DAWN - Letters; July 27, 2005

Published Jul 27, 2005 12:00am

Good governance

THE increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and gas comes as the final blow to the middle and working classes which are already crushed by the high rate of inflation. The government spin-doctors’ claim of 8.4 per cent economic growth rate is belied by the ground realities which speak of a looming economic crisis.

Today’s situation reminds me of the days when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, after the fall of East Pakistan, was to save the country from a similar crisis created by the then military regime’s anti-people policies. History seems to have come full circle and the present regime may have to resort to asking Benazir Bhutto to once again save the country.

Just before 1970, the top 20 per cent of Pakistanis controlled 40 per cent of national income and the share of the lowest 20 per cent was only eight per cent. And now the top 24 per cent own 42 per cent and the lowest 20 per cent still share eight per cent of the national income. Clearly, the increase in the income of the rich 20 per cent is at the expense of the middle 60 per cent.

The media is reporting cases of suicides almost every day. There may be many more cases which are not reported. The case of an educated and unemployed young man who recently committed suicide is a glaring example of how frustrated young people are by their inability to find jobs and feed their families. The prime minister is creating a ‘happy face’ image through public relations exercises.

In my opinion, the Musharraf-Aziz duo should learn from previous civilian governments how to govern a country and instead of fabricating false cases against politicians who speak for the poor people, they should focus their energies on making sure that the nation’s wealth is distributed equitably. The fact is that under this regime, the rich are getting richer and the poorer are forced to commit suicide.

Unfortunately, this is not a military situation and the time may be close when the help of civilian politicians will be needed — unless Mr Shaukat Aziz proves his mettle and wriggles out of the military gridlock.

ZIA KHOKHAR
Islamabad

‘Dwindling Iranis’

IN his piece “Dwindling Iranis” (Dawn, July 4), Karachian laments the receding Irani tea shops in Karachi. This, one supposes, was inevitable. Irani tea shops are fading away and with that a long history of a city’s culture. Recently in Mumbai when “Bastani” downed shutters, it was a personal loss to this correspondent beyond description.

The reason most Irani tea shops are located in the corner of a building is that at one time it was believed that corner-shops do not yield good luck and hence that area of the building was sold at a discount. Most Iranis capitalized on this belief and gained. But it is the speciality of each shop that differentiates it from others. Tea of course has to be first class, then one may add either biryani or bread with loads of butter, or ginger biscuits, etc.

Karachian has not mentioned the Boman Abadan Irani tea shop in Karachi’s Saddar. Ginger biscuits had made more ginger than flour.

Back in India in Ahmednagar people came from distant places just to have biryani at the Daulat Restaurant, while one still misses the burgers of Gudoo Irani. Ah, but that is history.

P. D. MAGOL
Ahmednagar, India

(II)

AS a regular reader of your esteemed newspaper I particularly like the “Letters to the editor” section as it truly reflects people’s views on complex problems facing humanity.

Once in a while one reads a letter that rises above the rest in its content and spreads a message of harmony and soothes many a stressed out soul. The letter “Dwindling Iranis” (July 21) truly shows that there are people who love, enjoy and yearn to live in a multi-ethnic society, celebrate each other’s culture, food and religion. This letter carries a special meaning when there is so much hate and bigotry going on in the world around us in the name of religion, be it Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, etc.

I am sure the Pakistan government respects all minorities though I can’t be sure how the minorities in Pakistan celebrate their religious festivals. For any country to be tolerant of other cultures and religions the least it can do is to offer one holiday for every religion, such as Eidul Fitr for Muslims, Diwali for Hindus, Baisakhi for Sikhs, Christmas for Christians, Mahavir Jayanti for Jains etc.

In India, schools and most offices are closed for at least one major religious day of the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Jains. During school days I looked forward to these holidays. I may not know a whole lot about the significance of Eidul Fitr but I know this day is very important to Muslims all over the world. Similarly, I can say that Baisakhi is very dear to Sikhs and Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated to honour the founder of Jainism. How do I know this? Because our teachers told us at school. I look forward to more letters like this.

SURINDER KUMAR DHUPAR
California, USA

London blasts

THE recent blasts in London make it necessary for the UN to play its peace-keeping role more effectively. The member-countries have to abide by its dictates. What is happening in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine is enough to tell us the tale of injustices done to the people. The injustices have not yet been addressed by the big powers and oppression of the countries continues in the garb of suppressing terrorism.

Let the grievances of the countries suffering from grave injustices at the hands of the superpower be redressed to make them live in peace and harmony. Maybe this will restore the much- sought-after peace to this disturbed world of today. The billions that are being sunk in curbing terrorism may be diverted to the countries suffering from hunger, disease and unemployment. Let us enable each country to decide its own future instead of interfering in their affairs on one pretext or the other.

SHAFIQUE AHMED
Karachi

(II)

ONE condemns in the strongest possible manner the series of blasts that shook the British capital. Innocent people lost their lives and were injured.

The question that arises is why? Over 100,000 innocent people were killed in Iraq and an equal number in Afghanistan. We are told every action has a reaction. The western world adopts dual policies. When it suits them, they kill people at will but the moment the shoe pinches, then they shout and shriek ‘Terrorists’.

Please view these acts with a balanced and sensible attitude and let the world be a peaceful place to live in by removing all injustices everywhere and this shall automatically solve the terrorist problem.

MAHER H. ALAVI
Karachi

(III)

THE British are more civilized, better informed and better educated than their counterparts across the pond. The backlash has been minimal while the US media has kept up its non-stop nonsense.

London is the city of the future, especially after winning the 2012 Olympics, and one believes Blair will get the Nobel.

After 45 years of living in Los Angeles, I am ready to leave.

IRFAN HAQ
Los Angeles, USA

Ban on players

I WAS very upset to read a report (Dawn, July 15) that the Alam brothers have been banned from playing polo. To us, the polo groupies of Pakistan, the Alam brothers are polo. Unfortunate incidents do take place in such dangerous sports, but they should be treated in the right perspective.

Shamyel has been playing polo for the last 22 years since the age of 11 and has represented Pakistan victoriously against India, Australia and at the World Cup in France. Qublai Alam has been playing polo for the last 20 years since the age of 13. He has captained the Pakistan side against India and in the World Cup in France, which was a first for Pakistan. The whole nation watched Shamyel make the initial move and Qublai score the final goal that gave us victory over India in December 2003 and took us to the polo World Cup for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

I am not sure about the details of the incident that has brought on this extremely severe penalty, but I have read that they subsequently resolved their differences amicably. As far as I know instead of bringing the game into disrepute I feel the Alam brothers have taken polo to new heights. If Shamyel is given a life ban and Qublai a five-year ban, who will replace them on the national side?

It is no secret that we have a dearth of talent in polo. The supporters of polo, request the Pakistan Polo Association to reconsider their extreme decision and reinstate the Alam brothers.

YASMEEN SHAFIQ
Lahore

‘Where is my degree?’

THIS refers to the article “Where is my degree?” by Ms Sarah Naeem (July 10, Education section). Ms Naeem says anyone who graduates from the University of Karachi has to wait for a certain period before he or she can apply for their degree. This is incorrect.

One is eligible to apply for a degree after graduating from the institution. You need to fulfil requirements like payment of all dues and receiving clearances from various departments but there is no time limitation. As for the departments from where clearance needs to be obtained being at a distance from one another, the applicant can always use the university’s transport or his own transport.

In fact, the university has made procedures very easy for ex-students. Once you submit the form for obtaining a degree, the degree can be mailed to the address mentioned in the form. In fact, applicants can also authorize someone else to complete the procedure on their behalf and receive the degree. However, if for some reason a degree is needed urgently, then one has to pay extra fee.

FAIZA ABDUR RAB
Karachi

‘Crime being monitored?’

REFERENCE two news items appearing in Dawn — ‘Cellphone theft data made strictly inaccessible: new police-CPLC policy” (July 9) and the interior minister saying: “The crime rate is being strictly monitored and the authorities must adopt preventive measures for curbing crimes across the country” (July 21).

Notice the common word ‘strictly.’ I leave the readers to make their own conclusions.

HASAN BIN HAMZA
Karachi

HEC projects

IN HIS article (Dawn, Sci-tech, July 23) Dr Sohail Naqvi has tried to defend various HEC projects that I have exposed and criticized. These include the purchase of a piece of outrageously expensive but completely utmoded piece of physics equipment called a Van de Graaf accelerator, the grant of Rs5.5 million to Dr Saadia Chishty for research on “Quranization of Science Courses at the MSc level”, a so-called “Best University Teacher Programme”, the physics “Master Trainers Programme”, and others.

I can be only very brief here. First, the Van de Graaf machine. Its intended acquisition was proudly announced by the HEC chairman in Dawn, Sci-tech (June 25) at a cost of Rs345 million. If purchased, this utterly irrelevant and useless machine will make Pakistan the laughing stock of the world’s community of scientists. The chairman and executive director of the HEC seem unaware of the fact that other countries have either thrown this obsolete equipment away, or put it into museums. Readers can confirm this by simply doing a Google search and surfing the web using “Van de Graaf” as key words.

Regarding the matter of Dr Saadia Khawar Chishty, the HEC webpage shows for the project “Quranization of Science Courses at the MSc level” the following entries: Total Amount Rs5,581,000 and Current Year Award Rs1,857,000. But this is a senseless project.

Further, according to an evaluation by a senior professor of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, “the lady scholar has not shown any evidence about the basics of Quranic scholarship”. This professor says he cannot appreciate such huge expenditure especially since the “project apparently does not warrant any empirical investigation, laboratory experiment, travelling or any other heavy expenditure”. I wonder why Dr Naqvi has not mentioned that that Dr Chishti is on the board of governors of the HEC. Her name is still there in the HEC’s 2004 Annual Report.

Turning now to the disastrous “Physics Master Trainers Programme” at the QAU, Dr Naqvi claims that “Dr Hoodbhoy asked to be placed in charge of the programme when it was first proposed”. This is absolutely wrong. There was a five-person committee of which I was a member. I argued that the programme should not be handed over to one particular member of the committee, whose basic understanding of physics is known to be notoriously weak. Other physicist members of the committee supported my stand. But the HEC made its own choice. It must now accept responsibility for the fact that the programme is a failure.

In my criticism of the “Best Teachers Award” scheme, I had suggested that students were obviously the best placed to judge whether someone was a good teacher. Dr Naqvi observes that the HEC could not possibly interview all 250,000 students in Pakistani universities. Quite so. But it is amazing to me that it has not thought to figure out something that many good universities around the world succeed at as a matter of routine — namely, getting student evaluations of the courses they take and the teachers who teach them. These evaluations are used to assess both courses and faculty.

Perhaps this is asking too much from HEC managers. Unfortunately, it seems the HEC does not look back or admit to mistakes.

PERVEZ HOODBHOY
Professor of Physics, Quaid-i-Azam University,
Islamabad

Leopard killing

THIS refers to the news about the killing of a leopard by police commandos in the Abbotabad area (July 12). Thereafter a number of letters were also published criticiszing the manner in which the animal was killed. One must say it was nothing but cold-blooded murder. The souls of Col Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson — the famous shikaris hunters of man-eater tigers, panthers and leopards of British India — must have been tossed restlessly.

Under normal circumstances big cats kill only for food, never wantonly, and their preys are wild beasts of the forest, or where temptation offers, village cattle and dogs but never human beings unless “disturbed”. A rifle or a gunshot wound by some trigger-happy/inexperienced shikaris render them unable to hunt their usual preys — wild animals in the forests or even cattle. Therefore they are forced to prey on man, the weakest and puniest of creatures, quite incapable of defending himself when unarmed.

The NWFP government should have acquired the services of some reputed big game hunter who could first ensure that it was the same leopard who killed two women and a girl by identifying its pug marks and its normal beat as well as other evidence. It is possible that the actual killer leopard has been driven deep into the forest after getting scared by the firing of police commandos on the other leopard and might reappear suddenly after some time to pose a threat to the people again. In fact the wildlife department should have established its identity after it was killed. In future, the services of some professional hunters should be obtained for killing man-eaters.

SQN LDR (retd) S. AUSAF HUSAIN
Karachi

Fighting extremism

A STUDY of President Pervez Musharraf’s speech of July 16 reveals many undercurrents, hopes and fears.

It is a sudden shift from eradication of extremism to a quick-fix solution as if it is a one-time problem and in the next generation and thereafter extremists would not be born out of or created by circumstances.

The behaviour and outlook of societies are changed in generations and not months.

The “crackdown” orders mean that the problem of extremism is simply criminal. This, in many cases, can be challenged in and out of courts. Besides, on what criteria can one decide as to when normalcy ends and extremism starts?

Some hate material has been seized and many arrested by now. Is the seizure an end by itself or a beginning to educate the masses in the purpose behind the eradication of extremism? When can we know this?

Amongst the 17 killed in Miranshah by the army, two were young men, five women and 10 children — six boys and four girls. We are told that these were all trained fighters. This needs an inquiry and elaboration.

“Of the 44 military operations launched by Pakistan in the tribal belt of South Waziristan, based on US intelligence reports, only three were correctly identifiable” (Dawn, Dec 17, 2004). We need to be careful while we tackle extremism.

“The Pentagon and the State Department have joined hands to chalk out a programme to counter tens of millions of real and potential jihadis” (Dawn, April 26). This should not be allowed. Israel kills innocent Palestinians but routinely calls them terrorists and extremists.

We ought to know that Pakistan’s image would be further tarnished the world over if our operations are not in consonance with our laws and sovereignty.

Z.A. KAZMI
Karachi

Ghotki accident

ACCORDING to press reports, the Karachi Express (a down train) had to stop for urgent repairs at the Ghotki station. The Quetta Express, another down-track train, struck it from behind, capsizing several bogies of the two trains.

The capsized bogies blocked the up track and caused the third train, the Tezgam, to derail/capsize. The question is: were preventive safety measures such as the tail lamp on every train, use of detonators to warn drivers of impending danger, operative on that occasion?

According to my experience with Kenya’s railway from 1934-1944, every train on track, running or standing, must have a tail lamp attached to the last wagon of the rake. Such a tail lamp is lighted with kerosene oil and is visible at a distance of at least a mile (red light).

Every station is supplied detonating devices to be attached to the track for warning a driver, more particularly at night time. Were such devices employed by the station master, the controller at Sukkur. to prevent this accident?

I think none of the devices are used on the Pakistani rail system as a safety measure. My intention in writing this letter is to draw the attention of the inquiry officer to these important points in the train working code.

WALI MOHAMMAD
Faisalabad

‘Underpasses or flyovers

THIS is with regard to heavy rains in Lahore in the recent days. It was observed that the underpasses were filled with rainwater due to improper or no drainage system. Even cars got stuck in the underpasses.

Instead of the underpasses they should construct flyovers as we see in Europe and America. If not, the underpasses should have proper drainage.

It is heard that there is going to be an underpass at the Khayaban Chowk in Islamabad in the near future. Why not construct a flyover at that place?

HAISSAN NAKODARI
Islamabad


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