Monday, 27 February 2012

Lahore Grammar School girl to represent Pakistan in London

Public speaking is imperative in helping children reach their potential and we need such opportunities in the country.

KARACHI: Tooba Ahmad Sheikh from Lahore Grammar School and Ahmed Nawaz from Fazaia College Islamabad are going to represent Pakistan at the International Public Speaking Competition in London, UK, to be held in the summer.

Tooba came first and Ahmed second at the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) nationals held on Thursday and Friday at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi. “The experience was great and I am thrilled to judged the national winner,” said Tooba.

Public speaking is imperative in helping children reach their potential and we need such opportunities in the country.” Nawaz represented Pakistan last year and made it to the semi-finals. 

The theme for the first round of the four-minute and 30-second speeches was Wisdom of Youth. While some participants chose to restrict themselves to the words ‘wisdom’ and ‘youth’, others also spoke on multi-dimensional topics related to youth. Subjects which caught the audience’s attention included too much money or the lack thereof, social messages through cartoons and laughter, the role of the media, ending child labour, and the right to make mistakes but not repeat them. 

Mahnoor Ayub from the DA Public School chose to quote from Henri Estienne in her speech: “If youth only knew, if only age could.” Her choice happened to encapsulate the general consensus in the room for both the young speakers and the judges. 

Many speakers offered the theory that ‘youth’ is a state of mind, but one of the speakers pointed out the United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24. The speeches challenged, applauded, glorified and even picked on the youth. 

Most of the speakers said that the only hope left for the country – in fact the world – was the youth, as the previous generations ‘could not do the job’. The judges, gently yet persistently, reminded the young lot through their questions and comments at the end of the speeches about the importance of guidance from their elders. 

As the speakers talked of inspiration, some names came up more than others, including those of the late Arfa Karim, Ali Moin Nawazish, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Khalida Brohi. The prevalent message was the need for change, but answers to how it should be brought about were vague. An animated Babar Ali from the Korangi Public School had a suggestion. He said that professional training for communication skills should be introduced in schools and colleges to give shape to the youngsters’ ideas. 

In the second round, the students were given 15 minutes to prepare for speaking on a topic. They were not allowed to seek advice or tips from accompanying teacher trainers during this round. The topics ranged from hijab to pop idols, to why the chicken crossed the road. 

The competition, which has been running for more than 10 years, took place at the Beach Luxury Hotel with the participation of 34 students from 17 schools and colleges. 

The winners 
On Thursday in the Karachi competition, Salaar Sheikh from Karachi Grammar School won the title for the Best Speaker, followed by Mahnoor Nadeem from Convent of Jesus and Mary. They went on to compete on Friday in the nationals but didn’t make it. 

The third position, according to the audience’s votes, was awarded to Haris Hashmi from the Korangi Academy. Hashmi’s speech, perhaps not the most eloquent but the most invigorating, focused on how the youth needed to be pro active and look for opportunities rather than wait for them to be created. Giving his own example, he told the audience how he tried to play his part by cleaning his street every morning after Fajr prayers. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.

Pakistan stands proud at Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s win

Directors Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (L) and Daniel Junge, winners of the Best Documentary Short Subject for the film "Saving Face", pose with their Oscars during the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 26, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS
Pakistani journalist and documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest venture Saving Face has won an Oscar award under the category ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’.

In her acceptance speech, Chinoy dedicated the award to “all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan” including British Pakistani plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, main subjects of the documentary and the women of Pakistan.

“All the women in Pakistan working for change, don’t give up on your dreams, this is for you,” she said.

Dedicating the award to main subjects Rukhsana and Zakia, Obaid-Chinoy said that their “resilience and bravery in the face of such adversary is admirable”.

Co-director Daniel Junge said he had the idea for the film after hearing about Jawad, and asked Chinoy to work with him. He has been previously nominated for an both an Oscar and an Emmy.

“To win … and with such a subject – it’s such an honour,” he said.

The documentary Saving Face chronicles the work of Dr Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.

The documentary, which is filmed across Islamabad, Rawalpindi and the small towns of Punjab, was released in the US in November. It is due to release in the UK in March 2012, following which it will be released in Pakistan.

“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Chinoy said in an interview conducted before she won the Oscar.

“The main reason that they are in Saving Face is to make their stories heard and have an impact.” Many victims are women attacked by their husbands, and others assaulted for turning down a proposal of marriage. One girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.

Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.

Chinoy said she hopes the cases in her film will resonate for others in Pakistan.

“It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems,” she said.

Chinoy’s films have won international acclaim. Her 2010 documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, won an International Emmy Award.

At the ceremony, Obaid-Chinoy chose to wear female designers, from her clothes and her jewellery.

“I am wearing Bunto Kazmi for the ceremony and will be wearing Sana Safinaz and Saniya Maskatiya for Oscar-related events. My jewellery will be done by Kiran Aman of Kiran Fine Jewellery and Sherezad Rahimtoola of Labels. I am really excited to showcase local Pakistani talent, and that too all women,” revealed Chinoy.

-Express Tribune

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Positive Pakistani: Oasis for the underprivileged

Shabina Mustafa set out to teach her maid’s daughter in her garage — today she runs a school with over 400 students.
“My husband and I used to wonder how the country’s economic and social conditions would change if the majority of Pakistan’s children were deprived of quality education,” says Shabina Mustafa, founder of The Garage School. “But it was only after his death that I got around to dedicating myself to teaching children who would otherwise not get an opportunity to go to school.”

The foundation of The Garage School (TGS) was laid in 1999 when Shabina’s maid convinced her to teach her daughter, cleaning out the garage for the purpose, as it was the only place in her house which could be dedicated to giving lessons to the little girl. But Somia wasn’t Shabina’s only student — news that she would be giving lessons for free had spread quickly in the neighbourhood and on the first day of ‘school’ 14 bright faces eagerly turned towards Shabina as she stepped into that single-room school, ready to teach.

Those were the humble beginnings of The Garage School, as it came to be called, and from that point on there was no looking back. Children who could not gain admission in a regular school and students from the nearby slums of Neelum Colony and Shah Rasool Colony flocked in droves to Shabina’s home, keen to learn. In fact, the number of enthusiastic learners who would turn up outside Shabina’s door simply kept increasing by the day.

While multiplication tables and match-the-word exercises were very much a part of daily school lessons, it was more than just book knowledge that TGS aimed to impart. It had a more holistic view to education: making these children competitive, responsible, healthy, well behaved and successful. Shabina often reminds her students of the 4 T’s on which her system is based: Taleem (education), Tarbiat (upbringing), Taur (manners), Tariqay (behaviour) — which, she believes, lead to the fifth T, that is Taraqqi (success).

“This is our motto. I always tell my students that I can only help them in obtaining the first four tools, but achieving success depends upon their hard work and determination,” says Shabina.

At the same time, Shabina also feels she has the responsibility of grooming and coaching these children so that they can be accommodated in mainstream institutions. In 2002, she approached Nasra School and prepared the students for its entrance exam. “I want them to progress to a respectable career. It makes me feel really proud that 22 of my students were accepted at Nasra School and 16 by St Patrick’s Technical College,” she says.

She loves talking about all the success that her students have achieved since the school first started. “There was Anil who passed out of Nasra, then went to Bahria College and is now a manager at a multinational company. Another boy stood first in the Aga Khan Board exam while his brother is a straight ‘A’ student who wants to be a doctor. And from our first batch of English conversation and grooming classes, eight girls are working as beauticians at leading salons.”

“Joining this school was a turning point in my life,” says Mohammed Asad, who is currently studying at Aga Khan Secondary School and plans to join the Pakistan Air Force as an aeronautical engineer. “TGS is the reason that I am studying in a good college today,” he says proudly.

With the children coming from slums, health care often emerges as a serious concern. In 2002, Dr Khalid Bhamba offered his services. Now, whenever a new student is admitted, he is medically examined. Most students are found to be malnourished. “We cannot expect unhealthy bodies to have healthy minds. So with the help of pharmaceutical companies, we give them multivitamins and vaccines of hepatitis, typhoid and flu annually. Also, the school provides food, such as milk, eggs, fruits and juices, for all the children on a regular basis.”

Brimming with new ideas and eager to expand her philanthropic activities, Shabina started the adult literacy programme in 2008, with 25 women. So far 42 students have completed the adult literacy course. The Garage School is also offering sewing classes and Shabina envisions that these will one day become the basis for the Garage School Cottage Industry where women can earn money by stitching and selling clothes. TGS also underscores the habit of saving money so that these children learn to plan for the future from an early age. Initially, they were provided piggy banks, but now the piggy banks have been transformed into 32 separate bank accounts at Bank Al-Habib.

With enrolment increasing by the day, Shabina has had to expand her premises. “I need more space to accommodate all the projects but people are reluctant to help,” she laments. “We are in dire need of monetary help and are looking for teachers to volunteer their time too.”

While this may not be enough to solve the social and economic conditions of the country just yet, at least now Shabina knows that she is doing her bit.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 19th, 2012.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Pak military builds $200 Android tablet - PACPAD

PAC builds the PACPAD with a company called Innavtek in a Hong Kong-registered partnership that also builds high-tech parts for the warplanes. - File photo

KAMRA: Inside a high-security air force complex that builds jet fighters and weapons systems, Pakistan’s military is working on the latest addition to its sprawling commercial empire: a homegrown version of the iPad.

It’s a venture that bundles together Pakistani engineering and Chinese hardware, and shines a light on the military’s controversial foothold in the consumer market. Supporters say it will boost the economy as well as the nation’s self-esteem.

It all comes together at an air force base in Kamra, where avionics engineers – when they’re not working on defence projects – assemble the PACPAD 1.

“The original is the iPad, the copy is the PACPAD,” said Mohammad Imran, who stocks the product at his small computer and cellphone shop in a mall in Rawalpindi.

The device runs on Android 2.3, an operating system made by Google and given away for free. At around $200, it’s less than half the price of Apple or Samsung devices and cheaper than other low-end Chinese tablets on the market, with the bonus of a local, one-year guarantee.The PAC in the name stands for the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, where it is made.

The PAC also makes an e-reader and small laptop.

But the other side of the affair produces a different reaction.

“I just can’t figure it out,” said Jehan Ara, head of Pakistan’s Software Houses Association, said of the PACPAD. “Even if they could sell a billion units, I can’t see the point. The air force is supposed to be protecting the air space and borders of the country.”

Supporters say the foray into information technology is a boost to national pride for a country vastly overshadowed by arch rival India in the high-tech field. Tech websites in the country have shown curiosity or cautious enthusiasm, but say it’s too early to predict how the device will perform. Sceptics claim it’s a vanity project that will never see mass production.

Only a few hundred of each products has been made so far, though a new batch will be completed in the next three months.

“The defence industry is trying to justify its presence by doing more than just produce weapons,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc., a critical study of military businesses.

“Some smart aleck must have thought we can make some money here.”

PAC’s website at says the goal is “strengthening the national economy through commercialisation” and lauds the collaboration with China – something that likely resonates among nationalists.

China is regarded as a firm ally by Pakistan’s security establishment.

PAC officials suggested the programme that produces the PACPAD was modelled in part on the Chinese military’s entry into commercial industry, which lasted two decades until it was ordered to cut back lest it become corrupted and lose sight of its core mission.

The tablet and other devices are made in a low-slung facility, daubed in camouflage paint, near, a factory that produces J-17 Thunder fighter jets with Chinese help.

“It’s about using spare capacity. There are 24 hours in a day, do we waste them or use them to make something?” said Sohail Kalim, PAC’s sales director. “The profits go to the welfare of the people here. There are lots of auditors. They don’t let us do any hanky-panky here.”

PAC builds the PACPAD with a company called Innavtek in a Hong Kong-registered partnership that also builds high-tech parts for the warplanes.

But basic questions go unanswered. Maqsood Arshad, a retired air force officer who is one of the directors, couldn’t say how much money had been invested, how many units the venture hoped to sell and what the profit from each sale was likely to be.

The market for low-cost Android tablets is expanding quickly around the world, with factories in China filling most of the demand. Last year, an Indian company produced the ‘Aakash’ tablet, priced at $50, and sold largely to schoolchildren and students.

Mr Arshad said a second-generation PACPAD would be launched in the next three months, able to connect to the Internet via cellphone networks and other improved features. He said the Kamra facility could produce up to 1,000 devices a day.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mardan boy develops SMS-based portal

PESHAWAR: As novel as it sounds, Mardan’s 18-year-old Shahzad has developed a social networking portal that does not require an internet connection – “Smile SMS”.

The SMS-based social networking service enables users to gather local and international information on their phones, free of cost, without using the internet.

IT-savvy Shahzad has been into developing programmes and websites ever since he was in grade six. This hobby transformed into passion and helped him achieve a lot at a very young age.

Smile SMS – the first of its kind service launched in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – operates similar to Facebook, however, the only difference is that an internet connection is required for Facebook, while Smile SMS can be used without it.

“This service helps you update your status, let your friends comment on it and make new friends,” said Shahzad. “In K-P, not a lot of people have access to the internet, so I thought of developing a unique programme for them.”

Shahzad said he has done the first network test of the service and currently it can afford up to one million people. “We are planning on expanding and updating the service too.”

Sajjad Khan, one of the users of the service said that in his village, hundreds of students don’t have internet access to use this service. “This is the first time that such a service has been launched in K-P. It is benefitting a lot of people, said Khan.

Shahzad also said that the people of K-P can also make a name for themselves in the field of IT, only if the government encourages them.


Representing Pakistan in Asian Snooker Championship

Sultan’s willingness to make it to the highest level, despite the lack of finances, has played a huge part in his success. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

The streets of Pakistan are renowned for producing quality cricketers, ones that bring laurels aplenty to the nation.

However, a national event earlier this month sprouted a new snooker sensation – aged 30 – who, by virtue of reaching the final, qualified to represent Pakistan in April’s Asian Snooker Championship.

Sultan Muhammad is hard-working, talented, grew up playing snooker on the streets but, with limited finances and unemployment, cannot afford a decent cue.

He lost a one-sided final against the second-seed Mohammad Asif – who he will be partnering in Doha – but remains worried that his love for the game, which he took up as a hobby in his youth, might end up against a wall as he tries hard to collect enough cash to buy a new stick.

“The cue that I’m using right now is made locally and is of poor quality but unfortunately that’s all I could afford with my current state of finances,” said Sultan. “I am worried because the Asian Championship is a huge event for me and without a decent cue, it’ll be difficult to make an impression. However, with my country’s name at stake, I will try to give it my best shot.”

Sultan, who managed to invest in a Rs7,000 stick last year, remains confident that his game is skilful enough to overcome the lack of quality equipment.

Not being able to complete even his matriculation, Sultan finds it hard to get a job but relies on earning money, to move forward in the world, by taking on local opponents in a winner-takes-all battle. He does, however, have a brother residing in London who does assist financially and even sent in a world-class cue to help Sultan fulfil his dreams.

“My brother did send me a Rs70,000 stick but it didn’t click with my game and I sold it for Rs60,000 in fear of what it’d do to me if I carried on playing with it,” added Sultan, confident that quality equipment was all that he needed to make his national debut.

Snooker, even on the streets, is an expensive sport to pursue for the not-so-well-off. The equipment in snooker clubs is provided by the owners but they charge as much as Rs5 per minute, depending on the location and the quality of the tables.

“To beat the best, you have to practice with the best. A best-of-five encounter could cost almost Rs1,000 and that is a big amount for someone who doesn’t have a job but wants to play snooker.

“I’ve been playing on the streets for 16 years and never in my wildest of dreams had I seen this coming: playing for Pakistan is just an unbelievable achievement. I hope to make full use of this opportunity.”

Pakistan’s show in international events has been below-par of late. The hunt goes on for world-class players who can bring laurels to the country. An expected opportunity has risen for Sultan but his aim right now is not to win the Asian Championship, it’s just to take part in it with a proper cue.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2012.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

At your doorstep: Online shopping, without upfront payment

Facebook-based courier makes Rs4.4m in a month from cash-on-delivery services. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID

KARACHI: Almost non-existent a few years ago, Pakistan’s online retail market has witnessed phenomenal growth recently. As online shopping trend increases, one company making a name is BlueEX – a Karachi-based courier company – who delivers goods ranging from an iPhone to coffee beans to any destination in the country without any upfront payment.

Started in October 2009 by young entrepreneurs with backgrounds in IT, management and finance – BlueEX made revenue of Rs45 million in 2011 primarily.

BlueEX is online shopping platform selling its services entirely and directly through social networking site Facebook. It also says that its core competency is in a business model designed around cash-on-delivery (COD) service.

BlueEX facilitates about 200 vendors and sells their products online and delivers them to the end-users. Jafferjees, Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, Sweet Factory, Scentsation and Liberty Books are few of its clients.

The company, a subsidiary of Universal Freight Systems, made it’s first-ever profit in December last year, the company’s director of corporate strategy and finance Imran Baxamoosa told The Express Tribune.

It grossed Rs4.4 million in January 2012 against Rs4.2 million earned in the entire first quarter (January to March) of 2011, showing a massive 296% growth rate for the current quarter, Manager Accounts Athar Hussain said.

In 2009, online retail market did not even exist in the country, Hussain said, it is growing at about 200% to 250% on a yearly basis. Last month alone, they collected Rs20 million in cash-on-delivery shipments, a strong indicator of rapidly growing online retail market, Hussain said.

“The number of shipments has surged to 5,000 per month from 350 per month in 2009,” Hussain said.

The figures communicated are at the lower-end as the company’s young management took a conservative approach while revealing its financial data for the first time.

The company’s primary target is rural consumers that account for about 60% of the country’s population and potentially the largest chunk of online retail market.

A driving factor though, cash-on-delivery service is not the only source of revenue for BlueEX. It also charges business partners for additional services that include digital media solutions and online social marketing, services that jack up sales.

Hussain said one client – a dealer of branded garments and electronic goods – saw its business grew by six times through these services as it grossed Rs7 million in January 2012 compared with a mere Rs1 million in January last year.

Headquartered in Karachi, BlueEX operates from 42 stations with hubs in Peshawar, Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Hyderabad.

BlueEX succeeded because of its unique business model – a blend of logistics, technology and e-marketing – chief ideas officer Naveed Seraj said. It is all done through the facebook app iCheckout, he added.

The company’s facebook page, that already has more than 50,000 likes, facilitates complete transaction from selecting a product to placing an order and tracking the shipment. Additionally, company representatives are online throughout the day to respond to any queries.

“Launch of BlueEX was a value addition to our logistics business,” said Baxamoosa.

With the parent company having more than 30 years in the logistics business, BlueEX has an upper hand to deliver products to end-users, a luxury most online vendors don’t have.

Charging people online may work in the West but it does not really work in Pakistan, he said. BlueEX receives payment upon delivery, one of the core reasons for its success in rural areas where majority people don’t have credit cards.

The rural market, with their high buying power from farming income, has the pocket to purchase branded products but unfortunately there are no outlets. Availability was the only problem, which was solved following introduction of cash-on-delivery service.

Areas such as Swat, Abbotabad, Mansehra, Haripur Hazara, Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal, Multan, Sukkur and Hyderabad, Jacobabad and Larkana account for most of their sales, according to Baxamoosa.

“We even shipped an iPhone 4S to a remote location as there was no Apple store outlet there,” he said.

Having tapped facebook users, BlueEX is now gearing up to reach other remote locations through mobile phones, Baxamoosa said. The company has already developed an iPhone app and is waiting for the launch of 3G spectrum to expand its customer base, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2012.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Eyeing better ties, Indian commerce minister heads to Pakistan

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma (R) welcomes his Pakistani counterpart, Amin Fahim, during an India-Pakistan Business Conclave in New Delhi on September 29, 2011. PHOTO: AFP/FILE
NEW DELHI: The Indian commerce minister has reiterated his country’s commitment to removing barriers that restrict trade with Pakistan as he prepares to visit Islamabad next week.

Anand Sharma will leave for Lahore on Monday through the overland border post at Wagah to take part in a three-day “India Show” and hold trade talks with his Pakistani counterpart Amin Fahim.

“We want to build bridges of confidence and trust which is imperative to promote two-way trade between the two countries,” Sharma told a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday.

An array of legal and regulatory barriers has restricted official exchanges to $2.7 billion but Sharma said he was hopeful the sum would jump in the coming years.

“We hope to double this figure in a three-year period. Once direct trade through (the) land route is facilitated, there will be a manifold increase,” said Sharma, who will head a 120-strong delegation of business leaders and officials.

Deepening economic engagement between the two countries is seen as crucial to establishing lasting peace in the troubled South Asian region.

In 1996, India granted Pakistan “most preferred nation” status which is intended to remove discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs. Pakistan agreed in principle to grant a similar status to India last year, paving the way for a radical reorganisation of trade.

At present, Pakistan maintains a list of 1,945 items allowed to run from India to Pakistan but only 108 can be trafficked directly by road through Wagah.

Major items of export from India to Pakistan are sugar, cotton, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its top imports from Pakistan include fruit, mineral fuels, and organic chemicals.

Sharma said Pakistan had shown the willingness to move “towards a regime which deepens and diversifies our trade”, and India, on its part, was working towards visa reforms.


Friday, 10 February 2012

Whiz kid: After 4 world records, 14-year-old to present first research paper

Iqbals’ current research relates to Apple devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod). His method does not require Jailbreaking and can image an Apple device in less than 30 minutes.
After breaking four world records, 14-year-old whiz kid from Dera Ismail Khan, Babar Iqbal is now set to present his first research paper at the 8th IEEE International Conference on Innovations in Information Technology.
Iqbal will present a paper on digital forensic science, the field that covers the recovery and investigation of data from digital devices and is often used to aid computer crime investigations.
This is not the first time Iqbal has been in the spotlight, he was the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and the youngest Certified Internet Web Professional (CIWA) at the age of nine.

He then went on to become the youngest Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA), youngest Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) and youngest Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) in .NET 3.5 at the age of 10, 11 and 12 respectively.
Iqbal’s current research relates to Apple devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod). His method does not require Jailbreaking and can image an Apple device in less than 30 minutes.
This new method can help law enforcement agencies in retrieving digital forensic evidence present on an Apple device including contacts, texts, all multimedia files, GPS info and cellphone tower logs (which can help triangulate the location of a device at a certain point in time).
Iqbal is currently in Dubai, where he is training and working with Microsoft.

-Express Tribune

Youth festival: Spotlighting the colourful side of Pakhtun culture

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain visiting different stalls during a cultural festival in Peshawar on Wednesday. PHOTO: APP
PESHAWAR: To underscore the importance of peace and education, a cultural festival featuring traditional performing arts and Pashto poetry was held on Wednesday.
The event was attended by a large number of students, who appreciated the performers from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and tribal areas representing their culture.
Handicrafts, jewellery and musical instruments of Chitral and Afghanistan were also displayed in decorated stalls during the event.
The performers tried to highlight their traditions to show that militancy is not all their region should be known for.
Saeedullah, a student of the University of Peshawar who hails from Dabori in upper Orakzai Agency, said he was motivated to participate in the event to display his culture to the world.

Regarding the ongoing conflict in the agency, he said militants were on the backfoot as security forces have cleared 70 per cent of the area.
“We want to let the whole world know that we are peace-loving and violence doesn’t represent us,” he remarked.

Some of the stalls also displayed pictures of destruction in the aftermath of drone attacks.
“Drones are killing innocent people including women and children, which should be stopped immediately,” said Umar Wazir, another Peshawar University student belonging to North Waziristan.
Umar was of the view that his hometown is completely peaceful with no military operation being carried out at present.
Riaz Darmal, president of Afghan students in K-P, said the culture on both sides of the Durand Line was the same, adding that participating in the event was a pleasant experience for Afghan students.

He said Afghan people have kept their culture alive despite a three-decade long civil war and they want to see peace in the world.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who was the chief guest on the occasion, urged the youth to fight against terrorism through education and cultural promotion.

“Stopping one’s sister or daughter from going to school is not Pakhtun culture, in which women and children aren’t attacked and sanctity of mosques is maintained even in vendettas,” said Hussain.

The event was organised by Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme, a non-profit organisation. Hussain also distributed prizes among participants.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2012. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

13-year-old prodigy becomes lecturer at SSUET, FAST, MAJU

KARACHI: Mauhib Iqbal, after taking few short computer courses at the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) as a student, impressed his peers to the extent that the university has hired him as a faculty member.

Only 13 years old, Iqbal now teaches students older than himself. He has also started giving lectures to students of FAST University and Mohammad Ali Jinnah University (MAJU) and to those living in far flung areas of Interior Sindh via Skype.
The young IT genius has excelled in different programming languages including Microsoft.NET framework and C Sharp.
After scoring 84.4% in web application, Mauhib mastered different technologies including database web application, security software and motion capture.
“I don’t limit myself when I think about doing something, I believe in going an extra mile,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal wants to study in a foreign university and to use his skills for the betterment of the country.
“Mauhib is Pakistan’s asset and he can make the nation proud just like Arfa Karim,” said one of his teachers.