This article appeared in Dawn
The changes in computers and related technologies, and a desire to reach the apex of excellence keeps IT professionals on the learning track. Few would argue that those who opt for IT profession need to follow the path of development and keep their knowledge and skill levels updated or they may not bag a job, let alone survive one. One way to stay ahead is through certifications. However, certification credit is being marred by plethora of ‘braindumps’ available on the internet.
Labels: Certification, In Print, Technology
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:57 AM,
This article first appeared in the daily Nation
There should be footpaths with environment that is conducive to walking in our towns and cities. Heavily trafficked streets are stripped of life by noise, congestion and fumes and it becomes difficult for pedestrians to walk along city roads. Sadly, footpaths are continuously diminishing every day making towns and cities all over the country more and more unlivable.
Read more »
Footpaths (also called sidewalks or pavements) are paths designed for pedestrian traffic and often run alongside roads. Footpaths are more common in modern urban areas
and are sometimes separated from the roads by tree lanes or flower beds (depending on available spaces and prior urban planning).
Labels: Environment, In Print, Nation, Urban Culture, Urbanization
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:26 AM,
This article appeared in monthly Techno Biz Magazine Sep-Oct 2010 issue
Underwater laboratories and Space Stations
Challenge for Planners and Scientists
Affects on materialistic thinking and the architecture
Changes in the technical centralized Infrastructure
Influences on social life
It is probably due to upcoming jubilees, that the interest of the media is most visible on certain days of the year. The 50th anniversary of the manned space flight will be celebrated soon. Russian as well as US-american companies offer, at appropriate price, hotel stays in the space. The fantasy appears to move again in the direction of the moon occupancy. Also the research project Mars 500 in Moscow suggests a somewhat longer tour, and then again everything would be as usual, like Pool, Sun, Feasts, etc.
Events in the research project On the Earth take place outside of the earth. But this is of course theory, but the fact is, that future movements away from earth will nonetheless influence life on earth.Read more »
Labels: Environment, Homes and Houses, Housing, Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch, Real Estate
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:12 AM,
Overwhelming majority of newspaper readers in our country reads Urdu newspapers. Which is why there are so many Urdu newspapers are printed and circulated. Some of Pakistani newspapers have largest circulation around the world
Why are Urdu newspapers poorly designed, have messy layout and lack quality reading material? Pick up a leading Urdu newspaper on Sunday and what you will find is advertisement, that too poorly laid out and nothing else. So much so, I have seen just a headline on the front page and rest of the space taken up by ads. The inner pages are so cluttered and jam packed with uncategorized ads that it becomes difficult to fine where is your favorite column by Munnu Bahi or where is an opinion piece by Dr. Irfan Siddiquie. Even the Sunday magazines that accompany the newspapers are full of unrelated crap, unattractive imagery and lack of design element. It seems that Urdu newspapers have not changed with time. I know that all publishing houses are using computers but they are not utilizing them as computers are being utilized in English newspapers.
I know that no newspapers can survive without advertisements. What I am surprised about is that don’t the editors and graphic designers arrange then aesthetically so that readers can actually red the newspapers as well.
I am an Urdu newspaper reader. Almost all Urdu papers are still part of a pile that sits on my side table on each Sunday. I wish, one day, I can pick up a paper and read through conveniently. May be the readers have to play the role to bring the change.
Labels: Media, Newspapers, Print Industry
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:22 AM,
Mohammad Rafiq Khan
In past few decades, a number of genuine concepts have emerged and been displayed on the international screen to address the problems of destabilization of economies, food and energy, and poverty and unemployment. Two examples worth quoting in this context are “Appropriate Technology” and “Sustainable Development”.
Former has been let aside and thus has almost disappeared from the scene and the latter is being pursued contemporarily and has been accepted almost globally as a tool to protect future generations from the shocks of poverty, unemployment, lack of energy and environmental damages. The keynote being presented here is designed to address the current energy crises with special reference to sustainable development to point out how to make the best use of available resources and assign economic value to the wastes via resource recovery, production of thermoelectric power and so on. The major focus of discussion will be on techno-economic disposal of solid waste and rationalization of approach to adapt alternative energy resources.
Techno-economic disposal of solid waste can effectively address the problem of electrical shortage. This is because the techno-economic disposal of waste is based on the hypothesis, that the total amount of resources in the universe remains constant although they may change from one form to another. This hypothesis may in future have the status of a law to be known as ‘Law of Conservation of Resources’ just like ‘Law of Conservation of Mass’ and ‘Law of Conservation of Energy.’ This law provides a firm basis for sustainable development; the concept floated as a cure of all economic ills to stabilize the shaky economies. According to this law, a waste is no more a waste as every waste can be assigned an economic value. Thus, the exploitation of the solid waste that includes municipal waste, agricultural waste, industrial waste, hospital waste and so on forms an adequate and logical option for enquiry in context of the current energy crises. It will not only translate into production and supply of electricity but also into cleanliness of our environment from the solid waste which is otherwise a big environmental nuisance.Read more »
Labels: Energy, Environment
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:24 AM,
When one has seen one Punjabi Town, one has seen them all, except Malka Hans. Now long forgotten by most people, a historic little town - serene, tranquil, pollution free - was once an abode of Waris Shah, who stayed here and composed universal romance Heer Ranjha. Legend has it that Malik Muhammad (alia Malka) - a member of Hans tribe founded the town some 700 years ago. Hans became powerful when Mughal King Alamgir conferred a vast land around Malka Hans on Sheikh Qutab Hans. In 1764, Muhammad Azam who was the descendants of Qutab Hans became head of the clan and made himself independent.
Ran Singh Nakka later treacherously took Muhammad Azam prisoner where he died in confinement. A great Punjabi poet, Waris Shah was born in Jandiala Sher Khan (district Shekhupura) in 1719. After completing his education in Kasur (district Lahore), he shifted his residence to village Malka Hans. Here he resided in a small hujra (living room) adjacent to the historic mosque that was constructed by Hans in 1340. Hafiz Ghulam Murtaza commonly known as Mian Wadda was the trustee of the mosque and used to lead the prayer when Waris Shah came here. In the absence of Mian Wadda, Waris Shah performed the duty of leading the prayer congregations.
It is this 'Hujra Waris Shah Da' that I had come to see in Malka Hans. Waris Shah had composed an illustrious Punjabi folk romance sitting in this hujra. The underground 8 x 6 feet hujra where the poet lived is still there though devoid of any furniture or things that could be related to Waris Shah to bring back the memory of the poet. Only sign showing that Waris Shah had been living here is a crudely written plaque with sketchy details about the poet. The classic work of Waris Shah - Shakespeare of Punjabi language - echoes in the countryside and youth and elders sing with joy. One can find a number of folk vocalists singing Heer Waris Shah around the vast expanses of Punjab and other parts of the Subcontinent where Punjabi language is used. Many people remember major portions of his work by heart. Poetry of Waris Shah is written in easy language and can be understood by anyone with average language skills. The couplets are used as idioms and phrases in day-to-day life. The ancient mosque, now known as Mosque Waris Shah, with three green color domes and a hujra are venerated by literary figures, curiously conscious and devoted faithful.
I could not see the book (Heer Waris Shah) written in longhand by the poet himself despite the best effort. There is another small room in the mosque premises with nameplate that reads, "Library Waris Shah" but that too was closed and the key could not be procured because "it had been misplaced". The monument is in the care and custody of Anjuman-e- Warisia (Registered). It is not being given the attention it deserves. The residents of this town celebrate Annual Jashne Waris when romantic and mystic poetry of Waris Shah is sung by folk singers. I was thinking as to how the plight of this priceless heritage could be brought to the echelons of power. The town is located 30 minutes drive away from Sahiwal and has a Town Committee, which has not been able to do any thing other than brick lining in some of the dusty and dark streets in town. Conservation of legendary national heritage we are poised to loose forever is a difficult task for the civic body with little resources.
Exploring this sleepy little agricultural town, you can also see the dilapidated relics of Parnami temple that used to be one of the central ashram of Parnami faction of Hindus. Mahant Darbara Singh had constructed palace like five-story majestic building of the temple over 200 year ago. Dust of ages has settled in deep layers on the pedestal where Smadhi of Dya Ram - the founder of Parnami sect used to rest in the main chamber of the temple. "Large number of Hindus had been visiting here before partition and there use to be a big annual mela in the month of Chetar," informed a villager who is using this place as a house. "I am paying rent to Auqaf for living in this Khandar," he complained a little wistfully.
This grand monument of the past with sold masonry and ornate designs wrought by artisans and artists centuries ago was one of the fine specimens of Hindu architecture. Termite is eating Wood but exquisite quality of woodwork on windows, doors and murals on the battered walls can still be seen. The think red bricks excavated from this monument have been used in houses in the town. And, sadly, the temple cannot be defined in the images. Auqaf does not appear to have any idea about what to do with these splendid remains of the Hindu architectural legacy, except perhaps recovering the rent from the tenants. "Last time Auqaf got the place cleaned was when Indian Minister Hari Karishan Bhagat and Ambassador De Sharma visited the temple", informed the present occupant of the edifice. Legend has it that there was a tunnel from this temple to Pakpattan, though I could not locate the opening of the tunnel because huge quantity of rubble lying everywhere in the courtyard.
On the way back, I
along with my friends had dinner break at a roadside-eating joint known as 'Pak Afghan Rohani Baba Hotel' near Yousaf Wala (Sahiwal
). Sitting on ground, we had their famous mutton dish specially made in lamb fat. That reminded me of a small but famous eating joint in Saranan near Quetta.
Labels: Heer, Ranjha, Travel
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:40 PM,
Labels: Sweet Tweets, Twitter
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:59 PM,
The claim of Hasan Abdal to international fame is Sikh Gurdwara (temple) known as Panja Sahib having a rock with the hand print of their religious leader Baba Guru Nanak. Twice a year, Sikh pilgrims visit this Gurdwara from all over the world. The legend has it that in 1521 AD, while passing through then deserted area on a very hot day, Guru Nanak's companion Bhai Mardana got very thirsty. The Guru suggested that he go to the Saint Baba Wali Qandhari who lived in a hut atop a nearby hill and ask for water. The Saint refused to give water from his well. Desperate with thirst, Mardana repeated his plea three times. Finally the saint reprimanded Mardana who returned to his guru and collapsed at his feet.
The Guru asked him to pick up a stone. The disciple did as he was told, and water flowed from under the stone, while the Saint's well dried up. The Saint then pushed a large boulder from hilltop and sent it rolling towards the Guru and Mardana. But when the boulder reached them, the Guru stretched out his hand and stopped it with his palm.
During Sikh rule, Hari Sing Nalva got the edifice of temple made at the place. Later, the temple was extended and a sarai (inn) was added for accommodation. The temple is typical of the rather florid Sikh style with gilded domes and cupolas and stands in the middle of a large water tank. Built with grey sandstone, its exterior is spotted with protruding domed bay windows. The central fluted dome is encircled by several symmetrically placed big and small domed kiosks. The cemented water tank derives its supply from a fresh water spring that emerges from underneath a huge rock. Now this huge rock has that famous hand print on it for which the site is known as 'Panja Sahib'. On the nearby hill, at an altitude of 714 meters, lies a meditation chamber of Saint Baba Wali Qandhari, popularly known as Baba Hasan Abdal. The saint stayed in Hasan Abdal from 1406-1416 AD but died and is buried in village Baba Wali near Qandhar (Afghanistan). The devotees and visitors climb over the steps leading to the hill, for offerings and to have a panoramic view of Hasan Abdal. Two other historical buildings of Mughal era (Muqbara Hakeeman and so-called tomb of Lala Rukh) are located just opposite the temple. Hasan Abdal is an interesting small town.
Related: Rediscovering our Sikh heritage
Labels: Panja Sahib, Sikh, Travel
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:58 AM,
Perched in between legendary Suleman Range on one side and mighty River Indus on the other, ruins of original Harand Fort are situated in the area commonly known as Pachaddh. The Fort has seen a lot in the past and looks as if hiding thousands of secrets besides its historical and archaeological importance.
The Fort was originally built opposite historic Chachar Pass in Suleman Range to guard against the invaders. The fading signs of the edifice are still there in the forms of derbies and bricks scattered around the old site. Sikh Governor Sawan Mall used the material of the old fort rebuilt the Fort on a new location in 1831. Present structure of the Fort - a valuable part of our heritage - is situated about 25 kilometres west of sleepy and rustic town Dajal in district Rajan Pur. The Fort is spread over an area of 50 acres. The outer wall of whatever is left of it is one kilometre long and was made of thin red bricks. There are 16 pillars. Main entrance is in the west and another one is in the east. What ever is left of the fort is a clear evidence of its past, solidity of masonry and quality of construction.
Over 200 rodkohis (seasonal hill torrents) come out of this mineral rich Suleman Range, and if properly managed, could irrigate more than two hundred thousand acres of agricultural land, most of the Pachaddh area, but the scheme for flood distribution, canalization and construction of spill ways is yet to be approved. The water of these torrents causes colossal damage to life, crops and property in every monsoon season and flows unutilized.
Lined up with Pillu trees, Dajil-Harand Road is broken-down and boulder like stones are spread around. It takes painfully long to cover the distance of just 25 kilometres. Ex-President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari who has his roots in the area, during his tenure managed electricity and telephone in the area but could not get the roads built that are necessary for the development of this historic belt.
History has it that Harand Fort was originally built by Hindu Raja Harnakish in the name of his son Hari Nand. The fort had seen three different periods: Hindu, Macedonian and Muslim.
As per the local lore, when young Alexander the Great, on his way home after conquering most of the known world, came in the area, Harand was under the rule of Hindu king who had beautiful daughter. Her name is quoted as Nowshaba. She was talented, brave and daring princess. The princess was fond of hunting besides being strong and efficient administrator of her father’s state. Alexander heard about the princess and wanted to see the beauty queen personally. Alexander himself approached the fort in the guise of a ‘messenger of Alexander.’ He was taken to the court of Hindu Raja where Princess Nowshaba saw the ‘messenger of Alexander’. She ordered that the messenger be immediately taken to royal guesthouse. In the guesthouse when Alexander introduced himself as a messenger, the princess smiled and pointed towards the wall where images of all contemporary kings including Alexander were hanging. Iranian poet Nizami has written this incidence in Sikandar Nama adding that both got married. The veracity of the marriage or this incident is yet to be proved by historical evidence though. (Another tale says that Alexander also married the wife of defeated General in his war near Saga.)
The third period of this historical monument starts with the arrival of Muslims in the area in early eighth century. The palm trees found in the region are indicated as an evidence of the arrival of Arabs’ Army. Subsequently, all the adventurers who came this way - from Changez Khan to Muhammad Chori - visited the fort and used it for their convenience, contemplating their next moves.
During Sikh rule, the fort was rebuilt on the present location for strategic reasons. This fort garrisoned the Sikh army to control the Baloch tribes. Later, the famous battle between British troops and Marri-Bugti tribes was fought here in 1867. After annexation of South Asia, the British used the fort as a cantonment. The British carried out limited excavation and historic artefacts recovered from the site were sent to British Museum in London. Presently, there is a small Lewis post in the fort.
All said and done, off the beaten track, ruins of Harand Fort still continue to mystify those who take their chance to go there. First of all it gives an emotional look, as a symbol of our evolution and continuity. No matter what your pursuits and interests, you will fancy finding out so many things about the important monument of the past. And, every time you leave Harand and look back to watch the fort receding in the distance, your mind is flooded with thoughts of its architects and inmates over a long period of time as it stands there lonely and mysteriously on the Suleman mountain, its importance lost in the hazy vistas of time.
As I drove back on a pebbled road, plied mainly by animal transports and occasional automobiles, I could not help thinking: Can the plight of the priceless site be brought to the echelons of power? Can some national or international agency be moved to act and save the place for coming generations before disappears totally? The remains of the monument have to be preserved and saved from total ruination, a danger they are facing at present.
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:56 AM,
Pakistan gets a large number of guest birds from Europe, Central Asian States and India every year. The birds from North spend winters in different wetlands and deserts of Pakistan, which are distributed almost throughout the country, from the high Himalayas to coastal mangroves and mud flats in the Indus delta. And, after winters they go back to their native habitats.
This famous route from Siberia to various destinations in Pakistan over Karakorum, Hindu Kush, and Suleiman Ranges along Indus River down to the delta is known as International Migratory Bird Route Number 4. It is also called as the Green Route or more commonly Indus Flyway.
Endowed with a remarkable geology, Pakistan spans several of the world’s ecological regions and is spread over broad latitude. The rich Indus delta and the highlands in Pakistan are a great attraction for the guest birds. Which is why the Indus Flyway is one of the busiest in the world.
The birds start on this route in November. February is the peak time and by March they start flying back home. These periods may vary depending upon weather conditions in Siberia and or Pakistan. There are a total of seven identified flyways in the world: from Northern Europe to Scandinavian countries, Central Europe to Mediterranean Sea, Western Siberia to Red Sea, Green Route from Siberia to Pakistan, Ganga Flyway from Eastern Siberia to India, Manchuria to Korea and one from Chakotaka to California. Besides these there are many regionaland smaller routs all over the world.
The Indus Flyway is important due to the diverse species and large number of birds that take this itinerary: different species of water fowls, cranes, teals, pintail, mallard and gadwall, the list goes on. Some extinguishing species like white-headed duck, houbara bustard and Siberian crane also travel on this route.
As per an estimate based on regular counts at different Pakistani wetlands, between 700,000 and 1,200,000 birds arrive in Pakistan through Indus Flyway every year. Out of which over 70 per cent of the admirable visitors stay in Thanedar Wala Game Reserve (International Ramsar site number (IRS) 97 where Crane Refuge has also been constructed), Tenda Dam (IRS98), Kinjhar Lakes (IRS 99), Drigh (IRS 100). Haleji Lake (IRS 101) where in the past, over 100,000 migratory birds of more than 222 species had been reported, and which was once called the Bird Watchers’ Paradise by the then president of the World Wide Fund for Nature, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh), Ucchali Complex
(IRS818), Taunsa (IRS 817), Chishma (IRS 816), Rasul, Qadar Abad Barrages, and Lal Sohanra. There are 45 sanctuaries and reserves spread over anarea of about 0.90 million hectares in Sindh alone. Some of the birds that come to our country from northern latitudes arrive at coastal creeks. The remaining birds land up in lakes, which are fondly and proudly maintained by landowners. Only a few places in the world have such plentiful variety of winged life as the wetlands of Pakistan.
The bird watching has become an increasingly popular pursuit in Pakistan, more and more people have started taking break and are seen on rendezvous with birds. I have seen bird houses at homes of some bird enthusiasts. But the most exciting are usually the least expected encounters in the wilderness. That makes the Indus Delta and Coastal Mangrove forests breathtaking experience for bird watchers. Each winter, the stage is set there for migration thrills coupled with local avian population. Other locations that have started to attract global and foreign bird watchers to Pakistan are narrow belts in Northern Areas when trees sprout, floral buds open, honey sucking nectars and other tiny insects swarm the air there and a range of avifauna concentrates in foothills on the onset of summers. The Margalla Hills in Islamabad are also bird rich area.
Out of the many guest birds two are especially important: houbara bustard and Siberian crane. Houbara breeds mainly in the Kizil Kum Desert region southeast of Aral Sea in Central Asia and migrates in the winter months, and large number settle down for the season in Cholistan
deserts. It also over-winters in part of Iran, Afghanistan, India and Arabian Desert. There are two biologically separate populations of Houbara found in Pakistan. Chlamydotisundulata is described as the North African race and is smaller and darker in plumage than the Asian sub specie Chlamydotis undulatamacqueenii. Both races are migratory, but there is substantial evidence that a small breeding population of Chlamydotis undulataexists in Balochistan. Whether these are totally resident birds or young birds, which miss out on the first migration back north is unclear. As per the National Avian Research Centre China, “Houbara’s recorded average flying speed is 30 kilometres per hour with up to 1268 kilometres covered between stop overs and 700 kilometres flown in24 hours.”
The Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus), also known as Asiatic Crane and sometimes called as Sibes, is one of the most rare birds of the world. It is snow white overall, with red skin covering front of head,face and around the eyes. Crane’s bill is thick and legs are pinkish red. Wing tips are black which are only visible when the bird is airborne. Both sexes are alike but immature birds have brownish yellow plumage. The Siberian crane’s distinctive morphology, vocalizations,feeding and courtship behaviour distinguish it from the other Grus species. Eggs are generally laid from late May to June, with peak production occurring in the first week of June.
In most cases two eggs are laid, with only one chick surviving to fledging. The incubation period is about 29 days, and chicks fledge at 70-75 days. Siberian cranes, start from Ob River basin in Siberia and prefer to spend winters at the Yakutiya River or the Poyang Lake in China, but some of them head for Pakistan, Iran and India. Wetlands and shallow areas in Sindh create excellent feeding habitat for Sibes. This is one bird that deserves compassion and special care the world over. Another of the winged creature Great egrets (Casmerodius albus) can also be sighted in many areas in Pakistan.
In different Pakistani habitats the guest birds live like “Pairs of Saras” — using the metaphor from romantic literature. As a host it is our responsibility to provide them comfortable and peaceful environment, which can be done by efficiently managing the wetlands particularly those listed as International Ramsar sites — natural resource reservoirs. All wetlands are active agents for recharging water tables and aquifers besides being home to birds. Human activities around the birds’ dwellings, wars, deforestation, water pollution, hunting, introduction of exotic fish species and developing the wetlands for fisheries’ production on commercial scale are some ofthe common disturbance that cause irritation to birds anywhere.
Bird migration superbly demonstrates the complexity and the wonder ofthe web of life. The evolution of individual migratory strategies of different bird species over the past tens of thousands of years represents a delicate balance of nature, making it very sensitive tothe impacts of human activity. One such human influence, global warming (caused mainly by the burning of coal and oil since the Industrial Revolution), is poised to cause catastrophic alteration tothis delicate balance.
Pakistan is an important and active contracting member to Ramsar Convention for the conservation of wetlands and Bonn Convention for protection of migratory animals and birds. Indus Flyway Committee was established in early 70s to collect more information and improve the protection of the birds while they are in Pakistan. Zoology, Wildlife, and Forest Departments as well a few non-governmental organizations are actively working in the field. Regular mid winter bird counts arecarried out and useful database of relevant information has been gathered. The data is likely to produce important results. The experts have already concluded that the migratory birds have ecological benefits as they prey on insects and weeds thus contributing towards the betterment of agriculture. Similarly, the faecal material of the birds consists of organic matter that contributes towards the fertility of the soil.
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 6:35 PM,
This article appeared in weekly Friday Times
In the past few decades, perhaps no calligrapher has created more waves in the field of calligraphy than Ibn-e-Kaleem – the inventor of new script Khate-e-Ra’ana, which literally means beautiful. Ibn-e-Kaleem already stands above the streams of calligraphers who have come before him.
Today he works in his father’s studio where he grew up. Experimenting with the styles of Nastaleeq, Kufi, Riqa, Diwani and Naqash, he is churning out master pieces and achieving greater recognition by the day. Read more »
Labels: Arts, Calligraphy, In Print, Khate-e-Ra’ana, The Friday Times
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 4:20 PM,
Reliable data can make a difference, and the key is to collect, analyze and disseminate data in a way that drives good decision making. The numbers that emerge from data collection can illuminate important trends. It is the censuses, surveys and vital statistics initiatives which provide critical data to guide plans, policies and programmes to meet people’s needs and improve their lives”. UNFPA will continue its efforts to support the Government of Pakistan in raising awareness about the importance of the forthcoming population and housing census in Pakistan, said Mr Rabbi Royan, Senior Technical Adviser, UNFPA while concluding a provincial-level seminar on “Population Census and Pakistan’s Development” organized jointly the UNFPA and The University of Gujrat in a local hotel at Lahore.
While opening the seminar proceedings the Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin
remarked that there is a strong need to advocate for integration of population issues into provincial development planning processes, policies and programs. Others challenges faced by the provinces include understanding of why reliable data is so crucial to human development including humanitarian initiatives. The seminars at the three other provincial capitals will help highlight need to conduct the sixth Population Census as early as possible and therefore the need to solicit support of provincial authorities”.
further said that there is a dire need to undertake advocacy and sensitization activities for policymakers and planners to ensure that there is a sustained understanding.
Labels: Demographer, Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:01 PM,
Read more »
Internet cafes have played a visible role in promoting internet usage. It is a public place where people can use a computer with internet access for an affordable fee. Café may or may not serve as a conventional café. Besides internet connection, a number of cafes also provide other services such as printing, scanning, CD viewing and burning. Some even conduct internet training classes for beginners. The word is that some of the cafes around the world are being used for activities much beyond their scope.
Eva Pascoe, a PhD student while sitting in the coffee shop of London City University conceived and decided "to put a permanent PC connection in a coffee shop and link it to internet."
Labels: Technology, Traditional Culture
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 7:04 PM,
Read more »
Labels: Lahore School of Economics
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 5:28 PM,
I am neither a collector nor a philatelic but I can sure appreciate when I see collection of a larger life span. Jalal HB
stated collecting stamps when he was a ‘little boy.’ His father was then the head of Interpol in Pakistan and had his mail coming from all over the world and kept feeding Jalal’s passion. Seeing his craze, Jalal’s elder, who himself was an avid stamp lover, gifted his collection to him. And that was only a start.
Now a big boy, Jalal has documented history in a sizeable collection
he has and is proud of. What is more, he has started My Philatelic World
where he is transferring his treasure online. I suggest all stamps’ lovers see what he has on his blog. It is treat even for a non collector like me.
Labels: Hobbies, Stamps
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:50 PM,
The Mud Housing Project is being currently implemented by SPARC in Lahore.
had taken up the initiative years ago in order to remind of the importance of mud as construction material and to sensitize the general public in this respect.
Mud is not a construction material of the past; that steel concrete and bricks have pushed back such good construction material is a story in itself. Considering the enormous costs of cooling and heating the current form of buildings, it becomes quite clear that mud is environmentally friendly, energy efficient and biologically far superior. Read more »
Labels: DGFK, Lahore, Mud Architecture, Mud Housing Project, Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:22 AM,
This article appeared in daily the Nation
People try to hunt out the most alluring and the most fascinating places that they can find to visit. The thrill or idea of a place is what inspires curious and quirky travels further and deeper. Locale of twin villages Ucchali and Dhadhar is one such place for anyone who can be happy just being closer to the raw nature and it is off the beaten track.
To travel as a person interested in nature (as if there were other ways to travel) is to have regrets these days. Inevitably, most is already gone. But there are, of course, many such places out there. Only one has to find them. Three lakes near quaint villages Ucchali and Dhadhar are good examples. Complex of three lakes is recognised as International Ramsar Site (number 818). Hills in the background, grass and walking trails make the place attractive.
The lakes are picturesque with the foliage of different kinds of towering grasses, their meadows of floating lotus leaves, their myriads of waterfowl of diverse species. In seasons when lotus and grass come to bud, the lakes present an exquisite appearance, as the water surface along the shore and marshy patches are covered with an unbroken succession of flowers and leaves. I have travelled to, and through, many places but Ucchali Complex, as the three lakes are called, have something for, or do something to, me every time I am there. Everyone who visits this place can have the pleasure.
Tucked in the southern periphery of the Salt Range and hemmed in by its higher cliffs, cluster of natural lakes ? Ucchali, Khabbeki and Jhallar ? are situated in district Khushab. Biologists say that the lakes have been here for at least 400 years, maybe more. But the complex of lakes first came to prominence in 1966 when it was declared a protected sanctuary for the native and migratory avifauna on the appeal of World Wildlife Fund. Later, Ucchali Complex was designated for the list of wetlands of international importance in the Iranian port city Ramsar (from where the convention draws its name) when Pakistan became a contracting member to the convention held there in July 1976. Some other recognized Ramsar sites in Pakistan are Tenda Dam, Taunsa and Chishma Barages on Indus River, Drigh, Haleji, Kinjhar lakes and Thanedar Wala Game Reserve. All wetlands are active agents for recharging water tables and aquifers, besides being home to diverse bird populations.
Ucchali Lake Complex in the central Punjab is unique in many ways. Nestled at about 800 meters above the sea, lakes have some marsh vegetation and are mostly surrounded by cultivated land, which is picturesquely intersected by hillocks. The lakes are fed by the spring, seepage from adjacent areas, and run off from the neighbouring hills of the historic Salt Range. The water level and salinity fluctuate according to rainfall in the area and it varies at different times of the year, and year to year. The depth in the lakes also keeps changing and the water is usually saline. The number of birds present in Ucchali Complex also rises and falls widely from time to time, depending upon the water level and salinity. The lakes are one of the most important wintering areas for the rare white-headed ducks (Oxyura leucocephala) in Pakistan that comes here from Central Asia.
Marsh vegetation is confined to small patches along the lake shores. There is a very rich growth of grass (called plankton) in the marsh. The natural vegetation of the region is a mixture of subtropical semi evergreen forest and tropical thorn forest. Even the grass looks magical when it comes into flowers. The golden colour Salt Range in the backdrop also wears a greener look in the spring and rainy seasons. On the southern side, vast stretches of vegetation in the plains are lined everywhere with avenues of trees. The lakes provide good opportunities for scientific research, nature oriented travel, walking and bird watching.
Walking the area is very refreshing. The only company you might have en route is squirrels, rabbits or butterflies. The public sector orchard near the complex is another restful spot where one can sample off-season fruits of several varieties. The area also makes one of the finest rendezvous for watching birds. The most prominent presence is diving birds that hover over the lakes ready to dive the moment they spot the catch in water. Winged creatures that have arresting tonal contrasts also catch the eye and attention.
On one visit to the Ucchali Complex, I was accompanying a high profile group of wetland experts. They talked in jargon-loaded language ? even the name of local birds and trees did not seem familiar to me.
Experiencing ennui in their company, I took a chance to talk to the locals and picked up ideas in the process instead. I learnt many interesting stories: In 1982, a strange phenomenon was observed in the villages Ucchali and Dhadhar. A very broad and distinct rainbow appeared over the horizon of Ucchali Lakes Complex that was seen continuously for 15 days. No scientific explanation of this has been given so far, but the locals think that the rainbow appeared because of a volcano hidden under the three lakes located near the villages. I kept looking at the sky and it looked clearer and cleaner. They also tell that the water of these lakes keeps changing colours due to the volcano. Also, the lakes? water is considered as a cure for gout and skin diseases. People have been taking the water from the lakes as far as Lahore and Karachi. People think that a pure white winged creature called Great egret, from Grus family, found in the area is a symbol of longevity.
The ancestors of Qutab Shahi Awans, who migrated from Afghanistan many centuries ago, inhabited Ucchali and Dhadhar villages among many others in the Soan Valley where they live in peace using old agricultural methods. The hospitable folks of the area can be recognized by their long shirts and sandals they wear and the loving dialect they speak. There are no facilities in the area, but of course you can rely on Awans? hospitality.
So far, only geologists or NGOs interested in ecology venture on the Ucchali Complex. The main reason why not many people know of the place or have traveled to the Ucchali Complex is lack of information. And the public sector tourism departments do not seem keen to help even in providing information about the serene place that?s particularly interesting for nature lovers or bird enthusiasts. I have not seen the mention of this location in any touristy literature. Residents of the area do not seem interested in research-oriented activities because it does not involve them or have any return for them. They wish that the lakes should be developed as a recreation spot like Kallar Kahar, as it was before the completion of the motorway. It is wise now that the Kallar Kahar Lake is turning into a typical buss adda (stop) due to the proximity of the interchange on the motorway near the Lake.
Labels: Environment, In Print, Nature, Ramsar Sites, Travel, Wetlands
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:01 PM,
Article lined below appeared in monthly Techno Biz Magazine
Labels: In Print, Mud Architecture, Straw Architecture, Techno Biz Mag
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:13 AM,
Labels: Books, Clicked This
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:01 AM,
Atiq Ahmed Arshad
In the end of 20th centaury, cultural arts are recognizing on the scientific bases, and the Muslim scholars also take over the scientific achievements in the world of art. In the Islamic cultural history many branched of arts are developed on scientific techniques.
Calligraphic history is too old as Islamic history and Muslim artists are researching on Calligraphy from “Khat-e-Koofi” which is the developed form of “Khat-e-Moakli” and after short period, in the start of fourth (4th) centaury of Hijria. Imam e fun “Ibn-e-Maqla” has worked over the Islamic ways of waiting, so by his personnel and deep concepts of training made up the six writing styles known as:Read more »
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:20 PM,
We are very familiar with straw and mud. Explore the countryside and you will see dried stalks of threshed grains, especially wheat and rice everywhere. Straw is used as a fodder, for covering floors, and thatching roofs, and in weaving mats, screens, baskets, ornaments, hats, fans and more. You can also see mud houses dotting the countryside landscape.
Building homes and other living structures with straw is also tradition dating as back as to the start of civilization. Since prehistory, human beings are using straw as a construction material. The incorporation of machine compressed bales seems to have started in early last century though. Compressed straw bales are being used like bricks in the buildings.
Having grown up in the rural Punjab myself (I come from a rustic village situated on the bank of River Jhelum where it passes along the foot of the Salt Range), straw and mud have a special place rooted deep in to my cultural perceptions and this personal bond encourages a more intimate relationship between the straw and me.
Earlier we have discussed how mud engineering is reviving in Pakistan. Thanks to Dr. Norbert Pintsch and his mud architecture projects that focus on architecture constructed of mud brick, rammed earth, compressed earth block and other methods of earthen construction. The proliferation of concept to use mud and improved techniques in order to raise the level of living in the population was discussed here on these pages some time ago. Now we have a look at straw as indigenous construction material.
Straw engineering has been introduced (I say re-introduced) in Pakistan after the devastating earthquake of 2005. Remember MW 7.6 quake that killed an estimated 100,000 people, razed over 780,000 buildings and rendered more than 3.5 million homeless mainly due to poorly constructed buildings in the area. Some 11 straw bale houses have been built in earthquake hit areas of Pakistan. A project to compress straw into bales is also working in village Jabbori – a heaven like village on the bank of River Siran in district Mansehra that suffered severe damage and loss of life in the 2005 earthquake. The awareness about the straw engineering and appropriate technology is growing fast.
What is more, Builders Without Borders (BWB) - an international network of ecological builders who form partnerships with communities and organizations around the world to create affordable housing from local materials and to work together for a sustainable future - believe the solution to homelessness is not merely housing, but training of local population to make houses for them. With the help of non-profit groups, BWB is offering help in the form of educational materials and has donated books and training materials for use at local level.
Renowned engineer Darcey Donovan is the spirit behind the concept of promoting straw engineering in Pakistan. Donovan has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, an M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno, and is a licensed Professional Civil Engineer practicing since 1986. She is very keenly working to see straw engineering takes off in the earthquake affected areas in northern Pakistan.
There are many reasons to use straw as a building material. Close examination of eco-architect Laurie Baker’s straw buildings reveals that “using natural materials and showing them off will lead to a greener building. Such strategies reduce the use of energy-guzzling materials such as cement, steel, aluminum and glass.” Straw engineering is earthquake resistant, consumes less energy and produces lesser emission. Straw (wheat, rice) is locally available in abundance.
Straw is economical, practical, functional and attractive alternative. It is easy to work with. Straw is especially useful in hot climates like we have in Pakistan and in earthquake prone areas. Straw is a natural material that is found everywhere, especially where other building materials such as bricks, stone or wood are scarce due to affordability and or availability.
Straw engineering is a construction method that uses compressed straw bales as structural elements, building insulation, or both. There are two major types of construction with compressed straw bales: load bearing and non load bearing. A pillar and beam framework that supports the basic structure of the building, with the compressed bales of straw used like normal bricks, is the most common non-load bearing method. On the other hand there are many load- bearing compressed straw bale buildings that are standing just fine. It is estimated that “the method and materials (mud, straw) can produce buildings at half the cost of conventional earthquake-resistant buildings in Pakistan.
Some unfounded myths say that that straw building have a greater risk for fire, can be easily infested by pests and straw gets wet and ultimately decompose? Empirical observations and laboratory tests show that this is not true. Canadian and American materials laboratories have found that “the straw bale structure wall has proven to be exceptionally resistant to fire.” What is more, walls can be mud plastered as early as possible to increase their fire resistance. Similarly, pests are more of an imagined concern than a real threat. Once the walls are properly mud plastered or sided, there is no way for bugs or rodents to get into the bales.
Moisture threats can be handled easily with proper design and construction methods. So long as the dry compressed bales are installed and are properly sealed with the plaster and protected from water infiltration, they will perform well. With proper construction techniques, water will not enter the building thus making decomposition impossible. Rice straw, in particular, has a high silica content which increases its resistance to decay.
Focus of straw engineering is on architecture with the help of compressed straw bales, rammed earth, compressed mud blocks and other earthen construction materials. The proliferation of concept to use straw and appropriate technology in order to improve the quality of life is a very welcome idea and we in Pakistan need that. This can go a long way not only in the form of changing the look of population centers, rural as well as urban, but also in solving environmental problems related to use of energy and other finite resources. We already have convincing engineering evidence that straw buildings are safe and sound to start.
Labels: Mud Architecture, Straw Architecture
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:20 AM,
The Eighth Annual Conference on Towards Accelerated Economic Growth in Pakistan:
Pakistan has been in "stabilisation" mode for two decades, off and on with the support of an IMF programme. During this period, there has not been much of either stabilisation or economic growth, and this state of affairs might continue unless there is a redirection of the country’s economic policies and development programmes. In the meantime, other neighbouring economies – India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – are galloping or proceeding on a pretty decent clip.
Domestic politics, poor law and order situation and a state of general insecurity obviously deter private investment and growth, but accelerated economic activity and rising living standards could conceivably help to abate some of the causes of the unrest in Pakistan. Certainly, reduction of fiscal deficit and bringing down inflation may be more feasible in a growth setting, as the experience of some countries shows. Perennial stabilisation programmes lose their credibility over time as general public ceases to take official policy pronouncements seriously and as resentment mounts against policies that spell hardship for general public. Read more »
Labels: Education, Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan Economy
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:45 PM,
Like many others, I started writing in Hilal early in life. That is where I started. I still write here. This urdu peace appeared in Pakistan Army Monthly Hila, May 2012 issue. This shows my desire for Pakistan Army to adopt to Social Media and also points to some of the advantages it can have. In my opinion, Pakistan Army needs to reach out through Social media channels more than ever before. Read the article here
Labels: Hilal, In Print, Social Media, Urdu Blogs
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:16 AM,
This article first appeared in daily the Nation
, September 19, 2010 issue
Fine combination of traditional, abstract and contemporary arts
If the artists looked like their work, Hamid Iqbal would be instantly recognizable. Standing in the classroom in an institute of calligraphy, on the whiteboard with pen in his hand, in front of enthralled audience writing syllables, words and groups of words in different scripts, one after the other, in Nastaliq, Naskh, Sulus, Koofi, Diwani, his every performance was so perfect that it was painful to see them wiped off the board.
Throughout the Islamic history calligraphy has been the most honored of the fine arts. It forms the basis of our religious as well as cultural heritage. Calligraphy is such a deep source of aesthetic pleasure that it has been used at every occasion and on every article: coins and swords, guns and cannons, buildings and graveyard head-stones, royal ordinances, and even on the bed spreads. Muslim rulers have been the great admirers and patron of this ancient art.
Pakistan has produced great calligraphers like Taj Zarrien Raqam, Hafiz Sadeedi, Syed Anwar Hussain Nafees Raqam, Sadquain, Gulgee, and Hamid`s own father Ibne-Kaleem (Khattat Haft Qalam, Inventor of a new writing script "Khate Raana") and now Hamid Iqbal himself.
"I draw the inspiration from my father who has taught me to hold the pen, since I was a child. I started on the "takhtee" – useful but forgotten tool in this modern age - and now I write on everything from canvas to skins and also in digital formats,” says Hamid Iqbal. My experiments with forms and colors may have changed but my central urge remains unchanged,” he adds.
Hamid Iqbal was born in the family of Calligraphers in 1974. His father Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal commonly known as Ibn-e-Kaleem is a writer, an accomplished calligrapher and founder of new script "Khat-e-Raana." His grandfather Muhammad Hassan Khan Kaleem Raqam was renowned calligrapher and founder of Dabistan Faroogh-e-Khattati in Multan. His great grandfather Maulana Qaim-u-Din Khan Langah was also a celebrated Master of Art, one of whose masterpieces is Holy Qur’an now on display in the National Museum Karachi. No wonder Hamid Iqbal picked up different traditional as well as modern styles of calligraphy at an early age.
Hamid Iqbal has held various combined exhibitions of his work in different cities where his work has been loudly acclaimed. He has won many coveted prizes in National Calligraphy Competition held in the country. Has had been selected as a" Man of the year1998” by American Biography Institute (USA).
Hamid Iqbal is not only an artist but also a devoted and dedicated promoter of the fine art. He is regularly teaching in an art institute of fine arts and calligraphy and holds functions at his own studio to create awareness of the art among the people. He has taught a large number of talented young students interested in the art of calligraphy. He has also written three books about the techniques to improve the handwriting showing patterns and measurements of different styles.
Hamid Iqbal says, "Besides writing straight lines of Qur’anic and or poetic verses, he has designed beautiful compositions in the forms of circular, oval and oblong panels. The recent work of Hamid Iqbal is Al-Asma-ul-Husna (the names of Allah) rich digital format.
Read more »
Hamid Iqbal has chosen Calligraphy as a career. He says the work of calligraphers should be coordinated, promoted and sponsored at national level. This noble art should be introduced as a separate subject in institutions like College of Home Economics and National College of Arts. The work of senior artists, this visible record of our heritage that shall always remain a beacon of guidance for the like minded new comers, should be preserved.
Labels: Arts, Calligraphy, In Print, Nation, Painting
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:47 AM,
This article appeared in daily the Nation
The advent of shared applications is a new way to meet some or almost all aspects of information technology (IT) needs. Concept of application service provision has come a long way since it first came on the scene in the late 1990s. Hi-tech developments and changes at a fast rate are moving towards convergence of the software, information, technology carriers, and computer engineering. Result: IT structural designs are shifting from desktop and mainframe environments towards Internet based structures. Similarly, software applications are altering from made to order and separately owned solutions towards pre-packaged and Web based solutions. It is in this context that ASP business model is getting more interest as a hot trend.
IT business model that offers end users – small and large businesses, government organizations, non-profits, and membership organizations even individuals -- an access to applications and services over the Internet is known as application service provider (ASP - not to be mixed with Active Server Pages. It also is an abbreviation of as soon as possible). It is sometime called software-as-a-service, on-demand computing, apps-on-tap or utility computing.
Typically, the applications are deployed by a third party that hosts, manages, updates software based service and solutions and distributes to clients from a central location. XML and HTML processes allow thee clients to interact with the software. Sometime, ASP also rent out the server hardware and the network. What is more, many ASPs, particularly enterprise ASPs, have now started offering on site solutions in which the relevant hardware, software and function remain on the customer's site.
Hewlett-Packard and Qwest are among the pioneers for providing application services. Microsoft also allows some companies to offer its Back Office products, including SQL Server, Exchange and Windows NT Server on a rental, pay-as-you-use basis.
Some larger corporations like Accenture have established their own in house application service, moving applications from personal computers and housing them on a kind of server that is meant to handle the client workstation on ‘as required’ bases. This helps a business to keep the central control over application usage. In some way, this is like what used to be before the arrival of computers.
Services provided by ASPs can be grouped in different categories. As per International Data Corp, they are commercial enterprise applications (customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, e-commerce, data warehousing and programs to support vertical industries), collaborative applications (programs that enable internal operations such as e-mail, groupware, document creation and management messaging) and applications for personal use (games, entertainment software, home-office applications and any other software).
Broadly speaking, there are four major types of ASP business: A special function ASP that offers a single application, such as banking service like control of remittance or loan management; An ASP delivering a solution package for a similar customers type, such as a hospital management; A project ASP that give a mixed group of solutions; and an area based ASP that caters to the IT needs of businesses within a specific area. In addition, some large firms like IBM are using ASP methodology as a specific business model that supports specialized clientele. According to ASPnews.com, “ASPs are grouped into five subcategories: Enterprise ASPs -- deliver high-end business applications. Local or regional ASPs -- supply wide variety of application services for smaller businesses in a local area. Specialist ASPs -- provide applications for a specific need, such as Web site services or human resources. Vertical Market ASPs -- provide support to a specific industry. Volume Business ASPs supply general small and medium-sized businesses with pre-packaged application services in volume.”
The main advantage of ASP is that the clients do not have to bear the upfront capital costs of the hardware and software. They can pay like electricity and or PTCL landlines on a pay per use or yearly license basis. The interest that ASPs have generated, elsewhere at least, does not come only from economy of investment, but from qualitative considerations as well. Using the best applications available, faster than in house deployment are some others benefits. Businesses, though an ASP, can change their operational characteristics, placing less emphasis on IT operations and development, and more on core business operations and growth through the productive use of IT.
The ASP phenomenon is poised to make a central surge on the application market for the years to come. The ASP model can be extremely tempting to any cost conscious businesses but scouting reveals that the ASPs around the world so far are targeting small and medium businesses and start ups, which otherwise may not afford high end and costly applications; selling their software and enabling end users to avail the utility they need at inexpensive price. Small and medium businesses can rely on ASPs and can start using the Web as a business tool rather than a communications tool. The target market for ASPs is much larger in developed countries than in more developed countries. Economic conditions and desire to have a competitive edge are likely forces to accelerate adoption, anxieties associated with exercising control over the business processes notwithstanding.
ASP model is one of the economical behind the scenes business methodologies that the Web has made possible and it is working very successfully in more connected world. Many industry analysts see ASPs becoming a big business. ASP concept is ideal for countries like Pakistan. The impact of any such development may be seismic here.
The concept of ASP is still new in Pakistan. “Despite all the whirl we are going through, corporate Pakistan have not yet embraced IT, hence no effects can be seen on ground or in term of revenues in the account books. Affordable services offered by ASPs might help change this scenario. News is that some local companies are already working to establish ASP business in Pakistan in collaboration with foreign counterparts. “When ASPs come in operation and results are noticed, people will start buying ASP solutions, for automating manufacturing and marketing processes, instead of costly software solutions. Businesses have to realize that it is like anything else they do on a subscription basis. Major thing any potential ASP need is to build confidence and develop trust,” says Ibrahim Khan, a call centre developer.
Naveed Mehdi, another developer says, “Like Internet Services Providers (ISPs), we are so familiar with, ASPs have to make applications available to multiple users at a time, the more subscribers they will have, the lower the lease rates will drop. Difficulty is that no one wants to take the initiative. Everyone wants to see what others do and how. Which is why we are far behind in making innovative use of the technology available?”
ISPs are most suited to transform themselves into ASPs. “Today's ISPs are ASPs of tomorrow,” believes Mehdi. The only thing they can do before that is to become dependable. Which application they should offer: Customer relationship management applications, enterprise resource planning applications, banking and credit card transactions, hospital management or simple email management? It depends on the market demand. ASPs have to carry out diligent research and interact with potential users to carve out niche areas for themselves. Though, initially small and medium businesses seem the most likely users of ASP, in Pakistan, larger organisations could also convert to this method and cut IT costs. Ironically, when various ISPs were contacted for finding out about any possible future plans for the purpose of this article, the answers were not very encouraging. No one revealed that they have any plans to expand as ASP.
This is a significant opportunity for Pakistan. ASPs could enable the Pakistani software industry’s transition into a larger role as a global leader in mainstream. Ibrahim says, “We have already missed so many opportunities (like business process outsourcing and back office operations) in IT sector, we should not miss this one. Stakeholders should focus on measures to stay competitive. Necessary talent is there and many companies are doing a good job in individual capacity.”
What would constitute a world class ASP business? Local companies planning to plunge in to this sector have the opportunity of learning from the successful experiences in the developed countries by closely examining he standards being implemented and the demands made by the end users companies. Because everything cannot be mirrored in local corporate sector, therefore, they should carry out thorough indigenous research and interact with their potential customers. Interested IT firms should help small and large commercial enterprises to identify their IT needs in term of economic profits and then offer the solutions. Stakeholders should take extensive confidence building measures in this field.
Hopes are that demand driven ASP business will pick up here. One wishes to see it happen as soon as possible.
Labels: Business, In Print, Information Technology, Nation, Technology
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:44 PM,
This article appeared in daily the Nation
In the first place, why do I register at different Websites on the Internet, and you should too? To stay tapped in what is happening in the cyber world and also what is not and to do some more things. Internet users want to access Websites to browse, posts their own random or focused thoughts in weblogs, subscribe to a couple of USENET newsgroups of interest, avail of required services on offer, posts resume on a job or may be bio on matrimonial services sites, shops online or simply use Web based email services. What all users have to do is register and cough up some personal information in the process. Not a big deal!
Big deal is that personal information spread fast on the Internet. Result: email Inbox privacy that is one of today's most sensitive and intricate issues affecting nearly everyone – individuals, businesses and Internet systems alike. Clued-up users who are in know of the matters want to protect their email inboxes though beginners or those who have lots of free time on hand usually do not care until later. Majority of the Websites first ask users to register and give some personally identifiable information including email address so that they can reach out potential customers and people with particular interests. "Over 90 percent Websites ask visitors to register," as per an estimate, for those 'great benefits' -- full use of the Website, membership to certain services or communities, subscription to newsletters and alerts and more.
On the Internet, there are so many novel ways to harvest email addresses and other personal information; sometime automatically without the knowledge or consent of users through cookies (elements of data that a Website can send to browsers, which may then store it on systems. Browsers can be set to receive a cookie, or otherwise), bugs built in some software or other more offensive ways. A report says "the use of concealed bugs to collect information about online visitors has proliferated dramatically in recent years."
Some time it happens that a surfers search for any specific information they need and when click the most probable looking link in the search results, instead of opening the Webpage containing required information, they are confronted with multi step online registration form to complete before they can get onto what they want. But the simplest and 'legal' way to collect information is through voluntary registration. In the process users are required to provide their identity information -- name, street address, telephone number, email, gender, interest areas, birthday, profession and employment status, purchasing capacities and income.
Ilyas Baig, a Pakistani student in America pointed out to an interesting old case on the Internet to prove what length Websites can go to collect personal information: "Those who are using the Internet since late 1990s may remember when a company offered that it will be giving free personal computers to 10,000 people who gave detailed personal information. A question was (and is) that how can a demographic that does not own a computer and presumably is not online, be a target for e-marketing? The answer even then was that savvy surfers will not give personal information online for free computers." But what business could do to know the users? E-marketers zeal to collect personal information is the same if it has not aggravated more.
What do the businesses do with the personal information? "Undifferentiated market segment of today global market is worth next to nothing from marketing point of view. Therefore businesses collect demographic and personal information to prepare their marketing strategies and improve promotional efforts," says marketing expert Dr. Idrees Malik, "that allows businesses to analyze site usage and provide products, services and features that most likely meet targeted segment's demand, and to customize service to make users' online experience as per their expectations and to send marketing or promotional materials through emails and or targeted banners."
Given growing privacy concerns and every one's dislike to unsolicited commercial emails (a.k.a. spam), Websites now give various options on the online registration forms but more often users fail to pay attention to obscure clauses discussing how their personal information including email address will be used. Majority of the Internet users do not read the privacy policies, terms of service and disclaimers of Websites while registering there in a hurry and just proceeded to hit on "I agree" button without going through legal looking lengthy documents. Or users do not pay attention to consequences while opting in or out by checking boxes that authorize the Websites to send emails or worst still share their email addresses with third parties. Sher Zaman says, "this approach means spam me, I asked for it."
Opt-in approach means that users explicitly agree, upfront, to have their personal information used in a specified manner and or share it with others when such use or disclosure to third parties is related to the purpose for which the information was collected. And opt-out is to withhold information from the mass lists; "it is a statement by users that they are not willing to receive sales and marketing communications."
Some of the sites provide users with the opportunity to alter their registered information so that they no longer receive unwanted email communications. The provisions of changing profile or preferences are usually hard to find particularly for less tech savvy users. Some Internet users who have experienced say that changing preferences have little effect on the amount of commercial emails received, because once an email address is out, there is little anyone can do about it. "I tried changing my email addresses on couple of sites, and now I am getting emails on old as well as new address," says Sher Zaman, a techie. Does this make the Internet a public bulletin board where anything revealed is every one's business?
The users should be careful how and where to register. That is the only choice that remains with the users, I think.
Labels: In Print, Information Technology, Nation, Social Media
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:21 AM,
After almost ten years of honorary work in the Pakistan House Potsdam, this phase is now coming to an end. The Pakistan House Potsdam was a starting point for foreign project workers, guests and visitors as well as for volunteers and the interested public. The active and non-selfish initiation and support of real self-help projects, support for income generating measures for the rural population, specially women, based upon the traditional culture were not beautiful words but reality.
The support for the implementation of environment-friendly techniques in the rural areas was carried out through on-site lectures, in the NGO’s and educational institutions, through experimental workshops and product manufacturing and local sales. The idea, to operate independent of the central technical infra-structure (electricity), was demonstrated in practice and shown, that not only lighting, but also other usages, like charging a cell-phone battery etc. are possible. By activating volunteers outside of the project and generating interest of foreigners in the project countries, a sort of “soft” tourism was created. The PHP provided valuable help in the realization of such ideas.
The closure of Pakistan House Potsdam, the existence of which could only be successful through volunteers, does not mean an end to the work, but a further development, because the basis has been created, the people in the NGO’s have been trained and they are operating more or less rather independently since quite a long time.
The DGFK, which initiated and supported cultural-development projects is functioning as the organizational basis since 1973. As a further step, a gallery was opened as a place for events, followed by a publishing house, Audio and Video studio, whereas the scientific technical work was carried out by a small institute. Due to technological developments in communication and information, we were able to make presentations not only in Berlin, but also outside the West-Germany of that time. The DGFK opened to foreign project work practically in 1990, which reached a new level with the Pakistan project and led to the establishment of the Pakistan House Potsdam - without the initiators acting in the usual strategic form.
In 1997, Bonn was still the federal capital, an idea formed under the auspices of the German-Pakistan Forum and the Embassy of Pakistan for establishing an Honorary Consulate for the new (eastern) provinces. Potsdam, the provincial capital of the province of Brandenburg, appeared to be good location, also due to its nearness to Berlin, which was to become the federal capital.
The preparations for transfer began in 1999.The work in the “Project House“ was taken up in 2000 and, since no reaction was forthcoming from the Pakistan side, the Pakistan House Potsdam was inaugurated in 2001 by Pakistani ambassador at that time.
Through the EXPO2000 exposition, the centre received a 250 years old wooden door from the Punjab, which is installed in the yard of the Pakistan House Potsdam and serves since inauguration as an attractive backdrop for visitors and guests of all types while at the same time creating a special atmosphere.
As the idea of the Pakistani village development project expanded, other projects were also processed from here for Cameroun, Columbia, Iceland etc. The work consisted of preparing honorary workers and volunteers for deployment in the projects, as well as supplementary discussions about improvement in the work and information for the interested public. Lectures were delivered here but also at other places. The nearness to the embassy made a good co-operation possible, - a large number of Pakistani visitors to Potsdam found hospitality here at a cup of tea: Ministers, Ambassadors, Officers of various foundations, members of the military academy, journalists, students, etc. found it to be a comfortable place not only on the annual Pakistan-Day. Whenever the Pakistan Embassy arranged a cultural presentation, the PHP was always its partner (for example House of Cultures of the World, Import-Shop, Q-Damm Mile, Festival of Nations).
Due to very different time zones in the project countries (Pakistan 3-4 hours till Columbia 6-7 hours) the office timings extended from 6-o-clock in the morning to mid-night, which were attended by volunteers. This led soon to limiting the visitors traffic to agreed timings but intensive dealing. Guests from Australia and New-Zeeland, from Japan, India, of-course from Pakistan, Israel, from Europe (including Iceland), various African and American countries found a home here in the beautiful old city of Potsdam, near to the Brandenburger Tor and the Castle Park of Sansouci.
A documentary film festival was initiated in the old Stadthaus in 2005 with the help of a volunteer Globians. The Future is in the Rural Areas, was the main theme, which indicated that the projects were and are carried out in the rural areas. The work which had originally begun in the “Developing Countries” now expanded in a curve to places like Israel’s Negev-Desert and to Iceland’s Westfjorden and into Brandenburg, so that from 2007 training also for selected locals was offered Tuesdays till Fridays from 8 till 12-o-clock.
Since 1999 the Pakistan House Potsdam has also been a basis for events for a certain segment of population. Although the Pakistani village project was projected strongly in the EXPO2000 exposition in Hannover due its selection among the world-wide projects, but gradually other projects with their handicrafts found their way to museums: Ethnological Museum Dahlem, Rautenstrauch-Jost-Museum in Cologne, Voelkerkundemuseum in Hamburg, Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, Grassi-Museum in Leipzig, Voelkerkundemuseum in Vienna.
An important aspect in the project work was the development of income generating measures for the participants in the project countries. Connected to the activities from the art promotion period of the 80’s was a large and successful exhibition of an artist from the Negev.
Over the years, members of the project NGO’s were offered training in special training sessions, the availability of boarding and lodging facilities made it possible to react quickly, -all this was possible only with the selfless support of one helper as well as the consistent efforts of the head-volunteer Dr Senta Siller.
Over 35 years of cultural work is not important, but the fact that it was carried out with private resources. Once young volunteers have become older over the years and it is often asked in e-mails, whether the long, partly very tiresome efforts can be properly documented at-least in an archive. Since such work can also be done only on an honorary basis, the prospects are not gloomy but it can only be done step by step. The beginning here has already been made and it was relatively easy because the DGFK has already been using the Internet facility since 1995. DGFK-News, Indus, Sanagar. Rio Magdalena, Hekla - these periodicals appear quarterly and they are bound into the archive. Similarly and as far as available, the descriptions in the Berliner Kunstblatt and other publications, so that one can gather that the basis for a certain form of cultural work has been accomplished.
Labels: Dr. Senta Siller, Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch, Thatta Kedona
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:53 AM,