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DAWN - Features; November 15, 2006

November 15, 2006


Pakistan back in business with emphatic win

By Sohaib Alvi

At the end of the Test, when Lara expressed his disappointment at not batting into the fifth day and pointed to the fact that he hadn't taken his helmet off when he completed his century or when he was returning to the pavilion, it wasn't immediately clear to me.

But like the gracious warrior he was ready to take his helmet off for the Pakistanis who made more of their luck than the West Indies and really were more persistent and learnt from mistakes quicker.

Helmets off also to the pacemen who took 15 wickets in the match, seven of them when the pitch was said to have gone broke. It was remarkable to see the bounce they were generating off a fourth day pitch.

Umar Gul has been a revelation to those who don't know his big heart. Returning from backstage after a year carrying a back injury, he has gone straight into starring roles. He was the highest wicket-taker in England and made the major incisions in the Champions Trophy. His 9 wickets here were all carved out of a plan and he showed mental toughness, the sign of a supreme fast bowler.

Shahid Nazir, though underused, used the seam well like Umar. He was cutting off a good length and, when needed, banged it in short with cunning placement; in snaring Chanderpaul and Mohammad, the ball both times went straight up, the sign that the batsman had misjudged the pace and bounce.

Though bigger tests lie ahead in South Africa and the World Cup, I would still like to say that it proves the point of those who feel that the captain and coach have not placed enough confidence in the back up bench. Perhaps Inzy admitted to it somewhat when he claimed that this is not the second string squad.

For three hours however, it had seemed that the Pakistani bowlers were in danger of surrendering their first innings honours. Their pace and spin attack played second fiddle to Lara's theme. With Chanderpaul as the willing lieutenant, Lara must have begun to put enough fear into Inzamam's heart for him to start remembering at least Asif.

That West Indies lost their last 5 wickets for 53 after Lara left suggested the mastery that the captain commanded through most of the day. He played Kaneria really well and threatened to destroy him as he had at home last year, when he got a century in each Test until Kaneria got his own back with a five for in the second to wrap up that Test.

Kaneria may have lost his personal battle with Lara, who fetched his third hundred in his last 3 Tests against Pakistan , but he bowled mostly without luck on a pitch that after the second day became less helpful.

Having said that, I feel the curator needs to be applauded. If West Indies had held their catches and Yousuf sent back at 43, Pakistan may well have been looking at a target of 200 minimum as the pressure on them would have been greater than it actually was on the fourth day. Kamran Akmal was taking the ball near his shoulders in the dying minutes of the fourth evening and the ball was gripping the surface enough to beat the bat frequently.

I think Yousuf was being modest for himself when he labelled it a dead track. But I suppose it was enough to influence the panel to judge Umar Gul as the man-of-the-match. It's a sensible decision and also a brave one. The conservative would have gone for the tall score; the pragmatist went for the one who fought against all odds.

And what of West Indies? They have taken this one on the chin and Lara has accepted the fact that he read the first day pitch wrong and exposed his top order when he should have been exposing the shortcomings of the Pakistani batsmen.

They have rekindled their reputation of collapsing suddenly and to lose interest when the going gets tough for them. But it has to be said, they made it tougher for themselves here, both tactically and in the field. I have a feeling they lost because they underestimated the Pakistan bowling attack. It wasn't as second string as they thought.

Construction of luxury tower in Makkah divides Muslim opinion

By Riazat Butt

MAKKAH: It is the holiest site in Islam, the birthplace of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and the place the world's Muslim population turns and prays to five times a day. Millions of people make a pilgrimage to Makkah every year to wash away their sins, but muddying the waters of this spiritual experience is a $390m luxury timeshare development looming over the House of Allah.

Timeshare, a concept more usually associated with Torremolinos and the Algarve, has spread to Makkah and divided opinion in the Muslim world. Built by the Binladin Group, the construction firm founded by Mohammed bin Laden, the father of Osama bin Laden, the ZamZam tower offers five-star accommodation, a shopping centre, restaurants and a car park.

Opponents say the skyscraper and its money-spinning potential goes against the spirit of Haj, a pilgrimage founded on purity, equality and simplicity.

Saudi authorities will use the initial revenue to maintain the holy site, but there is nothing to stop homeowners from selling or subleasing their timeshare for inflated prices. Irfan Ahmed al-Alawi, a historian and co-chair of the Islamic Heritage Foundation, set up to protect sites of cultural and historical interest in Makkah, said: "This timeshare is the exploitation and commercialisation of a holy city.

"The excuse given by the Saudi government is that there's not enough accommodation, but do you really need to be so close to the Grand Mosque and the House of Allah? ZamZam has facilities that are irrelevant. You don't need a shopping centre and restaurants when you're doing Haj. Marble flooring and five-star accommodation will not enhance your pilgrimage or make you a better Muslim. The idea that you can make a profit is especially offensive. Such desecration and disrespect would have been unthinkable 30 years ago."

A week's lease on a 33 sq metre studio with city views costs £3,600 in low season. A studio with views of the House of Allah, the Ka'bah, costs £93,500 to lease during the month of Haj. The Saudi government allowed the towers' construction to cater for Makkah’s growing popularity as a year-round destination. Around four million people visit during Haj and three million visitors during Ramazan, but many Muslims visit at other, quieter times of the year. The Saudi government does not object to expanding facilities in Makkah.

A diplomatic source said: "People want to shop, somewhere to eat, they have the right to do these things. It is not haraam [forbidden] and we cannot stop them from wanting to do these things. People don't just do Haj and leave any more. For many it may be their only chance to visit so they want to be here as long as they can. They are getting quality accommodation and amenities. We need somewhere to put pilgrims because there are so many coming here. Besides, there are already five-star hotels in Makkah."

ZamZam is part of the Abraj al-Bait complex, one of the largest construction projects in the world, measuring 1.4m square metres. The 480m-high complex will include six other towers besides the ZamZam, two helipads and a four-storey shopping mall. It will be the tallest building in Saudi Arabia and, once completed, one of the tallest in the world. According to the Riyadh chamber of commerce and industry, Makkah has become a property hotspot. Investment during the last three decades has totalled £57bn and land in Makkah can cost up to £50,000 a square metre -- more expensive than Manhattan or Mayfair.

Talal Mahmood Malik is chief executive of Alpha1Estates, which is selling timeshares for the 1,240 suites to Muslims in the UK and Europe. In the company brochure, prospective buyers are told they can expect an average rental return of between 10% and 15% a year.

He says: "You could see it as a financial investment and there will be cowboys interested in making a quick buck. But most people see it as a spiritual investment. There is a massive modernisation and regeneration programme in Makkah but non-Muslims won't be interested in investing. There's nothing to do there except pray and if you're non-Muslim you can't get into Makkah anyway."

He said that business had been a bit slow at first because the timeshare concept was "alien" to Muslims, but trade had picked up during Ramazan. He added: "We've been surprised by the number of young people buying timeshares, but there have been more sales to older Muslims, who want to retire there."

One timeshare owner, who did not wish to be named, said: "I have a large family and we go to Makkah every few years. It will provide an incentive for me to go there more often. I could make money from renting it out but, for me, it's not about that."

The Makkah goldrush has come at a price, says Dr Alawi, with many historic sites wiped off the map. He claims there are now fewer than 20 structures remaining in Makkah dating back to the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him) 1,400 years ago.

He adds: "The sad thing is that as Makkah becomes more commercialised its spiritual side will fade, but I don't hear Muslims complaining."

—Dawn/The Guardian News Service

Fertiliser factory neglects environment

By Shakeel Ahmad

A fertiliser factory here has failed to keep its promise to develop a public park between its waste carrying pipeline and drain even after the passage of nine years.

Capt Syed Abbas Zaidi retired, a resident of New Multan, had complained to the federal ombudsman in 1986 that the waste of Pak Arab Fertilizer Factory was causing a lot of inconvenience to the residents of New Multan Housing Scheme. The factory authorities were repeatedly asked to take appropriate action. When no action was taken, another application was submitted to the ombudsman in 1991.

This time the factory management assured the ombudsman that the factory would take steps to reduce pollution and some proposals were also submitted it.

While disposing of the complaint, the ombudsman ruled that all industrial units both in the private and public sectors must ensure that disposal of waste was part of their projects.

A committee on environmental issues of Pak Arab Fertiliser (Pvt). Ltd was constituted on Sept 28, 1993, which met on May 27, 1997, in the committee room of the factory.

It reviewed the progress regarding short-term and long-term environmental protection and pollution control measures. One of the short-term environmental protection and pollution control measures was forestation all along the waste water carrying drain. Proper arrangement for irrigation protection and maintenance of this forest was also to be made and preferably the land between this drain and waste carrying pipeline was to be developed and maintained as a public park.

The participants of the meeting were top officials from different provincial and central government departments, factory management and local administration.

Another meeting of the committee was held on April 23, 1999, to discuss the environmental issues of the factory and the remedial actions taken so far. The matter of developing the park was also discussed.

A resident of New Multan Housing Scheme said that the smell from the effluents was unbearable but the factory which had promised to develop the park had failed to keep its words.

He said at present all the government institutions were neglecting their duties because an influential political figure was now its owner.

He said that the proposed land for the public park had been converted into a breeding place of mosquitoes while many people were using it as a filth depot and burning their rubbish there. He said that the residents of New Multan Housing Scheme had invited the Irrigation Department, the Environmental Department and authorities of factory several times but they turned a deaf ear to their protest.

Brig Umair Ahmed retited, GM admin (of the factory) told this correspondent “we are ready to develop the park but encroachments on the land are a major hindrance.”

He said that the budget for this purpose had been allocated already and matters had been finalized with the irrigation department which had to keep the possession of the land while work on developing the park would start in the beginning of next summer.

Sources told Dawn that the Punjab Environment Protection Agency DG had issued a complete environmental protection order to the factory but on non-compliance EPA it forwarded the matter to the environmental tribunal against but no initiative had been taken even after years.

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