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Economically unviable: Metro Bus – a white elephant painted red

PHOTO: FILEAs the intra-city public transport across the country remains in shambles, the launch of this new Metro bus service needs to be appreciated. However, the business model of the bus service under an otherwise business-savvy regime leaves much to be desired.

It is ironic that the political party that voted to privatise bleeding State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) is creating new SOEs. PML-N was voted to privatise PIA and Railways – instead it has started running buses with state support.

When price is distorted, either by fixing floors or ceilings; functioning and competitive markets disappear. Such markets push genuine market participants out by both, an excess demand and supply glut.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad (renamed as Pakistan) Metro Bus Project (PMBP) is a case of price ceiling, which has created an excess demand and put unnecessary burden on the new service. It is also diverting genuine customers from using it.

To gain first-hand experience, I undertook a complete round trip on a hot Friday afternoon.

In my interviews with fellow passengers, I was amazed to find ‘non-customers’- i.e. people travelling who would otherwise have never travelled on the same route by any means.

A market price is the only yardstick which allocates resources according to the valuation a customer places. In the absence of market price, it becomes impossible to judge customer valuation.

Result: on busy stops, there was an average waiting time period of half an hour just to get a ticket, which was defeating the very purpose of starting this Metro service.

The official numbers

The current ticket is flat Rs20, irrespective of the number of stops in a journey. If the government wishes to only recover the capital costs invested in the new service – Rs45 billion – it will take approximately 28 years at the going rate. However, there is no plan in place for it.

For each ticket, the federal and provincial government will pay Rs50 as subsidy which amounts to Rs2 billion every year. This also means that PMBP will be subsidised by non-users.

An important parameter of price is opportunity cost principle. Before PMBP was inaugurated, a passenger travelling from Pindi, Saddar to Islamabad, Secretariat would pay around Rs50 one way for an unsafe, uncomfortable and disjointed public transport.

The replacement with a reliable, respectable and faster bus service should have been accompanied with a slightly higher price. However, as politicians loath basic economics, they fixed a much lower price of Rs20, thus creating excess demand.

According to official numbers, the average operating cost for a bus trip comes out to be around Rs9,100. The average revenue for the same trip earned by the Authority is Rs2,600,  recording a loss of Rs6,500 on every trip.

This route witnesses around 1,000 such trips every day. It means that the daily revenue is not sufficient to make up for the variable expenses. This is what we call ‘shut-down condition’.

At this rate, any going concern would prefer closing down operations instead of sustaining losses.

The Metro bus tariff also defies a common practice around the world – “pay as you go”, whereas the Metro service is built on flat pricing.

A passenger traveling from Centaurus Towers (the anti-commerce bias got the name changed to PIMS) to Secretariat should pay less than the customer travelling from Secretariat to Saddar. However, because we are all followers of cross-subsidy idea, we end up charging everyone the same.

In other words, short distance travellers pay for long-distance travellers. This incentivises passengers to travel longer for just maximising their joy ride and keeping real customers out of the bay.

In short, Metro bus service undertakes to solve one of the most pressing problems of our cities – absence of reliable and good quality public transport.

In that, it doles out welfare instead of following a fiscally responsible and economically viable approach. The federal and provincial governments thus have set a bad model of solving a real problem and have ended up creating one more white elephant, painted in red!

the writer is founder and executive director of PRIME Institute, an independent think tank based in Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th,  2015.




Man Filed For Marriage License Under New Law, But Not To Marry Another Man

A Montana man has taken the opportunity to file for a marriage license under the newly created rights from the Supreme Court, but it’s not to marry another man.

Billings resident Nathan Collier was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which created the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states, so he decided he wanted to take the opportunity to apply for a polygamous marriage license, according to TheBlaze. But this isn’t a prank, and he’s not trying to make a statement. No, he says he’s going to push the issue just as far as he’s able to.

It Begins: Man filed For Marriage License Under New Law, But Not For Another Man

In fact, Collier said that he’s prepared to file a lawsuit should the state, which doesn’t allow polygamous marriages under the law, deny him a license. Remember that slippery slope we warned about?

“It’s about marriage equality,” Nathan Collier told reporters in Montana on Wednesday, using the term supporters of same-sex marriage prefer when advocating for their cause, theWashington Times reported. “You can’t have this without polygamy.”

Well, Collier, 46, was denied a license on Tuesday, but when he informed the clerks at the Yellowstone County Courthouse that he’s prepared to sue if they don’t accommodate him, they changed their tune and said they would talk to the county attorney to see what they had to say, despite the fact polygamous marriage is illegal in the state. Granted, Collier is already “married” to two women; however, only one is legal. His second marriage was done through a religious ceremony, but isn’t recognized by the state.


“We just want to add legal legitimacy to an already happy, functional, strong, loving family,” said Collier.

Now, the County Chief Civil Litigator made an extremely telling comment when asked about Collier’s request, and even though he didn’t admit it directly, Kevin Gillen let us know that polygamous marriages will be legal before too long.

“I think he deserves an answer,” Gillen said, but added that his review is finding that “the law simply doesn’t provide for that yet.”


Now, it seems to me as if we attempted to warn that perversions of marriage wouldn’t stop with homosexuals, but to be honest, I didn’t think it would happen this quickly. However, under the language that was used for the majority opinion in the court, and with what Gillen had to say, albeit indirectly, it seems to me that if Collier sues, he’ll get his marriage license, since SCOTUS said that “personal choices” are protected under the Due Process Clause in the 14thAmendment.

So, the question now becomes, what’s next? How far do the protections go under the ruling? At what point do we draw a line, and if we’re going to draw that line, why wouldn’t it apply to same-sex couples as well? Points to ponder as we watch the institution of marriage get shredded before our eyes.

‘Gay’ couple face trial for raping at least 5 of their 9 adopted sons…

( Courtesy of Glastonbury Police Department / January 4, 2013 ) George Harasz, left, and Douglas Wirth, after their November 2011 arrests.


(HARTFORD COURANT) A judge on Friday allowed two Glastonbury men, accused two years ago of sexually assaulting two of their nine adopted boys, to withdraw their no-contest pleas and take their cases to trial.

The unusual action came during what was to be a sentencing hearing for George Harasz and Douglas Wirth, who entered pleas in January to one felony count each of risk of injury to a minor. They agreed to suspended prison sentences. The only issue for Friday’s hearing was to be whether each would be required to register as sex offenders.

But a new allegation of sexual assault against Harasz by one of the victims, contained in a pre-sentence investigation of Harasz, helped scrap the plea agreement. The case was further clouded Friday by disclosure in court of new allegations of abuse by three other of the nine children. No new criminal charges have been filed. Continue reading via the Hartford Courant…

NASA Confirms possibility of sun rising from the West


UK residents of Coastal area at ‘high risk’ of deadly asteroid tsunami, scientists warn

Britain is at “very high risk” of an asteroid tsunami that could kill hundreds of thousands of people living near the coastline, scientists have warned.

Reuters / NASA / JPL-Caltech / Handout

Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed software capable of predicting where asteroids are likely to fall.

Scientists found that although Britain is unlikely to be hit directly by an asteroid, it is at risk of deadly waves caused by an asteroid impact in the Atlantic or North Sea.

The announcement coincides with World Asteroid Day, an event co-founded by Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Dr Brian May to raise awareness about the importance of monitoring space rocks.

Experts are currently aware of 500 asteroids in the solar system with the potential to strike Earth. While a total of 13,000 have been discovered and logged, there are thought to be a million asteroids in the solar system.

PhD student Clemens Rumpf has developed a software program called ARMOR, which calculates the risk of asteroids hitting Earth and their likely site of impact.

Britain was found to be at high risk of an asteroid tsunami because it is an island with lots of coastline.

Image by the University of Southampton

Image by the University of Southampton

We can now calculate where they could impact and the damage that would be caused so that we could get evacuation plans in order,” Rumpf said.

When an asteroid strikes, one of the biggest problems is a tsunami. Britain is an island with lots of coastline, and lots of people living there, so it is a risk,” he added.

Scientists hope the new software could be used by organizations like the United Nations to prepare for potential asteroid impacts.

A map depicting asteroid danger spots shows a high risk zone running through Europe, encompassing Spain, France, Germany, Scandinavia and Western Russia.

The data factors in population levels, making southeast Britain one of the most at-risk areas on the map.

The United States is largely risk-free, except for Florida and Louisiana, while Eastern Australia is particularly high risk.

Hugh Lewis, senior lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southampton, said: “It’s very easy to be flippant because of the Hollywood effect but it is a real risk. When you look at global vulnerability Britain is at very high risk. You might think that is odd because we are a very small country but we have a high population density on the coastline so that means we are vulnerable to an impact in the Atlantic Ocean.

Small asteroids are hitting the Earth all the time, and even if we don’t [get] anything large, we are still likely to have tens of thousands of people dying in the next 85 years. It has a similar death toll to other natural disasters.

Lewis added: “This new software not only allows us to see where an impact is likely to happen but we also simulate what might happen if we tried to deflect it, such as by using a spacecraft to give it a slow push in space.”

The last major asteroid to strike Earth was in 1908, when a space rock hit Siberia with the energy of 1,000 atomic bombs.

Due to the sparseness of the area nobody was hurt, despite 80 million trees being felled over an area of 830 square miles.

Researchers estimate if the asteroid had struck London it is likely to have killed everyone within the M25 motorway that rings the capital.

source :

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