Bhutto’s Murder of Education

From Sadruddin Hashwani’s “The Truth Prevails”

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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.

 

Polio leads to infertelity: a myth

Every few weeks, we come across articles in the newspaper that locals or the tribal elders not allowing polio vaccination in their area because people think it will render their kids infertile. Then there are efforts from government side to educate the people that it is just a myth but the myth isn’t getting destroyed. From Guardian

Now religious scholars have joined the campaign to dismantle the myths and battle the resurgence of polio. A campaign led by National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) in partnership with Unicef has brought together more than 5,000 of them, working on provincial and district levels, to tackle the issue. The group comprises of scholars belonging to the Deobandi sect, a school of thought followed by the majority of population in the tribal belt.

In Fata, clerics helped resolve 8,120 vaccine refusal cases during a week-long campaign in March this year. Another 160 religious scholars from Swat have issued a Fatwa in favour of the vaccinations. A campaign, starting this month, will be led by Shia scholars as it expands to the Parachinar valley, where the majority of the population are Shia Muslims.

Now if “polio drops leads to infertility” was a Taliban ploy, then we would not need to convince Shias as they are arch enemies of Taliban and would not have bought Taliban ploy hook, line and sinker. It doesn’t help the case that CIA used fake polio campaign to hunt for Osama Bin Laden leading to some polio administering NGOs to fly their staff outside Pakistan immediately as they would’ve been threatened.

But resistance to polio has been in the region even before Taliban took over. Where did the myth that it leads to infertility arrive. I came across this passage in the book Poor Economics talking about similar resistance to polio drops in India which gives some background:

India had had a long history with family planning, starting in the mid-1960s. In 1971, the state of Kerala experimented with mobile sterilization services, the “sterilization camps” approach that was to be the cornerstone of Sanjay Gandhi’s plan during the Emergency. Although most politicians before him had identified population control as an important issue, Sanjay Gandhi brought to the problem both an unprecedented level of enthusiasm and the ability (and willingness) to twist as many arms as necessary to implement his chosen policies.

In April 1976, the Indian Cabinet approved a formal statement of national population policy that called for a number of measures to encourage family planning, notably, large financial incentives for those who agreed to be sterilized (such as a month’s wages or priority on a housing list), and more frighteningly, authorization for each state to develop compulsory sterilization laws (for, say, everyone with more than two children). Although only one state proposed such a law (and that law was never approved), states were explicitly pressured to set sterilization quotas and fulfill them, and all but three states “voluntarily” chose targets greater than what was proposed by the central government: The targets totaled 8.6 million sterilizations “for 1976–1977.

Once laid out, the quotas were not taken lightly. The chief of the Uttar Pradesh bureaucracy wrote by telegraph to his principal field subordinates: “Inform everybody that failure to achieve monthly targets will not only result in the stoppage of salaries but also suspension and severest penalties. Galvanise entire administrative machinery forthwith repeat forthwith and continue to report daily progress by crash wireless to me and secretary to Chief Minister.” Every government employee, down to the village level, and not excluding railway inspectors and school teachers, was supposed to know the local target. Parents of schoolchildren were visited by teachers, who told them that in the future, their children may be denied enrollment in school if they did not agree to get sterilized. People traveling by train without a ticket—a widely accepted practice among the poor until then—were handed heavy fines unless they chose sterilization. Not surprisingly, the pressure occasionally went much further. In Uttawar, a Muslim village near the capital city of Delhi, all male villagers were rounded up one night by the police, sent to the police stations on bogus charges, and sent from there to be sterilized.

The policy appears to have achieved its immediate target, although the incentives probably also led to some overreporting in the number of actual sterilizations. In 1976–1977, 8.25 million people were reportedly sterilized, 6.5 million of them during just the period July–December 1976. By the end of 1976, 21 percent of Indian couples were sterilized. But the violations of civil liberties that were an integral part of the implementation of the program were widely resented, and when in 1977, India finally held elections, discussions of the sterilization policy were a key part of the debate, as captured most memorably by the slogan “Indira hatao, indiri bachao (Get rid of Indira and save your penis).” It is widely believed that Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the 1977 elections was in part driven by popular hatred for this program. The new government immediately reversed the policy.

In one of those ironic twists in which historians delight, it is not inconceivable that in the longer term, Sanjay Gandhi actually contributed to the faster growth of India’s population. Tainted by the emergency, family-planning policies in India retreated into the shadows and in the shadows they have remained—some states, such as Rajasthan, do continue to promote sterilization on a voluntary basis, but no one except the health bureaucracy seems to have any interest in it. In the meantime, however, generalized suspicion of the motivations of the state seems to be one of the most durable residues of the Emergency; for example, one still routinely hears of people in slums and villages refusing pulse polio drops because they believe it is a way to secretly sterilize children.

 

Pakistan Army and Martial Race

From Express Tribune:

Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif was appointed as the new Chief of the Army Staff  (COAS) and Lieutenant General Rashad Mehmood was appointed as the new Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on Wednesday

So this is what head of Inter Services Public Relations Gen Asim Bajwa tweets from his personal account:

 

One can also find the bio-data on ISPR page here.

Since it was stated in the first line, a lot of people wondered what is martial stock. And here Wikipedia comes to help:

Martial race was a designation created by Army officials of British India after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, where they classified each caste into one of two categories, ‘martial’ and ‘non-martial’. The ostensible reason was that a ‘martial race’ was typically brave and well-built for fighting, while the ‘non-martial races’ were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles. However, an alternative hypothesis is that British-trained Indian soldiers were among those who rebelled in 1857 and thereafter recruitment policy favoured castes which had remained loyal to the British and diminished or abandoned recruitment from the catchment area of the Bengal army.

The British regarded the ‘martial races’ as valiant and strong but also intellectually inferior, lacking the initiative or leadership qualities to command large military formations. They were also regarded as politically subservient or docile to authority. For these reasons, the ‘martial races’ theory did not lead to officers being recruited from them; recruitment was based on social class and loyalty to the British Raj.

Whereas Martial Race theory continued to be abandoned every where, Pakistani military continues to hang on to it

English: Flag of the Pakistan Army
English: Flag of the Pakistan Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though seldom used in today’s context, it has been alleged that Pakistan Military believed in the concept of martial races, and thought that they would easily defeat India in a war, especially prior to the Second Kashmir War Based on this belief in martial supremacy, it was popularly said that one Pakistani soldier was equal to four to ten Hindus or Indian soldiers, and thus numerical superiority of the foe could be overcome.

The Pakistan Army was also accused of bias and racism by the Bengalis of East Pakistan who felt humiliated by this dubious theory that was being floated in West Pakistan, that they were not ‘martially inclined’ compared to the Punjabis and Pashtuns. Pakistani author Hasan-Askari Rizvi notes that the limited recruitment of Bengali personnel in the Pakistan Army was because the West Pakistanis “could not overcome the hangover of the martial race theory”.

Defence writers in Pakistan have noted that the 1971 defeat was partially attributable to the flawed ‘martial races’ theory which led to wishfully thinking that it was possible to defeat the Indian Army based on the theory alone. Author Stephen P. Cohen notes that “Elevating the ‘martial races’ theory to the level of an absolute truth had domestic implications for Pakistani politics and contributed to the neglect of other aspects of security.” Since then, the ‘martial race’ theory has rarely, if ever, been used by Pakistan.

Probably Wikipedia writers didn’t get the ISPR bio-data of COAS Gen Raheel Sharif. I have gone and edited the above entry to incorporate Pakistan Army still believes in Martial Race theory. Lets see if it gets accepted.

To summarize, Martial Race theory was devised by British Raj to define races that will remain loyal to British. This view is also propounded by Shuja Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords.

The point here is not to belittle the valor and sacrifices of soldiers of Pakistan Army. The point here is Pakistan Army continues to hold the dubious theory as absolute truth that their former colonial masters floated to keep them as a loyal subject.

It is now forgotten but this is how British treated brave men such as Tipu Sultan by calling stray dogs as Tipu. As quoted by Mushtaq Yusufi in his book Aab-e-Gum:

Profit before Pakistanis: A case of mangoes, potatoes and bottled water

Last year I visited Madina Munawwarah and stayed at a five star hotel which had a bed and breakfast deal. They had a large breakfast buffet in the morning comprising of Arabic, Oriental, etc breakfast options. To cut the long story short, they also a had a fruit table where all kinds of sliced fruit were available in ready to eat format. I was amazed at their watermelon pieces. They must have cut around 50 to 100 watermelons to fill the various trays on multiple tables. The surprising part of it that there was not a single bad water melon. All the watermelons were red-dark pink and sweet. Whenever we go to a shop to buy water melons we have to check for sweet and red ones and occasionally we end up with unripe or non-sweet water melons. But in that hotel all the water melons pieces were ripe and sweet and red. Why can’t we get such delicious water melons every time?

This reminded me of an earlier event. Around 2004, a colleague of mine who used to work in the same bank branch as I did in Karachi was traveling to his home town Mirpurkhas. It was mango season and as Mirpurkhas lied in mango country, I asked him to buy me some delicious mangoes from Mirpurkhas. When he came back, he was empty handed. I asked him why didn’t he bring mangoes for me. He said the quality available there was not good. I told him that it is not possible that the good quality mangoes didn’t grow in Sind. He said that I misunderstood him. It is not that good mangoes don’t grow in Mirpurkhas rather good mangoes are not sold in Mirpurkhas. They are packed and sent to Karachi for consumption and export as they get higher prices. It is a tragedy that the people where the fruit is grown are not able to buy it because people in far away places like Karachi or abroad are willing to pay a much higher price for it.

Around 2008, a friend in Karachi was advising on merger between makers of Lays chips and Kolson snacks. He was sitting in one of the meetings between the two companies and discussion of potatoes came up wherein the Kolson guy told the Lays people that you don’t leave any potatoes for us. At this, the Lays people just laughed. When the meeting was over, my friend asked the Kolson team what is this about potatoes.

Kolson team told him that Lays has reached an arrangement with major potato farmers in Pakistan that they will get the first pick of all potatoes grown in the country. Once the company fulfills its quota or has rejected the produce, then the farmers can sell the potatoes in the market. So in a sense, the Pakistani nation buys and consumes that potatoes that have been rejected by Lays. Our best potatoes are used to make chips.

Nestle has also been involved in such practices. From the petition page Nestlé: Stop draining Pakistan dry!

Nestlé’s aggressive water grab is already descending like a plague on parts of Pakistan. In the small village of Bhati Dilwan, villagers have watched their water table sink hundreds of feet since Nestlé moved in. Children are getting sick from the foul-smelling sludge they’re forced to choke down.

I remember there was time in late 1980s that we used to drink water right out of kitchen sink. Now the media campaign with respect to bad quality of water in our water pipelines and disease associated with it get so much coverage that every one is forced to buy expensive water (something which is supposed to be cheap and readily accessible). From the study funded by Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations, Swissaid, Catholic Lenten Fund, Bread for all, Helvetas Caritas, Interchurch Aid “Drinking Water Crisis in Pakistan and the Issue of Bottled Water: The Case of Nestlé’s ‘Pure Life’” (ironically Nestle is a swiss company):

The aggressive market strategies of Nestlé went astray when “awareness seminars” about bad water conditions turned out to be counterproductive. Nestlé asked its Lahore ad agency, Interflow Communications Ltd., to organize public information events about water hygiene issues. Participating officials of health and water agencies announced that tests had determined that urban water was unsafe for drinking and even existing bottled water was unhealthy. Nestlé discontinued the seminars immediately after it was reproached for unethical marketing practices. For instance, a representative from the Lahore Water Supply Company alleged that Nestlé was “misleading the people to make money”. Regardless of the discussion and temporary fall back from Nestlé, it became clear that bad news was also good news, and Nestlé gained public attention as a safe option for bottled water. In the end, Nestlé successfully stepped into the market andfilled a need, but turned water from a danger into a luxury.

Furthermore

After five years of operation, Nestlé faced its first opposition when it announced that it would build a second production plant in Karachi. On October 25, 2003, the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology sent a writ petition to the Sindh High Court (Karachi), saying that the 20 acres leased out to Nestlé were carved out of the 300 acres of land allotted to it previously. The lawsuit has been joined by Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplantation, Aga Khan Hospital and Medical College Foundation, Sindh Madressahtul Islam, Newport Institute of Communication & Economics, Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, and Ziauddin Medical University — all land allottees in the said area. The property is located in an area spread over 15,500 acres, given to 30 different parties, believed to be designated for various educational and health purposes, and declared “Education City Karachi”. Nestlé bought the property for a price of PKR 500’000, double the price paid by the other parties, with the intention to invest USD 10 million and extract 306 million litres of water annually, for the sale of 228 million litres of bottled water. Ironically, the plant was not planned to meet the needs of the people of Karachi or the South of Pakistan, but for US forces at Afghanistan’s Kandahar Air Base.

The plaintiffs argued that Nestlé’s industrial ambitions defeated the very purpose of the area. Nestlé argued that the property was allotted after approval of the provincial cabinet and the department of industries. Furthermore, Nestlé claimed at the end of the dispute that the area was never declared for a single, non-industrial purpose, and the company presented various public officials to promote this position. The plaintiffs, however, could prove that the area was dedicated to education and health services since 1999, and the Sindh High Court (Karachi) held that water extraction by the proposed bottling plant would “diminish water deposits in the aquifers rapidly and shall adversely affect the plaintiffs’ right to use the underground water according to their genuine needs ”. The case is still open, regarding the plant and the investment, since Nestlé continues to legally challenge the decision of the Sindh High Court (Karachi). Nevertheless, one has to keep Nestlé’s self – commitment in mind, namely that it “consult[s] with local communities on water issues”, which was obviously not the case in Karachi.

The losers in this game are the poor

Insufficient water quality mostly affects the poor, who have little power to change policies and priorities and who cannot afford alternatives, such as bottled water, filtering and boiling. The Government of Pakistan officially admitted that “richer households are substantially more likely to have water piped to a tap in the household”. Furthermore, the Government of Pakistan acknowledged that the engagement of corporations, which extract groundwater and sell it as bottled water, might be one of the factors working against water quality improvement because it has reduced the political pressure for improvement by this part of society whose voices are valued and heard.

In conclusion,

Even Nestlé confessed before it started to produce ‘Pure Life’ that “the fact that everybody can’t afford ‘Pure Life’ is unfortunate, but does that mean we shouldn’t sell it at all?”. From this perspective, it is reasonable that Nestlé focused its marketing on urban centres, railway and bus stations and highway stops. To conclude, one has to say that Nestlé ‘Pure Life’ in Pakistan is not an affordable alternative for the great portion of the population without access to safe drinking water. Rather the introduction of bottled water in Pakistan is an attempt to initiate the bottled water culture, where water is a status symbol and a way of life for the rich.

So whether you grow potatoes or mangoes or sitting on water reserves, if you are poor, you will not be able to enjoy these fruits of nature.

Coming back to watermelon story, it was like the five star hotels have made a deal with watermelon growers to sell them the best watermelons and once the hotels have bought as per their requirement, then the farmers can sell the remaining watermelons in the market.

  • Further reading:

If you are interested in reading more about scandalous bottled water campaigns, please read this Mother Jones expose about Fiji water: Spin the Bottle. (It is worth reading in the full)

Obama sips it. Paris Hilton loves it. Mary J. Blige won’t sing without it. How did a plastic water bottle, imported from a military dictatorship thousands of miles away, become the epitome of cool?

Nowhere in Fiji Water’s glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island’s faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has—despite the owners’ talk of financial transparency—set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers. And, of course, you won’t find mention of the military junta for which Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy.

During the 2000 coup, a small posse of villagers wielding spearguns and dynamite seized on the chaos to take over the bottling plant and threaten to burn it down. “The land is sacred and central to our continued existence and identity,” a village spokesman told the Fiji Times, adding that “no Fijian should live off the breadcrumbs of past colonial injustices.” Two years later, the company created the Vatukaloko Trust Fund, a charity targeting several villages surrounding its plant. It won’t say how much it has given to the trust, but court proceedings indicate that it has agreed to donate .15 percent of its Fijian operation’s net revenues; a company official testified that the total was about $100,000 in 2007. (For perspective, the trade journal Brandweek put Fiji Water’s marketing budget at $10 million in 2008; it recently dropped $250,000 to become a founding partner of the new Salt Lake City soccer stadium.)

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.

Database of Intentions : God Google

I enrolled for Coursera MOOC Understanding Media by Understanding Google. Unfortunately I will not be able to complete it due to sudden surge in my other work and personal commitments. But I am thankful for this course for introducing me to wonderful pieces of writing on Google and the immense “Orwellian” (cliched term I know) power it exercises over us. I have earlier written about it here, here, here, and here. Most of those pieces are inspired by two books The Filter Bubble and The Googlization of Everything which I highly recommend. Former is a real eye opening book in terms of amount of knowledge Google has about us and probably knows more about us than we would even admit to ourselves.

Another book that I came across is the dated The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business andTransformed Our Culture. I haven’t yet read it completely but it talked about a powerful concept “Database of Intentions”. As much as I study Google and more importantly social media trends, this should have been blindly obvious to me but it wasn’t. In The Filter Bubble it is covered that how much Google knows about individually, this book talks about how much Google knows about us collectively.

One analytic site reports, 88% of world used Google as their primary search engine.

This gives Google immense insight about what the world (at least the world that is online or has access to internet) is thinking. Are they searching for any particular news, interested in buying any particular brand of clothing or accessories, researching any particular listed financial instrument such currencies, stocks, bonds or commodities (sorry I am a financial guy so this is of my particular interest), checking symptoms to see what diseases have we contracted etc.

Google does release its annual zeitgest report

“Zeitgeist” means “the spirit of the times,” and this spirit can be seen through the aggregation of millions of search queries Google receives every day. The annual Zeitgeist report reveals what captured the world’s attention in the past year—our passions, interests and defining moments as seen through search.

but it is released periodically. Based on this there was this hoopla in 2010 about Pakistan No. 1 Nation in Sexy Web Searches? Call it Pornistan | Fox News. Pakistanis claim to be amongst the righteous people of world but Google search shows their hypocrisy i.e., in the privacy of their rooms, they are largest consumers of porn. Later Google raised doubts on the accuracy of the report but fact remains that Google is sitting on this huge pile of information. Its their PR strategy that they chose to share it with us. They can very chose not to share this information with us.

The real power resides in having real time information about us collectively. A hypothetical example: Google notices a sudden increase in search for special kind of symptoms in a particular locality. Whenever we feel unusual pain or symptoms, our first instinct is to search online and not approach the doctor. If its related to a contagious disease, Google will know days before anybody else that a contagious disease is spreading in that area.

If people start searching for Gold as an investment say in India or similar such country (with significant purchasing power and penchant for gold buying), Google may know that demand for Gold is about to increase. It can either sell this information or use it to make more money for itself at the expense of ordinary investors.

Above are just hypothetical example and come with lot of caveats for example assumes that people are net-savvy, affluent, and research such diseases/terms on internet. Seeing that gold prices are low, an Indian may not research and just go and buy it from a local shop and this whole sentiment-to-action process may not even register on Google. But as people become more affluent, their access to internet increases, the power due to the knowledge that Google has about us will increase.

I am not saying it is easy. People tried earlier to tap into this. Derwent Capital’s Twitter Hedge Fund tried just this:

London-based hedge fund Derwent Capital Markets said it had successfully marketed a new venture to a series of high-net worth clients that makes investment choices using information gathered from over 100 million daily tweets.

Simply put: the fund mines the Twitter-verse to gauge market sentiment, and that information—which the firm futuristically brands as “The 4th Dimension” is used to drive the portfolio’s holdings.

The company still exists and has renamed itself Cayman Atlantic. The fund was shutdown

not because its analysis of Twitter wasn’t working. During the one month that the $40 million Derwent Capital Markets fund was operation, it reportedly returned 1.86 percent, beating the overall market as well as the average hedge fund. The fund’s founder says that its analysis worked so well that one of the fund’s principal investors suggested making a mass-market product out of it, so as to reach a larger market instead of the handful able to invest in a hedge fund.

It might not have worked for the company but the potential is there. One reason could be that other hedge funds would also have developed such data mining software. And since markets are efficient, probably reduced any advantage the Twitter fund had to zero.

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My point is that with the amount of data rather real-time data Google holds about us, it has too much information about us. It may know more about a police-state’s nation than the government of that nation. A lot has been written about recent Arab Springs and earlier revolutions and how social media has been helpful in organizing them. However, in social media we are public or at least broadcasting our intentions. When we discreetly search for anything on Google, after God only two people know about it: us and Google. That is a pretty God like power to have.