Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two news items

In Dawn, today:

Arms worth $6bn bought in five years, says report

By M. Ziauddin

LONDON, June 18: Pakistan purchased arms worth $6 billion in the last five years, according to a report put out by the UK’s Defence and Security Organisation.

Saudi Arabia was the largest importer over the period with $31bn, followed by India with $18bn and the US $17bn. Three countries — Australia ($11bn), Canada ($10bn) and Pakistan ($6bn) — moved up the rankings, the report published in the Financial Times on Tuesday said.

The 2007 figures were helped by a large order from Saudi Arabia for the Typhoon aircraft, valued initially at £4.3bn. They were further aided by orders from Oman and Trinidad and Tobago for offshore patrol vessels.

Orders from North America were also significant — the US imported more weapons from the UK than from any other country, the DSO said.

Also on that page:

Wheat subsidy may go, Senate told

By Sher Baz Khan

ISLAMABAD, June 18: The government on Wednesday informed the Senate that it wanted to completely eliminate consumer subsidy on wheat as, according to Finance Minister Naveed Qamar, the subsidy had never benefited Pakistani farmers.

He said that instead of paying subsidy on wheat, the government wanted to reduce the cost of agricultural inputs by doubling the subsidy on DAP fertiliser and removing sales tax.

Officials at the ministry of food and agriculture told Dawn that the government should not withdraw the consumer subsidy on wheat before introducing a ration system for the poor.

Besides, the government should increase the present minimum wage to Rs10,000, they added.

They said the withdrawal of subsidy on wheat might increase the flour price to Rs50-60 a kg from the present Rs25-30. This would force domestic consumers to buy flour at the international market rate, they added.

“Pakistan will be the first country to withdraw the consumer subsidy on food,” a senior official at the food and agriculture ministry told Dawn.

He said that even the US and India had food stamp systems that enabled the poor to get food on subsidised rates.

Official figures showed that from September last year till April this year, the government had provided about 50,000 tons of wheat to flour mills on a daily basis on a subsidised rate of Rs465 per 40kg. This subsidy kept the ex-mill price of wheat around Rs380 per 20kg and cost the government Rs45 billion.

Before the start of the wheat crisis in November last year, the government had followed a quota system under which 30 per cent of wheat the mills ground had come from the government’s storages and 70pc from millers’ own godowns. But during the flour crisis, majority of the mills totally depended on government’s subsidised wheat. Agricultural experts believe that the Benazir Package providing Rs1,000 monthly support to a poor family needed to be increased to Rs3,000-4,000.

Bravo. Way to go everybody, third ranking amongst the world's top weapon importers...i-m-p-r-e-s-s-i-v-e!

Also way to go on your plans to take away the wheat subsidy. Kill those leeches preying on your subsidies! No such thing as a free lunch in this world, and definitely no free Rotis! Good job!

a rumour that you should forward about Barack Obama RIGHT NOW

The REAL SHOCKING TRUTH about Barack Obama:

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Courtesy: One of many more here

Monday, June 16, 2008

bradistan, karachi, khajoor and aasman

After a week’s hiatus I opened the Dawn website and went straight to The Review pages, deliberately avoiding reading about the Afghanistan threats, Asif Zardari and the price hikes. I like to think when you’re feeling feverish God’s okay with the escapism.

The first article I came across was written by an acquaintance who recently, like me, got married and moved abroad (Bradford in her case).

The article was funny, ironic – you’re probably familiar with Bradford’s status as mini-Pakistan or something like that. So more about desi aunties parading in their eighties style shalwar kameez, chandelier earrings, golden heeled Chappals; stores named after Kashmir, and bridal stores called Ladli and Dulhan ka Raj. I can picture a hapless Karachi-born and bred young woman who’s probably never even visited rural Punjab in her life, feeling like she’s flown into Chakwal instead of the United Kingdom.

It’s ironic also because my acquaintance’s consolation for having to leave her family and friends behind, as she says, was a projected freedom from the cultural strains she faced while living in Karachi. Karachi, though probably the least typical city in terms of cultural strains placed on women after the diplomatic hub of Islamabad, is obviously suffocating when compared to the typical western city – which Bradford is oh-so-not. That’s when you use the Urdu adage: Aasman se gira, Khajoor mai atka (atkee in the case of Amna). Bradford may be the closest thing to Pakistan – but it definitely isn’t the closest thing to Karachi.

Here’s the thing: most Americans too often mistake Karachi as the rest of Pakistan. More importantly, as part of the tribal no-man-lands in the videos they keep showing on TV every time they do a story about Pakistan. And then you have to launch into explanations of how you went to a school that forced you to speak in English, you didn’t have to wear Hijab, you Googled, and you watched Lost, too.

Fortunately for me, such interactions have been limited. Although most people whom I do interact with just cannot believe yet that I can speak grammatically correct English within one year of migrating. Maybe after I’ve lived here for a couple of years they’ll just start assuming I came here and learnt it. Maybe.

You can read Amna's article here