Pakistan’s tarred reputation

Published: December 9, 2012

The writer is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank

While Pakistan’s dependence on the West for capital and also on receptive markets for its exports continue to increase, the West — in particular the United States — is becoming wary of Pakistan. In a democratic system, what people feel about a country with which it has relations matters. In this context, how Pakistan is viewed by the citizens of the United States acquires considerable importance.

Pakistan’s stagnant exports and the sharp drop in foreign direct investment mean that the country needs large doses of official finance to keep the economy afloat. The capital that is needed can come from two sources. It can be provided by Washington or it can be made available by the multilateral development and financial institutions. In the United States, Congress reigns supreme in money matters. The executive may promise but it is Congress that disposes. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the country’s reputation is not high in that body. As such, the United States will not be able to play in Pakistan’s corner in the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund where Washington has a great deal of influence. It should, therefore, trouble Islamabad that while the country’s senior officials were in Washington holding important discussions on economic matters, two influential publications came out with disturbing stories about Pakistan.

The world has begun to take notice of what it sees as another ugly turn in Pakistan. This is not good for Pakistan and its stressed economy, dependent as they are on external support. However, the country needs a helping hand from abroad, without which it would sink into a deeper hole. Pakistan’s policymakers and the people of Pakistan must realise that the country today does not have the respect of the international community. Two detailed stories in recent days — one in The Economist and the other in The New York Times, brought their readers news about the rise of sectarianism in Pakistan. This has added another dimension to the Pakistani story.

The British journal’s story was about Karachi; that of the American newspaper about Quetta. Reading them together provides a view that is of immense concern for the international community. It is of concern because innocent people are being killed, sometimes in broad daylight and sometimes with the killers making no attempt to hide their identity. The only reason why so many people are being killed is that they profess a different faith than the one to which the killers subscribe. It concerns those who are watching this deteriorating situation that the security forces have not tried very hard to stop the carnage and bring to justice the people who are engaged in it. It is also of concern since the slow disintegration of normal life in two cities, each important in its own way, has begun to showcase what is going wrong in the Muslim world.

Karachi is the nerve centre of the Pakistani economy but is being torn apart by several conflicts among the various components of its fragmented citizenry. The Sindhis, the Muhajir and the Pashtun are fighting for political and economic space. The Islamic radicals, whose numbers have increased significantly because of the influx of tens of thousands of Pashtun from the restive tribal areas, are attempting to force their religious beliefs and cultural norms on the rest of society. This is an unfortunate development for the city’s large and reasonably affluent middle class. Karachi had deservedly earned the reputation of being Pakistan’s most open and modern city. That reputation is being tarnished. According to some observers, Karachi is being Talibanised. If this is the case, it will pose a problem for the United States since its crowded slums will not be within easy reach of the drones, the weapon of choice for America’s counterterrorism efforts. At the same time, a dysfunctional Karachi will add to Pakistan’s many economic woes.

Quetta, the other troubled city, is disturbed by a similar set of problems. Like Karachi, it is also multi-ethnic. Its many diverse communities have come together because of economic and political developments of recent years. Balochistan, of which Quetta is the capital, is rich in mineral resources. One of them, natural gas in Sui, has been fully exploited and now accounts for a significant share of energy consumption. Its successful exploitation brought many highly trained and skilled people from other parts of the country, churning up the ethnic mix of the province. America’s war in Afghanistan brought in another group to the city’s environs, the so-called ‘Quetta shura’. With its supporters armed to the teeth, they have taken over parts of the geographic space in the province. These are troubling tales.

The story Pakistan needs to tell those who are watching the many disturbing developments in the country is that a period of transition is underway. Pakistan is transiting towards a political order in which conflicts will get resolved through discourse and legislation and not through violence. As such, the country needs the West’s support and not scorn at this delicate time in its history.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2012.

Reader Comments (47)

  • Arindom
    Dec 10, 2012 - 1:03AM

    Sounds like description of the ‘Wild West. What is the police doing?’

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  • Humaira
    Dec 10, 2012 - 1:32AM

    The first stone was thrown with the “two-nation” theory 65 years ago where some corrupt politicians divided a people in name of Islam. The claim was that Hindus and Muslims can’t live together any more, even though they were of the same blood, the same culture and had lived together for a thousand years.

    Just as a snowball rolling down a hill gathers speed and grows larger with every turn, the process of division, lies, bigotry … further subdivision, further lies, and further bigotry… will never end. Till it is every man/woman for himself/herself.

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  • Nadir
    Dec 10, 2012 - 1:36AM

    Its okay, we can use our bums to blackmail the rest of the world and keep the bubbles of affluence afloat.

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  • Sudheer
    Dec 10, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Every person with a little sense will acknowledge your concern sir, but, what can be done? Pakistanis themselves asked for this.

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Dec 10, 2012 - 2:38AM

    It is high time that Pakistani elite and policy maker start reading the current news in Greece as very shortly Boat name Pakistan will be facing the same choppy waters. due to threat of downgrade number of headquarters of companies from Greece have move out of Greece. Coca Cola went to Switzerland and Yogurt maker went to Brussels and were able to maintain credit rating and had access to credit at lot cheaper rate. Substitute Pakistan in place of Greece.

    Money always goes where it’s well treated and by it remaining in Greece subjects it to abuse by the taxman. Greece is presently in the midst of its 5th tax increase this year with less revenue collected with each passing one(Mr. Obama could learn something here). In a digital age, it’s not difficult for corporations to relocate and it’s surprising cyber companies like Microsoft and Apple, whose production is offshored, have not long departed.

    Nothing like walking through life, wearing blinders.

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Dec 10, 2012 - 2:47AM

    Law of Diminishing returns from non state actors in Pakistan
    The law of diminishing returns is significant because it is part of the basis for economists’ expectations that a countries short-run marginal cost curves will slope upward as the number of units of output increases.Recommend

  • Dec 10, 2012 - 3:06AM

    Governments, investors and corporations who do their own research know that Pakistan is too big and important a country which they can not afford to ignore for long.

    Pakistan has a large and growing consumer base as well as a growing stockpile of sophisticated nuclear weapons. It can be highly profitable or highly dangerous depending how the world chooses to deal with it.

    That’s why the total foreign currency inflows into Pakistan have continued to grow for over a decade. Decline in FDI has been more than made up by growing remittances, grants and loans as well as significant increase in exports.
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  • Gary
    Dec 10, 2012 - 4:31AM

    @Humaira: Can’t agree with you more. If and when Pakistan embarks on modernity, pluralism, and inclusiveness, think pakistani’s will not be kind to their leaders. It’s one thing to say we choose not to live together, but an another to say we can’t due to religion.

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  • Singh
    Dec 10, 2012 - 4:34AM

    @Riaz Haq: You are sick mind. living in USA & talking sheer blackmailing can land you in trouble. Nuke which you are so proud of will take down Pakistan itself because of same economics. Pakistan’s today condition is due to people like Riaz Haq. who can not think beyond room walls.

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 6:02AM

    @Singh: “You are sick mind. living in USA & talking sheer blackmailing can land you in trouble. Nuke which you are so proud of will take down Pakistan itself because of same economics”

    US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said and Barack Obama seemed to agree during the foreign policy debate that “it’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point.”

    Another presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann said earlier: “Pakistan is too nuclear to fail”.

    Do you think people like Obama, Romney and Bachmann are all “sick” too? Are they too “talking sheer blackmailing” which will land them “in trouble”? Just think about it!!!

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/11/impact-of-obamas-re-election-on-pak-us.html

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  • xyz
    Dec 10, 2012 - 6:11AM

    @Riaz Haq:

    Governments, investors and corporations who do their own research know that Pakistan is too big and important a country which they can not afford to ignore for long.

    Pakistan already went through this phase of neglect from west. Between 1990 to 2001. After the Afghan invasion, the west started filling Pakistani coffers. If not, Pakistan would have been a totally failed state. Even now, Pakistan receives in excess of 7 Billion $ a year of western aid, which is about 3.5 % of Pakistani economy.

    Pakistan’s nuclear weapons I feel are made more as a bargaining chip against West (to fleece more money), rather than a deterrent against India.

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  • someone
    Dec 10, 2012 - 6:38AM

    @Humaira:
    You hit bull’s eye.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Dec 10, 2012 - 7:16AM

    @Riaz Haq: ” … Pakistan has a large and growing consumer base as well as a growing stockpile of sophisticated nuclear weapons. It can be highly profitable or highly dangerous depending how the world chooses to deal with it. … “

    Looks like you have not yet been able to figure it out. India and US have reached a deal – India “takes care” of the Pakistani consumer; the US goes after your stock pile.

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  • F
    Dec 10, 2012 - 8:17AM

    If you need the support of the West, you should stop 1) your support to Jihadi groups – your “strategic assets”, that kill western troops in Afghanistan and 2) casting America as your enemy. It is the hallmark of duplicity to stab the very ones whose help you seek (and currently get). The world is no longer fooled by any spin. And unless you take responsibility for your own welfare no amount of western resources can help you.

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  • Mowahid
    Dec 10, 2012 - 8:27AM

    As per the definition set by the correlates of war project, Karachi’s recent wave of sectarian violence should be seen as an intra-state war (communal type). One of the features being battle deaths per year to be atleast 1000. Unfortunately the decision makers lack intellectual capacity to realize that a war in Karachi is a reality and not just an issue highlighted by the media

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  • Feroz
    Dec 10, 2012 - 10:12AM

    “The story Pakistan needs to tell those who are watching the many disturbing developments in the country is that a period of transition is underway. Pakistan is transiting towards a political order in which conflicts will get resolved through discourse and legislation and not through violence.”

    The World is unable to see any transition or any action to set the country on the path of Peace and Prosperity. The inaction is due to the fight between the Institutions, more a battle for control,of the ideological narrative and public support. Anywhere on the globe only peoples representatives or Politicians need public support. In Pakistan the Judiciary and Military like to play to the gallery and Politicians have become toothless punching bags. It seems no change will be made voluntarily, it will have to be forced by the International community through possible Economic and Military sanctions. Inviting disaster is the price of sitting on the fence and very unfortunate because it can only fuel the flames sparked by the conspiracy theorists.

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  • sabi
    Dec 10, 2012 - 10:41AM

    It is not clear whether ruling elite (permanent ruling elite aka khakis) of this country is too naive or too smart, but one thing is clear,this nation is too simple to be fooled on permanent basis.Bare foot,no education,no basic ammenities,strong social divides,yet too proud of nuclear assets and missiles.So proud a nation to give funds to errect replika of missiles on roundabouts of small towns and cities.Armies of civilised nation hide thier waepons and cantonements from civilions to give them a sense of civility and humility.And here in this land,display of tanks war planes missile on major crossings is a norm and taken as great sense of pleasure and safety.Vow!

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 11:05AM

    @Ajit Sharma: “Looks like you have not yet been able to figure it out. India and US have reached a deal – India “takes care” of the Pakistani consumer; the US goes after your stock pile.”

    Looks like your daydreaming has gone a little too wild. Please take care of your own world’s largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates rather than worry about taking care of your neighbor’s needs. As to the suggestion that US “goes after your stock pile”, the US knows its limits much better than you know your limitations which are severe indeed.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/08/63-years-after-independence-india.html

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  • Mri
    Dec 10, 2012 - 11:18AM

    I got linked to this article from an Indian website.

    India as a nation is also affected by internal terrorism and communal forces like the naxalites and maoists. The only way to curtail this menace is when political will takes shape and the police is allowed to do their jobs properly. As a nation, Pakistan needs to show strong will. Democracy MUST take precedence over the military. The executive, and the legislators should do their job independently. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be happening. I suppose, no politician is willing to stick his/her neck out. Current democratic govt, fragile as it is, must encourage more stability. But as nation which was built on segregation rather than collective entity, help is really far away. Changing mindsets and promoting inclusiveness will not happen over night.Decades of brain washing has to be reversed. But economic growth can/will help youth take up more productive roles in the society. Also, Don’t make Kashmir your biggest priority(Points directly at Imran Khan). Internal issues must take precedence.

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  • sabi
    Dec 10, 2012 - 11:23AM

    @Feroz:
    Agreed,respect.

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  • Javelin
    Dec 10, 2012 - 12:40PM

    @Riaz Haq:
    “That’s why the total foreign currency inflows into Pakistan have continued to grow for over a decade”
    Your economics blows my mind. The reason for this is more and more Pakistanis are escaping to the middle east to send money back home to their destitute families. This will diminish in the near future as your muslim brethren in the middle east cannot live on oil alone, as their monopoly is fast eroding. The US will overtake Saudi Arabia by 2020 as the worlds largest producer of oil and import zilch from the middle east. The arabs will then have to depend on big consumers like India and China for buying their oil. This is dicy as India will prefer not to deal with the Wahabis and your “deeper than ocean” friend China will drive a hard bargain. Net result of all this is that the present lucrative source of dollars from the middle east will dry up and Pakistan has to export to earn foreign exchange. This is more hard work and effort than simply emigrating to “brotherly” muslim countries for work and send dollars home.

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  • Happens
    Dec 10, 2012 - 1:04PM

    @Shahid Javed Burki

    After a lot of reserach , I have come to conclusion that islamic countries deserve either monarchy or anarchy . So bring the army rule and make ur country prosperous.

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  • Super Star
    Dec 10, 2012 - 2:23PM

    @Riaz,

    This article completely pops all the empty baloons that you put in your blog!

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  • Ghaznavi
    Dec 10, 2012 - 3:03PM

    @ Its (still) Econonmy Stupid

    Another Pakistan hater Indian troll from a country where:
    – 40% of population doesnt have electricity
    – 80% dont have access to clean drinking water
    – 800 Million people defecate in the open
    – The world’s smelliest and filthiest country (with filthy minds too)
    – 500 million poorest of the world poor live in India

    Share your pearls of wisdom with your country men who need it more than us.
    Leave us Pakistanis alone.

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  • t khan
    Dec 10, 2012 - 3:36PM

    @Riaz Haq
    Hey buddy are you out of your mind. . , you remind me of a us imported Pakistani pm who used to quote mobile phone penetration in Pakistan when asked to comment on the state of pakistan’s economy!

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  • FactCheck
    Dec 10, 2012 - 4:32PM

    Finally west realized giving money is a waste!

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  • Arifq
    Dec 10, 2012 - 4:49PM

    Dear Burki Sahib, There is no transition, its an effort to buy time and influence policy by promoting the notion of status-quo.. There is no conflict dear naive writer, this is a war of fascism where a small group wishes to impose their agenda on the majority, in some cases it has turned into genocide such as that of the shias from Hazara. Those who can effect positive change do not need legislation or discourse, what they need is an ultimatum, either you finish the job or let someone else do it for you! Clock is ticking and Pakistan continues to slide deeper into the abyss of nothingness

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 5:06PM

    Look Pakistan is a tricky subject to be handled by the West.

    No Govt in the West can anymore justify to its people giving Pakistan aid. No Corporation will think of investing large amounts and considerable resources in Pakistan.

    Yet, the World fears a Pakistani meltdown. Pakistani leaders never forget to remind the world how ignoring Pakistan will cost them, at the same time increasing Nuclear Stockpiles and Missile numbers. So, clearly they are exploiting the fear of the West.

    Pakistan has been given enough chances. Pakistan is like Agit Agarkar in the Indian Cricket team.

    There are only two ways of dealing with Pakistan:

    1) Pamper it, ask it nicely to combat militancy and expect it to not arm itself from that same money.

    2) Or, Isolate it. No aid, no loans. China is anyway not going to help. US too can stop giving aid. Pakistan’s exports are being taken over by India and Bangladesh, so it will lose money even there. The world will argue if Pakistan has money to build nukes and missiles, it surely has money to feed itself!

    The first method has been tried. Has not worked. The math is fairly simple. Come 2014 when there will no Pakistani leverage over the West, the second method will be executed.

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 5:15PM

    @Ghaznavi:
    @Riaz Haq:

    India’s poverty is expected to halve from a high of 51% in 1991 to just 22% in 2015.

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/indias-poverty-will-fall-from-51-to-22-by-2015-un-report/articleshow/9152967.cms

    Pakistan GDP barely growing at even half of India’s growth rate, sometimes barely 1/3rd, has seen increases in poverty.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/181361/economic-survey-2010-11-has-the-real-poverty-rate-hit-43/

    “By the ADB’s(Asian Development Bank) estimates, as cited by the ministry of finance, every 10% increase in food prices pushes 2.2% of Pakistan’s population below the poverty line. The ministry estimates that food prices have risen 94% since its last poverty survey. If the ADB’s estimates hold across several years, poverty in Pakistan has increased to an astonishing 43%.”

    India may have problems, but as the UN report says, India is contributing to a large decline in poverty all over the world. As growth rate increases to 8 to 9%, poverty reduction rate will also increase. Even this year’s rate of 5.3% is much higher than most Economies, including Pakistan.

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  • MSS
    Dec 10, 2012 - 5:30PM

    @Humaira
    Well said. Religion should be taken out of state and the state out of religion. The rest falls into line very qucickly indeed. Some of the worlds best living places with highest standard of living are in Scandinavia where as many as 80% people do not believe in a religion.

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  • Ali
    Dec 10, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Dear sir,

    Maybe if our police and army actually did something to stop this we wouldn’t have these articles in the first place. The fact is this IS happening and it seems as if no one is doing anything about it. More than for outsiders this is scary for us Pakistanis.

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  • Polpot
    Dec 10, 2012 - 7:21PM

    “The story Pakistan needs to tell those who are watching the many disturbing developments in the country is that a period of transition is underway”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Transition from bad to worse……..unidirectional slide.

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  • Vikas
    Dec 10, 2012 - 7:35PM

    @Ghaznavi:
    They all are your brothers and sisters who got left behind.

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  • shahid
    Dec 10, 2012 - 8:03PM

    Disband Army.It is good for nothing.Spend the money on social sector.We will be rocketing upwards.

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  • Kamran Naqvi
    Dec 10, 2012 - 8:32PM

    Pakistan suffers every time PPP government comes into power.
    High inflation, Slow growth, High unemployment, new heights in Corruption!!!

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 8:51PM

    @Javelin: “The reason for this is more and more Pakistanis are escaping to the middle east to send money back home to their destitute families.”

    Talking about escaping, please read Cybergandhi’s post on “Zillion Reasons to Escape From India”. The longest lines outside foreign consulates are seen in India and over a million Indians “escape from Shining India” each year making the Indian diaspora the largest in the world.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Dec 10, 2012 - 8:59PM

    You neglected to mention the rampant corruption, incompetence of the outfit in Islamabad and their violation and complete disregard to uphold the laws of the land. What we have failed to understand in the US is who is running the government and what type of government Pakistan has, is it Presidential or Parliamentary? Please someone enlighten us.

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  • Raza Khan
    Dec 10, 2012 - 9:18PM

    Allah will come to help us! No need to worry.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Dec 10, 2012 - 9:20PM

    @BruteForce: I failed to understand why do you even scan Pakistani papers, it seems you spew venom at Pakistan every chance you get, we do criticize ourselves. Do you have any regular job because I for one don’t have enough time to be writing and reading the Pakistani papers. Are you paid by some one in India to be so critical and hateful toward Pakistan and as a matter of fact people like you make our stance harder toward India.Nothing is so Hunky Dori in India, millions live under poverty and rampant human violations are committed daily in Kashmir, Assam and Gujrat by the Indian security.For once look into your own backyard.

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  • Imtiaz
    Dec 10, 2012 - 9:41PM

    At the business school they taught me to attach a risk premium to any venture. If I want to investment back home I would want a big risk premium for cover the corruption, political problems terrorism and lack of rule of law. Sure Pakistan has potential but is also very risky. That is why multinationals are not queuing up to investment in Pakistan. That is why I am wary of investing. Please tell the how many overseas Pakistanis who are investing big in Pakistan. They know Pakistan the best.

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  • Maula Jut
    Dec 10, 2012 - 9:51PM

    Indians found a new way of bombarding Pakistan. It is via Express Tribune.
    Now they are even taking up names like Humaira.
    When will you wake up dear moderator?
    The stink is all over the place.

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 10:17PM

    @naeem: “I failed to understand why do you even scan Pakistani papers, it seems you spew venom at Pakistan every chance you get”

    In addition to the world’s largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates, India also has the dubious distinction of being home to the world’s largest population of trolls, the cyber coolies whose sole aim is to attack Pakistan in cyberspace.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/07/indian-it-sweatshops-exploiting-cyber.html

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  • syed
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:09PM

    “The only reason why so many people are being killed is that they profess a different faith than the one to which the killers subscribe”.

    different faith?? are you kidding here?

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  • Awais
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:30PM

    Well thanks to the NY Times and The Economist you Sir have finally realized that theres sectarion violence and ruthless killings of minoroties. You can attribute that to your hero Gen Zia that you praised so much in the past. I’d like to know your views about his policies today. Have they changed or are you still an avid fan?

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  • Dec 14, 2012 - 1:07AM

    It is Burki and his generation of Babu’s who have put Pakistan in the mess it is in. At least have the courage to admit you were on the wrong side of history with the worst of the worst.

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  • naz
    Dec 31, 2012 - 11:35AM

    @Riaz Haq:

    Riaz you are right. It’s not possible to divorce… but you can marry and screw Pakistan… Give it aid and aid and aid and make it aid dependant nation. No wealth generated, no great businesses, no great education centers… only saudi funded salafi madarassah’s and perhaps a LUMS liek center that is far away for the common man….

    This will create an eternal servile class of people who wil lwork for thier master. Today it will be US , tomorrow Germany or China or even UK again after a ‘so caleld freedom’ from Britain 65 yrs ago….

    We wil be gaurding the weapons site and one day the masters will be fed up so much that they wil lstart dismantlign the weapons. Once that is done…there is no divorce.. it will be natural separation…. They imagine what will happen to our country. You are thiking like typoical Army mentality… short term tactical victory but missing hte larger strategy in the long run.

    It is typically inherent in our polity to think liek this… e.g. Kargil, we won tactically but had to vacate….in 1971, we won few battle… but lost half country, in 1965, we won a few battle… but lost in the long run…..

    I think we need to grow up and start thiking of buildign our country with its inherent strengths’s Keep religion out for another 25 years form public ( POLITICAL) life…. and then work hard for this….

    I cant see my grandchildren eating breadcrumbs thrown from some missionary organization thatwill serivce us when we are an AID dependant nation……

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  • naz
    Dec 31, 2012 - 11:48AM

    @Riaz Haq:

    The milion people going outside… dont plot bombs in subways or blow up other places in the name of jihad… They are defginitely a self service piece. They may sometime bring back some remittence… But mind you, they are a soft power somewhere… makign godo name for a country of thier origin… Why do you think many pakistani’s preferred callign them indian after Sept 9,2011 ???????????

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