DAWN - Features; September 08, 2008

08 Sep 2008

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Flying back to Karachi

It happened in a matter of seconds. Before we knew it, a stranger clad fashionably in a pair of jeans, T-shirt and a hat opened the back door of our car, got inside, pulled his gun out and asked dad to drive. At a corner he was joined by his crony. The only other people in the car were dad and younger sister; one was driving while the latter was seated in the passenger seat. Both men very politely asked us to hand over our wallets and our cellular phones. We were officially being robbed at gunpoint. Rewinding to how we got there, my younger sister and I had gone to the airport to pick up our father. He had just concluded one of his journeys and was coming back to the homeland via a flight from Dubai. After picking him up, we were turning down the street from Sharea Faisal towards home when two motorcycles behind us crashed into each other. The only other vehicles on the road were a white Mehran, which was on our left, and a black Corolla in front of us.

A man got out of the Mehran and slapped one of the riders. We were shocked. We stopped, as did the black Corolla in front of us, and dad unlocked the car doors so he could step out to see what was going on. And that is when it all happened. Interestingly, the motorcycle riders and the Mehran cleared the road seconds later. It was all a set-up.

The road on which this happened is manned by a pair of policemen who, very conveniently for the robbers, weren’t at their positions when the incident occurred. However, they did appear soon after we were robbed.

While in the car (I was sitting at the back with the robbers, one of the guns rested on my left leg) we cooperated and gave up our wallets and mobiles. The robbers were nice enough to only pick out the cash from the wallets and return them to us – saves us the hassle of cancelling credit and identification cards and other documents.

At a certain point, in the middle of a busy street surrounded by hospitals, dad parked the car and asked the men to leave, since they already had what they had come for. Then he started yelling, more than the robbers, that upset my sister who started crying and begged dad to calm down. Interestingly, the robbers were waiting for their ride to pick them up. In order to placate dad, they returned our cellular phones!

They asked dad to relax and asked me whether they had behaved badly with us. I responded with a quick ‘no,’ careful not to look them in the eye. Unlike my sister, my mind had gone into pilot-mode, I didn’t feel a thing. I still don’t feel the expected shock people keep talking about.

Taking the car keys, the robbers left. My sister and I walked home while dad stayed with the car. Accompanied by a neighbour, my mother went with the spare key towards dad and to register a report with the local police station.

The news swept like wildfire among family and friends and pretty soon we were inundated with calls by well-wishers, some of whom had shared similar experiences. What was disturbing to note was the similarity in the stories that they shared. In one, a family of eight was returning from the airport after performing Haj. As is customary in some families, they had bought a lot of gold jewellery on their trip. Soon after leaving Sharea Faisal, they were cornered by a small group of men who threatened them with guns and then robbed them.

In another incident, a couple was returning from Canada after attending their son’s graduation ceremony. They managed to get home safely somewhere in Defence, but that’s where their safe passage ended. They responded to an immediate knock on the door and were confronted by a man and a woman pointing guns at them, who searched the house for valuables and apparently knew which country the couple had just flown in from. They abducted the couple and hours later, left them stranded on a road in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

All these incidents began at the airport. There are apparently groups of robbers keeping an eye out for all the passengers leaving the venue since they expect them to carry valuable gifts for their friends and family, especially those flying in from foreign locations. Once considered to be a safe place, the airport has been targeted as a place for selecting victims in the manner of a watering hole in the African jungle, where carnivorous predators pick their prey.

Another odd thing about the robberies has been that those committing the crime seem to come across as regular, educated, college-going individuals: they dress nice, talk well – they don’t fit the stereotype.

Instead of lamenting the lack of security being provided to citizens, all I can say is: please keep your car doors locked at all times and don’t make an attempt to help anyone who’s seemingly caught up in a roadside quarrel. Call the police. They’re bound to arrive … at some point.—Madeeha Syed

The clock doesn’t strike back

With the advent of Ramazan and September 1 coinciding almost on the same day, Karachians, as well as people all over the country, were hoping that clocks would be brought back one hour to revive the old time. But the government decided to extend the time for another two months, much to the dismay of the general public.

First of all people have simply not attuned themselves to the new time and one community in particular, the Pakhtuns, all over Karachi have not advanced their clocks, as a result of which their clocks bear the old time in restaurants, shops and homes, which leads to a lot of confusion.

The Ramazan calendars announcing Sehr and Iftar times have been printed according to the old time, which, on a personal note, forced me to rouse a colleague from his slumber and tell him that time was running out, only to be told later that there was still an hour left for Sehr.

To the best of my knowledge the advancing of the clock did not serve its purpose as shopkeepers, traders and the general public did not pay much heed to it and went about their daily business uninterrupted.

The contention was that energy would be conserved as offices would close earlier, but it seems that the power situation worsened.

It is a sad state of affairs, but the fact of the matter is we simply do not have the civic sense to observe and appreciate what is good for us.—Syed Ali Anwer

Compiled by Syed Hassan Ali

karachian@dawn.com

Ban plastic bags

Sir,
This is to bring a very important issue into the consideration of the city district government and the nazim of Karachi.

Plastic bags have been a nuisance in the city for many years. They can be seen everywhere and are a major cause of pollution. They are the primary reason for blocked drains and gutters, which cause overflows, hence offering a breeding ground for germs and bacteria that eventually cause numerous diseases.

It is imperative to stop these plastic bags from going into old and newly built drains. If not, the efforts of the CDGK will not succeed and will fail to deliver. It is the need of the time to put a ban on the use of plastic bags and to put an end to this nuisance. All that is needed is strong will and determination to implement this environmentally-friendly measure to curtail the level of pollution in this city.

Karachians deserve and expect this bold step to be taken by their government and to dream of a pollution-free city to live a healthier and safer life.

USMAN HAFEEZ SIDDIQUI

Civil Lines

Karachi Zoo

Sir,

This is regarding the report published by your reporter Ms Faiza Ilyas titled ‘No induction into zoo museum for three years despite many deaths.’

The claim that the zoo is in an apathetic state is far from true. Technically trained and experienced staff has been putting in strenuous efforts for the well-being of animals despite financial constraints and acute shortage of staff, particularly those dealing with the animals.

Mortality reporting on animals of Karachi Zoo has always been the main meat of the news items published by the reporter. But she has hardly written about the hundreds of new births that have taken place in the zoo.

The zoo is playing the role of a captive breeding centre which has supplied more than 400 animals to Safari Park during the past seven years and about 100 animals of 20 species to the Landhi-Korangi Zoo. A total of 122 new births took place during the last one year, which have not been published in her reports.

During the last decade Karachi Zoo has made successful efforts to construct 40 cages and animal enclosures in the available space at the zoo. It has also developed flora nearest to the natural environment.

The Karachi Zoo has been equipped with quarantine facilities, a veterinary hospital, X-ray unit, tranquilizing guns, and a well-equipped operation theatre, where surgical operations, when necessary, are carried out by our qualified doctors.

Besides, a reptile house has been constructed where a large number of snakes and reptiles have been exhibited.

MUHAMMAD MANSOOR QAZI

District Officer Zoo & Aquarium

CDGK

Post office not shifted

Sir,

In spite of persistent public demand, media support and visits of the departmental bosses, the existing post office in the densely populated Block-14 of Gulistan-i-Jauhar has not been shifted to the main road from its present obscure location.

People have to confirm and reconfirm its location more than once before they can reach this post office. A few signs have been installed pointing out its location, but this is not enough.

The post office has been provided with more ceiling fans and chairs, but strangely, the staff has to suffer because of a lack of drinking water. Electric water coolers are not a luxury these days, but a necessity. The postmaster general, Sindh, is requested to kindly see that this facility is provided.

The other puzzling thing is why the post office has not been raised to the status of a general post office, with one or two more sub-post offices opened in the other blocks to facilitate the public.

Gulistan-i-Jauhar is comprised of 20 sprawling blocks; the need of more post offices is therefore obvious.

PRO BONO PUBLICO

Karachi

Renegade rag-pickers

Sir,

On a recent morning, at 8.30am my daughter, after finishing her night-long duty at Karachi airport reached home, located at one of the busiest thoroughfares of Defence. No sooner had she alighted from the official transport and headed for the gate, she was attacked by two bandits, one armed with a handgun and the other carrying a stick fitted with a sharp blade at the end.

One of them snatched her mobile phone, cash and whatever jewellery she was wearing, while the other continuously inflicted injuries to the young lady with the razor-sharp edge of his weapon.

The victim received several deep wounds besides the shock of her life.

She described her tormentors as rag-pickers who roam about unchecked in every locality.

Can’t something be done to keep an eye on these elements?

NASEER A. MALIK

Karachi

Water shortage

Sir,

I am writing to complain about the poor service I have received from the KWSB. I have had problems getting water supply in the months of July and August. Despite making several complaints and talking to various representatives for past two months, the KWSB has failed to provide me a solution.

In the meantime, I had also lodged a complaint (No 080708-4007) at the Landhi Town nazim’s office on July 8 and requested them several times to resolve this problem. But now, after two months they told me that my complaint has been reviewed and the problem is no longer in their queue.

I would appreciate if this situation could be resolved at the earliest.

TARIQ ALI KHAN

Landhi No 4

city@dawn.com

Five-day week desirable or inevitable?

FEDERAL government employee, Imtiaz, is hoping that the revived proposal of a five-day work week for the government sector will materialise this time.

An extra day off every weekend, he says, will enable him to spend more time with his family in Islamabad, as well as to visit more often his parents and parents-in-law in Khanpur.

Federal Government College teacher, Saima, is hoping that the five-day work week will also apply to schools and colleges, even though it would probably mean longer school hours.

Many private schools and educational institutions in Islamabad, she says, have already adopted the five-day week which gives students and teachers more time to unwind and re-charge themselves during the two-day weekend holiday.

While the benefits of a five-day work week for public employees like Imtiaz and Saima are largely intangible, the benefits to a cash-strapped government of closing offices for an extra day are supposed to be more tangible - in the form of savings in electricity, water and especially transport expenses for government staff.

However, thousands of daily wage earners in the federal government service, including hundreds of Islamabad Model College teachers, will be disadvantaged by a five-day week because it will mean a one-day reduction in their earnings per week, unless of course their jobs are regularised, something which has long been demanded.

Two previous attempts in the 1980s and the 1990s to implement the five-day work week failed to stick, the policy being eventually reversed both times.

Opponents of the five-day week, mostly manufacturing and industrial businesses, argue that the biggest concern is that productivity and thus the economy would suffer because of reduction in government services for businesses. Most transporters are also against the five-day work week because it means a one-day reduction in earnings per week for them.

Besides in the 1980s and 1990s, the five-day week then was confined mainly to offices of embassies, foreign missions and other international agencies in Islamabad, as well as to the few private schools that existed then.

Circumstances today however - locally and globally – differ from that of the 1980s and 1990s.

Today the five-day work week concept is much more widespread. It has been adopted by a growing number of private schools and educational institutions in the federal capital, as well as increasingly by new public educational institutions, e.g., Nust, Comsats, etc. Most mobile phone companies and other such private corporations, as well as many non-governmental organisations and institutes also adopt a five-day week.

The five-day work week concept is also more common globally now than in the 1980s and 1990s. Previously a practice of mostly the developed countries in the West, the five-day week has been introduced or phased in during the 2000s in schools and government sectors in many countries in Asia and the Middle East.

In many cases, it was done not so much to cushion the effects of increased energy prices on their country’s economy but in order to speed up integration of their national economy with the world economy.

The countries which have recently introduced the five-day work week include Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Bangladesh, which had earlier in 1997 implemented the five-day week that was later reversed, re-introduced the five-day week in 2005 in the attempt to beat the rise in energy prices.

Some countries, e.g. the Philippines, have introduced the five-day work week only temporarily during the hot summer months to save energy and fuel costs.

In the 2000s amidst rising fuel costs, proponents of the five-day week concept in Pakistan have tried several times to revive the proposal – under Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s government as well as under caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro’s government earlier this year – but failed to get it re-introduced.Is the global trend of a five-day work week with all its pros and cons inevitable for us?

Modern technologies like the internet, e-banking and telebanking help to ease the switch from a six-day to a five-day work week. Adopting the five-day work week will also entail maintaining if not improving the overall level and efficiency of government services, and ensuring the continued provision of emergency and other essential services round the clock, as well as the provision of some necessary counter services on Saturdays.

A five-day work week is also not necessarily bad for all businesses or the economy. In fact, studies done elsewhere have found the extra holiday every week a boon for industries in domestic tourism, leisure, recreation and entertainment, as employees and their families have more time to spend for rest, relaxation, exercise, shopping, weekend out-of-town travels and even for short training courses.