25 point for a prosperous Pakistan.

pakistan_flag

I won’t go into debate, most of them are self explanatory.

1. 3-years mandatory induction for males into the armed forces upon reaching the age of 18. Same would true hold for women (but for 2 years only). Front-line for 1 year. Saves us massive amounts of money and melts down the different ‘types’ into one – a patriotic Pakistani and not a superficial Pakistani.
2. Identity card would NOT be made for anyone who has not enrolled into the mandatory service. No one gets exempted or buys his/her way out. No one.
3. Reduce Armed forces HR count by 20% – become more efficient. Why we need to be in the Top 5 or Top 10 – when we are burning money every year. We don’t need a bigger Army/Navy/Air-Force, we need a leaner one!
4. Reduce Armed forces budget by 20% (yeah, times are tough, try a little friendly diplomacy).
5. 5% additional tax on cigarettes – goes towards Education. I’d like to see someone bitch about this.
6. 5% additional tax on gasoline – goes towards Education.
7. Don’t ask how – trim other areas you have to – make the education budget at least 85 Billion Rupees (we can CERTAINLY find a way to do this). $1 Billion per year on education is not a bad idea itself. Lets get foreign investment in this sector alone.
8. Let PIA go bankrupt. While we are at it, the Government should only own the post office if they really need to hold on to anything, everything else, put it under the auctioneer’s hammer.
9. Abolish permanent service in the Government (Federal/provincial, state, council, etc.) People need to learn to live in a society that is dynamic. Permanent jobs leads to de-pasteurizing the very institution and decreases efficiency of which there is a serious lack.
10. All school/college graduates (no exceptions) must have taken a course and successfully graduated in a Computer language. Fortran, Machine language, COBOL and BASIC do NOT count.
11. One-day of the week – Wednesday, introduce public transport day only. Private cars must pay the equivalent of a very high-carbon tax to be on the road that day.
12. Reintroduce Foreign Exchange (Non) Bearer Certificates. Whiten your money, 2% tax, no questions asked.
13. Introduce a scheme backed by Gold – in a joint-venture with a Swiss Bank with sovereign guarantee to allow NRPs (Non-Resident Pakistanis) to invest their Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Dirhams and Riyals here in Pakistan for up to 1 year will full repatriation f funds allowed.
14. Remove all forms of Police protection to MNAs, MPAs, Ministers, Judges, Federal Ministers. Only President / Prime Minister can have it. All throughout Pakistan, no person can have any sort of an escort of Police or any other agency. No one. Especially the Police themselves.
15. Reduce the working week for Government down to 5 days.
16. Establish an oversight committee in the National Assembly to question what the Intelligence agencies are doing, include responsible non-parliamentarians in it.
17. Establish an oversight committee – more or less like a People’s Court to find out what your MNA/MPA is doing. Their pay shall be directly proportional to both their attendance in the assembly, availability in their office in their home constituency and their active participation towards the better of Pakistan. They each should have a blog with a ticket order system to lodge complaints and to see the follow up done on those complaints.
18. Introduce land reforms. No person can own more than 200 acres. This includes institutions (Hello Army, Railways and State Life)!
19. Double the Yield-Per-Acreage on your land, and take 0% tax on the increase. However, your existing farming area that you are cultivating cannot be reduced in size.
20. Establish a tax free industry with a maximum of 10% raw material allowed to be imported to innovate solutions in Solar Energy, Water Desalination and Water purification and filtration using the indigenous resources available in Pakistan.
21. Do your Ph.D, publish a paper in an international journal, get Rs. 10 Million worth of tax-free benefits should you decide to stay and work in Pakistan. You are allowed to sell this ‘tax’ deduction to any business after one year.
22. Buy 1 computer and donate to the schools (via a very civilian monitored / NGO monitored program) get tax benefit of Rs. 100,000. Do 2, tax benefit of Rs. 150,000, and for each additional computer you donate, get a tax benefit receipt from FBR worth Rs. 50,000. Computer has to be on the prescribed list (old PIIIs will not do).
23. Hold a Masters/Ph.D from abroad? Teach – and get a tax benefit and a grant. This is directly tied into the funds you will receive from the investors who would like to invest into the education sector in Pakistan.
24. Upgrade the railways and introduce monorail. Not just in one city, but throughout Pakistan. Use steel in construction of over-passes for monorails, fast urban transportation is very much needed.
25. Build more dams. Lots of them. Dams require geologists, physicists, engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, fluid mechanics, etc.) architects, MBAs, construction workers, blue-collar / white-collar, 10,000s of jobs can be created over the next 2 decades.

The State of the Courier & Shipping Companies in Pakistan.

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I’ve always advocated, that the progress of any nation can be gauged by the efficiency and adaptation of technology by its shipping and courier companies. With the mobile / Internet age now at high-noon, how are our shipping companies fairing up?

Let me start reverse, the best out there is TCS, then perhaps OCS and then everyone else. But that is unfortunately where the good of it all ends.
Even in developing countries (Sri Lanka is an example, Maldives is another), the technology available at the walk-in center of any courier company would outshine its Pakistani counterpart many lumens over.

I still do not understand why consumer based packaging and labeling still not provided to the consumer. First of all, there is a ridiculous requirement at TCS (since I haven’t walked into OCS / Leopard in a long time, I cannot say, but I am assuming they are also playing follow the leader). Coming back to the stupid requirement. They need to see the envelope that I am sending ‘unsealed’ (I understand security concerns but ???)

Everything you bring there has unsealed (read: opened). Once the security guy checks it – only then will they allow you to close it.

Just to play a prank, one of these days, I will send a courier to the CEO of TCS, in a letter filled with talcum powder, which easily could have been anthrax. That would be the ultimate definition of a loophole in security.

Anyways, ask TCS for bubble-packaging sheets – and chances are they will stare blankly at you. The list is quite large…

• Security checks are a joke.
• You cannot transport a laptop – and the insurance premium is 8% (true as of 19th July, 2009, as indicated by TCS Shahrah-e-Faisal branch).
• No courier service offers tapes for sales, various sized boxes, packaging material, strong box material, tear-proof sheets, etc.
• Labeling material is not provided for.
• No courier company offers downloadable software for businesses to generate their own labels for the outgoing mail
• Bulk checking against their system is not offered, i.e. if a business has sent out 100 letters using the courier company’s software (let’s assume it is available), then there is no way to check in bulk from the software itself, the status and delivery confirmation.
• SMS based confirmations still not offered by industry. At time of booking a cell number can be taken, and you can be notified when your parcel/letter is signed for and delivered (this is such a simple application).
• 2D bar codes if generated by the client cannot be read by any courier company, albeit from what I hear Speedex is doing trials on this – rumor? I don’t know. The source is shallow.
• Peanut packaging material is not available.
• Insurance rates for high-value items is very high.
• Delivery updated are far and long.

For small industries to survive or even e-commerce based shops to thrive, sending small (volume sized) pieces of shipments in an effective manner is still something to be achieved.

I personally asked some website owners who are operating fantastic local e-commerce stores, if they had their trust in the courier service. None of them responded positively. They so much so had to rely on stocking in different part of the country and use their own runners, etc. for effective delivery services.

Another thing the courier companies can look into are mobile phone with cameras, and phone that allow 3rd party apps to be written for them. With cellphone cameras, you can take a snapshot of the bar code, have it read by the app written on the phone and then text this in a compressed manner to the central site, this is perhaps the fastest way to acknowledge that a parcel has been picked up or delivered. Even with the unreliability of SMS, apps exist to make sure the full-circle of communication takes place (for example if confirmation code is not received by the phone, it will try again) and vice-versa.

Courier services have been broken down to the basic functionality that of the post man. Try a package delivery and then see the ‘haalat’ in which it arrives at the destination. In FedEx you can get a FedEx envelope, various sizes boxes, tear-proof envelopes, tubes, etc. what does TCS or any other courier company give you in return for your postal needs?

What about 2nd day delivery or low priority delivery? None of it exists sadly. The courier companies sure need to get their act together and innovate, without which, we will see them as simply a replacement of Pakistan Postal Service.

One other point I must mention, as part of the courier companies grooming services, it must ensure that its employees wear deodorant. Because of the running around all day along in the field and sweating, wearing an anti-anti-perspirant / deodorant should be on top of their agenda.

We must realize the world in which we live in today moves two things: atoms and electrons. Atoms being the physical goods and electrons being the electronic Ones and Zeros on our digital infrastructure. We have adapted the electronic highway very well and are continuing to improve life on it. However, we still need physical goods, in order for us to become more efficient as a society on the whole, we need to remove inefficiencies and the stale-progress graphs and innovate and implement cutting edge technologies within our daily fabric. Failing to do so, will result in a totally disparate nation with two economies, the super-efficient digital economy and the super-inefficient physical economy.

For our futures sake, I hope we can hammer some sense into these courier companies, logistic companies and shipping companies.

The Demise of the Newspaper.


More and more people are ditching their paper based newspaper for the online edition. Slowly, but surely, the demise of the newspaper is coming. I’ve always held the belief that convenience based solutions will prosper and the old-school thought that “the newspaper will exist no matter what”, was being ignorant.

Family, friends and colleagues confirm they are reading the physical (paper) based version less and reading it online more. Why? Convenience and cost. Hmmm – didn’t I see that coming.

To get a better perspective, I decided to ask the newspaper deliveryman who drops-in the newspaper to my house, as to how things are? I wasn’t surprised. He cited sales are low. Very low. When a new house props up in the neighborhood, they (meaning various newspaper delivery agents) fight as to who will get to deliver the newspaper to that house. Competition is fierce. He says, people are now less willing to buy a newspaper as it is money wasted. One observation he cited was many-a-times when he goes to collect bills, he can see previous day’s newspaper still lying where he tossed it a day earlier. People are just not reading newspaper like they use to.

The classifieds sections have shrunk (contrary to popular belief). More people opt for online job portals rather than the jobs classified section of your local daily. The lifestyles and entertainment sections are picturesque at best and sometimes outdated/stale information.

The local news section – always seems outdated, in the world of 24/7 connectivity and the plethora of TV channel, I have always found the next day’s newspaper to be a summarized version of yesterday (which it is).

The new generation (80s born) rely solely online for their news. My generation (70s) born, I guess is divided. Today, when I look at a newspaper here are some of the things that I think (in no particular order):

1. Black ink on fingers
2. Wrapping paper
3. Free rubber band
4. Has anyone seen my TIME magazine that came with the newspaper
5. Shit – another wasted paper that I pay for – and I haven’t even opened it
6. I have to cancel the subscription
7. More rubbish
8. Old news
9. Did I mention wrapping paper?
10. Tenders and Procurement Notices
11. Pity they don’t carry the Bizarro cartoon series anymore

It will be safe to say, the newspaper may survive the next decade, but the transition to online primary medium is already underway.

Open Letters to CEO of PayPal and Ebay…. Delivered.

The (2nd) set of Open Letters written to the CEO of Ebay and PayPal were delivered. See below for proof of delivery.

Letter Delivered to CEO of Ebay

Letter Delivered to CEO of PayPal

PayPal in Pakistan – I need your help! (Please take a minute to read this post).

Dear Readers,

I need your help.

For years I have been writing to Ebay and PayPal to inquire as to why their services are not available in Pakistan. I have never received a reply from them. This year, I decided to pursue this more assertively. In January of this year I wrote a letter to the CEOs of Ebay and PayPal respectively (the contents of the letter can be read here). I waited for a month – no reply from them.

Just yesterday I wrote another letter to them. Let us see if second time is the charm.

However, what I need from you – is to spread the word – on your blog. The more you help in spreading this issue around – the more activists and lobbyist effort we can garner.

All I am asking you is for you to highlight the same in your own words (about the two letters I wrote) to your readers. Feel free to highlight the non-availability of both Ebay and Paypal in Pakistan as you feel fit. But highlight you must!

Feel free to cross-link to the two letters: (it is not mandatory that you do so, lest I be accused of increasing the back-links for my blog – back-linking won’t help me in any manner, since I do not run any advertisements on my website, hence traffic and popularity is not something I am seeking).

An Open Letter to John Donahoe, CEO of Ebay (Parent company of PayPal)
http://faisalkhan.com/?p=554

PayPal in Pakistan (Part II)
http://faisalkhan.com/?p=623

It is very easy to rant in this digital age… A lot of people have personally written emails to me, saying it won’t work. Citing many theories as to why PayPal / Ebay does not want to do business here in Pakistan. The Nay-sayers are plenty. But those are are willing to help and contribute towards this effort/initiative – outnumber the Nay-sayers by orders of magnitude.

I think we need to approach this with patience and without giving up hope. Dr. Ian Wilmut who first successfully cloned “Dolly” the sheep, got it right after 276 attempts. Imagine that – 276 attempts!!!

Being persistent pays off.

I am no Dr. Wilmut, and we certainly have no sheep to be cloned. But if it takes 276 attempts to get PayPal in Pakistan – why not!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
An ancient Chinese proverb

I thank you in advance.

Regards,

FAISAL KHAN

PayPal in Pakistan (Part II)

Earlier this year, I sent a letter to the CEO of Ebay (Ebay is the parent company of PayPal), and to the CEO of PayPal itself.

The contents of the letter can be viewed here. The delivery snapshots as provided by Fedex can be seen below.

Proof of Delivery receipt for Letter to CEO of Ebay: John Donahoe

Proof of Delivery receipt for Letter to CEO of PayPal: Scott Thompson

I have not received any reply so far (which was quite disappointing).

So, yet again, I am writing another letter to them. Contents of which can be seen below.

________________________

February 12, 2009

John Donahoe
President and CEO
eBay Inc.
2145 Hamilton Avenue
San Jose, CA 95125
USA

Subject: PayPal for Pakistan

Dear Mr. Donahoe,

I am writing to you to inquire as to why Ebay and Paypal services are not available in Pakistan. It is very disheartening to note that whilst countries like Angola, Yemen, Uganda, Madagascar, Jordan, Kuwait and Rwanda (to name a few) can enjoy the benefits of PayPal, Why is Pakistan left out?

Pakistan is home to 17+ Million users of the Internet. Mobile users are hovering around the 80+ Million mark. The population is 160 Million. Our banking system is robust and seasoned, whilst our digital infrastructure is top-notch, having many firsts (for example: we have the world largest Wimax deployment).

For years I have personally been writing to Ebay/PayPal, but have never received a reply, which in this day and age, is quite disappointing.

The main objective of this letter to know (not superficially, but in detail) what is preventing the inclusion of Pakistan in the countries where PayPal / Ebay services can be offered.

A lot many professional organizations in Pakistan are willing to lend support to the cause, should Ebay/PayPal require so.

If there are any policy or government issues preventing your organization from doing business here, kindly do highlight the same so that at the very least we can start addressing the issue.

I just want to be able to have an eBay and a PayPal account from Pakistan. In the event you want to reach me, the easiest way is via email, my personal email address is babushka99@gmail.com and official email address is faisal@nacspl.com

Regards,

FAISAL KHAN
CEO
Net Access Communication Systems (Private) Limited

CC: Mr. Scott Thompson, President, PayPal.

Get to know Peter Schiff.. He correctly predicted the US Economy going into a recession.

Peter Schiff (Wiki) is an American economic commentator, author and licensed stock broker who currently serves as president of Euro Pacific Capital.

He correctly predicted the crash / downturn in the Economy – 2 years ago and see how they mocked him. Look who’s laughing now.

Peter Schiff Was Right 2006 – 2007 (2nd Edition)

Here is Peter Schiff predicting what will happen once Barak Obama wins! Only History will tell if he was right or wrong.

10/28/08 Peter Schiff predicts doomed economy under Obama

Bad Loans – The Second Wave Cometh

While so much emphasis has been stressed on the bad mortgages and home-loans, another wave of bad loans is coming.

Before I elaborate, let me quickly summarize. There was excess liquidity in the market, money was made available to almost anyone, people started getting 2nd and 3rd mortgages (when they really could not afford more than one). As everyone was out hunting for properties to invest, home prices soared. Wall Street got into the action. Hedge funds, money market funds, and God knows anything that could be carved out of such a booming-liquid-money-house-based-mortgage-lending-economy, was carved. The bubble burst. Then the downfall happened of which we all know about.

I am no economist – not even close. But for over 10+ years, I’ve kept a VERY close eye on a very specific segment of commercial real-estate: data-centers.

As more and more people get laid off, companies will continue to cut down costs. As costs are cut down, office/building expansion, etc. are also cut down. When people are out of a job, credit card defaults are bound to happen. When people don’t spend money, commercial businesses will get hit… and that is the Second Wave.

Soon enough you will see a lot of commercial building loans go into default. Right now we’ve been seeing home-loans gone bad, I bet you will be seeing commercial loans go bad pretty soon.

For any reversal of fortune, the first step is the slowdown, which we have already experienced, the send step is the stopping – which we are experiencing right now. The third would be the reversal itself. This I believe has started quietly. Nothing big yet, but this commercial default snowball is now becoming bigger and bigger.

Datacenters expansion by Google and Microsoft for example have been stalled. More and more emphasis is being applied now to pack more servers/gear into the same available space (blade servers, cloud computing, etc.)

Go-green options are huge. Large datacenters can get connected to grid in excess of 50Megawatts. Some exceed 100Megawatts. All signs and indications right now in the commercial datacenter markets is of a steep slowdown. Those with a lot of liquidity, are on a buying spree to grab land which is being offered at an unprecedented low rate. As we are now an electronic economy, this commercial vertical is seeing a lot of consolidation happen. The real-world brick-and-mortar companies are shuttering down a whole lot faster than you and I can fathom. Circuit City – gone bust! More and more are coming. Coffee sales at Starbucks have gone down significantly – imagine what the neighborhood coffee shop is experiencing. Casinos are laying off people. Which in turn affects the rental market in Las Vegas, which affects the new housing projects that are coming up – when the market goes under, a commercial default is imminent.

Look at all the advertisements of all the grand-land projects that use to come out in Dawn. All gone now. No more double-full page advertisements. All gone. Come to think of it – I hardly see any new tower coming up. Those that are already in the build – have slowed down. The Centaurus in Islamabad is in trouble. So is the Grand Hyatt Project in Islamabad. By trouble – it’s always financial. Commercial office and residential projects in Karachi are equally affected. Whatever happened to Emaar’s expansion plans – on hold I bet.

Year 2009 is not going to be easy by any ways or means. For Pakistan, it will be a whole lot tougher. Water shortage will have a serious impact on agriculture this year. Note it down. I will revisit and put a “told-you-so” in the comments a few months from now. Electricity woes will be almost unbearable come this summer. A lot more projects within Pakistan will be facing serious crisis as the months progress. I wish I had some good news, but the fact of the matter is – people are just not prepared for the storm that is coming.

Internet Statistics for Pakistan.

As per Internet World Stats – Pakistan’s Internet usage is now at 17.5 Million users. In Year 2000 it was 133,900. This would represent a growth of 12,970% – pretty darn impressive. (Source)

Letter to CEOs of Ebay and PayPal… Delivered.

A few days ago, I embarked on my annual routine of writing to Ebay and PayPal – asking them why their services are not being offered in Pakistan? I have been doing this for a couple of years now.

This year, I decided to write a letter and write to the very top, i.e. the two CEOs of Ebay and PayPal, John Donahoe & Scott Thompson.

Rather than just email, I decided to formally send a letter and Fedex’d it to them. The letters were delivered yesterday. Now it is a wait and see – as to what they will say.