Author Archives: Hammad Siddiqui

Reports Show Weak Progress on Economic Reform in Pakistan

The World Economic Forum lists a weak judiciary as one of the issues holding back economic reform in Pakistan. (Photo: Pakistan Today)

The World Economic Forum lists a weakening judiciary as one of the issues holding back economic reform in Pakistan. (Photo: Pakistan Today)

In Pakistan, the process of economic reforms has been painfully slow – a fact underlined by stalled or slipping progress on several international indices. On the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business, Pakistan fell from 107th out of 185 countries to 128th. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index brought Pakistan down to 129th in 2014-15 from 124th in 2012-13. And the Fraser’s Institute report kept Pakistan at 124th out of 167 countries — the same spot it earned in 2013.

The World Economic Forum published its Global Competitiveness report this week, showing similarly weak progress. Three large South Asia Countries were ranked – India at 55th, Bangladesh at 107th and Pakistan at 126th. As compared to the last report, India jumped 16 places, Bangladesh by 5 and Pakistan slipped by one.

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Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill Has Free Speech Advocates and Business Community Worried

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“The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2015, in my opinion, is even worse than the one we advocated against during the Musharraf era.  The fact that the Ministry of IT&T felt the need to operate in complete secrecy over the past year clearly indicates the mindset with which this draft has been put together. P@SHA, ISPAK, legal cybercrime experts and civil society were not called in for a consultation.”
– Jehan Ara, President Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES (P@SHA)

Pakistan has a long history of suppressing the freedom of speech. Democratically elected governments have left the popular video site YouTube blocked since 2012. Twitter was blocked in the same year and in 2010 a court order forced government to block every social media site in the country on the pretext of preventing the distribution of blasphemous content.

Even with this background, the current government’s “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015” has civil society, business, the information technology sector, and the media deeply worried about the future of online freedom of speech and Pakistan’s information technology industries.

The proposed bill aims to rectify the lack of legislation pertaining to cyber-crime. While the government argues that the bill had undergone a public consultative process, stakeholders are of the view that since government has not shared the final version of the bill, it may contain clauses that will infringe upon the right to online speech. Representatives of Pakistan’s information technology sector have strongly criticized previous drafts of the bill.

“Just a quick look at the clauses and sections in this Act shows that very little thought went into its drafting,” said Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA. “The definitions are weak, the language is loose and vague and leaves much to interpretation, and it criminalizes all sorts of activities that do not even fall within the gambit of this Bill.”

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Holding Pakistan’s Government Accountable on Tax Reform

Pakistan collects far less tax (as a percentage of GDP) than most countries. (Chart: Dawn)

Pakistan collects far less tax (as a percentage of GDP) than most countries. So far the PML(N) government has not been able to significantly increase the tax ratio. (Chart: Dawn)

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML (N)) government is completing its second year in power on May 11, 2015. It is astonishing to observe that the accountability process for democratically elected government has improved significantly.

Under a CIPE grant, the first such public accountability process was initiated by Policy Research Institute for Market Economy (PRIME), an independent think tank based in Islamabad. PRIME started a simple exercise by taking concrete promises from PMLN’s economic platform and, through a scientifically designed scoring process, monitoring the government’s performance under three key sections: Economic Revival, Energy Security, and Social Protection. These sections were further divided into 82 sub-categories.

The report is widely accepted as an unbiased measure of the government’s performance. The report received significant coverage in local media, both print and television. PRIME Executive Director Ali Salman suggests that “IMF Staff Mission assessment of Pakistan’s economic situation and reforms have many agreements with PRIME’s Tracking Report.”

The accountability process has recently moved to the next level, as the government’s Standing Committee on Finance publically accused the PML (N) government of making decisions on taxation measures in isolation, without taking the Standing Committee in confidence.

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How Pakistan’s Education System Holds Back Economic Growth and Democracy


A recent World Bank report suggests that the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education by 2015. The report ranks Pakistan 113th out of 120 countries in the “Education for All Index.” With seven million out-of-school kids, the challenge is snowballing with each passing year.

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Social Media in Pakistan Helps Engage Youth in the Democratic Process


In the recent elections, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in engaging youth and bringing them out to vote. But the question remains: how can social media can help strengthen democracy in Pakistan?

Social media in Pakistan is an ever growing phenomenon. The editor of, Jehazeb Haq, recently compared Facebook to a virtual city competing with Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 20 million and growing.

“Over prolonged periods of autocratic rule, the youth of the country was deliberately made apathetic. The revival of the political process happened at a time when social media had already arrived and started playing a central role in the lives of the connected youth. This medium was used to fullest extent prior to the 2013 elections to spread awareness about the imperatives of the democratic process, as a mobilization tool to garner support and canvassing of ideas and manifestoes by parties. Needless to say the youth was the vanguard of this new movement through the new media.” – Afia Salam, Member: IUCN Commission on Education & Communications

The power of social media in providing the right to speech has been limited, however, since 2010, when government attempted to ban many social media sites, resulting in an uproar from users and civil society groups. All past efforts by government to do so ultimately failed, resulting in access to social media sites being restored.

The only site that is still banned in Pakistan is YouTube, as the government says that it still makes blasphemous material accessible in the country. However, civil society organizations and youth groups are being vocal and have been advocating for restoring access to YouTube. Most of these efforts are done using social media.

CIPE Pakistan spoke to few key social media activists to get their views on the current state of social media in the country and how youth is using this medium.

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Learning to Start a Business in Papua New Guinea


“The recent workshop by CIPE on the 19th of May 2014 in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea is important as firstly puts our vision into action but most importantly it gave a boost for those women to take a bold step towards starting a business or “enterprise”. The women learnt how to transform their ideas or hobbies into a business. They learnt the importance of innovation, implementation, ability to market products and to understand numbers in a business environment. The breakaway discussions and activities were not only fun but useful in emphasis important business skills like to know how to negotiate pricing in a business time management and knowing specifications before you start dealing with suppliers. So many positive feedback from the participants. Can’t wait for the next one.” – Janet Sios, Interim Vice President PNGWCCI

CIPE is working with a newly established women’s chamber of commerce in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to become a strong voice of women-owned businesses a country that is known for its unequal treatment of women.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report, PNG is getting worse in areas such as Starting a Business (101st in the world, down 9 places from 2013) and Getting Credit at 86th in the world (down 4 spots from 2013). In such an environment, it is extremely challenging for women to start an entrepreneurial initiative. This forces many women to remain in the informal sector.

During the course of recent capacity building sessions held in May 2014, CIPE organized a workshop for Papua New Guinea Women Chamber of Commerce members titled “Starting Your Own Enterprise.” CIPE Deputy Country Director for Pakistan, Hammad Siddiqui led the session that covered basic concepts of starting a business, challenges for small businesses, analyzing market opportunities, etc.

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Losing Steam: Scorecard Shows Slow Progress on Pakistan Economic Policies


In 2013, Pakistan experienced its first peaceful transition between two elected, democratic governments. In another first, several parties, including the winning PML-N, produced a concrete manifesto outlining their planned economic policies. But citizens have no mechanism to regularly track what governments are doing towards achieving their election promises.

With CIPE support, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), an independent economic think tank, has been monitoring progress on the government’s economic manifesto via a carefully designed scorecard. The results show that while the new government has made some progress, implementation of its election promises remains slow.

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