Have a fabulous 2012

FOR PHOTOS: PLEASE ASK FIRST, I WOULD APPRECIATE THE COURTESY OF BEING ASKED!

FOR PHOTOS: PLEASE ASK FIRST, I WOULD APPRECIATE THE COURTESY OF BEING ASKED!
Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Imran Khan: Leading a Political Shift in Pakistan


Imran Khan's Lahore Rally : Oct.30,2011

Yesterday, October 30th. Imran Khan led a rally in Lahore which is covered the world over. It is seen as a ray of hope and change in Pakistan and not all the international community is ready for this change for a couple of reasons. Before going in detail, we have to look at the size, the style and the message  that this rally send at large. No wonder, it was quite a big crowd per se but not enough for a country of about 200 million and a city of about 9 million people. Nevertheless, the participants were there by choice, were very different from the usual crowd that is seen in Pakistani political rallies and accordng to the analysts - a middle class involvement which is considered as a clear indiacator of change - was present there. Many of them were women and young people - which have never shown interest in going to political rallies before at such a large scale. What was said in the rally was nothing new: how can it be new when the ailment we are sufferening is more than 60 years old....it will have the same prescription. Anyhow, let us look at how was this rally being covered internationally and what does  the International media is saying about it around the world:

New York Times  in its coverage here, did termed this rally a political shift in Pakistan.

San Francisco Chronicle called it: An Anti- US Pakistani Cricketer rallies 100,000.

Hindustan Times ran a headline saying: New Delhi should withdraw Army from Kashmir: Imran

BBC says: Imran Khan addresses thousands gathered at Minar-e- Pakistan

The Telegraph reports: Imran leads a rally of 100,000 against Pakistan's US alliance.

Huffington's Post reported: Pakistani Cricket Legend Imran Khan And Supporters Rally Against U.S.-Pakistan Alliance

Council on Foreign Relations had a post by Ed Husain: Imran Khan: Pakistan's Comeback Kid

Asian Correspondent ran the same heading as the SF Chronicle here.

Yahoo News through the Associated Press (AP)  ran a headline: Anti-US Pakistani cricketer rallies 100,000 people

Why is it important to focus what the foreign media has to say???
They create and send a specific image of any event happening around the world.

The KEY WORDS used in some of the leading newspapers to highlight Imran Khan's Lahore Rally of 30-th October include:

Anti-US , political shift,  Against, Pak-US alliance and Anti-US Pakistani cricketer.

If we look at the history of politics in the developing world and particularly in Asia, we will see that people came to power through the help of foreign powers. There is enough evidence that shows that the advocates from old democracies have supported anti-democratic movements within these developing countries, they have waged their proxy wars there, they have destablized them in many ways, they have always given asylum to the fraudulent leaders in these developing countries who have been involved in severe human rights violations and robbing the public exchequer  and have never liked a leadership that asked for "equality" among nations in general and who looked into the eyes of these old power houses.

News shapes opinions and if that is how a change in Pakistan is covered internationally with a phobia,  with irrational fear and as a possible threat then it is a very sad news for Pakistan and for the world. Change in other countries must be seen as a possiblility of a better and stable tomorrow rather than demonizing the change and fearing it!



Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Billion and Me!


By the end of this month, the population will hit a 7 billion mark. Where does Pakistan stand in all this?
Pakistan's population in 1947 was 32.5 million which is now 180 million by 2011. In 1940, Pakistan was the 13th. largest country in terms of population but in 2011 it is ranked as the 6th largest. Pakistan has one of the highest birth rates in the world. The situation is like trying to fit an elephant in a room.

According to a UN report, 1000 women die in childbirth everyday in Pakistan at a rate of 1 woman every 90 minutes.

Almost every country in the world and all the major news agencies are featuring Pakistan when the world will turn 7 billion. Below is report by Al-Jazeera featuring one woman in South Punjab who is the mother and grandmother of 40 offsprings.

video


A country which is officially called the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" is synonamous with North Korea that sends a message of being the "most democratic country" just because officially the name says - Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In Pakistan, Islam is hijacked and many a times I was asked by fellow students from muslim countries that they could NOT identify with the Islam of Pakistan, particularly, of violence and radicalism that is ingrained in the society. Our brother and sister muslim countries are highly suspicious of the events unfolding here on daily basis (though their track record isn't spotless). It is NOT the goverenment that has to be blamed solely( which is obviously a gang of thugs - who are an outcome of selection and not election) but people at large who are are fine with silence on violence.

Long story short, Islam is a religion of logic and I fail to understand that where children are considered as a gift of God, how come people do NOT realize, that their children are deprived of basic amenities such as health, education, enough food to eat and clean water to drink? How can they think of adding a new member in their poor households? Once I asked our domestic help that she should not make her under-age children put to work - they must be at school instead (and we can support it fully ) - she was upset and protested on that idea. When these children are born - they are seen as the potential heads to earn money at young ages (though meagre) and nothing else of course -  not a blessing or a gift of God but a source of income for them.

JOBS in SEOUL: Seeking English and French Language Teachers


Lycée Français de Séoul

Lycée Français de Séoul (French School in Seoul) is seeking qualified applicants for the following positions:

- Native English speaking substitute teachers K to 5th

- Native French speaking substitute teachers K to 5th

The substitute teachers are needed on specific occasions :

  1. Temporary illness
  2. Professional development

Requirements for application include :
  1. Letter of Introduction
  2. Resume
  3. Letter(s) of Recommendation (if available)
  4. Credential Copy (if available) 
Contact Person: Pascal Vallet (Directeur du primaire)

Courriel : directeur@lfseoul.org

Lycée Français de Séoul

Tél: (822) 535-1158/ Fax : (822) 593-5444

Seocho-Gu, Banpo-4-dong, 98-3 Séoul Corée

Web : www.lfseoul.org

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Seoul Town Meeting 2011



Seoul Global Center has been hosting a Seoul Town Meteting and what is different is the 'Survey to Chose Discussion Topics'. I think that the idea is great where people gonna highlight the most pressing of issues. This meetings is held annually to provide an opportunity for international residents in Seoul to make suggestions for improving the city.
 For further deatils visit the Seoul Global Center website.

Official message in Korean is below:

"안녕하세요? 서울글로벌센터입니다.


저희는 서울에 살고 계신 외국인 시민들의 불편개선을 위하여 매년 서울타운미팅이라는 외국인시민들과의 토론회를 개최하고 있습니다. 귀하의 응답은 서울타운미팅 의견 수렴을 위한 자료로 활용되며, 통계 목적으로만 사용될 뿐 개인정보는 공개되지 않습니다.

바쁘시더라도 잠시만 시간을 내어 설문에 응해주시면 감사하겠습니다."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Barbed wires: A popular commodity in Pakistan



Emotions run high here and people whether on the streets, in the market, in the media and pretty much everywhere go out of control. Everybody wants to be right almost always - no matter what. Having have a difference of opinions doesn't come easy. Patience, tolerance and a civilized discussion is no more.Visible and invisible walls are seen everywhere in Pakistan and particularly in Islamabad. I can not associate with these walls, highly charged emotions and bunkers everywhere because only a decade ago - we were pretty normal and progressive - right here in this same city and country.

What are the major causes of "extremism" of all sort?

I think that lack of effective education, rule of law, social justice and living in contradiction are to name a few. Rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. Many people have become self-centered and these are the same people who have power.

I will give an example of Islamabad where residential areas have houses that look more like a high security prison in the US or probably in Hollywood movies with barbed wires , CCTV cameras, very high walls close to 10 feet and security guards at every corner. I wonder who are they fencing against in Pakistan? From the rest of the Pakistanies??? If these people with barbed wired houses feel so unsafe and insecure and have tried every single way to protect themselves and their families - have they ever gave a thought to a life and security of a common Pakistani, who can hardly afford a meal a day?

Domestic terrorism's sole victim is an ordinary Pakistani - how will we protect them? Barbed wires or is it trustbuliding, equality, justice and foremost Pakistaniat?? I fail to understand why do we have double standards for everything?  I still hope that barbed wires leave our homes, they do NOT belong here and sooner they leave the better.

Note: A few years ago barbed wire was sold for Rs. 30/- per kilogram and now it is selling for upto Rs.350/- for a kilogram.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Parveen Saeed: A Beautiful Mind


Khana Ghar (photo courtesy by DAWN News)
News defines life in Pakistan. It is not just a means to inform about important issues and events but here it highlights the most petty of events that do not fit in the equation of responsible jouranlism or ethics of journalism or even 'newsworthy' per se.
Against the odds, story of Parveen Saeed, has been around for a while and despite the fact that major newspapers have highlighted Parveen's story but once again,  Wusatullah Khan Niazi of BBC Urdu, has done the most incredible stories on Pakistan - to refresh a story of hope, of determination and of change within the Pakistani society. We should repeat the motivational stories because we as a nation have a very short term memory and we tend to forget very easily.This story is against the usual current and flow of doing journalism in Pakistan. Here I would like to share Parveen's mission of life ( To fight Hunger) which was covered by BBC Urdu :  Parveen Saeed, a middle class, Karachiite - who is feeding the hungry for Rs.3/- only. What drove her for the cause?

A couple of years ago, Parveen heard about a woman who killed her two children because she could not even afford a meal in days - this woman lost her battle against hunger. This lead Parveen to move from a rather better neighborhood to really a poor neighborhood and started a kitchen called : Khana Ghar - A Soup Kitchen sort of a facility where one has to pay Rs. 3/- (three-ruppee-meal)  which in dollars (USD) can be broken down to about  one cent for a proper meal. In the beginning - she and her family chipped in money from their own pocket and then they spread the message through friends and family and further to  schools and colleges. With time people started to come to her to donate what they could for her kitchen because they knew that the money will be used rightly.

There are hundreds and thousands of philanthropic organizations providing free food but she still charges a cent: why is that? She replied, "....she wants to send a message that when people buy or pay even a little they will NOT misuse food and second: the logic of keeping a very low price will in turn drive people to work enough to get this meal - hence, changing their perspective on life". She also said that her organization never returned any hungry person away even if they could not pay! She said that even if this is a great cause and she is trying her best however, she can not bring an end to hunger! It is possible only if we change our thinking  as a nation and that change will drive away hunger or malpractises or disease etc. with which our society is plagued with. It has more to do with the citizen's responsibility at a national level.

Hats off to Parveen Saeed and her modest yet very noble cause!

Her work was full of hurdles. Her charitable programs of Khana Ghar and Dawa Ghar (medical facility)  have been repeatedly attacked by the local gangsters and police have refused to even file a report or help her according to  Asian Human Rights Commision's Report here!

I think it is the Politics of Tandoor or of  Roti, Kapara and Makan (food, clothing and housing idea of Z.A. Bhutto) in Pakistan  which has dragged her program and efforts into this, which others see as threat hence, she saw a lot of resistance within the community where she was trying to help. .

Khana Ghar's website.

Korea University MA-PhD Scholarship

ALL students from Asia are eligible to apply for this MA and PhD scholarships at Korea University (KU)..
One of them is KU GSIS International Students Scholarship A/B and the other is POSCO TJ PARK's fellowship, KOICA Fellowship and NIIED scholarship.

For details go the KU website here.

Online application submission  dates

September 15 ~ November 15 (for commencing spring semester)
March 15 ~ May 15 (for commencing fall semester)





Thursday, October 20, 2011

Professor Salim-uz-Zaman Siddiqui (19th.October, 1897-1994)


Today October 19th. is the Birthday of Professor Dr. Salim-uz-Zaman Siddiqui,  who was a leading Pakistani scientist in Natural Product Chemistry. He is credited for pioneering the isolation of unique chemical compounds from the Neem (Azadirachta indica), Rauwolfia, and various other flora. He revolutionised the research on pharmacology of various domestic plants found in South Asia to extract novel chemical substances of medicinal importance. One of his famous pupil is Professor Atta ur Rehman - another great name in Pakistani academia and ressearch.

Pakistan TV Channels - not a single one, mentioned this fact. A nation who can not even remember its heroes is undoubtly going down the spiral. We are doomed.

The Free Dictionary and a few other websites carried this as their main news but not Pakistan. Shame on our media (who were not tired of putting up documentaries of filmi heroes from across the border).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

도가니/Dogani (The Crucible: True Story of a Hearing-impaired Rape Victim)


video


The movie "도가니/Dogani"  with its English title "The Crucible" is one of the most watched movies in South Korea since its release and has been getting a lot of international attention as well. It is based on a true story of a 13 year old deaf school girl raped by a school official. This film had a huge impact on public and has tapped into widespread anger over official reluctance to take sexual crimes seriously, and over how justice is served, or not, in South Korea.

In The New York Times article, the author mentioned that the head of the Supreme Court admitted that “society is simmering with resentment” toward a legal system long criticized as “yujeonmujoe mujeonnyujoe,” or “not guilty for the rich, guilty for the poor.”


Film Poster

This movie reminds me of an endless list of brave women from Pakistan like Mukhtaran Mai, Sajjida, Dr. Shazia Khalid and many others who have been the victims and have been seeking  justice until today. Here it is important to note that in a male chauvinistic and patricarchal society of Pakistan, it is the women who are giving hope to the other women in Pakistan as Kristof puts it...and men (generally), they are just on the other side of the fence, most of the time.

Last week, I saw a brief news piece that a 5 years old deaf girl was gang raped in Punjab and the most unfortunate thing is that both her parents are also deaf  and are living in extreme poverty...I wonder, what has the government done to help the victim and her family and has justice been served? Here in Pakistan, every single day, we hear of rapes, of harrassements, of abuses, of human rights violation against women in particular but generally - people do NOT react the way they should. I think that the entire population must be on the streets to protest such heinous crimes but unfortunatley everything is taken very very casually here, hardly anyone was punished

The only thing I cherished living outside Pakistan was "safety and respect as a woman" from men overseas. Last week, Dr, Fauzia Saeed put it in a humorous way while hosting a live show at Lok Virsa that: "Celebrating [Rural]Women today means that out of 365 days, just one day, we hope that we will be spared from those hundreds of eyes staring at us, following us 24/7, giving us a feeling of being watched and making us uncomfortable - almost always -  in Pakistan" - sarcastic yet deep! I NEVER had this feeling anywhere else and I wonder why?

Related Article below:

Korea Times






Tuesday, October 18, 2011

KITE FLYING FESTIVAL (Seoul: Nov 6th)


Kites and kite flying has a very long history. Fascination of men to fly and to touch the sky led to inventing kites which turned into a more sophisticated hobby and then a national obsession. In almost all cultures and civilizations we see the importance given to kite flying and particularly in Asia.

In the Indian subcontinent - kite flying is a huge festival and Vasantu also called Basant - celebrating the coming of spring has the most important feature called kite flying. The city of Lahore is the hub. It kicks off in late February to early March and plays a very important role in conneting us with relgion, folklore and tradition - all in one string and has brought us a feelings of 'being free' by simply flying a kite in the air. Skies in early spring are filled with colorful kites giving a sense of spring in the sky.

China is credited with the invention of kites some 3000 years ago and there are many legends and myths to its creation. In Korea, if we look at the old painting, we see children flying kites and definitely it has been equally popular in Korea too. With modernization these simple hobbies have become large ventures or projects which have been used to attract tourists and has, in turn, initiatied the Kite Flying Association in almost all the countries. Here, Kite Flying Association of Korea is celebrating the Kite Festival scheduled on November 6th (Sunday). For registration please visit the website of Korea's Kite Flyers Association and click on a form for foreigner's to apply.

First 250 entries are eligible for free kites and string and will also be able to contest in the grand prize by Seoul Mayor and 5 more different organization.

Location: Yeouido, Han River Park across Yeouido SoonBok Um Church.
For more info. call: 02-3780-0561
Register at: http://www.kokfa.or.kr/
Contact person: Mr. Cho (02-720-4114)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Busan International Firework Festival 2011


This is taking place between October 21 - Oct. 29, 2011.

In a whole week, there will be concerts , Big Bang is going to perform, there will be a Super Model Pageant, and a lot more stuff to enjoy.

Location: Gwangalli Beach

For details visit their website!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Visiting Lok Virsa!

Today is the last day of Lok Virsa Festival at Shakarprian, Islamabad. The venue is located near Park Avenue and there is no public transport that goes there. Private transport is the only possibility but one can hire a taxi or simply take a walk of about 35 minutes. 
Lok Virsa's activities gave residents of the twin cities an opportunity to enjoy the day when it has become really difficult to go out of homes and get involved or enjoy an event, particularly for women. I also met Dr. Fauzia Saeed briefly. She also hosted the show and did a great job. I will highly recommend people to take time out and visit Lok Virsa today- since today, the festival will come to an end.



Logo of Lok Virsa - a starting point for me on Gate 2.  Many families were there. Lok Virsa has a lot to offer to the visitors. I always feel like becoming a part of a magical land - full of surprises and fun.

At Gate #2, visitors are welcomed by this jubilant group of dancers - with their beautiful folk dances on the Dhol (traditional, double-sided percussion musical instrument which is a sort of a drum) beats. These are the people - who are our asset - they have kept our culture and traditions alive in very difficult times. Bravo!

A shop at Lok Virsa.

Handmade Jewellery box made with Plaster of Paris. It looked like metal and real stones!

Shopping of bracelets.


Sajji: Stuffed Chicken for 400 Rupee equal 5 USD.

Embroided wall hangings and mats.

Dhol and Chimtay - the two instrments used to produce the rythms of Punjab.

Real turquoise and silver jewellery from Swat: they had the most beautiful handmade jewellery!


My favourite: Parrots at work - a traditional way of knowing about yourself; these parrots pick up a card which tells a person what future holds for them. It has been decades since I last saw this. Loved it! Two young men tried their luck and I asked them what the cards say: They laughed and said ," everythings is going to be great" so I replied, " Supereb!  In 20 Ruppees. this parrot gave us a good news and made you happy - which is not an easy task...paisa wasool!"


An old man selling posters of all sorts. To my amazement there was not a single actress on any of them - a very delightful experience.

Arieb Azhar: permformed live at Lok Virsa's Concert that took place with regard to celebrating " International Day of Rural Women, 2011, Islamabad" . A very interesting event with folk and sufi music. Women from around the country participated by singing, dancing and simply enjoying the moment.


A folk song from Sind with Shah Latif's kalam - one of the best performances of the evening!

Beautiful handmade door decorations.

A painting by self-taught painter.

A participant from Hunza enjoying the concert.

Dhol (A traditional Punjabi Drum)


Some links on this event are covered by 'The News' , The Nation and 'The Frontier Post' and highlighted work of artisans demonstrating crafts such as bone work, Motikari (beadwork), Zari work (embroidery), blue pottery, embroideries from Bahawalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan, stone carving, Taghar weaving (traditional floor rug) from D.I. Khan, doll making, Sindhi embroidered shoes, daree (floor rug) making, papier mache, truck art, Swati shawl, Hunza embroidery. The conference was entitled: "From Food Security to Peace and Security", Islamabad. 15-16 Oct. 2011.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Role of Media in Pakistan


Pakistani television channels  have simply "NO CLUE" of what is worthy of becoming a news, of the precious time that they have on their hands and how to create awareness or educate the audience - to simply put it!

Does this country has a time slot policy? Do they know when can a specific show or a program be aired and what age group is it for? Do they know what kind of a story is 'newsworthy' and what defines 'entertainment'?

I am extremely concerned because the violence and vigiliantism I see in Pakistan: our media (particularly, electronic)  is to be hold responsible for it. They have done more damage than anything else.

Here in Pakistan with an additional one  million homeless in our already huge number of IPDs (internally displaced people) due to the recent floods and hunger all around - half of the channels are busy with their  'really stupid'  cooking shows on "how to roast a duck, chicken or deer"? How to cook an Italian, French or a Midle Eastern food? A country where people can not even afford to buy  ata (wheat- a staple diet) and chai (tea)  to have their simple meal - are we NOT responsible for creating frustrations amongst the masses?
For God's sake: Pakistani media: STOP IT!!!

The other day: all channnels unanimously showed a criminal (over and over again) in a jail who was dancing and singing shamelessly and had put up a show (I have nothing against his dancing or singing) in a prison cell but what beats me is: have we gone insane to make it a breaking news? A country where we have lost our battle against domestic violence and terrorism and a mosquito via dengue is hard to fight back (300 people have already lost lives in 30 days)  - what role can media play?  Please: Act Responsibly!

Shoaib and Sania Mirza visited Pakistan on a personal/private trip but our country's Mr. President called on them and I wonder why? What concerns me is: does our president know what should be his priorities and what is happening in Pakistan? If not then he should know that Pakistan is declared 'almost' a failed state, a country that has repeatedly failed to protect its borders from outside attacks, it is also considered as the most corrupt country in the world, world's third most dangerous place for women, a rape every hour. In its educational institutions: girls are raped, molested, abused by both the male and the female teachers - where should we go and who will highlight this? Isn't it worthy of becoming a news?

A country full of IDPs who are living under open skies, a country with no basic amenities, no clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity or gas - isn't it about time that we come out of our 'bubbles'!  I would have applauded our ' Dear President' meating the Federal Minsiters for Education, Health, Manpower, Defense or Foreign Affairs to deal with the deadly issues our country is plagued with and I would be proud of our media if they have reminded him,  in case he forgot, after all, to err is human- right???

Newscasters and Talk Show hosts are yelling and shouting crazily - the guests are even worst - there is nothing but verbal diarrhea...hosts can be easily called  Bi Jamaloes.
Vice Chancellor of a  leading university in Pakistan, Quaid e Azam University said in an interview that Pakistani media has made the entire population "psychic" another famous professor and social scientist from the same university, Dr. Naveed e Rahat, said that Pakistani media has brought us to the edge of destruction.

Personally, I think that there is nothing wrong with Pakistan but there is definitely something wrong with people on the driving seats of Pakistan: government, media and mullah.

No idea or concept is original on Pakistani media,  nothing smells or seems Pakistani, nothing educational and nothing realistic. Media can help build up tolerance, forgiveness and understanding that we desperately need today amongst people of this country - civilized talk shows and dialogue is what should be focused and must stay away from sensationalization.

I hope that this roller coaster ride for Pakistan will end soon. We are blessed with human and natural resources and I believe that we will be able to bring a positive changes in Pakistan  in all spheres, some day. I hope of responsible journalism both print and electronic.

Honestly, I miss the good old days of PTV - the only channel at the time - with excellent choice of programs both locally produced or the international shows.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Run Seoul (2011 Nike Event)


Today is the last day of registration for "We Run Seoul" by NIKE, Korea.

Run with your heart n S[e]oul ;-)

Register at their website.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SOCCER MATCH IN SEOUL - FREE TICKETS


Teams: FC SEOUL (FC 서울) vs SEONGNAM (성남)


Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium 서울월드컵경기장

Access: Subway line 6, World Cup Stdium (619).

Before the soccer game, you can participate at the TBS Concert (also free) organized from 13:00 to 15:00.

Get one ticket per person at Seorae Global Village center from October 19th.(First come first served)

For more info. call: 02 - 2155 -8916

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learn Korean Cooking!

Seoul Global Center's Itaewons- Hannam Global Village is organizing "Korean Cooking Classes together with a Field Trip"...Don't miss the opportunity and join this class. Participants will learn 10 dishes from desserts to royal cuisine.

The classes will be every Tuesday 10am-1pm from October 18th to November 29th, starting with the market tour on the 18th. There is 70,000 won participation fee for all 7 sessions. To register and for more information please contact:
itaewon@sba.seoul.kr or 02) 2199-8884

Sunday, October 9, 2011

LOK VIRSA FESTIVAL IN ISLAMABAD (Oct 7- 16, 2011)


Pakistani handicrafts, culture and its heritage can be fully experienced at the Lok Virsa Festival in Islamabad at Shakar Puryan - across from Zero Point.

This is one of those festivals for which I had to wait desperately for an entire year. It never disappointed me. I have so beautiful memories of Lok Virsa and of going there with people - who are no more with us. I am feeling extremely fortunate that I can visit Lok Virsa this year...last time I was able to go there was when I was living in Islamabad - many years ago.

While visiting Lok Virsa don't forget to visit the museum that is also located in the area and is one of the coolest efforts to get to know Pakistan - a little better.

Lok Virsa has one whole week and will come to an end on October 16th. 2011.

Artisians from all over Pakistan are invited and it is full of beautiful handicrafts and souvenirs from Pakistan. Live music and food is another attraction. Now that people do NOT have much of a choice to go outing with their families and all they do is watch TV ( being couch potatoes) - I'd suggest them to definitely go there and enjoy your day. For kids and also for many of us adults - it can be an educational and fun experience.

For more information visit the website of LOK VIRSA.

Hangeul Day (Oct. 9)




Hangeul Day at Yonsei University in 2010: we all participated through our graduate school and won many competetions.

Today, October 9th, marks Hangeul's 565th anniversary. Hangeul is the Korean alphabets same as Urdu - the Pakistani ones. It was interesting to note that all the Korean portals are celebrating Hangeul Day...like Naver says: 한글을 사랑하는 방법을 생각합니다 or Google Korea chaged the logo to Hangeul to celebrate the day. It is nice to give importance to such important inventions where the whole country comes together. While living in Korea for years and years, I noted one thing about Koreans: their modesty. Modesty about what???? Well, modesty about how small Korea is geographically and how small their population is....but believe me: in past 10 years I have not been able to explore this 'tiny country' and the people: hey they are equal to a billion strong any where....it is because they are "very" united and this is true to the core.

What stands out about Korea is the unity amongst its people. Due importance and  respect, love and affection for their culture, tradition, values and simply put: the Koreanness of it. Korea is sandwiched between great powers and civilizations such as China and Japan but it has made it's own mark and identity.

Whether it is celebrating Hangeul or to be out in streets to cheer their soccer team or Kim Yuna (world champ in figure skating), they have made their mark in a relatively short period of time in the contemporary history of Korea.

From the poorest country in the world to become one of the world's richest took them only 30 years and hence, they are still holding the title of a 'miracle economy'.

There is so much to learn from Korea as a benchmark country for the developing world.


Photo credit@Yonhap

Anyhow, as the rule goes: I am always drifted while writing about one things and move towards another. Before this happens again: Happy Hangeul Day to all and thank you King Sejong!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Voter Registration in Pakistan and the ECP Website (1)

Do justice to Urdu language please!

We will have elections in Pakistan in 2012 ( Inshallah) meaning they are just around the corner.
So being a citizen of Pakistan, I thought to look for some facts and figures that I deem necessary to know.
We live in a highy wired and well connected world today therefore  I decided to look up at the various websites in Pakistan - to see what they offer regarding elections here.

My first click was googling "Election Commission of Pakistan" and  then I looked for the websites of the major political parties in Pakistan. A lot needs to be done at all levels, regarding websites, thats is. Though Pakistan lags far behind in 'e- government' however, they have tried their best to put up a website of each ministry to show that they are part of the much wired world of today and I appreciate that.


I will go step by step and probably may need a few post to cover this topic.


I will just jump to the website of our very own Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).


This is one of the few websites which is very comprehensive and regularly updated however, it needs further improvement which I will explain step by step. Election Commission  is an independent and autonomous constitutional body charged with the function of conducting transparent, free, fair and impartial elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies. It consists of the Chairman (Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan) and four members each drawn from the sitting judges of the High Courts of their respective provinces according to the website.


Parliament consists of the President and the two Houses: National Assembly [NA] (342 seats) and the Senate (100 seats). Members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies are elected by direct voting in a constituency on first-past-the-post system through a secret ballot. A candidate who obtains the highest number of votes in a constituency, is declared elected as a Member of National or a Provincial Assembly.


The distribution of seats for NA is:
Federal Area:2
Punjab:148
Sind:  61
NWFP: 35
Baluchistan: 14
FATA:12
Non Muslims:10
Women: 60


The most important information on ECP website is the extention period for Registration of Voters: we still have some time left - deadline is October 30th, 2011. I have no idea how to do it online so I sent an email to ECP. 

By the way, there is a problem within the format/application for queries to ECP, which needs to be fixed. As soon as you start writing the subject matter - it automatically sends the mail without a person clicking on 'send mail' option, hence on my fourth attempt - I figured out how: 'not to press enter' on that page at any given point and relying only on space bar - was helpful (but this is not how it works worldwide). My sincere request to ECP is to fix: 'contact us by email option' - as soon as possible.

I am also concerned on the conditions regarding qualification of the contestants for NA, PA or Senate. (This does not have anything to with the website though) I rarely came across people in contemporary Pakistan who fulfil this qualification which ECP deems necessary . The qualifiaction/condition for contestants may lead to a conflict between what it ought to be and what we actually have in our elected representatives which infact lead to CONTRADICTIONS from the start of the process and results in further complications.

These conditions are not very tough however, they are NOT realistic in Pakistani context at all.


"Qualification for membership of the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies in their websites is:



A person who is a citizen of Pakistan, is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll and in case of National/Provincial Assemblies is not less than 25 years of age and in case of Senate not less than 30 years of age, is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions, has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sin, is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence, and has not, after establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan and is graduate, can contest the elections and become a member of the Parliament or a Provincial Assembly. "


These conditions will leave nobody to contest or may be a few good men with 90% vacant seats. :-)

Anyhow, in ECP website there is a side menu with "check email" button. I clicked it and there  appeared two options of: log in and sign in with 'no' sign up option - I wonder who is it for (staff or public or both) and how it works? Even if this option is for the staff of ECP how they signed up? Is it just a mistake - plain and simple?

Another intersting thing in their menu is the 'Disclaimer' which states that:



" Welcome to the official website of Election Commission of Pakistan.
While all efforts have been made to make all contents on the ECP Website http://www.ecp.gov.pk/ as "Error free and updated" as possible, all users are requested in their own interest to refer to the officially published latest/updated copies of the Constitution of Pakistan, Acts, Rules, Laws, Orders, Notifications, Handbooks, Reports, Publications and related documents by the Election Commission of Pakistan, for authentic version. 


The Election Commission of Pakistan shall not be anyway responsible for any loss or shortcoming, defect, or inaccuracy in the ECP Website contents, information and data. Any discrepancies therein may please be brought to the notice of the Election Commission of Pakistan. All rights reserved by the Election Commission of Pakistan."

My sincere request is: all these above mentioned documents MUST be made available online by the concerned ministries for the benefit and easy access to public at large. Moreover, take responsibility of the contents of this website and try to update it more often. I would like to know why a huge number of IT related staff is hired in these goverenment offices?


Another feature of the ECP website is 'CEC/EC Judgements' in their side menu, there are only 4 such judgements and orders. I think that it is absolutely necessary for the ECP to have all the judements and orders available online for the public which they handled till date. We haven't have a long history of elections  so luckily there is not an enormous body of work there.


What's lacking in the website is the message from the Election Commisioner of Pakistan - who is the official head. After hours of search I found out in 'Notifications' - a side menu feature - that Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudry nominated Mr. Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as Acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Pakistan from 26th July to 04th August, 2011.  Question arises: who is the current CEC?? I will eventually find out but there is no word on ECP's website!

Moreover, in 'Press Release', I found this piece:


Oct 06, 2011   Mr. Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan said that in order to facilitate the political parties and general public during the door-to-door verification of Draft Electoral Rolls-2011 prepared in collaboration with NADRA, the Election Commission of Pakistan has established Complaint Cells (consisting one officer of the ECP and one from NADRA) at Islamabad Secretariat, all Provincial Head Quarters and all i-e 128 District offices.

I have written to the concerned office and am waiting for their reply...

The most intersting is the data related to the increase in the number of Registered Voters   from 2007 to 2011. As of now, the Registered Voters (RV) under NADRA are about 88 million - which means that slightly less than half of the population is eligible for voting and out of that half  - 70 perecnt are the rural residents and more than half of all the RVs are under the age of 23. These are very intersting numbers where literacy is shamefully low, where people do not have basic amenities of life such as drinking water, sanitation, gas, and electricity in urban Pakistan. In rural Pakistan: people are still within the shackles of modern day slavery. Income inequalities are huge between and among the people of Pakistan.

Anyhow, back to the website, last but not the least, I wonder why we can NOT come up with the URDU translation of 'Election Commission of Pakistan' yet I think Urdu is a very rich language and can handle it.

I would really suggest people to visit these websites more frequently and notify problems so that we have an easier and more transparent way of accessing government institutions and various organizations that are part of our life - no matter what!
My next post is going to be on the websites of the political parties of Pakistan and let us see what they offer to the people online?












Seoul FireWork Festival @ Hangang (Yeouido)












Date & Time: October 8, 2011 (Sat) 13:00-22:00


Location: Yeouido Hangang Park: Once at Yeouido Station, follow the crowd in hundreds of thousands.

Joining Team: Japan, Portugal, Korea

- Japanese Team: The harmony of light

Introducing the world latest trend into the traditional Japanese fireworks and providing the original pyromusical show which appeals to both your audio and visual sense.

- Portuguese Team: Jukebox

Display colorful fireworks combining various pop music (Michael Jackson, Abba, Queen, Bon Jovi).

- Korean Team: Great Power

Multi-media fireworks (lighting, laser images, etc.) display will be performed by combining musical fireworks.

Program

13:00-22:00 Cultural events- photo zone, solar game, etc.

17:00-19:00 SBS radio live show

19:30-19:50 Fireworks display starts Japanese 'The Harmony of Light'

20:00-20:20 Portuguese 'Jukebox'

20:30-21:00 Korean 'Great Power'

21:00-22:00 Clean Campaign

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hire a Surrogate Mother: That's IT!



Surrogate Mothers in a Makeshift Home in India (BBC photo)

We are living in intersting times - times of breaking news every second, that is.
A Pakistani Television reported last week that a doctor here in Pakistan was involved in kiddnapping a newborn baby in a government hospital with the help of a young woman...and she said: she was trying to help a mother who could not conceive. Voila! This is a story of Pakistan -  insane ad infinitum!

 In such a case, where we can not trust our doctors, lawyers, police, teachers, mullahs, government representatives - what is left for a common man. I wonder why, this affluent woman never thought of getting help from our neighboring country India. They could help her become a mom in a much more legal and descent way and the price tag is also very economical. Unfortunetley, in recent years , we in Pakistan have totally forgotten how to do things the right way....

Next time, if somebody want to have their own baby, want to become a mother or a parent - give this idea  (hire a surrogate) a thought instead of kidnapping others children!!!

This story below was published in The New York Times on Oct.4, 2011.
NEW DELHI — The plot of the Marathi-language film “Mala Aai Vhhaychy” (“I Want to Be a Mother”) asks a deceptively simple question: Does Yashoda, a woman turning to surrogate motherhood as an escape from poverty, have any claim on the child she is under contract to bear for Mary, an American fertility tourist? In the melodramatic world of Indian cinema, the answer is a heartwarming yes. In real life, it may not be that easy to script a happy ending.

Since 2002, when commercial surrogacy was legalized in India, the surrogacy industry has boomed, becoming a key part of the country’s lucrative medical tourism market. The cost of surrogacy for prospective parents is about $14,000 in India, compared with an estimated $70,000 in the United States. A 2008 study valued the assisted reproductive industry in India at $450 million a year.

Across India, fertility clinics attempt to replicate the success of Akanksha and other clinics in the small town of Anand in the western state of Gujarat, which was the country’s first surrogacy hub. But the boom masks growing concerns about the rights of the women, many of them from poor homes and sometimes illiterate, who choose to become surrogate mothers.

Up to now, India’s laws have not addressed directly the complexities of surrogacy, though an assisted reproductive technology bill is before Parliament and expected to be ratified by early next year. But a team of researchers from Sama, a nongovernmental women’s health organization, has raised concerns about the bill in a recent paper. “The many ethical issues that are emerging out of unrestrained spread of the technologies remain,” the researchers write.

The legislation attempts to regulate the clinics and doctors engaged in reproductive technologies and their relationship with prospective surrogate mothers.

While Sama welcomes this attempt to govern the industry, it fears the legislation favors the rights of the commissioning couple over those of the surrogate mother. The bill makes it clear that women engaged in commercial surrogacy will have no rights over the child they have contracted to bear. The proposed law does not spell out what a surrogate mother would be paid in the case of a miscarriage or other complications during pregnancy.

Its provisions would stipulate that only women between the ages of 21 and 35 can be surrogates. It sets the maximum number of times a woman can contract her womb for surrogacy at five live births, in contrast to three in an earlier draft. But Sama notes that it does not address the number of assisted reproductive cycles a woman can experience, an important issue for the women’s health.

When the first clinics opened their doors in Gujarat, Akanksha’s founder, Dr. Nayna H. Patel, said in a much-repeated quote that surrogacy was a win-win situation for all. Many Indian doctors agree, arguing that it is in the interest of clinics to take good care of the women involved in commercial surrogacy.
“Most clinics provide protection to the woman in many ways, looking after her health, nutrition, daily needs, and some will even offer to take care of her family,” Dr. Ruma Satwik, associate consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, said in an interview.

But currently, the responsibility for taking care of the women is left to individual doctors and clinics.

“We have all kinds of legal documents to protect the commissioning couple,” Dr. Satwik said. “The surrogate mother stands to lose in the absence of concrete laws to protect her, and the provisions of the ART Bill are probably not enough.”

In 2008, Dr. Sadhna Arya, a gynecologist in Jaipur, was part of the team of doctors involved in the complex case of a baby who was born to an Indian surrogate mother after the contracting couple, from Japan, decided to divorce. At the time, Dr. Arya spoke out against the way in which surrogate mothers were treated in India: “You have treated the surrogate mother like an object, used her as a factory.”

Today, Dr. Arya says bluntly, “Surrogate mothers are from poor backgrounds and are hardly aware of their rights. The ART law is trying to find a balance between the legal and the unethical, but unethical practices still remain.”

The U.S. journalist Scott Carney investigated surrogacy clinics in Anand for his book, “The Red Market,” on the hidden trade in human bodies and body parts.

“Before India, only the American upper classes could afford a surrogate,” he wrote. “Now it’s almost within reach of the middle class. While surrogacy has always raised ethical questions, the increasing scale of the industry makes the issue far more urgent. With hundreds of new clinics poised to open, the economics of surrogate pregnancy are moving faster than our understanding of its implications.” Manju, 29, a domestic helper in Delhi who asked that her full name not be used, said she had thought about surrogacy ever since her sister-in-law gave birth to a surrogate baby two years ago.

“She went off to Gujarat, and the family kept it very quiet,” said Manju, alluding to the stigma that sometimes attaches to surrogate mothers in India. “But she made a lot of cash, much more than my income for a year.”
A month ago, Manju was approached by the representative of an unlicensed surrogacy clinic in the northern state of Haryana looking for surrogate mothers. She said she might take them up on their offer.
“It’s good money,” she said. “Risks? What risks? Any fool can have a baby, it takes a smart woman to get paid for it.”

Some interesting reads include:

Surrogacy: An Ethical Issue (PBS reports).

Childless couples look to India for Surrogate Mothers (The Christian Science Monitor).

A Child: Made in India ( India's Business of Surrogate Motherhood: The New York Times)

India's Surrogate Mother Industry (BBC)








Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: Rest in Peace

video

What you can Learn from Steve Jobs..





Steve jobs is no more - but he changed the whole outlook to our lives. The way we live, we communicate, we connect and we do business. His death is the end of an era.

In Stanford Commencement Address (2005), he spoke about death and said:

“........When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like:If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” ..........Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

...No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary..."
.


Whether we own Apple or not, it made a difference in our lives and somehow Steve Jobs touched the lives of billions in many ways than one.

When I was leaving Norkkoping for Stockholm, a fellow traveller took out his iPhone and gave me tips on how to do budget travelling in Stockholm, the most expensive of all cities in Sweden. He also gave me a breif overview of my Day 1 excurtions and I said to him, "wow, this gadget is just so cool" and he smiled and said, yeah, "it has made life very easy."

When I got lost in Stockholm, near the City Center, a couple took out their respective iPhones and typed in the address that I had and there I was: problem solved. Countless times,I thanked God and I thanked the inventors of iPhone.

He was a great revoluntioary of our times.

Thank You, Steve Jobs: YOU were an amazing human being who brought comfort for the people at large!!!

The original speech at Stanford can seen here.

NYT article on Steve here.

Steve Wozniak's reaction.

Steve Job's biological father,  a Syrian immigrant, Abdulfateh Jandalli and his biological mother and sister. Another intersting read.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Teacher's Day (Pakistan)




Today, October 5th, is the celebrated as the World Teacher's Day which first started as a UNESCO initiative.

Teachers have played a key role in the lives of their students. It was once the most prestigious job a person could get however, things have changed over the years.

Particularly in Pakistani context, where we are seeing protests and bycotts by teachers these days what surprised me the most was the news aired on television where a a girl was molested at a medical college and fingers are ponited at some faculty members; another girl was raped at an educational facility; whereas, in Islamabad's prestigious F.G College for Women, F-7/2, a teacher physically hit and slapped repeatedly a college student (Intermediate level). These attitudes are unacceptable and must be punished before things get out of ours hands.

Fellow students at the F.G College (F-7/2) protested against the teacher(and I salute them all) but as I saw in the report, the principal of the college told reporters that nothing serious happened, girls are just getting emotional on a trivial issue. I saw in the report that the said abused student's hands were swelled and had turned blue.

If this is how teachers behave and take advantage of their postion then there is very little hope that remains for us here in Pakistan. Moreover, administrative bodies at schools, colleges and universties must not protect their staff because that will further encourage malpractices. I am so angry, disappointed and sad however, I still have hope that things will change for good.

In my opinion, we have to share the burden and responsibilty of all the evils that plague Pakistan of today.

I strongly request the Teacher's Associations, Parent's Associations (if there is any) and Human Rights Organizations to take action against such teachers seriously. These teachers are a curse for any society and their unnecessary defense can bring worst of scenarios. These teachers are like cancers and cancer must be treated at its early stages before it is too late.

Off the Beaten Path: Visit Jinju


Photo Credits@Yonhap


If you are living in Seoul or Gyeonggi then it is a sincere request to enjoy your early fall and particuarly this coming weekend in Jinju City or any time between October 1 - October 12. City of Jinju is organizing many festivals there. Jinju is also famous for its silk products. Korea's best and finest silk comes from Jinju and on top, it is indeed an intersting place. I travelled to Jinju in 2005 and had my silk shopping there. I bought scarfs for friends and family and they were much loved.

This weekend Jinju will also hold Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival and its opening ceremonies will be the icing on the cake. My favourite is the lighting of the lantern for the dead's spirit. Jinju Lantern Festival has its roots in turbulent times when the Japanese invaded Korea in 1592 - in history you might have heard of the Imjin War then this is the venue.

For more info visit the following websites:

http://www.jinju.go.kr
http://www.yudeung.com/10E_index.php