The Dupatta Theory

Ibn Azhar I Works

dsd originally published on The Pyambar.com on  25 feb 2013.

sasaas

Sometime back, National Assembly Standing Committee for Information and Broadcasting proposed that female news anchors should compulsorily carry a dupatta when on air. FULL STOP. Without commenting further let us take a deep breath, just to relax and think again. Done? Now, read on…

Those of us who are from the single channel generation of the 80’s and 90’s must remember that the female news caster of those days, Legendary Shaista Zaid and Ishrat Fatima (later Saqib), were the true household names. Besides their poise, dignity and composure; they had a typical outlook, most iconic of which was their dupatta pinned up neatly on their heads. But the time forwarded really fast and the so called “liberalism/modernism” seeped in and the masses became “cultured” enough to appreciate the beauty, clothes, makeup and moves of female anchors/news casters.
Simultaneously, the dupatta slipped…

View original post 573 more words

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صدر پیوٹن کی زندگی کے 7 دلچسپ پہلو

گمنامی سے عروج کا سفر

روس کے موجودہ صدر پیوٹن 7 اکتوبر 1952 کو ایک متوسط طبقے کے گھرانے میں پیدا ہوئے۔ 1975 میں انہوں نے لینن گراڈ یونیورسٹی سے قانون کی تعلیم مکمل کی۔ اگلے 16 سال تک وہ سابق روس کے خفیہ ادارے کے جی بی میں کام کرتے رہے۔ اس دوران انہوں نے سابق مشرقی جرمنی میں کام کیا اور سیاست میں آنے کے لیے لیفٹیننٹ کرنل کے عہدے سے استعفیٰ دیا۔ 8 سال بعد 1999 میں پیوٹن نے پہلی بار وزارت عظمیٰ کا حلف اٹھایا۔

طویل اقتدار

روس کے آئین میں موجود مختلف شقوں کا فائدہ اٹھا کر صدر پیوٹن اپنے اقتدار کو طوالت دینے میں خوب کامیاب رہے ہیں۔ وہ پہلے 2000 سے 2008 تک روس کے صدر رہے۔ آئین کے مطابق کوئی بھی شخص لگاتار دو دفعہ سے زیادہ صدر منتخب نہیں ہو سکتا، تاہم لگاتار نہ ہونے کی صورت میں پھر سے صدر بنا جا سکتا ہے۔ لہٰذا اس کا فائدہ اٹھا کر پیوٹن 2008 سے 2012 تک وزیرِ اعظم منتخب ہوئے، اور پھر 2012 میں تیسری مرتبہ صدر منتخب ہو گئے۔ یہ بات قرین قیاس ہے کہ 2018 تک پیوٹن ہی روس کے صدر رہیں گے اور یوں بطور صدر اور وزیراعظم ان کے اقتدار کا کل دورانیہ 20 سال کے قریب بن جائے گا۔

جوڈو کراٹے اور کھیلوں میں دلچسپی

جوڈو کراٹے کے ماہر صدر پیوٹن نے 18 سال کی عمر میں بلیک بیلٹ حاصل کی اور 1974 میں وہ اپنی یونیورسٹی کے جوڈو چیمپیئن بھی رہے۔ صدر پیوٹن کے دیگر مشاغل میں تیراکی، گھڑسواری، غوطہ خوری، شکار، ہوا بازی، کار ریسنگ اور گلائڈنگ وغیرہ شامل ہیں۔ پیوٹن کی زندگی کے اس پہلو کو مغربی ذرائع ابلاغ اکثر ہدف تنقید بناتے ہیں تاہم اس میں کوئی شائبہ نہیں کہ صدر پیوٹن کی زندگی کا یہ پہلو انہیں بہت سے حکمرانوں سے ممتاز بناتا ہے۔

کامک سیریز سپر پیوٹن

روسی صدر پیوٹن کی کرشماتی شخصیت کے گرد گھومتی ایک آن لائن کامک سیریز “سپر پیوٹن” کے نام سے ہے۔ امریکی کردار “سپر مین” سے مبینہ طور متاثر اس کامک سیریز میں پیوٹن کبھی دہشت گردوں کا مقابلہ کرتے ہیں اور کبھی اپنی جوڈو کراٹے کی مہارت آزماتے اور بہادری کے جوہر دکھاتے نظرآتے ہیں۔

پالتو جانوروں کا شوق

صدر پیوٹن کو جانوروں سے خاصہ لگاؤ ہے تاہم اس ضمن میں 2007 میں روس کے دورے کے دوران انہوں نے متنازع طور پر جرمنی کی خاتون وائس چانسلرانجیلا مرکل کو اپنے کتے “کونی” کے ذریعے ہراساں کرنے کی کوشش کی۔ بعد ازاں جرمن چانسلر نے پیوٹن کی اس حرکت کو مردانگی کے اظہار کی کوشش کہا، اور اسے ان کی کمزوری گردانتے ہوئے کہا کہ روس کے پاس نہ کامیاب سیاست ہے اور نہ معیشت، بلکہ صرف یہی کچھ ہے۔

2004 میں”کونی کہانیاں” کے نام سے روس کے ایک بڑے ناشر نے بچوں کے لیے کہانیوں کا ایک مجموعہ بھی شائع کیا۔

ذاتی زندگی

صدر پیوٹن کی ذاتی زندگی اتار چڑھاؤ کا شکار رہی۔ 2013 میں ان کی اہلیہ سے علیحدگی ہو گئی۔ ان کی دوبیٹیاں ہیں، اور وہ کس ملک میں ہیں، اس بارے میں مختلف قیاس آرائیاں کی جاتی ہیں لیکن حتمی طور پر کچھ نہیں کہا جا سکتا۔

نام کا کاروباری استعمال

یہ بات دلچسپی سے خالی نہیں کہ صدر پیوٹن کی شخصیت سے متاثر ہو کر ان کے نام کا استعمال کاروباری مقاصد کے لیے بھی کیا جاتا ہے۔ 2003 میں “پیوتنکا” کے نام سے شراب کا ایک برانڈ متعارف کروایا گیا۔

2006 میں اس کو اپنی کیٹیگری میں “پراڈکٹ آف دی ایئر” کا ایوارڈ بھی دیا گیا۔ اہم بات یہ ہے کہ صدر پیوٹن خود نہ تو سگریٹ پیتے ہیں اور نہ شراب سے کچھ خاص شغف رکھتے ہیں۔ اس کے علاوہ ان کے نام کا استعمال اشیا خورد و نوش اور ٹی شرٹس وغیرہ کے لیے بھی کیا جاتا ہے۔

صدر پیوٹن کی زندگی کے کچھ اور پہلوؤں میں ان کی پی ایچ ڈی ڈگری کا تنازع، اور انٹرنیٹ اور موبائل فون کے استعمال سے مکمل پرہیز شامل ہے۔ مختلف مغربی ذرائع کے مطابق ان کی دولت کا تخمینہ 40 ارب ڈالر ہے۔

10 iconic moments no sports fan can ever forget

Every year, hundreds of sports events are held around the world, yet a very few moments among them linger on in our memories and eventually turn into classic moments we keep replaying in our minds.

Every year, hundreds of sports events are held around the world, yet a very few moments among them linger on in our memories and eventually turn into classic moments we keep replaying in our minds.

Here are 10 of the most irreplaceable flashes every sports fanatic can never erase from their memories:

1. Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’ during the 1986 FIFA World Cup

Photo: Reuters

Within five minutes of the second-half during the quarter-final match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup between England and Argentina, Diego Maradona gave the football world two of its most classic moments.

First, he scored the  famous ‘Hand of God’ goal as the result of an unnoticed handball, and four minutes later, he dodged six English players in his 10-second dash towards the English goal, to make the score 2–1. The goal was later dubbed as the ‘Goal of the Century’.

2.  Michael Jordan’s iconic ‘Air Walk’

On February 6, 1988, Michael Jordan with his leaping ability, soared into basketball history with his jaw-dropping slam dunk from the free throw line during the slam dunk contest. Later his ‘air-ability’ earned him the nicknames like ‘Air Jordan’ and ‘His Airness’.

3.  Michael Phelps – The Gold Fish

Photo: AFP

During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps from USA won eight gold medals, the record for the most medals won at a single Olympics. He also set seven new world records in the swimming arena. To date, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian with a total of 22 medals.

4.  Javed Miandad’s sixer at Sharjah

Photo: ESPNcricinfo

On April 18, 1986 , the cricketing world’s most ferocious arch rivals, Pakistan and India, were set against each other in the final of the Sharjah Cup. Four runs were required off the last ball, and due to Javed Miandad’s iconic sixer, Pakistan sailed towards victory.

5. The epic 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

Photo: AFP

The 2008 Wimbledon Final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal featured one of the most competitive battles ever witnessed in the history of tennis. The match between the two lasted for four hours and 48 minutes , resulting in Nadal finally winning the cup.

6. The fight of the century – Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston

Photo: AFP

On February 25, 1964, Sonny Liston, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion fought 22-year- old Cassius Clay, (later named Muhammad Ali) in Florida. Liston, the most intimidating fighter of his day, was defeated by Muhammad Ali in a seven-round stunning upset.

A year later, a second fight took place between the two which ended in about two minutes since Liston was declared  technically knocked out.

7. One-inch punch by Bruce Lee

Photo: Reuters

The one-inch punch is a punching exercise from Chinese martial arts (Kung fu) performed at a range of zero to six inches. It gained popularity when it was demonstrated by Bruce Lee at the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1964. In the television show Mythbusters, the technique was tested quantitatively. The conventional punch measured 325 pounds of force while the one-inch punch measured 153 pounds.

8. The ‘Lightning’ Usain Bolt – 100 metres in 9.58 seconds

Photo: AFP

On August 16, 2009, during the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in Berlin, Germany,  Usain Bolt  of Jamaica broke his own 100 metres record from 9.69 seconds to 9.58 seconds. He  is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records and to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and is also an eight-time World champion.

9. The ‘Leap of the Century’  by Bob Beamon

Beamon’s iconic long jump. Photo: AFP

On October 18, 1968, during the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Bob Beamon long-jumped 29 feet 2 inches to shatter the world record by more than two feet. The record stood for 23 years until Mike Powell broke it by only two inches in 1991.

10. Nadia Comaneci – Perfect 10

Photo: Reuters

On July 13, 1976, at the Montreal Olympics, 15-year-old Nadia Comaneci of Romania became the  first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastics event. She won three Olympic gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics and two gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In 2000, Comaneci was named as one of the ‘Athletes of the Century’ by the Laureus World Sports Academy.

Utilization Of Young Population In Pakistan

Screenshot 2015-05-30 12.21.00

First published in Pak Tea House on 20 Jun 2015.

youth bulge

Background

As per UNICEF’s 2013 Statistics, Pakistan is a country with one of the largest youth bulge in the world where almost 35 % of the population is under the age of 15 . This staggering amount of young people on one hand is a huge human resource full of potential waiting to be tapped and on the other hand, amidst rampant corruption, unemployment and terrorism, it can be a ticking bomb waiting to explode any time.

China and India –Two case of Population Utilization

By mid 20th century most of the developed countries have realized well in advance that rapid and uncontrolled growth of human population can add huge strain on the national resources. As time would elapse, this would directly translate into increased unemployment rate, poor health care facilities, declined literacy rate and lack of quality life for the citizens. Therefore, population control was the only solution to avoid such huge set of problems.

The steps taken and policies adopted to regulate population growth varied across different countries depending upon local intricacies. However for Pakistan, two examples, one successful and the other mildly successful can be found in its neighboring China and India respectively.

China is a case in point where communist government’s strictly implemented “one child policy” which paid huge dividends. It not only enabled China to control its population but with supportive economic, education and health policies it was able to utilize the population for the betterment of the country. As a result China today, despite being one of the most populated countries in the world, had made huge progress at an astonishing pace.

On the contrary, India with second largest population in the world is an example where, despite of various efforts to control population and harness the potential of masses, no significant gains had been made. As a result not only the population swelled in the absence of appropriate foresight and planning but also corruption, low literacy rate and fragile economy further increased the problems. Today, beyond the glitzy world of Indian media and Bollywood more than half of its population lives below the poverty line. In retrospect, Pakistan is neither a success story like China to benefit from its huge potential nor a failure like India. It lies somewhere in between.

Pakistan’s Election 2013 and the “Young” Factor

In Pakistan’s perspective, Election 2013 offers an interesting insight regarding the role of young population. An age-wise breakup of the 2012 electoral rolls shows there were about 16.2 million registered voters between the age of 18 and 25 years while 1.5 million were to turn 18 between January and June 2013.The percentage, however, is more significant when one considers that the total turnout in previous elections varied between 32 and 36 per cent.  As a result political parties mainly targeted the youth using the social media. Public rallies were a reflection of this mindset of political parties. Millions of youngsters who were able to vote for the first time played a significant role in the overall results of the elections.

election commision

From the above analysis it is obvious that that Pakistan huge population bulge is ready to play its role in all spheres of life. However a comprehensive response to tap this potential demands a holistic response. Few key areas in this regard for effectively utilizing the young population are discussed here.

Education

The first and the foremost area that needs attention is education. Empowering the young minds with well rounded, contemporary and balanced education along with the instruction of moral values and religious tolerance is the best investment possible in this era. Education of women also needs to be given equal focus and priority. Educated youth can be utilized in spreading knowledge at primary and secondary educational level by introducing a compulsory teaching tenure for university students in far flung areas of the country with poor literacy rate.

Sports and Athletics

Young people are more interested in games, sports, athletics and similar activities because they are spirited and full of energy. As there is a large chunk of young men and women in Pakistan’s population there is a  need to develop infrastructure, organizations, communities, training facilities, grounds and courts to promote healthy competition and utilize their energies in constructive activities. A multi-pronged strategy should be adopted where at schools, colleges, universities sports facilities are provided and competitions are organized. In United Sates, colleges and universities provide youngsters sports facilities that enable them to indulge in positive competition; as a result individuals are healthy, tolerant, disciplined and productive citizens of the society. The focus should be on team sports like soccer, cricket, hockey and basketball rather than individual sports which require greater infrastructure and cost overheads. A culture of sporting events on weekends should be introduced; college and university should enforce participation in at least one sport as a degree pre requisite.

Humanities and Arts

These days interest in movies, games, television is common globally. Keeping in view the size of youth population in Pakistan there is a dire need to engage in humanities, arts and other similar creative activities. The opening of evening musical schools, acting schools, dance classes, theatrical performance trainees will provide young minds to spend their leisure time in more productively. An institutionalized approach should be adopted at community level; it is imperative in creating healthy environment for better development of youth.

Volunteer Work

Pakistan is engulfed countless problems in almost all the spheres of life. Motivated and enthusiastic workforce is needed that can help the state and its institutions in confronting these problems. Weekend based volunteer programs or extended duration volunteer work of up to three months in various field can help Pakistan and resolve various issues facing the country. Young Population can be directed to do volunteer work in public health organizations, old age homes, restoration of parks, maintenance of public places, teaching in rural areas and similar tasks can be identified to channelize this huge work force.

Empowerment and  greater representation                

In order to train and develop capable leadership it is necessary to prepare the youth who can uphold future responsibilities. This can be done through introducing model united nation in schools, colleges and universities. Youth parliaments at divisional and provincial level are also beneficial for creating young leaders.

Business Opportunities / Entrepreneurship

Young minds are full of new ideas. Keeping in view greater exposure of today’s generation due to electronic media and internet these young fertile minds are more capable of coming up with innovative ideas. However, proper guidance is required to channelize these ideas in the right direction. The development of organizations like small and medium enterprise development forums, involvement of various chamber of commerce as well as forming consortiums with the help of established businesses can prove helpful in this regard.

Conclusion

Young population needs to be utilized keeping in mind the national goals and policies of Pakistan. Human Resource Management needs be applied prudently. Misguided, direction less young population can worsen the situation and further deteriorate the problematic situation of the country. These young minds of Pakistan are a reservoir of energy, talent and capabilities; if regulated properly they can assist development of the country.

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صدر اوباما سے سیکھنے کی 5 عادات

New Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation

First published here in Dawn News on 17 Jun 2015.

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معمولی نظر آنے والی سادہ سی عادات ہی ہیں جنہوں نے امریکی صدر کو ایک منفرد پہچان دی ہے۔ — رائٹرز

معمولی نظر آنے والی سادہ سی عادات ہی ہیں جنہوں نے امریکی صدر کو ایک منفرد پہچان دی ہے۔ — رائٹرز

اس حقیقت میں کوئی شک نہیں کہ امریکی صدر پر دنیا بھر کی نظریں مرکوز ہوتی ہیں، اور اس کی شخصیت کے ہر پہلو کو بڑی گہرائی سے پرکھا جاتا ہے۔ موجودہ امریکی صدر اوباما، ریاست ہائے متحدہ امریکا کے 44 ویں اور پہلے سیاہ فام امریکی صدر ہیں۔ صدر اوباما کی شخصیت میں ذرائع ابلاغ کی غیر معمولی دلچسپی کسی سے ڈھکی چھپی نہیں تاہم ان کی پانچ عادات عام لوگوں کے لیے زیادہ دلچسپی کا باعث ہیں۔

کتب بینی

مصروفیت بھری زندگی میں سے مطالعے کے لیے وقت نکالنا یقیناً ایک مشکل کام ہے، تاہم موجودہ امریکی صدر اپنی تمام تر مصروفیات کے باوجود مختلف کتابیں پڑھنے کا وقت ضرور نکل لیتے ہیں۔

اوباما کا یہ شوق زمانہ طالب علمی سے رہا ہے، اور ان کے علمی رجحان کو مدِ نظر رکھتے ہوئے انہیں ہارورڈ یونیورسٹی کے جریدے کا ایڈیٹر بھی مقرر کیا گیا۔ کچھ عرصہ پہلے صدر اوباما اس وقت ذرائع ابلاغ کی توجہ کا مرکز بن گئے، جب ان کی دوران خریداری لی گئی تصویر میں کتابیں بھی شامل تھیں۔ بعض ذرائع کے مطابق وہ اب بھی ہفتے میں ایک کتاب ضرور پڑھتے ہیں۔ اتنے اہم ملک کا اتنا مصروف صدر کتابیں پڑھنے کے لیے وقت نکالے، نہ صرف حیرانی کی بات ہے، بلکہ اس میں ان تمام لوگوں کے لیے سبق ہے جو مصروفیت کا بہانہ کر کے کتب بینی سے دور بھاگتے ہیں۔ صدر اوباما کی اس عادت کا موازانہ اپنے رہنماؤں سے کرنے کا خیال بھی فضول ہے۔

جدوجہد

موجودہ امریکی صدر کی زندگی سے ایک اور اہم نتیجہ یہ بھی اخذ کیا جا سکتا ہے، اور وہ ہے محنت، قابلیت، اور مسلسل جدوجہد کے ذریعے اپنے مقصد میں کامیابی کا حصول۔ ایک افریقی باپ اور امریکی ماں کی اولاد ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ صدر اوباما کا بچپن بہت خوشگوار نہ تھا۔ ان کے والدین کے درمیان طلاق واقع ہوگئی، اور کچھ عرصہ بعد ان کی والدہ نے دوسری شادی کرلی۔ کچھ عرصہ اپنے سوتیلے والد کے ساتھ انڈونیشیا میں گزارنے کے بعد ان کو واپس امریکا بھیج دیا گیا۔

یہاں پر بھی مشکلات کا سامنے کرنے کے باوجود اوباما نے حوصلہ نہ ہارا اور اپنی تعلیم کا سلسلہ پہلے کیلی فورنیا اور پھر شکاگو میں جاری رکھا۔ بعد ازاں اپنی لیاقت کے سبب ہارورڈ یونیورسٹی سے قانون کی اعلیٰ ڈگری حاصل کی۔ صدارتی نامزدگی کے لیے ہلری کلنٹن جیسی مضبوط امیدوار کو شکست دی، اور ان تھک محنت اور جدوجہد کے سبب ایک سیاہ فام امریکی نے اپنے ملک کے صدر بننے کا اعزاز حاصل کیا۔

فیملی

صدر اوباما کی شخصیت کا ایک اور اہم پہلو ان کی اپنے خاندان کے حوالے سے شہرت ہے۔ وہ نہ صرف ایک ذمہ دار شوہر کی حیثیت سے پہچانے جاتے ہیں، بلکہ دو بیٹیوں کے باپ کی حیثیت سے بھی ان کی اچھی شہرت ہے۔ اپنی بیٹیوں کی تعلیمی سرگرمیوں میں شرکت کے حوالے سے بھی وہ وقت نکالنا نہیں بھولتے۔ اپنی بڑی بیٹی کے یونیورسٹی میں داخلے کے سلسلے میں بھی خاطر خواہ دوڑ دھوپ کی۔

ورزش

6 فٹ اور 1 انچ قد کے ساتھ ساتھ جو چیز امریکی صدر کو ممتاز بناتی ہے، وہ ہے ان کی جسمانی فٹنس۔ امریکی ذرائع ابلاغ نے اس بات کو کافی اجاگر کیا ہے، کہ گزشتہ سات آٹھ سالوں میں صدر اوباما نے اپنی جسمانی فٹنس کا خوب خیال رکھا، اور پہلی دفعہ صدر بننے سے لے کر جب ان کا وزن تقریباً 88 کلو تھا، اب تک سات سال گزارنے کے بعد بھی تقریباً اتنا ہی ہے۔ باسکٹ بال کے کھیل میں دلچسپی رکھنے والے صدر اوباما کی اس فٹنس کا ایک راز غالباً یہ بھی ہے کہ وہ روزانہ تقریباً پانچ میل دوڑ لگاتے ہیں۔

خوش اخلاقی

موجودہ امریکی صدر کی شخصیت کا ایک اور قابل غور پہلو ان کی خوش اخلاقی ہے۔ عام طور پر یہ دیکھا گیا ہے کہ سربراہانِ مملکت نہ صرف سنجیدہ مزاج کے حامل ہوتے ہیں، بلکہ شاذ و نادر ہی خوش گوار موڈ میں نظر آتے ہیں، لیکن امریکی صدر اوباما کے ضمن میں ایسا نہیں۔

نہ صرف یہ کہ وہ اکثر ہنستے مسکراتے نظر آتے ہیں، بلکہ جہاں بھی ممکن ہو سکے لوگوں کو ہنسانے کا کوئی موقع ہاتھ سے نہیں جانے دیتے۔ امریکی صدر کے برعکس ہمارے لیڈر نہ صرف یہ کہ ظاہری طور پر سنجیدہ نظر آتے ہیں، بلکہ لوگوں کو اپنی حسِ مزاح سے متاثر کرنے کا فن بھی تقریباً ناپید ہے۔ قوم کے رہنما اپنے لوگوں کی امیدوں کا مرکز ہوتے ہیں، اور اگر ان کو اپنے لیڈروں کی شکل پر ہی امید، خوشی، اور اعتماد نظر نہ آ سکے، تو پھر ان کا اپنا بھی مایوس، فکرمند، اور پریشان نظر آنا کچھ اچھنبے کی بات نہیں۔`

اوپر دیے گئے پانچ اوصاف نہ صرف یہ کہ بنیادی نوعیت کے ہیں، بلکہ ان کا تعلق اعلیٰ انسانی اقدار سے بھی ہے اور ان کو اپنانا بھی ہرگز مشکل نہیں۔ یہ وہ معمولی نظر آنے والی سادہ سی عادات ہیں، جو کسی بھی شخص کو بالکل منفرد بنا سکتی ہیں، اور ان کو اپنا کر آپ نہ صرف اپنی زندگی میں، بلکہ اپنے کام میں بھی بہتری محسوس کر سکتے ہیں۔
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لکھاری اچھے بھلے کمپیوٹر انجینیئر تھے، پھر نجانے کیا سوجھی کہ لکھنا شروع کردیا، وہ بھی اردو میں۔ کوئی اور پڑھے نہ پڑھے، یہ اپنی تحاریر ضرور پڑھتے ہیں۔ رابطہ کرنا ہو یا نہ کرنا ہو، ای میل ایڈریس یہی ہے:ibn.e.azhar@gmail.com

اس کے علاوہ ٹوئٹر پر بھی پیچھا کیا جا سکتا ہے: ibneazhar@

FAKE DIPLOMAS, REAL CASH [FDRC] – An Over view

The article was submitted for The  New York Times in May 2015 but was not published.

Fake-degrees

If being in the news is an art, Pakistan deserves an Oscar. Earlier this month Pakistan had been making headlines for its possible joining of a Saudi led coalition against Yemen. Then came Seymour Hersh with his ten thousand words treatise about OBL’s alleged encounter in Abbottabad. And now Declan Walsh’s jaw dropping story in The New York Times (NYT) had literally broke the internet. A Pakistani IT company called Axact was allegedly peddling fake diplomas and earning real cash in millions.Hence the acronym Fake Diplomas, Real Cash [FDRC].

Writer of the FDRC story, Declan Walsh, the London based bureau chief for NYT is not a popular man in Pakistan. His investigative journalism has often been seen as to spew slander. Walsh worked in Pakistan for nine years before his expulsion from the country. In May 2013, on account of his involvement in undesirable activities he was declared “persona non grata”.  Thus when even a very well researched story like [FDRC] is filed by someone like him, Pakistanis suspiciously try to see some eye “walsh-ing”.

The New York Times which published [FDRC] story is an institution with 164 years old history in journalism. Since 2010 it has a distribution agreement with a local media group that publish Express Tribune. In a country where English is considered to be domain of well-educated people, large numbers of influential Pakistanis are regular readers of NYT through Express Tribune. More importantly, this group operates three T.V channels including highly popular Express News in Urdu. Quite often Express Tribune has tried to pitch stories that were not well received with local authorities and resulted in occasional censorship. In March 2014, The Express Tribune, carried out a censorship on a story “What Pakistan knew about bin Laden,”. Instead of seeing a lengthy report readers were greeted with an enormous section of white space on the paper’s front page.

According to the official website, Axact was founded during the dot-com boom in 1997 and started from a one room office. Today, it has global presence in six continents, 120 countries, 1300 cities with 25000 plus employees. It claims to have 2 billion users worldwide and a strong customer base of 40 million. Company claims to be the largest exporter of IT services contributing 65 % of country’s IT exports. As per official website 7 out of its total 10 business units are world number 1 . The company offers more than 23 world class products including ERP, HRM,media management system, health care, defense and security etc. Its social initiatives include educating 10 million Pakistanis children by 2019 and making health affordable to all Pakistanis. Company’s head quarter is an impressive high rising building in Karachi with 2000 plus employees.

Allegations made by Daniel Walsh in FDRC story are cold and clear. It claims that Axact is involved in running an online empire of 370+ fake institutions. This rent a degree business was offering high school diplomas, bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in diverse fields from aeronautical engineering to medical sciences.

Apart from the allegations made in FDRC scam, there is a Mystery surrounding Axact. According to an online source who live in front of Axact Head Office in Karachi “This is a common question in Karachi that what does Axact do exactly? The unusual high salaries arouse curiosity. Even the hairdressers earn three times they earn in a top salon in Karachi”. A company whose moto boasts “World’s leading IT Company” is not seen in any trade shows. No one in the software industry know much about them. Being a top ERP solutions provider how come they are not on the SAP List of Competitors which keeps a very comprehensive list? How come The Economist’s Intelligence Unit does not classify them as a bona fide software house?

So far the reaction from the company on FDRC has been absurd. In an official press release, no concrete explanation was offered. On the contrary, blame was shifted conveniently on the competitors, with claims that allegations were part of a shrouded conspiracy theory, rooted in fear of company’s highly acclaimed forth coming TV Channel. No intentions were indicated of taking NYT to the court for defamation. More Bizarre attempt was to unleash the wrath on relatively smaller platforms. A relatively unknown blogging platform Pak Tea House that published a collection of tweets about FDRC was served a scaring legal notification setting vibes across the blogging fraternity.

In Pakistan, had the FDRC been only about a software company, this would not have garnered much attention. The reason behind swelling up of the issue in record time is Axact‘s highly acclaimed subsidiary, BOL TV which after numerous delay is set to launch in August (now on first Ramadan, almost 19 June 2015).  In a country with already more than 90 TV how a new comer can matter. Reason is simple. Money. Bol TV‘s  shopping spree of top notch journos, whooping pay packages, corporate facilities at par with silicon valley, extreme advertising with 20000+ vehicles painted in official colors and state of the art studios were enough to cause panic among the competitors. Result? Copyright issues, legal notices, court hearings and media wars breaking a plethora of corporate conspiracies.

This is beyond any doubt that a significant portion if not all of Pakistani corporate media is messed up. Maligning the state institutions, allowing coverage to rouge elements, foreign funding, dubious connections, yellow journalism, sensationalism, rate-ing race, political motives and slanted views are norm rather than exception. Lack of proper monitoring mechanisms, meaningful policies, appropriate regulations and absence of a national electronic media code of conduct allows Pakistani media to swim in murky waters.

Corruption is rampant in Pakistan and all the statistics verify this.In March this year, Pakistan was ranked 126 out of 175 on the Corruption Perceptions Index  (CPI) by the Transparency International. With corruption being wide spread there is an un-ending stream of scams and scandals. Social, Print and Electronic Media is jam-packed with tortuous tales of financial embezzlement, tax evasion, money laundering and white collar crimes one after another. List of most recent items on the menu include the dubious import of wheat from Ukraine and involvement of a Super Model in money laundering , caught red handed on the airport with half a million dollars. One of the country’s most popular T.V show is Sar-e-Aam (In-Open) which exposes corruption at the grass root level including witch doctors, fake media outlets, food adultery and notably an inexhaustible supply of counterfeit products. Major financial scams in the past involved forex, cricket players, airline, railways, and power plants etc. However in terms of its sheer scale and global impact (FDRC) story is huge. In order to get a better insight, two examples from Pakistan’s recent past can be helpful.

In 1972, a prolific Pakistani Banker Agha Hasan Abedi laid the foundation of The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) with head offices in Karachi and London. Within a decade it spread its operations in 78 countries, with over 400 branches and had approx 30,000 employees. Its assets exceeded US$20 billion, making it the 7th largest private bank in the world. The remarkable journey of BCCI was halted in 1980s when allegedly bank was involved in massive money laundering. By July 1991 bank collapsed, never to emerge again. If the allegations in  FDRC story go unchallenged, history could repeat itself for another Karachi based Pakistani institution.

Fast Forward to 2002. Higher education system in Pakistan was in miserable state. Dr Atta ur Rahman, a renounded scientist was appointed as chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC).Dr Atta with more than 970 publications and 37 patents to his credit was held in high respect at home and abroad. Under his leadership hundreds of students were sent abroad on scholarships, more research papers produced and most importantly checks were put in place for private and public universities through their ranking and accreditation in order to curb ghost institutes and bogus degrees. A remarkable achievement of HEC was the verification of degrees held by member of parliaments which till today had resulted in eviction of many from the House. In 2009, prestigious Nature magazine showered much praise on the achievements of Pakistan’s HEC. Subsequently with arrival of new leaderships glory of HEC proved to be short lived and situation changed from bad to worse. Compromises were made and large number of unregulated degree awarding institutions mushroomed. Just like Agha Hassan Abedi’s brilliant brainchild BCCI went astray, Dr Atta’s HEC in Pakistan is presently rediscovering itself. The current allegations on country’s largest IT company, for peddling fake online diplomas and degrees is testimony to HEC’s neglect of online universities operating from within the country.

In FDRC story, issue of allegedly fake diplomas being dispensed through the medium of internet brings another important aspect to the fore front- legislation. On 16 Apr 2015, National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication approved the ‘The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2015’. From the first day draft bill had under gone severe criticism mainly because of various provisions that restrict freedom of information and speech. Rights groups like Reporters without Borders (RSF) and Freedom Network (FN) http://www.dawn.com/news/1177947 called for a complete overhaul of the Bill.

In the Electronic Crime Bill 2015 , major issues like cyber terrorism, spamming, stalking and spoofing etc have been satisfactorily addressed. With reference to fake diplomas and degrees, applicable sections can be Section 11 – Electronic Forgery, Section 12-Electronic Fraud and Section 23 – Spoofing. In case of electronic frauds (Sec 12) it may result in imprisonment for up to two years or fine up to ten million rupees or both. In the wake of  FDRC, matter of fake diplomas, facilitated through cyber space needs to be explicitly addressed in the bill.

The Rabbit Hole goes Deeper…..

So in FDRC scam what matters more from the American perspective? United States needs to have an in house retrospection . How the calls from 100+ countries to Toll free numbers registered in US went unnoticed? Moreover the scope of FDRC menace is possibly all over South Asia. Allegedly there have been reports of consultant rackets which “help” Indian students to get into US.

P.S: While planning for higher studies in foreign countries one must consult UN sponsored Higher education database www.whed.net  which host data of 18,000+ universities across the globe.

10 lessons Pakistan can learn from the 2015 Turkish General Elections

Screenshot 2015-05-30 17.37.50Published  in Express Blogs on June 10, 2015 

Supporters waving the National Flag in Turkey General Elections 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The 24th general elections of the Republic of Turkey were held on June 7, 2015, to elect 550 members of the Grand National Assembly. The election left many surprised as it resulted in the first hung parliament in Turkey since 1999.

However, from a purely Pakistani perspective, there are many lessons to draw, some which have been mentioned here:

1) The ruling party should not be over-confident

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has governed Turkey since 2002 and won its fourth consecutive election this time. However, it lost its parliamentary majority as its total seats dropped from 311 to 258. Thus AKP, despite winning the elections failed miserably to meet President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitious target of getting 400 MPs elected.

Lesson: In politics, caution needs to be exercised before showing over-confidence, making tall claims and announcing ambitious plans.

2) Minority parties need to be taken seriously

There has been a visible decline in the popularity of top political parties. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) remained the second largest party, but slipped below. On the contrary, minor parties showed significant improvement. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Kurdish-supported Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) unexpectedly won 80 seats each.

Lesson: Minor political parties can have significant local support due to various affiliations and hence need to be taken seriously for any possible alliance in future.

3) Infrastructural spending is not a recipe for success

From 2002 to 2012, under AKP’s rule, Turkey saw huge infrastructural development. The number of universities increased from 98 to 186. The total length of paved roads and highways constructed in last 10 years exceeds 13, 000 kilometres and a total of 24 airports were also constructed during the same period.

Lesson: Infrastructural development might be an important tool for gaining public support but there is no guarantee that it will translate into votes.

4) Election of women

For the first time since the establishment of the Grand National Assembly, a total of 97 women have been elected as MPs in Turkey.This means women will roughly form one-fifth of the Turkish parliament, which is an impressive achievement.

Lesson: Although in Pakistan significant steps towards women empowerment have been taken through reserved seats  in the parliament, yet more measures need to be taken in highlighting the equality of women.

5) Voting rights to overseas citizens

In 2014, during the presidential elections, Turkish nationals living abroad were allowed the right to vote. In recent elections, the votes from the Turk diaspora in Germany, France and other European countries played a critical role in the formation of the 2015 Parliament.

Lesson: In Pakistan, overseas Pakistanis should also be allowed to be a part of the electoral process and cast their votes.

6) Media censorship simply won’t work

A prominent reason for AKP’s comparative downfall can be attributed greatly to its harsh media policy. During its last decade, Turkey’s ranking in the Press Freedom Index has dropped from 100 to 149. According to sources, till date, 63 journalists have been sentenced to almost 32 years in prison.

Lesson: In the era of information, such practices are a sure-shot attempt for political suicide.

7) Influence of religious movements

The Gülen Movement in Turkey is a religious and social movement led by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The movement has initiated forums for interfaith dialogues. Some have praised the movement as an alternative to more extreme schools of Islam such as Salafism. The movement has a significant following; AKP lost its support from the Gullen Movement in recent years due to various reasons – which led to them losing their majority in the Parliament.

Lesson: In Pakistan, religious parties operating under political or social umbrellas can help make or break a mainstream political party.

8) Regional grievances need to be addressed

One of the sore point for any Turkish government is the dispute of Kurdistan in Southeast Turkey which has so far resulted in about 40,000 deaths. In this regard, AKP has few successes to its credit. Kurdish was incorporated as a national language and the development budget for the region was significantly increased, but it did not help much.

Lesson: Issues revolving around regions such as, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Southern Punjab, Interior Sindh and tribal areas need to be addressed to strengthen the federation.

9) Foreign policy should be loud and clear

Over the last few years, Turkey’s foreign policies have been noteworthy, which has been one of AKP’s strong suits. Most remarkably, despite maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel, it has shown overt support for the Palestinian cause. Similarly, Turkey under AKP government has raised concern on the military coup in Egypt on overthrowing of a democratically-elected government.

Lesson: Doubt or indecisiveness in foreign policy damages the credibility of an elected government and this can have a significant bearing on future elections.

10) Desperate attempts for “change” without support

AKP has strongly campaigned to write a new constitution to bolster the powers of the country’s presidential office. It needed at least 330 seats to unilaterally initiate such a change. All the other three main parties are against a presidential system. With the recent loss of a clear majority, hope for the emergence of a presidential system in Turkey is gradually fading.

Lesson: It is pragmatic to build a coalition to mark a lasting political change in the adventure of elections.

Turkey is one of the most successful modern democracies. Since Pakistan shares a special relationship with Turkey and its people, it is important we pay heed to the lessons Turkey’s General Election 2015 has to teach us.