Archive for ‘Politics’

In Favor of Results

By , 11 March, 2010, No Comment

I’ve been off the Pulitzer blog for a bit, I know, but I promise it’s because I’m chasing good stories and am totally overwhelmed by them. In any case, here’s the latest, on some nonprofits I’ve had the opportunity to look into.

“The ALBA Collective’s model is premised on identifying failures in the models of its local partners and presenting itself as a solution. That is rather the opposite of Lend-a-Hand’s model, which identifies successes and then asks locals “How can we help?” In my travel across South Asia, I’ve been stunned by the number of nonprofits who make ALBA’s mistake.”

Read the post, and comment, here.

Getting Serious for a Moment

By , 3 February, 2010, No Comment

Latest blog post, on the trillion-dollar question of Indo-Pak peace:

‘…These days, optimists are focused on a new effort by two leading newspapers—the Times of India and The News in Pakistan—to promote “Aman ki Asha,” or “Hope for Peace.” In Delhi, the campaign is ubiquitous: billboards, posters, and television advertisements, some featuring major Bollywood lights. But the simple one below, where Pakistanis are trying to request a song on Indian radio, is my favorite.

The goal, says the News, is “mobilising popular pressure for peace on the establishment of both countries.” The mechanism, says the Times, is “a series of cross-border cultural interactions, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizen meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefield of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.”

Looking back on the last year, and speaking to politicians here in Delhi, I am skeptical…’

Here’s the video I reference. But read the whole post, and comment, at Untold Stories.

A Spoonful of Sugar

By , 17 January, 2010, No Comment

I’ve got a piece in this week’s edition of Forbes on the real crisis in Pakistan—the systemic failures of government, particularly on economic issues. My case study is the mismanagement of the nation’s sugar supply:

The sugar crisis has its roots in the fragmentation of Pakistan’s sugar sector. Growers, millers, wholesale distributors and retailers each have their own regulatory overlords offering protectionist perks and their own cartels to defend such gains. Though this structure goes back to the 1950s, recent policy decisions and the worldwide spike in prices of commodities like sugar have aggravated its effects.

…Economic problems provide rallying cries for opponents like Sharif and radical insurgents eager to bring down the government, while a weak and dysfunctional state contributes to economic distress. In the case of sugar, whose consumption in Pakistan is approaching developed-country levels, the danger is acute: In 1969 a sugar shortage helped bring down the rule of military dictator Ayub Khan.

Read the piece in full (and comment!) here.

Keeping Busy

By , 15 January, 2010, No Comment

I really am. Just not at this blog. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

1. Trying to keep up with the latest wave of attacks in Pakistan:

These questions remind us that the Pakistani Taliban does not have its eye on a concrete goal or purpose. Structurally, that makes them a weaker adversary than the Afghan Taliban, who are united behind the goal of an Islamist state in Kabul. But strategically, this paradoxical mix of interests makes the TTP harder to fight. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies have at least been able to define victory as reclaiming Kabul and making it impossible for the Taliban to regain, even if the strategy for doing so leaves much to be desired. If victory is conclusively denying the enemy his goal, what constitutes a Pakistani victory over the TTP?

2. Getting my head around the major security threat to India.

The biggest threat to India’s security thus lies not with those left out, economically, from its growth, but with those disconnected, politically, from its democracy. Most of the people–officials, journalists, professionals, and academics–I’ve spoken to believe the unevenness that matters is not monetary, but geographic: between the central government and various provinces interested in running their own affairs.


These range from the Telangana separatists who wish to split off into their own province to the Maoists who who wish to rule several existing provinces according to cowboy populism, to the North-eastern provinces that demand to leave India altogether. Though these movements recruit followers from the economically down-and-out, their central demand is a political one. It’s the political nature of the movements that makes even their economic claims lethal.


Read both posts in full at Untold Stories.


The Failure of Institutions

By , 26 December, 2009, 2 Comments

Another round of reader requests led to the following reflections on 44’s latest moves on two issues near and dear to me: health care and climate.

Read More →

When is Corruption Justified?

By , 21 December, 2009, No Comment

Latest Pulitzer blog post on the bubbling cauldron of political corruption in Pakistan:
When a society’s primary loyalties are local and clannish, rather than national, robbing the nation to serve the clan is normal, even honorable.The takeaway from the public outrage over corruption today is that local ties are giving way to a national consciousness, the kind of consciousness than can and will be offended by the theft or manipulation of its resources.

Read the rest at Untold Stories.

A Subcontinental Water-Fight

By , 18 December, 2009, No Comment

I’ve got a short item in this week’s Newsweek on control of Afghan water:
What alarms Pakistan most is the possibility that India will gain control over the water from two Afghan rivers that flow into the volatile Pakistan border regions, where water shortages could inflame local insurgencies. Indian investment in Afghanistan has doubled since 2006, to $1.2 billion, and up to 35 percent of that is going into canals for local irrigation, as well as hydroelectric dams that will supply power to Iran and Turkmenistan, India’s gateways to Central Asia and the Gulf.

Read and comment here and see the write-up on my project at the Columbia J-school website.

The Things that Matter

By , 11 December, 2009, No Comment

Third video of the week: my interview with Gallup’s pollster Ijaz Gilani, Part 2, on the economy, terrorism and civil strife.

Read my analysis at Untold Stories.

Survey Says, Zardari will stay

By , 9 December, 2009, No Comment

A video update from Islamabad:

Maha Breaks the Space-Time Continuum

By , 8 December, 2009, 1 Comment

Today, from my bedroom in New York, I video-blog about the problems with the cultural/individualist left, postmodernism and the dire state of environmental reform:

Also today, from Islamabad, I opine on the role of the middle class in Pakistan’s political future:
Capitalism is the best insurer of political stability, Nasr posits, but not all capitalisms are equal. To promote peace, growth must do more than simply reduce absolute poverty by expanding the proverbial economic pie. It must also curb inequality by expanding the middle class, and tie their success explicitly to the stability of the state.

Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint

Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint

The Muslim world’s middle classes are the ultimate stakeholders in the war on terrorism. While demanding liberal pro-growth policies that raise the incomes of those at the bottom, middle-class business leaders remain dependent on the state for core services such as education and healthcare which both facilitate their own entrepreneurship and benefit the poor.

Unlike upper-crust investors, they can’t pack up their assets and their families and leave when political turmoil hits. Because they have real wealth to lose if the state falls apart, middle classes remain engaged in the democratic process and protect democratic institutions from violence and corruption. By strengthening the state, and enriching their societies, they undermine the sales pitch of militant leaders who prey on inequalities and power vacuums to recruit followers. Even in economically troubled, war-torn Pakistan, a small middle class is beginning to play this very role. [Read the rest.]

Am I miraculous, or what?