeavour to persuade, or shall propose to any person, to murder any other person, whether he be a subject of Her Majesty or not, and whether he be within the Queen’s dominions or not, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable imprisonment for life.

So I asked my friend who is a solicitor in UK whether its just a viral email or are there really such laws in UK under which QeT Altaf Bhai can be tried. He had this to say

Section 18, 19, 21 and 22 can apply, although it is (weakly) arguable that his comments did not have a raci

Karachi by day, on the road

element to them and were directed to political opponents. Section 23 actually relates to possessing racially inflammatory material and is probably not relevant here (unless he possesses records of his speech). The problem is that Altaf did qualify his statements immediately after he made them and said that he was not threatening anyone and so it is necessary to look at the overall speech in context, rather than just selecting a few choice threatening statements. I haven’t heard it because I have a life.

The problem is that Altaf Hussain has been groomed by western governments due to the ridiculous amount of leverage he has over Karachi. Through him the British can shut off our only real port and that is an incredible advantage for one nation to have over another nation. They would be mad to give it up.

So unless Altaf Hussain really fucks something up against British interest, it is safe to assume that he will remain unharmed in UK.

UPDATE

The recent article published in Guardian also makes the same claim that British give Altaf Hussain protection because he is of help to them:

Altaf Hussain, the notorious MQM leader who swapped Pakistan for London

British interest in the MQM is largely driven by the perception that the party offers a defence against jihadis. But there is more to it than that. The MQM is British turf: Karachi is one of the few places left on earth in which the Americans let Britain take the lead. The US consulate in Karachi no longer runs active intelligence gathering operations in the city. The British still do. When it comes to claiming a place at the top table of international security politics – London’s relationship with the MQM is a remaining toehold.

And there’s something else. The FCO’s most important currency is influence. Successive Pakistani governments, when they are not demanding Hussain’s extradition, have included his parliamentary bloc in various coalition governments. From the FCO’s point of view, it’s a great source of access. Right on their doorstep, in London, they have a man with ministers in the Pakistani government.

For its part the UK government insists there is nothing unusual about its contacts with MQM and that its meetings with MQM officials are: “a normal part of diplomatic activity around the world”. I spoke to a British official recently about the MQM and asked why the UK government, so keen to declare its commitment to human rights, seemed so willing to deal with the party despite officials privately saying that it uses violence to achieve its goals. She said: “There is one thing I can assure you of – it’s not a conspiracy.” Which in a sense is true. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just policy.

Karachi : Economic growth in Wild Wild West of Pakistan [Further reading links on dynamics of violence in Karachi]

centre

I have always believed that stock market is not the barometer of an economy or general well being of population. A few big players or institutional players can manipulate it and the effects may not trickle down to general population. In US case, a rising stock market has the impact of increasing confidence of the people thus resulting in more investments which leads to more employment etc and thus a virtuous cycle may start. However, the same is not the case in Pakistan where Karachi stock exchange has been generating significant returns for last two years but the misery of people and their general well being is not improving.

This is what Bloomberg said in November 2012:

Pakistan Stocks Best as Violence Ignored: Riskless Return

Pakistan is handing equity investors the world’s best risk-adjusted returns as terrorist attacks, power blackouts and a war with Taliban insurgents fail to curb gains in consumer spending that sent profits to a record high.

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

We all know how the economy spiralled downwards in last 5 years of PPP government but if we are to go by Karachi Stock Exchange 100 index, we were the 8th best performing market (mind you, on risk adjusted basis) in the world.

This from yesterday’s DAWN. (DAWN has a tendency of changing its website addresses frequently so if the link becomes dead, please let me know in comments and I will try to update it]

Equities yield staggering 52pc return

(June 29, 2013) For the investors in equities, it is time to celebrate. He who may have invested Rs10 million in the Pakistan stocks on July 1 of last year, would have additional Rs5.2 million in the kitty.

It marks a mouth-watering return of 52 per cent in a year unmatched by any other asset class. During the year, the benchmark KSE-100 index added staggering 7,204 points to settle at the dizzy height of 21,006 points on Friday, the last trading day of the year.

Stock market is not the only growth story. The extortion racket is also growing at an breakneck pace. From Reuters

Pakistan’s commercial hub faces growing extortion menace

Businesses in Karachi are facing a surge in extortion demands from criminal gangs, forcing many owners to delay new investment or to relocate their families to escape the sense of insecurity gripping the urban heart of Pakistan’s economy.

The worsening law and order situation in Karachi, which generates 25 percent of Pakistan’s economic activity, presents one of the many challenges new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must overcome to fulfill promises to set Pakistan on a path to faster growth.

An expanding middle class is fuelling consumer spending but extortion is hurting confidence among thousands of family-run firms that form the backbone of the economy.

With the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan due to start in July, a traditional time for extortionists to come calling, Karachi traders and shopkeepers are braced for what police say will be a record year of demands.

“The extortion racket has blown out of all proportion with the previous year,” said Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), a Karachi body set up to help police by providing crime statistics and technical support.

The growing demands reflect the shifting dynamics of a city of 18 million people where new challengers, including Pakistan’s Taliban movement, are locked in an increasingly violent, neighborhood-by-neighborhood battle for control.

Professionals, not just shopkeepers, are also targets.

When Javed Hanif, a doctor, answered his cellphone in June the caller reeled off a list of Hanif’s personal details: his work in a government hospital, the registration number of his car, and preparations for his son’s wedding. The man demanded 500,000 Pakistani rupees.

In spite of the climate of fear, business sentiment is not universally bleak. Retail is booming in Karachi, symbolized by the opening of a flashy modern shopping centre called Dolmen Mall Clifton in 2011 which showcases international brands such as Debenhams and Fatburger.

There is a class of people, I wouldn’t say they are immune, least bothered by increasing lawlessness. They are rich, reside in gated or posh communities, live for conspicuous consumption and to cater to their needs such flashy international brands are coming to Pakistan.

Despite all of the above, population growth rate of Pakistan has not staved off. If things do not improve, the large youth population will be a ticking time bomb. However, for now, they represent a huge, increasing in size and lucrative consumer goods segment. With population moving to urban centres, though it represents a growing segment of consumer goods now, it is taking the creaking infrastructure of cities like Karachi to breaking point.

Consumer goods: P&G sets eyes on expanding Pakistan operations

Changing demographics support growth

“One of the factors driving our growth is the enhanced ability of semi-rural consumers to participate in the economy,” Sabzwari said. “If you compare the urbanisation rate in Pakistan with other developing countries, you will see that we are getting urbanised faster than others,” he pointed out.

A growing middle class and the overall demographics of the population are critical factors driving consumerism. “We have millions of consumers entering independent disposable income space in their lives every year,” Sabzwari pointed out. Pakistan is one of the top countries adding 20-year-olds to the world, and these are the people establishing new families and helping market sizes grow. “Market size here grows in terms of volumes, without taking the pricing into account,” he explained.

All of the above news items point out to fast growth happening in Karachi. But we still haven’t touched upon the fastest growing sector: Target killing. The growth in this murderous business has been phenomenal. If one is in Bori (jute or gunny bags in which dead bodies are occasionally found) business, the prices would have skyrocketed leading to lucrative profit margin.

100pc rise in number of killings over past five months

June 29: Nearly 100 per cent increase has been witnessed in the number of killings across the city during the first five months of the year as compared to last year’s corresponding period, it emerged on Saturday.

While 750 people had been killed between January and May last year, as many as 1,450 people were killed in the city over the past five months, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Now only if we could establish a murder or target killing stock exchange in Karachi like in Somalia for Piracy, the benefits of this growing business can be distributed to common population. From Wall Street Journal

Today’s Pirates Have Their Own Stock Exchange

The world’s first pirate stock exchange was established in 2009 in Harardheere, some 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Open 24 hours a day, the exchange allows investors to profit from ransoms collected on the high seas, which can approach $10 million for successful attacks against Western commercial vessels.

While there are no credible statistics available, reports from various news sources suggest that over 70 entities are listed on the Harardheere exchange. When a pirate operation is successful, it pays investors a share of the profits. According to a former pirate who spoke to Reuters, “The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials. . . . We’ve made piracy a community activity.”

Think about it, this could be the first target killing or murder stock exchange of the world.

Below is link dump of studies of violence in Karachi. Must read if you want to understand the dynamics of violence in Karachi.

Musings on Pakistani social media – Twitter edition

Caveats: I want to highlight four facts before you read this unstructured rant.

1. My political views are what are termed as “political islamist” or just “islamist”. So my observations and inferences that I have derived from them may be colored by those views.

2. The period I am covering here is from pre-May 2013 election till now.

3. I follow around 250 people on twitter and in addition say they Retweet (RT) 50 other people regularly so in effect my observations are based on tweets of total of 300 people

and most importantly, as brought to attention by one commentator,

4. I am generalizing here i.e., brushing with broad strokes. Its just a high level view of my observations.

Pre-election period

PTI by appealing to educated and plugged-into-social-media youth had really taken off and had become a formidable foe by engaging the disengaged youth. Other parties also took to twitter and facebook but one has to admit that PTI had the strongest presence on social media before the election. How they abused this position and how it ultimately fooled them into believing that being a majority on social media means being a majority in the parliament is covered by others extensively so I will not dwell on that.

All parties in Pakistan have an element of cult in them. Most people follow these parties not for the values or manifestos they have presented but because of their leaders. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always been a cult of Bhutto on a national level, but under Zardari it has become a Sind regional party.

Supporters of PML-N mainly follow it for the Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif but its more of a personality following rather than a cult. The only party that is not a cult is probably Jamat-e-Islami but its too small a party. We also have Awami National Party (ANP) leadership of which remains in the ahl-e-bait of its founder Baacha Khan. But in relative terms, these parties are open to or at least tolerant of criticism of their actions as well their leaders.

On the other extreme, we have Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM) a party of urban Sind headed by self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain. The cult eader status bestowed to him is extra-ordinary. They are highly intolerant of criticism and no newspaper which has offices or circulation in Karachi will dare to criticize them.

However, they failed to understand the impact of social media mainly twitter. MQM didn’t appreciate the fact that twitter allows people to express their frustrations and criticisms anonymously something which the general public couldn’t do on print and electronic media without fear of reprisal from MQM. So in of absence any criticism in public sphere, MQM fooled themselves into believing that people of Karachi will vote for them out of fear or will remain at home. However, quite a large number of people in Karachi were fed up with MQM and wanted to vote PTI (as no other party reached out to them or even talked to them) but when the voters reached polling stations, in some cases they weren’t allowed to vote, their vote had already been cast, or in some places MQM workers were filling ballot boxes with fake votes and at some places they strong armed the polling station staff to not reach the polling station on the allocated time_a fact which came to light in voting of national assembly seat from Karachi NA-250. MQM presumed that like earlier times people will take this silently. Surprisingly, people refused to be cowed down and in certain cases took to streets (which would never have happened earlier).

For MQM this was a first i.e., ordinary people protesting against them openly. They were at a loss as to how to counter this onslaught and it led to a few faux pas speeches by their leader Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. (I have covered these  here “MQM’s reign of terror post elections 2013″ and “Why and How MQM Rabita Committee was beaten”). On the social media front, MQM was totally ill prepared for the criticism and abuses that started against them. People who would normally be discrete in their criticism of MQM even privately as they live and work in areas surrounded by MQM supporters took to criticizing MQM openly on Facebook where you are not anonymous. On twitter, frustrated Karachiites tagged MQM representative and became abusive towards them, towards MQM but most importantly towards Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. MQM was not at all prepared for this barrage of criticism. This post “Social Media Strategy of MQM” makes it pretty clear how MQM deals with criticism generally and how trying the same tactics on social media actually backfired. Later they created a lot of fake accounts to tweet favorable news and occasionally create and tweet a lot of hashtags to get MQM related topics to trend such as #united4Altaf #onlyAltaf yesterday but its safe to say that MQM is still not able find its bearings on twitter. (For some twitter humor -> “Altaf Hussain and Titanic”)

The party that made the most use of social media pre-election was PTI led by former cricketer and philanthropist Imran Khan. The cult leader status that the supporters bestowed to Imran Khan was comparable to cult status of Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai amongst MQM supporters. PTI supporters would not tolerate any criticism of PTI much less Imran Khan and would stoop down to hurtling abuses to anyone daring to criticize or even trying to give suggestions to change their policies/manifestos etc. They earned the name “PTI trolls” as they would come down together on any journalist or analyst on twitter. They also created fake accounts of journalists/analysts and tweeted positive propaganda with respect to PTI and with respect to opponents, they spread malicious propaganda. This is what a fake account of, Jang/TheNews journalist and anchor of GEO TV program Jirga, Saleem Safi tweeted most probably operated by a PTI troll on election day. Tweets have since been deleted but I took a screenshot of them.

This and similar other tweets from other fake accounts upset Saleem Safi so much that he wrote a whole column in Urdu about it

I am having fun with it

Post Election Period

Once the elections were held, it was hard for PTI supporters to fathom that despite having such a huge presence on social media, how come the outcome was not what they desired. They went into denial mode claiming mass scale rigging. Absence of Imran Khan from the scene due to his fall from the lifter two days before the election also meant that there was no leadership to guide them. PTI was a major force in urban centres but failed to make any headway in suburbs and rural areas. As such, when the results showed that masses didn’t vote overwhelmingly for PTI, PTI supporters stooped to calling general public Jaahil (ignorant). You have to understand that these voters of PTI were mainly first time voters and educated elite of Pakistan who had never bothered to vote earlier and credit goes to Imran Khan for engaging them. They were teachers, professionals, businessmen, corporate CEOs and consultants educated from best Pakistani and western universities but they couldn’t take the loss at ballot box and still could not come to grips with the fact that a vote of someone living in rural area or not as highly educated as them or as successful as them is equivalent to their vote. There is a wonderful website which collected unquotable gems from these Harvard, Wharton, IBA, LUMS etc educated youth on social media. Do visit it Public shaming #Pakvotes as it will give you some insight into their mindset. A wonderful essay in this regard that I cannot recommend enough is The Disadvantages of Elite Education by William Deresiewicz, which is a must read.

Now that PTI has its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, focus of PTI trolls has shifted to actions of their own government and there is significant reduction in their social media trolling. Probably they too have realized that this trolling is actually destroying the little goodwill that they have left, if any.

Lets move to the other intelligentsia we have on social media. These are the so called English speaking journalists and analysts on twitter and can be described as left-of-centre in their leanings and probably hate PTI for its rightist leanings. They also despise the general public of Pakistan as when it comes to issues such as terrorism etc, general public leans right. They are best described in the following tweet

Pakistan especially KPK is facing a lot of terrorism. One such day was yesterday wherein a Terrorists strike in Quetta, Peshawar, NWA

As many as 49 persons, including security personnel, lost their lives and over 100 others sustained injuries in separate incidents of terrorism in Quetta, Peshawar and North Waziristan on Sunday.

Now if one followed the intelligentsia tweets yesterday, it was all outrage. There was empathy for victims but that was also a tool to express outrage. Outrage against terrorists? No. Outrage against PTI (as they rule in KPK) as well as common man as he is not fully behind the army in this War on Terror or because the common man opposes the Drone strategy

The above are a sample most read journalists/writers in English press of Pakistan and all they have to offer is to blame the common man or blame Punjab. The above is just a sample. Yesterday, my timeline was filled with such useless outrage from morning till night. It is not as if we are not fighting this war. We have been fighting this war for last 10 years. Here is a good piece of research Numbers of Terror on the myths propagated by these journalists in terms of number of people killed and as if our army is not fighting this war.

Twitter has widened the schisms in our society. These journalists consider the rest of the population as illiterate or unenlightened, it has actually polarized the society with the result that if these journalists/analysts/”though leaders” decide to bandy behind a particular issue, the rest of population believes there is a hidden agenda. Like PTI trolls and supporters, by just promoting their own causes and belittling the causes that the rest of the population wants to stand behind, they polarize the society. What they think is satire is actually read as affront by common man.  They don’t try to listen to other viewpoint or convince him of their arguments rather shove their views down common man’s throat. As such, common man refuses to listen to them and runs in opposite direction. As such, we all have our pet projects and causes which are mutually exclusive rather opposites. They are pro-drone, common man is anti-drone. The people who the common man have voted in want to use negotiation with Taliban as part of overall strategy because fighting them for last 10 years hasn’t resulted in any gains as far as common man knows so these people make fun of common man, his thinking, leave no opportunity to snark at it and consequently want nothing to do with negotiations. This polarization manifested itself clearly in case of Malala attack. The innocent minor girl faced a barbaric attack by Taliban. However, the vehemence with which the aforementioned journalists/analysts/thinks took up her cause and displayed their outrage actually distanced the common man from her. Whereas she needed the whole nation to stand behind her, the constant point scoring by our “intelligentsia” made sure that common man believe that she is part of some larger conspiracy or hidden agenda.

The intelligentsia continues to blame Zia ul Haq for creating this confused nation but they have only themselves to blame. Zia has been dead for more than 25 years. A whole generation has been born and grown up during this time. What have they to show for this 25 years to correct Zia’s wrongs? A few columns blaming Zia. 25 years down the line they will still be blaming Zia and all they will have to show for their efforts will be their satirical and hate filled columns, blogs and tweets. Lot of good they are doing.

Below is one of my sunni bias manifesting itself

Getting 100 people killed in a fortnight is a genocide of Karachiites. But we take it in a passing. 12 people were killed in Karachi day before yesterday. But a lot of people only feel outraged when its someone from minority because it allows them to push their agenda whatever that is.

This is till 1155am today: Karachi: Six killed in violent incidents, police encounter today. Only half a day has passed. Assuming pattern continues, around 12 will be killed today, which is a number equivalent to people killed in a bomb blast. But bomb blasts happen once a week or twice. However, this many people keep on dying on streets of Karachi everyday yet there is no outrage in any quarter.

A brilliant, thoughtful and well-structured read on selective outrage that we as a society show is Death of a Nation. Its a must read.