Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Review: Journey Through Lens

Have you ever shown a child a photo of Waheed Murad, and the child innocently asked you who the fellow was while you tried to impress upon her or him the enormity of Murad’s ‘chocolate hero’ status during the 1970s? Or seen a scratchy print of a film that was once a super hit, but is now virtually unknown? How many of our youngsters would know that Lollywood was once a thriving, tri-lingual industry that produced cinematic masterpieces in Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali? Sadly, not many.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Saving a language

Punjabi language activists in Pakistani Punjab have placed their bets on
making it compulsory in primary schools. This seems to be the most important step in their battle to save Punjabi from complete extinction.

Lahore's Dengue outbreak in 2011

Almost two hundred dengue cases have been recently reported in Lahore, in a second and more intense wave this year. The epidemic is expected to continue through September and October, monsoon months which are most conducive to mosquito breeding. The threat is higher in northern Lahore and walled city where water pools, leaking pipes and congested areas serve as safe havens for mosquito vectors. 

Replug: Coercion, resistance or media-trial

On a cloudy day, the Punjab University’s Philosophy Department looks serene and lush, with relaxed and preoccupied students strolling down the corridors. Yet this department pertaining to Iqbal and Nietzsche became the centre of violence last week when its teachers and students came in conflict with the Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT).

Pakistan's Swine Flu threat in 2011

Swine influenza is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by a type of virus that is endemic and and meat processing workers.
common in pigs worldwide. Influenza A causes acute sickness and serious complications sometimes leading to death. The flu is transmitted from an infected animal to an uninfected animal through direct contact and can increase through intensive farming. People who work with poultry or swine are at an increased risk, such as cattle farmers, veterinarians
The symptoms of the disease include fever, sore throat, runny nose, lethargy, pressure in chest, rapid breathing, bluish or grey skin colour, low blood pressure due to dehydration, no desire of liquid intake, dizziness and confusion, very high body temperature and respiratory failure, lack of appetite, coughing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The virus is spread through migrants and is extremely transmittable. The symptoms are comparable to the common flu and therefore often create confusion in diagnosis.
According to National Institute of Health (NIH), some 85 people have been tested positive for H1N1 virus this winter. There are four basic subtypes of this flu -- H3N2, H3N1, H1N2, and H1N1. January is the peak season for this infection. However, the NIH officials believe the situation is under control.
Maximum numbers of cases have been reported in Punjab (28), followed by Sindh (19) and KP (10). The H1N1 virus does not survive cooking temperatures of 71ºC or more. Nonetheless, like all other viruses it can adapt to different environments, evolving through gene modification.
H1N1 is the same strain which causes the common cold but the latest version has evolved into a wholly human disease now, which can spread among people through coughing and sneezing. Over-crowding, moving in public places and sharing a room with many family members increase the risk.
"A wave of fear has gripped people and even a slight temperature and flu causes the fear of swine flu," says Dr Rizwan Qazi, a senior physician at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad.
Two patients of swine flu, including a female in her 30s, have been under treatment in the Isolation Ward of PIMS.
Sindh Health Minister Dr. Sagheer Ahmed had recently inaugurated the Sentinel Influenza Surveillance Laboratory and the Medical Out-Patient Department at Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) with the help of international donor agencies. The centre will provide treatment for viral diseases in the province, including swine flu. It has a special H1N1 Surveillance Cell. Dr. Sagheer Ahmed had promised to activate the lab and give accurate results, but conceded that natural disasters like the recent floods have taken a toll on the national exchequer leaving little to be spent on health and development.
"According to international recommendations, we are required to closely watch the behaviour of the virus. For laboratory-based surveillance of seasonal influenza virus, Pakistan has a robust laboratory network consisting of an apex laboratory at NIH, as well as one laboratory each at King Edward Medical College, Lahore, Civil Hospital, Karachi, Bolan Medical College, Quetta and Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar. Two more laboratories will be set up in Gilgit and Muzaffarabad in collaboration with the Centres for Diseases Control, Atlanta," says Executive Director of NIH Dr. Birjees Mazhar Qazi.
Children, pregnant women, old and those who are already ill are more vulnerable. It is, therefore, important for health departments of all the provinces to run public awareness campaigns, especially for the vulnerable groups, which deal with animal farming.
"During the high transmission season, samples will be collected from the OPDs of hospitals under standardised SOPs to determine the range of the circulating influenza virus. It will also enable us to study the characteristics of last year’s pandemic strain and to detect any possible changes," adds Dr. Qazi. "Vaccination is an important tool for self-protection. Seasonal flu vaccine is now available in Pakistan."
Fluarix, a vaccine, has been dubbed to protect people for almost a year and costs Rs500 to 600. Acetaminophen, a five-day course of anti-viral is also prescribed. It costs Rs2000 per course.
Health officials need to be deployed at international airports, seaports and border posts to screen suspected patients, install thermal scanners and provide pre-pandemic vaccine at hospitals. Children and adults with flu symptoms should refrain from attending educational institutes.
Expensive swine flu scanners were placed in Pakistan’s major airports but most of them are not working now. Isolation wards need to be set up and vaccines need to be stored in bulk in all major hospitals across Pakistan.
There is no cure for swine flu, only precaution. The swine flu can be prevented by improved hygiene, avoiding contact with flu patients and coughing animals.
This piece was first published in The News

Replug: Running Late

Pakistan's healthcare system is very over-loaded. Everyone has to approach a private practitioner at one time or another. Most of us have had the bitter experience of waiting for hours or days for a doctor, despite having an appointment. And even calling a clinic and receiving an appointment for several months after.

Interview: Adil Najam

It was a pleasant surprise to see that Dr Adil Najam at a conference in Islamabad. Finding a leading expert on diplomacy, international relations and environmental policy in our midst, I made a rather blunt request for an interview to which he laughed and agreed.The next morning, in his cozy Islamabad drawing room sofa next to a fireplace, with a view of his garden on the left and dining room on the right, we discussed politics, environment and America. A public diplomacy and climate change expert with a Sitara-e-Imtiaz and almost every academic accomplishment under his belt, Najam was easy-going for his credentials. 

Replug: Two Years of Aman Ki Asha

Photo by Reuters
Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative started by the Jang Group and Times of India, is celebrating its second anniversary. The campaign has had its presence felt in the media throughout, with events like holding a welcome lunch for Aisam-ul-Haq in Karachi after he reached the Grand Slam final in September 2010.

Replug: Media sells rape stories in an insensitive manner

"Crying Woman" from
On Dec 21, 2010, a case of two young girls being assaulted and gang-raped was reported. Two girls were returning from a party in DHA Karachi, when a white car rammed into their car.

Monday, October 22, 2018


Have you ever shown a child a photo of Waheed Murad, and the child innocentlyasked you who the fellow was while you tried to impress upon her or him the enormity of Murad’s ‘chocolate hero’ status during the 1970s? Or seen a scratchy print of a film that was once a super hit, but is now virtually unknown? How many of our youngsters would know that Lollywood was once a thriving, tri-lingual industry that produced cinematic masterpieces in Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali? Sadly, not many.

Interview: Nighat Said Khan

The well-known women's rights activist Nighat Said Khan or Bunny as she is known in the fraternity gave me this interview in 2011. 

The News on Sunday: Though Pakistan is a signatory of a number of international commitments yet the gap between commitment and reality is too wide. Why?

Nighat Said Khan: There is an enormous gap, in terms of human development, specifically on gender indicators. It is one of the lowest in terms of gender equality. However, there has been women empowerment in politics and political policymaking. 

Replug: The Unolympains

I wrote this piece on a whim following Pakistan's poor performance in the Beijing Olympics 2008. I was in Hong Kong that summer and saw one equestrian event live. And Pakistan's inability to score medals hurt me very much. The piece went in as the main story in the Special Report section of The News. Sadly, little has changed in Pakistan's Olympics record since. 

Replug: Right to Information in Pakistan

The Official Secrets Act in this region was first implemented in 1923, under the British rule. It is
still standing in India and Pakistan, and many other Commonwealth countries.

Replug: Unsung heroes

Photo by Guardian
The accounts of the flood victims are heart-wrenching, to say the least. Also, amidst these, are stories of heroism, valour and never-seen-before altruism.
Taj Alam, 25, a resident of village Kotla in district Mansehra (Hazara), rescued the children and women of a family. The landslide caused by heavy rains triggered a mudslide along the banks. Many houses collapsed. Taj heard the screams of the drowning family. The water was so torrential that swimming through it was impossible. Taj tied ropes around himself, dived three or four times and managed to save the family.

Replug: “The year of Manto isn’t coming to an end”

“Last year was the year of Manto. That year has ended but the year of Manto continues,” said organised in commemoration of Saadat Hasan Manto’s 59th death anniversary, by South Asian Writers and Artists Network, at HRCP recently.

My grandfather

The dawn of September 6 this year will see Mehmood Ahmad turn seventy nine. It has been almost twenty years since his retirement.
Just twenty years back, the male students of Dyal Singh College were like energised electrons, colliding with every wall during college, from politics to poetry and cricket before finally sitting for their annual exam. Those were the days when public institutions were the finest available and no boy considered paychecks and prospects, because living in the moment was more engaging. His job was to teach politics.

Replug: Rediscovering the Shahi Hamam

Photo by Rahat Ali Dar
Delhi Gate in Lahore is engulfed by machinery, construction workers and cement tills these days as
the walled city is being preserved by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA).

Just pass through the Delhi gate, with its monumental arch and muddy puddles, and turn left. There is a black metallic gate that leads to the Delhi Gate School, but you turn right instead. And, there it is — the back entrance to the majestic Wazir Khan Hamam.

Replug: A little know-how about the new techniques and off you go to run your private photo studio

Modern technology has added new dimensions. Mind you, digital cameras are just half the story. The other half is Photoshop that edits photos in almost every aspect, Picassa web albums used to format and organise and other websites and photoblogs like Flickr used to share, change and discuss images.

Replug: Can creative writing be taught and learnt?

The blogosphere is now a fast growing world in Pakistan. There are two broad categories of literary blogs -- one that includes edited magazines like "Asian Cha", "Filter", "Our Stories", "Feminist Review", "Brainripples" etc, and the other contains unedited ones.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Replug: Critical Mass in Lahore

Critical Mass Lahore is celebrating its second anniversary today. Critical Mass is a group of cyclists that originated in Lahore, Pakistan. However, the idea has been prevalent in some 200 countries abroad where cycle rides take place on the last Friday of the month. In Lahore, it is organised on Sundays, and sometimes, special riding events take place.

Replug: (A-) Level playing field?

In the last few years, increasingly, many O and A Level students in Pakistan have brought such exquisite grades that it seems nothing can stop them short of touching the stars. But just two years down the lane, the ride becomes bumpy when the time for college admission comes.

Replug: Return of the natives

Students from here have been going abroad for higher education for many decades. Today, however, the number seems higher than ever before. A pleasant surprise is reserved for those who decide to return to Pakistan. This is baffling. They have their reasons for doing so.

Replug: Education for the child, exploitation for the parents

Pakistan’s private education is a sad tale of profit maximisation and mismanagement.
Schools charge a hefty monthly fee. But hidden charges continue year long. Gigantic admission fees are paid at every level to discourage students from shifting schools. At the senior level, figures easily cross the six-digit mark. School fees gradually rise with each class and sometimes around the academic year. There is no regulation or standard for any charge in private schools.

Replug: Lahore's expansion

Lahore is witnessing a new face of urbanization through housing schemes that sell smaller plots and houses on installments which are feasible for the middle class. According to a real estate agent, some eight new housing schemes were inaugurated in Lahore last year. The damage such ventures are causing to the environment has not been taken into account.

Mood Street: Ramblings of an environmentalist

A reservoir in Hungary exploded this week, flooding a town with several meters of toxic sludge that caused four deaths and many chemical burns. Preventing disasters like this is exactly what environmentalists are paid for.

Mood Street: All in an apple

Apple is more than a fruit. It is, in fact, a symbol with a long heritage. One of the most familiar apple symbols is found in our holy books – most prominently in the Bible. Apple is the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and resulted in a shocking landing of man from Heavens on Earth. Had this apple not been consumed, there is a possibility that our joy-ride on planet Earth would not have materialized.

Replug: Consensus on democracy

A two day seminar on ‘Democracy and Decentralisation’ was held by the Freedom Gate Pakistan in Holiday Inn, on the 29th and 30th of November. Freedom Gate is a network (not organisation) of the alumni of the International Academy of Leadership in Germany (IAF) and is funded by its partner, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), a semi-Government German organisation.

Replug: Two different wars

Everyone who has survived this decade will never forget the 9/11, Afghan war and Iraqi invasion. A comparison between the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is possible because both invasions were done primarily by the US, under war on terror and against a Muslim country where it received a lot of resistance. 

Replug: Noble Peace Prize win of Lie Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo
I wrote this piece in 2010. Since then I have lived in China for two years and Xiaobo has died. My opinions have further clarified about somethings. 

Relug: How Obama got elected in 2008

I wrote this piece in Kinnaird's Computer lab on the very afternoon Obama was elected on for the first time. It was afternoon in Lahore and we were all delighted with his victory. My grandfather even cried on seeing a black man get elected in office because he had followed the civil rights movement, the struggle of Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King Jr. I had visited Obama's campaign headquarters a few months earlier and I decided to write about it. This feelings of pride, fairness and inclusiveness that everyone had that day were completely the opposite of what we all felt in November 2016. Fortunately or unfortunately, my grandfather was not alive to see the orange disaster unfold.

Replug: Two journalists, one confession

That judiciary’s role was controversial in 1979 is beyond doubt. Nasim Hasan Shah, who was one of the judges in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s case, has gone on record to share his regret. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails