Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pakistan's Year 2010: The Other Story

Have you ever wondered if Pakistan is really as one-dimensional a country as stereotyped by the negative torrent of international media coverage that dominated the news headlines in 2010?

Have you ever thought that Pakistanis engage in any pursuits other than as perpetrators or victims of terror that the journalists find the most newsworthy about the world's sixth most populous South Asian nation?

Well, an Indian-American producer Madhlika Sikka on NPR's Talk of the Nation radio did wonder about it when she visited Pakistan this year. In the talk show aired on June 3, 2010, she described the main concerns of young Pakistanis follows:

"I think, that young people are concerned with the same things you'd think young people are concerned with. In fact, when I came home, the immigration officer asked me about Pakistan, and she said, well, what are they thinking about?

And I said, well, I met a lot of young people, and they're thinking about jobs, and they're thinking about the fact that the power goes out regularly, gas costs a fortune. They're really thinking about what their prospects are and the conflict with India, the war on terrorism, isn't at the top of their list."

She summed up her assessment of the current situation in Pakistan in the following words:

"Well, I think that I think that there's no doubt that if you live in a city like Islamabad or Peshawar, certainly where Julie McCarthy was, you know, they live and breathe this tension every day.

But let's take a city like Lahore, where we were just a couple of weeks ago. And last week, there was a huge attack on a mosque in Lahore, 70, 80 people were killed. You can't help but feel that tension, even though you are trying your best to go live your daily life as best you can. And I think that that push and pull is really a struggle.

But one thing I do want to talk about in the, you know, what is our vision of Pakistan, which often is one dimensional because of the way the news coverage drives it.

But, you know, we went to visit a park in the capital, Islamabad, which is just on the outskirts, up in the hills, and we blogged about it, and there are photos on our website. You could have been in suburban Virginia.

There were families, picnics, picnic tables, you know, kids playing, stores selling stuff, music playing. It was actually very revealing, I think for us and for people who saw that posting, because there's a lot that's similar that wouldn't surprise you, let's put it that way."

Along the same lines as NPR's Sikka, let me share with you some of the best kept secrets of Pakistan's other story which would take a lot of effort to discover on your own.

The world media have correctly reported on the deadly blasts caused by the frequent US drone strikes and many suicide bombings in 2010. But Pakistanis have also seen an explosion in arts and literature in the last few years as the nation's middle class has grown rapidly amidst a communications and mass media revolution. A British magazine Granta dedicated an entire issue in 2010 to highlight the softer side of Pakistan.

Granta has highlighted the extraordinary work of many Pakistani artists, poets, writers, painters, photographers and musicians inspired by life in their native land.

For example, the magazine cover carries a picture of a piece of truck art by a prolific truck painter Islam Gull of Bhutta village in Karachi. Gull was born in Peshawar and moved to Karachi 22 years ago. He has been practicing his craft on buses and trucks since the age of 13, and now teaches his unique craft to young apprentices. Commissioned with the assistance of British Council in Karachi, Gull produced two chipboard panels photographed for the magazine cover.

Granta issue has articles, poems, paintings, photographs and frescoes about various aspects of life in Pakistan. It carries work by writers like Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders), Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows), Mohammad Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) who have been making waves in literary circles and winning prizes in London and New York.

In a piece titled "Mangho Pir", Fatima Bhutto highlights the plight of the Sheedi community, a disadvantaged ethnic minority of African origin who live around the shrine of their sufi saint Mangho Pir on the outskirts of Karachi.

In another piece "Pop Idols", Kamila Shamsie traces the history of Pakistani pop music as she experienced it living in Karachi, and explains how the music scene has changed with Pakistan's changing politics.

A piece "Jinnah's Portrait" by New York Times' Jane Perlez describes the wide variety of Quaid-e-Azam's portraits showing him dressed in outfits that give him either "the aura of a religious man" or show him as a "young man with full head of dark hair, an Edwardian white shirt, black jacket and tie, alert dark eyes". Perlez believes the choice of the founding father's potrait hung in the offices of various Pakistani officials and politicians reveals how they see Jinnah's vision for Pakistan.

While Granta's focus on art and literature has produced a fairly good publication depicting multi-dimensional life in Pakistan, there are apects that it has not covered. For example, Pakistan has a growing fashion industry which puts on fashion shows in major cities on a regular basis. The biggest of these is Pakistan Fashion Week held in Karachi in February. Over 30 Pakistani designers - including Sonya Battla, Rizwan Beyg, and Maheen Khan - showed a variety of casual and formal outfits as well as western wear, jackets, and accessories.

There were scores of expos and trade shows put on by various industries, including a book fair in Karachi, attended by about 250,000 people. Publishers from the UK, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia and India also participated in the event.

Karachi's Mohatta Palace Museum hosted an Art exhibition, “The Rising Tide: New Direction in Art From Pakistan,” that included more than 40 canvases, videos, installations, mobiles and sculptures made in the past 20 years. Its curator, the feminist sculptor and painter Naiza Khan, told the New York Times that her aim was to show the coming of age of Pakistani art.

A Pakistani theater group defied the government ban and put on "Burqavanza", a satirical play in which all the actors wear burqa as a metaphor for hypocrisy in the nation. Adam Ellick of the NY Times reported that the play "doesn’t sidestep any of the country’s problems: a creeping radicalization, terrorism, government corruption, and interference by Western nations, especially the United States."

A conference celebrating 31 years of a theater group named Tehrik-i-Niswan (Feminist movement) included presentations, research papers, theatrical performances and a poetry recital just this month.

While it is true that Pakistan faces many serious crises, particularly religious extremism and terrorism, there is much more to see and report about this nation of 180 million people with a large and well-educated urban middle class.

Here's a video titled "I Am Pakistan":

Here's a CNBC Pakistan video on January 2011 events:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Media Revolution

Along Grand Trunk Road in India and Pakistan

Pakistan's Urban Middle Class

Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Karachi Fashion Week

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Karachi Fashion Week Goes Bolder

More Pictures From Karachi Fashion Week 2009

Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised

Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistan's Multi-billion Dollar IT Industry

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

ITU Internet Data

Eleven Days in Karachi

Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

Infrastructure and Real Estate Development in Pakistan

Pakistan's International Rankings

Assessing Pakistan Army Capabilities

Pakistan is not Falling

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom


Rehan said...

Riaz sb: this article is a great treat for the new year eve. Very nice.

Have a very happy new year.

Riaz Haq said...


Thanks and Happy New Year to you, and my very best wishes to all of my readers around the world!


anoop said...


Who would concentrate on Pakistan's "other" story when Governers of Pakistan's largest populated state are killed by the very people intended to protect them?

You are making it look as if its a conspiracy against Pakistan by Indians and prejudiced, but you have to admit that Pakistan's are the main drivers for this kind of negative perception about Pakistan. Nobody else.

Again the blame the other mentality.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "Who would concentrate on Pakistan's "other" story when Governers of Pakistan's largest populated state are killed by the very people intended to protect them?"

The short answer is: People with an open mind who are the target audience for my post.

The long answer is that there is "The Other Story" of Taseer's tragic assassination. It's the fact that Taseer, a prominent Pakistani politician from Pakistan's biggest political party, stood up and spoke out at risk to his own life, and sacrificed his life for what he believed in.

Although such assassinations are not unique to Pakistan, Pakistanis have to take urgent and serious action to prevent their recurrence.

Judging from early reaction, it appears that the silent majority is now speaking out strongly against such intimidation by extremist elements in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

It seems that political momentum is beginning to build to stop the crimes of the right-wing religious terror in Pakistan.

Mufti Muhammad Idris Usmani of Jamia Islamia has issued the following fatwa about the killer of Governor Punjab (Pakistan) Salman Taseer and about those who are praising and justifying his murder.

“In the Name of the Merciful and Compassionate Allah, Dar al-Fatwa. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe; blessings and peace be upon our Master Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and upon his Family, his Companions, his Followers and those who have found the way through him.

I have carefully read the whole issue and also read various news reports and articles related to this (issue). I have also spoken to the jayyad ulema (eminent scholars) in Pakistan and India.

In the light of the available evidence, I state the following:

1. Malik Afzal Qadri has committed gunah-e-azeem (great sin) by killing an innocent soul. By taking law into his own hand, by killing an innocent man, and by bringing disgrace to the name of Islam, Malik Afzal Qadri has created fasad fil arz (mischief on earth) and committed tauheen-e-risalat (blasphemy to the Prophet). Same applies to those who are creating further mischief (fasad) by praising or justifying this heinous crime in the name of Islam. The killer of Salman Taseer is a real blasphemer to Islam and the holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

2. Those individuals and groups including the ignorant ulema, misguided journalists, politicians, lawyers wa deegar (etc), who are celebrating or justifying in any manner this heinous crime must be treated as accomplice in this crime. Those who endorsed a fatwa of Salman Taseer’s murder too must be treated as mufsid fil arz and must be punished according to the Shariah.

3. While the state of Pakistan will pursue a legal case against the killer and his abettors according to their national laws, the following verses from the Quran clearly specify the punishment for Malik Afzal Qadri and his supporters and cheerers.

This is a case of fasad fil arz. The perpetrators of such acts should be punished as provided in Sura Maida of the Quran (Ayah 32 and 33).

32. We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person―unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land― it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our Messengers with clear Signs, yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

33. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.

According to Islamic Shariah, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, any one supporting or praising his act must be executed by law or crucified or their hands and feet cut off from opposite side. Exile is not needed in the present case as the State can exercise Shariah authority on its citizens and subjects.

Those who are praising a killer and a mufsid want to go to Hell of their own accord.

For others, we can only pray for their path of righteousness.

In the light of religious commands, in the light of religious rules known to us, I think that these people should renew their faith and renew their marriages. But no one can remove anyone’s obstinacy. I pray to Allah to enable all Muslims, through His Prophet, pbuh, to be steadfast to His religion, Islam. Ameen!

Muhammad Idris , Mufti, Darul Ifta, Jamia Islamia
29 Muharram-ul-Haram 1432 AH

anoop said...

"Judging from early reaction, it appears that the silent majority is now speaking out strongly against such intimidation by extremist elements in Pakistan."

--> Here, is how WSJ looks at it.

It goes:"Many religious leaders, even those from so-called moderate groups, were angered by Mr. Taseer's support in recent months of a 45-year-old Christian farm worker, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in November for blasphemy for insulting Islam.

"Everybody is in favor of Mumtaz Qadri," said Raghib Hussain Naeemi, a leading cleric in Lahore. "Everybody is thinking that Salmaan Taseer was on the wrong side. He's standing with that person who committed blasphemy."

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, another religious group, said in a statement signed by more than 500 clerics that Mr. Qadri was a "true soldier of Islam" and warned Muslims not to mourn his death.

"It is a warning to all intellectuals and politicians who [want] to change Islamic laws," the statement said.

Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan's main Islamist political parties, also said the assassination was justified. "If the government had removed him from the governorship, there wouldn't have been the need for someone to shoot him," it said in a statement."

"Other segments of society, including talk-show hosts, have also justified Mr. Taseer's murder."

Nothing has changed for the better, Riaz. Here is an editorial from a Newpaper that you had once quoted from.

This editorial criticizes Taseer for hurting the sentiments of the Majority in Pakistan by raking up a "sensitive" issue.

Things are not looking up in this God-forsaken nation.

If the English Dailies are saying this, I shudder to think what kind of filth the Urdu ones are writing!

Riaz Haq said...

I think Salman Taseer was probably as much a man of his convictions as Imran Khan has been, though they disagreed vehemently.

Taseer came from a family of left-wing activists...his father MD Taseer (and mother Christobal, sister of Alys Faiz) was among the leaders of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) which was banned after a 1951 coup attempt called "Rawalpindi Conspiracy".

Gen Akbar Khan, chief of general staff, was arrested along with 14 other army officers for plotting the coup foiled by Gen Ayub Khan. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy, as it became known, was the first attempted coup in Pakistan's history. The arrested conspirators were tried in secret and given lengthy jail sentences."

Pakistan's first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and Salman's father MD Taseer were both assasinated.

General Akbar Khan was soon rehabilitated, becoming an adviser to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Upon coming to power in 1971, Bhutto appointed Akbar Khan to be chief of national security. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who was also convicted in Rawalpindi Conspiracy, continued to publish many works of poetry, and was appointed to the National Council for Arts by the Bhutto government.

Riaz Haq said...

The recent tragic assassination of Gov Salman Taseer has caused many to rethink whether the South Asian Barelvi or Sufi Islam is really more tolerant than Deobandi or Wahabi Islam imported into Pakistan from Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, the followers of Barelvi Islam have not hesitated in supporting blasphemy laws, and they have shamelessly cheered the murder of Salman Taseer who spoke for repeal of such laws.

I also think the Barelvi or Sufi Islam in Pakistan has been hijacked by the feudal-politcal class of makhdooms (Yusuf Raza Gilani, Shah Mahmmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Amin Fahim, etc) to exploit their self-proclaimed lineage from Prophet Mohammad (their so-called Syed status) as a way to maintain their feudal-cum-spiritual power over the poor peasants in Sind and Southern Panjab.

This feudal domination of politics has badly hurt the emergence of ral democracy and any advancement of the poor, illiterate rural folks in Pakistan, and contributed to the growth of religious extremism particularly in rural Punjab.

Charlotte said...

I think your insights are spot-on. I'd love to see the Western media delving more into some of these nuances - I tried but could not convince NYT to go into more detail. But here, the story has launched, it is currently on the homepage:

And there is a blog post on the Times' At War blog:

Please share your feedback on the Times site and share widely.

I appreciate all your help and advice and hope to meet in person again soon.

Riaz Haq said...

According to WikiLeaks leaked cable of August 3, 2009, Rahul "Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group (LeT) among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim community. However, Gandhi warned, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalized Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community".

Now, Times of India is reporting the following:

With the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reportedly set to book a Hindutva leader for involvement in the 2007 Samjhauta train blasts, evidence is mounting about the existence and growth of a saffron terror network in India. Swami Aseemanand has been identified as having played a key role in plotting the attack that killed 68 people, 60 of them Pakistani nationals. The self-styled Abhinav Bharat ideologue's name also figures in 2007's Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts. Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad had earlier arrested Hindutva activists like Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others, including a serving army lieutenant-colonel. It claimed the right-wing group Abhinav Bharat planned the Malegaon blast in 2008. Clearly, saffron extremism has emerged as a serious threat that must be firmly beaten back. This calls for increased surveillance and monitoring of such groups' activities and members, and locating and dismantling terror modules wherever they exist. And those guilty of crimes must be given exemplary punishment.

Read more: Threat to harmony - The Times of India

Riaz Haq said...

Failed state of Pakistan feeding "Shining India"?

Here's a BBC story on India urging Pakistan to resume onion exports:

India is trying to persuade Pakistan to resume exporting onions overland to curb soaring prices.

The matter has been taken up with the government of Pakistan, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.

Pakistan banned overland exports of onions to India on Tuesday with traders saying they feared shortages at home.

Last month, India abolished import taxes on onions after prices nearly tripled in a month.

"We have initiated talks and before not too long, we are hopeful we will find a solution to this, easing pressure within our country for onions," Mr Krishna told a press conference in Delhi.

Pakistan banned exports to India through the land route via the Attari-Wagah border crossing, although the sea route is still open.

Much of the trade, however, is by road and rail which are cheaper and quicker.

India's food inflation has risen for the fifth straight week this week to 18.32% - the highest in more than a year.

The price of onions, a key food staple for Indian families used in almost all dishes, has risen dramatically over the past month.

A kilogram which usually costs 20 rupees went up to 85 rupees ($1.87; £1.20) last month. At present, it is 65 to 70 rupees a kilo.

The rise has been blamed on unusually heavy rains in the bulk-producing western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat and in southern states, as well as on hoarders and speculators.

Discontent over food inflation has been a major headache for the government.

High prices of essential commodities such as onions have previously sparked unrest and helped bring down the national government in 2004.

Riaz Haq said...

An angry hall of fall guys. And unfair arrests, reports

A dangerous prejudice had slipped into the Indian criminal justice system: if there was a blast, a Muslim was behind it. For this, these 32 Muslims had to pay for blasts done by Hindutva extremists. ASHISH KHETAN reports

IN A twist of fate worthy of the literary greats, a chance encounter a month ago between a Muslim boy and a hardline Hindu triggered a change of heart that seems to have unravelled a massive terror conspiracy.

In 2007, Abdul Kaleem, 18, was picked up from his house by the Hyderabad Police in connection with a bomb blast in Mecca Masjid in which nine people had died. Kaleem pleaded his innocence but no one would listen. It was crime enough that Kaleem was a Muslim and the younger brother of Abdul Khaja, who had gone over to Pakistan years earlier and intelligence agencies had inputs that Khaja was working for the ISI. Kaleem’s second brother Abdul Khaddar was at the time employed in the Middle East and Khaja was listed as absconding.

At the time, Kaleem was in the business of selling cell phones and SIM cards while pursuing a course for a medical lab technician. Two bombs had been planted at Mecca Masjid. While the first had exploded, miraculously, the second had not. Since a mobile and a SIM card were also found in the unexploded device, in a leap of faith, the police were now absolutely sure that Kaleem was behind the blast. The facts did not matter, the association was enough. Along with dozens of Muslim boys, Kaleem was tortured and kept in prison for 18 months before he was acquitted.

However, in the interim, his brother Khaja was caught in Sri Lanka by RAWand sent to jail in Hyderabad. In October 2010, the police accused Kaleem of supplying a phone to his brother and arrested him again.

This is when Swami Aseemanand met Kaleem. The unsuspecting boy was kind to the Swami and the two got talking. When the Swami found out that Kaleem had been jailed and tortured for a crime that, in fact, the Swami and his comrades had committed, apparently it had a profound impact on him. Moved by a desire for penance, he sought a confession before a magistrate.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's "The Other Story" on Salman Taseer seen through thye eyes of Shirin Sadeghi as published in The Huffington Post:

Albert Camus's famous novel, The Stranger, was the story of a man who was killed not because of a crime he had committed but because of a steady rise in publicity about his character faults. Little things bothered people about the Stranger -- he didn't cry at his mother's funeral, he had a steady girlfriend he didn't plan to marry. When he became implicated in a crime, the trial became a showcase of all the tiny things he did in his private life that the public didn't approve of or simply didn't understand -- though none of these things were exactly wrong or immoral, in sum and in public, they cost him his life.

Salman Taseer was a Stranger in Pakistan. His millions of dollars, British mother, private relationships, and extravagant Western lifestyle -- though not in themselves crimes nor even shortcomings in character, could not possibly have been more in contrast with the very poor and increasingly religiously extreme population of Pakistan.

In the last few years, more and more of the private details of his life were leaked into the public consciousness, private photos were obtained and published, personal habits were recounted. Here in the U.S., a large number of tributes to him have framed him as a crusader of human rights who died for good but the fact is -- and most Pakistanis will tell you, if they are not in the habit of pandering to Western imagery, that what really killed Salman Taseer was anything but an isolated -- though brave -- act of heroism.

The ugly truth of Pakistan today is not about a battle between do-gooders and those who oppose them. What killed Salman Taseer was the primary and overwhelming disparity in Pakistan -- the one that has steadily fundamentalized that country since the days of the U.S.-imposed religious dictator Zia ul-Haq, through the first Afghan war and now the new Afghan war that is also blatantly being fought in Pakistan. That disparity is one of wealth, of have-nothings and have-everythings.

The great anger in Pakistan against the current President Zardari, his slain wife and their family has very clearly been against the extravagance of their elite Western lives -- the wealth and abundance, their obvious dismissal of not only the tragic and obvious poverty of the country they rule down on, but the values and traditions of its people which they may never have even learned, or simply choose not to respect.

Salman Taseer was also a multimillionaire -- though many people agree he came upon most of his wealth through industry rather than other means. But in a country as poor as Pakistan whose public has for a generation now increasingly embraced religion as the singular means of acquiring any authority or voice against the feudal lords and wealthy elite who are granted government positions from their friends to rule over people, apart from extreme and flamboyant wealth, the other major crime against decency is being out of touch with the public's values.

Those values include religion, and Taseer, a man who reportedly carried a tiny Koran around his neck, nonetheless did not understand that he had no authority to impinge on religious matters. Strangers cannot afford to be activists, even if it is just once.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Taseer's daughter Shahbano published in NY Times today:

"TWENTY-SEVEN. That’s the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday — my brother Shehryar’s 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 p.m., as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father’s voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah."

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an Op Ed by Rabbi Michael Lerner on the shooting of "Jewish Congresswoman Gifford". It's titled "Shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Giffords Is Not Just a "Tragedy"":

When right-wingers create a climate of hate against liberal government, and then individuals act on that hate as they did in blowing up a Federal Building in Oklahoma City and now this premeditated murder of several people (we are still praying for the survival of Congresswoman Giffords) in hate-filled Arizona (where she had been attacked viciously but not physically for her support of health care reform), the state whose racism has made it famous around the world for profiling Mexican immigrants, there is no call to investigate and protect ourselves from these right-wing hate mongers. Similarly, when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by right wing Jews, the right-wing ultra-nationalist community in Israel's West Bank settlers never faced any serious investigation of their role in creating the hateful climate that helped produce the murderer.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an Op Ed by Rabbi Michael Lerner on the shooting of "Jewish Congresswoman Gifford". It's titled "Shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Giffords Is Not Just a "Tragedy"":

When right-wingers create a climate of hate against liberal government, and then individuals act on that hate as they did in blowing up a Federal Building in Oklahoma City and now this premeditated murder of several people (we are still praying for the survival of Congresswoman Giffords) in hate-filled Arizona (where she had been attacked viciously but not physically for her support of health care reform), the state whose racism has made it famous around the world for profiling Mexican immigrants, there is no call to investigate and protect ourselves from these right-wing hate mongers. Similarly, when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by right wing Jews, the right-wing ultra-nationalist community in Israel's West Bank settlers never faced any serious investigation of their role in creating the hateful climate that helped produce the murderer.

And don't underplay the anti-Semitic elements either. According to Ha'aretz newspaper, the killer's website had Hitler's hate book Mein Kampf listed as one of his favorite books! When Jews are targeted, it's rarely "by chance." Right-wing haters particularly hate Jews, since Jews were the most consistent non-African American constituency for the Democratic Party , in 2010 voting 70% for Democrats. If the rest of the country voted like Jews we'd have a liberal Democratic Congress. And this is not lost on the right-wingers. Just listen to the tapes of Nixon and you see how extreme the hatred of Jews is revealed to be by the "moderate" Nixon, and now we have the more extreme elements of the Right coming to power. Jews are, in the minds of these haters, the same as liberals or progressives--maybe even the worst of them. And then, the sexism of the right manifests dramatically in attempting to kill a woman--the perfect symbol of uppity feminists who dare to take power away from the male chauvinists who thought that "their" country was about white male Christian power. You won't hear the media dealing with these dimensions of the reality--but they are central.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Ethan Casey comparing Gov Taseer murder with attempted asasination of Congresswoman Gifford:

SEATTLE, JANUARY 8 – Those of us who are concerned about the fate of Pakistan were still reeling from the January 4 assassination of Punjab governor and liberal newspaper publisher Salmaan Taseer in Islamabad, when we heard about the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. What does one have to do with the other? All too much.

On Friday I responded to a query from a Times of India reporter by calling the Taseer killing “extremely ominous.” I followed that statement of the obvious with this sentence: “An aggressive, self-righteous and over-confident radical element, a feckless and compromised central government, and a brave but besieged liberal class add up to a country in severe crisis.” That’s accurate enough as a description of Pakistan, but Americans who can dish out this sort of thing need to be able to take it too (and I’m not sure I’m so generous as to call my own country’s liberal class “brave”). What kind of society are we willing to allow ourselves to live in? At the very least, it’s high time we Americans knocked off the self-righteousness that permits us to judge Pakistan and took a long, hard look in the mirror.


Those of us who would speak for the real America need to bear in mind, though, that this isn’t cold war-era armchair politics anymore. Are we prepared to show as much physical, moral and political courage as Gabrielle Giffords and Salmaan Taseer did? And the next time we go to Safeway to buy groceries, will we remember to feel compassion for the millions of innocent Pakistanis who put themselves in harm’s way from suicide bombers every time they do the same?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Pakistan's latest economic news in brief supplied by Foundation Securities Research:

The Ministry of Finance has agreed with the proposal of the Tax Reform Co-ordination Group (TRCG) to create a Fiscal Policy Board to be headed by the Finance Minister under the reform plan to exclusively deal with the fiscal policy and taxation issues under the umbrella of the proposed fiscal board. (BR)
The country's trade deficit soared to $8.149 billion in July-December 2010, 18.20 percent up over $6.89 billion for the same period of last year, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS). Official trade figures released by the FBS here on Tuesday showed an increase in exports of 20.63 percent for the same period which analysts say could be largely because of per unit price increase instead of increase in the quantity. (BR)
Remittances sent home by overseas Pakistanis continued to show rising trend as $5,291.41 million was received in the first half of the current fiscal year 2010-11(July-December), showing an increase of $761.23 million, or 16.80 percent, when compared with $4,530.18 million received during the same period of last fiscal year. (BR)
The CPI inflation soared by 15.68 percent in December 2010 over the same period of last year with phenomenal increase in perishable food items, showing a strong trend of increase in prices of food items which may push more people below the poverty line. (BR)
Japan has queued up to help Pakistan to plug in widening budgetary gap by granting it $60 million soft loan in response to Islamabad's call to the friendly countries for financial support to keep current budget deficit at some reasonable level. (BR)
Another round of speculations came to an end on Tuesday when President Asif Ali Zardari issued a notification appointing a PPP stalwart and former Attorney General Sardar Latif Khan Khosa as Governor of Punjab. (BR)
The monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) during the month of December registered a decrease of 0.31 per cent as compared to previous month of current financial year. (DAWN)
The government has decided to put a freeze on electricity tariff for the remaining period of the current fiscal year owing to its inflationary impact on economy and unending loadshedding, according to a senior official. (DAWN)
The Secretary Cabinet Division, Abdur Rauf Chaudhry on Tuesday said 3G services would hopefully be available to the Pakistani mobile users by the end of 2011 — while it was expected that the policy for auction of 3G services licenses would soon be presented to the government and Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for discussion and approval. (DT)
The FBR has started to evaluate alternative proposals to replace the controversial RGST in case the government failed to get it approved from the parliament. (TN)
Despite receiving orders from the Ministry of Petroleum, OGDCL has not replaced one of its directors on board, who also works for a partner company. (TN)
NCCPL shows a net inflow of USD2.18 million.
Crude oil is trading at USD91.1 per barrel.

Anonymous said...

Sitting with Hindians its like Pakistan is about to be evaporated in thin air and patting each other or by themselves for being the expert sage of million years and vedant shaivite which pakistanis are not will show how deprived they are and there life b/c they are vegie deprived and dont believe in reincarnation .

Just watch pakistani T.V. Duniya Ptv Geo Sama Life is 99% usual .Some people dont bother to know if some Salman was killed b/c it never mattered in there life Thse Gov, Foreign Misters And Pakistani Presidents are focus of Hindians . There are two reasons for this

1. it is common to look whats outside your home doubting that you got worst deal than the neighbour Thats why you read books on pakistan pakistani and rest of India never heard of

2. B/c you coming from less starved family of India having money to come to USA have plenty of free time Instead of going to restaurant and blowing 200$ or malls spending as much or any club with the same value membership Yu choose to sit it out at home with your computer Actually its not bad idea i do the same .You think life stand still b/c some high fi families father is no more .Man on the street are as happy or sad as they were before 4111 as they ever will be.Go read Atish And Meherbanos Oxford English Eulogies and gush with crocodile tears As if those who dont publish in NYT or come onNDTV dont suffer when there father dies and only these people are tragedy prince princess

Riaz Haq said...

Is the following a fake cable from Amb. Munter in Islamabad?

The fake cable says: Having been in Pakistan since October, I am forwarding a brief review of my first personal impressions.

1) View about America: Survey after survey has shown that the populace at large has very unfavorably views US government and policy. The perception in the corridors of power is very different. Given their propensities to focus on conspiracy theories most of them have a notion of US influence in Pakistan that far exceeds our real capabilities. Sometimes I feel as the “Governor General” from a bygone past caught in a historic time warp. From the highest office down to midlevel functionaries, perception becomes reality, when it comes to viewing US as the kingmaker. This mostly helps us in stacking the deck of cards in our favor but also works against us at times when diplomacy is seen as failing. The dilemma for our policy is incongruence between our objectives and the popular sentiment of the people in Pakistan. Changing this is not merely a matter of perception and has to be more than a public relations exercise. It will require a significant change in our strategic trajectory.

2) The Social divide: Having served in Iraq I have experienced the divide between the elites and the common citizen, which is quite typical of the Middle East and South Asian countries. In Pakistan however it takes unparalleled heights. My first private party at a key minister’s residence, the opulent lifestyle was in full contrast to the plight of those serving us. White gloved waiters were standing with ashtrays so that the corpulent minister and guests could smoke their Cuban cigars at will, and with utmost disdain flicker the ash at random intervals to be caught by the gloved waiter with unsurpassed skill. Alcohol, which is, otherwise not in public display in this Islamic country was flowing from an open bar. Our hosts were shocked that most of the American guests did not drink. I was taken aback at the presence of so many blond Pakistani women, on inquiring was told by our bemused social secretary about the miracle of peroxide and modern hair coloring which seems to be the fashion statement of the day for well groomed (sic) modern Pakistani women. As we pulled out to leave, the sight of an army of drivers was something to behold, huddled in the frigid night until the wee hours, for the masters to terminate their fracas. Service is legitimate but this smacked of servitude, opprobrium reminiscent of attitudes of European aristocracy and our own experience with slavery.

3) Hypocrisy a new dimension: I was stunned to hear form a very senior political functionary about US interference in the internal affairs of the country. When pointed out that this interference could be curtailed if the government of Pakistan would refuse to take billions of dollars in US aid annually, his response was that monies were for services rendered in the fighting terrorism. Purloin of developmental funds to support the prodigious lifestyle of the ruling elite seems to be the normative. This can be only rationalized as a self-entitled narcissism of a collective of people with a rapacious appetite to loot the country.


Riaz Haq said...

Fake Cable contd:

4) The common man: My contact has been limited but even with limited exposure they continue to amaze me. In abject poverty and mired in the maelstrom of illiteracy they display a dignity and authenticity that is in stark contrast to the capriciousness of the pseudo westernized elites. Hospitable to a fault and honest despite being in the vortex of poverty the common everyday people of Pakistan display great ingenuity to survive against formidable odds, a gristle of the soul, that must come from a past rooted in spiritual life of a different sort.

5) Democracy: In Pakistan democracy has taken a dimension that borders on mockery of true representative government. The elected representatives come almost exclusively for the elite and privileged class. Rather than representing the populace they are more like local regional ‘viceroys’ representing the federal government and their own vested interests in the regions.

Most are in politics not with a sense of public service but more to maximize the opportunity to make money, which they do with total disdain. The mainstream political parties are oligarchies controlled by the founding patriarchs or their heirs. One wonders if this is the model, we seek to perpetuate? Given my background as a history professor I have my druthers.

6) Alchemy of change: The polarization in the society makes significant change likely in the near future but given the deficit of leadership and organization it is not inevitable. This situation is unlikely to be remedied in the short term. If such a leadership were to emerge then conflict between the polarized segments would likely ensue. Under these circumstances we will not be able to count on the military as a stabilizing force. The military though a disciplined and well led, is a egalitarian body with much of its leadership and rank coming from middle, lower middle and poor classes. Their support of any move to perpetuate the rule of the elite will be at their own peril. The current military leadership is unlikely to prop the existing structure if such a conflict was to occur and possibly may even be catalytic toward such change. This is in stark departure form the past.

Pakistan is a fascinating place the contradictions are glaring but the promise is great, ironically what may be good for Pakistan may at least in the short term not be good for furtherance of our policy goals. We need to take a long view and it may be worthwhile to cut our losses, uncouple from the ruling elite and align our self with popular grassroots sentiment in the country. This would change our perception in the short term and when change does come we, for a change, will be on the right side.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a report on Google-YouTube team visit to Pakistan:

Internet connectivity in Pakistan is as low as 10 percent but opportunities for growth are evident, a team of Google and YouTube officials who visited the country early this month said in a blog post.

The main reason of the growth of internet opportunities in the country, according to the team, is low broadband costs which at $13 per month is quite cheap compared to the other parts of the world. Also Smartphone usage is on the rise and there are a growing number of Pakistani developers who are creating mobile applications for sale both in Pakistan and abroad.

Since 60 per cent of Pakistanis use mobile phone and pay an average bill around $3 per month and SMS being the primary means of communication, the team noticed a good opportunity of Internet growth in Pakistan.

Early this month, the team went to Pakistan to explore business and content opportunities, following up on Google’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment to Pakistan and to sponsor and participate in Pakistan’s first International Youth Conference and Festival.

The availability of local Pakistani content online is another reason the team found to make more Pakistanis engaged into internet. For example, the fusion music “Coke Studio”, a music project sponsored by Coke, became popular in YouTube last summer. Since “Coke Studio” brought the pure aroma of popular music culture of Pakistan it gained a special place in the Internet world. It also brought forth the talented Pakistani musicians into light.

“The Pakistani media is young and voracious. It was just eight years ago that the government opened up the airwaves to allow non-state media channels to exist, and in that short time the media has grown to become an important player in the public discourse in Pakistan, despite occasional crackdowns from authorities,” said the blog post.

The team also said dozens of news organizations have begun to use YouTube as a global distribution platform as well, reaching not only Pakistanis online but the diaspora abroad.

Also during the trip the team attended and participated in the International Youth Conference run by an organization called Khudi. Khudi was founded by the dynamic Maajid Nawaz, a former extremist who changed his views towards moderate Islam and has since devoted his life to educating young people on freedom of expression and anti-extremism.

“Pakistan’s future no doubt lies with its youth. An incredible 62% of Pakistanis are under the age of 25. In this way we saw an opportunity for technology to not only foster economic development, but also to break down borders in the region,” said the blog post.

Riaz Haq said...

In addition to significant foreign institutional investments (FII) in Karachi shares last year, the reports of surging remittances by overseas Pakistanis and the nation's growing exports are the only two other pieces of good news amidst an avalance of bad news on the economic front in Pakistan in 2010.

The State Bank of Pakistan has reported that overseas Pakistanis sent home $5.291 billion during July-Dec, 2010, an increase of $761 million or 17 per cent year over year, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

Remittances of $863 million were sent by overseas Pakistanis last month, up 23.72 per cent or $165 million compared to December, 2009.

Exports in the July-December 2010 touched almost $11 billion – $1.8 billion, or 20.6per cent, higher than last year’s exports in the corresponding period. Meanwhile, imports stood at $19.2 billion, marking a growth of 19.6 per cent, or $3.2 billion, in the first half, according to the Express Tribune.

Pakistani government has been relying heavily on remittances by overseas Pakistanis to fund the massive trade imbalance, which exceeded $8 billion during the first six months of this fiscal.

The increased remittances and rising exports have helped bring down the nation's current account deficit to $504 million for six months, or 0.6 percent of GDP, about 30% lower than the same period in the previous year.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) declined 15.5 per centin the first six months of the current fiscal year to $828.5 million from $968.9 million in the same period last year, according to the Nation quoting figures from the State Bank of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a report on Pakistan's retail sector:

The ongoing shift in population from rural to urban areas has underpinned the expansion of the retail sector. Strong real GDP growth until fiscal year 2006/07 (July-June) provided the foundation for years of double-digit growth in net retail sales in US dollar terms. However, net retail sales contracted by 1.2% in 2008. Sales then grew by only 5.7%, to US$75bn, in 2009, as the inflationary surge of 2008, which reduced spending power, abated only moderately. In local-currency terms retail sales growth in 2009 is estimated at 22.7%, owing to depreciation in the value of the Pakistan rupee against the US dollar. A gradual shift towards more formal retail facilities will facilitate the expansion of sales in 2012-14, but this process will be slow and confined to urban areas. (In 2010-11 retail sales expansion will be subdued, as overall private consumption growth slows sharply owing to the catastrophic floods that struck Pakistan in August-September 2010. Electronic retailing is almost non­existent in Pakistan because of the low levels of Internet penetration and credit-card use in the country.

Consumer finance accounted for 4.2% of the total stock of credit in the country in June 2010, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP, the central bank). Credit for purchases of consumer durables was down by 25% year on year..... Because of their limited financial resources, most retailers sell on a cash-only basis. This is gradually changing, and credit-card use is likely to become an increasingly important element of personal finance in the long term. However, in the short to medium term credit-card use will be constrained by the poor economic climate: outstanding credit-card loans were down by 25% year on year in June 2010. Large, centralised shops have not been popular in Pakistan, as low levels of car ownership mean that people prefer "corner shops" near their homes. More importantly, frequent and often prolonged power failures reduce the advantages of refrigeration, leading to a preference for fresh goods bought for immediate consumption from neighbourhood retailers. Online retail sales are negligible, owing to the country's extremely low levels of Internet penetration and credit-card ownership and the absence of Internet merchant accounts to facilitate online credit-card transactions.

The retail market is highly fragmented and underdeveloped. There are over 125,000 retail outlets across the country, according to the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority, but around 95% of these are tiny corner shops. The few supermarkets that exist are concentrated in Karachi and Lahore. USC is the largest supermarket chain by far, with 5,850 outlets throughout the country in 2009, according to Planet Retail, an international industry consultancy. The other major chains are Whitbread (with 17 outlets in 2009), GNC (with six outlets), Metro (five outlets) and Carrefour (one outlet). However, even USC's market share is virtually insignificant in terms of retailing as a whole, according to Planet Retail, accounting for only 1.2% of total grocery spending in the country. The vast majority of retailers in Pakistan are small family-run shops, and this will remain the case throughout the forecast period (2010-14).

Riaz Haq said...

Here are sme excerpts from a report by Lynda Voltz, an Australian legislator, on her visit to Pakistan, as published by Sydney Morning Herald:

Punjab, which holds more than half the population of Pakistan, has been offering the light to lead Pakistan towards more stable government.
One of the more important pieces of infrastructure was the new $30 million forensic science centre, which would be the envy of any police force in the world. The centre could be used to build a more professional police force and help to tackle the culture of corruption in Punjab.

The centre was being built within budget and on time, at odds with what many believe is possible in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has also started to institute a national vocational training system modelled on Punjab, which is acknowledged as having progressed more than any other region.

I did not feel at risk as I travelled through Punjab's main cities, Lahore and Islamabad. Even the Wagah border crossing, once a place of serious conflict, reminded me of a summer day at any Australian cricket match against England.
On my travels I met Taseer, who emphasised the importance of building a broad, secular society that respects every culture.

He was a strong opponent of the jailing and death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, a woman convicted of blasphemy.

I found it surprising that the High Court had stopped Taseer's petition to the federal government for a pardon, keeping Ms Bibi locked up until all appeal processes had been exhausted.

I also visited a moderate madrassa.

These are not, as perceived in the West, hotbeds of radicalism but institutions that teach boys and girls, men and women, in a country where just over 1 per cent of the federal budget is spent on education and more than 60 per cent is spent on defence.

This is a byzantine country where every extreme can be found but it is also a nation of warm and friendly people who wish to live in peace and prosperity. Taseer was a great advocate of such a society.

Pakistan still has a long way to go. It is a fledgling democracy that has suffered years of military dictatorships and violence.

Since September 11, 2001, more than 16,000 civilians have lost their lives. Everywhere you go people talk of corruption. But it is important that they talk about it.

The media, so long restricted, have been allowed to grow and, over time, are becoming braver and more forthright. More than 90 per cent of media condemned Bibi's death sentence.

Taseer had his own problems. Appointed by the federal government, which is run by the Pakistan Peoples Party, he had legendary battles with the speaker of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan, of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

To stabilise Pakistan, ongoing democratic government is needed.

Many people I met supported the idea of the judiciary as a brake on government. But when the people are angry, they need to know that the government is responsible and democratic elections, not a politicised judiciary, are the mechanism to remove that government.

This will not occur under a military dictatorship or while the public believes the judiciary has a role in the political process, even if it is well-intentioned. Already there are stories of the judiciary initiating prosecutions without just cause.

It is only 60 years since partition, and Pakistan has spent many years without democratic government. It took 82 years for NSW electors to put the first woman into the Australian Parliament and numerous royal commissions will attest to our experiences with corruption.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt from an Adrian Hamilton commentary on Taseer assasination published by The Independent:

Assassination is an abominable act but also an effective means of challenging power structures and frightening people into passivity. Religion may make it more difficult for ordinary citizens openly to oppose the men of violence, but it's not necessarily the cause in itself.

The real issue is the almost universal assault on pluralism within countries. At a time when the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, openly dismisses multiculturalis m as a mistake, when senior members of the Israeli government call for new laws to enforce ethnic purity in the country, and minorities are being persecuted and driven out of most countries of Asia, to talk of the Muslim issue as if it were a unique phenomenon misses the wider context. The violence in Pakistan has been perpetrated far more by Sunnis on Shia, Ahmadi and Sufi co-religionists than on Christians.

The revival of Islamic belief is certainly a real and in some ways threatening reality of our time. In country after country Muslims seem to be turning back to religion as a means of defining and asserting their identity. That poses a problem – although much exaggerated – in Europe and other regions where they are a minority. But it poses much more far-reaching problems for Muslim states, such as those in North Africa and Central Asia, where secularism is associated with corrupt and authoritarian regimes.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a commentary by Soutik Biswas of the BBC on Jaipur clash between Dalrymple and Bal:

In a rather dishevelled and provocative opening salvo on why Indians writing in English crave "British approval", Bal took a swipe at Dalrymple describing him as a "pompous arbiter of literary merit in India". He skewered the Jaipur festival - which opened today - for its obsession with British writers: "If Jaipur matters as a festival, it is because of the writers from Britain it attracts." The festival, he wrote, "works not because it is a literary enterprise, but because it ties us to the British literary establishment". And if Dalrymple appears central to our literary culture, signed off Bal, it says "something more damaging about us than about him".

Dalrymple hit back with an acerbic rebuttal using strong language. He described Bal's piece as "blatantly racist", saying it "felt little more than the literary equivalent of pouring shit through an immigrant's letterbox".

He tore into Bal's argument that the Jaipur festival was a British jamboree - British writers "brown, black and white" make up a "minority within the minority" of foreigners, he wrote, adding that two thirds of the writers invited were Desis (South Asians).

On the face of it, it is difficult to contest this defence - the festival's two key international speakers are Turkish (Orhan Pamuk) and South African (JM Coetzee), there are sessions on literature from India's neglected north-east, from Palestinians, Israelis and Pakistanis. Minority and Dalit (Untouchable) writing features too. Dalrymple also accused Bal of "double standards and reverse racism".

Bal picked up the gauntlet, denying the racism barb and said that Dalrymple did not know "what it means to suffer the indignity he so easily cites in his defence". He added: "I have had to stand in a London tube as drunk football falls pouring out of a match called into question the race and origins of people such as me."

The dust-up has predictably raised the hackles of commentators both in India and Britain - The Telegraph in London called Bal's piece a "nasty piece of journalism"; respondents in Open magazine worried about Dalrymple's literary influence in India and accused him of writing shallow books on Mughals.

But for the personal attacks on both sides, this appears to be a stale debate. Indian writers have benefited from British approval for nearly a century now. WB Yeats introduced Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali (Song of Offering) to the world in 1912. It became his best known work in the world and won him the Nobel Prize. The doyen of Indian writing in English, RK Narayan, was introduced to the world by Graham Greene who recommended his debut novel to a publisher, leading to its publication in 1935. Salman Rushdie won the Booker for Midnight's Children a good half a century later.

The debate about whether Indians writing in English look for approval from abroad - or to foreign publishers and awards - also has a sense of deja vu about it. One of India's award-winning writers Shashi Deshpande has argued that Indian writing in English smacks of post-colonialism. She has said that such writers "do not know any Indian language well enough" and that "the outsider's assessment still remains the privileged one". Writer Meenakshi Mukherjee has dwelt upon Indians writing in English being gripped by an "anxiety of Indian-ness" - "Indian-ness" being a quality their books needed to travel abroad.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan PTCL has recieved consumer choice award for its EVO 3G service, according to Pak Observer:

Karachi—Pakistan Telecommunication Company LTD (PTCL) has won Best Consumer Choice Award 2010 for its product “EVO”, that is the fastest wireless broadband service with the widest coverage, in over 100 cities of the Pakistan. Pakistani consumers have chosen EVO a world class and exclusive device as a recipient of, Consumers Choice Award in the category of Best Wireless Broadband. Federal Minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem presented the shield to SEVP South Abdullah Youseff. The Consumers Choice Award is celebrating its 6th successful year in the country and has become the most recognized and prestigious event of the country’s business calendar.

PTCL has always laid special focus on delivering the best to its customers by providing the most affordable means of communication and a truly reliable and technology wise superior network. With the substantial market share, loyal subscriber base and the recognition as the only integrated telecommunications service provider, PTCL continues to set excellence benchmarks in the Telecom Industry of Pakistan. The commercial launch of EVO Nitro 3G offering speed upto 9.3 mbps,which is unexampled and one and the only fastest and most widely available wireless service in Pakistan that meets needs of the next generation for ultimate speed along with superior, matchless and extraordinary performance.

PTCL President and CEO - Walid Irshaid while acknowledging this achievement, highlighted pragmatic approach of PTCL and stated that PTCL understands the changing dynamics of the telecommunication sector and is working towards foreseeing our customer’s needs and fulfilling them. The selection of EVO in the category of Best Wireless Broadband in Consumer Choice Award for ‘2010’ is an acknowledgement of that. EVO 3G Wireless Broadband is Pakistan’s fastest on the double wireless internet offering its customers superior, venerable, advanced and a cutting edge 3G internet experience with its unprecedented speed. It has revolutionized the three simple steps just plug in-click-connect of wireless connectivity for our valued customers. Pakistan is the first country in the world of telecommunication to commercially launch EVO 3G Nitro, the fastest wireless broadband with seamless roaming having speed up to 9.3mbps.

Anonymous said...

Rural income of Pakistani farmers are on rise for last three years.
Pakistani farmers now has disposable income to play with.
I asked an acquaitance of mine where sugar mill's profit is going. His answer was to the bank.
He said that farmers are rich and cash loaded in Pakistan. They have money now to buy consumer goods.
Consumer goods maker are having good days as higher price for freezers, air cons, tractors, tiles, wood and steel.manufactured goods are in great demand in the rural towns. farmers making more money in cotton crop due to BT cotton seeds. They are also looking toward winter cotton crop as weather is mild in Pakistan. My stocks going up and up. Fertilizer companies will be announding annual profit next week. I am in for good dividends, perhaps increase in dividend by fifty paisa to one ruppee. lets hope so.
Hey, that disposible income is going some where.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Rural income of Pakistani farmers are on rise for last three years."

I am not surprised...higher food and clothing prices are naturally transfering income from urban to rural folks in the form of higher farm incomes which are not taxed.

It's also probably contributing to lower revenue receipts by the government.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's agriculture sector remained robust in spite of heavy flooding last year, according to Dawn:

ENCOURAGING news from export front, mainly about wheat, dominated trading on the Karachi wholesale markets last week where prices showed tendency to rise as some exporters covered their forward sales to meet their shipment deadlines.

A major breakthrough on the wheat front was widely welcomed by commercial traders and exporters who hoped the exportable surplus would add to foreign exchange earnings, market sources said.

But leaders of flour mills association opposed the official move fearing rise in flour prices in coming weeks. But the government was seized with the problem of disposing of the surplus of over a million tons well before the arrival of new crop, they said.

“It is a good beginning on wheat export front,” said a commercial exporter. He said the “profit-margin is not attractive but new export outlets are being explored to dispose of future surplus.”

With a loaded consignment of 27,000 tons of wheat for some African destination, a loader has already left, while another Bangladesh ship is on the port loading a consignment of 20,000 tons for Chittagong, exporters said.

But the news from sugar front was not encouraging as price tussle between growers and mill owners continued after the later reduced the cane procurement price from Rs230 per maund to Rs210 without any reason. The growers in some areas had stopped supply of sugarcane to mills.

However, sugar prices in retail and wholesale markets rose further high despite mills’ claim that supplies of new crop to commercial dealers are being made
regularly and prices should remain stable around previous levels.

Much of the physical activity, meanwhile, remained confined to some essential counters where floor brokers reported pressure on supplies.

Arrivals from upcountry markets remained steady, which, in turn, did not allow speculative increase in prices and most of the increases were orderly. Dealers said changes in prices were mostly orderly and did not reflect speculative rise on any counter amid two-way activity and higher ready off-take.

The industrial sector showed two-way active trading as some commodities showed rise under the lead of guar seeds and cotton-based items because of a record rise in cotton prices owing to a short crop, they said.

On essentials’ counters, including wheat and sugar, prices remained stable despite higher demands followed by reports of steady arrivals from upcountry market.

Sugar prices remained stable early but rose later, although dealers reported a fairly large business at the unchanged rates in an apparent effort to sell it later at higher rates, they said.

Rice exporters said the recent increase in global prices was expected to significantly add to export earnings of the private sector exporters. They said talks were going on with some importers and hopes of some deals were bright during the next couple of days.

On the other hand, cotton prices showed wild either way movements amid alternate bouts of buying and selling but late in the week a sharp decline in New York cotton futures pushed them lower around Rs9,000 per muand, which spinners said were still higher than their export parity level for textiles.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:

Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.

This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.

This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.

Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.

Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”

Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.

Riaz Haq said...

India will soon adapt Coke Studio from Pakistan for the Indian audience, according to an WSJ report:

In a break from tradition, India will soon see a television show adapted from neighboring Pakistan.

After being tried and tested on the other side of the border, Coke Studio, a music reality show which serves as a platform for musicians to perform live, is set to make its debut here later this year.

We don’t know whether the program will follow the same format as Coca-Cola’s hugely popular television show of the same name in Pakistan.

A Coke spokesman in India confirmed that the company was in talks with “several potential partners for the launch of this property” but declined to share any further details.

“At this point, we can only confirm that we plan to launch Coke Studio – one of our flagship music properties globally – in India, sometime this year,” he said.

While India has oftentimes borrowed the formats of popular TV shows like “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” based on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” and “Indian Idol” from the west, it has never adapted a Pakistani television series to suit Indian audiences.

Coke Studio has already aired three seasons in Pakistan and has featured the likes of “Sa Re Ga Ma” musical talent show winner and popular singer Amanat Ali; Sufi singer Abida Parveen; and Meesha Shafi, lead vocalist of fusion band “Overload.”

Ali Zafar, the lead actor of Bollywood satire “Tere Bin Laden” and a singer, participated in the second season of the show.

The show’s popularity can be gauged by its Facebook fan page where has 458,454 users “like” it. The social networking site has over 80 official and unofficial groups dedicated to Coke Studio with anywhere between 7 and 458,283 “likes.”

There are already 178 fans of the Facebook page “I want Coke Studio INDIA.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan govt has distributed Rs 28.6 billion among flood victims, according to Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: Government of Pakistan has distributed Rs 28.6 billion among 1.483 million flood-affected families through NADRA’s Watan Card — each card has Rs 20000 cash assistance.

Deputy Chairman NADRA, Tariq Malik stated this while briefing the UN delegation headed by Margareta Wahlstrom, Special representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction who visited NADRA Headquarters today for briefing on Flood Relief System.

Tariq Malik while elaborating the overall progress said that in Punjab, 608,824 flood-hit families received Rs 11.96 billion while in Sindh 558,997 families received Rs 10.11 billion. In Baluchistan

Rs 1.85 billion have been distributed among 102,945 families and Rs 3.8 billion were disbursed among 199,414 families in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said in AJK and Gilgit Baltistan

Rs 188,450,000 distributed among 10,173 families and Rs 61,626,000 given to 3,263 families respectively.

He said the selection of beneficiaries is one of the most contentious aspects of any post disaster cash transfer programs in various countries. “NADRA walked extra miles as our aim was to protect the most vulnerable among the flood victims like women household, widows, special persons and minorities,” he told.

He told 120,081 Watan Cards were given to the households headed by women folks in the remotest areas of Pakistan — and 11,746 Watan Cards were given to minorities notified by the provinces.

Emphasising on Grievances Redressal System, Tariq Malik explained that 3.2 million people visited Watan Card centers, 335,044 complaints were received and NADRA has verified that 167,063 were eligible of Watan Cards of which around 155,000 have been given Watan Cards.

Fifty percent (50%) of the complaints were not genuine as these included people who already had received Watan Cards or their family member had received Watan Card. “We are not closing complaints redressal system, and would like to entertain all complaints on case to case basis,” he added.

He urged the media, international donor agencies and NGOs to focus on facts and real data, not on anecdotes or stereotypes or politically motivated press reports aiming generalisation based on isolated incidents.

Neva Khan, Country Director Oxfam, Madhavi Malagoda ARIYABANDU, Regional Programme Officer, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction were among the members of delegation.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is not alone in being targeted by the doomsayers, many othrers, including India's cheerleader Fareed Zakaria, have also been betting against the United States for decades. Here's an excerpt from a Time Magazine Op Ed by David Von Drehle:

Poor U.S. of A., forever in decline. the arrival of public theaters in Boston circa 1790 caused Samuel Adams to despair for the cause of liberty in the face of such debauchery. "Alas!" he wrote. "Will men never be free!" Charles Lindbergh fretted, "It seems improbable that we could win a war in Europe." Long before baseball, hand-wringing was the national pastime. We've never been virtuous enough, civilized enough, smart enough or resolute enough.

I was born into a country reeling from Sputnik, which revealed to the whole world that Americans are as dumb as rocks. John F. Kennedy had just been elected President, in part by bemoaning the "missile gap" between the mighty Soviet arsenal and our paltry few bottle rockets. "The United States no longer carries the same image of a vital society on the move with its brightest days ahead," Kennedy said in his final debate with Richard M. Nixon. That's the same Nixon who declared eight years later, "We are worse off in every area of the world tonight than we were when President Eisenhower left office." Hard to believe we could sink further, but we did, as the nightmare of Vietnam segued into the nightmare of Watergate, while the Japanese exposed the insufficiency of American enterprise. As I stumbled off to college, President Jimmy Carter was warning us about "a crisis of confidence ... that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will." Thanks to our horrible schools, we were — according to the title of a major 1983 report — "A Nation at Risk." Then our family values went down the toilet.

You'd think America would be as washed up by now as the Captain and Tennille. So how come we're so much stronger than we were 50 years ago? Somehow, in the 235 years since we got started, Americans have weathered Boston theaters and Soviet science prodigies, violent lyrics and sex out of wedlock. We've survived a Civil War, two world wars and a Great Depression, not to mention immigrant hordes, alcohol, Freemasons and the "vast wasteland" of network television. We've dodged the population bomb, the coming ice age, acid rain and the domino effect. America is to nations what Roberto Clemente was to right fielders. The Pirates legend fretted endlessly about how poorly he felt and how sick he was — while vigorously spraying hits and vacuuming fly balls.

So don't reach for the defibrillator paddles or the rosary beads quite yet.

Read more:,8599,2056582,00.html#ixzz1Fk9nsZR9

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of Pakistan's 100,000 ladies health workers reaching out to rural communities:

KARACHI, Mar 16, 2011 (IPS) - At eight in the morning 30-year-old Sultana Solangi steps out of her house ready for her day’s work. Wearing a black gown that shows only her eyes, she is shod in comfortable slippers and lugs a large black bag.

She will walk through this city’s poorest communities, visiting as many as 10 homes everyday, helping to raise awareness and improve maternal and child health.

In her bag is an assortment of medical supplies: Paracetamol tablets and oral rehydration salts, bandages, condoms, contraceptive pills, iron and folic acid tablets, eye ointments, and antiseptic lotion.

Solangi, the sole breadwinner in her family of four, works as a lady health worker (LHW), employed by the government’s National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care.

Launched in 1994, the programme now has a veritable army of 100,000 LHWs covering 60 percent of the population - the biggest outreach intervention in South Asia.

These women venture where few doctors dare to go, from congested cities to far-flung and underdeveloped rural areas, acting as the link between communities and the public health system.

Over the years, their work has expanded to include health campaigns like administering polio drops to children under five, plus neonatal tetanus, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria control.

LHWs are particularly important in the rural areas where three-quarters of Pakistan’s population live, and where a trip to a health centre may require a hike of a couple of hours to as much as a day. Illiteracy is widespread in these areas and often customs prevent women from seeking health services without being chaperoned by a male family member.

Solangi cited the case of Zahida Sanghi, a woman Solangi’s age but already a mother of seven. Sanghi lives in People’s Colony, a community in Larkana city in Sindh province, some 322 kilometres from the southern port city of Karachi, which is part of Solangi’s coverage area.

"Zahida Sanghi was very weak and would not have survived another pregnancy. The husband is jobless. It took close to two months to convince her mother-in-law that it was all right for her to get a tubal ligation done since her family was complete. This is all part of my job," she said.

Every day, Solangi and her colleagues cover between five to 10 houses and talk to women like Sanghi about the importance of antenatal check-ups, vaccinations, safe delivery, the use and making of oral rehydration salts, and modern methods of family planning.

They also hold about eight group sessions each month where they discuss with local women issues related to mother and child health.

Yet despite the LHW programme, Pakistan remains a maternal and infant health hotspot.

The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS), conducted from 2006 to 2007, shows an infant mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births. It also shows a mortality rate of children under five years old of 94 deaths per 1,000 live births. This means one in every 11 children born in Pakistan dies before reaching his or her fifth birthday.

The maternal mortality rate of 276 per 100,000 live births is also far too high, and has remained virtually unchanged since 1991.

Sadiqa Jaffery, president of the National Committee on Maternal and Neonatal Health, said the statistics would be much worse without the LHWs on the ground.

"It’s been established that where LHWs are present family planning services and routine immunisation is better. The problem is that the coverage is not blanket," Jaffery said.

But Farid Midhet, founder of the Safe Motherhood Pakistan Alliance, remains unconvinced of the impact of LHWs. "Family planning is the cornerstone of women’s health services and it still eludes millions," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report quoting Pakistan Human Rights Commission claiming 2500 deaths in militant violence in 2010:

More than 2,500 people were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in 2010, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Nearly half of victims were civilians killed in suicide blasts. There were 67 such attacks last year, the group said.

The report also said at least 900 people had been killed in US drone strikes during the same period.

The number of people killed by the army is not mentioned, but it estimated to be in the region of 600-700.

Pakistani troops are battling insurgents across the north-west. Many of those it has killed are believed to be militants, but civilian lives have been lost too.

The HRCP is the main human rights watchdog in the country. Its findings are often disputed by the authorities, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says.

The group's findings show a rise in the numbers being killed in Pakistan's conflict.

BBC research published last July suggested 1,713 people had been killed by militants over the preceding 18 months, while 746 people had died in drone attacks during the same period.
'Increasing intolerance'

The HRCP released its data in its annual report on the state of human rights and security in Pakistan between January and December 2010.

"Pakistan's biggest problem continues to be violence carried out militants," HRCP chairman Mehdi Hasan said.

"In 2010, 67 suicide attacks were carried out across the country in which 1,169 people were killed," he said. "At least 1,000 of those were civilians."

Dr Hasan said that in all 2,542 people had been killed in militant attacks in the country last year.

He said the most glaring example of government oversight had been in Balochistan province, where targeted killings shot up rapidly with 118 people being killed in 2010.

Dr Hasan said the figure was set to increase in 2011, as the government seemed unconcerned about the unravelling of the law and order situation in Balochistan.

The HRCP report also spoke about increasing intolerance against religious minorities in the country.

It said 99 members of the Ahmedi (Qadiani) sect had been killed in attacks in 2010, while 64 people had been charged under the country's blasphemy law.

There was no immediate response to the report from the Pakistani authorities, nor was there any word from militant groups.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Express Tribune piece by Sher Khan from Lahore:

As one scans the underground music scene, small venues have increased for aspiring artists and musicians to promote their music. The use of cafe’s and the development of the university scenes have begun to nurture a platform for a variety of artists.

Across MM Alam, Lahore’s ‘rodeo drive’, several cafes such as the World Fashion Cafe or Cafe Rock and even Gloria Jeans have become regular stops where young artists try to showcase their music. Student and music societies ranging from University College Lahore (UCL) to LUMS have also provided venues for artists.

“There are shows happening in cafes such as Peeru’s, and almost every university has some sort of music society,” said Curtain Call Society’s general secretary Nausherwan Billa, who was also the president of the famous UCL music society. “There are around eight to nine gigs in Lahore in any given month.”

He said that his society organises monthly concerts, free of cost, for artists at Al Hamra and the Ali Institute. Guitar School, Origami and Curtain Call’s own initiative Octave, have also been working in a small way to provide musicians with venues and opportunities to perform in front of an audience.

In terms of the electronic music scene which has also seen a rise with artists such as Talal and Zoi, an avenue has been found in terms private parties at farmhouses on the peripheries of Lahore, such as Bedian and Thokhar.

“It’s a struggle for underground artists, because to get attention you have to play everywhere,” said Elysium Entertainments Director Mukarram Jamil, who has been managing underground bands for the past five years in both Islamabad and Lahore. “It’s not necessarily a positive trend because shows are not happening — whatever is happening is usually at the cafes and school level.”

Jamil, who also manages the underground band Moen Jo Daro that started off 2008, explained that cafe’s currently seem like the best place for underground musicians to start. “If I was starting out or I had band, I would not limit myself just to schools because the point is getting access to an overall market. An audience of seventy to hundred people with a varied crowd can spread news like social wildfire.”

Jamil explained the band Moen Jo Daro started under the same circumstances: First at cafes on MM Alam, then toured every major university in the city free of cost, till they finally forayed into the Islamabad scene by opening at a major concert there. Once the band pursued being paid for their performances, they had found that schools had an advantage in terms of facilitating and providing a venue for music shows. Schools are also more eager to accommodate as, due to their limited budget, they could not afford more mainstream artists.

In the past, the underground music scene, which was dominated by rock, had certain hidden venues which had become the hotspots out of which bands such as EP were built. For instance, there was a basement at Model Town Society and the Al Hamra room number one, as well as the open-air theatre at Gaddafi stadium.

EP’s bassist and manager Hasaan Khalid, who also is the Editor of the Student’s Blog, said that schools such as LUMS, UCL and Beaconhouse, Defence, had taken a step by providing venues for young artists to perform through school events, but also mentioned events such as the rock festival which was cancelled due to security.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fatima Bhutto

Here's a link to an interesting video of Fatima Bhutto speaking at Sydney Writers Festival:

About this episode

Pakistan is a country plagued by natural disasters, endemic political corruption, religious fundamentalism and is claimed by many to be the central headquarters of Islamist terrorism. And it’s a nuclear power. Fatima Bhutto, scion of the Pakistani political family, addresses the current state of her country in her Opening Address at the Sydney Writers' Festival 2011.Fatima Bhutto is an Afghan-born Pakistani poet and writer. She is the granddaughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir Bhutto (both assassinated). She is active in Pakistan's socio-political arena but has no desire to run for political office. She currently writes columns for ‘The Daily Beast’, ‘New Statesman’ and other publications.May 2011

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the music industry woes in Pakistan:

Let’s start with the record labels. There is only one active record label in Pakistan at present: Fire Records. With more than 50 artists under its belt, Fire Records enjoys a monopoly over the industry. The other big players of the industry (The Musik Records, EMI and LIPS Music — not counting Alif Records and Riot Records which only cater to individual artists) are currently dormant.
However, when you read the fine print of the contract, it featured a few conditions.

For starters, the package included no monetary compensation for almost all artists. Secondly, an artist had to give up his/her rights to the music. This meant that Fire Records vetoed every decision including which song to launch when, which video to make when and when to distribute the album. Moreover, all artists signed under Fire Records could have their videos aired only exclusively on Fire Records’ sister television channels (AAG, Geo TV, etc.) unless royalty payments were made by other channels.

With blatantly anti-competitive practices, Fire Records became the sole lifeline for these top 50 artists of Pakistan. So, unsurprisingly, when Fire Records decided to decrease its output of new releases in the market, the whole industry suffered.

A good example is that of the band Mauj. Having released their first single “Khushfehmi” in 2004 to widespread acclaim, and then “Paheliyan” in 2008, the band signed on with Fire Records in January 2009 with a ready-made album in hand. However, the record company decided to postpone the album’s release. The fans waited, the band complained, and illegal free downloads soared on the web. It wasn’t until a year later in January 2010 that the album finally saw a release. But by then a lot of water had passed under the bridge – it was too late. The craze had already died.

Call suffered a similar fate. With their album ready in 2008, they had to wait till February 2011. “Laree Chootee” had truly missed the bus by then.
Fire Records, the largest investor in the record label business, is also facing the crunch. In the words of the Operations Manager at Fire Records: “The days where an album could easily sell a 100,000-plus copies are over. Even mass appeal albums of artists like Shazia Manzoor are struggling to hit the lower thousands. There are very few returns to be made in an environment such as this”.

Other factors affecting record labels is the refusal of TV channels to pay any royalties on videos, and the increased influx of Bollywood songs being played on local channels which is directly hampering consumer demand for local music.
Conventionally, record labels engage with distributors and have joint investment and revenue sharing models. This is not true in Pakistan. Artists such as Jal, Ali Azmat, Ali Zafar and many others have to directly engage with Sadaf Stereo and Sound Master for the distribution of their albums. These agreements are often not legally binding contracts but simply a take it or leave it offer in which the artists are paid up front. Consequently, the artists receive no royalty per sale, have no say in where and when the albums will be placed, and cannot keep track of the quantity sold. The lack of respect for legal contracts by distributors reflects the general lack of respect for intellectual property and copyright in our country.
While some established artists have managed to explore new markets through Indian record labels, new artists have struggled to overcome these enormous hurdles. Take the example of Qayaas, an amazing new band from Islamabad who produced their own album, made their own videos, and personally distributed their own printed albums to stores across Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from Asif Noorani's Op Ed published in Pakistan Link:

.....the Edhi Foundation is doing in different spheres – from running cancer hospices and ambulance services (Edhi Foundation has the largest fleet in the world, as the Guinness Book of Records mentions) to providing shelter to battered women and education to poor children. ...

The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore is doing a remarkable job too. Most of its patients are poor and unable to pay for the long drawn and expensive treatment provided by the hospital. The model is being replicated in Peshawar.

A state-of-the-art health institution, the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation) and the Indus Hospital are both providing excellent services in the health sector. What is more they don’t charge anything. That goes for the LRBT (Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust) as well. I remember an affluent lady who could have got ophthalmic treatment in any country in the West but she opted to have her surgery done at the LRBT, which is cleaner than most private hospitals in Karachi and where treatment can be described as state-of-the-art. Cured and satisfied, she gave a hefty donation to the institution and continues to pay from out of her zakat to the institution every Ramadan.

LRBT has 16 hospitals all over Pakistan, two of which – one in Karachi and the other in Lahore – are the best equipped ophthalmic institutions in the country. There are also 41 community centers where ophthalmic technicians examine patients and decide whether they can be treated as outpatients or are in need of surgery. As many as one-third of all OPD patients with problems of vision in the country are treated in one of the LRBT institutions and one-fourth of ophthalmic surgeries are done in the 16 eye hospitals run by the not-for-profit organization.

There is no institution that I have watched more closely than The Citizens Foundation. Fifteen years ago, five or six friends from affluent families, who met every weekend, grumbled about the flaws in our country. Finally, one of them said, “OK, enough is enough. Either we make a positive contribution to alleviate the miseries of the unprivileged people in Pakistan or we just shut up.” There was a pause and then everyone was convinced that they ought to join hands and work in one field. The one they chose was education, for the lack of it was the main cause of many ills that the country suffered from. They agreed on a target of setting up five schools for children of economically underprivileged parents in the first year.

The goal was achieved and the bar was raised. Today they have as many as 731 schools in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir (also Northern Areas). The fee structure is incredibly low because Pakistanis in and out of the country have been donating generously to TCF. Non-Pakistanis are also impressed with the institution and try to help it in many ways. The well known Indian novelist and columnist Shobhaa De donated more than Rs 50,000 that she had earned through her weekly columns for Dawn, when I wrote to her about the great job TCF has been doing for so many years.

Partnering TCF is the Honehar Foundation which provides vocational training to young men in Karachi. But that’s not the only place that they want to professionally help our youth. Construction on four such projects in smaller towns is on at a rapid pace. My friend, Nighat Mir, who is a member of the foundation’s steering committee, informs me that very soon work will commence on an institute meant exclusively for young women in Karachi.

Moreover, I recently learnt about the Aman Foundation and the excellent work that it is doing. It provides nutritious food to students at lunch time at 10 chools in Khuda ki basti.....

Shahzaib said...

you know It has since blossomed into a commercial enterprise called SMS-all that is used by at least 2.5 million people who have sent nearly four billion text messages.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from Wall Street Journal story titled Fashion Weeks Gone Wild, From Aruba to Karachi:

If it's Thursday, it's fashion week somewhere.

This month alone includes fashion weeks in Moscow, Karachi, Houston, Tokyo and Portland, Oregon. Dubai fashion week begins today.

There have long been just four fashion weeks that matter in the industry: New York, Milan, Paris and London. At these events, designers parade their collections for retailers and try to make a splash in the fashion press.

But in the past five to 10 years, the numbers of cities and nations holding fashion weeks has burgeoned. There are more than 100 fashion weeks around the globe, from Islamabad to Rochester, N.Y. Event producer IMG is known for running New York fashion week, but it also produces fashion weeks in Aruba, Berlin, Zurich, Moscow, Toronto, Sydney and Miami, among others. Other locations have launched their own shows, hoping to boost their garment and retail trades.
Overseas, fashion weeks often highlight regional talent and build the local economy. In Karachi this month, organizers tried to focus on business-building rather than thrilling local socialites. "Fashion in Pakistan for a long time has been an entertainment sport; at [Karachi Fashion Week], we are trying to really make it about the business of fashion," says spokesman Zurain Imam. Invitees were largely press and stores, with some Pakistani celebrities in the front rows. ...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India story on "Aalu Anday", a satirical music video gone viral on Youtube:

NEW DELHI: When the music video of "Aalu Anday", an unsparing song that lampoons Pakistan's top politicians and generals from Ashfaq Kayani to Zia-ul-Haq, from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan, was released last month, it immediately became an internet sensation.

But the bitingly satirical number was merely the latest in a long chain of similar popular anti-establishment tracks by other well-known Pakistan singers and groups such as Shehzad Roy, Junoon and Laal who have laughed at and lambasted the high and mighty across the border.

"We are the silent majority of Pakistan who are speaking up now. We are not trying to give solutions, but only trying to create an environment where things can be discussed openly," says 27-year-old Ali Aftab Saeed, a band member of Beygairat Brigade, the Lahore-based 'political rock' band who created Aalu Anday. Incidentally, the three band members (Daniyal Malik and 15-year-old guitarist Hamza Malik being the other two) are self-confessedly 'hardcore' RD Burman fans and Anurag Kashyap admirers.

A little courage in the heart and a guitar in hand go a long way in expressing notes of dissent across the border. The Beygairat Brigade's act is the latest in a tradition where singers and satirists have routinely ridiculed and castigated politicians in their music and lyrics. In 2008, singer Shehzad Roy courted controversy with Laga Reh, a hard-hitting track attacking the establishment.

Earlier Sufi-rock band Junoon faced censorship for songs like Ehtesaab, which hit out at political corruption and was banned by the Pakistani state TV. Now, bands such as Laal have joined the party providing music to the fiery protest poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, known for producing art out of defiance. TV channels refused to play their song, Jhooth ka uncha sar, said to be "too anti-army" in sentiment.

"In the beginning Pakistani bands used music to express dissent because other avenues of communication were closed to them. When you are in a repressive environment you naturally find other ways to communicate and music became that outlet. Nowadays things are much more open, but I think the association between music and free speech remains," says satirist and stand-up comic Saad Haroon.

In a country racked by terrorist violence and extreme disillusionment with the state, humour not only works as a form of subversion but also as relief and release.

The identity of Beygairat Brigade is constructed as an antithesis to what they call the "ghairat brigade" (honor brigade): political analysts and TV show hosts who have taken it upon themselves to uphold the honor of the Pakistani state as they understand it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about a Lancet study of Pakistan's "Ladies Health Workers" treating child pneumonia:

LONDON, 14 November 2011 (IRIN) - Pakistan’s army of “Lady Health Workers” – some 90,000 strong – was never meant to diagnose and treat serious illnesses. Instead, these female community health workers (in Pakistan, men cannot visit families) were expected to teach good hygiene and nutrition, provide family planning advice, monitor pregnant women, weigh and vaccinate babies and treat minor ailments.

Yet a new study shows that these same women could hold the key to treating pneumonia – the world’s leading killer of young children.

The study, published by The Lancet medical journal and conducted by Save the Children US, funded by the US Agency for International Development and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), found that children suffering from severe pneumonia were more likely to recover if treated at home by these women rather than in a health facility.
Sadruddin and his colleagues in Pakistan decided to see whether treatment could be given at home by the local Lady Health Worker. They ran a pilot project in Haripur district, in the south of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Where the health workers identified severe pneumonia, with fever, rapid breathing and in-drawing of the lower chest, they were to give a full course of the WHO recommended antibiotic, liquid amoxicillin. “We wanted to see if they could do as well as conventional in-patient treatment. In fact, we found that they did better.”

The study followed 3,211 children, whose progress was checked six days after the start of treatment. Among those treated by their local health worker, only 9 percent failed to respond to treatment. In the control group, 18 percent failed to respond. The children visited at home started treatment sooner, and were sure to get the most suitable drug, while prescriptions in government and private clinics were far less consistent.

The Lady Health Workers taking part in the trial were carefully supervised. “These workers cannot just be left unsupervised after their training,” Sadruddin told IRIN. “They need ongoing support from their supervisors to attain their goals.”

The message was reinforced by the Elizabeth Mason, director of WHO’s Department for Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.

“Supervision is absolutely critical, and it is one area that programmes have to ensure that they have well in place,” she told IRIN.

But she said WHO was extremely interested in the findings. “This is the kind of breakthrough research which is urgently needed. It is the first study of its kind and we will have to put it together with studies from other places. But I hope we may be able to review our guidelines to make treatment more accessible to poorer children and those living in remote communities, the ones who need it most.”

The programme also brought benefits to the women, elevating their status. In Haripur, when people saw that the women could treat seriously ill children and save their lives, their status rose dramatically, according to Sadruddin. By the end of the two-year trial, families were far more likely to make the Lady Health Worker their first port of call when their children were ill.

“When they started,” said Sadruddin, “the women themselves were not confident of their own abilities, and the community was also not confident. But when we went back, we found [so] much respect for the Lady Health Workers.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nashua Telegraph report on US Rotarians' planned visit to Pakistan:

Julie Whitcomb of Mont Vernon, president of the Milford Rotary Club, organized the trip after hosting one of five Pakistani Rotarians who visited the Milford area last year.

“They said, ‘We would love to have people from the United States come visit us because we need you guys to see how it is in Pakistan for real,’ ” she said.

Aside from making personal connections, the group is pursuing several projects.

Sampson, who is head librarian in Mont Vernon, is working to establish a book-exchange program that will provide books and writing supplies for children, which the Milford club plans to make an ongoing project.

Veterinarian Shelley Brooks of Mont Vernon is working to establish a textbook-exchange program between New Hampshire veterinarians and the University of Veterinary and Animals Sciences in Lahore. And Whitcomb’s husband, Matt Gelbwaks, a business consultant, will hold some business seminars.

Sampson said she signed up for the visit after she and her husband, Frank Corey, hosted one of five Pakistani members of Rotary last year.

“I had very little notion of what Pakistan was, just what you see on the TV news,” she said. “Everyone assumed everyone there is like the people we saw on the news, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The Pakistanis toured the Milford police station to get an idea of American law enforcement and visited a Milford insurance agency and propane and oil dealers to get an idea of how business is done. They also visited the casinos in Connecticut to see some of the louder aspects of American life in action.

“It sounds corny, but their visit was one of the more meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t imagine going the rest of my life, never seeing them again,” Sampson said.

This is exactly the goal of the Rotary International program called GSE, or group study exchange. GSE sends thousands of members of Rotary clubs, usually young professionals, around the world each year to stay with each other and make connections which would otherwise never happen.

The connection between southern New Hampshire and Pakistan began when Rick Manganello of the Nashua Rotary club, who at the time was district governor for some 60 Rotary chapters in New Hampshire and Vermont, met some Pakistani Rotarians at a conference.

Although he knew little about the country except that it is one of the fastest-growing countries in Rotary – Pakistan recently divided into two districts because so many new chapters are opening – he was impressed enough from those meetings and subsequent connections that he and his wife visited Pakistan last March for a district conference.

The people there, he said, solidified his desire to make connections.

“They were warm, interesting, friendly,” said Manganello, CEO of Windmill International, a software firm. “I really can’t say enough about them.”

He also was prompted by the fact that most Americans know nothing of Pakistan doesn’t extend beyond news of terrorism.

“The idea is to build bridges, to help bring peace – and Pakistan is a place to build peace,” Manganello said.

As for the question of personal safety, he isn’t too concerned because of the structure of Rotary visits.

“I didn’t consider Pakistan anymore threatening than Honduras or Haiti, where we’ve been many times,” Manganello said. “You’re fairly safe, traveling in small groups, staying in homes of Rotarians. You’re not in big Western hotels, you’re not too visible.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian piece on Pakistan's film industry:

It claims to not only be the most anticipated film in the history of Pakistan, but to be based on true events. And, for once, the Hollywood-style hyperbole can be excused. The feature-length action thriller called Waar ("to strike" in Urdu) is eagerly awaited, despite being out of tune with the trend for movies packed with singing and dancing.

Waar is coming to cinemas in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and even the restive frontier city of Peshawar later this year. The trailer was viewed more than 500,000 times in the first month when posted on YouTube in January, entering the website's top five videos.

Inspired by real events such as a Muslim extremist assault on a Pakistani police academy in 2009, the film follows a team of anti-terrorist police officers who, with time running out, try to stop a new attack. But the subject matter is not the only attraction, say local critics. With its slick production and use of digital technology, the film, reportedly the country's most expensive ever, is a long way from the staples of local cinema.

"Waar is very, very new," says Sher Ali Khan, film reporter for the Express Tribune newspaper.

In recent years, there has been a series of films dealing with edgy subjects in Pakistan but these were made by, and watched by, the westernised middle classes. "So far the masses haven't accepted these new kind of films. They have catered to the westernised upper middle class. Popular tastes have stayed with the standard styles of plot and production," says Khan. "Waar can be considered the first new wave film to go mainstream."
However, along with Waar, a whole series of similar films is being readied for release in coming months.

One is Kaptaan, a cinematic rendering of the recent life of Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who currently tops popularity polls in Pakistan. The film will cover Khan's life since retiring from sport 20 years ago and will dramatise his entry into politics as well as his failed marriage to Jemima Goldsmith, who is played by a Pakistan-American actress.

Tareen is producing Tamanna (Desire), a drama exploring class, adultery and, through flashbacks, the heyday of Lollywood. "It is neither action-based nor Bollywood-style. It is much more a pure drama with a narrative telling the story of three individuals," she says.

Sanaa Ahmed, a film journalist in Pakistan, sees the new developments in Pakistan as part of a broader global trend. "There are a lot of new young people with stories to tell who are figuring out ways to tell it," she says. "It's a new wave."

Lashari says Pakistan needs to "recreate" its cinema. "Everyone here has been following Bollywood but the best we can ever come up with is going to be a B grade knock off. We need to create our own identity," he says.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on Lahore Derby in 2012:

THE 66th running of the most cherished annual event of the country’s turf, the Pakistan Derby 2012, scheduled to be run at the Racecourse in Lahore on March 4, has a long tradition to lean on.

A term race for four-year-old colts and fillies, the Derby exemplifies elegance, colour and grandeur and provides a real test of speed, stamina and endurance of the thoroughbreds’ bloodline for the breeders to improve their quality breeding.

It carries the greatest prestige and the biggest slice of prize-money. Derby winner’s purse this year will be rupees half a million plus a glittering trophy.

The colts or fillies occupying second, third and fourth positions will bring for their owners Rs175,000, Rs85,000 and Rs45,000, respectively besides a special prize for the breeder of the winner.

Lahore being the Derby home is at present afflicted with the Derby fever and the quest for picking the probable Derby winner has already started.

In the race club, stables and the restaurants where race fans, owners, trainers are sitting probable Derby runners are the topic of their discussions with special reference to their past record of achievements and track work they are being given in morning exercises.

The Pakistan Derby was instituted in 1947 after the founding of the new country, Pakistan.

Since then, it has become an event for great horses, great jockeys, owners and trainers. The pomp, pageantry and splendour have never been seen on any other occasion.

Before independence, the event was known as the Punjab Derby and according to available official record it was first introduced in 1924 when a group of equine enthusiasts started holding Meeting races at the Lahore Race Club (LRC).
The Derby was not held in 1978 due to shortage of runners.

Later, the Derby distance was reduced to 1,600 metres in 1979 but was increased to 2,000 metres in1980, two years later it was again brought to international standards in 1982.

Since then the Derby has remained the biggest classic and feature event in the country’s racing calendar.

The Derby is a truly unique and colourful occasion that combined highly competitive and very best racing action with a real taste of day-long equine activity, nothing compares in the rest of the year racing.

The event also attracts a bumper crowd of sports fans, mostly those who otherwise never attend races.

The Pakistan Derby over the 65 years of its inception has both sweet and sour memories.
Among owners, who were lucky to have won the Derby more than once are: H.O. Hay’s, Nawab Jamal Khan Leghari, Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari, Sardar Ata Mohammad Khan Leghari, H.S. Khawaja, Syed Shah Mardan Shah II, Pir Pagaro VII, Khalida Yasmeen Khan, Zafar Yousuf Khan, Syed Pervez Shah, Sohrab Khan and M. Attiq.

Pir Pagaro had the distinction of winning the Derby four times as a single owner in the country.

Only three women owners have so far won the Derby. They are: Sahibzadi Fareeda Begum, Syeda Abida Hussain and Khalida Yasmeen.

The more fortunate among trainers to win the Derby more than once are: Tymon, Shaukat Ali, Captain Jack Fownes, Khuda Bux Peshamby, M.H. Shah, Fateh Khan, Mohammad Ashraf, Haji Fazal Hadi, Raja Mohammad Azad and Amjad Ali II.

Among the jockeys, the feat has been achieved by Faiz Mohammad, S. Laloo, Bill Alford, Khadim Hussain, F. Hussain, Christopher Fownes, A. Razzaq, Memrez, Flatcher, Salahuddin II, Aamir Pervez and Shahid Rehman.
Jockeys Flatcher and Shahid Rehman are tied up at the top Derby winners with five Derby wins each, Jockey Faiz Mohammad and Salahuddin II four times each are the next in the line.
Many of the lucky owners, trainers and jockeys are not with us today but their names will live in the annals of racing forever.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a special CNN report on a Pakistani village by Wajahat Ali:

This is a story affecting millions of Pakistanis — and it does not involve suicide bombings, honor killings, extremism or President Zardari's mustache.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked Sakafat, a boisterous 12-year-old girl, while visiting a remote Pakistani village in the Sindh province.

"A scientist!" she immediately replied. "Why can't we be scientists? Why not us?"

The confident Sakafat lives in Abdul Qadir Lashari village, which is home to 500 people in Mirpur Sakro. It is in one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

There was a characteristic resilience and optimism in this particular village. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pakistan's often dysfunctional, surreal yet endearing daily existence.

The 500 villagers live in 48 small huts, except for the one "wealthy" family who recently built a home made of concrete. The village chief, Abdul Qadir Lashari, proudly showed off his village's brand-new community toilets, paved roads, and water pump that brings fresh water to the village.

These simple, critical amenities, taken for granted by most of us in the West, resulted from the direct assistance of the Rural Support Programmes Network, Pakistan's largest nongovernmental organization. RSPN has worked with thousands of similar Pakistani villages to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

I visited the Sindh village with RSPN to witness the results of using community organizing to alleviate poverty. The staff told me its goal was to teach villagers to "fish for themselves."

Every household in the Abdul Qadir Lashari village was able to reach a profit by the end of 2011 as a result of professional skills training, financial management, community leadership workshops and microloans.

Specifically, a middle-aged, illiterate woman proudly told me how she learned sewing and financial management and was thus able to increase her household revenue, manage her bills, and use a small profit to purchase an extra cow for the family. She was excited to introduce me to her cow, but sadly due to lack of time I was unable to make the bovine acquaintance.
Asked what single thing she felt was most important most for her village, she replied education. Upon asking another elderly lady what she wishes for Pakistan, she repeated one word three times: "sukoon," which means peace.

When it was time to depart, the people of the village presented me with a beautiful handmade Sindhi shawl, an example of the craftwork the villagers are now able to sell for profit.

As I left the village with the dark red, traditional Sindhi shawl adorned around my neck, my thoughts returned to the 12-year-old girl, Sakafat, who passionately asked why she couldn't become a scientist.

I looked in her eyes and could only respond with the following: "You're right. You can be anything you want to be. And I have every confidence you will, inshallah ("God willing"), reach your manzil ("desired destination").

By focusing on education and local empowerment to lift the next generation out of poverty, Sakafat's dream could indeed one day become a reality for all of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's assessment after his recent Pakistan visit--Part II:

...We met a number of impressive Pakistanis, none more so than Masarrat Misbah of Smile Again. Every year, hundreds of young rural women have acid thrown on their faces by men as punishment for some dishonor, including being raped by the men who pour acid on her. This horrific crime, which often leads to death or blindness, requires painful rehabilitation and rebuilding of the woman’s life. Masarrat Misbah’s home in Lahore provides a temporary safe house. The perpetrators, most often direct family members, are seldom prosecuted and almost never convicted of anything. I will never forget the faces of these shy, young women so grievously injured in such an evil way.

Much of what people say and think about Pakistan is absolutely true for most of the FATA provinces (autonomous areas) and for Baluchistan. Pakistan's image problem results from the fact that people outside the country believe the realities of North and South Waziristan and Quetta are reflective of what the larger country looks like. Islamabad and Lahore are certainly safer than people realize, unless you are a politician (many prominent politicians still suffer assassination attempts and threats inside these cities).

Pakistan's major security challenge comes from having two many fronts. FATA represents a Haqqani network and Taliban problem, threatening the establishment in Islamabad. Baluchistan is a persistent separatist movement. Afghanistan is a threat because Pashtuns are allowed to go back and forth undocumented. All of this, including India, is simply too much for a government like Pakistan to take on right now.

We ultimately see three Pakistans: 1) The places where the security issues are true (FATA, Baluchistan, parts of SWAT Valley, and Kashmir); 2) the rest of Pakistan for the average citizen, much larger than the first and which is reasonably misunderstood and relatively safe; 3) The politician's and military's Pakistan, which whether in FATA or Islamabad, is turbulent, unsafe, and complex.

There is a good case for optimism about Pakistan, simply because of the large emergent middle class (#2). The country, vast, tribal and complicated, can follow the more successful model of India. Connectivity changes the rural experience completely.. illiteracy at 43% can be overcome relatively quickly, and providing information alternatives can dissuade young males from a life of terrorism. The well educated elite can decide to further reform the countries institutions to increase confidence in the government. The war in Afghanistan, destabilizing to Pakistan in many ways, winds down after 2014 and buys time for Pakistan to address its real and continuing internal terrorism threat (more than 30,000 civilian terror deaths in the decade.)

Technology can help in other ways as well. The power problem is mostly a tracking problem (tracing corruption and mis-distribution). The problem of extreme crimes (like acid, or stoning) in poorly policed regions can be mitigated with videos and exposes that shame authorities into prosecution. The corruption problem can be tracked and traced using mobile money and transparent government finances. We met with clever Pakistani entrepreneurs who will build large, new businesses in Pakistan in the next few years and global multinational will locate sales and eventually manufacturing in the country.

The emergent middle class of Pakistan won’t settle for a corrupt system with constant terrorism and will push for reforms in a burgeoning democracy. Here’s to the new civil society of Pakistan, who will use connectivity, information and the Internet, to drive a peaceful revolution that brings Pakistan up to its true potential.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Washington Post on an artist painting Lahore's dancing girls:

LAHORE, Pakistan — Anyone who approaches the immense carved doors adjacent to Lahore’s famous Cooco’s Den restaurant will get the once-over from a pair of sharp-eyed sentries. If you can make it past these doormen, you will enter an art space unlike any other in Pakistan.

Here, painter Iqbal Hussain has been quietly documenting the lives of the sex workers of Lahore for most of his life. The son of a prostitute, Hussain grew up among the Lahori demimonde.

“I try to paint my own people and my own land as I see it,” said the soft-spoken, bespectacled artist nicknamed Cooco (pronounced “cuckoo”), whose family owns and runs the restaurant. His studio is in his childhood home in the city’s all-but-vanished red-light district, in the shadow of a magnificent mosque.

Hussain, 62, is a controversial figure in Pakistan, not only for his paintings of sex workers but also because of works that proffer scathing commentary on Pakistan’s inclination toward a more and more religiously strict and intolerant society. And while the more liberal-minded art aficionados might appreciate his paintings on an intellectual or aesthetic level, they rarely purchase them. People think the images, highlighting the misery of society’s most vulnerable, will bring them bad luck.

“The rich women, they want art that matches the curtains,” he said.

For centuries, this part of the ancient walled city was the epicenter of a thriving industry of bordellos and dancing girls. In Hussain’s youth, the singing of women filled the air in much the same way the call to prayer does today.

In his romanticized version of old Lahore, the most successful courtesans were renowned for their grace and charm. The wealthiest families sent their daughters to them to be trained in poise and elegance — a harder-edged version of the Swiss finishing school.

As the neighborhood has changed, Cooco’s has become a respectable establishment where middle-class men bring their genteel wives and well-dressed children to dine in the shadow of the beautifully lit Badshahi mosque. The Mughal-style edifice, built in the 1670s, was once considered the largest mosque in the world.

Hussain remembers the old days well. “For the women in little brothels in Lahore’s red-light district, the best business [was] during Eid,” he said, referring to the major religious holiday.

“There would be a big queue over there,” he said, nodding toward the mosque, “with everyone waiting for their turn.”

The studio is full of treasures: intricately carved wooden objects, Hindu statues and other artifacts from Pakistan’s Mughal past. Some of the pieces had been in the same families for generations. But as Pakistan became more conservative after the military rule of Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in the late 1970s and early 1980s, people began selling them to the well-known artist because having the statues in their homes was seen as un-Islamic.

The more controversial works are propped against the walls, their images hidden. In a back corner, protected by an enormous iron padlock, are the pieces that almost no one gets to see. Hussain produced a key and showed a series of eroticized studies of the female figure, including a couple in an embrace and a reclining semi-nude. He keeps them locked away to avoid being accused of promoting vulgarity.

Not far from Cooco’s, women still ply their trade — but the grace, if it was ever there, is long gone, as they lean into car windows to negotiate their transactions.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of two stories about Karachi Literature Festival:

1. The Independent:

Karachi and Lahore literary festivals are proving a lifeline for the ‘other Pakistan’. The literary and intellectual scene is helping to provide a narrative arc for the country. At one session at the Karachi literary festival last Saturday a minute’s silence was held for the Hazara community and the victims of the militants.

In the morning Mohammed Hanif launched his short book The Baloch who is not Missing & others who are. How would you feel, he asked the audience, if your son or daughter did not return from their lessons? “If your child is late and he and his teachers do not answer their phones for two hours, what state will you be in?”
A raft of Karachi novelists present at the festival, in addition to Kamila Shamsie and H M Naqvi, included 89-year-old Intizar Hussain whose Basti has just been shortlisted for the 2013 International Man Booker prize. The book has received a rapturous review by Pankaj Mishra: “This brilliant novel from one of South Asia’s greatest living writers, should finally end the scandal of his relative obscurity in the West”.

In a session entitled ‘The dynamics of Karachi’, one of Pakistan’s leading architects Arif Hasan and French researcher Laurent Gayer found ways to constructively pin-point the city. Kamila Shamsie’s twitter feed mapped this session: the ethnic divide is understandable; it is linked to land, but the religious divide is not understandable, it is being promoted.


In recent years no city has done more to map the narrative arc of Pakistan to international audiences in English through its writers. At the first literary festival in over 20 years, Bapsi Sidhwa, Tariq Ali, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Ali Sethi, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Nadeem Aslam will be talking about literature and the view from the north.

2. NPR Radio:

Any literary event would risk being irrelevant in a place as troubled as Karachi. Yet this festival was intensely relevant. The most prominent Pakistani novelists to emerge in recent years have made their country's crisis central to their art.

In a panel discussion, novelist Mohsin Hamid said he couldn't imagine separating politics and fiction. His The Reluctant Fundamentalist depicted a man's drift toward extremism; his forthcoming novel is called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Other sessions included Mohammed Hanif, who fills his darkly comic novels with power-mad generals and corrupt cops like those he covered as a journalist. Hanif was at the festival to introduce his new nonfiction work: profiles of Pakistanis who have disappeared as the government tries to crush an insurgency in the province of Baluchistan. His gut-punch of a book begins with a 4-year-old being shown the bullet-riddled body of his father.

Discussions at the festival were as intense as the writing. Organizers arranged an onstage talk with Cameron Munter, who until recently was the U.S. Ambassador, the representative of Pakistan's profoundly unpopular ally. Even people at this Western-leaning event had doubts about American policies, and a standing-room-only crowd hurled raw questions at the ambassador. "You're not serious" about nurturing Pakistan's democracy, a woman in the audience declared. It's true that America has collaborated with military rulers, and has struggled to support the elected government in power today.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakistanToday on Lahore Literary Festival:

For two days, the Al Hamra Arts Council on Lahore’s famous The Mall Road was abuzz with energy as throngs of people came together to attend the Lahore Literary Festival, the first such event ever hosted in the city.
The two-day programme included stirring panel discussions on Urdu and English literature, along with book launches and book readings. Panel discussions included: The Courtesan in Urdu Novels: Legacy of Political Autobiographies: Urdu Writings-Future in the Punjab: The Holy Warrior in Pakistani Cinema: Literature of Resistance: Discovering Pakistan’s English-Language Poetry: Challenges of Language and Storytelling in the 21st Century, and many other informative and thought provoking discussions. The major themes explored during the discussions included politics and culture, and the identity and globalization of Pakistan’s literature. A number of artists and performers also came to participate in the event including a mesmerizing kathak performance by Nahid Siddiqui on day one, and riveting performances by local bands Laal and Qayyas on day two. Internet connectivity services were provided by Wateen Telecom and free water booths were sponsored by Pharmagen.
Panelists and speakers included eminent local and international authors, journalists, artists and intellectuals, such as Bapsi Sidhwa, William Dalrymple, Tariq Ali, Ahmed Rashid, Nayyar Ali Dada, Intizar Hussain and Ayesha Jalal, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Hameed Haroon, Jeet Thayil, Linda Bird Francke, Mohsin Hamid, Nayyar Ali Dada, Salima Hashmi, Tariq Ali, Tehmina Durrani, and Zehra Nigah among others.
Nusrat Jamil Chairperson of LLF’s Advisory Board, commenting on the conclusion of LLF said, “We believe that the first ever Lahore Literary Festival this year is a great step towards re-claiming and celebrating the very essence of our culture particularly amidst such social turmoil. The LLF has all the potential to become the country’s - in fact the whole region’s - favourite and most prestigious literary event.”
Razi Ahmed, the founder of the LLF said “The city government, the sponsors and the people of Lahore have show immense support for the festival over the past two days. We would like to thank all those who volunteered and helped us in conducting a successful festival. We look forward to a bigger and better festival next year. ”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post piece on Warren "Buffet disses coverage of Pakistan":

Warren Buffett has gobbled up a bunch of newspapers in recent years. Among them are many community papers, not the big titles that vanity publishers pursue. And an explanation for that acquisition pattern comes from the 2012 report of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.:

Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s
going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Telegraph story on new "Glee Club" TV serial in Pakistan:

The cast and crew of Taan – "musical note" in Urdu - say they hope it will unite the country in front of the television as families sing along to their favourite hits.

Set in a music academy, the 26-part serial tells the story of the budding singers and musicians as they try to become stars.

Nabeel Sarwar, the show's producer, said it would not shy from tackling Pakistan's big issues but would also offer an upbeat alternative to the despair and misery peddled by most TV channels.

"I thought what are the two things that Pakistanis all unite around – the cricket team that doesn't perform or the music that does perform," he said.

Pakistan's divisions have dominated the headlines so far this year. The country's Shia minority has been targeted in a series of bomb attacks, and Taan is being filmed in Lahore, where a mob torched 100 Christian homes on March 10.

Mr Sarwar said the show would tap into the dreams of Pakistani teenagers and feature some of their parents' favourite songs.

About 100 Pakistani hits have been rerecorded for the series, to be performed in energetic dance routines or as atmospheric ballads. They range from the devotional Sufi songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the soft rock of Junoon, once described as Pakistan's answer to U2.

Filming has already begun and Mr Sarwar is in talks to sell the show to Pakistan's state-run terrestrial channel.

"I want a hit show that the whole country loves, that they bop along to, that they buy the soundtrack to, that they feel united behind, so that they feel at one with everyone when they watch this because there's something for everyone," said Mr Sarwar.

The show revolves around the fictional Hayaat Haveli musical academy in Lahore.

At its heart is a tension between a traditional music teacher and his younger rival, who trains budding pop stars, representing different faces of Pakistan.

Among their pupils are the offspring of well-heeled bureaucrats and a talentless wannabe who dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress.

But some of Taan's plotlines differ from the coming-of-age tales and happy endings of Glee or Fame. Instead they attempt to engage with the darker side of Pakistan.

One of the characters, Annie Masih is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.

Another storyline involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.

Hassan Niazi, who plays Zaki, the pop music teacher, said those issues would not distract from the main attraction of the show – the songs.

"Music is the only thing that can unite this country," he said during a break in filming.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "It says the following about India:

GDP growth: 8.2%
GDP: $1,832bn (PPP: $4,508bn)
Inflation: 5.8%
Population: 1,202.1m
GDP per head: $1,520 (PPP: $3,750)

And Pakistan:

GDP growth: 3.2%
GDP: $188bn (PPP: $487bn)
Inflation: 9.9%
Population: 189.6m
GDP per head: $992 (PPP: $2,570)"

As you say, The Economist may not have been very accurate. But that hardly matters. Things like GDP, GDP per capita, growth rate et cetera are short-term issues that keep fluctuating.

What we should be really looking at are CORE trends that predict medium-term and long-term trajectory of the economy. So here goes....

India (2011):
Internal Savings per Head: 454$
Investments per Head: 550$
I.S./Investment = 82%

And Pakistan (2011):
Internal Savings per Head: 89$
Investments per Head: 152$
I.S./Investment = 58%


A) India 2011
Savings Rate: 30%
Total Savings: 550 Billion$
Investment Rate: 36%
Total Investment: 665 Billion$
Population: 1,210 m

B)Pakistan 2011
Savings Rate: 8%
Total Savings: 17 Billion$
Investment Rate: 13%
Total Investment: 28 Billion$
Population: 190 m

Riaz Haq said...

Brief history and prospects of Pakistani cinema published in Dawn newspaper

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ blog post on Izzat Majeed, a British-Pakistani music philanthropist:

The millionaire-investor-turned-philanthropist and music mogul will mark a milestone when his Sachal Studios Orchestra of Lahore releases its second jazz album later this year. The first, Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards and Bossa Nova, went on sale in 2011. It shot to the top of iTunes rankings in both the U.S. and U.K. and drew comparisons to Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club album, done with Cuban’s biggest traditional musical legends, some of whom had been out of the limelight for decades.

The first Sachal album featured a version of “Take Five” that even Brubeck is said to have liked. Brubeck died late last year. The tribute to his quartet was played on both Western stringed instruments and traditional Eastern instruments, like the sitar, and was also done as a slickly cut, but somehow still-quaint music video.

The orchestra’s second album, Jazz and All That, has a decidedly different feel, Majeed said.

“For the second album, I’ve done two things. The entire structure of rhythm has changed. Also, I have brought in Western instruments that would create enthusiasm, rather than in the previous album, when the contribution of Western instruments was minimal,” he said. “That gels well with the sitar, the sarangi (a fiddle-like instrument)…It gives it a sound I really like.”

Sachal Studios, which also has produced several dozen albums from individual artists since opening, released a teaser video of the orchestra playing an East-West fusion version of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”

Majeed, by the way, hesitates to call the sound of the orchestra he built “fusion,” though it blends elements and instruments of both.

“I shy away from Western or Eastern,” Majeed said. “I don’t understand ‘fusion.’ For example, I made two or three new tracks totally on our classical music, on the ragas. When you hear them, the raga is not disturbed at all…Whenever I make a composition and bring in an instrument from the West and our own instrument, ultimately, the impact, the sound that you hear, is your own music. It’s not fusion. It’s the world coming into musical harmony.”

Majeed, who is 63 and considers himself retired, splits time between London and Lahore, and does some of his album-tracking with musicians in Europe. He said he just likes the sound of the instruments coming together, and that part of his mission is to bring music back to Pakistan, even if it’s a different kind than what many of his countrymen expect.

“Everyone tells us, ‘you rock the boat all the time when you’re in Lahore, because I don’t know the music.’ We all just get together and say, ‘here is the sound. Do you like it?’ We bypass the classical structures,” he said.

Playing music that’s pleasant and interesting, as he discovered with the orchestra’s first album, attracts listeners from all over, like Japan and Brazil, as well as in Pakistan. Majeed said he started to compose the outlines of the second album as the first album began resonating with listeners around the world. It has come together at a comfortable pace and in a way where the whole orchestra is now onboard with the sound.


The new album features 13 tracks, including Henry Mancini’s “The PInk Panther,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens, “the Maquis Tepat,” and a jazz-based classical interpretation of a Monsoon raga.

Beyond the orchestra’s music, the tale of how and why Majeed built the studio and founded Sachal is worth telling for music aficionados.

After his initial exposure to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s so-called “Jambassadors,” in 1958, Majeed, kept music close, despite a winding career.

Riaz Haq said...

Film revival? Waar is #Pakistan's first big-budget action film. It's just one of 23 films being released this year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg story on the art sales scene in Pakistan:

Osama bin Laden stares out at an army of shadowy figures. Each carries a machine gun and has the head of a parrot.
The roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York is covered with what looks like dried blood. Close up, the work shows shrubbery and bird feathers.

A patriotic picture of the U.S. flag isn’t all it seems. Each of the stars and stripes is made up of tiny Urdu verses asking for forgiveness and mercy from God.
These are all works by Pakistanis -- Amir Raza, Imran Qureshi and Muhammad Zeeshan, respectively. Pakistan’s most violent decade in history has come as a boon to the nation’s artists, with prices of paintings, number of art galleries in major cities and frequency of exhibitions all multiplying.
“I don’t think terrorism is the sole factor,” says Shakira Masood, curator at Art Chowk in Karachi, who has been asked to hold exhibitions in Hong Kong and Istanbul. “Artists may have gotten into the limelight from that, but they are very talented.”
The new generation of contemporary artists -- which also includes Rashid Rana and Shazia Sikander -- has started to sell more in international auction houses and seen greater interest from collectors and investors in Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous nation. Qureshi is Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year for 2013.
Art Investment
“If you invest in a top artist painting, you will get a higher return” than many other investment avenues, says Tauqeer Muhajir, publisher and editor of art magazine Nigaah. Demand for Pakistani paintings is rising because they are relatively cheap and high in quality, he says.
Zeeshan grew up in the small town of Mirpurkhas. He used to be a poster painter for the local film industry that on rare occasion still resorts to painting two-story-high billboards instead of printing. Never did he imagine his work would be bought by London’s British Museum and New York’s Met museum.
He had a change of fortune after joining the National College of Arts in Lahore. After specializing in miniatures, Zeeshan started to sell works -- for less than $100 in 2003 and as much as $20,000 now. He brushes paintings on wasli paper and has even used Pepsi and Coca-Cola cans in his works.
“Pakistan artists caught the eye of international galleries and curators after the 9/11 twin tower attack,” Zeeshan says. “Terrorism, Taliban and Bin Laden are the biggest subjects of the century.”...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC story about staging of "Grease" musical in Pakistan:

Popular American musical, Grease, is being staged in Karachi - the first time one of Broadway's longest running shows has been to Pakistan. The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani goes behind the scenes to meet its young Pakistani actors and organisers.

Nida Butt is clearly agitated and it looks like she has had enough.

"What a bunch of fools am I working with? How long have you guys been rehearsing these steps? How can you suddenly forget it?" she yells at the young cast on stage from the auditorium stairs where she's been sitting and observing their rock and roll dance act.

The live band stops playing and there's total silence.

A few actors mumble something to themselves and nervously look around to avoid any eye contact with their fearsome director.

"She loses her temper deliberately," quips a young performer. "It's all part of the act to seek absolute perfection."

Dream project
Despite her occasional outbursts, Ms Butt - a lawyer turned theatre director - is actually quite proud of her team.

"We have a super talented cast which has been working long hours for nearly four months. It's challenging but exhilarating," she says.

Grease, set in 1950s American working-class subculture, depicts high-school teenage shenanigans exploring love, sex and friendship through their passion for cars, music and dance.

For Ms Butt, who has previously produced Chicago, and Mamma Mia in Karachi, Grease has been a dream project.

"It's different this time because we are doing things properly, after sorting out permissions and copyright issues," she says.

Thriving theatre scene
One of the first challenges for her company, Made For Stage Productions, was to get the casting, the American working-class accents and attitude right.

"The first month was only about studying and getting to know the characters," says Mustafa Changezi who plays the tough and rude Kenickie.

Actors say they were required to take part in workshops to really adopt the persona of the character they were playing.

"We had to have several walking drills. At times, it was like being in a boot camp," says Changezi.

Then, there was the issue with finding a suitable venue to put up a musical with a large cast and crew, plus a live band.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Ahmed Ali, who plays the lead role as Danny
This play - with its timeless music and story of teenage love - is relevant to young people everywhere”

Ahmed Ali
Actor, Danny
"Karachi has a thriving theatre scene, but none of the venues are big enough or technically advanced enough to stage a big musical like Grease," says Ms Butt.

In the end, the organisers had little choice but to settle for the traditional Karachi Arts Council auditorium.

The stage with a depth of 24ft (7.3m) was so small, it had to be extended at least 3 to 4ft to accommodate the cast and dance crews of about 35 performers.

Innovative solutions had to be found to quickly change the sets manually in between the scenes.


Still, she says she's thrilled to bring some live entertainment to the city of Karachi - otherwise known for crime, lawlessness and militancy.

"For two and a half hours, I would like the audience to forget about Pakistan's multi-faceted problems and enjoy the show.

"It's also about showing the world that there's much more to this city, and this country than death and destruction."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NPR Radio report on a book based on a real life story of Pakistan family by a Pakistani-American Haroon Ullah:

Middle class life in Pakistan isn’t that different from middle class life in the United States, says Haroon Ullah. Or at least, he hopes you’ll come away with that message after reading his new book, “The Bargain at the Bazaar: A family’s day of reckoning in Lahore.”

The book follows the Reza family and their three sons as they attempt to maintain normalcy in an increasingly tense environment.

Ullah says he met the family at a dinner party in Pakistan 10 years ago.

“They are very blue collar and yet they’re able to, as a family, find a way to move on amidst the sort of tragedy that they often times experience.”

The Rezas shared their story with Ullah over many evening meetings over mangos, what Ullah calls “the best ice breaker in the world.”

The oldest Reza son followed in his father’s footsteps to run the family shop at the local bazaar. The youngest son went to school to become a lawyer. But it was the middle son who would most worry his mother and father when he joined a militant Islamist group.

“The parents would tell me, 'Did we do something wrong? Did we fail as parents?'” says Ullah. “They want better for their kids than they had for themselves. They’re willing to sacrifice everything.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a New York Books Review piece on recent Lahore Literature Festival:

Rarely has an event framed around books and ideas felt so urgent. A few weekends ago, a group of writers, artists, and editors gathered in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab heartland, to defend the written word. People turned up from every part of the country to hear them—Karachi and Islamabad, but also Balochistan and the remote tribal regions along the Afghan frontier. Sometimes filling the aisles and stairways of the three venues where the gathering was held, they listened to debates on everything from the future of the novel to the future of Pakistan.

In an age in which international literary festivals have become commonplace, there is very little ordinary about the Lahore LitFest, starting with the location. “PK! What are you doing there?” a US immigration official wondered, when I set out from New York. My barber asked me if I had a bullet-proof vest. Even in the Middle East, in places that have plenty of tension of their own, a Pakistani destination seems to raise red flags. “It would be a shame if you got yourself kidnapped,” an Arab journalist who covers political unrest told me, during a visit to the Arabian Peninsula two days before my journey on to Lahore.

To anyone who has actually been there, such reactions may seem grossly unfair. With a sizable liberal elite, a strong tradition in publishing and the arts, and an old city filled with extraordinary Mughal architecture, Lahore arguably has more in common with the leading cities of India and Europe than with the dark image of Pakistan shown almost daily in the news. The city’s best-known institutions of learning are not jihadist-grooming madrasas but humanistic and secular; consider the National College of Arts, the country’s premier art and design school, which began under British rule in the nineteenth century, with Rudyard Kipling’s father as its first principal.
And then there was Ardeshir Cowesjee (1926–2012), the legendary Karachi columnist who might more accurately have been described as a one-man shadow government. A wealthy businessman from the Zoroastrian religious minority, Cowesjee fearlessly exposed the corruption and mismanagement of Pakistan’s political class in a weekly column that not infrequently brought him death threats. As Karachi descended into violence and gang warfare in recent years, he continuously attacked the dirty real estate dealings, incompetent governance, decaying municipal services, and rising intolerance that were driving it. During a lively debate about his legacy, the power went out, and the panelists kept talking until someone lit the stage with an iPhone.
Even so, the theme of the discussion was “War on Culture,” a worldwide drama in which many Pakistanis view the US as arch malefactor. (I took part in the panel, along with Ahmed Rashid, the novelist Vikram Seth, and the Indian heritage expert Naman Ahuja.) When a gentleman who identified himself as hailing from South Waziristan protested that the US could never rectify the cultural destruction it had caused in the Middle East, the house erupted in applause. Taking the microphone, the ambassador, now sitting in the front row, stood up to respond. The crowd went quiet. He conceded the mistakes made by the previous US administration; he said that he and the current administration were committed to doing more to defend Pakistan’s heritage. It brought some applause of its own. Thus ended the festival, with Waziristan and Washington coming to some kind of temporary truce.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about Karachi's vibrant indie music scene:

The disconnect is emblematic of a new cultural era for the world’s seventh largest city, characterized by variety. Outsiders are noticing, from Rolling Stone to Pakistan's neighbors in India. A writer for the Delhi-based magazine Caravan recently dove into the city’s secret clubs and concluded that a “shift” aided by the internet is producing an unprecedented range of sounds, "reflecting [Karachi's] frenzied character.”

Even the band names seem designed to stir things up, with an almost overwrought indie sensibility: Mole, //orangenoise, Dynoman, Basheer & the Pied Pipers, Alien Panda Jury, and DALT WISNEY are a few of the current hottest indie acts. Because Pakistani hits historically come from the classical world or the movies -- meaning Bollywood, or the Lahore analog, Lollywood -- these independent artists are forming collectives that act as labels, helping bands put out albums and promoting each other.

As in any good music scene, there are turf wars. In an interview last fall with Vice Magazine's electronic music spinoff THUMP, the rising Islamabad-based producer Talal Qureshi distanced himself from “that word ‘trippy.’” According to Qureshi, his peers in Karachi are limiting themselves by sticking to “music which is good to dance and be on drugs to.”

The comments rippled through the Pakistani music scene. In a counter interview with THUMP, FXS hit back at Qureshi, using their respective cities as ammunition. “Karachi,” said one member, “is a living city.” Meanwhile, “after 8pm Islamabad shuts down. All the house lights are switched off. It’s a town full of retired army uncles.”

There is one meeting point for every young Pakistani hopeful: the internet. Scour YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, and you’ll soon be an expert in subcontinental indie.

But domestically, traditional venues still count. The Caravan article names a trigger for the "shift," when the band Mole performed on the popular Pakistani concert series, Coke Studio, in 2011. Sponsored by Coca Cola, the televised series tends to launch the careers of mainstream acts, as it did for the Pakistani pop star Atif Aslam.

The Mole appearance jumpstarted what the cautious are calling an “overly experimental approach” at Coke Studio HQ. (Notably, one of Mole’s members is the son of a Coke Studio founder.)

Hearing "drone beeps" of electronica mixed in with otherwise standard fare, a journalist at The Friday Times, an independent weekly in Pakistan, praised the new era at Coke Studio, marked by "the humility of the old learning from the new."

It’s not all revolution. Drinking alcohol is still illegal in Pakistan, a rule that ghettoizes the music scene into underground house parties.

But limitations bring their own opportunities. In the THUMP interview, DALT WISNEY compared Karachi to "a prison." As a kid, he wasn't allowed to roam due to threats of violence and kidnappings. It was on his daily circuit, from home to school to a pirated music store and then back home, that he found a CD of music-making software. "That's how I started making music," he told THUMP. "So I think I mean prison in a positive sense, maybe like being stuck in a library. You make the most of it."

Riaz Haq said...

In the closing months of this year, after a seven-year hiatus, the family-run Rafi Peer Theater Workshop (RPTW), Pakistan’s best-known theater group, has put on a number of festivals at public locations in both Lahore and Islamabad. With the beautiful Mystic Music Sufi Festival, the Youth Performing Arts Festival, and the Dance Festival, the cultural capital of the country, Lahore, was once again alive with festivals and art and culture events.

However, Sadaan Peerzada, the group’s chief operating officer, admitted that it wasn’t easy. After being targeted by terrorists in 2008 during its immensely popular World Performing Arts Festival (WPAF) – an event that brought performing artists from across the globe for 90 shows over 11 straight days – and being targeted again in 2010 at its headquarters in Lahore, the RPTW buckled under the pressure. Peerzada also lost his twin brother, Faizan, in 2012. The brothers had been the faces of their company, as well as the driving force, keeping alive their father’s legacy of art, culture and puppetry.

“It’s sad because festivals take a lot of time to build, especially in a country like Pakistan where there’s lukewarm government support,” states Peerzada. We’re sitting at the RPTW head office in Lahore. Framed posters of the group’s past festivals line the walls of their large, colorful, office. Invites to one of the group’s recent festivals are stacked on the table before us, waiting to be mailed out to reporters and journalists at local media houses.

The compound also consists of the RPTW’s lovely Museum of Puppetry and its café, Peerus, both of which were partially damaged in the 2010 bomb blasts. “We’ve been running the RPTW for 35 years; we’re very proud of it and have always had a very strong connection and attachment to Pakistan.”

Speaking about the first attack in 2008, Peerzada recalls that at the time, the RPTW had almost reached its zenith in terms of festival success. “We brought these festivals to a stage where our WPAF was the biggest festival [of its kind] in Asia. It was a big achievement. When it was disrupted by the security situation, I think the government should have come forward to host it with us. These past seven years have been Pakistan’s saddest patch [vis-à-vis art and culture] in which we’ve lost a lot. We’ve lost confidence, we lost the new generation…we’ve created a very strange gap – seven years of no activity, people aren’t in the habit of attending festivals and shows anymore. That habit in itself is a training.”

When the first bomb went off during the WPAF in 2008 at the city’s Gadaffi Stadium, Peerzada was walking out of the stadium’s men’s room. He recalls: “I could feel the wave of the bomb as it went off. I said: Oh God, not here. I ran out; obviously we were all over the place. Three bombs went off that night. They intercepted the fourth bomb planted near the car park. That was the actual bomb, the big one, because they wanted the people to reach their cars when it would go off for maximum impact. It was very well planned. The next day we caught this guy, he was there with some device and a diagram of the whole venue. Our office had been marked, so we were going to be targeted that day.”

Stating that the RPTW’s survival over the seven-year gap was nothing short of a miracle, Peerzada mentioned that his family considered leaving Pakistan for good. “There were times where we felt we should leave Pakistan and go to a place where we could at least work freely. But we didn’t because we’re too attached to this country.”


Having mapped out festivals for the next three years, the RPTW is also hard at work archiving its work. From images to sound clips and videos – the group’s body of work is extensive, far more than any performing arts company in Pakistan.

“We’re not nervous,” insists Peerzada, when asked about whether or not the group is uneasy about the imminent festivals and events, “Not at all…because this is what we’ve done all our lives.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts on distortions by Showtime's Homeland Season 4 about Pakistan:

From NY Post:

One of their beefs is that the show — which stars Danes as CIA Agent Carrie Mathison on assignment in Pakistan — trashed a diplomat’s image of the capital as a bucolic oasis.
“Islamabad is a quiet, picturesque city with beautiful mountains and lush greenery,” one source said. “In ‘Homeland,’ it’s portrayed as a grimy hellhole and war zone where shootouts and bombs go off with dead bodies scattered around. Nothing is further from the truth.”

From The Week:

I'm at a little café in Islamabad, sipping a cappuccino. A young woman in a ponytail and jeans walks in and orders a dozen chocolate cupcakes; her two small children press their noses up to the glass of the dessert display case. We strike up a conversation, and she mentions that her family has just moved to Islamabad. "Great place to live, isn't it?" she says.

I agree with her. I should know: I'm an Islamabad girl, born and raised, and there isn't a city in the world I would rather call home. If anything, the city can be too quaint for some; residents of Pakistan's larger metropolises sometimes poke fun at Islamabad for being too quiet or too small.

But you wouldn't know any of that from the godforsaken hellscape depicted in the latest season of Showtime's Emmy-winning drama Homeland. If the above scene from my real life had been "fictionalized" on the series, the view outside my window would have been a smog-ridden urban disaster. My cappuccino would have been a bitter black coffee from a dingy little shack. The friendly woman would have been a burka-clad hag shrieking at me in some awful, invented language to cover my sinful head. But of course, my uncovered head would just be a front, because I would turn out to be a villain, plotting the gruesome death-by-mob of some white guy.

For years, I've stayed on the fence about Homeland's shameless bigotry, giving it the benefit of the doubt even when its depictions of Muslims have been less than nuanced. As the show begins its fourth season, however, I have been forced to re-evaluate my faith in both its intentions and its intelligence — starting with the horrendous teaser poster featuring a red-hooded Claire Danes as a lovely dash of color in a foreboding sea of black burkas.

From The News Minutes:

He writes: “Also, we all know Pakistan is just mosques and burqa shops. But I'd like the show to showcase the more modern side of Pakistan too. So, how about Homeland show us the US Embassy in an act of highlighting Pakistani culture and fusing it with the modern organising a Burqa Fashion show at the venue?

You know, just your regular desi chic-conservative affair, with models walking down the ramp to the tune of 'Burqay mai rehnay do, burqa na uthao' while the Pakistanis outside the embassy still protest because the eyelashes of many a model are visible through the veil

I think they may actually be getting there, considering the third episode for this season is named 'Shalwar Kameez'.

In an understated criticism of an incredulous scene in one of the episodes, Ghias writes: “In case the gravity of that did not sink into you, a CIA station chief gets STOMPED TO DEATH in the streets of Islamabad and Pakistan continues to exist as a country on the world map.”

Riaz Haq said...

Anyone who has picked up a book in recent years will know that Pakistani writers are extraordinary. They are the keenest observers of this complicated country of ours; they are honest, curious and self-critical. The best investigate essential human stories, bypassing tired news headlines to portray a world otherwise unseen. And they do with wit, razor sharp prose, and a fine sense of negotiation.

Riaz Haq said...

Anyone who has picked up a book in recent years will know that Pakistani writers are extraordinary. They are the keenest observers of this complicated country of ours; they are honest, curious and self-critical. The best investigate essential human stories, bypassing tired news headlines to portray a world otherwise unseen. And they do with wit, razor sharp prose, and a fine sense of negotiation.

Riaz Haq said...

Why 'An Ember In The Ashes' could launch #Pakistani-#American Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory … #globalnation
Her new book, "An Ember In The Ashes," kept me up at night. I couldn't put the book down. I'm not the only one. It seems as though anyone who touches the book cannot stop reading until the story ends. It has the addictive quality of "The Hunger Games" combined with the fantasy of "Harry Potter" and the brutality of "Game of Thrones."

The story is deceptively simple. It's told through two characters. One is a young girl, Laia, who turns into a spy in an attempt to save her captured brother. The other is a soldier, Elias, who questions the purpose of what he does. That's all I'm going to say. I don't want to ruin anything. You can read the first two chapters of the book below.

Tahir is a new voice in fantasy. She's the daughter of Pakistani immigrants who owned a small 18-room motel at a Navy base in the Mojave dessert. She says growing up amid a transient population certainly impacted her worldview.

"I think when you see so many types of different people coming through one place, especially as a young person, you start to realize that everyone has a different story, everyone has demons, everyone has their own issues," she says. "It gave me a soft spot for the disenfranchised of the world and the outcasts of the world, because I saw so many."

Tahir says she felt like an outcast in her hometown. Other kids picked on her. Her parents dealt with racism. People told her family to "go back to where they came from."

She found solace in books. "Books were everything to me. I turned to books to deal with this feeling of being an outcast. And I particularly turned to fantasy because in places like Narnia and Middle Earth I wasn't a scared little brown kid. I was brave and strong. I was never afraid."

The love for fantasy never died. She eventually took a job at the Washington Post as a copy editor on the foreign desk. It was there the first kernels of her new book started to come together. They came from all too real brutalities of war. She read and copy edited stories of the Sudanese genocide. It shook her. "There was a ruthless and casual way in which these militias soldiers would go through villages and murder and torture and rape and kill," she says. "It's as if they weren't dealing with actual humans."

The reality spills into her fantasy. Tahir says it's important to convey war as war, a brutal and barbaric act. She says that if she didn't do it, her teenage readers would have called her out. That's why her book is at times, difficult to stomach. It will no doubt give young adults nightmares. But it will also give them hope.

"I think reading the book helps them realize that even in such a violent world, hope can still prevail. And that's a really important message. This idea that hope is stronger than hatred and it's stronger than fear."

Riaz Haq said...

Three #Pakistan films "Abdullah","Baat Cheet","Holiday in December"screened at #Cannes2015 film festival in #France …

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's truck art in #Milan #Italy as Dolce & Gabbana borrow it for marketing campaign. #DGBeautyOnTheGo Known best for its vespas, Milan’s streets and locals were acquainted with a Pakistani truck art inspired vehicle, used as part of Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana’s new beauty campaign.

The three-wheeled vehicle — or the rickshaw as we know it — at first glance has a strong resemblance to the art we see on our Pakistani trucks and rickshaws, with the use of bright colours and scenic images.

The project #DGBeautyOnTheGo is set to take over Milan throughout the summer until August and is aimed at promoting the brand’s new cosmetics collection.

Riaz Haq said...

Dawn on Humans of New York Facebook coverage of Pakistan:

I was bowled over by this innocent question posed to me on a recent trip to New York. There was so much I wanted to tell this man to clarify, to explain that there was no hatred; that my country was a far cry from the images shown on TV. I wanted to tell him about the music, the love, the food, the people.

But in that one moment, I was tongue-tied, not knowing how to condense the diversity of this land into a few sentences. I finally managed to mumble something, but I've often since felt guilty of not projecting abroad, my country and all the love it held, the way I should have.

Hence, the utter delight at learning that “Humans of New York” was coming to Pakistan. The moment I read this news, I jumped up and down like a three-year-old for ice-cream. I had been an avid follower of this page for the last couple of years; its stories are about real people, with circumstances that are similar to ours that we connect with.

It made me fall in love with the people of New York. I, and many others, would read these stories and feel the boundaries fading – all I saw were amazing human beings.

I also felt a wave of relief wash over me when I learned of Brandon's visit. The guilt of not being able to express myself to that man in New York slowly receded. Now* I thought, we'd have the words to truly express ourselves.

And, then we did. The stories started pouring in.

Stories of love, labour, humour, hardship all morphed into beautiful pictures and words. Deep in my heart, I felt like an apprehensive mother, one who has trained and nurtured her only child for all these years, and is finally about to present him to the world. I am sure millions of other Pakistanis felt the same.

Riaz Haq said...

Humans Of NewYork Photo Coverage help humans in #Pakistan via @WSJIndia

Brandon Stanton’s popular Humans of New York website is a photographic tribute to the faces and thoughts of the citizens of Manhattan. But this August, in a sharp departure from his usual stomping ground, the street photographer visited Pakistan.

And, by putting the South Asian nation into the frame, Mr. Stanton said on his website that he’s helped raise more than $2 million for a Pakistani charity.

The former bond trader has attracted an international following for his website, which has more 14 million likes on Facebook, by posting photos of people he meets, along with a quote or short blurb about them.

Following his adventures in Pakistan, Mr. Stanton posted pictures of people with datelines from Karachi to Lahore and the Hunza Valley to Passu.

One photo with a Lahore dateline shows a man and woman standing awkwardly next to each other with the quote: “Our friends are trying to set us up.” In another, with a Passu dateline, a man smiles as he sits next to a wall. The quote says, “I am the happiest man in Pakistan.”

Mr. Stanton also met, photographed and wrote about bonded laborers working in the country’s brick kilns, a woman who needed treatment for Hepatitis C and a man who lost a tractor in an accident and required medical care.

The street photographer’s fans responded to these people’s stories by heaping money onto a fundraising page—set up on a website that allows people to make online payments to support a cause—for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, posting offers of help for the sick woman and donating more than $6,000 on a fundraising page for the man with the broken tractor.

Mr. Stanton’s post about Syeda Ghulam Fatima, who is general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, asked readers to donate to her charity–and the fundraising page that states its organizer is ‘Humans of New York’–shows they pledged more than $2 million after he did so.

The Bonded Labour Liberation Front’s website says its mission is the “total eradication of the bonded labor, injustice, illiteracy inequality and poverty in south Asia.”

A person is described as a bonded laborer when their work is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is trapped into working for very little or no pay, according to human rights organization

A post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said Ms. Ghulam Fatima was set to meet with the charity’s board to plan an expansion of the efforts following the influx of money. Mehar Safdar Ali, an executive member of the organization, said its management committee is working on future plans and will announce them when ready.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we want to build a real freedom center in Lahore, here we can work on not just releasing families but rehabilitation. We want workers to be treated with the rights they deserve as citizens,” Ms. Ghulam Fatima said in a statement posted on the Facebook page to thank people for their donations.

“Before this fundraiser, Fatima had exhausted her financial resources in the struggle against bonded labor to the point where she feared that she’d be unable to pay her own medical bills. Thanks to everyone who donated over the past 72 hours, she now has nearly $2 million to continue her organization’s fight against bonded labor,” a post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said.

Mr. Stanton didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Mr. Stanton’s fans have donated money to help the man who was hurt in the tractor accident. Mr. Stanton quoted the man, whom he didn’t name but was later identified by the Islamabad-based nonprofit Comprehensive Disaster Response Services as Abdul Shakoor, as saying that despite injuries, he was continuing to work. Abdullah Sabir, a 22 year old from Lahore, Pakistan, who works in Internet marketing, said he set up a fundraising page for Mr. Shakoor after reading about him online.

Riaz Haq said...

Swedish professor and TED talk phenomenon Hans Rosling has slammed the media for being 'ignorant and arrogant' and failing to see the big picture with regard to developments in a world which, he argued, is moving in a positive direction.
A new video of the swashbuckling Swede whose straight-talking upbeat missives about the state of the world have made statistics sing off the page, has gone viral in the wake of this week's tragic news of the death of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach.

The Danish news presenter is left speechless as Rosling explained that the message sent out by the global media of a divided world in crisis is failing to inform the public of the bigger (more positive) picture.
"You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world. If you think that the majority of the world population is very poor and if you believe that the girls don't attend school, and that all of these people are trying to flee to wealthier countries, then you don't understand anything," he told broadcaster DR.
He cites the example of Nigeria as a case where a successful transition of power in a recent democratic election has been overshadowed by news of atrocities committed by Boko Haram.
"You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. If you choose to only show my face then that is another part of me," Rosling argued.
Rosling presented several indicators such as birthrates which are no longer growing, the widespread use of contraception and an increasing number of girls attending school, to argue that the world outside the borders of the western world is developing positively and that war and conflict is only a small part of the bigger picture.
When challenged for the source of his facts, Rosling replied:
"Statistics from The International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, nothing controversial."
"These facts are not up for discussion. I am right, and you are wrong," he concluded.

Riaz Haq said...

Swedish professor and TED talk phenomenon Hans Rosling has slammed the media for being 'ignorant and arrogant' and failing to see the big picture with regard to developments in a world which, he argued, is moving in a positive direction.
A new video of the swashbuckling Swede whose straight-talking upbeat missives about the state of the world have made statistics sing off the page, has gone viral in the wake of this week's tragic news of the death of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach.

The Danish news presenter is left speechless as Rosling explained that the message sent out by the global media of a divided world in crisis is failing to inform the public of the bigger (more positive) picture.
"You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world. If you think that the majority of the world population is very poor and if you believe that the girls don't attend school, and that all of these people are trying to flee to wealthier countries, then you don't understand anything," he told broadcaster DR.
He cites the example of Nigeria as a case where a successful transition of power in a recent democratic election has been overshadowed by news of atrocities committed by Boko Haram.
"You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. If you choose to only show my face then that is another part of me," Rosling argued.
Rosling presented several indicators such as birthrates which are no longer growing, the widespread use of contraception and an increasing number of girls attending school, to argue that the world outside the borders of the western world is developing positively and that war and conflict is only a small part of the bigger picture.
When challenged for the source of his facts, Rosling replied:
"Statistics from The International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, nothing controversial."
"These facts are not up for discussion. I am right, and you are wrong," he concluded.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's film industry is back in business—and not just because of #Bollywood via @qzindia

Pakistan’s once-withering film industry is on the verge of a renaissance.
Lollywood—an unofficial name of the industry, centered around Lahore—has released about 10 Urdu films this year, the highest ever in more than three decades. These films have explored genres ranging from romance and comedy to drama and tragedy, receiving both critical acclaim and commercial success.
And today (Sept. 11), one of the most awaited films has arrived in theatres across Pakistan.
Manto is based on the life and times of controversial author Saadat Hasan Manto. The feature film—which some are calling Pakistan’s first biopic—chronicles the last seven years of the author in the newly created Pakistan of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The character of Manto has been essayed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who is also the film’s director. Khoosat is better known in Pakistan (and India alike) as the director of one of the country’s most popular television series, Humsafar.
Khoosat is also among the clutch of Pakistani television veterans who have infused Lollywood with new life—and driven a string of ambitious productions this year.
“There wasn’t such a trend in the past of releasing x number of ‘international standard’ films, but with many prominent names from our television working on films now, there’s a bright future ahead,” a spokesperson at Geo TV, one of Pakistan’s biggest TV networks and the production company behind Manto, told Quartz.

“There’s already a huge buzz in the media about Manto, so we are expecting it to do well at the box office,” the spokesperson optimistically added.
The year so far

It’s been an unusually plentiful year for Pakistani cinema-goers.
For the first time in decades, three films released on Pakistan’s Independence Day—Dekh Magar Pyaar Say, Moor and Shah. Earlier on Eid, two films—Bin Roye and Wrong No.—hit the theatres.
Bin Roye was one of Pakistan’s most expensive films, and featured two television actors, Humayun Saeed and Mahira Khan (who will now be seen in Manto) in the lead roles. Wrong No. was also backed by Pakistani television veterans, including Javed Sheikh and Danish Taimoor.

But Pakistani audiences were treated to more than just extravagant potboilers. In May, 3 Bahadur—the first Urdu 3D computer-animated film—hit the screens.
“Can we make films that can stand in competition to Hollywood and Bollywood? Yes, that has started,” Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Mandviwalla Entertainment, one of Pakistan’s leading production houses, told Quartz.
Yet, unlike Bollywood’s million-dollar budgets, Pakistani films are being crafted with much smaller sums. And despite a limited number of screens—a little more than 70—across the country, they more or less are managing to break even.

Riaz Haq said...

Studio Elite, #Chicago Presented Red Carpet Premiere of the Latest #Pakistani Blockbuster Film, “Jawani Phir...

Chicago IL: The Studio Elite, Chicago presented a star-studded Red Carpet Premiere of the blockbuster Pakistani feature film, "Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (JPNA)", on Saturday September 26th, 2015, 6:30 PM at Holiday Inn, 5300 West Touhy Ave, Skokie, IL, 60077.

The event was attended by over 500 eminent persons, from different walks of life, including Faisal Niaz Timizi, Consul General of Pakistan, as the Guest of Honor.

The star cast of the film, who attended the premier, welcomed the guests to the event and also thanked them for the love and affection showered on them.

"JPNA is an outright commercial film, with the performances par excellence. This 'paisa vasool' film, which scores full marks on the entertainment meter, makes sure that you laugh out loud and enjoy thoroughly the 150-minute experience", said Humayn Saeed, co-producer of the film and one of the lead actors.

Saeed said that the movie has witty dialogues, catchy humor, and an array of party songs to groove to. "With a star-studded cast, exotic locations, and the promise of plenty of entertainment, JPNA turned out to be this Eid's biggest release", added Saeed.

Saeed further stated that even though JPNA is just a few days old, it has been doing a record-breaking business and is on its way to emerge as the highest-grossing blockbuster film in the history of Pakistani cinema.

"Pakistan has been producing world class dramas, and now with films like JPNA, we will do great in the domain of movies too", said Javed Shaik, who essayed an important character in the film.

"While Indian movies have been making high impact, considering their huge budget, state-of-the-art technology, and larger-than-life sets, a movie like JPNA has the potential to capture the imagination of moviegoers on account of its gripping storyline, mesmerizing screenplay, and emotionally-strong content", added Shaik.

Humayun Saeed, Javeed Shaik, Sabia Ali, Mahwif Haya, and others, unanimously urged the film-lovers in the US in general and in Chicago in particular to watch JPNA, along with their family and friends, without fail.

Pakistan Consul General Mr Faisal Timizi expressed hope that the comedy films like JPNA will not only entertain people from the Indian Subcontinent in the US but would also further enrich mutual understanding, friendship, and cultural sensitivity among them.

He also said that with the launch of such films as JPNA, Manto, Bin Roya, Mor, and Khuda key Liya, Pakistan cinema has come of age. Pakistani cinema, like Pakistani television plays, are known for their dialogue and being close to reality. "The Consulate has undertaken efforts to facilitate an event for Manto, a story on the life of South Asia's premier short story writer", he added.

JPNA revolves around three buddies whose lives are literally miserable because of their wives. Their friend, a divorce lawyer, decides to take them to a 'boys-only' trip to Bangkok to bring some spice and excitement into their lives, which results in hilarious comedy.

The movie features such heavyweights as Humayun Saeed, Vasay Chaudhry, Ahmad Butt, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ismail Tara, Javed Sheikh, Sarwat Gilani, Mehwish Hayat, Uzma Khan, Ayesha Khan, and Bushra Ansari.

The film written by Vasay Chaudhry and directed by Nadeem Baig, has been produced by Salman Iqbal, Humayun Saeed, Shahzad Nasib, and Jarjees Seja, under production banner of Six Sigma Plus.
Mrs Haniya wife of Consul General Congratulated and wish best of luck to The Red Carpet Event and "Jawani Phir Nahi Ani team.

Riaz Haq said...

Team of #Pakistani and #Japan archeologists uses 3-D tech to log #Pakistan relics | The Japan Times …

A team of Japanese and Pakistani archaeologists has launched a project to record three-dimensional images of antiquities, including Buddhist ruins at a World Heritage site in Pakistan.

Creating 3-D images will aid restoration efforts. The antiquities in question are deteriorating quickly and the Pakistani authorities lack funds to ensure their preservation, the team said.

In July, researchers from institutes including the nonprofit Japanese Centre for South Asian Cultural Heritage, based in Tokyo, and Hazara University took photos of structures, including Buddhist stupas, at the Taxila site in Punjab province.

Taxila is one of the important Gandharan ruins and was a Buddhist learning center from 5 B.C. to the second century. It was put on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list in 1980.

The team also photographed the rock edicts of King Asoka in Mansehra and petroglyphs in Hunza, both in northern Pakistan.

The photos were sent to Japan and processed into 3-D images by Lang, an information processing company in Iwate Prefecture. Lang made the inscriptions and drawings more clearly visible, the researchers said.

“Precise data will be lost if precious ruins in Pakistan are destroyed by a disaster or other causes,” said Atsushi Noguchi of the cultural center. “It is an urgent task to preserve the records.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to Host an Arts Biennale of Its Own in nation's culture capital #Lahore @RashidRanaRR

"Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here. “Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”
Rashid Rana

Pakistan will join the roster of countries hosting contemporary art fairs with the announcement of the inaugural Lahore Biennale, which is scheduled for November 2017.

Rashid Rana, a native of Lahore and one of Pakistan’s best-known artists, will be the artistic director of the show, which will be announced Tuesday. Mr. Rana, 47, has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, including a retrospective in 2010 at the Musée Guimet in Paris.

“Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan,” Mr. Rana said Monday by telephone from Lahore. “Why not create the opportunities and platform so the audience can see the work in the context in which it is being produced and, in doing so, bring international art into Pakistan.”

Mr. Rana said that the biennale would feature public art projects as well as new commissioned works, with an emphasis on engaging with the public. The exact sources of financing have yet to be determined, but Mr. Rana said that his team would be seeking both private and government support to pay for the exhibition.

The artist said he expected that logistics would be the biggest challenge in planning the show, which he described as a “different kind of bienniale, taking place not in a white cube museum space.” He said that his team would begin selecting artists and venues for the show in the coming months.

Mr. Rana acknowledged that censorship could be an issue, but, he said, “Pakistan is a very free country in a strange way. It’s not a fully developed democratic society, but there is a strange kind of freedom that exists here.”

“Even with censorship or self-censorship,” he added, “artists here find interesting ways to create and express themselves.”

The show is being presented by the Lahore Biennale Foundation, a collective of prominent Pakistanis from the art and business communities. Mohsin Hamid, the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” is one of the foundation’s directors, and Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation, is an adviser.

Last year, the foundation helped present “My East Is Your West,” an event at the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition featured work by Mr. Rana alongside the Indian artist Shilpa Gupta in a rare, if unofficial, collaboration between India and Pakistan on an international platform.

“I think one very simple reason for the biennale is to bring attention to the fact that Pakistan has a very vibrant artistic scene,” Ms. Morgan said in a telephone interview. “It has produced a number of artists that have become very well known internationally but hasn’t yet had an internal event that can celebrate what has been happening there in the last few years.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has got a new publisher of English books, and she’s looking to stir things up

Pakistan has produced several internationally acclaimed writers in English, including two Booker Prize nominees (Mohsin Hamid, 2007 shortlist; Mohammed Hanif, longlisted in 2008). But the English language publishing scene in the country is conspicuous by the absence of presses of any repute, barring Oxford University Press Pakistan. Enter, in this space, Mongrel Books, started by Shandana Minhas, author of three novels – Tunnel Vision, Survival Tips For Lunatics, and Daddy’s Boy. Excerpts from an interview on publishing in Pakistan, Mongrel’s vision and mandate, and the way ahead:

Why did you decide to set up Mongrel Books? How has the journey been so far?
For some years now my husband Imran and I have been quietly building the life we always imagined for ourselves, in the company of books, in the service of books. Recently we have been struggling to find books we want to read on shelves in Karachi, so we just decided to take the next logical step and publish them. The journey has just started. I hope you’ll ask me again in a year and I’ll be around to answer.

Why do you think that the English language publishing scene hasn’t evolved in Pakistan? Is it because of a lack of a dedicated readership, infrastructure or even security threats?
Lack of a dedicated readership and infrastructure would be news to the retired bureaucrats, landowners, politicians, socialites and inbred memoirists whose English language offerings have been, and continue to be, published in Pakistan. Just two minutes ago the host of the country’s most watched political talk show told us that all three of the night’s guests were published writers. Between them they had written books on law, dentistry and honour killing.

They might all be good books; the point is that traditional publishing in Pakistan is as riddled with greed, nepotism, cronyism and corruption as the body politick of the wider nation. Its totemic figures, the gatekeepers to visibility, haven’t looked to sustain anything other than their own relevance. If something happens and they aren’t involved in it, they won’t tell you about it. And given the opportunity they will tear it down.

This applies to everything from state-funded cultural bodies to privately owned enterprises to media coverage, and cuts across class. They might tell you they’re not publishing English language fiction because of security threats or censorship, but the truth might be closer to self-censorship: the margins aren’t big enough and “native Pakistani” writers (like me) don’t add to their social cache.

But there might be something stirring in English language fiction publishing too, finally. A distributor in Lahore set up a dedicated imprint a couple of years ago. A big distributor in Karachi is quietly testing whether the footfall at book fairs and festivals might translate into actual sales for its own new fiction imprint. Talented young writers have organised themselves into collectives and started publishing online and in print. And one of the older, smaller presses just published a book of English short stories. By the chairman of the senate.

Almost all Pakistani authors publish or aspire to publish with major Indian publishers. How does Mongrel plan to reverse this trend? And have you managed to poach any writers from bigger publishers?
We have no aspirations to trend setting, bucking, reversal and/or spotting. Pakistani writers need to continue to find as many publishers as they can. All writers should. We’d love to do co-editions with other indie presses in the region to bring our writers to as wide a readership as possible. Maybe one day we’ll all make enough to pay our electricity bills, haina?

Riaz Haq said...

5 books for troubled times from this #indie #bookstore in #Lahore #Pakistan. Alderman , Hanif, Mishra. via @NewsHour

On the arts desk, we turn to books to try to make sense of the times we’re living in, and with so much going on in the U.S., it can be a challenge to maintain a global perspective. This week, we asked “The Last Word,” an independent bookseller in Lahore, Pakistan, for what we should be reading right now.

Aysha Raja, who opened the store in 2007, wrote in an email to NewsHour that The Last Word has been “selling books through the toughest of times” in Pakistan, including eras of terrorism and authoritarian rule. Right now, she said, as incidents of intolerance rise around her country, and the world, the store is recommending books that “celebrate the provocateur, the vilified, and the misunderstood.” Below, their five recommendations, in the staff’s words:

1. “The Power” by Naomi Alderman

“The Power” can be best described as feminist dystopian sci-fi. It takes place in a world almost exactly like ours, except women have spontaneously developed the ability to shoot electricity out of their fingers, sometimes with fatal consequences.

2. “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif

Mohammad Hanif’s debut novel was published during General Musharraf’s regime and was poised to upset a lot of important people. Set during Pakistan’s military dictatorship of the ’80s, this comic political thriller offers up an array of possible motives behind the still-unsolved murder of Musharraf’s predecessor, President Zia-ul-haq.

3. “The Age of Anger” by Pankaj Mishra

Mishra surveys the philosophies that rose from the ashes of colonialism, the French revolution, industrialization and the rise of fascism to show us how we arrived at today; how growing discontent was consistently ignored in favor of unbridled capitalism; and how that has ultimately cost us our humanity, our freedoms, and our environment.

4. “Hip Hop Raised Me,” by DJ Semtex

Compiled by Radio 1 DJ Semtex and edited by industry insider Marium Raja, this tome serves as a reference guide, monograph and history of the most subversive contemporary movement of the modern era.

5. “Saffron Tales” by Yaseem Khan

Iran is often vilified, and misunderstood. This is both a cookbook and travelogue, so it humanizes a culture through its food. For the book, Khan travels to her ancestral home of Iran and unearths an impressive array of recipes from her meals in home kitchens all over the county. Culinary secrets are revealed with the underlying history and traditions of the region, introducing Iran to us through its food. The use of everyday ingredients and helpful instructions will ensure you develop a taste for Persian cuisine.

Riaz Haq said...

John Swinton - Yes, He Said It, But...

John Swinton: Yes, he said it, but...

One night, probably in 1880, John Swinton, then the preeminent New York journalist, was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty_four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

(Source: Labor's Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

Riaz Haq said...

Sky is the limit for #Pakistan's metal artist. He completed a diploma in electrical #engineering in 1986. Then he joined Nishtar Hall, #Peshawar's main #cultural centre for #music and #art, and then produced a number of oil paintings on large canvasses.

Nasim Yousufzai started digging art with a pencil, struck some oil, and ended up in scrap, so to speak.

From unlikely origins, the 50-something metal artist from Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar has done all of this, and more.

His biggest exhibit was when he designed a huge float for the Pakistan Day parade in 1995, winning second prize.

Then in 2001, he took to the air by designing a makeshift aircraft from an old automobile engine, used car tyres, wooden propellers and wings made of steel pipes covered with canvas sheets.

He flew the machine for five minutes, before he was waved down by his brothers who dragged him home where his panicked mother ordered him never to do it again.

He has since abided by that order.

The son of a day labourer who had migrated from his native Swat region to Peshawar in search of work, Nasim's childhood was steeped in poverty.

But he appears to have made the best of it.

"My elder brother didn't want to study, and my father was happy for him to drop out of school, but I refused to do that, and my father didn't force me," he says.

As a child, he did everything he could to help his family while he studied. After school he would go to a nearby wholesale market to buy vegetables, which he sold in his neighbourhood. Then he worked part time as a helper at an electric store, and also at a tailor's shop where he learned stitching.

"Since my earliest years, I somehow developed a passion for drawing," he says.

That might have sparked his talent for designing things in later life - and in recent years making art out of scrap metal.

"I couldn't resist grabbing a paper and a pen to draw anything that caught my interest, which gradually expanded from household objects to living things."

He completed a diploma in electrical engineering in 1986 and was immediately offered a job, which he still holds.

Alongside his work, he started producing political cartoons for a couple of local newspapers which not only added to his income, but also satisfied his creative urge.

When he joined evening classes at Nishtar Hall, Peshawar's main cultural centre for music and art, he learned to paint, producing a number of oil paintings on large canvasses.

In late 1994, he spotted a newspaper advertisement inviting artists to produce a float representing the culture and history of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (then called North-West Frontier Province, or NWFP), for use at the annual Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad.

He applied and his idea was approved for official funding.

Over the next two months, he camped in Islamabad, building a massive float using wood, thermopore sheets, plaster of paris and hundreds of jute bags.

The scene that he crafted showed a male Pathan, KP's dominant ethnic group, a British-era hilltop fort, the building of one of Peshawar's oldest graduate colleges, and Tarbela Dam, the largest in Pakistan.

The float was loaded onto a 22-wheel trailer and driven past the stage where the president and the prime minister were seated.

Having seen Naseem assembling the aircraft in the courtyard of their house, his brothers vaguely knew what he was building. But his mother, who had lived in a village all her life, didn't have the slightest idea.

She came to know when someone rang her up and told her. At that time Naseem had arrived at an air strip in a small town just north of Peshawar, and was readying his plane for the flight.

There had been talk at the time of several home-built aircraft in the region, and one of them near Peshawar had crashed, killing the pilot. So his mother was greatly alarmed.

Riaz Haq said...

From the highways to the skies: #Pakistan's famous truck art goes airborne. With elaborate and flamboyant motifs, Pakistani #truck #art has inspired gallery exhibitions abroad and prompted stores in Western cities to sell miniatures.

Pakistan’s famous truck art will move from its highways to the skies, as a flying academy is painting a two-seater Cessna aircraft with the colourful technique.

With elaborate and flamboyant motifs, Pakistani truck art has inspired gallery exhibitions abroad and prompted stores in Western cities to sell miniatures.

“We want to show the world that Pakistan is not all about Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and terrorism issues; it a very diverse country and a land of opportunities,” Imran Aslam Khan, chief operating officer of Sky Wings, a flight training organisation, told Reuters.

He also plans to paint other aircraft, with the aim of promoting tourism in Pakistan.

Such art has become one of Pakistan’s best-known cultural exports in recent years. UNESCO, for example, has been using truck art, blended with indigenous themes, to promote girls’ education in a northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“The world is familiar with our truck art representation; now, with this aircraft, our colours will fly in the air. We are really excited,” Haider Ali, the artist painting the aircraft, told Reuters at the academy’s hangar.

Trained by his father, Ali, 40, has been decorating trucks since his childhood and is now one of the most prominent such painters in Pakistan.

Ali hopes to paint an Airbus or Boeing aircraft in the future, saying an opportunity to work on such gargantuan planes would truly be a learning experience.

Riaz Haq said...

2 missing teenage girls in #Pakistan who ran away to meet #BTS found by police 750 miles from home. #KPOP has a huge following in Pakistan, with fans spanning age groups and genders. #Korean #dramas are gaining popularity as well. #music #entertainment

Two teenage girls reported missing in Pakistan last week have been found more than 750 miles from home after attempting to travel to South Korea to meet K-pop super band BTS, police in the South Asian country said.

The two girls, aged 13 and 14, went missing on Saturday from Korangi in Karachi city, said Abraiz Ali Abbasi, a senior police superintendent of the area.

During a search of their homes, police found a diary that revealed their plans to travel to South Korea to meet the supergroup BTS, Abbasi said in a video statement.

“From the diary we saw mentions of train timetables and that they had been planning to run away with another friend of theirs … who we then interviewed,” Abassi said.

“We started tracking them aggressively and found out they were in custody of the police in the city of Lahore where they had traveled by train.”

Abbasi said arrangements for the girls to be taken back home to Karachi have been made in coordination with police in Lahore.

And he made an appeal for parents to “please monitor their children’s screen time,” so they’re more aware of what their children are viewing online.

“It isn’t a surprise that two teenagers took this risk because ‘stans’ are capable of doing this for their idols,” said culture journalist Rabia Mehmood, using a colloquial term for loyal fans. “But if we had more safe organized fan-girling spaces, younger fans could engage openly and freely with each other about their favorites instead of taking such risks.”

K-pop has a huge following all over the world, including Pakistan, with fans spanning age groups and genders. BTS posters and albums are sold all over the South Asian country, while Korean dramas are gaining popularity as well.

The seven-member Korean sensation BTS took a hiatus late last year, as its oldest member began mandatory military service last month. Jin, 30, started his military service on December 13, a commitment expected to last 18 months.

BTS is set to be kept apart until at least 2025 as other members of the group come of age to enter military bootcamps. The band has said they will use this time to pursue solo projects.

Riaz Haq said...

Spotify Turns Up the Volume in Pakistan With Events and Music Campaigns

Two years ago, we introduced Spotify to listeners in Pakistan. Since the launch, we’ve worked with the country’s artists to expand their reach and share their music with new fans worldwide—and now we’re taking things to a new level.

March marked the first anniversary of our EQUAL women’s empowerment program in Pakistan, with singer Tina Sani as the Ambassador of the Month. RADAR, which highlights emerging artists from all around the world, also recently made its debut in Pakistan, featuring Taha G up first. He’s at the top of the RADAR Pakistan playlist, and Spotify worked with the singer to create a mini-documentary that spotlights his life and career.

In addition to bringing these programs to the region, we’re finding unique ways—from Masterclasses to cricket campaigns to local playlists—to connect with artists.

Lending artists support with a Masterclass in Lahore
Our music industry experts were ready to share their knowledge during a Spotify for Artists Masterclass event in Lahore, PK. “We hosted at the historical Haveli Barood Khana mansion, and used this opportunity to educate and share information on music streaming trends and new product features with the burgeoning music industry in the region,” shared Khan FM, Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Renowned Coke Studio music producer, curator and artist Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan shared his perspective on the Pakistani music industry with an audience that included more than 150 artists and their teams.

Spotify gets in the cricket spirit
“Cricket is huge in Pakistan, and Spotify highlighted the nation’s love for the game by launching a cricket marketing campaign and digging into the data* of the popular Cricket Fever playlist,” shared Talha Hashim, Marketing Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The curated collection has seen a staggering 611% increase in streams since the beginning of Pakistan Super League 08 (PSL) this year. Among other trends, we noticed:

Karachi is the top city streaming the playlist.
Tuesdays and evenings are when the playlist sees the most streams.
Top songs include “Groove Mera – Pakistan Super League” by Aima Baig, Naseebo Lal, and Young Stunners and “Agay Dekh (Pakistan Super League)” by Atif Aslam and Aima Baig.

Celebrating local artists with Pakka Hit Hai
The Pakka Hit Hai playlist is the go-to Spotify destination for Pakistan’s top hits. “The playlist first launched in 2022 and has seen incredible growth and popularity since its inception. To celebrate, Spotify partnered with COLABS for a concert series called Pakka Hit Hai Live,” said Rutaba Yaqub, Senior Editor for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The first show featured Fresh Finds success Abdul Hannan and Taha G, two of the best-performing artists on the playlist. Bringing the playlist to more fans through live events is one way we’re expanding its reach.