How can Pakistan create more jobs when it ranks at bottom for skills?’

Prime Minister Khan and his team may talk about creating jobs but as a recent study demonstrates, Pakistan’s problem is that it ranks at the bottom of the skills ladder. According to the inaugural edition of Coursera Global Skills Index 2019, one of the world’s largest skills data bases, Pakistan ranks at the bottom of the world’s top trending skills in Business, Technology and Data Science.

Of the 60 countries “benchmarked in the GSI 2019, Pakistan ranks 57 or close to the last in the domain of business. It does worse in Technology and Data Science domains ranking at 59, only a notch above Nigeria that sits at the bottom of the index. European countries are the global skills leader as per the index and feature in the top quartile (cutting-edge) but less advanced economies such as Pakistan feature as less-skilled and hug the bottom quartile (lagging) across the three skills domain.”

In Business, “Pakistan is at 5th percentile while in Technology and Data Science it sits even below at 2nd percentile – a country close to 100 percentile is at the top and one close to 0 percentile is at the bottom of the list.

“Asia Pacific is at the extremes of the global Business rankings with New Zealand (#6) and Australia (#9) approaching the very top, while Pakistan (#57) and Bangladesh (#59) land at the bottom.” (For details see page 5 of the report)

Also, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 57, in the bottom 5 percentile, for Business skills.” (for details please see page 9 of the report)

Further, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 59, in the bottom 2 percentile, for Technology.” (for details please see page 11 of the report)

Also, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 59, in the bottom 2 percentile, for Data Science.” (for details please see page 13 of the report)

According to a news story on the report “At the top, New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore rank well above the global average across Business, Technology, and Data Science. At the bottom, Bangladesh and Pakistan rank close to last globally in each of the domains,” it says. Referring to the countries close to the bottom, the report says “these countries spend less on education as a percentage of GDP and have higher proportions of low-skilled workers”. The GSI report comes at a time when the Fourth Industrial Revolution of automation and artificial intelligence is transforming the world of work.”

Finally, “With technology advancing faster than humans can adapt, the skills required to do most jobs are evolving quickly—a real challenge to the careers, companies, and countries that are fueled by them,” the report says. In order to keep pace with this change, it adds governments and businesses must develop their workforces to build, manage, and leverage new technologies.”

‘US view of Pakistan becoming more negative’

The Government of Pakistan may attempt to portray a positive image of US-Pakistan relations but the hard reality is that the US view of Pakistan has become more and more negative over the last few years, especially under the Trump administration.

Recently the Department of Defense released a new report titled ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region.’ The aim of the US strategy is to counter Chinese and Russian influence in South Asia but the report only refers to 5 countries in South Asia: India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There was no mention of Pakistan.

According to a news story, “Within South Asia, we are working to operationalize our Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Calling Indo-Pacific as the Department of Defense’s priority theatre, the report titled details that the US will also continue to strengthen security relationships with partners in Southeast Asia with countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and sustaining engagement with Brunei, Laos, and Cambodia.”

Further, “Our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific recognises the linkages between economics, governance, and security that are part of the competitive landscape throughout the region, and that economic security is national security,” the report further says adding that in order to achieve the vision, “we will uphold the rule of law, encourage resilience in civil society, and promote transparent governance – all of which expose malign influences that threaten economic development everywhere. Our vision aspires to a regional order in which independent nations can both defend their interests and compete fairly in the international marketplace. It is a vision which recognises that no one nation can or should dominate the Indo-Pacific. In recognition of the region’s need for greater investment, including infrastructure investment, the United States seeks to invigorate our development and finance institutions to enable us to become better, more responsive partners.”

According to an article in The National Interest, Michael Rubin argues that ‘Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan.’ Rubin states that “The stability of Afghanistan—and the denial of its territory to terrorist groups—requires a good-faith Pakistani agreement to cease backing extremists, and after nearly two decades, this means, coercing Pakistan.”

Further, “If the Afghan peace process is to succeed, then the United States must bring the full weight of leverage to bear on Pakistan in order to win a cessation of Pakistani support for the Taliban. Despite decades of tension, and occasional sanctions mostly applied over the nuclear issue, the United States has many options in its diplomatic arsenal as yet unused in its quest to compel Pakistan to reduce support to the Taliban or to raise the cost of defiance.”

Rubin recommends, “First, Pakistan might be put on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist given its extensive ties to terror groups. Simply put, there is no reason why Pakistan should receive a pass for diplomatic convenience, especially when it has shown a consistent unwillingness to act with good will. Second, in 2004, the George W. Bush administration designated Pakistan “a Major Non-NATO Ally.” This move provided Islamabad with benefits in both defense purchasing and cooperation and was also a mark of confidence in Pakistan. Rescinding such designation would accordingly signal a lack of confidence. Third, Pakistan continues, with U.S. support, to receive International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans to help resolve its balance-of-payments problems, most recently negotiating a $6 billion IMF loan. Given the amount Pakistan spends on militancy support, the future U.S. position should be to oppose all such loans or at least make them contingent on an end to any assistance to the Taliban. Consider that to be the Pakistan equivalent of the Taylor Force Act. It may be unwise to target the entirety of Pakistan for what, in reality, are the actions of a handful of specific military officers and ISI veterans well known to the United States. These individuals—and terror-supporting politicians—might be individually designated, much as Iranian Qods Force head Qassem Soleimani is. Finally, in its counterterrorism fight in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have yet to strike at Afghan Taliban bases in Pakistan. While the U.S. military has violated Pakistani territory—for example, in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden whom Pakistani authorities were hiding—it has never taken the Afghanistan fight into Pakistan. It may be time to do so, if only to signal to Pakistan the costs of providing safe haven to the Taliban and also to signal to Islamabad that Pakistan will not be immune from terror camp targeting as U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan shifts from occupation to an over-the-horizon posture. Pakistan may be a nuclear power, but this is a move which India has used to great effect to demonstrate the consequences of Pakistani terror support.”

Pakistan espionage case becomes curiouser and curiouser

On May 30th, The Pakistan military released a statement that Army Chief General Bajwa had approved death sentences for two men – a retired brigadier general and a private physician – and life imprisonment for a third – a retired lieutenant general – after they were court-martialed on charges of espionage and revealing classified information to foreign intelligence agencies. The army refused to provide more details about what the three men had done and only said that they had been convicted on charges of espionage and divulging “sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to the national security.”

The real questions to ask are: one, who were these men spying for? Two, what was the nature of the espionage? And third, how much harm has been done to Pakistan’s interests. All these questions remain unanswered.

When Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S. (2008-2011) and Pakistan army’s bete noire, Amb Husain Haqqani wrote an article titled “Espionage case shatters Pakistan army’s myths – and the belief its nuke secrets are secure” he said “The fact that senior military officers spied for a foreign country suggests that Pakistan is not as safe in the hands of the men in uniform as is suggested. If, as has been learnt, the secrets shared by the convicted officers are related to Pakistan’s nuclear program, the case would increase Pakistan’s paranoia about the security of its nuclear arsenal. Considering that the foreign intelligence service that paid for the secrets shared by the convicted officers belonged to the United States, there is a greater adversarial relationship between Pakistan and the US than is often revealed.

As Haqqani notes, “The espionage ring reached the highest levels of the Pakistani national security establishment. Lt Gen Iqbal served as Director of Military Operations, Corps Commander, and Adjutant General before retiring in 2015; the ‘sensitive organisation’ that employed Akram was one of the Pakistan’s many covert nuclear facilities. To my knowledge, there are several other individuals currently under investigation and there might be more courts-martial and more convictions down the line.”

Further, “The army is already trying to spin the case as proof of its internal checks and balances. An Inter-Services Public Relations press release only said that the three men had been convicted by a Field Court Martial on charges of espionage and divulging “sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to the national security.”

Finally, “The discovery of Pakistani military officers spying for the US on Pakistan’s nuclear programme also raises questions about the Pakistani establishment’s national security paradigm. Instead of the nukes guaranteeing Pakistan’s security against India, Pakistan must now worry about the security of its nuclear weapons against adversaries other than the Indians.”

In response to Haqqani’s OpEd, DGISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted

To which Haqqani replied

5 years after Tassaduq Jilani Judgment Pakistan’s minorities still face persecution

This month is the 5 year anniversary of the landmark 2014 Supreme Court judgement that ordered the government of Pakistan to take steps to protect all religious minorities.

Then Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani “acknowledged the persecution that non-Muslims in Pakistan endure, and placed the blame squarely on the country’s leaders. The justices ruled that the government must create a National Council for Minority Rights, a special law enforcement division to protect non-Muslim houses of worship, and form a think tank to combat religious intolerance. The government must also prosecute those who distribute intolerant propaganda, protect religious minority children who are persecuted at school, develop objective learning curricula, and enforce an affirmative action quota in the job sector. The Supreme Court ruling was made in the aftermath of the September 2013 All Saints Church suicide bombing, which killed over 100 people. Although authorities knew of a possible Pakistani Taliban attack at the church days before the bombing, no additional police officers were sent to protect the congregants. The church’s usual appointment of two guards was its only defense. The Court found that the government failed to protect its citizens.”

Five years later, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) commemorated the judgment through a meeting that expressed “concern that, despite the lapse of five years, no real progress has taken place on implementing this judgement, except for the establishment of the one-man Suddle Commission, whose report is still awaited. Given the significance of the Tassusuq Jilani judgement in protecting religious freedoms, among other fundamental rights, HRCP earlier filed a public interest litigation with the assistance of allied organisations, requesting the Supreme Court to take note of the matter. The application recorded the status of implementation of directives issued in the judgment. The Tassusuq Jilani judgement lays the foundation for the realisation of religious minorities’ rights. If this basic benchmark for the rights of minorities cannot be implemented, then the state’s claims concerning the protection of minority rights seem meaningless.”

BBC on Secret Human Rights abuses by Pakistan’s Deep State

Over the years reports by international Human Rights organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have pointed to human rights abuses by the Pakistani deep state. Recently the BBC’s investigative reporting provides detailed reporting about the human rights abuses, the civilian death toll and the repression faced by locals in Pakistan’s north west.

According to BBC “militant violence since 2002 has forced more than five million people in Pakistan’s north-west to leave their homes to seek refuge either in government-run refugee camps or rented houses in peaceful areas. There are no official figures of the total death toll of this war but estimates from academics, local authorities and activists put the number of civilians, militants and security forces killed at well over 50,000.”

Further, “Local rights activists say scores of civilians have been killed in successive air campaigns and ground operations by the military. They have been collecting video and documentary evidence to back up their claims. These activists are linked to a prominent new rights campaign called the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM) which emerged early last year and has since been publicising alleged rights abuses in the tribal region that victims had previously been too scared to report.”

Further, “These individual stories are shocking but they are not unique. The PTM alleges that hundreds of people from the tribal areas could tell similar stories. But they remain officially unacknowledged. They are the consequences of a war Pakistan has gone to great lengths to hide from the world. This conflict on the Afghan border has for years been an information black hole.”

Finally, the report refers to how the Pakistani state is attacking the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and its activists “when the PTM broke through this chokehold last year, its media coverage was put under a comprehensive ban. Those in the media who have not heeded the ban have faced physical threats and financial pressure. The military has openly called the PTM’s patriotic credentials into question, accusing it of links to “hostile” intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and India. And some PTM activists who were documenting cases of abuse and running the group’s social media campaign have been jailed. The treatment of the activists who are finally, after years of silence, raising the alarm on the abuses of a long and secret war suggests that those who have suffered in the conflict face an uphill battle for justice.”

The BBC report which gives details about individual cases can be read here