My Year turns into 2018!

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Isn’t it wonderful to be celebrating something together? The New Year of 2018….

Lots of folks talk about how backward this country is. Yes, in many ways. But in many ways it has taken many leaps forward. I know, I’ve witnessed the process.

Lots of progress witnessed by myself:

As I look, I see…. The motorway, internet, computers, mobile phones, smart phones, many television channels, signal free highways, Metro bus systems, reversible air conditioners, Careem and Uber taxis, information access from the smart phone, blogs, e-tickets, emails, I mean I could go on and on. We have  known and lived in times without these things. Just a few years ago, we didn’t have all that we have today. Now, we use the internet to book seats in cinemas, get airline tickets, send articles to newspapers and blog, and do online banking, as well as transfer funds through the atm too. What else can you dream up? I know, I look forward to a more progressive world.

Continue reading “My Year turns into 2018!”

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Mustafa’s trip to Lego Land in Denmark

Pakistan’s participation in FIRST Lego League European Championship

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Yeah, you guessed it right – couldn’t resist doing this blog before the end of this year! Something I’ve been dying to share with you.  Felt bad that every time we planned the interview, something would crop up. It is now 12.25 a.m. and I’ve just completed the interview. It is okay, as winter vacations are on, in school. My friend Aisha brought her thirteen year old son Muhammad Mustafa Zahid for the interview. They had just come after attending a wedding, and reached my place at 11.15 p.m. I’ve met this young man often. He also read out the poems of Iqbal  for my book launch last month, remember? So, let me not come between you two.,

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Last blog of 2017?

Nine days till end of this year!

Don’t you think its been an amazing year? Alhamdolillah. Here is probably my last post of this year…. though I do have my doubts!

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Centaurus the favorite Islamabad shopping Mall and Cinepax is decked in seasons’ decor these days.

Thank you so much for your response to my blogs. I’m over whelmed. Even though many of you do not comment, I know you have read these. – Whenever I meet you I find out through your comments, and there are the indicators. I hope that these have made some difference in your lives, as you have made a difference in mine.

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9th National Paintings Exhibition, NAG.

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After thirteen years, the National Exhibition took place at National Art Gallery, at PNCA, Islamabad. It was an evening of the fulfillment of dreams of so many artists in Pakistan. Somehow, National Exhibition has its own aura. There was a time I remember, when one just took it for granted. Conceived in 1973 by the great poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the event was a regular one, if not an annual one. All the gurus of art in Pakistan participated in it from the seashores of the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.

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Categories Art

My Mum, Cheema & Chatta and Islamabad.

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 Ever since my parents moved to Islamabad, they kept remembering Safari Villas in Bahria Town, and Lahore, – places where they had lived for many years.  Don’t get me wrong, they love being with me. The problem is with loving Islamabad. Try as I might – I kept failing. Here is how my Mum finally got to love Islamabad too.

Two days back, I took my Mum for an outing.

‘Where do you want me to take you?’ I asked.

‘Anywhere! – I don’t know.’ She said.

24899828_1767777593255525_6016527917049784133_nSo I drove her around…. we drove to the car park of Faisel Mosque which has a fabulous view of the mosque. She liked it but she enjoyed the corn and chanas from the ‘thaila’ nearby even more. These she enjoyed, fresh and hot from the ‘sand-filled karahi’,  which is a wok like container.

Then I drove her to Rawal Lake – after great struggle – as all points to the lake have been closed to public due to recent poisoning incident where many fish were killed and drinking water was made undrinkable. So, rightfully they had closed it to public.

Continue reading “My Mum, Cheema & Chatta and Islamabad.”

Sustainable Development Conference – 2017

Attending one of my favorite conferences…

SDPI:

Almost every December since 2005, I have attended the annual three-day conference of SDPI. This year the theme was: Seventy Years of Development-  The Way Forward, it was held on December 5,6th and 7th . I just love going there, it is a great experience. The director Uzma T. Haroon makes a point of inviting me every time. I respect her writing abilities a lot.

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So, this year she asked me to be a panelist for Art as a Resistance against Oppression, also to put up a presentation at the session on Promoting gender equality: Icons of Feminism in South Asia.  My presentation was on Icons of Feminism in Pakistan during first 70 years: Suggestions for the Future. Happily I agreed, as both the subjects were close to my heart.

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During the art session, it was truly an honor to sit next to icons like the Urdu writer Kishwar Naheed, Actor and DG of PNCA, Jamal Shah. I’ve interviewed both for Dawn many years ago.

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24900079_1764513226915295_8850702260152814216_nSheema Kirmani the awesome classical dancer and actor was also there, among other icons.  Right before the discussion, we were informed that each panelist will speak for ten minute on the subject and  the first speaker was of course Shireen Gheba! I mean, to come unprepared, because you think it’s a discussion, and then to have to speak for ten minutes at such a forum! – Well, once I get started, usually there is no stopping me. So, I shared my thoughts: that one of the greatest persons using his art as resistance against oppression was Allama Iqbal. We Pakistanis are a witness to how meaningful his work was when he actually convinced the people of the Sub-Continent of India to rise for their freedom. Uzma made this video as I spoke:

Each one of us is living in this free country thanks to the inspiring poetry of Iqbal and leadership of Quaid-e-Azam.

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Then of course, after Pakistan came into exhistance seventy years ago, there were many great artists who used art as a resistance against oppression which included Sadequein, and later on poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jaleb. Sheema Kirmani has given amazing classical dance performances against oppression of women, Jamal Shah in his television dramas and film productions and Kishwar Naheed through her writings and poetry. Though many speakers didn’t agree with me, but each one sprouted out Iqbal’s Urdu poetry to make their points! – Not surprising, Iqbal’s poetry being what it is!

So, SDPI conferences are usually three days of four concurrent sessions which take place simultaneously for three slots daily: 9.30 – 11.30 am, 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm. The venue is Marriot – a four star hotel – of Islamabad. The food is lavish and hundreds of people attend the sessions. Each session has panelists who are the gurus in the fields chosen for discussion. Then the audience is also very well read and accomplished, so the subsequent discussion is interesting. Everyone can participate with their questions, and connect with the speakers later during the tea or lunch session. What I really like most of all is the way the whole conference is organized  with  patience, efficiency and punctuality.

The presentations were in the evening session, and mine was on ‘Icons of Feminism in Pakistan during first 70 years: Suggestions for the Future.’  I was given ten minutes and Nathelene Reynalds was over-all incharge of that session. Sheema Kirmani was chairing it. The Nepalese Bandana was very elequent and she rounded off the session at the end – along with Sheema Kirmani. Everyone spoke with great passion about the plight of women in Pakistan and in South Asia. Sheema specially pointed out the plight of the minority women.

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My ninety year old dad insisted on coming to my presentation. It was great having him there. Of course, my daughter Waliya brought him over along with our helper Sabir.

 

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On the last day I attended two sessions, Roundtable on Labor Unions, and next one was on Water Stewardship and Research Initiatives in Pakistan. It was really upsetting to see the situation of the laborers in our country. I had gone there, to get information for one of my upcoming books. Each speaker made one realize how bleak the situation has been. Also, that the European Union has had a very positive effect on the situation and their pressure on our government has made things bearable for our laborers. But the fact remains, situation is bleak, and needs all the attention possible. Many of the laborers do not actually receive the lowest rate of wages which is Rs.15000 per month. Most have to manage within Rs.12000 only. Pays at the manager level are slightly better, but these too are not enough.

It was the same with the water situation in Pakistan, ‘Water Stewardship and Research Initiatives in Pakistan’.

I learnt about ‘drip-irrigation’ and how effective it is. How there are organizations which are actually helping the farmer with research and development of new and effective methods. The Nestle company is doing a lot in this field too, as they had initiated this session of SDPI on water. Hydro-electric power and use of water storage and rain water storage was talked about too.

24900062_1765477873485497_5501286247848828542_nHelga was there too in the audience, she is a German residing in Islamabad, who has done a lot in this field. She even helped a village use biogas as source of energy.  There was Rina Saeed Khan who is a journalist and one of the panelists. (Later on I bought her book ‘From Mountains to Mangroves – protecting Pakistan’s Natural Heritage.’) There was a person from Nepal telling us it isn’t easy there either. One of them informed me that though the Islamabad water table has got lowered, it still isn’t as low as it is in Lahore where you have to do boring till around 700 feet below ground level. The need for educating the masses to save water at all levels, was deeply felt. One of the SDPI members even gifted me a book of theirs. They are all so dedicated and sincere in their efforts. We, the people of this city and the country should be active also.

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Tariq Buneri who founded this wonderful organization and is settled in Utah, USA now, was there at the sessions. Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri is the Executive Director, SDPI. Their sincere efforts are evident in the smooth manner in which such a complicated conference is carried out so efficiently. It was heartening to find students from universities attending, along with these girls from Islamic University.

24796357_1765478096818808_8642221238715809603_nMany housewives, lecturers, and government officials are usually present at these sessions. It is time we all got out of the shopping craze to come to such conferences and see where our country is actually going. It is important to find out where we stand in comparison with our neighboring countries. To meet their intellectuals and compare notes.  It is also heartening to find common problems, also eye opening to see how they are combatting the problems of trade, communication systems, water, electricity, health and education.

Through the sessions skype talks were also initiated, which mostly fizzled out due to connection issues.

24796479_1765478420152109_9030564670212327562_n However, the one on the closing ceremony was successful with Ms. Shamshad giving a detailed talk. (Some of us wished there was a skype issue here too, as it was getting a bit long,) Anyhow, the next speech by Mushahid Husain was interesting. His speech was a breath of fresh air; giving a very optimistic picture of our region in the upcoming months and years. He informed everyone of the number of projects already on the way, which include the new Islamabad Airport, the CPEC roads and many other projects. There is a bright future ahead, do not be dismayed.

Previously, I’ve attended invigorating sessions on Media, attended by the late Agha Nasir. I’ve seen Muneeza Hashmi and Salima Hashmi in such programs. The late Khwaja Masood the great educationist also often chaired many memorable sessions on Education. I’ve heard him saying, ‘you all have read history – I’ve lived it!’ – he was around eighty-four years old then. I often meet the great Shamsul-mulk at these sessions, his complexion glows more with every year. Also, some of my favorite speakers were  Haroon Sharif, Bandana, Sheema Kirmani, Rina Khan and  Kishwar Naheed.

I make a point of attending such conferences or workshops through which I learn more about what is going on. These are eye openers. What is interesting is to meet like-minded people at such places, and share experiences. Also it gives one a better outlook as to what is going on. Instead of sitting at home, and making bleak conclusions it is better to go out and find out for yourself. There is a lot of hope and when it is hopeless, you know what is to be done. See, where you can make a difference.

We all still have some life left in us, let’s make the most of it, to leave this world a bit better than we found it. I’ve never regretted going to such functions.

Never. When you go, try to sit in the front row, ask questions, participate, and come out wiser.

Stay blessed, my dear Reader. Let us be very selective with our time, such opportunities of attending conferences need to be availed.

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Photographs taken and provided by author, and with thanks from Waliya Najib and Uzma T. Haroon. (video by Uzma.)

 

 

 

 

Islamabad After Metro and Dharna.

Save Islamabad by tight administrative control before it is too late.

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I found this blog written, a few months ago – but never posted. As I read it, I realized how much more pertinent it is today. How scary this whole scenario is. I am one of the few people who has been with the Metro project, because  it benefits the grass root members of our society, as well as the elite.

metro-islam-gallery Also, it will be beneficial for the environment and reduce pressure on roads. It is connecting more people and promoting more jobs. That said, here is something we have to beware of: the arrival of not-so-welcome-elements of society into the capital city.

imagesWe have to be careful of the cultural and social side effects. That said. All is fine, if the local management is strong and alert. The big question is; Is it alert and effective? Yes, it has been but not enough. They are no longer as vigilant on the road for speed and other traffic law violations.

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Continue reading “Islamabad After Metro and Dharna.”

Happenings of November in Islamabad 2017

 

Life is just rushing by. So, this year has gone pretty well for me, I hope it was the same for you too. During December we still have time to re-align ourselves – and finish off what we can – to the original resolutions for this year. I’m sure we might have surpassed ourselves in some fields. Let’s just enjoy what we did, and forget what we didn’t. –  Just shove it off to next year’s resolution list! (What else can we do anyway?)

One thing is sure: During November in Islamabad, the greatest thing that’s happened for me has been the Verna/ dharna/book launch – and finally clearing of my MBA!  – Of course there was much else too…

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The One Who Loved Humanity

Something happened during our pilgrimage and Umra trip.

 

 Want to sit with  me in a time machine? Do you want to go to Makkah and Madina? Join us in 1987 when my husband and I went there from Kuwait by road. Today, I’m feeling very emotional. It is birthday of Muhammad (PBUH) and I’m   remembering how much his life has affected mine. I’ve never met him, but the impact has been there. I guess that is why God decided to make him His last representative on earth.

My husband and I were on deputation to Kuwait. He was a Captain in Kuwaiti Air Force.24232463_1758508680849083_2312642239046178024_n.jpg

Adventurous as we were, we decided to go for pilgrimage on our own by road. Usually, people went with friends, for security, as it was a very long journey of thousands of kilometers. My husband and I had already been to Europe with our one-year-old daughter. So we packed our two little girls aged two years and ten-month-old Nataliya and  five-month-old Nadiya, in the car and drove off.

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Notice the elder sister’s caring presence. No wonder Nadiya doted on her.

Our trip was going well, in spite of some real adventures which are almost inevitable on road trips. I may share some with you later on, but today I’m telling you about this Umra trip, and what happened afterwards. So, we first performed our Umra in Makkah.

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