Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Kashif Abbasi & Meher Bokhari got married

Islamabad: Famous TV anchors Kashif Abbasi and Mehr Bokhari got married here on November 15, 2011. Though they did not make it public as it was a purely family event.
Family friends of Kashif Abbasi revealed that the Kazim Naqvi performed the Nikah in the presence of friends and relatives.
Kashif and Mehr are popular TV anchors. Kashif started his career with newspaper and now lead the ARY news channel while Mehr started her career with Samaa TV and recently switched to Dunya TV.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Student Biryani goes global

It won’t be long before you will be ordering it in the US as well.

KARACHI: Consistent taste and “word of mouth” is what has taken Student Biryani, a brand of Café Student, from a small roadside vendor to one of Pakistan’s fastest growing franchise networks. The Karachi-based food outlet – after attracting notable traffic in Dubai – now wants to test North American and European markets; extend its Gulf network through global franchising.
Established by Haji Muhammad Ali in 1969, the eatery – a favourite biryani restaurant for most, if not all, Karachiites – with a 15% return rate, continues to expand disregarding investors concerns about energy crises and poor law and order.
Student Biryani’s network is spread over 26 outlets (12 branches and 14 franchise restaurants) in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Dubai. It is adding one more outlet – a takeaway restaurant – in Boat Basin, Karachi this December while also finalising the launch of its first restaurant in Islamabad, to be operational early next year.
There is no better market for the business than Pakistan, Ali’s son and company director, Muhammad Arif believes. “There are more opportunities than difficulties. Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy,” he added, “ the ingredients are a lot cheaper here.”
There are days when sales are affected due to violence in the city, Arif said, but added that the business normally does great, especially on public holidays.
Arif’s father started the business – selling homemade biryani and a few other dishes – in Saddar, Karachi. He named it Cafe Student to attract students from a host of schools and colleges that were located in the area.
This worked well for him as his first customers were students and teachers who particularly liked his biryani, which dominated the business so much that it overshadowed Café’ Student, the official name.
Ali’s recipe for biryani is still the business secret for Café Student that associates its popularity partly to “the word of mouth” – publicity, as Arif puts it. The business has turned Ali’s recipe into a formula that’s centrally dispatched – mostly in the form of premixes– to all outlets to ensure that each place has the same taste, Arif said.
“We have a centrally-controlled supply chain,” Arif said, “we buy the same quality of rice to make sure the taste doesn’t change,” he added.
The love for biryani coupled with consistent taste helped the business grow significantly over the last decade. It converted its head office in Saddar to a multi-storey restaurant serving 2,500 to 3,000 customers every day – the number includes takeaway, dining-in and home deliveries.
With a continuous expansion plan, the company is now considering franchise option to meet the increasing demand for the brand.
“Franchising is the easiest and fastest way to grow your business,” Arif said. “You don’t have to invest and yet your brand name and consumer-base grows while you get royalty,” he added.
Responding to a question Arif said, one needs to invest about Rs8 million to develop a 3,000-sqaure-feet restaurant – a standard size for the business – in Pakistan. There is tremendous opportunity for this business in Pakistan; one has to be patient because it grows slowly, he added.
The company has a 15 to 1 return rate, he said, but it can vary for branches depending upon the size of the unit. The return ratio for a takeaway unit, he explained, will be different from a dining-in restaurant.
The company already has 14 franchise restaurants in the country and more are in the pipeline. The story doesn’t end here; Student Biryani is also extending its customer-base in the Middle East.
“We are almost ready to open our first branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Arif said, adding, “We have another branch in the pipeline for Sharjah; we will launch it soon.”
The majority of customers in Dubai are Indians, Arif said, he is, therefore, personally interested in entering the Indian market as well.
The company is in the final stages to give the go-ahead for three franchisees one each in the US, UK and Dubai. They are expected to launch their operations very soon, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.

Friday, 25 November 2011

PM announces NPA, cash for Swat girl

Malala Yousufzai

ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday announced cash award of Rs 500,000, besides the National Peace Award (NPA) for Swat student Malala Yousufzai. 
Malala Yousufzai, who is student of 8th class from Swat, had been nominated for International Peace Award in the category of children below 18 years. Keeping in view the educational brilliance of the student, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced the National Peace Award for the student and her family . 
The PM has also directed the cabinet to hold National Peace Awards every year for the children below 18 years who are working for the cause of education and peace.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

National Monument Museum opens

The newly inaugurated Pakistan National Monument Museum contains this sculpture of Quaid-i-Azam and Fatima Jinnah on a horse carriage. Photo: Muhammad Javaid

The National Monument Museum opened for public here at Shakarparian on Thursday. Conceptualised, designed and created by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa, the museum depicts the country’s history, struggle for freedom, emergence and development.
A large number of visitors including foreigners filled the museum on its first day. A group of 12 girls, students from Beaconhouse School System, presented a national song.
Khalid Javaid, Executive Director, Lok Virsa said, “The prime objective of this museum is to explain Pakistan in a historical perspective to the young and the old.”
The segments displayed in the museum include Indus Valley civilization, arrival of Islam and role of Sufism in the sub-continent, 1857 War of Independence, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Iqbal in Cordoba Mosque, Iqbals’s address in Allahabad, the Lahore Resolution, Gandhi – Jinnah talks, independence and migration 1947, Quaid as a lawyer, Quaid’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Quaid and Iqbal’s galleries of relics, a display on freedom fighters and a segment on national achievements after independence.
The museum also has the facility of a reference library, documentation centre, audio visual archive and media centre to cater to the requirements of the visitors, in particular students, researchers, scholars, and writers.
Federal Secretary for Culture Moinul Islam Bukhari said, “Pakistan is a seat of the world’s oldest civilisations like Monejodaro, Harappa and Taxila. The culture of Pakistan has been immensely influenced by these civilizations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2010.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Swat girl nominated for international peace prize

National honour Swat girl nominated for international peace prize Malala, 13, alone raised a voice for girls education during Taliban rule


Malala Yousufzai, 13, beat 93 contestants from 42 countries to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011. The class 8 student became the first Pakistani to be nominated for the prize, and if selected, she will be given the award by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu.

The prize is presented to a child with exceptional capabilities whose remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems that affect children around the world. The prize was first launched at the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit 2005 and was initiated by the Dutch Organisation KidsRights.

The other four nominated for the award are: Liza (17) from Palestine, Michaela (17) from South Africa, Nikolay (17) from Armenia and Winfred (14) from Uganda. One of the five nominees will be rewarded with the prize on November 21 (today) and will become the seventh child to get the prize.

Malala’s was nominated because she alone raised her voice for girls’ education during the mayhem in Swat, in which girls were not only banned from attending schools and colleges, but their schools were destroyed as well. She successfully used national and international media to let the world know about violations of their rights. She fought bravely for girls’ rights in the militancyhit Swat, focusing on their right to education.

Desmond Tutu, in a press release announcing the nominees, stated, “The five nominated children are very brave since they are fighting for children’s rights in their country every day, sometimes even in dangerous situations.

Children are the future, but often they are not heard, the Children’s Peace Prize gives a voice to these unheard voices.” Malala said, “I am very happy to be nominated along with four other great girls. I am particularly inspired by Michaela who, despite her physical disability, fights for the rights of children with disabilities.” She added that her nomination in the top five has “doubled her courage” as her cause is of great importance, “Irrespective of whether I win the prize I will continue my struggle. I hope to set up a vocational institute for the marginalised girls of this area so they can stand on their feet in the future.” When asked why she started her campaign for girls’ rights, she said that the mayhem in Swat had “a huge impact on my mind”.

“I could not stand such exploitations; I started my campaign with the help of media and forums, which, with the help of God, was successfully completed.” Malala said she wanted the rest of the world to stop terming the people of Swat as terrorists as they were very peaceful and loving people.
Malala credited her father Ziauddin Yousufzai and her teachers for supporting her in her cause.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

First Pakistani honoured with prestigious "World Technology Network award"

Dr. Athar Osama is the first Pakistani scholar honoured the WTN award. – Image Courtesy by WTN

KARACHI: Pakistani scholar Dr.Athar Osama has been awarded the prestigious World Technology Network (WTN) award and has also been elected as a fellow of the WTN. He is the first Pakistani who was honoured with the WTN award.
Osama was short-listed for the award as announced in a press release by WTN on September 5, 2011. WTN recognised www.Muslim-Science.com, founded by Osama as an agent of change and had been named as a finalist for the Science and Innovation Media Journalism category.

Osama received the award in a galaxy of luminaries and innovators from across the globe at the World Technology Summit in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and MIT’s Technology Review.

The WTN awards are widely seen as “Oscars of Science and Technology.” The Previous WTN award winners include Al Gore (US former Vice President), Mohammad Yunus (founder of Grameen Bank), Mark Zuckurberg (Facebook founder), Larry Page (Google) and Tim Berners – Lee (Inventor of Internet).

The awards were distributed on October 25-26, 2011 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, USA.

Dr. Athar Osama speaking to the participants after receiving WTN award. – Image Courtesy by WTN

WTN selects the finalists through a peer reviewed process and a well established criteria. On individual bases, the awards are distributed in 20 categories such as arts, biotechnology, education, energy, entertainment, health, media and journalism and information technology. WTN also awards to the companies and organisations in10 different categories. The WTN awards have been presented since 2000. Prominent advisors and professionals are included in the selection panel of WTN awards.

“This year we are more eager than ever to pay tribute to the talent and innovation of our individual and corporate honorees,” said James P. Clark, Founder and Chairman of the World Technology Network.

Osama frequently writes about science, technology and innovation issues especially on Islamic countries. He is the director of Middle East and Asia for ANGLE Plc – a UK based firm for technology commercialisation and policy. He also works at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA as a science and technology policy analyst.

Recently, he launched Muslim-Science.Com, an online journal discussing the issues of Science, Technology, Innovation and Policy mainly concerned with Muslim countries.

Osama did his Bachelors from the Pakistan Air force Academy and did his doctorate in public policy from Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Positive Pakistanis: A rupee for a life

Parveen Rao was discouraged from going to university — not only did she educate herself, she now makes sure that even the least privileged get a shot at an education.

The 45-minute drive from Parveen’s home next to the Expo Center to Khuda Ki Basti in Surjani Town is anything but pleasant, thanks to the traffic and bumpy, unpaved roads along the way. But that hasn’t stopped her from making the journey to Amal-e-Danish, better known as the One Rupee School every morning for the last 16 years.
Parveen Afshan Rao is perhaps one of the most charming and driven women I’ve met in my life. And today I was witnessing the results of her endeavours inside the four walls of her small school-building in one of the most neglected neighbourhoods of Karachi.
“It’s a long drive, but I chose the area because it was comparatively peaceful back then,” she explains as we make ourselves comfortable in her modest yet well-equipped office.  “I understood my limitations and knew I had to start on a small scale and this was the perfect place. When I asked the Katchi Abadi Association for a plot to open the school, they said that they would only consider my application once I had actually opened a school. They needed to make sure I wasn’t a con-woman trying to eat up their land!”
But when the people of Surjani Town heard about her proposal, more than 20 families offered their homes to get things started. “It was very moving… the families were so desperate to send their children to school that they were willing to offer their two-room homes for the purpose. That was when I knew I had come to the right place.”
Fortunately, the Katchi Abadi Association agreed to allot her a plot. She then brought the adjoining plot as well, adding more land later. “We started with just four rooms and now we’ve built more than 20!” Parveen beams.
But what’s the story behind the implausible one rupee fees? Surely the paltry sum cannot be enough to run the whole school, which even has a small computer lab with three or four running computers. “During the first few months, I had rounded up about a hundred children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. I set the fee at Rs30 per month but when the parents started to pull their children out of school, I realised that those people couldn’t pay even that,” says Parveen. “I refused to turn it into a free school like the parents were urging me, so I finally decided to slash the fees by Rs29 and turn it into the One Rupee School.”
Parveen explained that the objective of the one rupee fee is to assure the students and their parents that they’re not getting an education for free. But since the fee was merely nominal, Parveen’s next objective was to raise finances. “This might sound strange, but I couldn’t possibly have gone around asking people to donate money so I could fulfil my dream!” She laughs matter-of-factly. “By the time I opened the school, I was a married woman. I was too proud to ask others for help!”
Eliminating the customary route of hunting for donations, Parveen and her husband started a small printing business, the profits from which they used to run the school. The printing business flourished and Parveen didn’t feel the need to look to anyone for help. . . until 2005, when things took a turn for the worse.
“For almost five years, the money I was making off my printing business was more than enough. Suddenly, as the number of students started increasing, the money started to fall dramatically short.”
By then, the school’s monthly expenses were easily crossing the hundred thousand mark and Parveen recalls herself slowly breaking down because of all the stress. “I was constantly short on personal money because I’ve always believed that once you take up a responsibility, you have to see it through. I knew that if things were ever to get seriously bad, I would probably cut down on my home supplies rather than delaying my teachers’ salaries.”
Things started to look up again when people who had heard about this initiative came forward to help out Parveen. An Indian gentleman who was quite impressed with the concept of the One Rupee School emailed Parveen and is now a regular donor.
And now that things have settled down, Parveen has finally found the time needed to expand her school. The first step was the One Rupee School for underprivileged students, the second dimension is Tez Raft, which provides accelerated tuition for children who were not able to go to school at the right time and are thus lagging behind. The third step is providing education for boys and girls who have reached the matriculation or intermediate level, but whose families want them to start earning a living. Parveen gives these children teaching jobs in the school while tutoring them in her free time and bearing the cost of any further study they want to undertake. “Whether they want to do matriculation or intermediate, bachelors or masters, I pay for their education if they agree to teach younger kids at the school, so that the tradition continues,” she explains.
But what Parveen is most excited about is the fourth step, “Taleem-e-Baalghan is all about educating the mothers of our students.”
Initially, the textbook for these women had been very similar to a ‘Qaida’ but some of the women actually stopped coming to school because their children were mocking them for studying a book they had studied years ago! Parveen then wrote ‘Meri Kitaab’ in a new, personalised format, which made it markedly different from the children’s ‘Qaida’.
“My own family had always been against me studying,” she recalls with a sniffle as she gives me a quick tour of the classrooms before I leave. “They didn’t want me to go to university because I was a free maid for them. They used to say that I could start next year. Next year, they’d say I should start next year… this went on for so long that suddenly I realised that everyone—including my siblings — had all done something or the other with their lives and I was still right there…without an education, doing housework!” And that’s exactly what has propelled this incredible woman to take on the challenge of bringing about a small change in whatever capacity she possesses.
Parveen is kind enough to see me off to the school’s gate. I’m so glad she does, because otherwise I would never have known that the 80-year-old woman entering the building with a book tightly clenched in her hands is in fact the school’s eldest student! Watching the woman rush to her class, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Parveen, however, is beaming ear to ear, “If crazy people like me continue to work for these people, I’m sure one day things will start to look up!”
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 30th, 2011.