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Posts Tagged Poverty

Escaping Pakistan’s poverty trap

Escaping Pakistan’s poverty trap

Millions are working their way out of poverty in Pakistan thanks to one man’s vision

Shoaib Sultan Khan, who set up the Rural Support Programme 30 years ago

Shoaib Sultan Khan, who set up the Rural Support Programme 30 years ago Photo: Eduardo Diaz
 

7:00AM GMT 04 Mar 2013

 

We were on the road from Gilgit to Sost, in the far north of Pakistan, a journey that follows the Silk Route taken for millennia by merchants on the road to China.

We passed the site of the battle of Nilt, where three Victoria Crosses were awarded after a desperate fight in 1891 between British forces and local tribes.

We reached a great gorge where, according to geologists, the subcontinent of India crashed into Asia, the catastrophic event that threw up the Karakoram mountain range through which we were travelling. Around us were glaciers and great snow-packed mountains of 25,000ft or more.

The Karakoram mountains have still not settled. Three hours’ drive north of Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan province, we reached the spot where in 2010 a mountain had collapsed into the Hunza river, destroying the road and creating an enormous lake.


Lake Attabad, between Gilgit and Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

My travelling companion, 79-year-old Shoaib Sultan Khan, was taking me back to where the final stage of his awesome life story had begun.

Exactly 30 years ago, when General Zia-ul-Haq was in power in Pakistan, Khan was commissioned by the Aga Khan to combat the endemic poverty and backwardness of Pakistan’s northern areas. Khan, who was working in a Sri Lankan forest village when he was hired, had spent his life in development work. He was already convinced that democratic village institutions held the key to releasing the rural masses from poverty. He set up the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme to put his insights into practice.

Khan stayed for 12 years in Gilgit and Chitral, a town 100 miles to the west, moving from village to village and living among the people. The only money he had at his disposal came at first from a $400,000 annual grant from the Aga Khan – a pinprick in such a vast area. Though other donors (including Britain’s Department for International Development) followed, the small sums involved meant the only way he could bring about change was by persuading local people to do it themselves.

Yet during this period living standards improved more than twofold, according to World Bank figures. Literacy rates soared from a negligible three per cent in 1982 to 70 per cent or more today. Women – hidden from view across much of the rest of Pakistan – have obtained a fuller and more confident economic and social role.

Today Gilgit and Chitral are two fragile islands of stability in a part of the world given over to terrorism and war, in the surrounding tribal areas of Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan. They alone have largely escaped the contagion. One of the most important reasons for this is Shoaib Sultan Khan. In the areas where he has worked there are jobs, means of livelihood, reasons for hope. So in the course of our journey, I asked him to explain how he set about transforming the lives of the people in these tough but incredibly beautiful areas.


Commuters cross Lake Attabad (EDUARDO DIAZ)

‘In every village I went to,’ he replied, ‘I was very blunt and would tell them that I have not come to listen to your problems nor your needs because I don’t have the resources to do anything about these. But I have come with the conviction that you have potential and we would like to unleash that. So I offered them a development partnership, which entailed their having to do something first before the programme can do anything. I told them that individually I would not be able to help and could only help if they got organised. And that organisation has to be in the common interest of the group.

‘My second condition to them was: you have to identify one of your own men or women as the activist who will lead the organisation. No outsider can do that. My third condition was saving. Since capital is power, you must generate your own capital through savings. However poor, you must save something – even one rupee a week.’

This model subverted the conventional model of social development, which assumed that either central government or outside agencies would lift people out of poverty. Years of experience had taught Khan that this method never worked, and that only the villagers themselves understood what they needed. Central to his vision were the community activists.

‘The basis of our system is to identify leaders,’ he told me. ‘I had no more than 200 of these at most at the start. Now we have 10,000. These were the ones who developed this area. I used to say these community activists are our diamonds. They gave the shine, glitter and permanence to our organisation. The qualities we looked for were twofold. First, they needed to be honest, because they had to do the work themselves and, second, they should be prepared to act for others besides themselves.’

It was the activists in Sost who came to Khan and told him that they wanted to build an irrigation channel deep into the mountain to reach the glacier.

‘Our engineers had a look and said that it was not possible,’ he said. ‘But when we came back three months later we found that they had started work by themselves and dug 200m without our help.’

Incredibly, no machinery of any kind was used. The villagers had hacked into the mountainside with the aid of nothing more than rudimentary equipment: shovels, pickaxes, digging bars and hammers of various sizes. ‘We thought, if they can dig 200m then they can dig for a kilometre and a half,’ Khan said. ‘So we gave them assistance.’


A worker in an irrigation tunnel dug through the mountain at Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

The initial grant amounted to only 55,000 rupees (about £700). Later the villagers were given materials worth a further £2,000. That was all it cost to turn thousands of acres of barren and desolate land into orchards, plantations and fields.

Khan himself comes from a thoroughly conventional background. Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, he was educated at Lucknow University and Cambridge, and then worked in the Pakistan civil service for two decades. But in Gilgit he found himself taking part in what amounted to a revolution. For centuries the Hunza Valley had been controlled by the Mirs, feudal rulers who denied rights to their people and demanded free labour from the villagers. It is no coincidence that many of his early activists had been involved in a revolutionary struggle against the Mirs in the three decades that followed Pakistan’s independence in 1947.

In the village of Karinabad I found Syed Yahya Shah, who told me how he had been incarcerated in Gilgit’s notoriously harsh Chilas prison for two years at the height of the struggle in the 1960s, before being released on the orders of President Ali Bhutto, who put an end to the power of the Mirs.

Now an old man with a white beard, Yahya Shah told me that ‘I was a hero to the people when I returned home.’ He said that when Shoaib Sultan Khan arrived, his method of ‘mobilising people at grass roots was something I had already done and that appealed to me. The first thing I did,’ he continued, ‘was to learn exactly what Shoaib Sultan Khan’s organisation, the Rural Support Programme, was saying. Then I went to all the villages and became part of the team. Our first achievement was to inculcate the sense of self-reliance.’


Yahya Shah (EDUARDO DIAZ)

Yahya Shah said the most difficult task was to encourage farmers to act collectively. Thirty years ago one member of every household was brought up as a hunter, expected to journey into the mountains and kill wildlife. As a result the local snow leopard, ibex, Marco Polo sheep and markhor mountain goats were near extinction. The villagers also ruthlessly cut down trees for firewood in the higher parts of the valley, opening the way to soil erosion and floods.

But Khan’s Rural Support Programme taught the villagers a new way of doing things. Once they had formed village organisations, and started to cooperate instead of pursuing their separate interests, everything changed. They planted trees in the areas opened up for cultivation on the mountainside. Meanwhile, hunting was banned. The village hunters were hired instead as waged staff (initially paid by the project) to survey the wildlife and deter poachers, thus turning them into guardians rather than destroyers of the environment.

Every year a handful of international trophy hunters are now invited to bid on the internet for the privilege of killing a mountain goat, the proceeds being paid back to local people (and now covering the wages of the former hunters). The villagers opened up new irrigation channels and pioneered agricultural techniques. As a result the upper Hunza Valley is today an idyllic spot. Dominated by massive mountain peaks, it is full of poplar plantations, apple orchards and flourishing small businesses.

Women’s groups emerged. I visited one in Chinar, a suburb of Chitral, which started with only half a dozen members 15 years ago; more than 100 households have joined since. It has saved some four million rupees (£26,000), a colossal sum that dwarfs the 1.6 million (£10,000) raised by local men. Sitting cross-legged on a classroom floor, one member, Musarat, told me, ‘We used to be economically dependent on the men. Today they depend on us. They come to us to borrow money.’


Women trainees in a wood workshop in the Hunza Valley (EDUARDO DIAZ)

These women have never been allowed to attend the local bazaar, so they have set up a trading zone of their own higher up the hill. Each one I spoke to had started a business. Musarat, who runs a garment shop, told me how she had been sent by the Rural Support Programme on a course in management and enterprise. She in turn trained up Nazia, who now has a shop selling local vegetable produce, and Johanara, who sells ribbons and buttons.

These women have made use of their savings to set up an internal banking operation, with 1,131,000 rupees (£7,500) given out in loans this year alone. Musarat told me that they made a 200,000 rupee (£1,300) profit last year, and there has never been a default. She showed me three immaculately kept ledgers recording loans, savings, and the names of those present at their regular meetings, along with the minutes of their discussions. Since the arrival of the Rural Support Programme the lives of these women have become purposeful and confident. They have been given new lives.

Up in Sost the manager of the women’s organisation is Mehr Kamil, a very impressive 38-year-old mother of three who works as a teacher. Her organisation has 170 members and has amassed savings of three million rupees (£20,000). It operates an active loan portfolio, and has never had a bad debt.

I challenged Shoaib Sultan Khan with the claim that his concept of social development, which involves a rejection of the state, was essentially capitalist, and he pondered for a while. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Capitalism is about big ownership. We support small ownership and people in cooperation, the 100-hectare farmers.’

Khan’s teaching is highly sceptical of the state because of its remorseless insistence that villagers stand on their own feet and take care of their own lives. But Khan also recognises that just as the state can rarely produce sustainable change, people can achieve little unless they work as a community. His funding from the Department for International Development was ended two years ago, he said, with no reason given.

Gilgit and Chitral are oases of relative prosperity, but these two jewels in the far north nevertheless remain vulnerable to the terrorism that has become commonplace through the rest of this anguished part of Pakistan. As I left the country, the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, warned of the ‘wave of deadly sectarian violence that has gripped the tourism haven’. He was referring to the massacre a few weeks earlier of 24 bus passengers by Sunni terrorists near Gilgit.


Members of the women’s organisation in Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

I travelled along the road where this atrocity occurred on my journey between Gilgit and Chitral, a 14-hour marathon across the Shandour Pass, which at 12,000ft hosts the highest polo ground in the world. The villages we passed through looked peaceful, as farmers gathered in their harvest ahead of the coming winter. There was no disguising, however, the underlying nervousness and fear. At one of the security checkpoints a soldier asked us for a lift. The police had held him back for three days, he said, because they feared that as a Shia he would be killed if he continued on his own.

Such is the scale of the sectarian hatred that at another checkpoint my guides were asked to declare whether they were Shia, Sunni or Ismaili. I was later told that four hours after we had completed the journey the road had been closed. No reason was given but I was told that suspected terrorists had been captured on the road. In the town of Gilgit itself, life is now lived on sectarian lines. One local man told me that ‘there is one hospital for Sunni, one for Shia, one for Ismailis’, and claimed that such is the tension that the rival sects even choose different routes to work.

Much of the trouble comes from outside. Gilgit and Chitral have always been of importance because they are on the road that links India and Asia. That is why, ever since the days of British rule, there have been incursions into the area. With the war against the Taliban still raging, today is no different. But there is more to it than that. As one elder, Subiday Qlaudar Khan, from Paidendas, a village south of Gilgit, told me, ‘These people don’t descend from the sky. They rely on local leaders for support. The people in the villages have been asleep. The violence is our fault.’

The only way that Chitral and Gilgit can retain their immunity from the tragic violence that has disfigured neighbouring territories is by cooperating to block the outsiders who arrive in the area intent on bringing terror, and creating the jobs and prosperity that give people reasons for hope. Shoaib Sultan Khan may be 79 years old, but his work is more important than ever before. The guardians of his legacy are the village activists of Chitral, Gilgit and the Hunza Valley. But his influence stretches far wider. Khan’s social model is today being copied in India, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka and – most recently – across the border in Afghan­istan. It has already lifted some 30 million people out of poverty, and his unique insights have urgent lessons for the world.

 

Reference

 

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Dr.Tahir-ul-Qadri: “The Canary in a Coal Mine” and the Raiwind Rats

Dr.Tahir-ul-Qadri, “The Canary in a Coal Mine” and the Raiwind Rats

 

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Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so legend has it that miners would bring a caged canary into new coal seams. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide, which made them ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary signaled an immediate evacuation.  Dr.Tahir-ul Qadri is like a canary in a coal mine. He is not dead, but, his message is dead as far as the  so-called malevolent “democratic,” ruling junta of Pakistan led by Asif Zardari, PPP, and their cohorts, Nawaz Shariff, PML(N), and the rest of the stinking and malodorously corrupt, menagerie of Pakistan’s ruling elite and obnoxiously rich feudals.

EinsteinTahir-ul-Qadri is a man of the masses. He is well tuned to their dreams, desires, and needs.  Unlike, Imran Khan, his following comes from both rural and urban masses of Pakistan. He is a man of vision and has dreamt the same dream, which most Pakistanis would like their nation to be. But, unfortunately, an honest and sincere person can be duped very easily. In Tahir-ul-Qadri’s case he fell into a pool of crocodiles, the “mugger-mutch,” called status quo politicians. When they found that their franchise of 65 years was being threatened, they quickly closed ranks, and went into a long huddle in Raiwind. When they came out, they had a plan to de-neutralize Dr.Qadri. First, they formed a circle of unity around him and played on his sincerity and agreed to all his demands, while they kept their best strategist Asif Zardari, tune into their Anti-Qadri Huddle and Strategy Sessions, via remote control. Finally, they came out of the Raiwind Rat Hole and poor Qadri Sahib fell right into their trap. Every great leader has a certain amount of narcissism and Qadri Sahib is no exception. Therefore, the Raiwind Rats started eulogizing the great vision of Allama Qadri. They even signed the Long March Agreement, which they had no intention of honoring from the get go. The Islamabad Long March ended without firing a shot. All was hunky dory and Allama Qadri felt vindicated. But, little did he know, that the whole government rapprochement psychology was just a charade, a mere mirage, to de-fang the cobra, which would have ended 65 years of tyranny of the feudal oligarch. In doing so, these Denizens of Hades, destroyed the only Ray of Hope, the long suffering 180 million politically, socially, and economically abused people of Pakistan. But, be warned, warts and all, Tahir-ul-Qadri tried to bring about a peace change in a 200 years old Colonialists established feudalistic society. He was masterfully neutralized by a cancerous gang of thugs called Pakistan’s political elite, made-up of crooked politicians, like Asif Zardari, Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Asfandyar Wali, Mulla Fazlur Rahman a.k.a “Mulla Diesel, and JI.

You may ask what the future holds for Pakistan?  The answer is that the current status quo may continue till the elections. But, once they start all hell will break lose if the same cabal of political Mafiosi retain power. Pakistan has been reduced to the level of chaotic Somalia. The country is armed to the teeth and the masses of people are hungry. There will come a time, when Pakistani politicians will get religion. They will pray for another mortal messiah, like Qadri.  Allah sends warners to all nations.

The Glorious Qur’an mentions in Surah Fatir, chapter 35 verse 24 “ . . . And there never was a people, without a Warner having lived among them (in the past).” [Al-Qur’an 35:24].

The Warners came in the shape of Prophets or Allah’s messengers.  The Last Prophet was Muhammad (SAW), who was sent to All Mankind, to give the Last Message of Allah, the Lord and Creator of All Universes, Rab- il-Alameen.  Muhammad (SAW) was the Seal of the Prophets (No Prophet will succeed him). However, Allah continues to send warners, who are not Prophets, but ordinary human beings, who do extraordinary things. They come deliver their people from bondage and misery of tyrannical rulers and societies. Among the notables of our time are Mr. Abdus Sattar Edhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and Cesar Chavez.

If there is no heed paid to the modern day “warners,” the results can be disastrous. Case in point, Quaid-e-Azam had warned the British about the machinations of Hindus, including Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel, in grabbing major portion of the then British Sub-Continent. The British paid no heed, because, they were in a hurry to cut their losses and make a quick exit, thus leaving a flaming sub-continent. Millions of poor and indigent people paid with their lives. Demonic ethnic and religious forces unleashed and the sub continent was left in shambles.

Dr.Tahir ul Qadri is nothing but a warner, to a nation of errant ruling elite. They have made a mockery of not only his ideas, but incessantly, ridiculed his personality and his visage. Third rate individuals like Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira, a bucolic yokel, tried comedic impersonation of the Islamic Jurisprudence Scholar. Others cast a doubt on his motives and made sinister allegations about his character and motives, without providing a verifiable argument. Low IQ individuals, like the former cowardly PM Nawaz Shariff denigrated Allama Qadri’s organization and his mission. Long story short, without paying attention to his message, they figuratively shot the messenger.

 

So what comes next may not be a peaceful transition, rather a Bloody Revolution is on the horizon in Pakistan.  The 180 million Pakistan are FEd-UP and will NOT take it anymore. The posh houses of DHA in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad, may end up in a flaming inferno instigated by the rampaging hordes of starving Pakistanis. The Pakistan Military may not be able to control, a total descent of society into chaos.  Qadri is a canary

 

History tends to repeat itself, although, the circumstances or locale may be different, but economic repression and penury of the masses lead to bloody revolutions. In France, Bastille was a cultural paradigm and a case study on the history of French political culture. Its storming and subsequent fall of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789 and how it came to represent the cornerstone of the French Revolution, becoming a symbol of the repression of the Old Regime.  Similarly, the Islamabad is a cultural icon and a center of Pakistan’s political cross currents. It is unlike any other city in Pakistan and during Dr.Qadri’s Long March the have-nots of Pakistan in their thousands if not millions, saw, how the elite of Pakistan lives in the lap of luxury, while, they cannot afford one square meal a day.  They have long memories and their first target will be the Presidency and the Prime Minister’s House.  Mr. Zardari and Raja “Rental” Pervez, be well advised to start practicing their escape routes. Dubai, may not be a good option, if that’s their Plan B. It has thousands of Pakistanis, who come from the economically deprived classes of Pakistan.  They may make both their lives hell or even cause them harm to them. So, as they say, “People Stay Tuned,” the canary in the mine has died, next comes…

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Poverty in Pakistan: TEDxHouston – Cristal Montanez Baylor – Hashoo Foundation

Cristal Montanez Baylor is the Executive Director of Hashoo Foundation USA. She leads initiatives to promote Hashoo Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment through Honey Bee Farming Project – “Plan Bee”- in the US. The project empowers women in the remote Northern Areas of Pakistan by expanding employment opportunities and generating a stable source of income through the sale of high-quality honey. The project is the winner of the prestigious World Challenge 08 Award competition sponsored by BBC and Newsweek in association with Shell, and it is a featured commitment on the Clinton Global Initiative website. Cristal believes that expanding income generating programs will strengthen the communities and help prevent the influence of extremism in Pakistan.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

 

 

ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6eC_juWLYE

 

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