Half of Pakistani lawmakers don’t pay tax

Discrepancy even in record of PM Nawaz Sharif

Nearly half Pakistan‘s lawmakers reported they paid no taxes, according to a study released on Monday, findings that may endanger billions of dollars in IMF and other loans and aid that shore up a faltering economy.

Cracking down on rampant tax evasion is a main condition of a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund programme aimed at stabilising the nuclear-armed U.S. ally of 180 million people.

Big donors such as Britain, which has committed more than $1 billion to Pakistani education, are considering slashing aid unless more rich Pakistanis pay tax.

The report, which identifies some ministers among lawmakers who pay no tax, was drawn up by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, an independent research group.

The group based its report on documents from the Election Commission, which publishes financial declarations of political candidates and their statements from the tax authority.

Tariq Azeem, a spokesman for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif‘s ruling party, said the tax authorities and the Election Commission used different forms to gather tax data. He said that may explain the discrepancies.

Asked why some legislators appeared never to have registered with tax authorities, Azeem said: “I don’t know.”

Spokesmen for other political parties said they had not read the report and could not comment. None of the politicians the report identified as tax evaders was available for comment.

Pakistan’s public schools and hospitals are starved of revenue while riots over poor public services are frequent. Militant groups capitalise on anger to build support.

Pakistan has a nine percent tax to gross domestic product ratio, one of the world’s lowest. Fewer than one percent of citizens file income tax returns.

Legislators have a tiny amount deducted from their official salaries but almost all of them have lucrative second careers.

The average net worth of a legislator in 2010 was $800,000, according to a study of their asset declarations by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. More recent figures are not available.

“If politicians don’t pay taxes themselves, they have lost the moral authority to impose taxes on others,” said Umar Cheema, the author of the report. 


The Finance Ministry said December tax collection was up by about a quarter compared with last year. Cheema said nearly 80 percent of that was through indirect taxes on items like fuel.

“Whenever there is pressure from the donor agencies, they just increase indirect taxes which shifts the burden onto the poor and lets the rich off again,” Cheema said.

Nearly half of all national and provincial legislators did not declare paying any taxes, Cheema said in his report. More than one in 10 legislators had never even registered with tax authorities.

Of those who paid, a third had discrepancies between income and tax declarations and data provided by tax authorities. Many legislators reported paying minuscule amounts of tax. Many paid less than $100, while some paid as little as $17.

There was even a discrepancy in the record of Prime Minister Sharif, according to the report.

Sharif, who came to power in a May election, declared he paid $26,000 in income tax last year although the Federal Board of Revenue said he paid $22,000. The prime minister’s office was not immediately available for comment.

“We expect everyone to be honest and forthcoming, that goes without saying, but there is no such thing that they have to verify with (party) headquarters. It is an individual’s own business,” said Azeem, the party spokesman.

“If we find anyone has knowingly misled income tax authorities, we will take serious action.” Asked what action, Azeem said: “It depends.” 


Nine Countries With Most Fatal Nuclear Weapons

The world has so far witnessed numerous massive destruction that took away uncountable lives. Despite devastation, nations are acquiring unlimited numbers of nuclear arsenals, considered as weapons of mass destruction, in the name of achieving peace, sovereignty and to protect its soil. In the race to do so, some nations have gone ahead of others, and made through the list of nations that houses powerful nuclear weapons. Here are the names of such countries as listed by IndiaTv

1. Russia
Russia, a northern Eurasian nation has the largest accumulation of nuclear weapons in the world. It has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is the only country apart from the United States with a modern strategic bomber force. According to the Federation of American Scientists, an organization that assesses nuclear weapon stockpiles, Russia possessed an estimated 8,500 total nuclear warheads in 2013, of which 1,800 are strategically operational.

2. United States
The United States, the world’s super power nation is the only country to have used a nuclear weapon in war. It was the first country to develop nuclear missiles. This country has conducted more nuclear tests than the rest of the world combined. The United States is also the only nuclear power with weapons deployed in other countries through NATO’s nuclear sharing program. As of December 2012, the U.S. was estimated to have about 2,150 operational warheads. An additional 2,500 warheads are believed to be in reserve and 3,000 more are retired and awaiting dismantlement, as per the Federation of American Scientists.

3. France
France possesses one of the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenals. France is one of the five ‘Nuclear Weapons States’ under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. At present, the French military is currently thought to retain a weapons stockpile of around 300 operational nuclear warheads on its four nuclear submarines. The rest are either meant for aircraft, in maintenance or awaiting dismantlement, says the Federation of American Scientists.

4. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom was the third country to test independently developed nuclear weapons, in October 1952. It is one of the five nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This country is thought to maintain a stock of around 225 thermonuclear warheads, of which 160 are operational. Since 1998, the Trident programme has been the only operational nuclear weapons system in British service.

5. China
China has developed and possessed weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear weapons. China’s hunt for nuclear weapons started in 1950s after the U.S. moved nuclear assets into the Pacific during the Korean War. After successfully testing the first nuclear device in 1964, China conducted its first thermonuclear test in 1967. Till date this country is estimated to have about 140 warheads assigned to land-based missiles and 40 warheads assigned for aircraft. The rest are either awaiting dismantlement or being held for a future nuclear submarine.

6. Israel
Israel is widely known to possess nuclear weapons and is the sixth country in the world to have developed them. On the other hand, this nation maintains a policy known as “nuclear ambiguity” which means it has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons. But, according to the Federation of American Scientists, Israel is thought to have about 80 atomic weapons and enough plutonium for as many as 200. Over the years, Israel has acquired submarines and aircraft capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

7. Pakistan
It was in the year 1972, subsequent to its third war with India, Pakistan decided to start a nuclear program under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan responded to India’s nuclear tests in 1998 by announcing that they exploded six underground devices in the Chagai region near the Iranian border. Pakistan is actively working towards producing more warheads, said Federation of American Scientists. It has the ability to deliver nuclear payloads via aircraft and land-based missiles. It does not have a sea-based launch mechanism. It is also reported that the nuclear weapon technology and the weapon-grade enriched uranium was backed by China.

8. India
India started building its own nuclear weapons after China began nuclear tests in the mid-1960s. India tested its first nuclear device in 1974. Though the country has not made any official statements about the size of its nuclear arsenal, recent estimates suggest that India has between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons. It has aircraft and land-based missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads, and it is planning to add naval assets to its nuclear program. According to the Federation of American Scientists, India is actively working to produce more warheads.

9. North Korea
North Korea has declared in 2009 that it had developed a nuclear weapon, and probably possesses a small stockpile of relatively simple nuclear weapons. The country’s nuclear program began with the installation of a Soviet reactor in Yongbyon. In a 1994 agreement with the United States, North Korea pledged to suspend its weapons program in exchange for assistance building reactors to generate power. So far, North Korea has conducted three underground nuclear tests and has also carried out ballistic missile tests. The country already has enough plutonium for about 10 warheads, an expert says.

Can Malala’s Noble Deeds Make Her the Youngest Achiever of Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9th 2012 witnessed a vicious incident when Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in an attempted murder by the Taliban group. One year down, the Pakistani teenager stands confident of her actions to support her country’s young girls by protesting for the education system to flow freely for them. Malala continues to shine despite the deadly attack by terrorists and she is likely to become the youngest winner ever of the Nobel Peace Prize, report The Atlantic Wire and Time World.


By winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala would accompany those recipients who are on the list of Nobel Peace winners, starting from Médecins Sans Frontières in 1999 to Muhammad Yunus in 2006.
Malala says that peace and education are inseparable, as without one you cannot possess the other. “I hope that a day will come when the people of Pakistan will be free, they will have their rights, there will be peace and every girl and every boy will be going to school,” she told the BBC in an interview.

The youngest Peace Prize was embraced by Tawakul Karman, who was 32 while receiving the award. If Malala wins the Nobel Peace Prize, she will be the second ever Pakistani laureate, the third female Muslim laureate, and definitely the youngest one to achieve the prestigious award. Most importantly, it would further strengthen her approach towards educating young girls and she would become an inspiration to Pakistani women and also the entire world.  


Before becoming a global symbol of children’s education, Malala too, like everybody else, was suppressed by the Taliban dominance and terrorist stir.The young Pakistani’s thoughts on Taliban’s next attack on her are praiseworthy. She says, “It seemed to me that everyone knows they will die one day. So I should do whatever I want to do.”

Recently, when a Pakistani radio station asked Malala if she thought she deserves the prize, she said, “There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”


Malala describes attack, recovery in book excerpt

Malala Yousafzai, Youth advocate for Education...

Malala Yousafzai, Youth advocate for Education, in New York (Photo credit: GlobalPartnership for Education)

Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by Taliban members, described the incident in her new book to be released Tuesday.


Malala is a vociferous supporter of education for girls. Her outspoken advocacy for girls’ education made her a Taliban target. She was shot in the left eye socket at close range on a school bus on October 16, 2012 in Pakistan.

The book excerpt describes how she gradually regained her sight and her voice and was reunited with her parents.

Malala, who has been mentioned as a possible contender for the Nobel Peace Prize to be announced Friday, also describes her amazement at finding out that some 8,000 people had sent messages of support to the hospital.

“Rehanna, the Muslim chaplain, said millions of people and children around the world had supported me and prayed for me,” Malala writes. “Then I realized that people had spared my life. I had been spared for a reason. I realized that what the Taliban had done was make my campaign global.”

Malala, who is now residing in the U.K., also described her goal of one day returning to Pakistan despite the risks: “To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone,” she writes.

The book is titled “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”


The Future of Indian Power: Hard vs. Soft

There has been considerable talk over the past few years about India as a “global soft power”. This is a reference to the spread of certain aspects of Indian culture (such as Indian cuisine, music, and dance) throughout the world and its rising popularity in the West. It is also a reference to Bollywood and its growing international fan base that now includes Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. The spread of these elements of Indian culture and “Indian-ness” is often hailed as Indian “soft power”, as it was by Shashi Tharoor (watch his TED speech on the subject here). However, I take a slightly different stance. I view Indian soft power as virtually non-existent in its current state, and I also feel that it is unlikely for India to become a true global soft power anytime soon (though it does have the potential to become one). Instead, India’s rise to global power status – if and when it happens – will be due to its increasing hard power, and India for the foreseeable future will have to rely on hard power to project its influence abroad.

In order to analyze hard vs. soft power in the Indian context, it is first important to understand what “hard” and “soft” power exactly refer to, and how they differ. “Hard” power refers to the use of military and/or economic means to exert one’s influence upon another. In practice, the application of “hard” power tends to be fundamentally coercive in nature. The Indian covert support of the Mukti Bahini and later the overt military intervention into Bangladesh, the Soviet threat to use nuclear weapons against Britain and France during the Suez Crisis, and the imposition of economic sanctions on socialist Cuba by the United States are all examples of the utilization of “hard” power. “Soft” power, on the other hand, refers to the ability to attract and “seduce” (as opposed to coerce) other parties. The American political scientist Joseph Nye, who first coined the terms “hard” and “soft power, identified three categories of soft power: culture, political values, and policies. The utility of each of the three elements depends on their ability to attractExamples of “soft” power may include the extensive Wahhabi influence throughout the Islamic world due to Saudi state sponsorship, the emergence of Marxist-Leninist states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America based on the model of the Soviet Union, and the ability of the United States to historically attract large numbers of immigrants because of its sociopolitical values and free, democratic society.

While examples of both hard and soft power abound in history as well as in the present day, there is no simple way of measuring power or identifying the factors and conditions that lead to it. A country’s hard power is a rough aggregate of various factors, including its GDP, total population, defence budget, technological prowess, energy production and consumption, and others. Statistics that attempt to measure hard power include the National Power Index and the Composite Index of National Capability, both of which list India as the world’s third most powerful country based on their criteria.

It is considerably more difficult to identify the underlying factors of soft powers than that of hard vague, owing to its more vague and imprecise nature. Nevertheless, I will attempt to ascertain specific conditions that enable an entity to exercise soft power.  One of the most important prerequisites for becoming a major soft power is to have “native ownership” of an ideology that can be used as a means of influence; that is, the ideology should be recognizable as a distinct and unique attribute of that particular country. During the Cold War, for example, the United States and Soviet Union represented the de facto embodiments of capitalist democracy and Marxist socialism, respectively. As mentioned earlier, Marxist-Leninist states emerged around the world during this period (including Cuba, Angola, and Vietnam, among others) and allied themselves with the USSR; likewise, newly-formed capitalist democracies like those of the three principal powers of the defeated Axis alliance (Germany, Japan, and Italy) came under the fold of American soft power in the post-WWII world and became close allies of the U.S. On the other hand, it would be virtually impossible for a country like Pakistan to exercise any meaningful soft power based on ideology, since Pakistan’s ideology is based on Islamic ‘nationalism’ where it views itself as part of a greater ‘Ummah’, but is certainly not recognized by the members of the ‘Ummah’ as its leader. In other words, Pakistan does not have native ownership over its own ideology, which inevitably leads to Pakistan associating itself with other, more influential members of the ‘Ummah’ like Saudi Arabia and Iran, at the obvious expense of its own subcontinental origins.

Another important condition in developing soft power is to have a universal ideology whose values can cut cross national, cultural, and ethnic borders and attract a diverse array of peoples. Countries that promote such universal values often tend to be pluralistic and inclusive in nature and held together by a shared ideology and political values, as both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in our previous example were (the U.S. is only about 60% white, while only about half the population of the erstwhile U.S.S.R. was ethnic Russian). On the other hand, countries that promote ethnocentrism and militaristic ultranationalism, as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan did, will find it difficult to exert soft power, since such attitudes are inherently counterintuitive when it comes to attracting and co-opting other peoples. Such countries would be forced to rely on hard power to project their influence, which would historically fail all three of the main Axis powers in the long run since their hard power could not compete with that of their enemies.

In addition to the ideological and political aspects of soft power, it is also important to look at the nature of cultural soft power. Many aspects of American “culture”, such as Hollywood, MTV, Coca-Cola, and brand-name jeans are often touted as being elements of American “soft power”. Fundamentally, however, such superficial, materialistic aspects of American “culture” cannot and do not promote pro-American attitudes among foreigners. It would not be totally uncommon to find that some of the most virulent anti-American protestors in Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere may also be avid fans of Hollywood flicks or regularly drink Coke. Although these aspects of American culture may be popular throughout the world, they cannot be considered to be aspects of “soft power”. Instead, meaningful cultural soft power would be able to significantly influence the paradigm of other cultures, as the major religions of Christianity and Islam have influenced numerous cultures around the globe.

Now that we have a better understanding of the difference between hard and soft power, and the underlying features of both, we can return to the specific case of power projection in the Indian context. The development of Indian soft power will rely ultimately on the promotion of meaningful cultural and/or political values that will attract people of other nations towards India. Just as the spread of superficial American “culture” cannot count as soft power, the promotion of meaningless, superficial aspects of Indian culture like food, cuisine, dance, etc. will not increase India’s power on a global scale. Nor does Bollywood, the supposed “holy grail” of Indian soft power, provide the necessary “muscle” for such power projection, since Bollywood only depicts the abovementioned superficial aspects of Indian culture. The immense popularity of Bollywood in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for example, has not turned Pakistan into a pro-Indian country, nor does it prevent Afghans (including the educated elite) from spitting on the floor whenever a Hindu idol is shown on TV. The fact is that the Indian entertainment industry has virtually no ability to influence the paradigm of its viewers, and can only bombard them with superficial trash. Perhaps if Bollywood placed less emphasis on petty song-and-dance numbers and focused more on producing movies that depict India’s history, culture, and values in a more profound fashion, such paradigm shifts can take place among international audiences. But Bollywood in its current state is far from being a true vehicle for exercising Indian soft power.

India may currently have close to zero soft power, but that does not mean it cannot become a major soft power sometime in the future. On the contrary, India has perhaps the greatest potential for exercising genuine soft power out of all developing countries. One major factor in India’s favor, which would in many other cases be an impediment, is its diverse and pluralistic society. As mentioned above, such societies are naturally able to attract other peoples and nations since they tend to be less discriminatory and more inclusive than homogeneous, ethnocentric societies. The definition of an “Indian” is fundamentally open-ended, universal, and expansive, just as the definitions of “American” or “Soviet” are/were. The elastic nature of these terms allows a person to become “Indianized”, “Americanized”, or “Sovietized” while still retaining aspects his/her indigenous culture, which is why we can see labels such as “Chinese-American” or “Soviet Armenian”. By looking into Indian history, we can also find examples of the spread of ‘Indian-ness’ to other countries. The time when Indian civilization enjoyed the greatest influence and soft power was the time when Buddhism was actively patronized by various Indian kings and spread throughout Asia. Since Buddhism is a universal ideology and is unrestricted by any borders whether they are of caste, ethnicity, language, or other, it was able to attract adherents from many different cultures. Indian universities, in the form of Buddhist mahaviharas such as those at Nalanda, Vikramashila, and Odantapuri, were the Harvard, Oxford, and Yale of the Classical period, attracting students from numerous distant countries. Indeed, there was a time when Indian soft power in the form of Buddhism was felt from the Caspian Sea to Japan and from Siberia to Indonesia, with India being regarded as the spiritual and cultural center of the world. Buddhism in India has since disappeared into the pages of history, but the fundamental Buddhist ideals of multiculturalism and all-inclusiveness still define Indian society today, and can form the basis of future Indian soft power.

In contrast to heterogeneous and inclusive societies, cultural expansion by homogeneous and more exclusive and ethnocentric societies tends to be much more ‘zero-sum’ and ‘total’; rather than co-opting other foreign cultures and peoples, they tend to be subjugated and assimilated into a greater whole. The expansion of Chinese civilization is one of the best examples of such assimilation, with the process of Sinicization continuing to this day in frontier regions like Tibet and Xinjiang. Given the inherently coercive and one-sided nature of such expansion and assimilation, it is not too surprising that China has historically not enjoyed the same level of soft power of more pluralistic, inclusive societies like those of India, the former Soviet Union, or the United States. Indeed, it has been greatly influenced by ideological and cultural aspects from each of the three mentioned powers (Buddhism, Marxism-Leninism, and capitalism respectively), but has not reciprocated the exchange by exporting ideologies of its own to any of the three powers.

Having examined the status of India’s soft power in the past and present, we can now begin to draw conclusions about the future of Indian power. India’s entertainment industry will continue to define India for foreigners, but as described previously, this will not be an effective means of power projection. Instead, India’s diverse and pluralistic society, and the fact that such a society has remained in one piece in spite all odds, can serve as a much more potent platform for exercising soft power. India might have some things to teach to the rest of the world when it comes to multiculturalism, especially in a world that is rapidly globalizing and one in which individual societies are dealing with alien ones on an unprecedented scale. On the other hand, however, India itself still faces numerous internal problems, and India is still far from serving as an effective model of a pluralistic society. It seems to me that India, at least for the near future, will have to continue to rely on its ever-expanding hard power as a means of influence.

Shootings Heighten India-Pakistan Tension

A Pakistani security official said a civilian was seriously wounded by Indian troops Thursday, the latest sign of growing tension following the deaths of five Indian soldiers in an ambush that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

The Pakistani official said Indian soldiers shot the civilian, named Kaka Sana, at about 8:30 a.m., calling it an unprovoked firing. Mr. Sana was in Tattapani, a sector on the Pakistani side of the de facto border, and has been taken to a military hospital in Kotli, the official said.



The Indian government, which hasn’t commented on the alleged shooting, Thursday accused Pakistan of being directly involved in an ambush earlier this week that left five Indian soldiers dead and one injured.

It is now clear that specialist troops of the Pakistan army were involved in this attack,” A.K. Antony, India’s defense minister, said in Parliament. “We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan’s side of the border without the support, assistance, facilitation and often direct involvement of the Pakistan Army.”

Pakistan’s military said it strongly and categorically rejects any involvement in Tuesday’s attack. It added that two Pakistani soldiers were shot and seriously wounded by Indian troops on Wednesday.

In his statement Thursday, Mr. Antony also hinted at retaliation by India’s armed forces on the border, known as the Line of Control. The neighbors signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003.

“Naturally, this incident will have consequences on our behavior on the Line of Control and for our relations with Pakistan. Our restraint should not be taken for granted,” he said, without elaborating.

The statement replaced the Indian government’s earlier, more ambiguous stand on the matter. Mr. Antony told Parliament on Tuesday that about “20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms” had ambushed an army patrol on the Indian side of the Line of Control, killing five soldiers and injuring one.

A statement released by the public-relations department of the defense ministry the same day said Pakistani soldiers belonging to a Border Action Team were behind the attack. The release was retracted a few hours later.

The different statements drew criticism from opposition leaders in India, who accused the Congress party-led government of creating an “escape route” for Pakistan and exonerating its military in order to salvage stalled peace talks expected to restart this month.

“Is Congress with Pakistan or with India?” Yashwant Sinha, a senior leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, asked in Parliament on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif headed up an emergency meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the flare-up in tension in Kashmir. He expressed “sadness” at the events, according to a statement from the ministry, saying it was “imperative for both India and Pakistan to take effective steps to ensure and restore cease-fire on the Line of Control.”

Mr. Sharif said Pakistan was willing to strengthen military and political channels of communication between the two countries. He said he was looking forward to meeting India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next month, as previously planned.

“It is incumbent upon the leadership of both sides not to allow the situation to drift,” Mr. Sharif said. “Pakistan will persist in its efforts to improve relations with India through a constructive dialogue on all issues.”

Both Mr. Sharif and Mr. Singh have a history of pressing Indo-Pakistan peace initiatives in the face of opposition from hawks in their countries.

In his statement Thursday, Mr. Antony repeated long-standing demands for Pakistan to dismantle terror networks on its soil and make tangible progress in the trial of those accused of having ties to an attack in Mumbai in 2008 when 10 Pakistani militants killed more than 160 people.

Hafiz Saeed, the man accused by India of masterminding the 2008 attack on Mumbai, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, will be leading Eid al-Fitr prayers on Friday in Lahore, at the massive Gaddafi Stadium gathering to mark the religious festival. The event is advertised on posters all over Lahore. Mr. Saeed founded banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, but lives freely in Pakistan. Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the group he now officially leads, confirmed that he is planning to lead the prayers.

Elections in India are due to be held by May. The opposition has criticized the government for being soft toward Pakistan and China. Chinese troops encamped in the northern region of Ladakh earlier this year and withdrew only after three weeks of negotiation.

India is under pressure from the U.S. to dial down tensions on the border with Pakistan to create greater regional stability as troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, were expected to start talks this month on long-standing conflicts on access to water.

Bilateral talks have been suspended since January, when an Indian soldier was beheaded and another mutilated in border clashes, stirring outrage in India. Pakistan said allegations that its troops were involved were false.

Diplomats on both sides have since held several meetings in an attempt to thaw relations. Mr. Sharif, who took office in early June, has said he would like to improve relations with India through increased trade and commerce.

But India remains wary of Pakistan’s army, which exercises formidable sway on its foreign policy. Analysts in New Delhi say India is closely watching Mr. Sharif’s relations with the military for signs of a new template of civil-military relations.

By NIHARIKA MANDHANA in New Delhi and SAEED SHAH in Islamabad

How One Woman Entrepreneur Is Breaking Pakistan’s ‘Cement Ceiling’

In 1984, Nora Frenkiel coined the term glass ceiling: “Women have reached a certain point — I call it the glass ceiling. They’re in the top of middle management and they’re stopping and getting stuck.”


“The glass ceiling is the ability to visualize getting to the top but not reaching there. In Pakistan for female entrepreneurs, you can neither see what it looks like nor aspire to be something you cannot imagine,” Maria Umar says. “It’s more of a cement ceiling here in our case in Pakistan.”

Umar is challenging the cement ceiling as an international entrepreneur and a key player in Pakistan’s burgeoning tech scene. She is revered as one of the trailblazers in the female entrepreneurial revolution, and focuses her efforts on furthering work opportunities for women in Pakistan.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Umar was a full-time teacher. She quit after her job refused her maternity leave and subsequently began writing for a woman she found through Rozee.pk, Pakistan’s premiere job portal. The money was good — almost double what she made as a teacher — but when Umar discovered her employer’s oDesk profile, she realized she could make even more money by contracting with clients directly.

She set up her own Desk account and began taking on extra jobs and outsourcing them. At first she gave the jobs to her nieces, then to their friends, and eventually to their classmates, until she realized that she had developed a small content-creation business.

Today, this company is called The Women’s Digital League, an IT-solution company that trains rural Pakistani women in micro online tasks, from ghost-writing to social media management.

Ovidiu Bujorean is the Senior Manager of the GIST Initiative, which supports entrepreneurship in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. He met Umar after she won a GIST business plan competition, and recognized her ability immediately. “She is extremely passionate and persistent,” he says of Umar. “She’s also very committed to her mission of helping female entrepreneurs find job opportunities.


“Even if she hits a wall, she will learn her way over, under or through that wall.”

Even if she hits a wall, she will learn her way over, under or through that wall.”

As a female entrepreneur working in a male-dominated IT-field, there is no shortage of walls for Umar to break through.

The challenges women face while trying to secure an education in Pakistan are significant. Last year, UNESCO reported that 62% of girls in Pakistan between seven and 15 years old have never spent time in a classroom. Violence against girls pursuing an education has increased since the alleged Taliban attack against Malala Yousafzai in October of last year.

But the country’s education emergency is only the beginning of a larger problem.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, only 14.3% of Pakistani women currently participate in the labor force.

“Girls themselves are becoming more empowered and asking for their right to [education],” Umar says. “Unfortunately not very many actually utilize that education in the formal sector…


“Families discourage girls from working outside due to [the] security situation and lack of social acceptance.”

“Families discourage girls from working outside due to [the] security situation and lack of social acceptance.”

Social media has played an integral role in helping WDL provide work-opportunities for women who otherwise may be unable to work.

Umar finds the majority of WDL freelancers through social media. She attaches hashtags like #homebasedwork, #writerneeded, #jobopportunities and #pakistan to tweet advertising job opportunities, and receives a new CV almost daily.

“There are women that I’ve known for the past three years, and very closely through social media,” says Umar, “through Twitter, through Facebook pages and yes, through LinkedIn too.”

Umar estimates that more than 80% of her company’s business comes through LinkedIn referrals, largely because of the effort she’s put into cultivating complimentary reviews. “If you check, even now I don’t have my formal website up,” she says, “I’ve never needed to. When people come and ask me, ‘I’ve heard that you do this, how can we find out more about it?’ I just say well, go to my LinkedIn page.”

Umar’s leveraging of her LinkedIn referrals was impressive enough to catch the attention of Alec Ross, the former Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“The idea of a woman in one of the Waziristans working on an IT micro tasking is a very powerful affirmation of the platform,” he said. Ross remembers being struck by Umar’s dedication to helping other women find work. “I firmly believe that we need to empower women in the marketplace. There’s so much insecurity brought on by men. This woman was empowering dozens of other women.”

Umar recently announced that she is expanding WDL into The Digital League, a company that offers digital solutions to individuals and corporate clients.

“We decided we needed to include the men as well,” she says, noting that WDL will remain a subsidiary of TDL. “Why just Pakistan? We are now expanding it to the world.”

By Jess Fee

SRK was ready to raise fund for Pak flood, not for U’khand?

Cricketers and film actors are praised as gods in this country. Indians can do anything and everything for their favourite stars. But now these people disappointed their fans as they have not come out with financial and other material aids for the victims of Uttarakhand flood.
Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan (SRK) was one among them who have been facing criticism for their inaction for the flood victims. Social media such as — Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp had gone abuzz with rumours saying the actor donated Rs 10 crore for Uttarakhand.
However, now it has been clarified that it was nothing but a rumour spread by his fans. The actor faced tremendous criticism as he had plan to raise fund for Pakistan when the country was hit by a massive flood in 2010.
The then Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had turned up to the party’s mouthpiece – Samna slamming Shahrukh for his act. Thackeray had claimed, “…when India is paying tribute to its dead on 26/11 Mumbai attack, Shahrukh khan is going to dance on stage for a Pakistani Prime TV Channel and for few hundred pounds.” Sena MP Sanjay Raut was quoted as saying, “At a time when Mumbai is observing 26/11 and expressing anger against Pakistan, there should be a probe on why Shah Rukh has (expressed) love for Pakistan .
The ministry of external affairs must seize his passport. There is no need to show a pro-Pakistan stance and this betrayal of the nation.” About 20 million people were affected when heavy rains had triggered floods in in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan in 2010. Now, over 800 people died and thousands of people have been displaced due to the massive flood in the hill state of the country — Uttarakhand. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna recently claimed that the death toll could mount to 1,000. Rescue operations were on for the 10th day.
Indian Air Force (IAF) officials claimed that rescue operation in Uttarakhand is the largest of its kind for the Air Force. The King Khan, however, has not come up with any charity show aiming to raise fund for flood victims of this country. The only message he left for his countrymen was a tweet. Turning up to the micro-blogging site Twitter, SRK tweeted, “As insignificant as we are against Nature’s fury, a prayer of Hope for all suffering in Uttarakhand. May Allah give them strength & safety.” While SRK and other celebrities including few cricketers disappointed the countrymen, cricketer Harbhajan Singh impressed with his move.
He joined the list of the people who contributed to the relief fund after donating Rs 10 lakh. Central Government and different State Governments also sent financial aid and relief materials to the flood-ravaged state. Meanwhile, President Pranab Mukherjee, Uttara Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, Assam CM Tarun Gogoi donated their one day’s salary for the victims. Delhi Police and Tihar inmates donated Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 lakh respectively. OneIndia News

Powerful #Earthquake could hit #Iran in the next 48 hours

World Earthquakes predicts high seismic activity in Iran and Japan may in the next 48 hours


There is a possibility of a powerful earthquake hitting Iran in the next 48 hours, according to the World Earthquakes data.

“High seismic activity may occur for the next 48 hours” in Iran, the World Earthquake said on Friday.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has also predicted that a powerful earthquake that could hit the region between Thursday, April 25, and Tuesday, April 30. But UAE’s National Center of Meteorology & Seismology said that it’s a rumour and earthquakes cannot be predicted.IRAN-QUAKE

On Thursday, A 5.2-magnitude earthquake hit northwestern Iran on Thursday, only days after a deadly temblor struck near the border with Pakistan, media reported citing the seismological centre at Tehran.

Last Tuesday, a huge earthquake measuring 7.8 struck southeastern Iran killing a woman and injuring more than a dozen other people. At least 40 people were killed across the border in Pakistan where hundreds of mud homes were levelled. The tremors from the earthquake were felt across the Gulf region.

Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.

Tuesday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit Iran since 1957.

A double earthquake, one measuring 6.2 and the other 6.0, struck northwestern Iran last August, killing more than 300 people and injuring 3,000.

The World Earthquakes also warned of another powerful quake possibly hitting Japan in the next 48 hours.

On Friday, a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Japan on Friday, seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued.

Pakistan witness identifies one accused in Mumbai attacks case

A witness on Saturday identified one of seven Pakistani men charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks as the person who had bought inflatable boats used by the terrorists involved in the assault on India’s financial hub.


Prosecutors said the witness, whom they did not name for security reasons, had identified accused Shahid Jamil Riaz during proceedings conducted behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi by anti-terrorism court Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman.

The witness told the judge that Riaz and 10 other people had bought 11 inflatable boats, saying they were to be used for fishing. The witness further told the judge he had never seen these persons returning from sea with any fish.

A total of four private witnesses testified during the hearing.

Another witness told the judge that he had sold the accused a Yamaha boat engine for Rs 1.6 lakh and yet another witness said he had sold the accused six pumps, prosecutors told PTI.

The witnesses also identified 10 men, including Amjad Khan and Atiqur Rehman, who were allegedly involved in planning and executing the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 that left 166 people dead.

These 10 men were earlier declared “proclaimed offenders” or fugitives by the anti-terrorism court.

“The 10 proclaimed offenders were either trainers or facilitators of the accused who launched the attacks in Mumbai,” chief prosecutor Chaudhry Zulifqar Ali told PTI.

One witness told the court that Amjad Khan had obtained from him a “port clearance certificate” for Al-Hussaini, a fishing boat used by the terrorists.

Amjad Khan was also involved in purchasing the inflatable boats, another witness said.

Though Chief prosecutor Ali identified the four private witnesses as Hamza Bin Tariq, Muhammad Ali, Mohammad Saifullah Khan and Umer Draz Khan, he refused to go into details of their individual testimony for security reasons. All the witnesses belong to the port city of Karachi.

Additional Director Altaf Hussain of the Federal Investigation Agency, who played a key role in probing the Mumbai attacks, was present during the hearing but the judge did not allow him to testify as a defence lawyer argued that Hussain should record his statement after the private witnesses.

Prosecutors said the cross—examination of the four private witnesses could not be conducted as the main defence lawyers did not attend the hearing.

In the past too, the defence lawyers have held up proceedings by exploiting legal loopholes and posing hurdles for the proceedings, officials said.

The judge adjourned the case till April 27, when the four witnesses are expected to be cross—examined.

“The witnesses protested against being summoned for the next hearing as it will result in a lot of expenses for them.

They demanded an allowance for travelling back to Rawalpindi from Karachi,” chief prosecutor Ali said.

Amjad Khan, the fugitive identified by the witnesses, is a shadowy LeT organiser and financier from Karachi who figured in a majority of dossiers provided to Pakistan by India.

Khan, who hails from Multan, played a key role in arranging and providing funds to the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

Khan is one of 20 suspects in the Mumbai attacks who are yet to be traced by Pakistani investigators.

These 20 suspects were named in a chargesheet filed in the anti-terrorism court in 2009. They were all accused of playing a key role in facilitating the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani authorities have so far arrested seven suspects, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. They have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks.

Their trial has progressed at a snail’s pace due to repeated adjournments and various technical delays.

Nine of the terrorists involved in the attack were killed by Indian security forces.

The only surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, was hanged in Pune jail on November 21 last year.

Previous Older Entries



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,611 other followers