DAWN - Letters; 27 July, 2004

Published July 27, 2004

Turbat radio woes

Almost about 23 years ago at around 4pm, the first programme was aired from Turbat Radio Station, Kech, Balochistan. The day must have been a very fascinating one for the locals as the radio is a great source of disseminating information and promoting awareness on many fronts - education, health, social issues, women's rights and the like, and that too in one's own language.

Despite these high ambitions, this radio station has not proven any real success as yet, which is surprising. What is sad to note is that its range does not extend beyond its old 15km range though at the time of inauguration it was claimed that the reach would be extended to cover the entire Makran region.

It does not fully cover even Turbat district. One wonders why promises never get fulfilled at the government level. The third fact is that the radio station still does not have a permanent place.

Its studios are located in a rented place whose rent by now must have gone into many millions. One wonders why the government has still not been able to find a place for it, while the same government has built many rest houses, guest houses and circuit houses in the vicinity of Turbat.

Can't this government find a permanent place for the radio station? As it is the only radio station in Turbat, it should have been equipped with all the necessary equipment in order to make it more effective and a better tool for local news services as well as for creating awareness in various areas. I hope someone at high-up is tuning into our wave-length.



Intercity bus stops

The plan by the city government, Karachi, to build an inter-city bus terminus near the Toll Plaza on the Super Highway and on the National Highway is laudable. One can only wonder why such a plan has not been implemented so far. The city government, along with the traffic police, needs to take a serious look at the entry of heavy traffic into the city, especially at peak hours.

The heavy traffic consists of trucks that carry cargo and large passenger buses that bring in people from other cities. Both these forms of traffic need to be regulated.

The heavy trucks, which include oil tankers and other large vehicles, can be regulated by giving them designated hours to enter the city. But so far, this system has not worked due to the non- cooperation of the traffic police.

It is sad to see that the nazim has issued statements time and again that heavy traffic would not be allowed during day time rush hours in the city, but one look at the city streets shows the hollowness of this claim.

It is my understanding that the traffic police are accountable to the Nazim under the new system of government. The city government needs to take the force to task for their inability to ensure the non-entry of heavy traffic during rush hours.

Where inter-city passenger buses are concerned, they cause jams and are a nuisance because the drivers want to drive at the same speed with which they were travelling on the highways. This results in accidents on a daily basis.

Another problem with large intercity buses is that they have set up illegal bus stations in different parts of the city. Peshawar-bound buses are found near the now defunct Sabzi Mandi while Hyderabad buses are parked near the Taj Medical Complex. All these have to be shifted outside the city.



Uncivil traffic cop

Monday 9:00am. While waiting for the green bus to Clifton at the Cafe Liberty bus stop on Tariq Road, I saw that a traffic police officer had cornered a motorbike rider and was busy booking him for some violation.

Meanwhile, all the minibuses were flouting all traffic rules in the book. They were not stopping at the bus stop but at the crossing, lifting and dropping commuters everywhere, even in the middle of the road, while still in motion.

Before my eyes the green bus that I was waiting for passed by, plying in the fast lane, its driver not bothering to stop to lift passengers - not even looking at waiting commuters.

I went to the Traffic ASI and, introducing myself, requested him to note that most of the buses were not stopping at the bus stop. He looked at me and, for no apparent reason, blurted out in an uncouth manner, "Hero baney ki koshish kar rahey ho? Subah subah mera damagh mat kharaab karo.

Kya kaam kartey ho? Jao, jao! Mein apna kaam kar raha hoon." ("Are you trying to act like a hero? Don't bother so early in the morning. What do you do for a living? Go away! Let me do my job.")

Can I ask the DIG Traffic, Karachi, if the actual task of a traffic police officer is to discipline traffic or is it just to book motorbike-riders and rickshaw-drivers for minor violations, overlooking grave violations by car owners and bus drivers?

After this episode, the ASI rode his bike to where the buses should have stopped and I saw him challan a minibus, saying something to its conductor while he looked at me with unguarded disdain.

It appears that traffic police officers are assigned only the task of booking a specific number of vehicles in a given span of time. No wonder traffic is as unruly and undisciplined in Karachi as its traffic cops.



Liaquat Ali's assassination

Dawn Young World, as its name implies, is basically meant for the paper's younger readers. Yet some of the senior readers cannot help glancing through it because of their voracious appetite for reading.

Young World of July 24, 2004, gives a review of Lee Davis's book 'Assassination' in which some 20 important figures are mentioned. These were persons who were assassinated and were, in the words of the author, "famous and infamous, great and not-so-great leaders and political figures of the world". It is indeed a great work and the compiler's efforts have to be lauded.

It is, however, a little surprising why the compiler excluded Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first prime minister, who fell a victim to an assassin's bullet on October 16, 1951.

Similarly, the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first prime minister of the newly independent Bangladesh in August 1975, has gone unreported in the book. They merit inclusion.

India's notorious 'bandit queen' Phoolan Devi who made big news in the Indian print media in banditry and later on in the Indian Rajya Sabha is also missing. Her assassination has also not been given any place in the book.

Similarly, there may be many other cases of assassinations of famous and infamous people that may have been left out for one reason or another. On hopes that all such cases will be taken care of in the future edition of the book by the compiler or the publisher to make the work more informative and authoritative.



Kahoon valley: suggestion

I do not have words to express the beauty and harmony that exist in this paradise on earth - Kahoon valley. What I do know is that even after having travelled the world my body and soul gets synchronized only when I enter this valley.

I feel the people of this area and the area itself need to be saved from the ravages of industrialization. If there can be any human development / improvement, it should be in the facilities that can be provided to the area to make this little known region more accessible to the people of Pakistan and the world.

The foothills of the Salt Range are already home to the following industries: ICI Khewra, Dalmia Cement Factory, Dandot Cement Factory, National Cement Factory, Zaman Cement Factory and numerous salt mines.

Why not turn the area into an industrial haven? The mountains are full of minerals from which numerous value-added chemicals can be made, which are at present being imported against valuable foreign exchange.

We are setting up industrial zones in areas which only have kinoos as their natural resource but no industrial zone where they are required. We also have 100-ft to 150-ft waterfalls through the length of the range which can be dammed to provide cheap hydel energy for this industrial zone and also provide the much needed drinking water to the people and animals of Pind Dadan Khan tehsil.



Lahore museum

Your piece museum "owns 60,000 artifacts but displays only a third of them because of lack of space" talks about an internationally accepted practice. It is normal to use at least half the space of any museum to keep archived material or in storage. These sections are then set aside for use by students, scholars and researchers.

Unfortunately, some believe, quite wrongly, that an exhibition gallery is all that there is to a museum. A museum is much more complex: it is not a dusty cupboard which displays the best of the family silver and hides the rest; it is an open living treasure house of knowledge, and can prove to be a powerful teaching tool for educational institutions.

Very often, the level of civilization of a state is measured by the number of proactive museums and libraries it has. A museum official is also quoted in the article as saying that tube lights were damaging the artefacts.

It is recognized throughout the world that fluorescent lighting is less damaging to artefacts than tungsten filament or halogen lighting. The official probably meant that the heat of lighting enclosed in a glass case was damaging, not the light from the lamp.

Finally, some security aspects of any museum are kept confidential, so that robbers don't get ideas. Announcing to the world that the museum has only two borrowed Kalashnikovs is inviting the robbers in - provided they read Dawn.


Director National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) Islamabad

Afia Siddiqui's case

It is appreciated that many Pakistani inmates of Camp X-Ray have been repatriated by now while others' cases are likely to get processed in due course. However, those arrested by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or the FBI also ought to be released forthwith if no major wrongdoing can be proved against them.

The US authorities are requested to take personal interest in the case of Dr Afia Siddiqui and her three young children on compassionate grounds who have not been heard of reportedly after being handed over to American authorities.

Some of the facts about her are as follows:

a. She was an award-winning student of MIT from where she got her PhD and was carrying out research in cognitive behavioural science to help children with learning disabilities.

b. After being accused of terrorism (by the FBI), Pakistani intelligence agencies had interrogated her in Pakistan but failed to find any link with Al-Qaeda.

c. In the US, she was accused of making anti-US speeches and "preaching jihad" and was declared a "dangerous terrorist" by the FBI.

d. According to her American lawyer, Dr Siddiqui had received job offers from a couple of prominent American universities. Being a divorcee, with kids ranging in age from a few months old to seven years, she had travelled to the US again in late 2002 for interviews, in a bid to sustain her family.

This shows the unlikelihood of her getting involved in terrorism. What is more plausible is that she may have been arrested on being falsely implicated by somebody hostile to her, or for some minor infractions.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui's disappearance has become a matter of great concern for their extended family and other Pakistanis. I am writing this as someone keenly interested in promoting global peace and understanding, especially between the US and the Islamic world, as also in securing a fair treatment for my compatriots.

Extremism of a small minority can only be curbed by winning the hearts and minds of the majority of the world's Muslims by treating them equitably and respecting detainees' human rights.



Plight of Baloch students

The majority of the population in the Lasbela, Awaran and Kech and Gwadar districts of Balochistan depend on Karachi, from everything from education to basic health services.

At least 40 Baloch students from these districts are presently enrolled in the University of Karachi. However, due to the university's policy they have been denied accommodation in the hostel unlike students belonging to Punjab and the Northern Areas.

Not all of them are necessarily financially sound enough to arrange private accommodation, especially in localities close to the university. Another thing to point out is that there should be a quota for students from the coastal areas of Balochistan in the university's marine biology department.

Balochistan Chief Minister, Jam Muhammad Yousuf and the Federal Minister of Education Zubaida Jalal being elected representatives of the coastal areas are requested to personally intervene and address these two issues.



Enlightened moderation

I was saddened to read that Mr Shaukat Aziz, an otherwise liberal and educated man, felt the need to clarify that he was not just a Muslim but a Sunni Muslim to boot (June 30).

Why was he so anxious to establish that he was part of the mainstream of this country? Is it because the other segments are getting such a hammering? President Musharraf and the more liberal elements in the government talk of enlightened moderation but seem to be paying lip-service to the concept.

One way the government can act to indicate a willingness to accept all sects and minorities as part of our mainstream is to do away with the religion requirement on the national ID card and passport.

Mr Aziz is a good and competent technocrat who has done much to rescue this country from its financial problems. He should not fall into the trap of overlaying his actions with the gloss of "serving Islam" or he will stand accused of hypocrisy, something most in our country already suffer from.

The enlightened elements in government (of which I feel Mr Aziz is one) should lead by example and desist from bringing religion into everything. If they do that, perhaps all citizens will heed their example and understand that one's religion is a private and personal matter and not something to be exploited or worn on one's sleeve.



Foreign policy achievements

Iqbal Akhund's brilliant review of our foreign policy achievements and objectives in "Pakistan Review" (Dawn, July 20) must be read with the attention it deserves. I fully agree with most of what he says, but may I be permitted to add a footnote?

Who can or will persuade our 'majority province' politicians to modify their 'Kashmir or nothing' policy and who will bell the cat and get our generals to accept the present Line of Control as an international border? Over-simplified - yes. But this is both the crux and the solution of the problem. Others will follow and fall into place pari passu.



9/11 report

To say that it is an intelligence report is an insult to one's intellect. The report does not identify the real culprit, Israel, which committed this heinous act.



Vehicle hijackings in Karachi

This is in response to the letter 'Vehicle hijacking in Karachi' (July 16) by Syed Imran Ali. A citizens' organization should be formed to fight crime afflicting the city instead of making a few whimpering noises when things go awry. One has to plan and save for years to purchase a car and if it is taken away at gunpoint what can be a bigger disaster for the owner of the vehicle?

There are many NGOs and other like-minded bodies in Karachi that can raise consciousness among the general public by arranging vigils, walks, email campaigns, signature campaigns, or arrange delegation to meet pesh imams of all important mosques to spread awareness on the issue.

Unfortunately, in our country this does not happen. We take things lying down and never protest which leads to the dismal state of affairs that we see around us.

We are a rudderless nation today - our so-called leaders have no vision and are only interested in personal gain. However, if campaigns are launched on a mass scale the government will have to listen.



Balochistan crisis

There is a serious crisis developing in Balochistan which needs to be addressed before it is too late. The development of Gwadar Port with the active involvement of the real estate mafia is being viewed by many as an attempt to convert the Baloch majority into a minority.

The insatiable greed of Pakistan's civil and khaki bureaucracy for allotment of real estate in Gwadar is a genuine cause of concern. The long term national interests of Pakistan, a term widely abused by our establishment, demand that all allotments be cancelled and given to genuine locals. This is the only option available that will resolve the serious crisis developing in Balochistan.

Pakistan's vital national interests and inter-provincial harmony should not be sacrificed for the greed of a few, most of whom have already applied for foreign nationalities, or are in the process of doing so.


Sheffield, UK

Plight of PhD degree holder

This is with reference to the interview of Higher Education Commission Chairman and in charge of the ministry of science and technology Dr Attaur Rahman (Education page, June 21).

However, hopefully the minister knows that the PhD allowance, announced by the government, of Rs.5,000 per month is not allowed to employees wroking on a contract basis.

This is unjust and a matter of great concern because as long as one has a doctorate it shouldn't matter whether they are on contract or have a permanent job.





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