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DAWN - Features; March 03, 2008

March 03, 2008

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A time to remember

Here comes that day again, the one dedicated to women all over the world, March 8, the International Women’s Day. In Pakistan, we observe our own unofficial Women’s Day every Feb 12 since the watershed rally in 1983 organised by the Punjab Women Lawyers Association in Lahore.

Sadly, the symbolism of this demonstration is still relevant: it was a protest against General Ziaul Haq’s law of evidence that reduced the testimony of women in court to half that of men; like many other laws the general imposed, it remains in our statute books.

A heavy police posse outnumbered the demonstrators as they began moving from Lahore’s Regal Chowk to the High Court to present a petition. The courageous people’s poet Habib Jalib was among the few men participating in the demonstration who also got tear-gassed and lathi-charged. The image of Jalib fending off a baton wielded by a zealous tulla is frozen in a news photograph, as are images of policemen gleefully thrashing women demonstrators. Many women were arrested and hauled off to the thana, defiantly shouting slogans against the military regime. Two decades later, such scenes are still all too familiar, captured now by television cameras as well as photographs.

Every year, women’s day brings a reminder of the women’s movement’s integral involvement in the struggle for democratic politics in Pakistan. If not for the elections, Feb 12 may well have been dedicated in many seminars and demonstrations to Benazir Bhutto. Her assassination snatched away from us a woman who epitomized this struggle, balancing an intensely political life with being a dedicated mother. International Women’s Day this year will also be overshadowed by March 9, the anniversary of the fateful day in 2007 when a ‘military president’ suspended the country’s chief justice. The CJ refused to be suspended, and the rest, as they say, is history.

At more recent rallies taken out in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, women also bore the brunt of the police action. They surrounded male colleagues to prevent police from beating or dragging them away. “Arrest us all, or no one at all,” they demanded. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. At times the police, particularly in Islamabad, showed no compunction in brutalizing women, ignoring the legal requirement that only policewomen may lay hands on or arrest females. In many cases, male police specifically targeted and manhandled women.

On occasion the police ensured that policewomen were on the scene to ‘do the needful,’ like at the journalists’ rally at the Karachi Press Club on Nov 21, when over a hundred journalists, including women, courted arrest and were carted off to various police stations.

Sometimes they forgot, like the time they arrested participants of the candlelight vigil outside retired Justice Rana Bhagwandas’ residence on Jan 13. The first information reports charging the protesters with Sections 147 and 148 of the Pakistan Penal Code – rioting and rioting with a deadly weapon (candles?) – were ready even before the eight arrested activists arrived at the police station. In the absence of women police, the male police refused to arrest the women demonstrators who tried to prevent them from hauling away the men.

As the nation awaits the installation of a democratic dispensation, one wonders if any of the patterns that typify women’s organisations – low key, consultative, non-hierarchal – will be among its features.—Beena Sarwar

Where have the marigolds gone?

There is a creature. It moves … and it moves fast. It is the colour of gold. This creature hunts for something else that is also coloured gold. That thing is … rather was … found on the patches of green outside the houses of a certain street in Defence.

The creature is a Yellow Labrador. The thing it hunts is the marigold flower.

Moving from one outside lawn to the next, it is always looking for these flowers and not finding them. It scratches its head in utter confusion with a silly ear to ear grin, wondering where have all the marigolds gone?

That is also the question on the minds of other nature lovers passing through the street. While you see an abundance of all kinds of seasonal flowers such as dahlias, petunias, pansies, geraniums, carnations, hollyhocks etc., on this street there are no marigolds.

You take the street to the right or left of this one and you will find marigolds blooming, but out here on this particular road there is only one yellow thing in sight – the Yellow Lab.

Cute as hell, this always smiling pooch is neither ferocious nor threatening. Well, perhaps it is threatening to the marigold flowers for it eats them all.

Of course dog biscuits, table scraps and bones are welcome too, but marigolds are the sweet dish. The residents in the area have also nicknamed her ‘Marigold’ for this reason.

The fact that it was the dog which was eating the flowers became known slowly when the marigold buds never blossomed into flowers. Or did they? They must have, but only for a few hours, if not minutes, before Ms Marigold ate them up.

Now the people know better. And those who do not, like that new family which moved in, well, they too shall realise eventually when those marigolds lovingly planted by the sari-clad grandmother will bear flowers to be gobbled up just as lovingly.

—Shazia Hasan

Passing the buck

Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Similarly, everybody nowadays wishes to own a cellphone but nobody wants to pay for the call.

Everyone makes a ‘missed’ call hoping the other person will call back. The other day I had 60 missed calls from someone whom I don’t even know. In the days of yore there was something known as phone courtesy or etiquettes. But these days everyone carries a phone and the misuse is beyond belief. Now, when a cellphone rings and if one is lucky enough to attend the call before it is ‘missed,’ one can expect a harsh and menacing tone asking for somebody one has never heard of.

On this point I may recall that I had to make a duplicate key the other day. I went to the key-maker on the roadside in Tauheed Commercial Area where he installs his toolbox. The man was nowhere to be seen. However, on the box was inscribed his cellphone number. I rang him up and asked him to come. Sure enough these days everyone carries a cellphone – the cobbler, the butcher, the plumber and the sweeper. Even the rickshaw-walla has to stop in mid-traffic to check who has given him a missed call. Although I have nothing personal against this, sometimes it becomes a real nuisance.

Many Karachians like to carry fancy mobiles without a clue as to how to use them. A friend of mine who owns a PCO and whom I visit at times tells me amusing anecdotes.

For example, there are people who just walk in to ask for easy-load and have no clue as to what their own number is. This makes the hapless owner call his own number from the other person’s phone to determine the customer’s number.

Cellular companies are selling Sims like hot-cakes at very competitive rates enabling one cellphone user to have four or more different Sims. No records of buyers are kept, as a result of which it is difficult to find out who is calling.

Crank calls, obscene messages, threatening calls and hoax bomb calls have become a common feature without proper regulation. There must be some checks and balances or else … well, what can I say? Got to sign off now. My cobbler just left a missed call on my cellphone to say my shoes are ready.—Syed Ali Anwar

Compiled by Syed Hassan Ali

Email: karachian@dawn.com

Amenity plot in danger

Sir,
An amenity plot of several acres located between Blocks C and D of North Nazimabad, facing the Shahrah-i-Noor Jehan police station, has been in use for the last over 50 years by the youth for playing sports and the not-so-young residents for morning and evening walks and jogging.

The previous city nazim had planned to develop this amenity plot into a modern recreation centre having playgrounds, walking tracks and other facilities, and a contract to build and provide these facilities was given to a foreign investor. The investor’s contractor had levelled the plot and built a nine foot high boundary wall on all four sides, leaving only a 20ft wide space open, in front of the police station. The contractor had also laid underground pipelines for the supply of water to all planned facilities.

After the present CDGK took over, the contractor continued to work on the plot but at a very slow pace. Recently, the CDGK has built a wall on the 20ft wide opening, thus blocking entry to the plot. Very strong rumours are now afloat that the CDGK wants to change the status/character of the amenity plot by demarcating it into hundreds of small residential plots or auctioning it for the construction of multi-storeyed flats.

Thousands of residents of Block C, D and adjoining blocks are extremely worried as it will deprive them of all the facilities that this amenity plot had been providing. Moreover, this beautiful locality will become a slum, posing problems of cleanliness, water shortage and increased crime.

Also, this kind of action on part of the CDGK will be illegal and in violation of the Supreme Court judgement.

Will the official spokesman of the CDGK or the city nazim care to clarify what they are doing or planning to do with this amenity plot?

M.R. KHAN
North Nazimabad

Manhole covers

Sir,

This is to draw the city nazim’s attention towards the installation of manhole covers in almost all the roads that are being built by the CDGK. The covers are fixed in such a manner that they are at least seven to eight inches above ground level, which is causing problems for motorists who have to swerve their vehicles in order to avoid collision with those protruding covers, hence disturbing the normal flow of traffic.

This is a very serious issue and I request the nazim to take immediate action before it causes any further inconvenience.

ARSALAN AHMED FARUQI
Gulshan-i-Iqbal

Plight of plots’ applicants

Sir,

Last year in July, the Sindh Small Industries Corporation invited applications for 500sq yd and 250sq yd plots. As per the advertisement published in leading newspapers, 100 acres were earmarked by the government of Sindh for small and cottage industries for the general public.

The corporation collected millions of rupees from interested applicants at the rate of Rs100,000 and Rs50,000 against 500 and 250sq yd plots, respectively. In addition, Rs2,000 and Rs1,000 were also levied on each application as non-refundable charges for each category.

No balloting date was indicated in the advertisement, however, upon enquiry, the applicants were told that balloting would be held on Sept 15, 2007. This date has passed but till today, no balloting has taken place.

Since it is a matter affecting the general public, the NAB should take notice of this.

Our public is generally poor and hardly manages to earn their daily bread. They might have heard of non-government civilian societies and corporations indulging in such acts, but now government organizations have also learned the techniques of making fast bucks.

I request the chief minister and DG NAB to intervene and save the general public from such scams.

AN AFFECTEE
Karachi

Landhi library

Sir,

The Landhi Central Library situated at Korangi No 5, working under the administration of Landhi Town, has lots of problem. Some of them are as follows:

1. The library opens at 9am but the sweeper mops and cleans the library till 10.30am, and up till that time nobody is allowed to sit inside. People are forced to stand outside.

2. The toilets are completely closed.

3. Newspapers often reach the library late, at around 10am.

4. When electric power failure occurs, no staffer is bothered to open the windows.

5. Rs28 lakh have been spent on the renovation of this library, yet surprisingly there is no chargeable light fixed for the readers.

6. People are not allowed to use the computers.

The city nazim is requested to look into the issue highlighted above and do something about it for the people using the library.

S.A. SALAM
Korangi
 

Evil forces

Sir,

This is in reference to Hajrah Mumtaz’s article Lost in Translation (Dawn, Feb 10). Her penetrating pen-power has exposed the damage done to institutions and democracy by dictatorship in Pakistan. I endorse her views and would like to add more.

Unfortunately, the politicians who have political magnetism to mobilize the masses and believe in dialogue and democracy are either exiled, pushed into the corner, hanged or assassinated by the evil forces in the country.

By removing popular leaders, the dictators work with petty, short-sighted politicians and recruit them to rule the country with an iron hand. Thus, the country is plunged into chaos and anarchy.

When crippling socio-political conditions compel the dictators and their coterie to leave the throne, they leave behind such debris caused by despotic policies that decades are needed to revive the paralyzed economy and bring normalcy to the country.

NAZEER AHMED ARIJO
Gulistan-i-Jauhar
city@dawn.com



© DAWN Media Group , 2008