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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جرم بولتا ہے

Screenshot 2015-05-30 12.21.00

Originally published in Pak Tea House on 30 May 2015.

axact

جرم بولتا ہے اوراس کی آواز چاہے کتنی خفیف کیوں نہ ہو، اگر قانون اندھا ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ بہرہ نہیں ہے تو یہ آواز سن لیتا ہے. جرم اپنی لمبی ٹانگوں سے کتنی ہی قلانچیں کیوں نا بھر رہا ہو قانون کے لمبے ہاتھ اس تک پہنچ کر ہی رہتے ہیں……. اگر وہ پہنچنا چاہیں.سارا کھیل نیت ، ارادے اور اس پر بروقت عمل کرنے کا ہے.فی زمانہ جس معاشرے میں ہم ره رہے ہیں وہاں بجلی سے لے کر پانی اور نیک نیتی سے لے کر غیرت تک ہر چیز کی کمی ہے اگر کوئی چیز فروانی میسرہے تو وہ ہے لا قانونیت اور جرم.چھوٹے سے لے کر بڑے جرم تک میں اگر کوئی چیز مشترک ہے تو وہ ہےاس کا نشان چھوڑ جانا. لہذا جرم تک قانون کا پہنچنا مجرم کی چالاکی سے زیادہ قانون کی ذہانت کا امتحاں ہوتا ہے.لیکن یہ تمام باتیں ان معاشروں کے لئے ہے جہاں قانون نام کی چڑیا کا وجود ہوتا ہے، ہمارے ہاں تو قانون بھی جنگل کا ہے اور قانون کے رکھوالے بھی وہی کے رہائشی.
حال ہی میں ایگزٹ کمپنی کے معاملے پر قانون نافذ کرنے والوں کی پھرتیاں دیکھ کر پہلے تو یقین ہی نہیں آیا کے ہم پاکستان میں ہیں یا کسی یورپی ملک میں.جعلی ڈگریوں کے معاملے پر جس قدر سبکی پاکستان کی ہوئی ہے وہ تاریخ میں ایک مثال ہے.وہ تو بھلا ہو اس ملک بدر امریکی صحافی کا جس نے اس کہانی پر سے پردہ اٹھا کر اس مکروہ دھندے میں ملوث تمام لوگو ں کو برہنہ کر دیا. اس صحافی نے اپنی ملک بدری کا بدلہ چکایا اور خوب چکایا.
اگر تمام تر سازشی مفروضوں سے قطع نظر ہو کر حقیقت پسندی سے جعلی ڈگریوں کے معاملے پر غور کیا جائے تو ہمیں اپنی اخلاقی اقدار اور فرض شناسی ایک مکروہ وجود کی طرح سامنےکھڑی نظر آنی چاہئے.ایک ایسا ملک جہاں جعلی دوائیوں، جعلی اسکولوں، جعلی اشیا خورد و نوش اور جعلی رہنماؤں کی بھر مار ہو وہاں پر جعلی ڈگریوں کا اتنا منظم طریقے سے تیار ہونا اور بکنا کوئی اچنبھے کی بات نہیں.جعلی ڈگریوں کے معاملے میں ہمارے لئے ایک نہیں کئی سبق پنہا ہیں.
سب سے پہلے تو یہ کہ منہ زبانی آپ خواہ کتنا ہی پارسائی کا دعوی کیوں نہ کریں لیکن بہر کیف محتاط رہنا چاہئے خاص طور پر اس وقت جب آپ میڈیا سے وابستہ ہوں اور لاکھوں لوگ آپ کی بات سنتے ہوں.جب غیر معمولی نوازشات کی بارش ہو رہی ہو تو عقلمندی کبوتر کی طرح آنکھ بند کر لینے میں نہیں بلکہ دل و دماغ حاضر رکھنے میں ہے.یہ دلچسپ روایت بھی اس معاملے کے توسط سے دیکھنے میں آئی کے ایک طرف لوگوں نے اخلاقیات کے نام پرمشکلات کے شکار ٹی وی چینل سے علیحدگی اختیار کی اور دوسری جانب اخلاقیات کے ہی نام پر کچھ لوگو ں نےوہاں پر ٹھہرنا زیادہ مناسب سمجھا اور تیسری طرف کچھ حضرا ت نے اس وقت میں اسی ٹی وی چینل کو ببانگ دھل اپنانے میں ہی اپنی اعلی ااخلاقی روایات کی پاس داری سمجھا.
اس سارے معاملے میں دوسرا سبق ہمارے قانون نافذ کرنے والے اداروں کے لئے ہے.اگر یہ تمام مستعدی اور پھرتی اپنے وقت پر دکھائی جاتی تو یقیناً اس میں ادارے کی بھی عزت ہوتی اور ملک بھی بدنامی سے بچ جاتا.ابّ چاہے ایف بی آئی کے ساتھ مل کر تحقیق کریں یا پھر انٹر پول کے ساتھ سچ تو یہ ہے کے ایف آئی اے کو اتنے بڑے پیمانے پر ہونے والے فراڈ کا وقت پر پتا نہ چلنا بھی غفلت کے زمرے میں ہی آتا ہے.
تیسرا سبق ہم عوام الناس کے لئے ہے . یقیناً پیسے کی چکا چوند آنکھوں کوخیرہ کرنے کا سبب بنتی ہے لیکن جس طرح ہر چمکتی چیز سونا نہیں ہوتی اسی طرح ہر بڑی آمدنی ضروری نہیں کے حلال یا جائز ذریعے سے آ رہی ہو.خواہ اپنی نوکری کامعاملہ ہو یا بچوں کے روز گار کا صرف تنخواہ کو نوکری حاصل کرنے کا معیار بنانا عقلمندی نہیں.
اس سارے معاملے میں ایک سوال جو ابھر کر سامنے آتا ہے وہ یہ ہے کہ جعلی ڈگریوں کو دینے والے تو جیل کے اندر ہیں لیکن کیا یہ حقیقت نہیں کے کئی جعلی ڈگریاں لینے والے طاقت کے ایوانوں کے اندر ہیں.
جرم کتنی ہی مہارت سے کیوں نہ کیا جائے ایک نہ ایک دن اس کو آشکار ہونا ہی پڑتا ہے اور پھر کوئی ارب پتی کاروباری ہو یا کروڑ پتی ماڈل،
اس کا جرم یک لخت بولتا چلا جاتا ہے اور بڑے لوگوں کے رچائے اس سارے کھیل میں نقصان ان لوگوں کا ہوتا ہے جو اپنی آنکھوں میں خواب سجاے ایک ایسے راستے پر چل نکلتے ہیں جہاں دولت کی شہنائیوں میں ضمیر کی آواز سننےکا دل ہی نہیں چاہتا.پھر اچانک جب چار دن کی چاندنی ختم ہو کراندھیری رات شروع ہوتی تو کچھ سجھائی نہیں دیتا.
ایسے میں صرف جرم بولتا ہے اور باقی سب سنتے ہے کچھ حیرت سے اور کچھ پچھتاوے سے.

تعارف : موصوف اچھے بھلے کمپیوٹر انجنیئر تھے پھر یکدم جانے کیا سوجھی کے لکھنا شروع کر دیا اور وہ بھی اردو میں . اب کوئی اور پڑھے یا نہ پڑھے یہ خود اپنی تحریریں بڑے شوق سے پڑھتے ہیں اور ان کا فرمانا ہے پڑھتا جا- شرماتا جا. رابطہ کرنا ہو یا نہ کرنا ہو ای میل یہی ہے:

BRAZIL’s Road Map to Electronic Voting – Lessons for Pakistan

pic Originally published in The News Tribe on  Mar 27th, 2013

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Computerization and automation of Brazil‘s Electoral system provides many interesting lessons for Pakistan. The benefits of electronic voting were identified by Brazil as early as in 1986. Over the years this South American country has evolved a highly successful model of implementing electronic voting at the level of municipal as well as general elections.

The Brazilian electronic voting system has proved that it is reliable, transparent and fast. In Brazil the Superior Electoral Court is responsible for the conduct of elections. According to a survey of 2009 it was regarded as one of the most trustworthy institution of the country. Few of the important milestones achieved by Brazil during transformation of electoral process in last two decades are as following:-

Mile stone # 1 (1986) – Voter’s Electronic Registration
The voters’ registration is one of the very basic requirements of any electoral process. The manual or physical registration of voters is not only time consuming but it is more prone to fake entries leading to bogus votes. The Brazilian Superior Electoral Court in 1986 identified this important area and established a single national registration system by replacing the older system of voter’s certificate. It soon became one of the largest electronic registries of voters.

Mile stone # 2 (1994) – Secure Data Transmission Network
For any electronic voting system to function in an efficient and transparent manner a secure and reliable data transmission network needs to be in place. By 1994 General Election, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil created a data transmission network that enabled electronic communication of information among the responsible agencies. Initially the network was utilized for the verification and release of election results. In practice, votes casted in ballot boxes were verified and transmitted to the Regional Electoral Courts which were then retransmitted to the Superior Electoral Court for tabulation and the release of the results.

Mile stone # 3 (1996) – Introducing Electronic Ballot Boxes
In 1996, Superior Electoral Court constituted a technical group in order to prepare the Electronic Ballot Boxes. The project was completed within five months. For the first time electronic voting was successfully implemented in one third of the Brazilian electorate during the 1996 Municipal Elections.

Mile stone # 4 (1998)- Increased Electronic Voting
During the General Elections of 1998, nearly 75 million or two thirds of all Brazilian voters voted through the electronic ballot boxes.

Mile stone # 5 (2000 )- 100 % Electronic Voting
In the year 2000, Brazilian electronic voting project achieved the important mile stone during the Municipal Elections. In these elections 100% of voters, i.e. About 110,000,000 Brazilians were empowered to cast their vote electronically.

Mile stone # 6 (2004/2005/2006 )- Reliable Electronic Voting
Ø In the first round of the municipal elections of 2004, with an electorate of 119 million people, more than 402 thousand electronic ballot boxes were used.
Ø In the referendum of October 23rd, 2005, 95,375,824 people were able to vote electronically. Nearly 406 thousand voting machines were used, guaranteeing, once more, the agility in the counting and security to the vote.
Ø In the general elections of 2006, the counting in record time confirmed the electronic voting system to be adopted in Brazil.

Mile stone # 7 (2008) – Biometric Voting System
A leap forward was taken in the Municipal Elections of 2008 by introducing a Biometric Voting System in order to enhance the security of the voting system. Voters were identified by their fingerprints, which provided a precise identification of the voters. This significantly reduced the possibility of fraud.

Mile stone # 8 (2009) – Verification of the System
Due to increased public interest in the verification of the electronic voting system, public security tests of the election were conducted in 2009 with investigators coming from accredited national and international organizations. This demonstrated the security and inviolability of the Brazilian electronic voting system. According to a survey in 2008, 97 percent of voters approved of the Electronic Ballot box.

Mile stone # 9 (2010)
In the 2010 general elections, more than one million Brazilians identified themselves and voted through biometrics in more than 60 municipalities. According to a survey, 88% of the voters rated the system as good or excellent quality of work.

Mile stone #10 –Yet to Come
Keeping in view the track record of Brazilian in the field of electronic voting it can be claimed that something better would definitely show up once the General elections are held in 2014.

Conclusion
Few of the observations made by the Brazilians due to their Electronic Voting experience are:

  • Introduction of a major technical change like of electronic ballot boxes was not obstacle to voters.
    Ø Voters were facilitated in terms of small lines and swift process.
    Ø A harmonious s relation among voters, inspectors, and elections workers was observed.
    Ø The absence of military force in the streets, demonstrated the confidence of voters, candidates and parties in the performance of the Electoral Voting system.
    Ø Credibility in the new electronic voting process as a result of the impossibility of frauds.

In order to ensure the transparency and security of the Brazilian electronic voting system the relevant parties and authorities are given an advance access to election software for the purpose of conducting inspections and audits before the election. The software is then introduced, compiled and digitally signed by representatives of the political parties and the authorities. After this the software is secured in the Superior Electoral Court.

Bureaucracy – Lessons for Pakistan from Singapore

pic Originally published in The News Tribe on  20 March 2013.

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Given an opportunity, what ONE change you would like to bring in Pakistan? The possible answers could include strengthening of education system, reforming health sector, reviving economy, promoting religious tolerance, widening the tax base and many more.

However in my reckoning the implementation of good governance is the most imperative factor on which foundations of a progressive society can be laid upon.

The rampant corruption; an off spring of poor governance, in our society is testimony to that. With in a state the direct responsibility of governance apart from the political leadership directly rests upon the civil bureaucracy. Bureaucracy acts as the eyes, ears, brain and most importantly the “hands” of state machinery to smoothly run the system. Given this system falter to deliver, the result is what we witness daily in Pakistan.

However, Pakistan is not the only country that suffers in the hands of an inefficient bureaucracy. In fact its performance must be relatively better than India which was identified as the worst bureaucracy in Asia according to a report.

The bureaucracies of Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia were identified as efficent; however the top slot for the best bureaucracy in Asia was maintained by the small island state of Singapore.

With a land mass almost thousand times smaller than Pakistan, the total population of Singapore is half that of Lahore. Identified as one of four Asian Tigers besides Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea the Singapore is the world’s fourth leading financial hubs with one of the fivebusiest ports in the world. According to an IMF report of 2010-11 in terms of purchasing power parity it has the third highest per capita income in the world.

The intriguing success story of Singapore, a 63 island country, which like Pakistan obtained independence from Britain, in 1963, has many dimensions. However among other contributing factors of Singapore’s achievements, one resides in carving the most efficient civil services system.Instead of divulging upon the reasons of our own low performing bureaucratic system lets get a bird’s eye view of strengths of Singapore’s system which offers many insights and lessons for Pakistan.

The government of Singapore introduced reforms in civil service in 1990s .The Public Service for the 21st Century (PS21) was the flagship reform program. Introduced in 1995, PS21 seeks to foster a culture of change reflected in its official slogan” be the change”. In Singapore, the public services include the Armed Forces, Civil Service, Legal Service and the Police Force. It comprises of almost 110,000 officers serving in 15 Ministries and more than 50 statutory boards. Here are few cardinals of Singapore’s Civil Services:-

Best – Human Resource
Just like Pakistan, the selection of candidates for serving in civil services of Singapore is primarily based upon the performance on competitive written examination .However in quest for hiring best possible human resource the options are not closed for hiring talented individuals from outside the service structure. Thus finding graduates from world class institutions like Stanford University and London School of Economics in Singapore Civil services is common.

Highest – Pays and Perks
Singapore Civil Services does not bank upon sermons and verbosity to remove temptations for corruption .It pays special emphases on promoting official honesty through high salaries paid to public officials.

Young – Age Profile
The Singapore Public services focuses on hiring younger generation and that is why almost 60 % of the public service workforce comprise of individuals less than 40 years of age. This brings in fresh perspective and ideas to the problems that is translated into efficient public service. It is in stark contrast to Pakistan where promotion criterion of civil servants mainly depends upon the age and number of years put in the service.

Harnessing Private Sector Expertise
Unlike Pakistan, the inclusion of highly talented technocrats into the civil services of Singapore is not discouraged. The inclusion of competitive technocrats from private sectors has changed the overall outlook of the Singapore civil services and increased the efficiency many times.

Training And Development
Singapore Public Service pays special attention to the training and development of its workforce. All public officers are entitled to 100 hours of training and development per annum so that they can upgrade and acquire new skills. Interestingly, every officer is required to develop an individual training roadmap to make sure that he is equipped with skills for the job and long term employability. The Civil Service College (CSC)  plays an instrumental role in identifying organizational capabilities and competencies critical to the Service.

Tapping the Talent through Scholarships
Identifying the importance of tapping the talent at an early stage, Public Service Commission of Singapore grants lucrative scholarships to prospective candidates. These are granted for study both in Singapore and at foreign universities on the condition that the recipients join the civil service after graduation. Efforts are also done to reach university undergraduates with mid-term scholarships and internships.

Status with Prestige
In order to elevate the self esteem and inculcate pride in their profession officials are provided with a social prestige that is at par with their peers in business and other fields. The associated power and official title normally surpass the money, in otherwise a rich society.

Powerful –Corruption Investigation Bureau
The investigation of corruption in both the public and private sectors is under the authority of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), which enjoys sweeping powers under prime minister. The same model was followed by Hong Kong in 1974.In January 2012, CPIB arrested senior civil servants on the charges of corruption, including the former head of the Singapore Civil Defense Force.

Complete – Automation
At quite an early stage it was identified by Singapore public Service that paper based file system is a big hurdle in efficiency of public offices. Automation was resorted to replace papers with emails and registers with servers and databases. Under its eGov Plan the Singapore Civil Services has introduced an array of IT based services for the public, businesses and the public office bearers that include innovative programs like Government Cloud (G-Cloud and CUBE (for collaborative ideas sharing) etc.

Keeping in view the economic constraints and other limitations ,all of the examples above may not directly apply to Pakistan’s Bureaucracy and Civil services system .Yet the success of Singapore in this regard is indication of the reality that where there is will there is a way.

For Pakistan, one day we may find light at the end of the tunnel. How long? Who knows?

10 lessons Pakistan can learn from the UK general elections 2015

Screenshot 2015-05-30 17.37.50 Originally published in Express Tribune Blogs on 14 May 2015.

On May 7, 2015, the 56th general elections of the United Kingdom were held to elect 650 members to the House of Commons. Victory of ruling Conservative (Tory) Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, surprised many.

However, from purely a Pakistani perspective, there are many lessons to draw. Ten of them are mentioned here:

1. As a party leader, if you lose, you resign

This might sound alien to Pakistani ears, yet it is true. Unlike the land of the pure, ethics is a hall mark of British politics. For me, as a Pakistani, it was quite surprising that within hours of election results, party leaders of all three major parties – Labour, UK Independent Party and Liberal Democrats – resigned, taking full responsibility of their party’s defeat.

Now imagine this in a Pakistani context, where winning or losing an election cannot affect the party leadership in any way. Mostly it is death that does them apart and even after death there are bright chances that political leadership would be inherited.

Ed Miliband (L) and Asif Ali Zardari

2. The ruling can rule again

Unlike in Pakistan, where political parties come to power one after another, UK general elections 2015 hinted that a ruling party can reclaim its victory depending upon performance and popularity. In fact, the ruling Conservative Party gained 24 more seats from the previous elections.

In a Pakistani scenario, it is normally assumed that the party already in power would have to wait for a five-year term to pass. Our parties hardly make it for successive two terms atnational levels. The one thing Pakistan can learn from UK elections is that, in politics, parties should keep playing the musical chairs game – sometime, they should aim at staying on and making the difference they aspire to make.

David Cameron (L) and Yousaf Raza Gilani

3. The third-party factor can be surprising

What UK is experiencing with regards to the landslide victory of the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland, Pakistanis had a similar experience in recent past with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). In 2013, PTI came forth as a powerful third party and surprised many. Although their victory was not comprehensive enough to claim power at national level, yet their presence was felt across the national political scene.

Be it PTI in 2013 or SNP in 2015, a lesson from Edinburg to Peshawar is that third parties with regional dominance can surprise old and well-established political parties. Taking them lightly can be a political disaster.

Nicola Sturgeon (L) and Imran Khan

4. Polls and pundits can go wrong

As BBC’s Nick Robinson put it succinctly,

“No pollster, no pundit, no political leader saw it coming”.

Prior to the UK elections, all polls, surveys and pundits agreed that it would be a neck-to-neck election between the two major parties. However, no one anticipated majority for one single party. To say the least, anybody hardly anticipated the Tories’ great come back with 24 more seats.

Lesson for Pakistan’s media savvy public and politicians is that polls, surveys or analysis of political pundits might educate you about certain trends in a forthcoming election, but onElection Day, things can go south for them.

Photo: Reuters

5. Social media might be spectacular but it is insignificant

Perhaps the most important question in the UK these days is,

“Did something happen online which influenced the voters?”

Significant attempts were made in the current UK elections to change people’s minds. This includes Ed Miliband’s interview with Russell Brand – which was watched over one million times on YouTube, the creation of hastags like #Milifandom and #Cameronettes, and the usage of #GE2015 by almost 500,000 uses in one week alone. However, even with Miliband’s social media presence, it didn’t do much to change the voters’ opinion.

And this is exactly what happened in Pakistan too. The dominance of one particular party onsocial media during the 2013 general elections did not translate into votes and this is where politicians need to set their priorities right. For a country like Pakistan, with a rapidly growing user-base of social media, it’s important to realise that social media might be spectacular yet it is insignificant to affect the final outcomes of an election.

6. Young people can make history

One of the biggest upsets of the UK general elections is the victory of 20-year-old student,Mhairi Black, from SNP. She is Britain’s youngest lawmaker since 1667.

Being a woman of such a young age, Black is surely an inspiration for Pakistani women interested in politics. If steered and guided appropriately, Pakistani young women could make history too like her.

Pakistani political parties need to promote young and educated women – and no, opportunities should not be limited only to women with well-connected families or established political background. All women should be allowed to pursue their dreams.

SNP’s Mhairi Black. Photo: AFP

7. Muslim women in politics – the legacy of Benazir continues

As the first female prime minister of a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto’s legacy serves as a beacon for Muslim women in politics across the globe. In the 2015 elections, 13 Muslim MPshave managed to win in their constituencies. While in the House of Commons this might not be a significant number, yet the presence of eight women among them is impressive. For the first time in history of UK, a total of 193 women would be MPs this time.

Pakistan needs to draw significant lessons for women empowerment through representation.

Top, from left to right: Tasmina Ahmed-Shaikh, Naseem Shah, Nusrat Ghani, Shabana Mahmood. Bottom, from left to right: Tulip Siddiq, Rupa Huq, Roshanara Ali, Yasmin Qureshi.

8. Humpty Dumpties can have a great fall

The defeats of big wigs like George Galloway, Ed Balls, Nigel Farage and many others underscore that politics is a cruel business that can be very mean at times.

An obvious lesson for Pakistani politicians is that no one is larger than life, at least in politics. If you perform, deliver and satisfy the voters, you have bright chances of survival. Otherwise, the same people would cast their vote, look straight into your eyes and say,

“Next please”.

From left to right: Ed Balls, Nigel Farage, Asfandyar Wali Khan and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi

9. For elections, media power is good but real politics is better

George Galloway, founder of the Respect Party and a former MP of the British parliament, has enjoyed more media projection than any of his contemporaries, for various reasons. He is a pro-Palestine supporter and he also hosts a show on Iranian press TV – which makes him controversial as well famous. However, his defeat to a Pakistani-origin female candidate in Bradford is an eye-opener.

A simple lesson for Pakistani politicians is that perception management through media can help only to a certain extent. So while one may keep one head above the clouds and use themedia as their mouthpiece, real politics requires ones ‘feet on the ground’. This holds true for Pakistani parties whose leaders are not in sync with their people.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) and George Galloway

10. Regional grievance need to be addressed

The landslide victory of SNP in Scotland needs deliberation. UK is working towards its regional issues.

In a Pakistani context, the underlying message is loud and clear. If grievances at regional levels – albeit the Hazara community, the Siraki belt, Gilgit-Baltistan or Balochistan – are not addressed, the reaction could surface politically at a national level.

SNP leadership (L) and Mama Qadeer

The United Kingdom is one of the oldest democracies in the world. If we really wish to entail all democratic procedures in Pakistan and make ourselves better as a democratic country, then it would do well for us to pay heed to the UK general elections. There is a lot more that we can learn from them. All we have to do is look in the right direction, with the right perspective.

World’s Tallest Building in Karachi: Fact Vs Fiction

dsd Originally published in The Pyambar.com on 28 feb 2013.

Over view of Tallest buildings in the world
Over view of Tallest buildings in the world

Recent claims by a business tycoon regarding the constructing world’s tallest building in Karachi needs to be seen rationally and facts need to be segregated from fiction. A few relevant issues in this regard are addressed below:

What is a tall building?

According to Council on Tall buildings and Urban Habitat there is no absolute definition of a “tall building.” However, a building that exhibits some element of “tallness” in relative height, proportion, and technology qualifies as a tall building. As a guideline, any building over 50 meters in height could be called a tall building. A tall building with fifty or more storeys is certainly a skyscraper. A smaller building may be considered a skyscraper if it changes the overall skyline. In modern terms, a building over 300 meters is called “Super Tall” and a building over 600 meters is “Mega Tall.” As of July 2012, there are sixty-five Super Talls globally. The only Mega Talls of the world are The Clock Tower Makkah (651m), Saudia Arabia, and Burj Khalifa (838m), Dubai.

How is a tall building measured?
Three methods for measuring tall buildings are “Height to Architectural top method,” in which the building is measured from ground level to the roof. In “floor method,” measurement is done from ground level to the highest occupied floor. In “Height to Tip Method,” the building is measured to the highest point including the antennae.

Why tall buildings are build?

Single-function tall buildings are most commonly used as offices, residential, and hotels and are normally defined as when 85% or more of the total floor space is dedicated to a single usage. A mixed-use tall building combines two or more functions. A major reason for developing tall buildings is to cater for limited availability of land in urban areas, due to increased influx of population. Also, with better technology, it is cost-effective to develop tall buildings.

What are the tallest buildings at present?

As of 2012, the three tallest buildings of the world are Burj Khalifa Dubai (838m), Makkah Royal Clock Tower (601 m), and Taipei 101 (508 m). However, three under construction tallest buildings are in China: the Ping An Finance Center (660m), Wuhan Greenland Center ( 636m) and Shanghai Tower(632m) would surpass Royal Clock Tower, Makkah. According to future proposed plans, Building J220 in China would be 838 m high (equal to Burj Khalifa) and the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia would stand tallest at a whopping 1000 meters!

Where tall buildings are currently being built?
Since year 2000, the number of “sub tall” buildings (taller than 200 meters) has increased threefold. The trend has shifted from United States and Europe to Middle East and China. In 2012, Sixty-six sub talls were completed, including twenty-two buildings in China, seven in Saudia and five in UAE. Makkah was the city that completed maximum number of sub tall buildings; five in all. In the same year United
States completed two “sub tall” buildings.

Country wise, China, UAE (mainly Dubai), and Saudia Arabia are leading contestants for the world’s tallest buildings. Ironically, Dubai, which now hosts the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, did not have a single sub tall (200m) before 1999. Saudi Arabia currently has twelve buildings that are 200 meters or taller, but in the next few years, the number could dramatically increase. Currently, five super tall (300m) buildings, three in Riyadh, and two in Jeddah are under construction.

When is a “tall building” considered complete?

The status of a building is categorized as “Proposed” when apart from a few other prerequisites, its design has progressed beyond the conceptual stage and has obtained or is in the process of obtaining formal planning consent/legal permission for construction. A building is considered to be a “Vision” when it is a theoretical proposition and is in its early stages of inception. Globally a tall building is considered complete only if it is available for its intended use. Currently, across the globe there are 59 projects under construction, which once completed will join the list of the 100 tallest buildings in the world.

Current status of Pakistan’s top buildings
According to Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the existing tallest buildings in Pakistan are Ocean Tower (120 m), MCB Tower (116m), PIC Tower (101m), and Habib bank Plaza (96m), all in Karachi. Port Tower (592m) and Karachi Port Tower (352m) are the projects in their visionary phase, while Bharia Icon Tower Karachi (260m), Sheikh Zaid building (195m) Lahore and The Centauraus Tower
in Islamabad falls under the “Under Construction” category.

Options for Pakistan
Presently, in order to build tallest building of the world in Pakistan, Burj Khalifa (828m) had to be surpassed before 2018 because after that Kingdom Tower, Jeddah (1000m) would be ready which would require us to built something more than one kilometer high in the sky!

Keeping in view the narrow “time window” available, it will be important to consider that Burj Khalifa took six years (2004-2009) to complete with abundant funds and least security concerns and Kingdom Tower has already entered its “Proposal Stage”.

In any case, if “tallest building” has to be built in Pakistan, then instead of a multipurpose building like Burj Khalifa, the scope can be reduced to a single purpose building. In that case “World’s Tallest Hotel Building” at Karachi had to be taller than JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai Tower 1 (355m), “World’s Tallest Office Building” would require Taipei 101 (508m) to be surpassed and “World’s Tallest All Residential Building” had to subdue Princess Tower of Dubai (413m). However, in terms of returns on investment, multipurpose buildings are preferred.

Conclusion
Sadly, keeping in view the above analysis, the dream of building the world’s tallest building in Karachi seems to be distant. Claiming to build the tallest building in Pakistan is easier said than done. We might not run out of money, ambition, or plans, but in the competitive tall building era, we might run out of time. The need to create efficient buildings for people to live and work is pushing the vertical limit higher and higher and there is no chance soon that this tendency would fade away.

Note : All the figures and data has been obtained from the official website of The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), an international body in the field of tall buildings and sustainable urban design based at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois, United States.

7 Reasons for Pakistani Women to Vote This Time

Screenshot 2015-05-28 01.11.01 Originally published in The News Blogs on  15 Apr 2013

women-vote (1)

Elections in Pakistan are due by next month. Although casting of vote is every citizen’s responsibility and there should be no gender discrimination whatsoever in this regard. However following are the eight special reasons for Pakistani women to vote this time: –

A Gossiping Opportunity

What more a women can ask for, than to talk endlessly with her gender mates. The Election Day presents a golden opportunity for gossiping and making new friends while waiting for the turn to vote. Thus ladies can freely discuss the problems of children, happenings in popular soaps and T.V serials, new recipes, latest fashion trends, guidelines for keeping a vigilant eye on ‘him’, deteriorating standard of education in schools , commodity price hikes and the all time favorite to crib about in laws. Thus wise ladies will not miss this once in a five-year gossiping opportunity to speak their hearts out and make new friends.

Summer Fashion Fiesta

A good thing about the upcoming elections in Pakistan is that they are being held on the start of summer season. For the fashion savvy ladies this is an excellent chance to try their wardrobe’s latest addition. Few hours spend at polling station would offer a unique opportunity to get a feeling of ongoing fashion trends. This could prove to be a much more enlightening experience than any fashion magazine, T.V show or a marriage ceremony. The Election Day would be an appropriate occasion to make a fashion statement through sunglasses, umbrellas, bags, cell phones and other accessories. Above all this once in a five-year time fashion get-together is free of cost and hence should not be missed at all.

Why to spend a dull holiday at home….

Whether a workingwoman, dedicated house wife or a college / university student, a Pakistani woman is bound to be a busy bee.  She is most likely to spend her holiday at home by engaging in routine tasks of housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, watching T.V, visiting friends, neighbors or relatives .Why not to break the dull and boring routine and go out for casting the vote. The routine chores can wait for the next holiday.

Exercising the “Influence” and using the “Women Power” …….

Women in Pakistan are influential in every role. As loving mothers, dedicated housewives, caring sisters or adoring daughters they are hard to neglect. Election Day gives enough leverage to Pakistani women to exercise their influence on the sluggish gender. Thus women can not only motivate but also insist and “order” the males to escort them to the polling station for casting the vote. The voting day can truly be a “Women’s Day” only if they realize and use their influence.

The Decision Maker’s vote for selecting the Decision Makers….

From managing home economics, to raising the kids and making key family decisions women are normally at the epi center of most important affairs encircling our lives. Being the primary customer (decision maker) for the consumers (members of family) her small and large decisions are vital. Thus as a decision maker in routine life, it is imperative to have her say in selecting the decision makers at a larger level. This factor in a way makes the importance of women vote “more” than men’s vote. 

·Majority Vote Bank….

The process of democracy starts with the casting of vote under free and fair elections. Vote casting is done to select capable individuals and the lynch pin of this political process hinges on the “majority” of votes. Pakistani women being 52 % are in majority and thus the burden of casting vote on the Pakistani women, in a responsible manner is more than on men.

Grooming today’s children for  future….

It might require a professionally designed research to ascertain how children are influenced, once parents go through a voting process and share the experience with them. Since in most of the cases children are influenced by mothers, so a woman casting her vote is in fact educating her children about the importance of voting. This can be a one way to groom today’s children as responsible citizens of tomorrow.

Voting by Women……A liberating Experience…

The voting experience by women provides them an opportunity to become an active stakeholder rather than passive followers. Voting empowers her to liberate and form her own opinion. Once cast her vote she can more confidently comment, criticize and appreciate the performance of the candidates once they resume offices. Thus voting by a woman is a liberating experience.

Keeping in view the past electoral experiences of Pakistan, this time every eligible Pakistani woman should make an endeavor to cast her vote responsibly. May be the majority vote of women could put a country so full of potential; on the right track that which had been ruined over the years mainly by the minority gender!