DAWN - Letters; 17 January, 2004

January 17, 2004


Reopening Khokhrapar route

As reported by Dawn on December 7, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, while speaking at the 16th annual convocation of the Aga Khan University, Karachi, stated that the government was considering various aspects regarding reopening of the Khokhrapar route, and pledged to provide whatever facility was required to reopen the route.

However, the railway minister, addressing a press conference at the divisional office of the Pakistan Railways on December 19 in Karachi, stated that even if a decision to reopen the route was taken immediately, the railways would require at least one-and-a-half years to put the track, the rolling stock and the railway stations on the entire Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar route in a ship-shape condition for the running of the train service.

The PR chairman, who was also present at the conference, said the railways would require at least Rs660 million to make the track, the railway stations and the rolling stock functional. However, the prime minister reiterated on January 13 in Dadu that the Khokhrapar route would be opened soon. What are we supposed to make of these contradictory statements? Did his saying "will be reopened soon" mean a period of about five years?

The Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar-Munabao route had been functional till September 1965. After the 1965 war, the route remained functional only up to the border town of Khokhrapar. If anything remained out of commission and out of use in the past and now requires renovation, it is the five mile or so track from our border station of Khokhrapar to the Indian border station of Munabao.

The entire route from Mirpurkhas to the border was renovated and customs and immigration staff allocated to Khokhrapar in 1988 when the then prime minister, Mohammad Khan Junejo, had even given the date for the reopening of the India-Pakistan link. How, then, has the entire track and rolling stock since 1988 been so completely damaged as to require Rs660 million for its restoration?

Besides, the renovation of the small piece of five miles from Khokhrapar to the border should not require any significant amount of money. The rolling stock which is now running from Mirpurkhas to Khokhrapar can proceed a mere five miles more, without any renovation. So, what is this talk of Rs660 million and one-and-a-half years? It makes no sense. The prime minister is requested to look into the matter and ensure early reopening of the route.



Teachers' evaluation system

This is with reference to the news item "Universities to have teachers evaluation system: Atta" (January 16) regarding Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Attaur Rahman's plan to introduce a teachers' evaluation system in the public sector universities in Pakistan.

The system is aimed at creating a competition among the teachers by way of distributing the "best university teacher award". I would like to draw the attention of the HEC chairman to consider a similar programme being practised at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), Jamshoro.

Dr A. R. Memon, former vice-chancellor of the university, got implemented such a system in the university in the year 2000 after facing severe criticism from the teachers' group.

An evaluation form with various questions about each teacher's performance was distributed among the students on the first day of the final examinations of the year. A scaling system from excellent to poor was formulated, and the students were asked to rate the performance of the teachers, without writing their own names. The whole exercise was carried out by a team of teachers from a department other than the students' own department, for transparency purpose.

Based on the data thus collected, the teachers were informed of their ratings by the students via relevant department heads, along with appreciation or a warning. In some cases teachers with poor ratings were called by the vice-chancellor - a step which was resisted by the teachers' group.

I hope the HEC chairman gathers such information from the current vice-chancellor of the university, besides including foreign ideas in his plan, before he implements the teachers' evaluation system.


Alberta, Canada

Violation of traffic rules

Traffic violations on Karachi roads have set world records, specially for the carriage of six to seven passengers/members of a family consisting of husband, wife and children, along with bags, one a motorcycle on main roads and streets.

This horrible, wonderful and unbelievable scene can be regularly witnessed by anyone on Sharae Faisal and other big roads in the day and night times in general and during school/ college hours between 0600-0900 hours and 1200-1500 hours in particular, as well as on weekends.

About 98 per cent motorcycles in Karachi have no indicators but run on the roads overloaded, through the length and breadth of the city, without any checks by the traffic police.

In common practice, most motorcyclists jump traffic lights, drive opposite the one-way direction or on fast-tracks, zigzag without caring for the movement of cars/vehicles behind them, stop and assemble on zebra crossings, overtake bigger vehicles from either side, have car/truck horns fixed on their motorcycles, causing disturbance in the city.

The carrying of six to seven passengers by a motorcycle, besides other violating traffic rules, mostly result in accidents causing fatal injuries and loss of lives every day. Unfortunately, the traffic police continue to ignore both their duties and such traffic violations. Would the Sindh inspector-general of police clarify the following:

(a) While travel of more than 4-5 passengers in a car is prohibited, how and why is travel of six to seven passengers on/by one motorcycle openly allowed by the police?

(b) Is the IG himself or the DIG/SSP (traffic) aware of all these happenings on Karachi roads?

(c) What arrangements are being made to control such lawlessness and traffic violations?



Kidnapping of Punjab minister

The kidnapping of the Punjab minister for sports and culture in a tribal area is very sad and should be condemned. Kidnapping for ransom is very common in tribal areas. It seems political administrations in these areas are hand in glove with kidnappers who abduct hundreds of people every year.

It is very deplorable that while for quite some time large army and paramilitary contingents have been carrying out operations in various tribal areas to protect western interests, the law-enforcement agencies and political dministrations are doing nothing to protect ordinary citizens from kidnappers and dacoits.

It is, however, equally sad to learn that the minister was allegedly visiting the tribal areas to buy smuggled (non-custom-paid) vehicles. The question arises: why should a minister go to the tribal areas to purchase smuggled vehicles when he can afford vehicles through legal means?




All newspapers are following the case of the missing/kidnapped Punjab sports and culture minister, Naeemullah Shahani. However, the fact is that he apparently ignored the law of the land and thus violated his own oath of office when he went to the tribal areas allegedly to buy a smuggled vehicle.

When and if the minister is recovered safely, he should face the legal consequences of his actions.



Cruelty to animals

Some time back I went to the Islamabad zoological garden with my family. There I saw a wild monkey with a big raw wound on its hind leg, strolling outside the monkeys' cage.

After some time I saw a commotion near the cage. Two men up in a tree were beating that poor monkey who was perched on the end of a thin branch. Eventually, the fragile branch broke and the unfortunate animal came crashing down to the ground from a height of 30 feet.

What followed was absolutely horrendous. The mob went into a frenzy, picked up stones and started throwing these at the injured creature who ran limping for its life. The wild mob followed, throwing stones, not bothering that these were hitting other visitors as well. The Islamabad zoo staff sitting in the sun was enjoying each bit of this shameful drama from a distance.

At this I lost my cool and shouted at the crowd in a forceful voice to stop this nonsense, admonishing them for their cruelty. Surprisingly, all the aggressiveness of this crowd against a hapless animal just melted away when confronted with a lone authoritative voice. The crowd just dispersed sheepishly.



Remembering Dr Rafi Chaudhry

The up and coming Government College University of Lahore (GCU) has done well by celebrating the birth centenary of Dr Rafi Muhammad Chaudhry, the founding father of experimental atomic nuclear physics in Pakistan. Dr Rafi, the real architect of Pakistan's nuclear capability, has to this day remained an unsung hero, eclipsed by a team of his brilliant, intrepid and committed young students, led by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

With his impeccable academic credentials, creativity and commitment, mismatched by his fastidious and inflexible temperament, unlike Dr Homi Bhabha of India, he was never invited to head the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

Our short-sighted establishment forced retirement on Dr Rafi at the age of 55 in 1958, with a paltry pension of Rs600 per month. The GCU has repaid the overdue debt the nation owed to him by celebrating his 100th birth anniversary on January 7, 2004 (instead on July 1, 2003).

Dr Rafi's memorial function at the Bokhari auditorium attracted a galaxy of his outstanding pupils, with proven records of excellence as professional nuclear physicists, who paid glowing tributes to the genius of the late nuclear scientist.

Dr Samar Mubarak Mand, Dr N. M. Butt, Dr Saeed Durrani and Dr Fayyazuddin were among the leading speakers at the function, but of Dr Rafi's nine children, all physicists, two distinguished ones closest to their father, namely, Dr Anwar Chaudhri, currently working in Germany, and Dr Munawar Chaudhri, working at Dr Rafi's alma mater, the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, failed to attend the function because, perhaps, of short notice.

The decisions taken by the luminaries gathered there include: creation of an experimental atomic nuclear physics chair in the name of Dr Rafi Chaudhry; naming of GCU High Tension Laboratory as Rafi Chaudhry High Tension Laboratory; and recommendation to the government for posthumously awarding Hilal-i-Imtiaz to him for his services of the highest quality to the teaching and research in experimental nuclear physics in the universities and colleges of our country. These are commendable decisions for the revival and revitalization of fundamental experimental nuclear physics at the seats of higher learning in Pakistan.

The celebration of Dr Rafi's centenary may prove a shot in the arm for experimental physics and open up new vistas for young physicists. Pakistan should now concentrate its atomic/nuclear research on atoms for peace and not for war.



Rehabilitating Shaista Almani

Shaista Almani, the young woman whose life is in danger for marrying a man of her own choice, is fighting for her human and religious rights against the cruel pre-Islamic practices such as karo-kari still prevalent in some parts of our country.

It is amusing to see that a number of people have proposed marriage to her. This is a very ridiculous attempt to gain fame by trying to use the name of the devastated woman. Such proposals are like rubbing salt into her wounds and are sure to hurt her heart in a manner similar to when her family forced her to separate from her husband whose own life too is still in danger.

I suggest that the government and human rights activists should continue to make efforts to ensure complete and permanent rehabilitation of Ms Almani. It would be best if she was trained and recruited in the women police force. She can even join the Edhi Foundation and help Mrs Bilquees Edhi in serving humanity.



Roads in bad condition

This is to bring to your knowledge the pathetic condition of areas like FCC, Gulberg II and III, Lahore, due to carefree and careless attitude of the local councillors and the relevant officials of the Lahore Development Authority.

The majority of the roads around Mini Market, Main Market and residential areas nearby are in a pitiable state. There are no streetlights but many illegal speed humps outside schools on the roads, which disrupt the traffic flow. Besides, unauthorized schools/colleges and workshops have been set up in these localities, with the result that they are fast becoming a commercial hub and living conditions are worsening there.

The authorities are requested to remove unnecessary speed humps, repair the roads, and install streetlights.



All is not lost

The 658 legislators who bartered democracy for military dictatorship will go down in the history of this unfortunate country as carpetbaggers. However, the nation will salute the 512 legislators who either abstained or did not vote to validate one-man military rule. Thanks to them, all is not lost - 43.7 per cent of the legislators did not give their vote of confidence to General Pervez Musharraf.

To the 658 carpetbaggers, I would like to say: long after you are gone, your and the nation's children will have to face more trouble, and I hope when you face final accountability, you will be able to justify your actions.



Seat belts

Travelling in my car on the National Highway recently, I had an accident. I escaped unhurt because I was wearing my seat belt. However, my children were injured because the back seats of the car did not have any safety belts.

The point I want to highlight is that the car we were travelling is worth one million rupees and it doesn't even have safety belts attached to the back seats.

The government is requested to advise the car manufacturing companies to ensure that their vehicles have seat belts attached to both the front and back seats.



A Pakistani's plight in Germany

This is with reference to a series of letters appearing in a Peshawar-based English daily under the headline "Plight of a Pakistani in Germany", where there was a reference to a letter to the editor published in Dawn on June 13, 2003, under the title "A Pakistani's plight in Germany".

It was quite discernible that the whole saga of the writer, Dr Qaisar Rashid, revolved round one point, i.e. the 'mode of delivery of a legal notice is a prerequisite to its effectiveness'. The writer mentioned the same. He also asserted that the German court concerned was ignorant of the significance of the aforementioned procedural compulsion attached to the relevant case, before giving its judgment on it.

Now, if the assertion is accepted as true, where will the credibility of trial and conviction by any such German court of, for instance, Al Qaeda's Hamburg cell members, besides other court cases of foreigners, stand?



UHS affiliation policy

While reading the contents of the news item "UHS has yet to decide IMDC affiliation case", appearing in Dawn, Lahore, on December 9, I was disappointed to notice that the University of Health Sciences affiliation committee had recommended that the college should be affiliated for one year.

When the duration of a medical course leading to a degree is five years, there is, then, no sense in granting affiliation to a college for just one year. If after one year the Islamabad Medical and Dental College fails to meet the standards of the UHS and further affiliation is not allowed to the college, who will be responsible for the loss to be suffered by the students now admitted to the IMDC?

May I know who is in a hurry, the IMDC or the affiliation committee of the UHS?

I request the chancellor of the university not to allow such piecemeal sanctions as encourage corruption. He should direct the authorities concerned to grant indefinite affiliation to only those institutions that meet the standards of the university, so that the students can peacefully pursue their studies.



Appointment of teachers

The Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, is one of the best universities in Pakistan, but controversies are damaging its reputation. Until recently no one disputed its standard of education, but now much concern is expressed about recent trends of favouritism in the appointment of faculty members.

It has been observed that persons without PhD degrees have been appointed teachers in various departments, but foreign-qualified and experienced teachers holding PhD degrees have been ignored. This is a very wrong move and will further affect the education standard of the university. Universities are places of research and thus need qualified teachers.

I request the university authorities to appoint teachers on merit alone. If there is no suitable candidate available for a post, the university can hire the services of visiting professors.



Sindh ibex

The refers to the caption of a picture in Dawn (January 10) that says the Sindh ibex has been declared a protected species. It is indeed pleasing to learn that the Sindh ibex population has increased owing to the efforts made by the Sindh Wildlife Department.

We have to adopt or adjust to the imperatives of evolutionary expediencies. In a similar fashion, other endangered species like the brown bear, Neil Gai, falcons, snow leopard, taloor, viper snake and many more can be saved for the betterment of mankind.


President, Pakistan Society for Conservation of Wildlife, Karachi