Tag Archives: Education

Engro Corporation — I Am The Change

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Quraan 13:11)

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Many of us are prone to complain and moan; about how our country is going in the doldrums the government is corrupt and inefficient, the people are uneducated, the roads are filthy, there is poverty all around, etc. However, very few realize that the change that they are seeking will come from none but themselves. Luckily for Pakistan there are many who decided to stop complaining and become agents of change.

In 2012, Engro Corporation launched a small initiative to recognize these true stalwarts of society who have worked tirelessly to improve access to education, health-care and livelihoods for Pakistan’s poorest of the poor.The initiative aims to collaborate with the corporate and the philanthropic sector of the country and help individuals and institutions who are pioneering initiatives to improve lives across the spheres of Livelihoods, Education and Health.

I Am The Change (IATC) celebrates those who decided it wasn’t enough to moan and groan but to start the rebuilding of our nation one brick at a time. These heroes would have served their causes without fame and recognition but to magnify these causes we need to highlight them, to support them, and to spread their deeds far and wide.

I had the opportunity to meet some of these heroes last year during a bloggers meet that Engro organized at T2F. This year, I was invited to the awards ceremony by Xenith Public Relations, along with very limited people from the Social Media community. I wish there had been more of Social Media representation at the dinner who could have spread the word far and wide through our collective ‘pens’.

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The event was an extravagant affair, some may even call it a bit over-indulgent. However, as a Trustee of a charitable trust (Ihsaas Trust), I understand to some extent why Engro wanted to splurge on it. The ugly truth is that money attracts money. The dinner was for the high and mighty of society, a bid to attract them and to get them to fill out pledge forms to support this cause of highlighting the heroes of society. And sadly those type of people don’t show up to eat daal chawal outside your local masjid. However, I still think the event could have been equally grand with a little less spent on decor, food and ‘shashkay’. For 10% saved off the cost of the event, we could change several lives at Ihsaas Trust or any of the IATC award winners.

This year’s recipients included the Azat Foundation in the category of education, working to provide education and youth empowerment opportunities to individuals from various areas of Baluchistan including Noshki, Kharan, Awaraan amongst others.

In the category of Livelihoods, the award was given to Orangi Pilot Project that continues to focus on urban development and works with the underprivileged in the arena of micro-finance and micro-enterprises, helping set up small businesses such as embroidery, footwear manufacturing and other small cottage industries reaching out to over 100,000 individuals through various projects. The winner in the category of Health was Child Life Foundation (CLF) — an NGO providing comprehensive child health care services from emergency care to prevention. CLF provides free medicines, essential oxygen systems, medical monitors and most importantly trains doctors and nurses to help save the lives of children at imminent risk reaching out to approximately 800 child-patients every day.

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Previous winners of the IATC Awards in the various categories include organizations such as The Dream Foundation; The Garage School; Patients Welfare Association; Karachi Vocational & Training Centre; Child Aid Association; KhwendoKor (Peshawar); Akhuwat (Lahore).

CEVMK8yVAAAU1oTSpeaking at the occasion, Ali Ansari – outgoing President & CEO, Engro Corporation said, “We strongly believe in empowerment of communities by highlighting change agents who are working in high-impact areas such as education, health and livelihoods. Pakistan has a growing young population which will be in need of job opportunities. Coupled with the fact that half of the country cannot read or write and up to 25 million children not having access to school, the country is faced with an education, health and livelihood emergency. In this scenario it is imperative that we join hands to empower agents of change who are working to improve these social issues – IATC is a partnership platform that creates awareness and provides recognition to the unsung heroes from across Pakistan in order to support and multiply their efforts.”

The IATC platform also announced a major development in terms of cross partnerships with different corporate organizations of Pakistan which included Coca-Cola, Mitsubishi Corporation, National Foods, K-Electric amongst others. The winners of the competition were selected based on the scope of their social work; level of impact, number of beneficiaries and the ability to replicate the program amongst other key considerations.The IATC award entails a financial grant along with aiding the NGO in terms of its capacity & organizational development whilst also ensuring employee volunteerism activities.

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The evening included Ayesha Tammy Haq moderating a panel discussion with Ali Ansari and representatives from the corporate sponsors: Abrar Hassan from National Foods Limited, Kimihide Ando from Mitsubishi, and Zohair Sharif from Asiatic Public Relations representing Coca-Cola.

The one message that I found very useful from Ali Ansari’s speech was:

Corporations have slowly now realized that one solution that the world is looking for is Social Change. And that CSR is not just about lip service and throwing money at causes, but getting involved and really fostering change. Engro Corporation is on the right path with the I Am Change initiative. Let’s hope that more and more corporates join in to spark off a domino effect.

TEDxKarachi – Reflections on inspiration

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Also cross posted on Express Tribune Blogs

TEDxKarachi 2011 was an event for the elite. It had a political slant to it. The line to get in was long, the air-conditioning sucked, there were too many technical glitches with the microphones. The snacks were mediocre.There were people there that didn’t deserve to be invited over many others that weren’t there. The talks were not all exactly what we see at TED Global. Yet I returned from the event thinking that making the impossible was possible. I returned with some ideas that inspired.

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People went to TEDxKarachi with different mindsets. A lot showed up wanting to hear Imran Khan and Mukhtar Mai speak. Others wanted to go meet the right social crowd. Some went because everybody they knew was talking about it. I went to learn.

Having joined the family business after my Bachelors, I never got the chance to do my Masters. I had returned from University thinking I would get the 2-3 years of work experience and then apply to some hotshot MBA program. Now that I look at it, it really wouldn’t have made much difference. Running your own business gives you a better education than any MBA program. It however, has to be coupled with a desire to learn and adopt new ideas and concepts. Visiting TEDxKarachi was part of that learning.

Making the Impossible Possible

Despite the fact that a couple of speakers didn’t really fit in the general mold of making the impossible possible (Noori most definitely should be awarded a special mention of non-compliance), there was an undercurrent of achievement despite the odds. How to do something that others say is not possible, or to sacrifice things to achieve your dreams is what really moved me.

“Education is like tinday. You only eat them when you have to.”

While Fasi Zaka’s engaging and filled with humor talk was more like a presentation designed to evoke thinking, it was definitely not a case of making the impossible possible. It was however a case of the impossible that we really need to make possible. There is a real emergency on our hands. No I am not talking about the fact that our Armed Forces have been caught yet again with their pants down, nor am I talking about an enemy at the border. I am talking about the enemy within. I am talking about the fact that we are a nation of illiterates. I am talking about the fact that 26 countries poorer than us are sending more children to school. I am talking about the fact that we spend more on PIA, Pakistan Steel and PEPCO than we spend on education. I am talking about the fact that somewhere there is a petition signed by 170,000 citizens of Pakistan which was not delivered to the Chief Ministers of our provinces due to their lack of response (with the exception of Shahbaz Sharif). I’m talking about the tinday (a type of pumpkin) that no one wants to eat.

Fashion Models financed my first drone

“I do not support the drone attacks.” This was repeatedly emphasized by Raja Sabri Khan. What does RSK do? He makes drones! In Pakistan! In a factory in Korangi! From the time that he modified some toy planes to be more aerodynamically better, RSK knew he was going to do something with airplanes. He ended up with a degree in Aerospace Engineering “from a small liberal arts college” called MIT and got a job making tractors! What do fashion models have to do with it? RSK apparently did a stint as fashion photographer on the side in order to earn money for his drone making. Luckily SUPARCO came to the rescue and one thing led to another and we now have drones made in Pakistan measuring the weather somewhere over Australia among other things. Non-traditional exports that definitely should be encouraged! And while we are at it, we should spend some money and get RSK to make an anti-drone drone.

“The body adjusts to ambition.”

Imran KhanBefore I go any further, I must categorically state that I am not a supporter of PTI. In fact I think that Imran Khan is a terrible politician and should quit politics altogether. I must also say that I walked into TEDxKarachi expecting a political speech from Imran Khan. However, to his credit he managed to keep his political rhetoric to the minimum (a total of 4-5 minutes only). Did Imran Khan do something worthy of the impossible becoming possible? Yes. It was his ambition to become a fast bowler, going against the advice of coaches and experts who said that if he changed his action he would kill his bowling and harm his body. It was his ambition to provide a cancer hospital that provided mainly free treatment to cancer patients and it was said it can not be done. However, Shaukat Khanum is undoubtedly one of the premier cancer hospitals in the region and 75% of its patients are treated free of charge.

Bulleh Shah was the Che Guevara of his time?

I walked out of the hall when Noori was introduced. I do not actively listen to music anymore as I believe it is forbidden in Islam. However, I hear that Ali Hamza made this statement that confused many.

BullehShah-Che“Bulleh Shah was the rock star of his time. The Che Guevara of back then”

I have no clue what he meant by that. And if Bulleh Shah had been alive he too, I suspect, would be equally clueless.

“Pain is not a bad thing, it’s OK to be in pain”

Quratulain BakhtiariMy currently stiff neck begs to differ with Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari on this point. Pain is definitely a bad thing! What she meant was that feeling of pain is not a bad thing, if you channel that emotion in doing something creative. Her story of how she had to choose between her social work and her children and she chose her work. Indeed her passion for her work must have been something for her to bear the pain that only a mother can feel when she is cut off from her children. Her work in promotion of sanitation and in bringing education to girls in Balochistan was inspiring. Similarly the story of her childhood when her parents gave up their ancestral wealth to bring up their children in the Drag Colony refugee camp in Karachi. How they put a positive spin on everything unto the point that when her mother burnt her wedding dresses to harvest the silver thread from it, she made it seem a game. The standing ovation that Dr Bakhtiari got was well deserved. Her talk however made the 23 year old next to me totally confused. I guess such things are lost on the youth.

The talk that stole the show

Sarmad Tariq“I will never have enough money for full physiotherapy, because I would much rather spend it on a Ferrari. I’m not one of those people who sit around waiting for a cure. I like the attention I get in a wheelchair too much.”

Imagine that one bad decision could lead to your becoming a quadriplegic (losing function of all four limbs). Would you have the will to wake up each morning and get out of bed? Would you drive a car continuous from Khyber to Karachi? Would you tape your fingers for months to force your fingers into a hook like formation so you could hold objects? Would you enroll in a marathon pushing your own wheelchair? I would not. I would give up, blame life, God, the guy who told me the water was deep where I dove, etc. Sarmad Tariq inspired us in the true TED style. And when the hall jumped to its feet to give him a standing ovation he pointed out the irony: he could neither stand, not clap. If you had a choice of seeing just one talk from TEDxKarachi I am sure every one in the hall would say it would be Sarmad’s talk.

What good is an independent judiciary?

Mukhtar Mai“I believed the Supreme Court would provide me justice. Now I have left my case to Allah.”

The story of Mukhtar Mai, sadly, is the story of many women in our society who are subjected to abuse and treated as commodity in a tribal justice system that is sadly often allowed by our courts. To survive a panchayat sanctioned gang rape, to get the courage to file a case against the perpetrators, and to continue on living even when the “independent judiciary” failed her. She realized that her illiteracy played a major part in her inability to seek justice. Unfortunately, she is often forced to pass by and be subjected to verbal abuse by her, now acquitted, rapists. She however turns the other way and continues to her school. Mukhtar Mai used her ordeal to start an initiative to educate young girls and to educate the community on women’s rights and gender issues. The Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization opened a high school in Fall 2007 which was the first school she ever saw in her life.

What is the take home message?

  1. We need to focus on education – Fasi Zaka, Mukhtar Mai
  2. Lack of resources should not be an excuse to do something you believe in – Raja Sabri Khan, Imran Khan
  3. Mind can triumph over body – Imran Khan, Sarmad Tariq
  4. Pain, if channeled in a positive direction, can achieve great things – Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari, Sarmad Tariq, Mukhtar Mai
  5. Don’t blame life, or anyone else. You may be down but success is about getting up that one last time. – Sarmad Tariq
  6. Bulleh Shah was a Commie (oops sorry, a revolutionary) – Noori

I would like to end with the lyrics of the chorus of Noori’s song (which they apparently also ended their ‘talk’ with). It is probably the only thing that ties them to the theme of making the impossible possible.

Hum Duniya Badal dien Ge
Hum Ne Khaayee Hai Dil Ki Qasam
Aasmaan Choo Leingay, Choo Leingay Hum….
Dil Ki Raah Dhoondain Gay!
Kay Dil Ne Jhailay Hain Kitnay Sitam…
Roti Yaadon Ko Bhooleingay Bhooleingay Hum…

Pakistan | Youth Resources: Untapped Potential

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A Guest Post by Majyd Aziz

Preamble

PAKISTAN is fortunately placed at an envious demographic position as one of the “youngest nations on Planet Earth” with nearly 70% of the population below the age of 35. In fact, the peak youth share is around 21% within the ages of 15-24. The advantage of a young population should enable the country’s planning managers and policymakers to prepare a visionary agenda taking into account the benefits, potential, and value of this young force.

Present Scenario

PAKISTAN is still unable to enjoy the demographic dividend that this young population can bring. The pathetic educational system in the country does churn out graduates but most of them are not worth having within the working environment. Technical training centers are set up all over the country managed by the various provincial authorities. At the same time, organizations such as Skill Development Councils have played a defined role in providing skill development and vocational training opportunities to the youth. The Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Program (BBSYDP) is a visionary and practical initiative undertaken for the youth of Pakistan. Moreover, the employment opportunities for the youth, at this moment in time, are relatively very few, very uncertain, and very low paying. In fact, the absorption of youth in the labor market has been limited to a large extent.

Present Challenges

PAKISTAN is in the midst of the unrest being generated by the sense of deprivation and dejection faced by the youth. The young people are entering or ready to enter the job market and are waking up to the stark reality that jobs are scarce, that they are not properly trained to deal with the available jobs, and that they are not sure of the tenure of the position if they are lucky to land a job.

PAKISTAN is at a crossroads when it comes to handling the youth. The benefits of the demographic dividend are not possible if the youth do not enter the labor market, but then if there are no opportunities to become economically active then the youth would be stranded and lost at sea. This here is the challenge. Youth unemployment is endemic and continues to rise. The rhetorical statements of politicians assuring the youth that jobs would be available become stale news once these politicians are safely ensconced behind the portals of power. The dissatisfaction among the youth increases especially when they are exposed to the electronic media that is showing them a different world and in the process creating wants and desires which cannot be satisfied.

PAKISTAN is also subject to other negative outcome of the frustration of these young people. These youth become readily available fodder for extremist forces who take advantage of this deplorable situation. At the same time, many youth, especially in urban areas, have become unwilling partners in crime and this is substantiated by the phenomenal increase in street crimes and petty burglaries. The proliferation of drug use among the youth is a matter of serious concern too.

PAKISTAN is also beset by other factors that have impacted negatively on the economic viability of this country. The billions that are spent on the Global War on Terror, the burgeoning inflationary trends, the pressure on the currency, the increasing cost of petroleum imports, the physical infrastructure handicap, the dependence on borrowings from the multilateral agencies resulting in a dictated economic policy framework, the disconnect between the provinces due to parochial and ethnic compulsions, the political instability, and the excessive non-developmental expenditure, have not only been demoralizing but have seriously affected the viability and sustainability of trade and industry. Unemployment has become the Number One cause of gloom and doom among the populace.

The Way Forward

PAKISTAN government must plan and promote the National Agenda for Youth Resources (NAYR), in consultation with industrial and trade associations, WEBCOP, economists, and educationists, etc. There is an imperative and urgent need to focus on the various modalities and concepts that would enable the formulation and implementation of the NAYR. The major areas would be:

(a) Ensuring literacy

(b) Provision of skill development and vocational training

(c) [Alternatively, entrepreneurship development]

(d) Internship and practical training

(e) Placement opportunities

PAKISTAN is endowed with talent and resources, both natural as well as human. There is a high priority requirement to indulge in out-of-box thinking and prepare this NAYR. The major areas enumerated above can be further elaborated as follows:

PAKISTAN policymakers have to revisit their educational priorities. A sad reality is that the allocations for education in the Federal as well as Provincial budgets diminish every year. The dismal environment in the government-owned schools has affected the proper schooling of children and this has been transformed into a horrific foundation for the youth. At the same time, most of the private schools profess to provide superior education but the cost to parents is alarming, Of course, the educational institutions set up by social or community-based organizations are playing a paramount role in providing decent education. It is proposed that trade and industry associations, chambers, as well as large enterprises must be mandated to set up educational institutions on their own or must financially support organizations such as Citizen’s Foundation so that quality education becomes universally available.

PAKISTAN government must ordain TEVTAs that have been set up in every Province to initiate projects on Private-Public Partnership basis to modernize, upgrade, and renovate the existing technical and vocational training institutions and also must prepare and plan centers and curricula in consultation with WEBCOP and Skill Development Councils as well as trade associations so that the Pakistani youth can enter the global economy as a well-trained and tested professional.

PAKISTAN has a functioning Higher Education Commission and this organization must assist and direct the various educational institutions to develop alternate programs to introduce and impart knowledge-based education to inculcate entrepreneurship in the youth of Pakistan. This would enable trained or skilled youth to become owners rather than depending on employment.

PAKISTAN has not been successful in ensuring that most of the present technical institutions have a working relationship with trade, industry, or the service sectors whereby programs could be planned to provide on-job-training as well as practical working knowledge of the concerned skill. There is also no system of mentoring the youth. This gap has to be reduced and it is essential that the trainee is able to obtain this hands-on facility and resource.

PAKISTAN political government must ensure that it is essential to take on board the chambers and associations to come up with a systematic and pragmatic program that would encourage the members of the associations and chambers to tap into the pool of these trained or skilled youth and utilize them in their establishments. However, it is pertinent to note that market-demand skills should be taught to the youth rather than depending on outdated or routine curriculum.

Essential Areas of Employment

PAKISTAN policymakers have to accept that the objective of NAYR would be to ensure that training is provided in sectors that conform to the requirements of the global economy as well as addressing the cultural, traditional, and national dynamics of the country. It would be beneficial to the nation, to the individual and to the employer.

PAKISTAN has a strong agriculture base. The youth should be trained in operating equipments that are imperative for mechanized farming. This would increase productivity as well as streamline the cultivation of various crops. Training in proper usage of fertilizer, seeds, and other inputs would surely make a marked influence on the economies of the rural areas. At the same time, there is immense scope in fruits and vegetables, right from plucking down to the eating. The fruit and vegetable farms can provide much needed employment to the young people.

PAKISTAN is also increasing its share in the services sector. Educated youth can fill the demand for human resources in various fields in the services sector. Call centers, software programming, hotel and restaurants, sales representatives, cell phone repairs, food catering, enumerators, security services, event management, and transport drivers are areas where formidable job opportunities can be created.

PAKISTAN is going to witness a boom in construction, especially in low-cost housing. There is a backlog of over nine million housing units that have to be built to cope up with housing demands. Private sector is ready to provide training for trades associated with the construction industry. Skilled operators are required for bulldozers, dumpers, loaders, and other construction equipment. BBSYDP does provide short term training for masons, plumbers, electricians, floor tilers, painters, etc. At the same time, there would be ample job opportunities in cement, paint, sanitary fittings, cables, fans, geysers, tiles, and other nearly 40 industries due to the housing boom. There are not that many skilled workers at present to cope up with the upcoming demand by the housing sector.

Conclusion

PAKISTAN can get out of the economic morass if concerted efforts are made with passion and with sincerity. It is also incumbent upon the youth to be serious in acquiring the skills and knowledge to prepare for a career in their chosen fields. Needless to mention, a working youth will generally not resort to fraternizing with extremist elements nor would the youth subscribe to unethical and objectionable activities if one is busy with his vocation. It is only then that Pakistan will greatly gain from and benefit from the demographic dividend deriving from the large potent youth population. The Great Poet Allama Iqbal expressed his admiration for those young people who are achievers:

Mohabat mujhe oon jawano se hai
Sitaron pe jo daaltay hain kamund

 

Majyd Aziz is a Karachi based Entrepreneur and a senior leader of the business community. He is a former Chairman of SITE Association of Industry, former President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry and has held posts on the board various public organizations and companies. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of BBSYDP Sindh

Views expressed in guest posts are the opinions of the author and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of DiscoMaulvi and From The Pulpit…

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The Heart-Breaking State of Public Education in Pakistan

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Someone forwarded me a video on Facebook today and it was heart-breaking to look at this video. It shows a team going into various public schools of Karachi’s lower income areas such as Lyari and asking the children various questions. The children didn’t manage to answer the questions and couldn’t even write “I am a Pakistani” in Urdu (Mein Pakistani Hoon)!

Education is a fundamental part of Islam and in fact the first revelation that was sent to Muhammad (SAW) was:

Read! In the name of your Lord who created. Created man from a clot. Read! And thy Lord is the Most Generous. He Who taught by the pen; taught man that which he knew not." (Quran, 96:1-5)

and the Prophet (SAW) said:

"The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female."

(On a side note the often quoted “Seek knowledge even if it be in China” is not an authentic hadith and should not be used).

If one was to look through the Quran and the hadith (sayings of the Prophet (SAW)), we would find numerous references to knowledge. This knowledge is both the knowledge of your religion as well as the knowledge of worldly affairs.

This is why WE MUST SUPPORT organizations like The Citizen’s Foundation, CARE Pakistan, and READ Foundation who are working towards educating the masses of our country.

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PKFLOODS 2010 – Feeding Flood Victims, Ending Blood Feuds

Received this as an email from a friend. Very inspiring to see such Positive Change.

 


Mujahid Hussain is an accounts officer at TCF Secondary School-Shirin Sultan Dossa Campus VI at Yousuf Goth, Karachi. He belongs to Kalhoro Tribe. This tribe had a dispute with Channa tribe since the past four years. The dispute erupted when Mujahid Hussain’s brother-in-law was shot dead by a member of the Channa tribe on 17th February 2007. From then onwards, it was the sordid tale of one murder after the other.

Mujahid, like numerous other people from both sides, were sickened by this seemingly unending blood sport but didn’t quite know how to best tackle the situation. This year when their village was devastated by the floods, Mujahid was bestowed with an opportunity to make a difference!

In 2005, TCF went into earthquake relief because of the magnitude of the catastrophe. The human impact of this flood exceeded that of the earthquake and as an involved and committed part of society and of the areas where TCF schools exists, TCF team decided to contribute. For displaced brethren, TCF decided to provide food packages and water purifying packs. The team set itself a target of distributing 100,000 ration packs – one pack per family of five-six members (about 20 million meals) during the Holy month of Ramadan. TCF Team also reached Mujahid’s village. There are moments when the Almighty makes someone the source of change – God bestowed TCF Team with the great privilege to be the source to bring about a positive change. Mujahid got hold of ration packs and personally supervised its distributions at 1,300 homes of the feuding Channa tribe.

This gesture was enough to mend hearts and alter mindsets. Channa and Kalhoro tribes ended their disputes then and there. The people became one.

TCF takes pride at its team members like Mujahid Hussain who are truly Agents of Positive Change!


The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a not-for-profit organization that has been working since 1995 to help raise the literacy level of Pakistan. They have done great work and are running 600 plus purpose-built schools all over the country. Run in an extremely professional manner, this organization has some great people associated with it and are working in creating Positive Change in Pakistan.

Go Kiss The World – Subroto Bagchi

Someone recently forwarded me this speech given to the Graduating Class of 2006 at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Subroto Bagchi is a cofounder of MindTree, an international IT Consulting company. A very inspiring speech and some Googling has led me to his blog which looks interesting and I hope to devote some time to reading more from him.

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A Symphony of Misery

It is said that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. The phrase ‘’Let them eat cake” is attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette, purported to be said at the peak of a bread crisis in post-revolution France. Whether these alleged incidents are true or not is a matter of debate for historians. We can only discuss that which is here, that which is now.

Pakistani people line up to buy sugar and wheat flour at controlled rates at the Sunday Bazaar in Rawalpindi on August 30, 2009. Depleted crops, international prices at 30-year highs and hoarding are variously blamed for Pakistan's latest commodity price hike, forcing the federal government to eye costly imports to stabilise prices. Pakistan is Asia is the third-largest user of sugar and the world's fifth largest producer of sugar cane, according to the Pakistan Sugar Mills Assocation. (Source: Getty Images)As the common man lines up outside stores in the clamor for sugar, the backdrop is that of multiple suicide bombings per week. Markets, mosques, hotels, schools and colleges all are no longer sacred grounds. Targets vary from the military to foreigners to innocent school children. The army is fighting a war in the North against the Taliban. And amidst it all, where are our esteemed leaders? They are sitting in the parliament debating an issue of extreme importance: the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

“If approved, the ordinance will tarnish the country’s image,” warned Nawaz Sharif

(Though the breaking news from late last night is that El-Presidente sat with Maulana Diesel and Dr Farooq Sattar and decided to not present NRO to the parliament)

As the fiddlers play a mighty tune in the halls of power, life outside continues for the common man. Meanwhile in the comforts of his chambers, the hero of the downtrodden, the commander of the black coats, the champion of the masses strums a different tune on his guitar.

“You will have to sell sugar at Rs 40 per kilogram until the submission of the report by the proposed commission,” said the chief justice

Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry  I don’t know much about the Chief Justice’s schooling but of one thing I am sure: he didn’t study economics or business studies. How in the name of all that is holy does the CJ expect any trader to sell at Rs 40, something that is being supplied from the source at Rs 57 or so? In all his wisdom, the Chief Justice managed to make sugar scarce in the market. So much that it is now a black market item and prices can range from Rs 80 to 120 depending on the area. Senor Chaudhry in his uneducated attempt to alleviate the suffering of his people, has left a bitter taste in the mouth for many.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, is escorted by Pakistani Rangers at the Iqbal Memorial in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Mansoor Ahmed) In the meantime we were blessed last week by a visit of the emissary of his Royal Highness, King Obama the First. Ms Clinton swept in prior to our first handout under the Kerry-Lugar bill to make sure we were thankful for the bone our masters threw our way. The fact that it came with a new leash is of course a whole different story. And the honorable lady, ignoring the countless lives that Pakistan has laid down in the fight America started, smacked us in the face with a taunt.

“Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,” Clinton told senior newspaper editors in the country’s cultural capital, Lahore.

“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” she added.

Flame breaks out after an explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan on Wednesday Oct. 28, 2009. A car bomb has torn through a market place in northwestern Pakistan, hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the country. (AP Photo/Mohammad Iqbal)Oh yeah. We love this game of hide and seek. Of course we know where Bin Laden is. We just love to see our people blown away (147 lost their lives in the fireworks show in Peshawar arranged for Lady Clinton’s visit). And the offensive in the North is just target practice for our military to keep them happy and well oiled. Why a shoe didn’t come flying towards Lady Clinton is a perplexing mystery.

As the orchestra continues to play this grand symphony, outside the grand halls of eliteness, another morning has dawned for the common man. A morning filled with the worries of spiraling inflation, the fear of sending kids to school, and a cup of tea with no sugar.