Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Yakja – Helping hands

A group of common friends have started an organization named YAKJA – Helping Hands (its an urdu word literally meaning binding force). The group was born after the devastating floods of 2010 in Pakistan which swept across the country and marooned approximately 20 million people.

The group initially came together with the idea to do its part in the relief operations and distributed Ration items to 500 families. It has also done rehabilitation work for the people lived in flood affected areas.


Just 'Blah' it

It is the only free youth magazine published in Pakistan and is distributed to students on events and promotions. PHOTO: Blah Facebook page

Combine truck art with pop art, throw in some gaudy colours and top it off with a ‘desi’fied language – the outcome is Blah, a magazine targeting the Pakistani youth.
Blah is aimed to ‘revolutionize patriotism’ as depicted by its Pakistan-centric graphics and language and has a very ethnic outlook to it.
It is the only free youth magazine published in Pakistan and is distributed to students on events and promotions.
Its Facebook platform gives youth a place to voice their opinions online. Additionally, Blah is open to contributions and welcomes young people to vent out their zeal and channelize their energy for spreading positivity in society.
Facebook page rating: Thumbs up for being one of its kind


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Pakistani Armed Forces

The armed forces of Pakistan are the eighth-largest in the world. The three main services are the Army,Navy and the Air Force, supported by a number ofparamilitary forces which carry out internal security roles and border patrols. The National Command Authority is responsible for exercising employment and development control of all strategic nuclearforces and organisations, and for Pakistan's nuclear doctrine. Pakistani defence forces has had close military relation with China and United States and predominantly imports military equipments from these two countries.[63] The defence forces of China and Pakistan also organises joint military exercises.[64]
The Pakistan Army came into existence afterindependence in 1947 and is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan Army is a professional fighting force.[65] It has an active force of 612,000 personnel and 513,000 men in reserve.[66]Conscription may be introduced in times of emergency, but it has never been imposed.[67]
Since independence, the Army has been involved in four wars with neighbouring India and several border skirmishes with Afghanistan. It maintained division and brigade strength presences in some of the Arab countries during the past Arab–Israeli Wars, and aided the Coalition in the first Gulf War. Other major operations undertaken by the Army include Operation Black Thunderstorm and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. Apart from conflicts, the Army has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions and played a major role in rescuing trapped American soldiers from Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 in Operation Gothic Serpent.
The Pakistan military first saw combat in the First Kashmir War, gaining control of what is now Pakistan-administered Kashmir. In 1961, the army repelled a major Afghan incursion on Pakistan's western border.[68] Pakistan and India were at war again in 1965 and in 1971. In 1973, the military quelled a Baloch nationalist uprising.

In the past, Pakistani personnel have volunteered to serve alongside Arab forces in conflicts with Israel. During the Six-Day War in 1967 andYom Kippur War in October 1973 PAF pilots volunteered to go to the Middle East to support Egypt and Syria in a state of war against Israel, Air Force pilots shot down ten Israeli planes in the Six-Day War. During the Yom Kippur War 16 PAF pilots volunteered to leave for the Middle East in order to support Egypt and Syria but by the time they arrived Egypt had already agreed on a cease-fire.[69]
During the Soviet–Afghan war, Pakistan shot down several intruding pro-Soviet Afghan aircraft and provided covert support to the Afghan mujahideen through the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
In 1999, Pakistan was involved in the Kargil War. Currently, the military is engaged in an armed conflict with extremist Islamic militants in the north-west of the country.[70] Since 2004, Pakistani armed forces have engaged in fighting against Pakistani Taliban groups. Militant groups have engaged in suicide bombings in Pakistani cities, killing more than 3,000 civilians and armed personnel in 2009 alone.[71]
Internationally the Pakistani armed forces contributed to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with more than 10,700 personnel deployed in 2009,[72] and are presently the largest contributor. Pakistan provided a military contingent to the UN-backed coalition in the first Gulf War.[73]Pakistani troops were rushed to Makkah on the Saudi Government's request and Pakistani SSG commandos led the operation of the Grand Mosque Seizure.

Ufone and Mobilink all set for 3G shift

Telecom leader replaces decade-old Motorola equipment with 3G capable Huawei equipment. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID
Telecommunication giants Ufone and Mobilink have upgraded their telecom hardware and are all set for the third generation (3G) regime, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Huawei Pakistan Deputy CEO Colin Hu said that Ufone in the last two years purchased telecom equipment from Huawei and is ready to switch up a notch to 3G across the country.
The country’s largest telecom company, Mobilink, had been running on decade-old Motorola telecom equipment before the switch to Huawei equipment. The equipment has not been entirely replaced but Mobilink is ready to switch in all major cities of the country, said Hu.
He confidently said that Huawei could switch to the new spectrum within a month of approval of 3G licence. However, an expert pointed out that this was quite a complicated process and that a month might be a bit unrealistic.
The government earlier this month constituted yet another committee to resolve the dispute over auction of 3G advanced services mobile phone licences.
Differences have surfaced over the interpretation of an agreement between the government and Etisalat on sale of shares of the state-owned telecommunication company.
The telecom giant was of the opinion that the government could not sell a new telecom licence for any spectrum until seven years, which would end in March 2013, but the government has taken the position that 3G licence is not something new, but actually an extension of existing services.
There are a number of projects in progress as part of this enhancement process, said Mobilink spokesperson while responding to a query. “Part of this upgrading also ensures that our networks are 3G upgradeable when the eventual shift to 3G is undertaken,” the spokesperson added.
Ufone spokesperson refused to comment on the issue.
Hu further explained that Huawei is one of the major telecom players in Pakistan with more than 60 per cent market share in telecom and hardware solutions. Given this, he said that the company will be a major fixture in the 3G and later 4G (LTE) rollout in Pakistan. Huawei has been growing exponentially over the last 13 years in Pakistan at a time when other companies in the sector are having quite a difficult time in recession, said Hu.
Huawei is also on the verge of launching its enterprise business portfolio in the hope of competing with information and communication technology competitors like Cisco and Juniper.
Huawei is aiming to provide solutions to all banks, government departments and different verticals of the industry, said the Chinese tech giant’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Faisal Ameer Malik. He added that they want to have 30-40% of the enterprise business by next year.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd,  2011.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Love mein ghum: Lollywood in a shiny, new package

Love Mein Ghum which is translated in English as ‘lost in love’ had my friends and I lost in peels of laughter. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
A swirl of flashy colours and deafening screeching music, combined with gory action stunts, have defined Pakistan’s Lollywood cinema in the recent past. Weapon-wielding thugs and skimpily clad stout heroines have provided the dwindling cinema goers with a staple diet of grotesque violence and crude erotica. The phrase ‘revival of Pakistani cinema’ which springs up time and time again with a new release, seems to have been overused to the hilt
Charged with the spirit of keeping the sinking ship of Lollywood afloat, the golden girl of Pakistani cinema, Miss Reema Khan, stepped into the director’s shoes coming up with a love story titled ‘Love Mein Ghum’.
The green eyed beauty left no stone unturned in publicising her movie on television channels, facilitated by a promotional video which bore striking similarities to the star studded Deewangi Deewangi trackfrom Shahrukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om.
I am not one to be bashful when it comes to seeking inspiration, and believe that efforts of Pakistani filmmakers should be encouraged. With a generous doze of enthusiasm therefore and a heap of popcorn and soda I braced myself to watch Love Mein Ghum with a group of friends.
The film as per my expectations was an all out Lollywood commercial pot-boiler doused in drama. From a melancholy lover at the brink of death to a scheming seductive step mother, the film had it all.
The emotional breakdown sequences  of Reema and Moammar Ranacombined with Reema’s hair flying in the wind in slow motion, akin to a model from a shampoo commercial, were some of the quintessential ingredients of the sizzling Lollywood curry.
There is no denying that Ms Khan has invested a lot of effort and a generous capital in the production of this movie. No wonder the film boasts glossy cinematography, showcasing foreign locales such as Malaysia and Azerbaijan coupled with melodic musical tracks sung by the crème de la crème of Bollywood’s singers.
It is important to state that harbouring an expectation of viewing a thought- provoking film of substance would be unreasonable, as Love Mein Ghum in all fairness was publicized as a complete commercial flick.
Nonetheless, undergoing the cinematic experience consisting of a logical plot and convincing performances is definitely a privilege which all cinema goers who have paid for a ticket ought to enjoy.
However Love Mein Ghum which is translated in English as ‘lost in love’ had my friends and I lost in peels of laughter. Ironically the most serious and intense sequences in the film had us in splits.
Granted that Reema Khan has aged gracefully and exudes breath taking looks, but portraying a college student who falls in love with a boy in his early 20s is really pushing it a bit too far. Her love interest if you may please is supposed to be a Caucasian named Wilson who is played by a young Pakistani model with blonde streaks and a thickdesi accent. With him meandering into different accents, one was left wondering whether he suffered from a split personality disorder or if he was under the influence of an intoxicant!
Reema matched up to Wilson’s hotchpotch of English and Urdu, with the two reciting lines of Shakespeare to each other in love-struck, dreamy eyed poses. And that’s not all; Shakespeare was contrasted with some good ol’ rapping ala Momi. Yes, you got it right – Moammer Rana has tried to pull a bit off a Snoop Dog by trying his hand at rapping.
Every masala flick has to have a sultry sex-symbol for a character who adds to a film’s glamour. The tables turned in this film as it was not a woman who was resorting to suggestive tactics to entice men but a man by the name of Ali Saleem aka Beghum Nawazish Ali. He doesn’t play a cross dresser this time but an actual woman who has Lollywood’s Jaan Rambow and a very corny Johnny Lever wrapped around his/her thumb. To each his own I’d say, whatever rock’s one’s boat, but I have to say that watching Ali in a sarong getting massaged by Rambow on the big screen is quite scarring.
Who can forget the 90s Bollywood style of song picturisation?
A dozen odd dancers moving in sync with flying dupattas suspended in mid-air on a hill-top would perhaps prompt a tad bit of nostalgia. This film too follows the age old formula whilst accentuating the song and dance routines through jumpy steps. What really makes the film a rather healthy offering are the acrobatic dance moves by Lollywood’s legendary dancer Pappu Samrat. Hats off to him for making Reema and the two heroes run and pounce along mountains and plains with the athleticism of passionate sportsmen. The poor heroes probably pulled a muscle or two by lifting a not so petite Reema a number of times which was again shown in slow motion to maximise its aesthetic pleasure.
In a nutshell, the film is old Lollywood wine in a brand new sleek bottle that has the unique ability to unintentionally entertain in its serious moments while simultaneously irritate to the point of making one’s teeth and fists clench.
Hail Reema Khan!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pakistan IT firm bags second prize for educational mobile app

TenPearls bagged 2nd position and received a $50,000 prize at Nokia & AT&T's Innovators 2011 Contest for Animal101.

Pakistan’s fast-growing mobile application industry has marked another record as a Pakistani firm TenPearls bagged second position and received a $50,000 cash prize at Nokia & AT&T’s Innovators 2011 Contest for its app Animal101.
Animal 101 is an interactive application for children and parents alike. It is a learning based application about animals that aims to teach children of 3-8 years to learn about animals by engaging them in fun and interactive games.
It was selected in the Trivia and Education category.
Competing against 800 entrants for the top spot, this is the second award TenPearls has received for its mobile apps within a year.
The first award was first prize that TenPearls received for the uTrackmobile app earlier in 2011 for the same platform in Pakistan.
The Calling All Innovators 2011 global competition encouraged app and game developers from around the world to submit mobile apps in 17 categories for a chance to share in a total of $10 million in cash and prizes.
The Calling All Innovators 2011 Contest used a blend of consumer and expert judging to determine the category winners. The judging was based on total app downloads by consumers and sales totals on Nokia’s Ovi Store.
The top 10 apps in each category (five paid apps and five free apps) advanced as category finalists and were then judged by an expert panel of judges from AT&T and Nokia.
Nokia chose this blend of consumer and expert judging to help ensure that the best apps were not only the most popular apps but also provide the best user experience.
TenPearls has plans to launch a number of new feature rich mobile apps in Pakistan for Nokia.
Imran Aftab, President of TenPearls said that his company is looking forward to building more applications on Nokia’s smart devices.
A version of this post originally appeared on ProPakistani.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Aleem Dar named Umpire of the Year again

Umpire Aleem Dar of Pakistan on Monday won the David Shepherd Trophy for the ICC Umpire of the Year for the third year running.
Other competitors were Steve Davis, Ian Gould and five-time winner Simon Taufel. Dar, 43, officiated in five Tests and 13 ODIs during the voting period, including the World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka. Dar was voted to the award by the 10 full member captains as well as the eight-man elite panel of match referees. He received the award from ICC Hall of Fame 2011 inductee Alan Davidson.
“It’s a great honour and I’m thankful to everyone at the ICC and also my colleagues on the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires along with the Pakistan Cricket Board,” Dar said. “I’d like to also thank all my family for all their support.”


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Pakistani tech wiz harnesses Internet for the poor

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — While many young tech wizards strive to invent the next iPad, Umar Saif is working to bring Internet-style networking to millions of Pakistanis who don't have access to the Web. He could shake up the country's politics in the process.
Saif's efforts recently earned him recognition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as one of the world's top young technology innovators, a significant feat in a country better known as a home to Islamist militants than to cutting-edge researchers.
Technological progress faces immense hurdles in Pakistan, with its pervasive insecurity, shoddy public education system, struggling economy and chronic electricity shortages. The country has fallen far behind neighboring India, which has a flourishing tech industry.
Given that many Pakistanis still struggle to get enough food and clean water — much less a computer or smart phone — much of Saif's research in Pakistan centers around giving ordinary citizens new ways to use one thing that many do have: a basic cell phone.
The trigger for his research was a 2005 earthquake in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir that killed 80,000 people and caused widespread destruction. The disaster coincided with his return to Pakistan after getting a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Cambridge.
Realizing that rescue workers were having trouble coordinating, Saif, 32, devised a computer program that allowed people to send a text message — or SMS — to thousands of people at once. Users send a text to a specific phone number to sign up for the program, and then can message all the subscribers, allowing users to engage in the kind of social networking possible on the Internet.
It has since blossomed into a commercial enterprise called SMS-all that is used by at least 2.5 million people who have sent nearly 4 billion text messages.
"You can do the sorts of things that we do on Facebook and Twitter," said Saif, now an associate professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
The company generates revenue by charging a small amount for each message. Saif has expanded the service to Iraq and Nigeria by working with telecommunication companies there.
Roughly 20 million Pakistanis use the Internet, about 11 percent of the country's total population of 187 million. But there are more than 108 million Pakistani cell phone subscribers.
That was Saif's inspiration.
"The thing to do is to bring whatever you have on the Internet on the phone lines, because that is what gets used the most," said Saif, a fast-talking fountain of ideas.
People in other developing countries, especially in Africa, have worked to bring a variety of services to cell phones, such as banking and market prices for crops.
In Pakistan, SMS-all has a natural outlet in the tumult of Pakistani politics.
The networking power of Facebook and Twitter was seen as a driver of the revolutions that swept across the Arab world this year, especially in Egypt. But Internet penetration in many of those countries is much higher than in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, thousands of lawyers used SMS-all to help organize 2008 protests against the rule of then-President Pervez Musharraf, a U.S.-backed leader who seized power in 1999.
Now, political parties are using the service, a move that could shake up the political system by allowing smaller groups to compete against the two dominant parties, which have extensive networks throughout Pakistan.
An early user is the Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice party, which was started by Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricket star who is popular across much of Pakistan but has had difficulty translating that support into votes.
"If we don't have offices in every small city in Pakistan, at least through this technology our message can go to every small city in Pakistan," said the party's general secretary, Arif Alvi.
The party set up a group on SMS-all about a month ago and has already attracted over 300,000 members, said Alvi.
"Pakistan is going through a crossroads, and I hope this technology and what we are doing will play a major role in changing the destiny of the country," said Alvi.
One of the two dominant parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, has also set up a group on SMS-all and has taken out advertisements in local papers asking people to join.
Saif is working on several other projects that harness the networking power of the Internet through cell phones.
One program, being developed in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S., would create the mobile phone equivalent of an Internet chat room, allowing people to ask questions that could be answered by others. He is coordinating with a local hospital to create such a service for cancer patients.
"If you go to these Internet forums for various diseases they are very heavily used, but there is nothing like that in this part of this world because there is very little Internet," said Saif.
He has also worked on higher-tech programs, including one called BitMate that targets slow Internet connections in developing regions and lets users pool their bandwidth for faster downloads. Technology Review, a magazine published by MIT, cited both SMS-all and BitMate as reasons that Saif was chosen in August as one of the world's top 35 technology innovators under the age of 35.
Saif has set up a business incubator for start-up companies in Lahore, hoping to help other tech-savvy Pakistanis turn their visions into businesses. But the hurdles to success in Pakistan remain dauntingly high, especially in attracting investors from outside the country.
"They don't care if you are the next best thing since sliced bread," said Saif. "They just don't want to do anything in a country where the CEO could be blown away tomorrow in a bomb blast or there is no electricity for six hours a day."