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Showing posts with label English Columns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English Columns. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

“Wall of Kindness” in Karachi

“Wall of Kindness” in Karachi

“Wall of Kindness” in Karachi

By Wazir Ali

The economic recession caused by sanctions imposed by Europe on Iran drove people of the country to stand up to embark on an innovative philanthropic work. They used walls as a source of compassion to deal with those harsh waves of hardship. The first wall of kindness was started in the city of Mashhad, where passersby wishing to donate clothing for the needy could hang them on the wall so that the needy could have it from there without being obliged to anyone. This deed of altruism further showed their presence in different cities of Iran.

This Iranian venture came to Pakistan in 2016. People replicated the idea and added different titles to the theme. The revamp dirty walls painted in different localities themed as “Wall of Kindness” by fixing hooks at the wall to hang the cloths for the indigent people.

Karachi, the financial capital as well as more commercialized city of Pakistan, holds highest figures of outdoor advertising vehicles mostly in the crowded areas to entice the ultimate consumers towards products or services. The multinational companies spend a reasonable amount for advertisement to place ads in higher public census areas. In this commercialized city, the empty walls are one of the cheapest advertising sources to appeal and shift the masses towards advertising message.

Along with their commercial usage, these walls are usually used by political and religious forces for running campaigns and detesting other communities. However, these cluttered walls are now being given aesthetic touch to recapitulate the history and culture aimed to promote the message of peace and unity. “I AM KARACHI” deserves excellence in promoting such socio – cultural activities in Karachi as a long wall along with MT Khan road is painted fantastically. Such motif to aware and engage the fragmented society believes to be good to curtail the sectarian slogan. It also limit the wide spread absurd propaganda of religious parties to let down other in order to clinch their higher standing and rightfulness over another.

At the same time, these mundane walls were being used to promote the concept of human charity by hanging warm clothes for the people who don’t have warm stuffs to confront the chilly waves in winter.

The current cold wave of arid climate of Karachi had made soft opening of human charity back in Karachi. Different locations were seen to be filled up with warm clothes. The handicaps and the needy people were approaching there for warm cloths. The Schon Circle located near Clifton Centre is one of those bequeathing places busy to sustain the noble concept in the winter. However, with the fall of winter, these empty walls are now seemed secluded and portray its solo scheme of clothing and less or non-essentiality of other stuffs required to vanquish the acute economic austerity. The campaign once started by Pakistani actor Ahsan Khan appeals for reformation and it will surely requires a solid wake-up call of humanitarian activists to reclaim the notion again of serving humanity to safe the easily accessible noble acts to be vanished . None existence of such stuffs makes the walls an empty slot to eclipse of painting to place a local advertising agencies to place the ads. Most of the walls are now partially painted by the advertisers.

This way of humanistic approach is seems more feasible because transparency has remained the pressing concern about NGOs. Any such type of initiatives need to be promoted and strengthened so that the penniless people could at least have dignified access to such essentialities without getting pained from endless questions of justification to prove their poverty. The idea of sharing and caring is well encouraging; however, it can be shifted into multifaceted human facilitation with an insertion of more generous acts as an extension to these initiatives to help the penurious people who have helplessly stayed around these places due to one or many more obvious reasons.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The loyal people of Gilgit Baltistan

The loyal people of Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan is spread over an area of 27,184 square kilometres with a population of approximately 15 lakhs. Strategically, Gilgit-Baltistan has great importance as it share borders with China on the northwest. While Afghanistan and Tajikistan are connected through the Wakhan corridor and on the south lies Indian Occupied Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan is surrounded by the mountain ranges of Hindu Kush in the west, the Karakoram in the north and northeast and Himalaya in the south. According to the June 3 1947, partition plan, all princely states were free to join one of the dominions; Pakistan or India. It was clarified that while acceding to any dominion they could take into account their geographical location and the wishes of their people.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the people favoured accession to Pakistan, however this was not implemented. On October 25 1947, India sent troops to Kashmir and on October 26 1947, the state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. There was a revolt in Kashmir by Muslims due to the Maharaja’s decision to join India and the Free Kashmir government was established by Sardar Ibrahim, in Poonch. On August 1 1947, the entire Gilgit-Baltistan was handed over to the Maharaja of Kashmir and Brigadier Ghansara Singh was appointed as the governor of Gilgit agency. This decision was contrary to the wishes the local people; as the entire population was pro Pakistan.

There was a whispering campaign for Pakistan in GB and there were rumours that scouts will revolt. According to Major William Brown Commandant of Scouts; a group of scouts gathered in their recreation room and a resolution was passed that the Gilgit agency must accede to Pakistan and that they will never serve under a Dogra governor. In Gilgit, pro Pakistan slogans were in the air, and walls were chalked with statements such as; “Pakistan Zindabad”, Hindustan Murdabad” “Kashmir ka Maharaja Murdabad”. Slogans were even chalked on the governor’s house gate.

Accordingly a coup was staged by the Gilgit Scouts in favour of Pakistan on the night of October 31, 1947. On the morning of November 1, 1947, the governor Brigadier Ghansara Singh surrendered to Gilgiti Scouts. Immediately after liberation, people from the Gilgit asked the government of Pakistan to take control of the agency.

On November 16, 1947, Sardar Muhammad Alam arrived in Gilgit as the political agent and representative of Pakistan. On December 3 1947, a meeting was chaired by the residing prime minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan in Rawalpindi who conveyed that Pakistan fully appreciated the vital importance of Gilgit and it would defend it at all costs against any aggressors.

The brave people of Gilgit-Baltistan were able to liberate their land from Indian forces without any external help. The success was mainly due to their love for Islam and Pakistan. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan celebrate two independence days, first being August 14, the national independence day followed by November 1, when Gilgit-Baltistan was liberated with fervour and zeal.

The issues of GB should not be brushed aside. All that these nationalists want is a constitutional status, and complete merger with Pakistan. Their demand of wanting to be constitutional citizens of Pakistan is not unreasonable, nor is their desire for the fifth province of GB

Recently in a television talk show comments made by Lt. General Amjad Shoaib (retired) and anchor Muhammad Malik fostered anger and regret across GB. The general should have referred to certain individuals from Gilgit-Baltistan; instead of referring to a specific area. People of Gilgit-Baltistan have always contributed to the defence of Pakistan by serving the armed forces of this country. Troops from Gilgit-Baltistan are considered some of the best soldiers in the world, who proved their mettle during the liberation war of Gilgit in 1948, and subsequent wars of 1965, 1971, the Siachen conflict, Kargil and War on Terror.

Lalik Jan is known as the son of Gilgit-Baltistan, who was awarded the “Nishan-e-Haider” for his extraordinary bravery during the Kargil war. In the same talk show, the anchor Muhammad Malik also hinted at the conspiracy of creating an Ismaili state in the north. This is an utter misconception; that is being proliferated by religious extremists. The Ismailis in GB are some of the most tolerant, peaceful, educated and law abiding citizens of Pakistan.

The grandfather of the present Agha Khan played a crucial role in the founding of the “All Indian Muslim League” in 1906, and he was the one who suggested this name and became its first president. The philanthropy of the Agha Khan foundation have benefitted the entire country, including GilgitBaltistan in the fields of education, healthcare, heritage and other sectors irrespective of one’s religious belief.

The Ismailis in GB are some of the most tolerant, peaceful, educated and law abiding citizens of Pakistan

It is unfortunate that falsehood is permitted in a fashion which paves the way for violence. The arrests made last year, due to possession of weapons and anti-state literature — was claimed by the police to be the doing of Indian RAW agents. Hence it is highly defamatory of analysts to accuse them of sedition against Pakistan.

It is important that the rest of Pakistan is aware of the love that people from GB have for Pakistan; it is the patriotism that the rest of the country possesses. In this light, their issues should also not be brushed aside. All that these zealous nationalists want is a constitutional status, and complete merger with Pakistan. Their demand of wanting to be constitutional citizens of Pakistan is not unreasonable, nor is their desire for the fifth province of GB. The people of Gilgit Baltistan are completely loyal to Pakistan and all of them are willing to lay their life for Pakistan. There are no anti-Pakistan sentiments in GilgitBaltistan or a slogan against CPEC. The people of Gilgit Baltistan always say that “we are Pakistanis first, Pakistanis last and always”.

The writer is a retired brigadier and currently commissioner of the Afghan Refugees Organisation, Balochistan

Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2018.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

OPPO F7: Rejoice this festivity with the Best Eid Gift

OPPO F7: Rejoice this festivity with the Best Eid Gift

The festive season is just around the corner and we can’t wait to celebrate this auspicious period with the spirit of love and harmony. Ramadan has always been a pious and important month for Muslims around the globe. During the month, Muslims observe fasting and along with performing other religious obligations, Eid is celebrated by spending time with family members and exchanging gifts. Eid’-ul-Fitr is a day of tremendous joy and unparalleled happiness. If you’re also looking for something special to share with your loved ones this Eid, we have just the solution for you. 

We are living in the fast paced technology world and one can’t really go wrong with selecting a gadget and technological devices as Eid gifts for your close ones. The new, awe-inspiring OPPO F7 is the perfect choice if you want to live, create and capture the beauty of this blessed season. Celebrate this month of illuminated skies and endless blessings with the OPPO F7.

OPPO joins the celebrations of Ramadan with a brand new and heartwarming TVC. The TVC portrays how the spirit of Ramadan illuminates our hearts with love, kindness, and brotherhood. Using emotional storytelling to connect with the target market, the TVC is based on a simple concept but captures attention with its great emotional appeal. Paired with impeccable music and visually enticing production value, this one by OPPO is a real winner. 

OPPO is delighted to enrich this Ramadan by giving its fans a golden chance to win all new OPPO F7 by simply sharing new TVC and tag at least 10 friends and family members you want to spend this Eid and win the OPPO F7. Remember to add the #BestGiftThisEid hashtag. The winner will be announced through a lucky draw on Eid. Moreover, OPPO is all set to launch its new F7 youth next month with exquisite features and 128 GB RAM. So here is a chance to win F7 youth and enjoy Eidi before Eid. 

Things to know about New OPPO F7
The OPPO F7 features a high-resolution 25MP front camera with real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) sensor. It has second-generation AI Beauty 2.0 technology that pushes the envelope on selfie photography even further. The F7 comes with an improved 2280 x 1080 resolution, 6.23-inch FHD+ Super Full Screen gives a much more colorful, vivid and immersive visual experience. The OPPO F7 runs on the latest 64-bit 4GB Octa-core processor, with a much refined operating system. It comes in three different colors, Solar Red and Moonlight Silver, and special Diamond Black edition for the 64GB and 4GB RAM variant.

The special edition 128GB with 6GB RAM model comes in Solar Red and Diamond Black priced at PKR 49,899 using a unique glass body that shimmers like gemstones, reflecting different colors with each glance from the user.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Meet your favorite celebrities on the grand unveiling ceremony of OPPO F7

Meet your favorite celebrities on the grand unveiling ceremony of OPPO F7

Selfie expert and leader OPPO is all set to unveil its 25MP AI featured Smartphone in Pakistan on the 20th of April 2018 in Lahore. 

OPPO has already won over countless hearts with its ever-evolving features that stand out amongst other Smartphone brands. Now, the brand is ready to change the rules of the game yet again with second-generation AI Beauty 2.0. It features a 25 MP front camera with real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology. Now you can effortlessly capture the real you with the OPPO F7. 

We are anxiously waiting to get our hand on this masterpiece by OPPO, and if you are like us, then we are sure you are just as restless. Besides the phone, which alone is reason enough for supreme excitement, there is something else lined up for the mega launch of OPPO F7. Can you guess what it could be?  

OPPO is providing you an opportunity to meet your favorite celebrity on the grand launch ceremony of OPPO F7 this month. Goes without saying, this will be your chance to get that memorable selfie moment with your favorite celebrity, meeting them in person and getting a chance to interact with them. Want to know which bright stars will be gracing the event? Below is the list of celebrities you’ll get to meet at the OPPO F7 launch:

Imran Abbas
Muneeb Butt
Aiman khan
Hina Altaf 
Iqra Aziz
Ramsha Khan
Alyzeh Gabol
Sarfraz Ahmed (Captain of Pakistan Cricket Team)

All you have to do is follow the celebrity pages on their respective social Media pages and tag 3 friends in the comments of the post below along with the hashtags #YouandI #OPPOF7 and #F7IsComing.

What do all of these celebrities have in common? All of them have a strong social media following. And since this era is all about photos and videos, selfies have quickly become a staple on celebrity Instagram and Twitter accounts over the past couple of years, whether they are travelling to exotic places or behind the shoot of their upcoming project. These self-taken photographs flood every social media platforms, and both male and female celebrities just can’t get enough of posting their selfies for the world to gawk over. Whether you love or hate the selfie, it’s just something you can’t escape and that’s the reason all these celebrities love the new OPPO F7’s incredible Selfie camera. 

The exquisite Al-powered front camera is the main selling point of the Smartphone which can recognize the subject based on gender, age, skin tone and skin type and thus, enhance their features accordingly.. A phone which complements your personality should never be missed. 

With so much star power around, this event promises to be glittering affair and a teeny bit overwhelming for us fawning fans. Be sure to meet your favorite celebrity at your favorite Smartphone brand launch ceremony. And if you can’t make it, then don’t worry, not all hope is lost. Keep watching this space for exciting updates and dazzling photos. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Things That Rise Up To the Occasion

Things That Rise Up To the Occasion

Things That Rise Up To the Occasion

In this age of technology, some things have become so common that we have stopped appreciating them anymore. Gadgets that were a sheer luxury back in the day are an ordinary part of our everyday lives today. 

We need to appreciate these things more and realize the fact that life without them today is beyond conception! We are in debt of certain innovations, that daily rise up to the occasion, yet we don’t respect them anymore. Here are a few of such innovations.

So you probably travel in a car or a motorbike every day! But have you have ever thought about how life would be without this transportation? Imagine walking everywhere the entire day. From home to work and back, to meet your friends, or to run an errand, you have to walk everywhere! Automobiles rise up to the occasion every day so the next time you use one, make sure to take a moment, and appreciate this great piece of invention!

Cell Phones
It was only a few years back when cell phones were not a thing, but of course, that has all changed. Over 60% of the total population of earth now owns a cell phone. These phones have literally become our partner in life but we never appreciate the ease they have brought along. It isn’t even just about communication! Cell phones today even have exquisite cameras like the one in OPPO F5 so you can capture the best moments of your life and cherish them later! It rises up to every occasion throughout the day, to make your life more convenient! 

Home Appliances
From vacuum cleaners to air conditioners, all home appliances are made to make your life easier! We use them on a routine basis and never could imagine the ease they offer! What if these home appliances disappeared in an instance? You will be doing the home-chores manually, toasting your bread over the oven, and probably going to work without having to properly iron your clothes! These appliances sure rise up to the occasion every single day demanding appreciation for the convenience they bring along into our lives! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pakistan’s Court Sets a Dangerous Precedent - via NYT

Pakistan’s Court Sets a Dangerous Precedent - via NYT

Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday from holding public office for life in a corruption inquiry linked to the Panama Papers, which had named three of his children as owners of offshore companies suspected of laundering money. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s top anticorruption agency, to file corruption cases against Mr. Sharif and his family members based on the evidence collected by the court appointed Joint Investigation Team (J.I.T.).

The verdict came as no surprise. Even though Mr. Sharif was not named in the Panama leaks, and there is no evidence that he abused public office for private gain, the judges disqualified him for hiding assets, and therefore, not being “honest,” an insidious constitutional requirement for being a member of Parliament. They had already made their intentions clear by turning the inquiry into a zealous inquisition into his moral character, with the head of the five member bench disparagingly comparing the Sharif family to the mafia in “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo.

Pakistan’s superior judiciary — made up of the Supreme Court and five High Courts — has increasingly asserted its independence and power in recent years. But it has an abysmally poor record of defending democracy against authoritarian interventions. While there have been a handful of dissenting judges, the Supreme Court has legalized each one of Pakistan’s three successful military coups in 1958, 1977 and 1999 under the “doctrine of necessity.”

This judicial capitulation stems from legal precedents used to legitimize executive actions in the formative decade of Pakistan’s existence, the severe limits placed on judicial autonomy by prolonged military rule in subsequent decades and the judges’ strategic compromises for maintaining a modicum of institutional autonomy.

The empowered judges have become media-courting populists and have typically joined forces with the military by using allegations of corruption against disobedient prime ministers. In June 2012, the Supreme Court, led by Iftikhar Chaudhry, then the chief justice, convicted and disqualified Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party for contempt after he refused to comply with a court order to reopen a dormant corruption inquiry against President Asif Ali Zardari.

In Pakistan, a Probe and a Power Play JULY 14, 2017

Civil-military tensions had intensified after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and Mr. Gilani was put on the chopping block after he openly denounced the military for being “a state within a state,” and for allowing Mr. bin Laden to hide in Pakistan for six years.

The judiciary’s recent assertion of power was born out of the conflict between Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 over judicial investigations into the military’s illegal detention of terror suspects. General Musharraf fired Justice Chaudhry, which incited countrywide protests by lawyers against the military ruler.

Justice Chaudhry was reinstated but fired again, along with 60 other judges, in another contest with the general. It triggered a broader protest movement of lawyers, opposition parties, journalists and rights activists, which hastened the end of General Musharraf’s rule.

Read more on real source: NYT

Friday, February 24, 2017

Do Not Backbite One Another - must read this

Do Not Backbite One Another - must read this

Do Not Backbite One Another

(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on August 28, 1987)

Allah (S.W.T.) talking to the believers said in surat Al-Hujurat, (Verse 12), what can be translated as, 

"Do not backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful." 

This verse clearly forbids backbiting. Thus it is one of the forbidden things that scholars agreed upon, and with this magnificent style of deterrence, Allah (S.W.T.) raises this question, "Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?" Then the verse answers, "You would hate it." All sane human instincts hate eating a dead human flesh and as you all hate this, you might as well also hate falling into backbiting.

But what is backbiting and what are the limits?

The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), himself answered this question to his companions, reported by Imam Muslim, 

"Do you know what is backbiting?" The companions answered, Allah and his prophet know better. The prophet replied, "Mentioning your Muslim brother with what he doesn’t like." 

Then it was said, "Even though it is true?" Then the prophet (S.A.W.) answered, "If it is true then it is backbiting, if not then it is slander." Thus the prophet (S.A.W.) has clarified the meaning of backbiting and did not leave room for people’s interpretation.

He (S.A.W.) gave attention to fighting this immorality among Muslims, thus we see lots of ahadeeth about backbiting, its danger and sins. Some of this is reported by Imam Abu-Daoud, and others in a good hadith that the prophet (S.A.W.) delivered a speech saying, " O Those who believe in the tongue and not in the heart, don’t backbite the Muslims, don’t follow their private mistakes, who ever follows Muslim private mistakes, Allah will follow his private mistakes, and whoever Allah follows his private mistakes, Allah will disgrace him even in his house." In the prophet’s speech, he made backbiting a character of hypocrites and warned that following the Muslim’s private mistakes, their mistakes and misdeeds will result in Allah’s following his private mistakes and disgrace him even if he hides in the middle of his house.

Imams Abu-Daoud and An-Nisai’ reported in a good hadith that after stoning Ma’iz, because of Adultery, one of the companions told another "He, meaning Ma’iz, is sitting same as the dog". Then later He, the prophet (S.A.W.), passed by a stinking dead animal along with those two companions. He (S.A.W.) commanded them, "Bite it," Then they said, "O’ prophet should we bite a dead animal?" Then He answered, "What you have mentioned about your brother is worse than this."

In another authentic hadith reported by Imams Ahmed, Abu-Daoud, and At-Tirmithi that Aisha, the wife of the prophet, mentioned a woman to him and said that she is short. Then the prophet (S.A.W.) said to her, "You have backbitten her."

Also in another hadith reported by Imam Abu-Daoud, that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "When I was ascended up (miraj), I passed by some people with copper nails, scratching their faces and chests. Then I asked Gabriela, who are these people? He then answered, "Those are the ones who eat peoples’ flesh (Backbite people) and accusing people by talking bad about them."

In another authentic hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said in his speech in the day of sacrifice, in Mina, during his pilgrimage journey, "O’ people, your blood, fortune and honor are sacred amongst you, as sacred as your day today in this month, in this place, here I thus informed".

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam, whoever looks at the reality of the Muslims today, see a wide spread of backbiting among them. Unfortunately, many that avoid the forbidden things and practice the compliance fall into backbiting. This is because of ignorance, negligence, or diseases of the heart. Backbiting is the fruit and result of such causes. The most important causes of backbiting are hatred, envy, anger, exploitation, scoffing and sharing bad company in their talk.

Wiping out the sin of backbiting and its cure is pointed out in the end of the same verse we have mentioned in the beginning, what can be translated as, "And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful." Thus (taqwa) piety, fearing Allah, is enough to prevent from sins, backbiting is one of them. (taqwa) Piety pushes the believers to hurry for repentance to Allah and asking for His forgiveness. The conditions of a sincere repentance in this case (backbiting) are: To stop backbiting, regret it and intend not to do it again, this will clear a person from Allah’s right. For complete repentance, the Muslim must ask his brother for forgiveness. He must also increase supplication for him in his absence and to mention good things about him where he has backbitten him before. Imam Mujahid, one of the famous of tabe’en said "That wiping out the backbiting of your brother is to mention good things about him and to supplicate good things for him."

Friday, April 29, 2016

In getting maximum political mileage out of the Panama leaks - Has PTI missed another chance?

In getting maximum political mileage out of the Panama leaks - Has PTI missed another chance?

Lahore - Political observers are watching the current political scene with great interest as the opposition parties are competing with each other to get maximum political mileage out of the Panama leaks. 

While the outcome is not clear as yet but many believe that PTI has missed yet another chance to capitalise on this issue by making a major political blunder. It has launched a general campaign against corruption in Sindh province, diverting focus from the main issue involving prime minister’s family.

The PTI decision has also provided a justification to the government to generalise the issue of Panama leaks through the Terms of Reference (ToRs) formulated for the proposed judicial commission.

Many believe that PTI leadership could not benefit from its previous political campaign on rigging way back in 2014 when it had the opportunity to force the government to bring about electoral reforms to purge the political system of the deep-rooted practice of electoral rigging.

By clinging onto its rigid stance on prime minister’s resignation, the PTI missed a fair chance of forcing the government to agree on a strict legislation to prevent rigging in future elections. This issue is still pending with a parliamentary committee which is yet to evolve consensus on a new set of rules to empower the Election Commission of Pakistan. 

“Voters in Pakistan have never voted for parties who have been campaigning against corruption. Majority of people here vote for candidates who resolve their issues at Thana and Kachehri levels, provide jobs to their children and carry out development work,” Hasan Askari Rizvi remarked when asked to comment on PTI’s corruption campaign. “While the issue of corruption may be used for general mobilisation, but at the same time, political parties need to raise real issues of the people to get their support in elections. In his view, the PTI should have agitated the issue of farmers’ plight because they are not getting the right price of their wheat production with harvesting season at the peak. 

Political analyst Sohail Warriach thinks that if the PTI succeeds in forcing the PML-N to hold early elections, it will be the major beneficiary of the Panama leaks episode. “But it is also true that any political government’s fall also benefits the non-political forces,” he observed. “In a scenario wherein non-political forces take over power from the elected government as a result of opposition’s agitation, the PTI may also be the beneficiary afterwards,” he added.

Mr Warriach saw little chance of the PPP getting any political advantage at this stage because of the corruption charges against its leadership. 

Though the government has announced a judicial commission to probe the allegations, it seems to have tricked the opposition by extending the sphere of inquiry to all politicians. This has made the opposition parties unnerved because some of their key members also have their offshore companies. Resultantly, the divided opposition has got united on one point agenda to force the government to accept the ToRs of their choice.

Hassan Askari Rizvi, a noted analyst, however thinks that PPP was still indecisive whether to side with the PTI or to stand with the government notwithstanding its Punjab leaders’ anti-government statements. They may have their own political compulsions to revive the party in Punjab by forcing the PM to resign, he said. 

“But as far as Mr Zardari is concerned, he has not given up his deal options with the government. He may take any decision any time during the agitation,” he opined.

To add to what Mr Rizvi believes, there is another conspiracy theory circulating in the political circles. It is about dragging the matter far too long till it fizzles out like many previous issues. The conjecture is that PPP leaders along with rest of the Opposition will continue to raise this issue in the media till consensus is achieved on the ToRs. The proposed judicial commission will then prolong the investigations and finally come up with recommendations with no clear directions to the government. People have already digested the outcomes of many previous inquiry commissions, the most recent being the commissions on memo gate and Abbottabad.

As the things stand at the moment, the government seems disinclined to changing the ToRs as per demands of the opposition parties. But Ishaq Dar’s recent statement shows that government may show some flexibility on it. It is also yet to be seen if the Chief Justice of Pakistan accepts government’s request to form a judicial commission whose jurisdiction to investigate is also questionable. Pakistan has not signed any agreement with the tax heaven countries to seek any information from them regarding the offshore companies. A recent briefing to Senate Standing Committee by Deputy Governor of State Bank should also be an eye opener. He has quoted local laws which allow individuals from Pakistan to take considerable amount of money out of the country with prior permission of the State Bank.

Besides, Protection of Economic Reforms Act, 1992 applies no restrictions on Pakistanis to shift their money to other countries.

Published in The Nation newspaper on 29-Apr-2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

China’s New Silk Road: What’s in it for #Gilgit-Baltistan? -  By Fida Karim

China’s New Silk Road: What’s in it for #Gilgit-Baltistan? - By Fida Karim

2,000 KM long PCEC would shorten the route for China's energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime.

In the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, there have been some historical events and transformational incidents that have had far-reaching impacts on the socio-economic development of Gilgit-Baltistan. These include war of independence against Dogra Raj in 1947, advent of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in 1946, abolishment of State Subject Rule and principalities by introducing the regular civil administrative structure in GB in 1974 and construction of mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) in 1978. Similarly in 1994, the PPP led federal government introduced Legal Framework Order giving GB limited authority over local affairs through an elected body. In 2009, the PPP led federal government promulgated an empowerment order that gave the region its distinct identity as Gilgit-Baltistan with a Governor and Chief Minister, making it seems like Pakistan’s fifth province.

Before 1978 Gilgit-Baltistan was cut off from the rest of the world and Pakistan due to harsh terrain and lack of accessible roads. Similarly, before abolishment of State Subject Rule by Z.A Bhutto and advent of AKDN in GB, all the socio-economic indicators including health and educational attainments and civic amenities were not accessible to all the GBian but selected few like Mirs and Wazirs in Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat and the hill states of Hunza and Nagar. The first three primary schools in the Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan) were established by the Political Agent in as early as1893 in Gilgit, Astore and Gupis. Until the year 1940s, the government was the sole provider of formal education in the Northern Areas that too was meant only to selected families. In 1946, the first 17 Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Schools were established by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) that can be cited as the first community intervention in the field of education in these areas. Before these DJ Schools there happens to be only one school under the name of Government Primary School in Karimabad Hunza which was established in 1912.

Now that when the Pakistan and People Republic of China have principally agreed and started work on China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a planned $46-billion network of roads, railways and energy projects linking Pakistan's deep-sea Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China's far-western Xinjiang region, it can easily infer that this package of projects will have transformational and game changing impacts on the Gilgit-Baltistan as it is going through this picturesque and geo-politically important region of Pakistan by opening new vistas of opportunities in regional trade and investment, micro enterprises development with special focus on transportation,  tourism, energy conservation and service sector.

As can be seen in the given map above, PCEC would shorten the route for China's energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime. This multi-purpose and multi-billion strategic interventions by Chines Government will also play a critical role in restoring the regional power balance that foreign policy experts say has tilted in favour of India after President Barack Obama’s trip to New Delhi.

It is befitting to note it here that in September 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed reviving the ancient trade routes connecting China, Central Asia and Europe. In the backdrop of this the control of Gwadar Port was given to China and an agreement was signed with China Overseas Ports Holding Co on May 16, 2013, to transfer operational rights from the Port Authority of Singapore.

China also considers opening the ports to Afghanistan and India once social stability can be ensured. After all, openness is the foundation of boosting trade. Similarly to become a transportation hub and China’s core area on the economic belt, the government has decided to develop three main corridors through southern, central and northern Xinjiang, which connects China with Russia, Europe and Pakistan. Work is also due to begin soon on the long-planned China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. The region, which borders eight countries, also plans to open three new land ports to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia. While on our side, 26 sites for establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been identified in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan for potential investor along the China-Pak Corridor.

26 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been identified in rout to PCEC
Irrespective of rout alignment in other provinces of Pakistan, all the routes of CPEC will be going through GB via Khunjarab pass to China. Isn't it an irony that Pakistan is continuously exploiting our region's resources without giving us any place in the decision-making process at Federal level? We, the people of GB, are not party to any of the 51 accords signed between Pak and China. GB being a UN recognized disputed region deserves a better deal and a concrete legal and constitutional safeguard against the corporations and the governments involved. It is expected that our pleas will not fall on deaf ears and that our reservations will be addressed at the earliest under the already formed Sartaj Aziz Commission on GB.

Not taking the GB region's people into confidence, and not ensuring the protection of their rights and interests will prove to be detrimental for the feasibility and viability of this important project. As you well know, GB is where the "bottle-neck", so to say, is located on this corridor. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the bottle-neck doesn't cripple the potential of this corridor.

Before embarking on the CPEC project, it is imperative to ensure social and political liberties in Gilgit-Baltistan through constitutional measures and institutional rearrangements. Implementation of the CPEC without required political and legal guarantees makes the region vulnerable to exploitation by big businesses and apathetic decision-making bodies. If Pakistan continues with its ambiguous policy of keeping Gilgit-Baltistan in political limbo, it will ultimately harm its own interests.
Emerging Gawadar Deep Sea Port that will connect Pakistan via CPEC with Oil reach Middle East & Land-lock Central Asia.
PML-N has a majority in GBLA and Federal Government. It should understand that if the impending storm in GB is ignored further and political victimization of right activist like Baba Jan, a serious political movement may take birth that will not only disturb the peace in this highly sensitive area but will also compromise CPEC projects thereby putting at risk the dreams of a prosperous Pakistan. It will indeed be an epic tragedy, if the people of GB, having endured years of political shortchanging and disempowerment, finally lose their confidence in democratic solutions.

As Pakistan and China proceed with the project, an unintended, but vital, consequence could be the potential transformation in the character of Pakistani state itself. At present, security overshadows the development agenda. As China gains more leverage in the country’s decision-making structures, the development goals are likely to receive more traction within Pakistan’s civil and military establishment. The economy-centric agenda of political elites, supported by China, could, in the medium to long run, improve the civil-military imbalance.

The writer is working as a Manager-Monitoring, Evaluation & Research in social sector. He is interested in youth-centric issues, international development & political economy. He can be reach on his Blog or Facebook. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chitral and back in a jiffy

Chitral and back in a jiffy

by Salma Rashid - Courtesy The News

Arriving in #Chitral with a missing bag and roads cut off. Yet, managing to escape the demonic spell of rain just in time

It was the week before the end of the month of fasting when PIA told me there were no seats on the Chitral flight until August 19. I said fine, I’ll take one on the following day. They said, sorry. There had been a mistake and there were actually no seats until September 26.

Back in September 2010, I needed to fly to Chitral 10 days after eid. I was told I could not until six weeks later. I knew this was a lie: it was the end of summer, there were no tourists headed to Chitral and there was no way planes could be flying full. I requested my friend Khalid Shameem Wynne’s help. I got the in and out seat ‘on the Ministry of Defence quota’ and flew.

In the plane I counted eight adults and two children. And I had been told there were no planes! That was the time when the government was trying to shut down PIA in order to make a private airline fly.

So this time around with Khalid having long since retired, I asked another friend who had spent his life serving PIA. On Monday I told him how desperate I was to get to Chitral not for some fun and frolic in the mountains, but to do a job. On Tuesday I was given a PNR and told to get my ticket for the next day, Wednesday!

At Islamabad airport as I read, I saw from the corner of my eye a gentleman approaching me. He came up and said, “We’ve met on one of your travels.”

Sure enough we had met. It was none other than Siraj ul Mulk, ex-Piffer and Army Aviation who for many years also flew for PIA. When he retired from the airline, he came home to Chitral to set up Hindu Kush Heights, a first-class hotel (5-star, I think). Sitting high on a hill north of town, the hotel overlooks the airport and the rest of the valley all the way to Lowari Pass in the south and a good way off to the north. It is a truly Shangri La sort of setting.

We chatted a bit and then Siraj asked me to come meet the family. He was travelling with a couple of grandchildren, one daughter and two sons-in-law. One was Gahtan Vahidy who I knew from a few years ago; the other was Shah Kublai Alam whose father was a general I had served under at Kharian.

Being ex-PIA, Siraj knew everyone worthy of being known in the airline and he said the weather over Lowari was fine and we were going to fly. We did, albeit an hour late.

Upon arrival at Chitral I found my bag missing. And I was not alone. There were a dozen other travellers whose baggage failed to turn up. The PIA man took down our details and said the stuff would arrive the day after. That was patent rubbish because there was no flight the next day. The man was simply lying through his rotten teeth.

My problem was that I was in Chitral for just two days, due to fly out to Peshawar on Friday when the plane was supposed to bring in my bag. I had no idea how I would get my bag off and on the plane then. I knew there would be some sort of kerfuffle in that process.

Taking a taxi into town I checked in at the PTDC Motel and purchased the necessary tools for the morrow’s ablutions, namely, a shaving razor, comb and a tooth brush. Then I set to getting in touch with Islamuddin, the markhor horn ring maker who spoke no language other than his native Khowar. And I am shamefully ignorant of Khowar. And what a tortured meeting it was on the next day.

Later in the afternoon, Gahtan called to say I had been invited to dinner at Hindu Kush Heights and that he was coming to get me. That sounded very fine for I have had the good fortune of partaking of Ghazala and Siraj’s very generous hospitality a couple of times before as well. When he arrived, Gahtan said I should collect my stuff because I had been ordered by Siraj to stay at Hindu Kush Heights.

I balked. This was a paid trip and my bills were to be reimbursed, but I did not want to seem to be taking advantage of my sponsor. Gahtan would have none of it, however. Khalid, the PTDC man, was very kind not to charge me for the few hours I had spent there.

I had heard stories of how a group of people were taking advantage of Major Langlands and had machinated for the ousting of Carey Schofield from the school that is now named after the major. Now, Siraj filled me in on the finer details and I felt sorry that an effort begun with faith and sincerity should go this way. Incidentally, the school was originally named Sayurj (Falcon in Khowar) Public School and had only in the past decade or so taken on Langlands’ name when he was the principal.

In 2013, Schofield replaced Langlands when the latter finally retired at age 95. She did extremely well giving the school new direction, but when she rightly expelled some faculty members for conduct unbecoming, there began an invidious campaign against her. This year when Schofield went home for vacations, the government refused to renew her visa. It is alleged that the KP Chief Minister as well as the Minister for Interior both being Aitchison alumni, where Langlands taught, were co-opted into the conspiracy largely because of their ignorance of the real issues.

Carey Schofield was denied her visa and Major Langlands long past the best years of his life is stumbling about.

As we sat outside in the lovely garden of the hotel, the sky was rent apart by sheets of lightning. I had turned in when the rain came down. Easy at first, it soon turned into a torrent. In all my years of inclement weather in the mountains, I have never ever seen it coming down in such sheets. In the high country, it does not rain, it only drizzles. It is the persistence of the fall that turns the streams into spate.

From the balcony of my room overlooking the valley, I watched the rain teeming down and wondered what it would be like in the morning. At 7am, there was no transport to be had into town and I walked. From the bridge across one stream I looked down at what was not flowing water, but mud. Dark, almost black, mud came down the stream in ugly surges. It seemed somewhere someone was periodically removing some blockage to let the mud surge as it did. I asked a local man and he said this particular stream always flowed like this after the rains.

The next stream I crossed was a flood of somewhat lighter coloured mud. But mud it was. These two and countless more of their kind flowing into the roiling Yarkhun River on my left had turned it the colour of graphite. Also, it was flowing much higher than the evening before.

By the time I was done in Chitral and returned to the hotel, word was coming in from all around about roads being cut off. Amjad Noorani and his son Ali visiting from the States and looking forward to some good hill walking could not go to Garam Chashma because a bridge had been damaged. Ditto for the Kalasha valleys in the south and the road north to Buni and Mastuj.

Siraj confirmed that he too had never seen it coming down so hard in Chitral and was deeply concerned, but we all thought this was all that could go wrong. I told Siraj of the flows of mud I had seen in the streams and he said it was because the hills had all been denuded of forest. Without trees to anchor the soil, erosion had set in in earnest. Despite his exhortations to common people about reforestation there was simply no effort to that end, he said.

The day was bright with fleecy cumulus drifting across the blue sky. Later that day, the clouds began to build up a bit. However, Siraj said if we had a thundery afternoon, it was likely to clear up during the night to permit the plane to land on the morrow. Again we all sat chatting on the lawn watching the lightning tear the sky to bits when all of a sudden at exactly 7pm, it opened up. Everyone grabbed their chairs to haul them into the shade and that was all we were able to do. It poured down in buckets again. And it continued for a good five hours.

But the morning dawned clear with no clouds to be seen above the Lowari heights. Siraj called someone in PIA and told me the captain that day was Azhar Khan, a gutsy flier, and there was every chance that he would come through even a light cloud covering on Lowari. But Siraj was tense. The turbine that supplied his establishment with electricity had been flooded by the flood in the stream running the generator.

Even before I could leave for the airport, we heard that two consecutive nights of rains had cut off Chitral from the rest of the country. That is, roads going both south and north were washed out, bridges lost. Amjad and his son Ali were stuck.

I was worried sick that the plane wouldn’t come and I would have to take the long, bone-jarring road trip over the Lowari. Siraj, with many hours of experience of flying in and out of his native Chitral, looked out across the valley and said the Pass was clear of clouds and the plane would come.

As he drove me to the airport on his way into town, Siraj paused at the shed housing the generator. They had taken out the switchboard all covered with dark muck and were raking out mounds of mud from the interior. I was surprised such a tiny room could be stuffed with so much of it. The power plant was clearly out of action for a couple of days at least. And the worst thing was that the hotel was expecting about 20 guests that day.

The plane was an hour late. But I got out to Peshawar all right. And here’s why I got out to Peshawar and not to Islamabad. The plane flies Islamabad-Chitral-Peshawar-Chitral-Islamabad. Now once the plane gets into Chitral, only the very worst kind of weather will keep it there. It has to get out. So, if you want out, you bloody well get out to Peshawar.

If you don’t, it is known that the flight from Peshawar back to Chitral en route Islamabad not having a sufficiently large manifest is scrapped. PIA tells you they cannot fly to Chitral because of poor weather and take the plane back to Islamabad. In reality it is simply too much trouble for too few passengers. And if you thought you were smart waiting to be flown out of Chitral direct to Islamabad, you are done in. The better thing therefore is to get out to Peshawar.

I got out just in time because the demonic spell of rain begun on Wednesday July 15 refused to stop. It rained every day and it rained hard for 10 consecutive days. Chitral was devastated. Gahtan tells me there is no estimate but it is said anywhere between 300 to 800 houses have been swept away, much of the private system of water channels for irrigation and drinking is lost. While the government will soon move in to repair the infrastructure, I fear it will obstruct NGOs from doing their work for the people.

After the 2010 rainstorms we were told that the monsoon has moved west. If it there runs into a westerly, it turns into a demonic force. We have seen that happening and watched it unleash its power year after year. In our mad careen down the tube of environmental perdition we have done so much damage that Nature is now biting back. For years powerful oil cartels and ignorant, uncultured Arab oil producers teamed up to prevent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to halt global warming. All they wanted was their petro-dollars.

Now they can eat their petro-dollars while for us it is payback time.

PS. I was fortunate my wife was in Islamabad during this period. She offered to go to the airport to retrieve my bag. I did not expect PIA to be so good, but when she called and put me through to this man I said to him, “This woman is my unlawfully wedded wife with whom I have lived in sin for the past 32 years. If you give her my explosive-laden bag due to explode in 15 minutes, I promise not to prosecute you.”

There was a moment of silence. Then the man burst out laughing. Five minutes later, Shabnam was out of the airport with my bag!

Courtesy: The News

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To #Chitral and onward to Kailash… a trip worth making again and again

To #Chitral and onward to Kailash… a trip worth making again and again

Tales from the Hindu Kush by Omar Mukhtar Khan

To Chitral and onward to Kailash… a trip worth making again and again

So this summer, it was time to head north, again. As it was a family trip, there was some tedious planning which was ought to fail in the end. We reached Islamabad via Motorway, hoping to take the first flight to Chitral — but flights to Chitral are as reliable as the London weather. So, after missing the flight for two consecutive days, we finally decided to take the high road to Chitral.

Happy to be on the road, we took the Motorway to Peshawar and after passing through Mardan, crossed the mountainous Malakand pass. We left the road to Swat, and entered Lower Dir, after crossing river Swat at Chakdara. Driving along the scenic Panjkora river, we reached Timergarha, the headquarters of Lower Dir in about five hours from Islamabad.

Timergarha is a scenic town on the banks of Panjkora river and is a preferred spot for a stay over if you are enroute Chitral. We took a short midway break at the scenic Dir Scouts mess, overlooking the valley and river, before it was time to leave for Chitral. A friendly Colonel Nasr of Dir Scouts assured us that we should feel relaxed while travelling through Dir as it is trouble free now as compared to before.

We started for Chitral in the late afternoon and were amazed by the scenery all around. By the time we reached Lowari Tunnel in Upper Dir, it had closed down and we had to cross the Lowari Pass by first ascending the Lowari Top and then descending the Chitral Valley. Sounds simple — except, this was a steep spiral ascent and took around two hours to ascend and descend. It was freezing cold at the top with absolutely no views as it was in the middle of the night. Once the Lowari Tunnel is complete and is open round the season, life would become much easy both for locals and tourists — but the magic of one of the most beautiful mountain passes shall be lost forever!

Throughout the way we were stopped by scouts or police and our identities were checked, at times through digital satellite-linked gadgets. I was indeed impressed by the dutifulness of officials in the middle of night. It was probably due to the Taliban menace in the area as well as the proximity to Afghan border.

We were in two vehicles, and the vehicle in front was being driven by a very experienced Pathan driver, who was perhaps an aspirant for a lead role in the movie Fast and Furious. He made driving easy for me, for I followed the two red brake lights of the vehicle in front and, tried to match its speed, without caring for the frequent small bumps.

We reached Chitral after an eight-hour long journey from Timergarha and took our place at the well maintained Chitral Scouts Mess.

It had been a long day and the good food and comfortable rooms were all we needed.

Chitral Scouts Mess.

Next day, we woke up late and had a hearty breakfast at the late 19th century Scouts Mess. We were indeed impressed by the delicate dinner bell, circa 1938, and names of officers long gone away. I have seen some books on the traditions of these paramilitary forces like Khyber Rifles but I wonder if anything has been written on the history of scouts, a mix of British officers and local tribes that together saved the day for the Crown long ago.

Visiting Chitral and not going to Kailash was simply incomprehensible. I was told it was fine to drive on one’s own to Bamboorat which is the main valley in Kailash. After crossing the historic Ayun village, we were on a jeep track with mountains on one side and deep gorge with a raging stream on the other. At times, we had to cross vehicles from other side and there were very few places where a crossover was possible so a lot of reversing and adjusting needed to take place along the way. I cursed myself for accepting the advice from the locals to drive myself to Bamboorat. The government should license experienced local drivers for this route as such a decision shall not only prevent any unnecessary risks but also boost local economy. It takes around three hours to reach Bamboorat from Chitral.

We pitched in the Chitral Scouts Mess in Bamboorat. The mess was tastefully decorated and beautifully located along the raging stream surrounded by lush green mountains. We hired a local guide who then took us inside the traditional Kailash village. We visited the central community place and walked through the narrow but clean streets and got our postcard photographs with local Kailash children.

The road to Kailash.

Kailash are indeed beautiful people and are very peaceful and welcoming. Our guide told us that the indigenous population is now only around 3000 and a lot of conversions are taking place in the area.
Besides the village, a visit to centuries’ old Kailash graveyard is also recommended, where Kailash used to bury their dear ones by leaving them in wooden boxes. There are numerous such wooden boxes lying around in the graveyard, some even showing decaying bones.

There is also an unfortunate guest in the Kailash graveyard by the name of Jordi Magraner!
Jordi was a Spanish researcher who lived in Kailash for 15 years trying to track the mythical snowman or ‘Yeti’ and during his research he travelled to neighbouring Nuristan province in Afghanistan. He was apparently stabbed to death by one of his own Afghan guide in August 2002 and is buried in Kailash.

The Graveyard.

We drove back to Chitral thinking about Yeti, Jordi, Kafirs of Kailash and their reported links to Alexander the Great.

While in Chitral, one must visit Garam Chashma and enjoy bath in sulphur springs besides visiting the Markhor sheep breeding sites in the Chitral Wildlife Park. An overnight visit to historical Mastuj or Yarkhun valley is also highly recommended.

Chitral has few good options to stay, including the historic Chitral Scouts Mess and PTDC Motel, however, if you are willing to cough some more money, Hindu Kush Heights, a five star boutique hotel, is well recommended.

I have enough reasons to go back to Chitral to stand on the Lowari Top in broad day light and peep into Afghanistan or spend a night in Kailash and Mastuj listening to the roaring mountain streams.

So good bye Chitral till we meet again!

Courtesy:  The News

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