Friday, December 26, 2008

Kiya Bola?: Santa - The Man, The Myth, The Murderer

Kiya Bola?: Santa - The Man, The Myth, The Murderer

Santa - The Man, The Myth, The Murderer

When I was a young boy, Santa was just the fat, furry, jolly bastard who would find a way to sneak into your house (like a thief) and instead of taking things, he'd be dropping them off. That was obviously until one realized that Santa's suit was merely a facade adorned by many people well known to me such as my mother, father, even brother and sometimes a gremlin I kept beneath my bed. 

All the while, one never considered that he would turn out to be a drunken depressed killa!

Read on...

 Santa kills 5, then himself
 Updated at: 0058 PST,  Friday, December 26, 2008
Santa kills 5, then himself COVINA: A man dressed as Santa who had been having marital problems opened fire at a Christmas party, leaving more than three people dead in a home that then caught fire, authorities said.

Hours later, police found the body of the suspect, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, at the home of his brother early Thursday in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles. Police said he killed himself but would not say how.

"He was going through some type of marital problems, and we believe that this residence is a relative's residence," Lt. Pat Buchanan said of the house that burned.

Police initally said three people were dead in the shootings and fire late Wednesday. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Thursday that investigators sifting through the ashes of the house found "several" more bodies, but would not say how many.

The bodies were too badly burned to immediately determine whether they died in the shootings or the fire, Winter said. "We have multiple bodies inside," Winter said. "They're extremely charred and burned."

The gunman arrived at the party in Covina late Wednesday and immediately opened fire with a handgun, Buchanan said. Witnesses told police that the man took off the Santa suit and left the scene of the burning house in street clothes.

Winter said the search through the destroyed home would take at least until the end of the day. Jan Gregory, a neighbor, said about 25 people were at the party when the gunshots rang out and people started running by the house.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crossing Swords

For those of you who don't already know, my father has just recently completed a long and arduous mission of writing his autobiography. He started this project about 10 years ago and it really picked up the pace the year I graduated from College (2004). He is a decorated retired Air Force Pilot and war hero. His mission has been a challenging, yet rigorous task of finding the accuracy in his account of history and substantiating it by engaging numerous people of his past and present. Through the course of his mission, he uncovered many emotions; some lost and some new. 

My father to me is the greatest hero in my life. His contribution to history as an individual is remarkable. Despite our family setup, he has retained his dignity by doing what he could to ensure all his dependents and loved ones were and are comfortable. 

His book, Flight of the Falcon, will be available in bookstores throughout the major parts of Pakistan shortly. Please watch this space for announcements. In the meantime, take a moment to read an article about him in The News - Online (Pakistan's #1 selling print newspaper). It was written by Anjum Niaz, a recognized freelance journalist.

Crossing swords
 Tuesday, December 09, 2008
By Anjum Niaz

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

Secretary of State Condi Rice has categorically pointed to “Pakistani soil” being used in Mumbai attacks. And she expects “Pakistan to act.” This is a blunt order from our benefactors who have doled out 10 billion dollars to keep the terrorists at bay. News has it that Barack Obama has received an intrusive dossier on how our military has spent the money. “The message of the report is that you can’t win in Afghanistan without first fixing Pakistan,” says a senior US official. “But even if you fix Pakistan,” the official thinks, “that won’t be enough.” Some analysts in Washington think that the money has gone into revamping Islamabad’s military capability against the Indians and not in fighting the militants as per our pledge to the Americans. Obama is likely to husband the flow of funds in the future. “The truth is that $10 billion later, they (Pakistan) still don’t have the basic capacity for counterinsurgency operations. What we are telling Obama and his people is that [this] has to be reversed.”


Our exemplar of national pride was once our army, the symbol of crossed swords. We saw the shahadat of our jawans; we witnessed hilal and jurat medals pinned on our best and bravest; we heard stories of heroism that made us marvel; and our hearts beat in unison when Nur Jehan sang aay watan key sajeelay jawano, meray naghmey tumhera liya hein. Oftentimes we lived lives encircled in awe with what the future held. The promise of Islamabad becoming a shining city upon a hill never did leave us for long. Hope was always around to hold our hand whenever we were down. 

Today our nation’s star has elsewhere its setting. We watch it sinking and can do nothing about it. No longer are we the architects of our destinies. “What’s going to happen?” is on every lip. The TV channels and newspapers daily log stories of affairs gone awry; of men in power run amuck; of suicide bombers’ annihilation of the powerless and the meek; of the dogs of war (US, India & Israel) hunting down our nuclear arsenal and cutting us asunder. It happened in 1971; it can happen again.

Raining missiles on us will continue. America has replaced its Predator drones with MQ-9 Reapers just rolled off the assembly line. These unmanned killing machines pick up every word that humans utter down below 50,000 feet. Their infrared rays pick up your body heat and relay the information to the pilots sitting in trailers in Las Vegas. They sit before huge computers directing the planes through remote control. Underground and underwater fiber-optic cables link these trailers to Europe, where a satellite dish makes the connection directly to every Reaper in the air over Pakistan. 

“Worry not,” says our Air Force chief bravely. Pakistan has its own drones to counter the Reapers raiding us. The chief is ready to deploy them, but is Zardari willing? “I don’t understand why we don’t use our own drones?” says a Pakistani journalist writing for Arab News. “We can fit them with Griffo (Falcon, in Italian) radars imported from Fiar, Italy.”

The buck stops here!

Air Commodore (r) Sajjad Haider, the decorated war hero of 1965 and 1971 wars with India has written a whole new book on how the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was kept out of the loop by the high command during combat. He has named people in the military and air force who were “afraid of their own shadows.” Not only did they let down PAF, but they let down the people of Pakistan. No authentic soul searching was conducted; nor those found guilty of betrayal nailed. “Instead these men capitalized on our successes to award themselves the highest awards in gallantry,” says Sajjad Haider, who led the No 19 squadron that chased away the Indian pilots at Wagah and later bombed Pathankot destroying their planes parked on the airfield. 

Around September 1, 1965, a senior civil servant in Ayub’s government receives an unscheduled visit from the then British ambassador in Islamabad. “India is going to attack you,” says the envoy. “Warn your president about it.” Ayub’s aide picks up the ‘secrophone’ after his visitor leaves and relays the urgent message to the presidency. The president is ambivalent. On the night of September 6, Rawalpindi gets its first taste of Indian ire. Their bombers fly overhead and rain bombs. Lahore is next. Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad and his Foreign Minister Z A Bhutto have since April planned and executed infiltration into Indian-held Kashmir by 7000 regulars and volunteers, provoking an Indian assault on Pakistan. “There was no empathy or tangible plan to keep our soldiers supplied with food and ammunition. Most were massacred because our ‘Field Marshal’ was no Field Marshal Rommel,” Haider says sarcastically. Nur Khan, who had recently been made the air chief was disgusted with Ayub’s dalliance. He got hold of a C-130 at Chaklala, stocked it with stuff, and took off for Kashmir in the middle of the night. “Nur Khan risked his life” as the plane navigated through a thick cloud cover guided by “dead reckoning” which means rudimentary weather radar, to reach the ‘drop zone’ in the valley below saving the lives of our soldiers. 

Bravo Nur Khan!

A grand plan for “pre-emptive” strikes on Indian airfields was ready with the PAF. The outgoing air chief Asghar Khan had prepared it. “Had the plan gone through, we would have crippled the IAF (Indian Air Force) in the first hour of September 6th attack,” says Haider, appearing to relive every minute of the dogfights he ever fought. “But the commanders at Mauripur and Sargodha – our two largest airbases – procrastinated.” 

Haider, 75, spent his early retirement years “earning money legally” through lucrative defence deals. He insists that no kickbacks were involved. However, he’s earned enough to live a gentrified life, shuttling between the comfortable environs of Islamabad and his villa in the Spanish resort of Marbella writing his memoirs. His book Flight of the Falcon should be in the bookstores very soon. It contains many bombshells. “I want to remove the haze and opaqueness surrounding the truth. Ayub Khan’s Diaries bypass the 1965 war, while Glimpses into the Corridors of Power by his son Gohar Ayub tries to cover up the gaps of his father’s memoirs by mutilating the truth,” says the “enraged” airman. 

There’s plenty of hyperventilation by Sajjad Haider in his book. He blames president Ayub Khan, army chief Mohammad Musa, commanding generals Rana and Yayha Khan for failure. “All these men capitulated to their self-created fears. The hand of the winning general Akhtar Malik was stayed and the gun taken away from him and given to Yayha just when Malik had the ‘chicken’s neck’ (Akhnoor) in his grasp and would have infiltrated into the valley of Kashmir. Musa got on the pulpit and hollered ‘Do not provoke the Indians.’”

According to Haider, well-known Indian historians corroborate his version of the two wars. They praise his No 19 squadron and the team of pilots that earned six Sitara-e-Jurat. “My book tries to show how independent units, like mine, achieved beyond all expectations.” Air vice marshal Sadruddin, first commander of F-104 Star Fighter Squadron, ratifies this claim when he says: “Sajjad Haider was a flamboyant character with a quick wit, outspoken, irrepressible, daring, articulate and given to exercise initiative beyond his terms of reference. His book gives fresh and candid accounts of some major events of the last 50 years now appearing in a different light devoid of the embellishments of those times. In the long run, truth prevails.”

Today, the word accountability has almost a criminal tinge because if ever done properly it will open up many carcasses and expose our leaders masquerading as saviours and heroes of our nation. Our president, says Sajjad Haider, lives in opulence with liveried guards standing post behind him. “What he lacks in substance and depth, he makes up by creating symbols of grandeur and pomp.”

I may not agree with few of Sajjad Haider’s fixations, his thicket of words, some of them excessively hubristic, but I agree with Haider that whoever advised President Zardari to back him up with uniformed guards decked up in red and gold extravaganza and holding lances before the TV cameras should be fired! Oops! Is it by any chance the president himself!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

An article on Micro Drip

My former colleague and good friend Saqib, the COO of Micro Drip, sent me this article written in Dawn today. It is something beyond remarkable when I read about Micro Drip and the good publicity they have begun to acquire. With an investment from Acumen to articles in papers to becoming a model business in Pakistan, I couldn't be more proud of my association with the project that literally went from a paper concept to a real live poverty addressing business.


Concept of social entrepreneurship
By Bina Shah

RECENTLY I attended a talk given by Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund on the concept of social entrepreneurship. The Acumen Fund is a New York-based investment fund seeking to invest in business that can help alleviate the problems caused by poverty.

Deeply affected by the events of 9/11 and wanting to help build civil infrastructure as an alternative to the American war on terror, Novogratz and her partners opened offices in Mumbai, Nairobi and Karachi, and work on building investments in companies that deliver both financial and social returns.

In layman’s speak they’re investing solid charitable contributions from American corporations in innovative businesses in India, Pakistan and Kenya that impact the lives of low-income populations in these three countries. But what really made me sit up and take notice was when Novogratz began speaking about one of the projects they fund: a low-cost drip irrigation project started in Tharparkar, Sindh.

All Sindhis know of our dependence on water. The drying up of the Indus has been a major source of concern for agriculturalists of the province, who are, because of our geostrategic location, the last in line to receive benefits from its abundant flow. We are also dependent on the generosity of India and Punjab in ensuring that we get an adequate supply of water. Who knows how long we can depend on India honouring its side of the Indus Waters Treaty? And the growing demands for water in Punjab will always affect Sindh’s water supply.

Drip irrigation, first developed in Israel, is a technology that can change all of that. It delivers a steady stream of water straight to the roots of crops, thus minimising wastage and making delivery much more efficient. It has its pros and cons, but has always been prohibitively expensive for Pakistani farmers. The average cost of installing a drip irrigation system for even a minimal-acreage land holding runs to Rs100,000.

There’s no need to tell you about the extreme poverty and deprivation of the Thar area, but most farmers live on less than $1 a day. Drought and lack of access to water make survival extremely difficult for the small farmers who own less than four acres of land. But with an initial investment of $200,000 in debt, and $300,000 in equity investment, the fund partnered with the Thardeep Rural Development Programme, and brought over low-cost drip irrigation technology from Global Easy Water Projects, its partner in India.

With this financial support, Thardeep was able to set up a for-profit, drip irrigation company called Microdrip, run by Dr Sono Khangarani, a Hindu Sindhi from the Dalit caste who wanted to do something for his community in Tharparkar. They have marketed the drip irrigation system, which costs on average Rs28,000, to a staggering total of 3,000 villages in the Thardeep network.

They plan to reach 20,000 farmers over the course of five years, and the impact of this work will be grand: not only will small Sindhi farmers become economically secure, they will also be able to reduce their dependence on rain-fed farming and reduce their need of water by about 50 per cent. They’ll also be able to farm all year around so they won’t have to migrate to the cities during times of drought; and this will result in more stable food supplies for the entire province.

The biggest lessons from this entire experience are that the poverty stricken of Pakistan require three main elements: access to financing, an investment in quality inputs and technology and probably the most vital of all an investment in knowledge. But what lessons can we Sindhis learn from the way social entrepreneurship conducts its business? First of all, dignity. You can throw all amounts of charity at a person, and charity will always be an important part of our efforts to aid the poor. But charity has a tendency of maintaining the social structure, and of encouraging everyone to stay in the have-and-have-not paradigm. Unless you make a person an equal partner in the attempt to better his or her life, there will never be significant change in society. Following the model of social entrepreneurship gives dignity to the people you aim to help. Sindhis need that dignity badly, as the last 30 years or so have robbed them of it in the most violent ways. Second, integrity. Those companies that want to do social entrepreneurship the right way will vet their potential partners carefully, following all the protocols of due diligence. If they find any irregularities in the way the partner company does business, any evidence of bribe-giving or bribe-taking or notes any sign that the partner company is involved in corruption, they must refuse to take on that company. Social entrepreneurship requires cleanliness of the highest sort, because it is serving a population that has suffered for generations under the brutal yoke of corruption, which has been a particularly crippling problem in Sindh and all over Pakistan. Thirdly, sincerity. I was struck by the willingness of two of the American partners involved in this social entrepreneurship project to travel to Karachi during the ethnic riots that have gripped us in the last two weeks. Not only were they sincere enough to actually come here instead of conducting their business via remote control, they also wanted to engage with the audience and really listen to the suggestions and solutions that could come from those conversations. There was no sense of superiority, preaching or posturing. Sindhis need to feel that sincerity from those who claim to want to help them, whether they are local or foreign partners.

Empty promises from politicians, the draining of funds that end up in people’s pockets and a complete disregard for the Sindhis’ needs and wants have made them very wary of outsiders promising them the moon and the stars. Sincerity, integrity and dignity are the cornerstones of social entrepreneurship and they signify a willingness to invest in people as well as projects. We Sindhis would do very well to listen to what social entrepreneurship can teach us if we want to make our people once again part of a peaceful and prosperous nation.

The writer is a novelist.

Monday, November 17, 2008

IMF Sets Harsh Conditions

Found this article on Business Recorder. Quoted directly from source.
All subsidies to go; no SBP intervention in foreign exchange market: IMF sets harsh conditions


ISLAMABAD (November 17 2008): Pakistan will have to withdraw subsidies across the board by the end of the current fiscal year and bar the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from intervening in the forex market. These are two major conditionalities the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has placed on Pakistan under its rescue package.

The subsidies in power, gas and petroleum products will be eliminated by the end of this fiscal year, sources told Business Recorder. This is one of the two major conditions put by the IMF prior to approval of loans amounting to $ 7.6 billion as rescue package, sources added. This condition would be much harder if it was applied to agricultural inputs as presently the government provides a subsidy of Rs 32 billion on fertilisers.

The government has not made the IMF conditions public so far. But insiders are of the view that some of the conditions are very harsh and the government will have to burden the people, especially the poor, for meeting the Fund's demands.

The IMF is of the view that Pakistan would have to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio to 15 percent by 2013. This issue, according to sources, is also considered to be harsh in the sense that the government would have to increase indirect taxes, instead of direct taxes. The indirect taxes will, again, hit the people. As a result, the ratio of general sales tax may have to be increased.

However, sources did not say whether the tax-to-GDP ratio would be taken to 15 percent by increasing indirect taxes. They were of the view that the government could improve the tax net by bringing more people under direct taxes.

According to sources, the IMF is also keen that banks' profits should be linked with the inflation rate prevalent in the country. Besides these conditions, the IMF has also asked Pakistan to keep getting loans from SBP, within certain limits. They said that IMF wanted Pakistan not to get loans from the SBP till the conclusion of the IMF programme. However, the government successfully told the IMF that SBP credit could be kept within certain limits, and full ban on the facility would be very hard to meet.

Pakistan has also been asked to bring fiscal deficit to 4.3 percent of the GDP within the current fiscal year. Government circles claim tat these conditionalites are not harsh, and most of them have already been included in the current year's budget. In order to slash its deficits, current account and trade will have to be bridged by withdrawing all subsidies, sources said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mobile Phones - The future of...Everything!

Came across this article on discussing the potential growth of the mobile financial services industry the world is about to see grow. Provided this is done right, this technology can empower millions of the banking dependents to transact, check balances, settle debts all on the go. What a beautiful world it will be when we will need our mobile phone for calls, texts, emails, office work, video conferencing and ultimately financial transactions

In the shadows of globalization, the world is now becoming more independent than ever, reducing the need for human interaction. I wonder how healthy that really is.


Mobilising money

By Alan Goode  on Monday, July 14, 2008

Mobile operators stand to make significant gains from the growth of mobile financial services.

There is much activity in the world of Mobile Financial Services (MFS) with representatives from key banks and vendors calling it the next new gold rush for financial institutions, after the rush into e-commerce services in the 1990s.

The CEO of Monitise, Alastair Lukes, said banks are now looking at mobile phones as their fifth channel to customers after branches, ATMs, internet banking and phone banking. "We want to be the remote control to your bank balance." 

The mobile phone is also being called the "fourth screen" for the delivery of mobile financial services.


By 2011 consumers will become more familiar with making mobile payments, transferring funds and paying their bills through their mobile phones.

A combination of increased user demand and a desire from all sections of the MFS ecosystem to deliver intelligent applications and services has created an atmosphere that is both creative and pragmatic. Gone are the days when mobile operators, banks and handset manufacturers went their own separate ways and developed silo services that were bound to fail.

Mobile financial services, that include both mobile banking and mobile payment applications and services are already available in most regions in a variety of formats and where they are being adopted, whether in trial or commercial mode, the user feedback has been very favourable.

Defining mobile financial services

There are many forms of financial services and Juniper Research defines MFS (mobile financial services) as retail banking services offered to customers on their mobile phones.

There are two main categories for MFS; mobile payment, and mobile banking. This excludes insurance services. Juniper Research has a simple definition of a mobile payment as "payment for goods or services with a mobile device." Our definition for mobile banking is: "The provision of banking services to the mobile device."

For both banking and payment services the primary method of communications will be via the mobile telephony network. However, there are some instances where the mobile telephony network is bypassed, eg. a physical mobile payment system that uses contactless (NFC) technology.

Mobile Banking

There are four major categories for mobile banking, all of which enable the consumer to access a similar set of banking services as offered via internet banking. The four categories are:

• Mobile financial information services (includes financial messaging), a category that includes balance enquiries, threshold alerts, for transaction limits, balance levels and stock prices, confirmation alerts on completion of placed orders.

• Mobile funds transfer

• Mobile bill payment and presentation

• Mobile account management and customer service

Mobile payments, meanwhile, are divided into two sub-categories: remote mobile payment; and physical mobile payment.

A distinction between the two main methods of mobile payment is this; a remote payment is when the storefront or retailer is remote to the mobile phone user, eg. paying for digital goods or physical goods or physical goods via a mobile web enabled retailer. A physical mobile payment is when the storefront or retailer is physical, eg. the payment is made in a physical storefront in the same way we would use cash or plastic debit/credit cards, or at an unattended vending or ticketing machine.

Remote mobile payments are currently the most popular payment method and SMS is the dominant technology. There are many categories under the remote mobile payment header, and there is generally a high degree of overlap between each category. For instance, payment to mobile phone bill is generally initiated by an SMS (Short Message Service), usually a PSMS (Premium Rate SMS).

Physical mobile payments are when the mobile phone is used at a physical location to make the payment. This has included trials with infrared, "point & buy" and SMS text, "text & PIN" where there is a text-based message communication between the consumer, the payment scheme operator and the retailer. The infrared schemes have not been successful as the technology is not particularly suited for use at the physical storefront; schemes in countries like South Korea have been abandoned.

There is much excitement in the industry concerning the prospects of NFC and contactless payments. There are already commercial deployments of contactless payment in Japan and South Korea using Sony FeliCa ship technology and trials using NFC-equipped phones in North America and Europe.

There are some compelling market drivers for the adoption of mobile financial services and equally, many reasons why its adoption could be stalled. This section details the major market drivers and constraints for mobile financial services. 

User demand is one of the primary drivers for the delivery and acceptance for mobile financial services. The mobile phone has become a tool that users will not leave home without. Surveys carried out by financial services companies such MasterCard, and service vendors including Sybase 365, tell us that users want to have the capability of using their mobile phones for banking and payment purposes.

There is potential for financial institutions to reduce operational cost by using the "fourth screen", ie. the mobile phone as a delivery channel for financial services. There are a number of financial services that are being delivered, or being planned for delivery, to mobile devices that have significant cost benefits.

For instance, the "mobile ATM" service could reduce the overhead of installing and maintaining a high-cost network of physical ATMs. Data from the USA is already pointing to the fact that there is a slow down in the physical ATM market and it cannot be helped by the deployment of intelligent mobile ATM solutions that allow mobile users to get statements, make payments and even top-up mobile pre-paid via their mobile phones.

Increasing ARPU

Operators are experiencing flat total ARPU, or even reduced total ARPU in some cases, even though data ARPU is rising. Mobile financial services could potentially increase ARPU for the operators, with increased data traffic. This is very important to operators expanding into developing economies where ARPU is traditionally lower than the developed world. If we look at the Indian sub continent, Bangladesh in particular, we can explore possible ways in which operators can improve ARPU in a low-GDP economy. 

Bangladeshi operator Grameen Phones provides "an insight into how to improve market penetration by profitably targeting the low income market segments," says Anil Gajwani, CTO of Indian software provider Bharti Telesoft. Grameen Phone implemented Bharti Telesoft's pre-paid top-up solution, PreTUPS, in a bid to tackle the bottom of the pyramid.

"The constant availability of top-up and the opportunity for micro-prepaid options ensure the sustainability of the operator's monthly ARPU," says Gajwani. "This is clearly reflected in the case of Grameen Phone, where with a 250% growth in top up transactions, the ARPU for prepaid users was $6.30," - high for a developing country.

Reducing churn

It is an unwanted expense to lose a customer after a mobile operator has invested in the original acquisition of that customer. Churn rates in the UK were around 30% in 2006. Churn creates two main problems to operators, reducing revenues as it raises the cost of customer acquisition. Research has estimated that the cost of winning a new customer could be 12% of the total lifetime revenue a customer brings in - operators are losing billions of dollars per year as a result of churn. By adding MFS applications and services to a mobile phone a customer could be less likely to replace their mobile operator with a new one; customer loyalty may increase as a result of MFS.

However, there are also some constraints to mobile financial services, including resistance from operators, a lack of technology standards, business model issues, and financial regulations and legislation.

Growth market

By 2011 consumers will become more familiar with making mobile payments, transferring funds and paying their bills through their mobile phones. An increase in user familiarity and acceptance will be coupled with the increasing availability of MFS applications and services.

The figures for the Rest of Asia Pacific region are higher than other regions, especially for the coming years, because of the high penetration for mobile payments and remittances in countries like the Philippines. Demographic groupings such as the overseas "Overseas Filipino Worker" are sending a percentage of their monthly wage back home to their families from cities such as Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, a similar story is seen in Africa and the Middle East, an economic region that has a current high volume of cash transfers and remittances, both international and domestic.

Juniper Research specialises in the identification and appraisal of high growth opportunities across the telecoms and media sectors. It offers market expertise in the areas of wireless and mobile as well as content, applications and device strategies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

UAE banking goes mobile

Mashreq Bank (UAE) announced that they are now offering mobile banking solutions to their 6 million customers via sms and encrypted security channels. Their software service provider of choice is Postilion, a NASDAQ listed company with superior technology. Mashreq aims to become one of the leading advanced service providers in the region.

With the way in which mobile banking is picking up, the most successful models have thus far been deployed in financially conscious locations such as the US, Europe, South Korea and the likes. Platforms offering extensive financial services will be realistic for emerging economies such as Pakistan when the country becomes more bank-savvy. Currently, the banking sector offers limited services, with internet banking being the most advanced service where account owners can pay utility bills while sitting in their living room.

Some services were rumored to start, but that has yet to take shape as the State Bank is still trying to figure out how to control this environment. With the vast corruption in Pakistan's economy, it is difficult to say how quickly mobile banking type models will become successful. To do so, it is evident that a significant amount of investment from strong supporters of platforms will be required. Lobbying these matters will be the next most important angle, but that is something defined by the size of the envelope and unfortunately Pakistan has yet to clean up it's accountability systems before allowing third-party service providers to offer flexible mobile-based financial systems.

Regulation of new technology is essential and to do so the industry needs to establish a significant amount of confidence that it will not pack up shortly after launching their service. So far only one such business launched, which was later shut down due to irregularities in licensing. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pinch Me...

Michael Moore's reaction to the first black President of the USA. Well said Michael, well said.


Wednesday, November 5th, 2008


Who among us is not at a loss for words? Tears pour out. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. A stunning, whopping landslide of hope in a time of deep despair.

In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime.

There was another important "first" last night. Never before in our history has an avowed anti-war candidate been elected president during a time of war. I hope President-elect Obama remembers that as he considers expanding the war in Afghanistan. The faith we now have will be lost if he forgets the main issue on which he beat his fellow Dems in the primaries and then a great war hero in the general election: The people of America are tired of war. Sick and tired. And their voice was loud and clear yesterday.

It's been an inexcusable 44 years since a Democrat running for president has received even just 51% of the vote. That's because most Americans haven't really liked the Democrats. They see them as rarely having the guts to get the job done or stand up for the working people they say they support. Well, here's their chance. It has been handed to them, via the voting public, in the form of a man who is not a party hack, not a set-for-life Beltway bureaucrat. Will he now become one of them, or will he force them to be more like him? We pray for the latter.

But today we celebrate this triumph of decency over personal attack, of peace over war, of intelligence over a belief that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs just 6,000 years ago. What will it be like to have a smart president? Science, banished for eight years, will return. Imagine supporting our country's greatest minds as they seek to cure illness, discover new forms of energy, and work to save the planet. I know, pinch me.

We may, just possibly, also see a time of refreshing openness, enlightenment and creativity. The arts and the artists will not be seen as the enemy. Perhaps art will be explored in order to discover the greater truths. When FDR was ushered in with his landslide in 1932, what followed was Frank Capra and Preston Sturgis, Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange and Orson Welles. All week long I have been inundated with media asking me, "gee, Mike, what will you do now that Bush is gone?" Are they kidding? What will it be like to work and create in an environment that nurtures and supports film and the arts, science and invention, and the freedom to be whatever you want to be? Watch a thousand flowers bloom! We've entered a new era, and if I could sum up our collective first thought of this new era, it is this: Anything Is Possible.

An African American has been elected President of the United States! Anything is possible! We can wrestle our economy out of the hands of the reckless rich and return it to the people. Anything is possible! Every citizen can be guaranteed health care. Anything is possible! We can stop melting the polar ice caps. Anything is possible! Those who have committed war crimes will be brought to justice. Anything is possible.

We really don't have much time. There is big work to do. But this is the week for all of us to revel in this great moment. Be humble about it. Do not treat the Republicans in your life the way they have treated you the past eight years. Show them the grace and goodness that Barack Obama exuded throughout the campaign. Though called every name in the book, he refused to lower himself to the gutter and sling the mud back. Can we follow his example? I know, it will be hard.

I want to thank everyone who gave of their time and resources to make this victory happen. It's been a long road, and huge damage has been done to this great country, not to mention to many of you who have lost your jobs, gone bankrupt from medical bills, or suffered through a loved one being shipped off to Iraq. We will now work to repair this damage, and it won't be easy.

But what a way to start! Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States. Wow. Seriously, wow.

Michael Moore 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Volkswagen Celebrates 70 years of engineering excellence

On October 12, 2008, the Volkswagen Club of Pakistan organized an event to celebrate VW's 70th birthday. The event was a flaming success with nearly 20 Beetles from Islamabad showing up. The event was held at my farm outside of Islamabad where I got a great opportunity to show case the various work my family has done on this private oasis of ours.

This event may appear on television, although that is dependent on numerous factors. We hope those who attended enjoyed themselves. 

VWCOP plans to host more events in the near future as it has for the last 5 odd years thanks to its founding fathers, some of whom have taken to greener pastures across the western seas. 

If you own a vw, get in touch with the vw club and get yourself registered so that you can be privy to future events and meets. In the meantime, stay tuned with our facebook community and our website (

Thursday, October 9, 2008

!BREAKING NEWS! Explosion Rocks H11 Police Lines (Islamabad, PK)

While lazing about in bed today, I heard a distant thud sound. Because the window was open, my curtain flew inwards causing a draft to enter that went smack into my front door which is straight down the hall. At first I thought it was a knock, but it was faint - like a distant "Poof" sound. When I went to investigate, turns out there was no one at the door, although my cat thought so too so he stayed by it waiting perhaps for the boogie man to enter.

Shortly after I get a call from my mom-in-law followed by a friend asking if we were ok. Turns out there was a bomb blast right around the corner from where I live - literally across the road from where my wife and I go get our monthly groceries. Now this is where it gets really scary - nothing ever happens near my place, it's all down in the center of town where all the diplomats reside and where the embassies and government offices are. Incidentally, there is a community known as Police Lines in most sectors of Islamabad, where police men live with their families. The biggest one in Islamabad is in H11, which is the sector right next to mine and that is the venue of today's blast.

The article below is from GEO News but they still can't determine whether it was a suicide bomber or a self-timed bomb. 

Eight killed in suicide blast near Police Line in Islamabad
 Updated at: 1257 PST,  Thursday, October 09, 2008
Eight killed in suicide blast near Police Line in Islamabad ISLAMABAD: A powerful blast has occurred in ATS building near Police line in Islamabad today.

According to a foreign news agency, at least eight people have been killed in a car bombing at the main police complex in the capital.

Sources said that the suspected suicide bomber hit his explosive-laden vehicle with ATS barrack in which one part of the building was completely gutted.

The dark clouds of smoke were seen over police line. According to eyewitnesses, the blast was so loud that it smashed the glass windows of nearby buildings. On the other hand, ambulances were sent to place of blast. 

It may be mentioned that National Training Center and Police Academy is also situated in the area.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Aren't Fundoos enough that we also need Digital Deception?

In an age of such horrific acts as the Marriott incident and daily doses of attacks in Peshawar, one can only need enough to worry about before finding out that newer, more insecurity inducing entities lurk the dark corners that we seek haven in. 

In this advanced stage digital age, where security and trust are exchanged via digital data over highly encrypted high-speed connections, where handshakes happen at the speed of sound. Users of this elaborate technology barely have time to retreat once a command is given to process data. From the time you click the button to the time the data is received at the other end, there is little reaction time so one better be sure they trust the source they are communicating with.

Trust is probably the most undervalued and overlooked aspect of the virtual take-over by the Internet and electronic transactions. We assume that someone else is doing their job and ensuring the safety of our data. The necessity of person to person interaction is being replaced by digital products that now communicate on your behalf, as though representing you in binary numbers, with all your credentials pre-verified. But if you are required to ensure your personal information is legitimate, who enforces this upon the service provider? Just because they extend a service, does not legitimize their monopoly in the market. 

Unfortunately, a business that once seemed like a great idea, doesn't seem to be yanking the same set of trust and loyalty out of people as it once did. Yes, life is all about money and without it you are limited to all of the following (not in any particular order - dependent upon preference):
1. Begging
2. Lying
3. Cheating
4. Deceiving
5. Stealing

One could say these are the five cardinal sins of an untrustworthy entity. If your basis for providing services, especially financial, is primarily dependent upon the word TRUST (regardless of the language), the first order of business would be to understand how the service provider perceives the term TRUST. What does trust mean to the business? Does it mean make sure everything is OK at home before you walk out the front door to announce your life-changing solution to a problem? Or, do you jump the gun and announce your ability to change lives before ensuring your own stability?

Let's sidetrack for a moment and discuss another thought that might help put things in perspective. It's probably fair to say that most people have travelled in an airplane, especially one where safety is very VERY important to both the flight crew as well as the passengers. During the safety monologue, you may or may not notice (if you are like me and prefer the in flight entertainment) that the oxygen masks are supposed to be applied to the person they fall in front of before looking over and helping the person next to them, be it an infant or an elderly person. How selfish one may think. Or even, the child needs help first because he can't help himself. Well, consider the thought that went into the purpose of  ensuring your own mask is on before you reach out to help others; part of it is that your own sustainability is essential in order to be able to effectively help anyone else out and part of it is that if you cannot help yourself then you are endangering yourself and those you intend to help. 

Coming back to the previous point, if you are not sure of your sustainability, yet insist when asked that everything is A OK and on track, how does that work? You need people to trust you to ensure that your going to help them achieve success in whatever their problem is, yet you have not yet solved your own problem. That is also known as false advertising in the moral sense. Committing support to others is easy, especially when you really need them. It's like many shop keepers I have encountered; they sell you things they don't have in stock but commit to having it by the next day...which never really comes. 

Business is all about trust. Trust is an undervalued principle of delivering products and services these days, especially because it is easier to think on the mass level where quality can be so-so, rather than at an exclusive level where it has to be meticulous and flawless. I wish it could be like that at the mass level too but then that would not be feasible. But where does that leave a digital service provider, one that offers a free service for little or no fees and expects trust in return. Can you give your loyalty to a business that does not offer you the same in return? Here's Stanford's definition of TRUST. You would think they share this knowledge with everyone who passes through their gates. They talk in great clarity about why trust is important for society to function, or else there can be a breakdown at the core.

Let us take a tree and understand it from a different point of view. Assume that the roots, the trunk and the branches are all the core of the business:
A. Roots: The Senior Management and Board - those who agree where to find sustenance, i.e. revenue streams, business direction, etc.
B. Trunk: The channel of communication between the Management and the worker ants of the company. Also fair to say this may be the link of trust between the Management and Managers.
C. Branches: All the men and women who work for the business - The managers, The assistants, the team leads, the designers, the collectors, the salesmen, the engineers, the clerks, the accountants, and so on.
D. Leaves, Flowers and Fruit: The customers / the target market - those who show evidence of the success in the decisions made by the roots

It's almost like a (vicious) cycle. The roots need to make decisions that eventually bear fruit...proving that the roots made sound decisions in the interest of all those in between.

What is a business? A bunch of people who believe in an idea and legitimately offer it to the public for a price, be it cash or potatoes? I would think you?

If the people who believe in the idea disagree with one another and don't give the team a full picture of what's really happening behind the scenes, that constitutes fraud and deception on the home ground, does it not? If the roots deceive the trunk and branches, there will be no fruit for anyone. At the end, the roots suffer the most because they need everyone else just like they all need the roots. One is no greater than the other, it's just that they all have their own responsibilities and each needs to ensure they are communicating efficiently and sufficiently with everyone so that there is a common goal in mind towards which all effort is directed.

Sadly, that is not the case with some businesses and that is when they need to realize that if a rotten seed is planted, the tree cannot be much better than the roots, no matter how good the idea may be. It's all about good management.

If you don't have assurance of the security being offered, 'You Should Not Proceed...'

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fernando Alonso Takes the Checkered Flag [Singapore F1]

The much anticipated Signapore Night Race took place just a few days ago in Singapore. This was the world's first ever Forumula 1 race event to take place at night and let me tell you, the lighting was spectacular.

I have recently started taking an interest in F1, owing primarily to my
 good friend Timmy, who seems to know everything about everything. He has been walking me through the basics of F1 racing, the people who make it happen and what to watch out for. I have gained a lot of knowledge about
 this sport, but am a long way from taking a professional interest as I am still amateur as far as the technicalities are concerned.

The sport is intense and if you have a favorite racer, following him and monitoring the opponents is half the fun. Everyone has a unique characteristic that somehow gets exposed on the mind-numbing race track.

For now, I am glad that my favorite racer, the Spaniard Fernando Alonso, is the winner of the Night Race. He is the rawest driver on the track and with very little inhibition about being 100% F1 on the track, Alonso maintains a very strong record as being a threat to the glory of new comer Lewis Hamilton and others like Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa - both of whom drive for Ferrari and lost the race for the team completely. 

Until next time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Zardari - Just what the Doctor ordered

In New York City, the melting pot of the world, where tourists get a 360 of what the world has to offer on one tiny island packed with over 9 million residents, Pakistan was being represented at the UN session by Asif Ali Zardari, one of the many rats we have fostered in our gutters for years. 

I can't spend a whole post dedicated to Mr. 10%, but he demands attention so I will honor his request. Instead of proposing that he has the potential to actually be our president and show some finesse and class,  he goes and hits on the Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, less than a year after his wife was killed in a suicide attack. It is times like this one should pity Benazir and wonder how she tolerated him all the years that she did. Her policital turmoil aside, she had a hell of a journey being married to a man who was less educated than a GED from the US. Clearly he is incapable of civil interaction with people. The whole world is making fun of us, but we are all happy because he represents what we want in a leader, a jackass who can smile his way through allegations of corruption that are eventually thrown out in the bin. How does he do it without a college degree? Man, if you figure it out, I'd love a slice of that pie.

When he returned to Pakistan late last year after his wife died, he promised never to be in a political chair. Instead, he gets a fake degree from up north, puts a puppet Prime Minister in place, breaks his many commitments to his political alliance with PML-N, and to top it off, he somehow becomes the President of Pakistan. That last one is the fault of the donkeys in parliament who voted him in. 

There is an image going around showing his inscription at the grave of Pakistan's founder, Qaid-E-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (perhaps the greatest man to touch the soil of this God forsaken country). He spelt God and Strength incorrectly, but made sure he gave it his full signature to ensure people knew he visited the site. I don't think I need to go on.

At the end of it all, I can't believe people think there is hope for Pakistan. This is one of those situations where you cut your losses and move on. Unfortunately, you can't cut this loss; all you can do is sit and wait for it to bleed dry until another one comes along to cut another, deeper wound in the system. 

Zardari is the epitomy of Pakistani mentality (the majority at least), and I'm talking about the people who live in the interior parts of the country, not the ones reading these posts. He is the man who represents the land lords who have prevented Pakistan from stopping the fuedal system, the ones who own most of the land and the people on it. The ones who don't have much of an education, but tons of money - showing that there is no correlation between the two since money is the ultimate purpose of life. Our basic level of education has deteriorated so much in the last 30 years that there is no way to measure it any more. When literacy rates are calculated, they are based on how many have completed secondary education, not accounting for the actual quality and content of that education. Falacy has allowed our literacy rate to increase over this period, yet we are dumber than ever. How is that so? Visit any interior region of Pakistan and you will find a majority of your youth either hanging out by tea shops smoking cigarettes, or whatever else is available, without worrying about being something bigger, better. Schools are empty, teachers don't go to teach because they aren't paid, students don't go because teachers arent there and yet here we are... 

I think we have but ourselves to blame and if we think that by funding NGO's and encouraging foreign aid to help our poverty stricken people, we are sadly mistaken. It only feeds the hunger that is inevitible self-destruction. There are some great examples out there that we can try and follow like the Acumen Fund and Kiva but only people who aren't already part of the system can see as clearly as they do. We only sit and pray to God to give us while we sit on our asses doing nothing. Shezad Roy, a famous musician from Pakistan, recently released a song called Laga Rahe (Keep it up) where he mocks the people who are metaphorically asleep and unaware of the damage they are doing by...doing nothing. There are messages, but are they enough for us?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hollywood - Storytales that send a message

Not so long ago, the US apparently invaded Pakistani soil while chasing after O-Sam and his Bearded Brigade. Entering a country without any prior permission, especially for a 'war' that Pakistan, under General Musharraf's rule, was to be fighting themselves within their borders. The US was only supposed to be offering financial aid.

Under normal circumstances, if a country is invaded, there is inevitable retaliation. However, in the case of Pakistan the only retaliation is that of our own people. How are we progressing as a "developing nation", since that is what the term developing refers to?! By blowing humans up at public locations where, for the most part, a general audience of innocents are gathering for some sort of merriment. Unbeknownst to them, there is a man, probably no more than 24 years of age, who has been training for months, perhaps years, to blow himself up into itty bitty pieces of human carnage while taking an oath in exchange for a possible first class ticket to Heaven where a bunch of nekkid virgins are to greet him and maybe give him the golden handshake of love (no
, not his hands). Why not just give him a real ticket on KLM and send the kid off to Amsterdam where he can have both nekkid ladies slobber him with their lusty love, while he meets other like-minded people who can exchange some sort of intellectual debate about how Mr. Blow Myself Up has a farm back home where he grows the best damn opium known to man.

Wrapping the two points together, if you watch enough propaganda and drama courtesy of Hollywood and the global media, you come to realize that there is a majority of death, decay and damage incurred by people around the world on an hourly basis. This is historically significant because it's always the same stories and all it does is make viewers immune to the mess we live in, while sheltering the truth of the matter.
A man who is raised from a young age by people who feed, cloth, house and educate him will learn to respect and listen only to his foster parents. In exchange, the parents will ask him to groom himself to a point where one day he can wrap 10 kg's of C4 around his waist and become a human firecracker in a crowded place to make a point. I will express my feelings a bit later, but at this moment, the rest of the world asks why he is doing what he is and what drives him and how he can be so insane and thoughtless and so forth. Part of the reason, I believe, is because he knows no better. Alternatively, because it's already easier to criticize and condemn. This guy, who probably spent his early years in maggot infested conditions, was later moved to a slightly better environment where he only sees his saviors looking out for him. He isn't thinking at the age of 10 that there must be a catch, one that he may not remember for a second longer than it takes to push the red button. His incentive, perhaps the juggies he will see in heaven; or maybe even the possible PKR 50,000  wire transfer to his parents bank account to somewhat better their lives provided he succeeds in his mission. Consider the fact that if he fails, he may well get his head chopped off unless he agrees to try it again. 

Everyone remember WWII? That little 'ol period when Jews were persecuted as they have been throughout human history. The time when Hitler was at his Zenith and the Allied forces were using any means necessary to stop the invasion and later the seepage of communism from the Soviet Army? Well, then we may also remember the 5 foot nothing super pilots from Japan known as the Kamikaze Fighters. No one called them terrorists. Their actions were viewed as nationalistic pride and courageous. I think they were just as crazy, regardless of their purpose. They had the same vigor and passion for their purpose - to destroy the enemy by making themselves dispensable. Suicide bombers are no different, nor should they be mistaken to be anything else. They believe in a cause, so much so that they are willing to take their lives for it. The Kamikazes did what they did because they wanted to destroy potential disaster by stubbing it at the root. The Fundoos (Suicide bombers who claim to be doing so in the name of God) have the same purpose. It may not seem that way to us, but try their perspective if you can.

Now, my opinion? How can anyone, I mean ANYONE be so Fucking stupid?!?!?! Fucking Nuts man! However, be it as it may, they have their reasons and all we see is the end result, not the events leading up to the psychotic behavior causing the death of many innocents. I do NOT condone anything these bastards do, nor do I sympathize. Frankly, I think the extremists need to justify what they are doing in conversation rather than use indefinite aggression as their only tool of communication. I respect people, but only when they respect themselves. When you take yourself and others with you to death, and do so while BELIEVING that God will give you a chocolate chip cookie, a glass of milk, pat you on your back and tell you to be on your way to the pearly gates of juggy land, you need to be locked up in a room for a few days, then taken out and beaten till your eyes bleed, then put back in and then eventually asked..."Was it worth it?" Eventually it will knock sense into the SOB and put him straight. In the meantime, media needs to control their tongue and people need to watch more of the History Channel to learn about how shit ended up being the way it is today.

The Taleban and Al-Qaida happened for a reason. I learnt about it while in College in the states and so proving that information is available everywhere. Use your noggins and do a little research then form an opinion to condemn the assholes who created these Frankensteins in the first place. If you keep a dog chained up all his life and then expect him to be friendly with your buddies, you are sadly mistaken. You will only see that when he rips your best friends arm off. Prevention is better than an insurance claim after the damage is done. 

WAKE UP WORLD! Global warming, terrorists and suicide attacks, natural disasters, plane crashes, WAR, genocide, starvation, education (or the lack thereof) are all products of our own disregard for history and our fellow man. The ice is melting, people are dying and there still isn't a cure for the deadliest of cancers. Don't wait for science to come up with a practical medicine that the FDA will approve one day and recall the next. Use your own hands, don't encourage poverty by giving money to beggars to forgo your own guilt. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Zardari - A fruitcake? Call the Men in white coats!


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Asif Ali Zardari, the man poised to become Pakistan's next president, is still known as "Mr. 10 per cent" because of corruption allegations. Now his own lawyers say he may have suffered from mental health problems within the past year.

That has left many Pakistanis wondering: Is this the best man for the job?

"People have short memories, but not that short," said Rafat Saeed, 42, as he parked his car in the bustling city of Karachi following a week of political turmoil and relentless violence by Islamic militants.

"His name is synonymous with corruption!"

Friends and family say Zardari, widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is fine now and fit to rule. But the questions over his psychological state are not likely to go away soon.

The United States and other Western nations nervously watched the ruling coalition collapse this week after the two main parties forced Musharraf - a close ally in the war on terrorism - to resign as president rather than face impeachment.

Zardari's party is now in a position to dominate the five-month-old civilian government, especially if the 53-year-old Zardari, recently cleared of all graft charges, is elected president by lawmakers in a Sept. 6 vote, as is widely expected.

If he wins, he will be one of the most powerful civilian leaders in Pakistan's 61-year history, retaining many of the powers accumulated during Musharraf's nine-year rule, from the right to dissolve Parliament to appointing heads of the armed forces.

But he has many demons in his past.

With $60 million in a Swiss bank account, corruption allegations dating to his wife's time in power will not go away any time soon. Then, in recent days, questions emerged about the state of Zardari's mental health.

In a corruption case brought against him by the Pakistani government, Zardari's own lawyers told a London court last year that he recently suffered from dementia and other psychological problems - an apparent attempt to delay proceedings.

They claimed it was the result of years spent in Pakistani jails - where Zardari says he was placed in solitary confinement, tortured and living in fear for his life before he was released in 2004. The claims of mental illness were first reported in the Financial Times.

Friends, family and party members insist, however, that he's healthy now and fit to rule.

"He was under stress, no doubt," said Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's ambassador in Britain and a longtime friend of Zardari's, adding that the diagnosis is now more than a year old.

"He was never prescribed drugs, he only received counselling," Hasan said. "I have spent long periods of time with him in the past two years ... He's been alert. He's been steady."

But his political rivals disagree.

"A 'patient' shouldn't be allowed to run for president," argued Sadiqul Farooq, spokesman for the party headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the junior party in the coalition that walked out this week.

Zardari, who earned the nickname "Mr. 10 per cent" while serving as minister for investment and environment when Bhutto was prime minister, was accused of pocketing commissions on contracts - from Polish tractors to licenses to import gold.

He says the allegations were part of a smear campaign to keep Bhutto from returning from self-exile after her government collapsed in 1996.

Pakistani investigators accused them at one point of spiriting $1.5 billion out of the country.

Swiss prosecutor Daniel Zappelli said Thursday that some $60 million that had been in Swiss bank accounts since the 1990s would be unfrozen, following a request by Pakistani authorities.

He declined to identify the owner of the funds, citing privacy rules. But Hassan Habib at the Pakistani Embassy in Bern said he believed it belonged to "the late prime minister Bhutto, or her husband, or it was a joint account."

Among the skepticism, some in Pakistan are willing to cut Zardari some slack.

Imran Ibrahim, a 27-year-old stockbroker, notes that few Pakistani political leaders are squeaky clean, either using their position to line their own pockets or to help enrich family and friends.

"No one is free of flaws," Ibrahim said. "I think he's better than many of the others out there. Plus, he was the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who dreamed of a prosperous Pakistan. He'll live out her dream, or at least he'll try."

Bhutto was killed in a Dec. 27 attack as she was campaigning for parliamentary elections. Zardari immediately took the reins of her Pakistan People's Party, surprising many as he rallied supporters.

A former polo player from a wealthy landowning family, Zardari had shown little interest in politics, but quickly proved it wasn't due to lack of skill. By forming an unlikely alliance with Sharif, a bitter rival, they forced Musharraf from power.

The moment the former military ruler was gone, however, rifts in the coalition emerged.

Sharif accused Zardari of breaking promises to immediately restore judges ousted by Musharraf or to dramatically scale back the powers of the presidency.

Eventually, Sharif quit the coalition, saying his party would prefer to sit in the opposition.

Zardari's People's Party has begun forging new partnerships with smaller parties in Parliament, which could make it even more dominant.

In March, Pakistani courts acquitted Zardari in the last case still pending against him, involving the import of a German luxury limousine. When the government told judicial authorities in Switzerland and Britain that no crime had been committed, the European courts had little choice but to end their proceedings.
Associated Press reporters Stephen Graham in Islamabad, Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Babar Dogar in Lahore, Khalid Tanveer in Multan, Paisley Dodds in London and Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.

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