Archive for January, 2009

‘Taliban Zindabad!’

 

The writing is a slogan in Urdu which reads in English as"Long Live Daawat-e-Tableegh, Long Live Taliban"

The writing is a slogan in Urdu which reads in English as; "Long Live Daawat-e-Tableegh, Long Live Taliban"

 

I still remember the day when, about a year ago, I met a guy in the university who was from North Waziristan. Hearing that he is form tribal areas; I just couldn’t stop myself asking him to sit with me for a while. Probably, it was the first time I was meeting anyone from the tribal areas.

I just wanted to ask many questions that I never planned to ask from him or from anyone. But considering the meeting an opportunity, I just uttered the questions to him.

I don’t remember exactly from where did I start but one important thing was definitely discussed. I asked him,”Who are Taliban?” He said,”We don’t know them and in fact we don’t even support them.” His answer was really astonishing to me and I uttered,”…but as the people are showed; you fight against the government and you fire at your own people.” He looked as if he wanted to explain me something. I tried my best to understand what he was trying to say and here is what he told me or what I got…

(more…)

Changing Lahore

Imagine Lahore only ten years ago: It was a different city; socially cohesive, closely knit. Young children could go visiting neighbors or to nearby shopping centers to get groceries and other things but not now. People then knew each other personally and had strong social bounds; hence courtesies for each other.

Things started changing with an exponential increase in urbanization. Large number of outsiders started moving in Lahore to live and or work. Now even the immediate neighbors do not know each other and people act like total strangers. Garish housing societies have come up on all the open spaces inside the city and Lahore has expanded much beyond what used to be municipal boundaries. The crime rate has grown with mush faster speed than the city.

What are the apparent causes? Many experts say that crimes are a result of disintegrating familial and dwindling community values that are contributing in turning young people into violent criminals.

Due to the growing demand for educated workforce and skilled labor, an employment base that used to provide jobs for those without a school certificate has shrunk considerably. This situation has resulted in a general lack of hope. “If one does not have skills, training, and when socio economic situation looks desperate, does that young man really have hope? I think that ties into the anger,” says a sociologist Dr. Muhammad Anwar, “This anger seem to be translating in to crimes, petty in the beginning that leads to more heinous ones at later stages.” This is the reasons that the criminals mostly are in their mid teens to mid-20’s.

One finds unskilled workers sitting in a linear fashion with their tools — mountains of paint brushes, piles of colour scheme cards, number of empty paint cans, digging paraphernalia and or hammers of different kind (who said unskilled labour) — along any city roads and squares waiting for a day’s job. Thy all come from suburbs to earn their livings. What options do they have when they do not get the job for the day and they have to go back home to family that is to b fed, is the question. They not only lose hope but may get frustrated that may lead them to resort to unfair means, what ever is possible for them.

Similarly, the army of maids and home servants who come from nearby villages and towns when dazzled by urban glamour are incited to commit to petty crimes and thefts.

Not only unskilled and uneducated segment, even degree holders find it difficult to get their first job after graduation because traditionally the job market in slow economy of Pakistan has always been tight. Which is why one reads reports of crimes (from purse and mobile phone snatching to car lifting to burglaries and murders) being committed by people from effluent class and living in posh localities of Lahore? Though generally, the poorer neighborhoods are considered to be the hubs for frequent criminal happenings. Let me hasten to add, this does not imply that there are no crimes in posh localities like Defense Society, or Gulberg or the criminals living in these localities can not commit crime around Railway Station or Badami Bagh Bus Terminal or Lakshmi or Bhatti gate.

Besides hopelessness, crimes are attributed to greed, to an evil nature, to poor parenting, to television, to movies, to the Internet, to whatever seems to be popular and not in accord with our old societal value system. These and many other are the reasons that we find crime rate rising on an alarming rate.

Crime statistics, like any other officially reported data, cannot be considered reliable. In the past decade, Lahore has been awash with guns. Empirical evidences tell that Kalashnikov and other automatic weapons have become ubiquitous in Lahore, city called cultural capital of Pakistan. This fact makes the crime quick and fast, much faster than law enforcing agencies to track.

Criminality extends into all levels of society and it cannot be restricted to the largely undefined boundaries of Lahore. Given the fast and efficient communication means (roads network, mobile phones, more transport), it has been observed that criminals sometime come from suburbs, make their day and go back uncaught. Those who study crime debate say, “Criminals may be from anywhere but all crime is local, of course, and each city has its underlying causes.”

Analyzing crime is an absorbing exercise. It throws up new facets of crime and new ideas on how to cope with them. The real tragedy, however, is that there is hardly a national debate on crime, like the one seen in the developed world; where the crime are more. “Unless crime hits hard personally, I am not concerned,” is the worst attitude that is exhibited some time.

The only long term solution to put an end to crimes and make our society more civilized is to end hopelessness. How to create hope in the people and tolerance in our society are the real issues that need to be addressed. And this can happen when every one is conscious and does what ever is possible.

The solution is not with police or any other law enforcing agencies. “The problem is much deeper and the solution has to be long term. Combating crime firmly and honestly is one thing. Provision of education, heath and other social securities, fair play in practices and procedure are some other starting points. Collectively, we should act responsibly and are some factors to start if we have to combat crime,” Dr. Pirzada Inam Karim.

Our Friendly Neighborhood Superman

 

A policeman removing a rickshaw out of the way

A policeman removing a rickshaw out of the way

Image Source: Daily Times

Remembering the one’s we lost in the line of duty

IMG

And we still remember you – In picture – a women paying tribute to the policemen died in Suicide Bomb attack at GPO Lahore in 2008. I’m glad we have a small memorial now at the location.

Related posts:
In The Line of Duty
Suicide Bomb Attack@GPO, Lahore

Image Courtesy: Daily Express

4 blasts@Mall Road and one@Ferozpur Road

During last two hours, Lahore experienced four blasts near Alflah building on Mall Road and the recent, fifth blast is just heard near Tamaseel Theatre on Ferozpur Road. Investigations are going on and most of blasts are considered a result of “crackers” as they were not so powerful. Media is airing live footage, playing a vital role to inform public.
I find so much rage against these terrorist activities, even if it is for harassment by antisocial elements. It is happening right after first ten days of month of Muharram, when security measures seemed bit relaxed. I request LMB readers to pray for peace and serenity, that is all we can do right away (yeah, feeling helpless).

Lahore from the sky, Part II

Jehangir's Tomb (with Asaf Jah's tomb in the forefront)

Jehangir's Tomb (with Asaf Jah's tomb in the forefront)


Click here for Part II of my air safari over Lahore.

A Ferrari in Lahore!?

Recently, I saw a Ferrari in Lahore. Can anyone guess where this photo was taken?

While on the subject of cars, I took this photo of a very patriotic Mercedes near Model Town

Pakistan Zindabad

Pakistan Zindabad

Where Smog Comes From?

Winter in sprawling Lahore spells horror for thousands of residents. Not because of cold but due to the phenomenon of smog. Let your gaze roam over the cityscape while standing on top of the Yadgar-e-Pakistan and one finds how the skyline of the minarets and domes looks dark and sad against the clouds of thick smog.

The fog is triggered by temperature inversion — the formation of a static layer of cooler air close to the ground as the nighttime temperature drops. Normally, air closer to the ground is warmer than the air above it, and therefore rises. Inversions are frequent on winter nights after the ground has cooled down so much that it begins to chill the air closest to it often causing mist to form as water vapor precipitates on dust particles. Normally the morning sun swiftly breaks through the mist and heats the ground, which warms the air above it, breaking the inversion.

The term smog was first used in 1905 to describe the conditions of fog that had soot or smoke in it. In fact the word smog had been coined from a combination of two words fog and smoke. Smog is a mixture of various gases with water vapors and dust. It is also referred to hazy air that causes difficult breathing conditions. A large part of the gases that form smog is produced when fuels are burnt.

Lahore is one of the cities with large number of registered vehicles, and many more coming and going every day from out of the city. Due to the concentration of heavy traffic, emissions of smoke and sculpture dioxide and nitrogen oxides are much greater than they are in adjoining rural areas. Some industrial concerns in and around Lahore also emit heavy amount of haze causing pollutants (mostly fine particles) directly into the atmosphere. Thick clouds of smog form when heat and sunlight react with the gases and fine particles in the air. Metrological Science experts say that air pollution can span broad geographic areas and be transported great distances, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles. Consequently, smog occurs regionally throughout the Punjab sometimes.

Environmentalists attribute the heavy smog in Lahore, increasing in intensity as well as length of the smoggy period every year, to the constantly growing number of polluting vehicles that jam the city\’s roads. Many of the vehicles plying on the city roads are old vintage and have engines that guzzle petrol and diesel, and spew out poisonous fumes. Even heavy vehicle commute most city roads freely. But \”the main threat is obviously cars. It is a case of can we improve air quality fast enough as in the absence of suitable city transport system more and more cars come onto the roads of Lahore,\” says Metrological expert Khan Ghulam Abbas.

\”What Lahore is witnessing every winter since 1987 is the kind of killer smog that used to envelope cities like Los Angeles, London and Mexico City a few decades ago. While awareness about the dangers of pollution has resulted in improved emission standards in advanced countries, in Pakistan, we do not have clean environment concerns,\” Khan adds.

The calm puffs of air from plains does not help in blowing away much of the pollutants for winters and a large part of it remain hung a few hundred feet above the ground in the city. So, most mornings and evenings – especially in December and January – mist or fog turned smog defines the climate of the metropolitan.

Smoke particles trapped in the fog give it a yellow black color and this smog often settles over city for days causing poor visibility — one of the most obvious indicators of pollution in the air. It often occurs as a result of smog that obscures the clarity, color, texture, and form of what people see. Result: The Lahore Airport remains close during long hours of smog disturbing schedule of national and international flights to and from Lahore. Motorway (M 2) has to be closed. Even railway schedule is affected.

The most harmful components of smog are ground-level ozone and fine airborne particles. Ground-level ozone forms when pollutants released from gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles and oil-based solvents react with heat and sunlight. It is harmful to humans, animals, and plants. Not only that, the prime ingredient in smog, can come into the houses and combine with the other household pollutants that emanate from flooring, citrus scents or solvents in air fresheners, floor cleaners, deodorizers and furniture polishes and can enters the lungs. Hint for the health minded is to keep the windows and ventilate while vacuuming. Not to spray chemicals. Even putting on nail polish inside the house adds a bit to the indoor pollution. Avoid air fresheners or scented candles and aggravates.

In winters, this vibrant and living city gets enveloped in smog from early morning and those suffering from lung ailments like asthma and other diseases are the worst sufferers. On many mornings, it fails to dissipate till even 10 AM. Doctors advise people to remain indoors, instead of going out on jogging or exercising out in the open. The last few days have seen hospitals reporting a large inflow of patients, especially children, suffering from lung ailments.

Relatively little has been done to control any type of pollution or to promote environmental protections until now in Pakistan. Today, smoke and sulphur dioxide pollution in cities is much higher than in the past. May be some government puts up a legislation to control pollution emissions. Or we keep getting used to the worsening situation. It is one of the very valid fields of scientific activities and political priorities elsewhere.

Pakistan Palestine Solidarity

Many youngsters from the Pakistan Youth Alliance have started a campaign under the banner of “Pak Palestine Solidarity Movement”. They are holding a Charity drive in Lahore, The PYA office is in Defence, near Masjid Chowk, and they will be putting up booths at the following places:

  • Friday 9th January 2009: 3:00 PM after Jumma Prayers @ Main Market Opposit Jalal Sons.
  • Saturday 10th January 2009: 12:00 Noon – 5:00 PM Regal Chowk, The Mall, Near Masjid-e-Shohada.
  • Saturday 11th January 2009: 06:00 PM – 11:00 PM Main Market, Opposite Jalal Sons.

Besides donations, they are desperately looking for volunteers to man their booths, so if you feel you can spare a couple of hours, do get in touch with them. The collections will go out to help the Palestinian affectees through Muslim Hands. If you are a blogger, you are especially invited to join in and cover these drives on your blog.

You can contact the following for further Information

Maryam Kanwar: 0346-5084265 & 0331-5105916
Ahsan Tariq: 0346-4117787

You can also make direct donations to
Muslim Hands: http://www.muslimhands.org/en/gb/
IFRC: http://www.ifrc.org/

If you are related to the medical profession, the letter pasted below is another opportunity to reach out and volunteer to help the Palestinian victims.

Assalamualaikum.
I’m working with some people from the the ICRC and the Qatar Red Crescent and they’re setting up a field hospital in both Cairo and Gaza. They’re currently recruiting staff for those hospitals. The work in Gaza itself will obviously depend to a large extent on the amount of access possible through Rafah over the next few days and weeks.
There are 2 week to 8 week (or even longer) stints available there now and they’re recruiting able volunteer doctors from anywhere to go. They need anaesthetists, neurosurgeons/cardiac/orthopaedic surgeons, ER docs, ICU docs and nurses, obs/gynae docs, ID docs and public health doctors.

Flights/transport/food/water/cups of tea and shelter will be arranged and provided for by the ICRC and the Qatar Red Crescent.

Even if your specialty is in some other relevant area or your experience is somewhat limited please send in your applications all the same if you’re keen.

For all those interested please send a copy of your CV, with details of your nationality(include a copy of your passport) and the length of your availability to salam.obaidi@gmail.com

Selected volunteers will be contacted in due course.

Jazak Allah

Dr. Osman Dar
SpR Public Health,
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Lahore From the Sky, part I

Greetings!!! As one of the newest writers for LMB (and let me tell everyone what an honor I think it is to write for such a prominent blog), I wanted my first submission to be something about Lahore that everyone could enjoy.

Last summer, I received a very special birthday present: A charter flight over Lahore. I recommend the experience to everyone. Since I managed to take some photos with my camera phone, I decided not to let the experience go to waste and so endeavored to put them on the internet. The result: my first attempt at blogging.

I’ll be posting the remaining two parts of the series soon.

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