Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Hibernation

Hi fellow citizens and Lahoris. I’m finding it difficult to believe how I have managed to let nearly 5 years slip by since my last post!

Hassan and co. – hope you all have been well.

Promise to be back soon with yet another thought provoking piece.

Peace-

Future of Blogging as a Profession in Pakistan

Blogging is a way to express one’s thought. it is probably the best thing happened to human society since the invention of printing press. Blogging takes many forms.

It can be as simple as twitter account, tweeting micro blogs. It can be a facebook update. It can be a free blog on wordpress, blogger or even tumblr. It can be as complex as having your own domain and hosting with a Content Management System.

Some take it even further and have a whole network of websites and blogs. (some folks also include mass SMS as a form of blogging) Whatever form a blog may have, Its basic idea is simple. It is to communicate what is happening around us and our opinion and feelings about it.

Blogging was seen as political/economic threat

Blogging , when it starts reporting on current issues, steps on toes of some existing institutions and professions. These institutions (media houses, newspapers, information cells of governments)  enjoyed either a monopoly or  some degree of control over the information and its presentation to masses. With introduction of Blogging in equation, they no longer enjoy same degree of control over their most important commodity. Information! (more…)

From the bravest nation on Earth!

Scenes of destruction at the Lahore bomb blasts on September 01, 2010 - Source: Reuters

Around 30 people fell victim to another barbaric act of terrorism involving three bomb blasts on a Shia religious procession in Lahore yesterday. It was the day marking shahadat of Hazrat Ali (R.A.); one of the bravest and dearest companions of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). Sadly, the beasts have no sanctity for Ramadan, Hazrat Ali (R.A) or even for simple humanity.

According to media reports, more than a 100 people are injured and being treated at different hospitals of the city. May the souls of the departed rest in eternal peace and may the injured recover as soon as possible – Amen!

Start counting the series and spats of bad news from my country and you won’t be able to reach a limit. Suicide bombings, super-floods, sectarian violence, corrupt politicians, goons in power, mass poverty, electricity crisis, gas shortage, inflation, banishment from the global community… You name it, we have it!

No wonder, we, the people of the Land of the Pure, are the bravest nation in the World!

No more can my heart feel,

as I bow down, before Him I kneel.

The gain of peace in my abode,

the pain of worry on life’s each node.

For it makes no sense of having to bear,

when you have all & everything to fear.

From death to fire; not that I desire,

after all, who likes to sink in such a mire.

My heart cries in silent despair,

for it has had more than its share.

Oh God, give us a sign of hope,

of love, of life and of a will to cope.

Help us raise our spirits again,

save us from insanity; let hope remain.

For it won’t be worth a cry,

if before death, a tear won’t dry…

Prayers,

Hasan Mubarak

TEDxLahore – collective optimism, over and all!

31st of August, 2010 saw TEDxLahore return to the city with a whole new spirit. From the jam-packed Ali Auditorium to a comprehensive list of speakers, the experience was quite enriching and motivating for almost everyone who attended the talks. One can easily say that TEDxLahore’s second year with the theme of ‘Collective Genius’ was far bigger and better than the first one.

Some 380 people were handpicked from more than a thousand applicants and all of them showed up! There were students, educationists, trainers, professionals, bloggers; people belonging to a very diverse and interesting group of individuals. Although some of the enthusiastic crowd was present at the venue two hours in advance of the planned timing, the event kicked off a bit late due to bad weather. The stage design was sleek and impressive, hats off to the people behind it. Same was the case with audio system provided by Bose, which apart from slight glitches worked pretty fine.

Arif Hasan at TEDxLahore - Photo by TEDxLahore

Before the talks, a minute of silence was observed to honor the lives lost in devastating floods, Airblue plane crash as well as to the victims of terrorism. After that, Arif Hasan, a renowned architect, took to the stage and discussed socio-economic changes in urban planning after Partition. He was followed by the duo of Omar Sheikh and Jabran Rafique, both of whom are super-mappers and the guys behind Attabad Lake markings and mapping on Google Mapmaker.

The only short-film filmed at TEDxLahore was titled ‘Building Pakistan’ with a patriotic theme depicted in a very innovative way. You can watch the video here.

Some other notable talks featured:

Ajmal Kamal – who talked about his dream of seeing everything written in Urdu available to everyone through print and electronic media.

Dr. Tariq Rahman – shed some light on how code-switching (multilingual overlapping e.g. Urdish & Urdi) is not exactly a bad thing in literature or everyday conversations.

Saima Zaidi – provided a visual treat by presenting the rich visual culture of Pakistan. References included a poster for Jhuley Laal, product packaging for Rooh Afza, Tibet Talcum Powder and a Mughal miniature depicting the folk love story of Shirin Farhad. She concluded her presentation with a resolve that we are a diverse and inclusive society as evident in our visual culture.

Beena Raza came next with her introduction to Sangan Nagar Institute of Philosophy & Arts. Apart from very lengthy text on slides, it was interesting to hear about another effort to revive our culture.

The show-stopper in the first half, without a doubt, was Noor Zehra’s mesmerizing performance on Sagar Veena. She played the instrument with so much ease yet captivating the whole audience in its magic. For those who are not aware, Noor Zehra happens to be Ali Noor and Ali Hamza’s mother.

Almost all of these speakers kept the audience glued to their seats despite some of the participants occasionally snoozing off due to tiredness or inspirational overdose. Just before the second half started, refreshments were served which included samosas, rolls, ras malai and rabrri milk by Nirala. Participants also got some time to network, talk and discuss ideas with each other.

The first half of the event was interesting but more on the informational side. Real surprise was packed in the second half of the evening during which each speaker was generously applauded by the audience. And yes, there were at least two standing ovations for Dr. Zeeshan Usmani and Mudassir Zia who honestly deserved it.

Dr. Zeeshan Usmani is a full-bright scholar and an associate professor at GIK Institute who has developed a very comprehensive computer simulation model for tracking the effects of shock waves after suicide bombings. He currently has the largest database of suicide bombings in Pakistan, which has helped him develop an intelligent model very useful for pre-emptive measures, calculating human causalities and identifying the perpetrators. His genius and humor-filled presentation style won him accolade by everyone in the auditorium. If there was an award for man of the match, it would have easily been shared by Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia.

Mudassir Zia was the only speaker to conduct his talk in Urdu, our national language, and perhaps the highest on inspirational value as he discussed remarkable achievements of his group of friends. His ideal of ‘first do, dare and then dream’ is very relevant to the current reality of our society where everyone talks big but does nothing. Mudassir and his friends have started a charity school (Ghulam Muhammad Grammar School), arranged patriotic street art competitions and conducted blood donation drives all by themselves without any external help or funding. Every member of their team works in his respective profession and then dedicates personal time and resources to all these noble activities.

In addition to Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia, other speakers included:

Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque – discussed the paradigm of donor projects and production. Being the head of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, he admitted that our development is devoid of creativity and innovation because we give little creative and intellectual space to our youth. He was true is saying that we focus only on hardware (development projects) and do very less about changing the software (mind-set and intellectual skills of the people).

Live on Skype from London, Majid Nawaz discussed the need to develop national consensus to identify our leaders, symbols, alliances and finally a progressive narrative. Relating to different ideologies, Majid mentioned how every idea needs these four elements in order to be effective and strong enough to unite any nation.

Zubair Bhatti – the ex-DCO of Jhang shared his initiative of pre-emptive feedback gathering from common citizens. The idea is being implemented successfully across various districts of the Punjab where senior government officials call individuals to ask if there was any corruption witnessed by them. An automated telephone feedback line is also being started for recording complaints in this regard.

Dr. Asher Hasan – the founder of Naya Jeevan presented his NGO’s work on provision of quality healthcare to the deserving most in our society.

Finally, Dr. Aamir Khan came up with his dream of quality healthcare for all Pakistanis. With an impressive profile of achievements and successes, Dr. Aamir Khan, as the head of IRD, has initiated the use of mobile phone technology for mapping, tracking and curing pneumonia, TB and STDs amongst citizens of major urban areas in Pakistan. He acknowledged the genius behind mobile phones which has helped his system of paperless medical reports and patient data collection in the least developed areas of Pakistan.

Rafay Alam, scheduled to speak about Critical Mass (a campaign to encourage cycling in cities), could not make it from Delhi due to a flight delay but was generously appreciated by everyone present in the audience for his initiative.

Once the talks finished, Asim Fayyaz, Curator TEDxLahore, presented his concluding remarks which thanking everyone including the sponsors. What came later was a total surprise live performance on drums and dhol by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh and his friends.

Adding on to the suggestions given by other fellow bloggers, I would also appreciate the effort put in by everyone from organizers to volunteers. Although, one can say that the talks did not exceed the TED caliber, still, they were pretty decent; some of them quite innovative and even inspiring around the idea of ‘Collective Genius’. Since, TEDx phenomenon has just started with at least three chapters in Lahore alone, one can easily hope that we will see a marked improvement in the quality and inspirational quotient of talks in successive future events.

Hats off and two thumbs up for the organizers, speakers and audience at TEDxLahore!

Favorite sayings from TEDxLahore 2010:

- ‘Chinese curse: May you get what you wish for!’ – Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque
- ‘The only helping hand is at the end of your arm’ – Mudassir Zia
- ‘The problem with problems: solve one, get one free – so we need to keep working’ – Dr.Aamir Khan

Takeaway:

- Lots of positivity, optimism, patriotism and loads of ideas to bring a change for the better
- A goody-bag with TEDxLahore soundtrack, WWF Natura magazine, discount vouchers on books from ‘…the last word’ Qadaffi Stadium and a cute little plant gifted by the Horticulture Society.

TEDxLahore – new ideas swarm L-town!

Amid all the chaos and disillusionment that our country is going through right now, all we can and should do is talk about hope. After all, this is our country and we have to bring things in order on our own by uniting our minds and sharing ideas that can bring change for the good.

TEDxLahore is just about one such opportunity that shows hope for Pakistanis that there still are people who can turn things around for our society, country and the greater world at large by using the power of collective genius. Yes, ‘Collective Genius’ is the theme for this year’s TEDxLahore.

For starters, TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) is a non-profit organization that has provided a platform through their annual conferences, talks and website for sharing ideas that can bring change in this world. Notable speakers at TED talks over the years have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Bill Gates and various notable individuals. In addition to TED talks, the movement encourages independently organized events hosted by colleges, communities and people across the world to share ideas worth spreading in their own context. These events are termed as TEDx.

Into it’s second year, we are glad to have another TEDx event happening right here in Lahore on 31st of July 2010. Being supported by the Planning Commission of Pakistan, TEDxLahore 2010 will provide an opportunity for individuals of the highest caliber to express their views and share their ideas for change.

To give you a tentative idea about things to expect at this year’s TEDxLahore, the list of speakers is as follows:

Arif Hasan - An architect, teacher and social researcher.
Dr. Nadeem ul Haque - Head of the Planning Commission of Pakistan.
Omer Sheikh and Jabran Rafique - Super Mappers (Google MapMaker)
Dr. Zeeshan-ul-Hassan Usmani
- A researcher on the effects of herd behavior on impulse shopping
Ajmal Kamal - Editor of AAJ journal for Urdu literature
Dr. Asher Hasan – Founder and CEO of Naya Jeevan
Saima Zaidi - Author of ‘Mazaar, Bazaar’ – an exhaustive review of Pakistan’s visual culture.
Rafay Alam - A lawyer & environmental activist.
Mudassir Zia - Founder & President of Message Welfare Trust.
Beena Raza and Noor Zehra Kazim - Artists, Sitar players and teachers.
Dr. Aamir Khan - Epidemiologist, founder and Executive Director of IRD since 2004.
Zubair K. Bhatti - Ex-DCO Jhang & The Asia Foundation’s Director of Programs, Pakistan.
Dr. Tariq Rehman
- Professor of Sociolinguistic History & specialist on Language Change.

You can find a detailed profile of all the speakers here, which will be more than enough to increase your excitement & eagerness to be a part of TEDxLahore as a present or virtual audience this year.

Let’s all look forward to what TEDxLahore brings for everyone on 31st of this month. Till then, keep following…

Website: http://www.TEDxLahore.com

Twitter: @TEDxLahore

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TEDxLahore

Live Viewing Parties: (click for more details)

Karachi – T2F

Islamabad – Civil Junction

Den Haag (The Hague) – Pakistan House

Prayers for Moscow

The Associate Press reports yet another act of senseless violence–disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people–this time tragedy has struck Moscow.  Visit here for the details.

What I typed instantly into the Twitter box when I read the news is perhaps the most genuine comment that can be made on the behalf of the citizens of Lahore and indeed, Pakistan.

Marsonearth on Twitter:

Prayers for #Moscow from #Lahore – there are no words that will lessen your grief. http://bit.ly/9Y7Doe

Boom Boom disgrace!!!

In an another embarrassing episode of Pakistan cricket Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi, a veteran of 293 ODIs, was caught tampering the the ball in the last ODI against Australia on Sunday. This is the second time in his career that Afridi is charged with ball tampering, the first being in 2005. What’s even more astonishing is that Afridi seems to justify his horrendous act: “There is no team in the world that doesn’t tamper with the ball. My methods were wrong. I am embarrassed, I shouldn’t have done it. I just wanted to win us a game but this was the wrong way to do it,” he told Geo TV.

 Boom Boom disgrace!!!

 Imagine, what would happen if this guy is made captain of all 3 formats of the game? What kind of example are we setting for our youth? That it’s okay to cheat as long as you can win? The problem with Pakistan cricket is that similar to our politicians, we never held our cricketers accountable for their actions. We need to makes examples out of the Afridis and Akhtars of Pakistan who again and again tarnish the image of their country and then proudly make a comeback to the national side to become heroes once again.  

 I have had enough of these cheats and wish that for once, we can make the right call and shut all doors on them!

Muharram: living under fear of the known

Every year, the occasion of Ashura brings mourning and remembrance for the shuhada of Karbala across the Muslim world. But sadly, in our country, it is almost synonymous with further killing of the innocent souls that marks the end of first ten days of first month of the Islamic New Year. History of sectarian violence in Pakistan is old, and everyone knows what non-state actors or agencies incited hatred between two communities of the faithful to further their own interests in the battlefield called Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

However, the fear of such incidents happening obviously compounds when our country and society is literally at war with extremism and radicalism. The killers did not think how many Shias would be there when Moon Market blast happened in Lahore. Nor did they consider sectarian association of thousands of innocent civilians and security forces killed in our cities, towns and the tribal agencies across the country. In such a state of war, it was a treat for terrorists to get an opportunity of inciting violence, hatred and killing amongst the very people who they have lost support from. It was their good chance of taking revenge against the common Pakistanis for defying their version of beliefs. There are no versions of this religion; Islam is only peace!

And it happened. Two incidents one after another, significant and deadly, in Muzaffarabad and Karachi, caused havoc by killing more than 50 mourners while injuring more than a hundred. Arson attacks in Karachi after yesterday’s suicide attack has led to burning of more than 2,500 shops damaging goods worth 2-3 billion rupees while crippling the country’s economic hub.

Who’s partying and raising toasts as we bleed in heart and soul? Who’s celebrating new year with resolutions to kill as many innocent Pakistanis as possible? Who is making claims of defending a religion that they themselves have drifted so far away from? We know them, don’t we? And we also know, it’s not only them as only the blind could not see who’s benefiting from this war and anarchy in our backyard.

Prayers for the martyred in Karachi and Muzaffarabad… People of Lahore and rest of the country stand by you as you are not alone; we are also bleeding from your loss!

Displaced Priorities

If you ever have had the guts to plan a trip to Switzerland, you will find on many websites that they actually recommend (‘they’ being your average traveler to the place, and not the officials) that you do not rent any vehicle to get around the country. Instead they point to the latest time table of the country’s public transport. I wish such a thing for Lahore. No, not a time table for public transport, but public transport itself.

I have never traveled on a bus, although I did traverse the Mall road for almost a year on the suicidal vans while doing my time at Government College. The vans were knocked up, were filled up till someone fell out through the windows and every once in while you’d get a seat next to a confused pedophile. But one thing good about those vans were that they were on a route that happened to be mine as well. Then I got upgraded to a motorbike and have not used public transport since. Not even a taxi. But there has been a desire to do so, a desire tainted with economic motivations. The desire hit me first when I started making money (while at University) and calculated the total cost of ownership of my then vehicle (a CNG-kitted Suzuki Swift – not a Khyber, a Swift!). I wished for another go at riding the public transport monster but that is when luck ran out; there was no convenient way of getting from my university to my home, other than hop twice between buses and then walk a total of a bit-more-than-one kilometer(s). So I stuck with my car. Besides, possessing a vehicle that can fit more than two individuals during college days was as cool as Fonzie.

But now I keep reading about how bad it is for the environment that the Punjab government is cutting down an estimated 1500 trees (somewhat-official figure), some hundred years old, to widen the 14 kilometer stretch of the Canal road. Environment? What? We have an environment, and no one told me about it?

But folks, seriously. Apologies to all environmentalists and ‘tree huggers’ in here and out there, but the idea of widening the Lahore Canal Road is not a bad one because we will be losing around 6,000 trees (WWF figure). Chopping trees ‘heartlessly’ can be a good thing if it is done for a good cause. But widening the canal road is not exactly a good cause.

“But look at the Lahore Canal,” you say, “the underpasses have really solved the traffic problem!” Are you on crack? Have you ever been on the Canal at rush hour? This underpass is on the left, that one is on the right and cars are all over the place. The Canal road is being widened BECAUSE there is a traffic problem that is only fuelled by the ill-planned underpasses. “But there are too many cars on the road because of them banks,” you say. Right, and there are still more cars out there, and widening the road will not leave ‘room’ for the ones already there, it will invite in more cars to fill in the space. I am sure there is some principle as solid as Archimedes’ to prove this point here. (get it? Solid principle, Archimedes? No? Never mind.)

My problem is this: you are planning to spend a tad more than 3 Billion rupees, and you have two options. Behind door number one is that you spend it on widening the Canal road (forget about the tree chopping for a moment here). You will solve nothing. Interesting.

Behind door number two is the real reason road-widening is not a good idea: public transport. Giving the city of Lahore, that keeps growing in size by the millisecond, some semblance of a public transport system in the form of buses and trains sounds like a brilliant idea, ESPECIALLY when you compare it to the dead-end canal-widening idea.

If you think, or doubt, that widening the canal road will be a good thing to solve the traffic problem, I think one of our very own Metbloggers, Mr. Rafay Alam will be in a much, much better position to answer that. The problem that I see, which is much bigger than environment and planning, is that of displaced priorities. Our job as citizens is to remind our government to do there’s.

So, there you are, 3 billion in hand. One solution is to burn it, and the other is to invest it back. A very tricky answer to this one, I assure you, right?

Are we witnessing end of Pakistan?

Without a doubt Pakistan is witnessing her worst crisis since the Bangladesh debacle. Most major cities are witnessing deadly attacks on a consistent basis and just today close to 100 innocent people lost their lives in Peshawar.

capt.photo_1256753627585-19-0

Where is our beloved country heading? Is the operation in Wazirstan going to solve our problems? I highly doubt. Who is our enemy? Is it the Taliban, India, the US, or we don’t need an enemy as WE are our own worst enemy.

Something has to give up here. For how long this bloodshed could go on? Just for how long? Have we not had enough? This month alone we have lost close to 300 lives!!! Isn’t it about time that we give up the comfort of our homes to do something for our country? But what can we do? At my end other than praying I know I am not doing anything. But prayers alone would not get us there….We need to back up our prayers with actions. Its about time my fellow citizens!

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