Monday, April 30, 2012

Lyari Burning, Gilani Smiling

Muhammad Saqib Tanveer
The desks were beaten, roses were sprayed and congratulations were conveyed as Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani emerged out of the Supreme Court, apparently as a winner after his 37 seconds sentence.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Lap-Toppers of Punjab

Muhammad Saqib Tanveer

Chief Minister of the Punjab, or shall I say the Khadam-e-Aala Punjab’s recent Youth Initiative Program has been taken very well in various quarters. However, many question the long-term sustainability of the program. Distributing laptops among the youth of Punjab is an excellent feat achieved by the CM both politically and academically but was that the need of the hour?
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

For PTI: Is Honesty Enough to Govern Effectively?

Writer is an aspiring journalist, student of International Relations and tweets at @saqibtanveer
The 30th October’s melodious jalsa of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) turned the whole spectrum of traditional politics in Pakistan. That jalsa motivated the youth to take active part in politics, use of social networking sites increased manifold, politicians joined twitter and facebook to interact with the public, hash-tagging and trending of Pakistani politics started, the sphere of street-corner politics shifted to the cyber sphere and above all the politicians started focusing on youth. In short, PTI’s jalsa was a game changer.
PTI has risen to dominance in the last twelve months or so. People and even several politicians have been joining PTI irrespective of any ideological relationship, though Imran Khan claims otherwise. Ideological gap between the members of the party can be judged from the fact that PTI is a party that contains people from the left as well as from the right. A recent incident when the President of party called Hafiz Saeed a propagator of peace, it was not taken well within the party itself. PTI right now is disjointed and does not have a common mouth, even Imran Khan admits that himself.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moving Towards an Open Source World

The recent initiative of the World Bank of Open Knowledge Repository (OKR) is more of a revolution of its own kind. We are living in a world where even a cough of an elite is protected by copyrights. Patents and copyrights are the tools which the elite class use to make money and hence bar the road of academic & technological development.

Lately there has been an evolution of GNU General Public License software and other items have emerged on the market. Linux, Ubuntu and Joomla etc are the most significant examples where open source technology has been provided and thus a significant amount of development has occurred in these horizons helping people to innovate and get the best out of technology.

The most significant argument in favor of copyrights is giving the credit to the original innovator and giving all the due profit to that person. But that same law has been exploited by global corporations all over the world. The most significant example we have is of Microsoft. Bill Gates has increased his fortune tremendously with the help of copyrights and now all his charity and effort to become noble, that all is due to the blessings of patent and copyrights.

Education and technology should not be someone's property. It has to be universal and should contribute towards making the lifestyle of people more convenient rather than making them expensive and unreachable by copyrighting them.

Doosron Ko Naseehat, Khud Mian Fazeehat

Whenever one tries to propagate or share an idea with someone, the first question posed to him is that first you act on it before propagating. There can be no two ways about the fact that one should act first on what he propagates but mostly we use this argument to nullify the idea presented by that person.

We do not emphasize and put our focus towards the idea of that person and just brush it aside by proclaiming the proverb "doosron ko naseehat, khud mian fazeehat". We should at least ponder on the idea regardless of the actions of the person. Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people."

Our rigidity just does not allow us to accept others ideas as it threatens the ideals of our whole life. We believe that the life we have spent on certain ideals should not be challenged, even if they are wrong, as it will make our whole life a lie. We are afraid of that.

The day we open ourselves to truth and vow to follow the life of truth, revolution would not be far away.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Published in Education Informer's April, 2012 Edition
Published on Saach.TV on April 9, 2012
I have never been a regular student after my matriculation. I was never serious in taking classes when I got admission in my intermediate in commerce and did my bachelors as a private student from Punjab University. This four or five year’s distance from taking regular classes left a desire and temptation in my heart. A temptation to get a regular education and to enjoy the fun that comes along with a college or university for that matter.
My below average performance in bachelors forced me to look for universities that could accept a student like me. My search brought me to the door of my current educators; Preston University. Frankly speaking, when I applied for the admission and came to know that I’d have to go through a formal test, which will ascertain my admissibility, I felt a bit unsecured. I was scared whether I’ll get the admission or not. On top of that, I also got intimidated by the name of the university, Preston and Princeton almost sound alike.
All my curiosity about the university studies vanished when I became acquainted with the set up and learned how things work. Though, I enjoyed the cafeteria, company of friends and bunking the classes but my real cause of despair was the time I spent in front of the teachers, except for one. I am studying under the teachers who are mostly part-time i.e. teaching just for the sake of part-time money making job. Amount of permanent faculty members is very bleak. Teachers, who get personal with their disciples. I was once suspended from this university because I questioned the teacher and that led to my suspension without even hearing me out. Teachers, who are known to give marks to students of opposite gender.
Majority of the students come to university to attain good GPA and get ‘A’s as much as they can. The race to get ‘A’s somehow divert their real cause, which is to attain knowledge rather than marks. The quest for knowledge is overshadowed by the GPA. Only this reason is enough to brush aside the credibility of a university or a student as it leads to nepotism from the teachers, no improvisation and initiation from the students as they are content with good marks and therefore no research initiatives. In short, at the end of the day, we produce good crammers, no Arfa Karims.
I also experienced teachers who used to mark the students on the basis of their face value. A student’s reputation went before him. It doesn’t matter what he writes inside the assignment, all it needs for the teacher is to read the name of the student on the title page and ascertain his marks. No one ever gets to know what new dimension is presented by his mate in his assignment. One instance was a very recent one, when a very talented and senior classmate of mine presented very valuable information (a new economic indicator developed by Bhutan) in his assignment to the teacher but we never came to know about it. Eventually, he disclosed it in a discussion in the class; else we would never have been able to get benefit from that. Majority of students in this university are relying on a pre-cooked meal. Though, we have to cook our own in our final project but overall, we are producing followers, no leaders. We are prescribed textbooks and that eradicates any chance for a student to google and dig out literature from different books and sources. Nonetheless, the university is placed in the top ranking of Higher Education Commission.
We, the youth of Pakistan, are the assets of Pakistan. Pakistani government has, over the years, implied the policy of privatization and that also included education. I don’t want to budge over the concept of privatization but the fact is that that nurturing of young talent is the responsibility of government rather than fat-capitalists. I know we have many great private-sector institutions and they are producing good talent but they are also a source of discrimination in the society. When we talk about a uniform standard of education, then that means bringing everyone on the same level. A student of University of Punjab and LUMS should be treated the same way and they both should be on the same level.
People argue that HEC has the mandate to supervise the education sector and look into all the malpractices, but like everything else, education is also over-looked. Every night when I turn on the TV, I hear people saying that our future is very bright but judging by the current state of affairs, I am afraid that the expectations people are having from us are far-fetched and optimistic. It is time, we take education in the fold of public sector rather than letting the precious talent rot in the hands of blood sucking capitalists, who take the divine duty of education as money-making opportunity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dust on Books or on Our Brains?

Students are the biggest asset a nation can ever have. Not handled with care, those same students can easily become a liability. Students and youth always carry the tag of fragile but somehow our elders are unable to read that tag.
There is no age-barring when it comes to book-reading but the youth, being in the period of getting nourished, has to be the one getting full fruits out of the books by reading them. No one can negate the importance of book-reading. It doesn’t matter what is the genre of the book. One has to read any book that he can find. I won’t discuss the importance of book-reading further because we all have written a lot of essays on the subject in matriculation.
Every student has his own set of library at his home. Majority of the students only keep books in their small library that are usually text books and related to their current education. Very few, who keep other books in the shelf, somehow don’t care to put a hand on those books. In fact, housemaid is the one, who touches those books more often in the name of dusting.
Same is the case in universities. We have some humungous libraries in our universities. Unlike, the home, students go there and do consult those books but unfortunately, majority only consult when there is a class assignment or quiz. And sometimes, we find students in libraries in the shape of couples and rest, well we all have an idea about.
There can be so many reasons of why we don’t indulge ourselves in the books. For starters, our schooling doesn’t motivate us to read books. Our parents do narrate story books to us and we build our lives on that phenomenon. When we enter the school, our teachers do the honor of book-reading for us and there starts all the problems.
Every student gets a Qari, who teaches him how to read and recite the Holy Quran (the book that is a guide to our whole life) and after he is done with his duty of teaching, the Holy Quran goes back to the highest placed cupboard, untouched for months or even years.
Prescribed text books in our syllabi is another reason. Covering the full curriculum is the first and unfortunately, the last objective in the schools. We do not care to consult other books and even in some universities, the practice of prescribed books is prevailing. Students are always in search of a short-cut and there they find one.
The biggest reason, one can cite about our habit of not reading books could be attributed to the society and our environment. The students in the West are very much interested in reading books and opening up their minds. The reason I find for their interest in the books is the opportunity provided to them by the society. The best place they have for reading is the public transport. Virtually, every student there travels through metros or double deckers. Their journey to university is usually long and that gives them the chance to study.
Leave studying in public transport; we don’t even have a good transportation system. Majority of students, who can afford, either come on their own cars or on bikes. And those who take buses or vans, ask them, how they reach their destination. They just cannot open a book in the van, only plugging in the earphones of ipod is the possibility in the vans. We do have an option of ebooks in our smartphones and even one in four possesses a smartphone in Pakistan but still the culture of ebooks and their availability is a distant possibility for us.
To get different ideas over the subject, I contacted my peers to have their insight. Many said that the societal luxuries i.e. lack of public libraries, television, internet and dating culture (cheap call rates and night packages) etc are all contributing to this failure of ours. Distance from religion is the main reason, one said. The reasons could be various but there is a broad consensus that we need to get back to the books. Internet and cellphones could be consuming our attention but at the same time, they can also be a source of information and book-reading for us. It is all about making the best use of our facilities.
A very interesting instance I know of is of my friend. He broke up a few months ago and the loneliness of that break up took him to his book shelf and he developed a good habit of reading. I wonder, if we all have to go through that moment to start diving into the books.
Our majority does not read books. Who is at fault? The system or we ourselves? I believe, each one of us is responsible for this illness. Government has been unable to provide us with a conducive environment and on a personal level, our priorities have been everything but book-reading. We have to gaze at the dust present on our book shelves and realize that this dust is not on the books but this dust is on our brains.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The ‘Actual’ Humsafar, We Missed

By: Muhammad Saqib Tanveer
I am not a TV serial guy. I don’t watch TV soaps or series until they are Prison Breaks, Entourages or White Collars and that too recommended by friends. I and many of my friends take the Pakistani and Indian dramas as girly habits. However, Dhuwan & ABC etc are the dramas that are in the league of their own. And since that vintage time, we have never been able to replicate those serials.
I explained earlier that I am not a serial guy but on top of that, I don’t write or review TV or cinema for a whole host of reasons. Obviously I won’t budge on them here. So, why am I writing about Humsafar?
Frankly, I never followed Humsafar. When my friends used to discuss Humsafar, I felt pity for them that they are wasting their time on these girly kind of dramas. My first real surprise about that drama came when I read the blogs and news stories discussing the drama. That incited, in fact triggered the curiosity inside me to find out about all the fuss.
Luckily, one day a friend of mine brought all the episodes of the drama, except the last one, downloaded from youtube and offered me. Being free from office, I took the episodes in my flash drive and went home. I remember that at that point in time, the last episode was about to be broadcasted in a couple of days.
That night, after doing all the necessary stuff on internet i.e. news, blogs, facebook, twitter and howzat, I turned towards my flash drive and started watching the drama. I didn’t sleep all night. The next night, I didn’t do the basic internet stuff and jumped straight towards the drama and finished the drama in just two nights. Just in time to watch the last episode with all other my fellows.
I was engulfed in the Humsafar hysteria.
I think, the majority of people have some common likings in the drama that glued them to their TV screens. I also followed the blogs about the drama and the consensus was over the way they acted, the chemistry between Ashar and Khirad, how the drama ended bla bla bla.
The reason why I loved that drama is much more different than others and unfortunately many people have missed those dimensions. For me, Humsafar has proved to be a great addition to our society. A society where there were typical dramas, Humsafar has provided a breath of fresh air. Besides being original and tempting, it disclosed and expounded on certain aspects of our society, which I will try to breakdown here.
First of all, I have to admit that Sarmad Sultan Khoosat evolved from Cheeko (The Shashlick Guy) to a full-fledged man. The way he directed the drama was fabulous, to say the least. I would give kudos to him over the way he presented romance. In an age, where romance is all about cuddling and hugging, he taught others how to keep the essence of romance intact and portraying the feelings without crossing the boundaries.
While the whole of Pakistan was enjoying the chemistry of Khisher (as Ashar and Khirad are pronounced on youtube), we missed the delicacy and gracefulness of the institution of marriage. Our contemporary dramas show the concept of first getting acquainted with your fiancée and then marriage, but the writer depicted the point that love can be harnessed without even texting and knowing your wife-to-be. One of my very close acquaintance has stopped texting his fiancée, just because he wants to enjoy the marital life more than the life before marriage, as the life after marriage matters more.
Being a 23 year old, I know how much of a nuisance I am for my father. Humsafar, literally, makes one think twice about his behavior with parents. Most of our modern dramas show that parents and their kids are not on the same page and paint a picture of disobedience by the kids. The way the character of Ashar was written, was not less than classic. Ashar always painted a picture of obedience and love towards his father. He was a portrait of obedience and even in the climax, he doesn’t leave her mother, after all she has done to him. I think the youth, including me, has a lot to learn from this, a lot.
For me, this drama can have huge positive impacts on our classic societal standards that are almost diminishing. Obedience towards parents, sanctity and gracefulness of institution of marriage and family bondage are the things that we actually missed from Humsafar. My advice to anyone, who is ready to take, is to deduce these points first and foremost.
I know I am going to get a beating for writing on Humsafar from a lot of my close friends but I really felt the need to point out those points.