Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Bartan Live – Dishes from the Kitchen Protesting on Streets

Did you witnessed any dishes (Bartan or برتن) wandering on the streets of Lahore yesterday? Whether it’s a Yes or No, it is an interesting promotional campaign by Unilever for their product Vim. The idea behind the campaign seems to be like dishes are protesting against grease. The campaign is actually an online Facebook based campaign where they claim to act like a News Channel featuring the news of much abused dishes that resides in our kitchen. The link to the Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/BartanLive.

Bartan Live Protest

The target audience seems to be females, especially housewives. I am not sure if they are running this campaign only on Facebook or if it’s also in main stream media. But if it’s only on Facebook, I doubt the real impact of this.

Moon Market shaken by two bomb blasts

Two bomb blasts have targeted people at the congested Moon Market in Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Town area this evening. So far more than 30 people including women and children have lost their lives with 100+ injured. A lot of shops and other buildings caught fire when the two explosions occurred in car parks of two banks with an interval of 30 seconds.

Moon Market is usually a very busy place, especially, in the evenings; the time when this unfortunate incident took place. The market is popular for ladies clothes, jewelery and was being frequented by thousands of women, children and families during the current wedding season. Police officials as well as the Lahore Commissioner had declared these as suicide attacks while forensic experts are busy carrying out further investigation. Officials now have claimed that remote controlled bombs, instead of suicide bombers, were used to create havoc.

According to witnesses and media reports, citizens have flocked to the nearby Sheikh Zayed and Jinnah Hospitals to donate blood and inquire about their loved ones.

Today was another sad day when the common man suffered consequences of a war that is not going anywhere. Our leadership seems to have no clue about how to take everyone into confidence when their own ministers travel in bomb proof vehicles while citizens become victims of terrorism right on the streets of our cities.

I remember how the PML (N) politicians including the Sharifs condemned and blamed Salman Taseer for poor security when the Sri Lankan team was attacked. Now, they are in power themselves, and have no one else to blame things on. Should we expect mass resignations at least now? Or do they have a better explanation?

BBC News Coverage: BBC News

Dawn: Dawn News

Fed up with LESCO!-Are you?

For those not in Lahore, Pakistan today–something special happened–it rained. Correction, it rained like cats and dogs today.  We loved it–as it was a welcome change from the oh-so-muggy weather we have been dealing with.  Raindrops splashed down with comet-like intensity–washing away every particle of summer dust that had settled on the city’s greenery.

However, the prolonged loadshedding schedule and additional outages ensured that Lahoris came  back down to earth.

Lets take for example the community I reside in–where on average we experience ‘schedule loadshedding’ for 10 hours a day. This translates into not having electricity in our homes about every hour or so–throughout the day–without consideration for weekdays or weekends.

With such a situation, all our basic electrical appliances have either died or been sent to the local repairman. List includes the washing machine, refrigerator, microwave, so and so forth. This is ridiculous, to say the least.

In the wake of this major rainfall today in the city, our local trusty LESCO bunch added another hour of loadshedding. Yes, ADDED!  When we called to ask whether this was due to a fault in the local grid network, a rather disgruntled LESCO employee said that an hour had been officially added to the schedule–and that we will probably face another increase in our monthly electricity bills–as well!  When we expressed our disapproval, he said that the higher-ups are the ones making the call and that the location he went home to often did not get electricity for 8 straight hours!

Navigating our way through the LESCO complaints directory, we got through another LESCO employee–this time a bit higher up in the pecking order.  According to LESCO employee number two, the higher ups believe that there are not any complaints and that people are okay with the current situation of power supply (wow that is an ironic phrase–’power supply’). 

Umm, Lahoris, are we OK with what is going on? Are we OK with our hard earned money going down the drain every month–when we pay for a service that we barely recieve?  Are we OK with spending hours listening to whirring generators/ups ?

I doubt that.  But what I think the problem is that somehow, the complaints are not getting through. Is there not enough media coverage? Possibly. Is there not enough public outcry? No, people are making their point.

 I know this sentiment is not new, nor is the situation unfamiliar to those residing in Pakistan–but the point being, something must be done.

My recommendation:

Call the SDOs, the XENs  responsible for the electricity supply in your neighborhood. Here is the LESCO website link

Keep tab of the scheduled loadshedding–everytime unscheduled loadshedding takes place, try to lodge a formal written complaint.

Get the neighbors involved–have them do the same.

Communicate your plight, your problem, your discomfort with the current electricity loadshedding schedule. Write an email, a letter to the editor, or to a member of the provincial assembly.  I am sure there are those of you who have family members relying on vital life support machines, or even breathing aids such as nebulizers–all which are run by electricity.

If you have more ideas, please share with us in the comments section.

Remember, this an essential service that you are paying for and that you deserve customer service.

Blogging is Like Building a Home

Blogging is like building a home. You start putting things togather (working hard) and ultimately end up having a nice place. No?

{Via}

IDPs? Not our headache!

In the present time of a National crisis, a strange issue has arose to haunt the IDPs of Swat and other areas affected by the ongoing military operation against the militants. The brotherly governments of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh have banned the entry of IDPs into their respective territories amidst fears of social unrest and related security woes. Punjab government alternatively is assisting the displaced only by providing medical and food supplies to the camps at places including Mardan and has been verbally barring IDPs from their province.

Sindh government, on the other hand, has sternly taken action by stranding thousands of men, women and children from Swat at Sindh-Punjab border, Kashmore. The decision has been taken by the PPP government in Sindh and is supported by its ally, the MQM. The main argument given is the fear of the Taliban disguised as IDPs entering into Karachi and other parts of the province; eventually creating a situation there.

There are parties who are in favor of this decision and do not want terror-struck people from the Northern parts of the country to de-stabilize their social fabric. And then there are others who feel such discriminatory behavior towards the victims is not appropriate and that all Pakistanis should be free to move to any part of the country.

The question is; will it be possible for our national government to adequately manage, feed, and treat more than 2 million people at make-shift camps with conditions no worthy of human occupation? And for how long will it be able to keep these millions away from desperately joining the ranks of forces against the government and the state of Pakistan, especially when they are even being shunned by everyone including other provincial governments??

LUMS Students protest killing of their fellow

Early morning on April 20, at about 4:00 am, a group of three drunk men, driving in ecstasy through empty lanes of DHA Lahore, lost control of their Land Cruiser and crashed into a car on the other side of the road after knocking down a lamp-post and tumbling over the road divider. The incident happened at Club Chowk near H-Block Market and resulted in the sad demise of Waheeb Alam, an undergraduate student of 2010 batch at LUMS (Innalillah-e-wa-inna-ilaihe-rajioon). Waheeb and his two friends had been out driving their Cuore to have an early morning breakfast when a speeding four-wheeler in good speed slammed into their unfortunate vehicle.

Police controlling the protest

Police controlling the protest

Waheeb sccumbled to injuries, dying on the spot, while both of his friends were injured of whom one was in a serious condition. One of the accomplices driving the Cruiser fled the scene while the other two were held and later arrested by the Police. Considering the fact that the perpetrators had a very influential background, immediate steps in collection of evidence and registration of an initial FIR were delayed unnecessarily by the Police authorities. This led to a protest demonstration by hundreds of LUMS students who blocked the one-way road at Club Chowk to demand immediate filing of the FIR and securing original evidence without tempering.

Students praying for the deceased soul

Students praying for the deceased soul

Students were later joined by the LUMS Vice Chancellor, Mr. Ahmad Jan Durrani, Dean Suleman Dawood School of Business, Mr. Shaukat Brah and several other university faculty members. Negotiations with the authorities continued for about six hours during which students ignored continued requests by the Police officials to end the sit-in and move back to university campus until their demands were fulfilled.

A few important demand points included:

- An assurance by the Police that evidence should not be tempered or distorted

- Official blood sample reports of the accused be produced and shared with the students as soon as possible

- The third accomplice should be arrested within 24 hours of the incident

As the wait for blood sample reports prolonged, officials informed the protestors that the reports will be produced within two weeks time. Infuriated, the group of students peacefully moved from Club Chowk to the main Masjid Chowk blocking one-way lane in front of the masjid.

Sit-in continues at the Masjid Chowk, DHA

Sit-in continues at the Masjid Chowk, DHA

Later intervention of the higher authorities and visit of the PML (N) MNA from the constituency Khawaja Saad Rafiq paved way for the peaceful dispersing of the protesting crowd. The assurances made by Mr. Rafiq included a resolve to bring justice to the family of the deceased soul as soon as possible in the form of arrest of the third man, delivery of blood sample reports within an hour (at 5:00 pm) and transparency and urgency in the whole process.

PML (N) MNA, Khawaja Saad Rafiq at the spot

PML (N) MNA, Khawaja Saad Rafiq at the spot

Overall, students of this institution made sure to stand by Waheeb’s family in their hour of grief as they peacefully campaigned and protested to get the responsible party duly charged and arrested.

We pray for our fellow Waheeb Alam’s deceased soul (May Allah grant him peace and salvation), his family and for the speedy recovery of his injured friends. Please join us in condemning use of influence and power by those who cause innocent deaths and then easily escape from the grips of law.

How we are Losing our Cultural Identity

Yesterday, I went through an appeal for donations in Dawn by Hassan Zaidi, the founder of KaraFilm. Mr. Zaidi has been instrumental in bringing international spotlight and global taste to Karachi in the form of Pakistan’s largest film festival which grew bigger and better each year until two years back. The security situation in Karachi had resulted in postponement of the event for two consecutive years while 2009 brought with it the worst of economic recessions to blame.

KaraFilm is not alone here; in Lahore, Peer Festivals’ much celebrated World Performing Arts Festival was blatantly sabotaged in 2008 when suspected blasts occurred at the venue of the event.

But the question is, is the security situation or availability of corporate sponsorships to be blamed alone? Isn’t our love for arts, culture, literature and our own aesthetic identity fading away. What was the last time you went out alone, or with your friends or family to an art exhibition, a lok virsa show or to any of the Alhamra concerts on ethnic music?

If we look around our immediate surroundings, and closely observe our collective pshyche, it would not be worng to say that we are rapidly loosing the artistic thought, the softer brain and the very essence of cultural identity. Today, the only entertainment considered entertainment is a Bollywood movie screening (at cinema or at home), a ‘western’ rock concert or in majority of the public’s case; cheap and vulgar theatre.

We may not realize this now, but in due time this realization will come and hit us hard when the damage to our unique cultural identity and the youth’s attitude towards it will be irreparable. And that would happen even without the help of extremist ideologies whether they be from the mullahs or the government.

We’ll lose it and never know when it happened unless our common perspective towards arts and culture changes; unless parents don’t feel undermined of their investment in children who opt for arts; unless we change our attitudes towards everything local and unless we do not support the only catalysts of revival i.e. our local artistes, the lok-musicians, the artisans and the craftsmen of our rich cultural heritage that spans over more than a couple of thousand years as well as welcoming and embracing international flavors in contemporary arts, theatre, music and film.

The state of Punjabi

Farid, do not slander the dust, hate the dust

Nothing is so great as dust

When we are alive it is below our feet

When we are dead it is above us

 

Eat dry bread and drink cold water

Farid, if you see someone else’s buttered bread, do not envy him for it

 

Farid, my clothes are black and my outfit is black

I wonder, I am full of sin

Yet people call me a dervish, a holy man.

 

For the past hour, my little sister has been chanting these verses, first in their original Punjabi, then in the English translation. I typed them as she repeated them over and over again, with her back turned to me. She has a Punjabi exam tomorrow. Just a little glimpse of the educational system in schools in Lahore: Punjabi is compulsory in grades 7 and 8 in Lahore Grammar School, one of the best schools in Pakistan. Ever since our beloved principal learnt that Sindhi is being taught in the schools of Karachi, Punjabi has been a struggling subject in the Gulberg branch of LGS, at least.

 

Hence, Baba Farid, no less, is being chanted by my thirteen year old sibling; who is, put bluntly, a tensed-up workaholic who simply wants the highest score in every exam or test or assignment she’s given.

 

The sad, sad part of it is that she has no idea of what she is saying. I am myself ignorant of many things, and the essence and appreciation of Sufi poetry is one of them. Especially these Punjabi verses. Only a slight enjoyment comes to me from hearing the well-known rhythm of the Punjabi words. But at the moment, I would give anything to have had someone force me to learn Punjabi Sufi poetry and give me an exam on it. But then, what kind of exam and what kind of a joke of Punjabi is being offered to us?

 

One must face it; Punjabi is a joke among us ‘educated’ people. But literally. Punjabi comedy plays are the most that we come up with in appreciation of the language that gave us Waris Shah; Bulle Shah; Baba Farid.

 

At the most, what do we middle class and upper class Lahoris do with this language? Comedy, or for bantering with friends. Or to elicit a ripple of laughter from students in a university audience during a lecture that is almost solely in English.

 

It is a joke for us to study Punjabi; it was for me when I was in grades 7 and 8, and it still is for my sister, and all LGS students who are studying it. But I cannot blame the students. I blame the teachers and the school.

 

While this subject is there in the curriculum, the manner in which it had been handed to these kids is…abysmal, to say the least.

 

Imagine, as I am now remembering: one of my fondest memories of Punjabi class was of us playing catch with the teacher’s backpack. He used to bring in a little deck to play Punjabi songs for us, and when he took it out of the backpack, the latter went all around the class with the teacher chasing after it! It was a mean, mean thing to do, but the question is; why were seventh-graders allowed to do such a thing? Why did we not feel the beauty of the language we were supposed to be studying, and why has the situation not changed in eight years?

 

As of now, my sister comes home on the days when she has Punjabi and gives us all a complete parody of what their teacher said and did that day. Hold on…no, it’s not a parody; it’s a complete reenactment of what happened in Punjabi class that day. This teacher-person stands in front of her class (eight-grade) and recites a Punjabi poem with all the actions and embellishments that drive the kids crazy with mirth. She waves her hands to depict a floating breeze; bow and jumps and makes a fool out of herself, but there’s nothing anyone gets out of it except a good laugh. Little sister mimicks it to perfection; she’s a born actress in that sense.

 

And this same teacher, when the exams are near, goes and tells her students exactly what is coming in the exam paper! I mean, what’s the point of teaching something if you’re not even going to test it in the proper manner? It’s a joke, that’s all it is then, isn’t it? You’re making Bulle Shah and Baba Farid and all the rest of the Punjabi Sufi poets just something to be learnt by heart, three puny couplets at a time, for one exam, and then forgotten! A hundred out of hundred in the Punjabi examination…bravo…

 

They’re eight-graders, for heaven’s sake. I myself started studying Shakespeare seriously before that age. It’s not that Punjabi poets touch on concepts that are only for the fading elites to grapple with, but how many preteens can fully grasp the beauty of Shakespeare? They can’t, but it’s still thrust upon them, and no one dares laugh at the Bard, do they, now? So why laugh at Punjabi poets? Why not respect them? Why not respect what we have been given? What’s wrong?

Big money is more important for Aussies



Shahid Afridi, originally uploaded by Max Loxton.

Pakistan and India have been victims of huge number of bomb attacks this year. Yet…….Australia decided today to go ahead with their upcoming tour of India. Our Australian friends have canceled tour of Pakistan twice this year, earlier a test series and later champions trophy.

Is this not double standard on player safety? Or they simply get more money $$$ by playing in India twice this year as visiting team and in India’s lucrative IPL domestic league. Remember there were bombs going off in Rajasthan, where Shane Warne and rest of the Australians did not mind continue playing, earlier this year.

Conclusion: Money is more important for Australians than bombs or safety. All I say as cricket fan: Shame on you Australia.

It is the Stock Exchange for the time being

Yesterday’s situation in Pakistan’s stock exchanges was no different from each day during the last four months that saw the markets plunge consistently resulting in the main Karachi bourse losing more than 30% of its value.

LSE protests
Protestors burning tires outside the LSE – Daily Times

Angry small investors went on rampage in the Karachi Stock Exchange demanding the closure of market for a few days to curb its slide. Scenes were a bit calmer in Lahore where a crowd protested outside the Lahore Stock Exchange building by burning tires and shouting slogans against the regulators and the big players.

This grim situation follows the failure of the new coalition government in tackling rising food & oil prices, electricity shortages and burgeoning trade & budget deficits triggering mindless inflation and depreciating the Pakistani Rupee to record lows against the US Dollar.

All this is happening when the country is facing a huge security threat on its western borders from the militants and NATO forces as its cities are no better safe from street-crimes, robberies and bomb blasts. Amidst all this lawlessness and chaos, our leaders seem to be least concerned when they are visiting their ‘families’ abroad leaving no person of strength and character in authority behind in the country.

I’ve never beeen pessimistic about my country’s situation but this has to be sorted. People in authority need, I repeat, desperately need to become serious in tackling the country’s problems. People in the north-west are Pakistanis, they need to be heard not bombarded upon; Balochistan deserves its gas-royalties and Sui itself should be supplied with gas; Thar coal should be exploited to create a mega-pool of electricity supply which can provide at least 20,000 MW of electricity by using only 2% of the reserves over the next 20 years.

Forget the judges, forget the president, yes, I mean it! Focus on the core issues, the main problems of the masses and the industrialists alike for poverty can only be elevated if industry flourishes.

Bring peace, bring food, bring prosperity, bring unity – only this is what has elected you guys to the seats of power and the failure in bringing what will pull you down. We have seen the violence at the Stock Exchanges; I’m afraid it’s not that hard to imagine when it comes to the streets soon…

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