Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PPP mounts prepoll offensive with president’s visits

LAHORE:  After his Lahore outbursts, the president made two more key stop-overs in Punjab – one to Multan and the other to Okara.

The visits by President Asif Ali Zardari are the official beginning of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s Punjab strategy for the next general elections which are under a year away, sources privy to the plan told The Express Tribune.

The PPP’s plan comprises a number of estimations. First, it will look to consolidate its strongholds in Punjab. According to officials, the PPP has 51 directly-elected members of the National Assembly from Punjab.

Here the PPP will up its game politically, with visits by high-level members, including the president himself, and rolling out large chunks of development funds. The projects in these areas will be announced by President Zardari himself, according to sources. In tandem, the prime minister is already actively touring southern Punjab districts.

Having travelled to Multan earlier, where the president announced a number of projects, the president played up the Seraiki/south Punjab province rhetoric.

A few days later, on Friday, President Zardari visited Okara district, where he also inaugurated a number of projects. The exact location of the projects and his visit is interesting.

Okara district is located in the Sahiwal division – which comprises Sahiwal, Okara and Pakpattan districts. Sahiwal district is the headquarters of the division, which has a total of 12 MNA seats – seven held by PPP, four by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and one by PML-Q.

However the president visited and based himself exclusively in Okara – where there are five MNA seats, all of which are held by PPP candidates. Other areas, traditionally strongholds of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), were ignored completely. The seats are held by prominent PPP leaders such as Manzoor Wattoo and Sumsam Bukhari.

President Zardari inaugurated some key projects, among which was the Benazir Education City, Sweet Homes – the keys of which were distributed among farmers hailing from district Okara, some PPP strongholds in Sahiwal districts. Pakpattan was completely ignored, being a PML-N stronghold.

Ignoring these areas for now is a gamble – but a considered one. Sources in PPP told The Express Tribune that the party’s study of Sahiwal division, and other similar ones, resulted in the conclusion that they would let PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) duke it out in districts Sahiwal and Pakpattan in the upcoming election. PTI has already recruited many hot candidates from these districts. The sources said PPP would later see how it could take advantage of the PML-N-PTI head-to-head.

Another interesting aspect of this area is whether or not the PPP looks to have it included in the south Punjab province push. PML-N is reluctant to include it in South Punjab but President Zardari during a meeting with representatives of the area expressed his willingness to include the division in south Punjab.
The president’s next visit will be to Bahawalpur and then back towards Gujrat.

 Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.

Dara Bashir Khan, a renowned name in Pakistan media, is likely join PTI

Karachi: Dara Bashir Khan, a renowned name in Pakistan media, is likely join Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf after saying goodbye to his more than three decade advertising career.
After his bold decision to join media industry to politics, he has left the chairmanship of OMD and PHD Media Pakistan. He is also owner and CEO and Owner of Manhattan International Limited (MIL), which is considered one of the leading advertising companies in top five ranking.

He is highly educated having foreign degrees in the discipline of advertisement and marketing from University of Oxford and Florida.

Khan is considered a good addition in the PTI prospective as he is an intelligent mind having good reputation in media industry.

PTI officials did not deny his joining in the party but they did not official declare his political affiliation in the party.

Asad Umar, a tycoon of corporate world, recently quit Engro Corporation as President and CEO to join PTI.

Political analysts say that addition of top guns of corporate sector and media industry will not only boost the image of the PTI but their role will also expand the circle of party circle and affiliation in corporate and business world of the country.

Tareekh Sey Sabaq Kon Seekhta hai (a Good Column about IK and NS Politics)

News Night with Talat - 23rd April 2012 - PTI Quetta Jalsaa - Special Analysis

Sunday, April 22, 2012

[Engro]ssing pep talk from Asad Umar at PTI session

It was former Engro CEO Asad Umar’s debut as a new leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and if the standing ovation he received is any indication, Karachi’s business professionals look likely to turn their professional admiration for Umar into support for his party.

Umar was speaking in Karachi at an event organised by the PTI’s Insaf Professionals Forum, a relatively new platform set up by the party to engage ‘professionals’ in different fields as a think-tank of sorts.

Umar, who quit Engro after 27 years and officially joined the party last week, offered an engaging presentation on how to change an ‘unjust’ society into one where people can live with dignity.

Among the attendees were familiar faces on Karachi’s social circuit such as designer Sonya Battla and activist Uzma Noorani, executives at prominent firms including Indus Motors CEO Parvez Ghias and Abbott Laboratories MD Asif Jooma, as well as a mix of excited young 20-somethings.

Umar spoke on a number of topics, peppering his speech with anecdotes and witty jibes. Following up on a comment made by PTI Sindh President Nadir Leghari about how most people in the room would agree that “Imran Khan is a good guy” but didn’t know what to do next, Umar looked at the attendees and said that this was the problem. “The country’s smartest people are disengaged from the political process.” It isn’t important, Umar reiterated, to just be ‘good’, party agenda mattered too.

While he stressed that his presentation consisted of his own thoughts on these issues, Umar linked several points to PTI strategy.

The crux of his speech was that when there are separate systems created for the elite and the rest of the country, that system “goes to hell”. “When you have private security guards, there is no focus on security. If a rich person can get a generator, there is no focus on electricity.”

“The elite,” he laughed, “have yet to figure out how to have separate roads for Prados and buses and rickshaws, which is why we have good roads!”

He explained this through the system of education in detail, noting that the current educational systems in the country had created “apartheid” because they had contributed to the social inequality. Drawing on his own life, having studied at a government school in Nursery and the Government Commerce College before he went to the Institute of Business Administration, Umar said this was the “investment” that the state had made in his education that led him to be hired by Exxon when he graduated, and make enough money in one month to equal the money the state had spent on him. He gave a ringing endorsement of the concept that there should be “one system of education” in the country. “I strongly feel that you cannot have one nation unless you have one educational system,” he said.

“Thirty per cent of children can’t get an education,” Umar lamented.

The taxation system, he said, was “heavily skewed in favour of indirect taxes”. An employee at Engro, he said, lived in Orangi and would change two buses to get to work and paid taxes, while those driving Prados don’t.

State expenditure has to match the levels of child mortality in the country, not on the “fancy Governor Houses and Prime Minister Houses that we so like” or “intercontinental ballistic missiles” or “millions in subsidies to private enterprises”.

He highlighted how devolution was essential for the country to progress. “The 18th amendment is a step in the right direction, but if power has been transferred from Islamabad to Karachi it hasn’t made much of an impact on someone in Khairpur”. This, he said, was a party goal that has been elaborated in a new draft policy for local governance, which was recently released by party leader Jahangir Tareen.

Umar supports the concept of social protection, even though many criticise it as monetary handouts. (The Benazir Income Support Programme is one such initiative that has been criticised by opposition groups). He said the state of poverty in the country right now required this, and also for the net to be expanded.

Asad Umar also discussed foreign policy, and said he had realised that Pakistan’s policy appeared to be “negotiated subservience”. “We are willing to suspend laws as long as the price is right,” he said, drawing on conversations he had had with people who weren’t so much offended at the violations of sovereignty as they were that they had come at such little monetary benefit.

“This isn’t just about the US. There are many other examples where we don’t act as a sovereign state,” Umar said. “You have to live under international law and respect the sovereignty of others.”

Umar responded to questions from attendees and had the audience laughing when he jokingly told one person, “I can’t guarantee that I won’t fool you like other politicians have!” and “Sorry, but that is a very Harvard-Kennedy School way of thinking”. As soon as the talk was over, Umar was swallowed up by a crowd of his peers and PTI supporters, while others made a beeline for the refreshments table to catch up over biscuits and tea.

Civil-military relations:
“Not to get confrontational but to engage on clear lines where the supremacy of the people of Pakistan is not compromised”

Criticising the political system:
“PTI has to be very careful about this. You can criticise individuals and parties but not say that the system cannot deliver”

“It is not just about being in power but how you get to power”

“The people of South Asia are exceptionally talented”

“The islands of peace and prosperity that we spend our lives on will not remain so”

Backchannel talks:
“Economic policy is determined by who you know”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

Imran Nahien Pakistan ki Fatah - Hassan Nisar

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Imran promises to change Balochistan’s fate

QUETTA: Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan announced Friday that the party’s leadership had come to Quetta to change the environment of fear and insecurity in the province, assuring the people that their grievances would be addressed by his party if voted into power and pledging to alter the fate of the province once and for all.

Addressing a massive historic public rally at Ayub Stadium - the largest rally ever to be staged by the party in the city - Imran Khan lamented the environment of insecurity that had forced Pashtuns, Baloch and Hazaras to leave the province.

The public gathering comprised a large number of people of different ages, many of them youngsters and hailing from middle-class families; also notably in attendance was a sizeable congregation of women who cheered for the PTI leader and chanted party slogans.

Imran Khan pledged to resolve the issue of Balochistan through dialogue involving all concerned stakeholders by taking them on board to alter the fate of the province. He regretted that at least three military operations has been carried out in the province in the past, and urged the Baloch leadership to talk to the PTI, assuring them that he would not deviatefrom the promises he would make to them. Imran Khan blasted the political leadership of the province saying, “The politicians of Balochistan are incapable of restoring peace in the province,” adding that PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif should also be held culpable for the current state of affairs. He said that Nawaz Sharif had boycotted the general elections through the APDM, thus inflicting a major blow on the province.

The cricket legend-turned-politician also vowed to apprehend the culprits involved in the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, in addition to bringing the killers of former Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to justice, something which he criticised the PPP government for having failed to accomplish.

He observed that when the political leadership of a country was incapable then the military steps in to take over, insisting that a military operation was not a solution to any political problem, citing the examples of Balochistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan. “A military solution is no solution to any political issue,” he firmly maintained.

Imran Khan assured the crowd that he would take all the leaders of Balochistan into confidence and would bring them to the table in a bid to utilise the resources of the province for the betterment of its people, saying that the Baloch people had a right to their own resources. The PTI leader also alleged that Balochistan was blessed with a plethora of natural resources, saying that if only these were managed and effectively utilised, they would reap dividends for both the province as well as the country as a whole.

The PTI chief said that Balochistan had been awarded Rs110 billion under the NFC award, but regretted to say that the poor condition of roads and schools in the province told a sorry tale, and funds had clearly been misappropriated. The problems of Balochistan can not be resolved unless corrupt leaders are eliminated, he said, castigating the provincial government for the lack of development projects in the region.

Referring to the issue of missing persons, Imran Khan pledged that the PTI would resolve the issue once for all. He said that the trend of missing persons was a violation of humanity, and said that his party stood by the missing persons and their families in solidarity. “If the PTI comes into government, it would never permit this shameful act,” he pledged.

Talking about the socio-economic conditions of Balochistan, the PTI chairman announced a roadmap for the province’s development, saying that the province would be brought on par with other developed parts of the country, and went a step further to insist that Balochistan would be given even more funds for development. He also promised that resources of the province would be utilised on its development. “We will also revive the local government system in the province to [allow the benefits] to trickle down to the grass roots level,” he vowed, adding that he promised to establish peace in the province by improving policing and security.

With regards target-killings across the country and particularly in Karachi, Imran Khan vowed to bring an end to the plight of the innocent people of the metropolis. He announced that the PTI tsunami will be moving to Rawalpindi in May, and added that all the big political “crocodiles” had joined hands to block the incoming tidal wave that was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Earlier speaking at the public gathering senior PTI leader Javed Hashmi said that Balochistan was the richest province of the country, but was purposely being held back and its resources were being ruthlessly plundered. He called on Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Nawab Marri and Mehmood Khan Achakzai to join hands to fight for the freedom of the country, as well as freedom from the clutches of looters, thieves and opportunist elements.

Speaking on the occasion, Shah Mehmood Qureshi regretted that innocent peoples’ blood was being shed in the province, saying that this spillage was condemnable. He castigated the provincial government for being unable to stem the tide of daily disappearances and murders plaguing the province. Shah Mehmood also asserted that all those involved in the bloodshed in the province should be held accountable. He pledged to give due rights to the Baloch and Pashtuns segments of the population, as well as protection for the Punjabi speaking portions of the province.

Justice Wajeehuddin Ahmed, meanwhile, said that a critical lack of justice was the basic reason behind the sense of deprivation that was prevailing in the province, and that the people of Balochistan would have to back the PTI and Imran Khan in order to change the fate of the downtrodden masses.

Also speaking on the occasion, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said that the party had come to Balochistan to share in the grief and sorrows of the people, and to let them know that change was on the cards.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Engro chief resigns to join Imran Khan’s party

KARACHI: After about 15 days of joining Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Engro Corporation, Asad Umar resigned from the post on Monday.

“Umar joined the Insaf Professional Forum of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) about 15 days ago,” confirmed Israr Abbasi, vice president of PTI, Sindh Chapter. He said the Forum consists of economists, bankers, CEOs and professionals of various fields in the corporate sector.

He, however, did not find any linkage between Umar’s resignation and the joining of PTI, saying that PTI has not demanded of professionals to resign from their respective organisations, before joining the forum.

Umar, giving reasons for his resignation via SMS, said that he wanted “to pursue interests outside the corporate sector.”

He said that he will disclose his future plans in the upcoming days.

His colleagues and close friends in the corporate sector were surprised at his resgination and said Umar kept his decision secret.

A statement of the Engro said that Umar had been associated with the Corporation for 27 years; and in his eight years as its president and CEO, Umar had dramatically transformed a chemical company into a major Pakistani conglomerate.

Currently Engro Corporation’s portfolio consists of seven businesses, which include chemical fertilisers, PVC resin, a bulk liquid chemical terminal, industrial automation, foods, power generation and commodity trade.

Umar had joined Exxon Chemical Pakistan Limited (latterly known as Engro Chemical Pakistan Limited) in February 1985 as a business analyst. His career progressed through various assignments in different divisions of the company and he was appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of Engro Polymer & Chemicals in October 1997. In January 2004, he became president and CEO of Engro Corporation, the statement added.

Umar’s successor will be announced by the end of April and will assume the position during the month of May, the statement added.

Lashkari Raisani resigns from Senate may Join PTI on 20 April Quetta Jalsa

QUETTA: Former Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Balochistan chapter president Lashkari Raisani on Tuesday resigned from the Senate, sources have confirmed.

Raisani’s meeting with Chairman Senate Nayyar Bukhari is underway.According to reports, Raisani faxed his resignation to the Senate chairman. Sources maintained that the reason for his resignation is disillusionment with the present PPP leadership.

Sources close to him claimed he could announce joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf during Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to Balochistan and his address to a public meeting in Quetta on April 20.


Shobda Baaz (Tabdilli, Insaaf, Naye Soobey) - Haroon Rashid

Namal University a Dream - Mehr Tarar

Educate the youth from the area and all over Pakistan and turn them into a useful, responsible, employable entity that would contribute toward the personal as well as collective development of all it touched

The smooth, concrete road turned, twisted, and there it was, appearing as if out of a scene from a movie. I sat up, glued to the window. The mud-coloured building on a hilly elevation was so spectacular in that away from any rural and urban locality, that it appeared unreal. Namal University. In Mianwali, Pakistan. The brainchild of cricketer-turned-philanthropist-turned-politician Imran Khan. Being part of the SKMT introductory fundraising campaign 22 years ago, I saw the dream of an enthusiastic, starry-eyed, self-confident, larger than life sports legend to build Pakistan’s first ever cancer hospital. The dream expanded, enhanced and enlarged into what some consider the best specialised medical facility in Pakistan. It has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Years later, another vision turned into reality. The process of improving, expanding and honing receptive, eager young minds into sophisticated, evolved, educated grownups started, and thus Namal became another dream come true. 

This is not to applaud Imran Khan. This is just a statement of acknowledgment, appreciation and applause for some outstanding good deeds. We don’t do that often. We do not just witness goodness, let it sink in, express our surprise, register our joy, elucidate our praise. There is always cynicism, a disguised barb, a so-what, some mumbled well done, over the top flattery or undue criticism. Rarely is there a genuine, unadulterated wow. And that is what I want to do today. Not for one of my favourite cricketing heroes, or the chairperson of a political party — it is for the academic institution I had a chance to visit one balmy April afternoon, and would remember many Aprils later. I was so taken with the splendour of what I saw in the middle of nowhere that I had to say something about it somewhere, and here I am.

I grew up in a small town. I know what it feels like to grow up in a place where you feel caged, and bound to follow paths others envision for you. To be able to think for yourself, try to carve out your own plan out of the rigidity of what is expected of you, unchain yourself from what is expected of a female from a feudalistic, what-will-people-say mindset — not easy at all. When I met a girl from my old school from my hometown, at Namal, I hugged her, proud of where she was. While I was forced to study what I did not want to, here was a young, pretty, laughing teenager standing in the foyer of a first-of-its-kind university in a very conservative area, studying to be a software engineer. Being part of a small group of females in a predominately-male crowd, she nonetheless seemed relaxed in her surroundings, secure in her position of being one of the lucky few, having got a shot at the kind of education only a handful even dream of from where she...I...came from. This is a brand new world. This is Namal...and it is the biggest gift to the small town me. 

The scenic view from the windows of the building gives you a sense of being in the perfect place to study. Standing amidst fierce looking rocks, the soft-hued structure exudes warmth and becomes one with its environment. The stark appearance does not jar the natural beauty of the terrain it stands on. The nearby Namal Lake is an ideal place to have a picnic, a boat ride or just sit by to watch the motion of the waves. Nothing around the campus seems forced or imposed. It has become a quiet part of the natural beauty of the grounds it is constructed on.

To establish an academic facility in a place where there are no good schools or colleges to speak of is a big deal by any standards. It is a backward thinking, entrenched in outdated customs and stuck in a past that digs its heels in stubbornly, area. People are not too interested to educate their children, and even if some are, the government-owned institutions offer so little, one might as well home school one’s child. The dismal picture does not end here. The lack or poorness of education of most of the college graduates disable them from seeking solid employment, thus increasing the number of angry, disillusioned, unemployed youth of Pakistan, especially the large mass in all the cities other than the three big ones. Khan noted this in 2002, and realised that the ones who did not work would become the biggest sore to affect the area. Namal was the proposed remedy. Educate the youth from the area and all over Pakistan and turn them into a useful, responsible, employable entity that would contribute toward the personal as well as collective development of all it touches.

Electrical and electronic engineering, software engineering and computer sciences are the courses taught at the university. For all those who are fortunate to be enrolled here — out of the hundreds who apply — get a chance to be educated in an institution that offers courses that are modern, relevant and in sync with the job market. In a building equipped with all the modern facilities, they are taught with a razor sharp sense of the needs of the global village the world of today is. The faculty is comprised of educated and skilled individuals who take pride in being part of a school that is much more than what it set out to be. 

To establish a first class institution in the backwaters of the province and get it affiliated with a foreign university is a feat on its own. The ones who finish their course will have a Bradford University degree, and that too without spending even a fraction of what it would require to actually study there. Most of it comes from scholarships offered by Namal. To have the representatives of Bradford University visit regularly gives the students a genuine sense of affiliation with the institution without whose generosity their dreams may have remained unfulfilled. And interaction with the founder of Namal is of great importance to them. Khan is their inspiration. He is someone who has chosen this remote, invisible part of the vast province of Punjab to make a first class institution that is a tangible manifestation of what most of them promise but never deliver. The dream never becomes real. Here it did.

My salute to the invisible many who contributed and still do to guarantee the continuation of the present and future of Namal. Without seeking any publicity, these silent donors ensure a splendid education for the ones who cannot afford it on their own. They do it for their hero, for their fellow citizens and for a better Pakistan. They give and they make lives substantial. They are what Namal stands for. 

This is what we need today. Schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, computer schools, skill-management institutions. People do not want words, slogans, shallow rhetoric. They do not aspire for the stars but they want to study the world. They do not want lots of money but they want an education that would open one door after the other for them. They do not want to live in mansions but they want alma maters they can be proud of. They do not want people to hand dole outs to them but they want training and skills they can utilise and improve upon their entire lives. They do not want fancy vehicles but they want paved, usable roads to transport them from one place to the other. They do not want expensive things but they want a clean, spacious place they can be a part of proudly. They want to matter. Be noticed. Be respected. Be given a chance. Be of some real use. Be part of a bigger whole that would set into motion a better tomorrow. Be able to better the lives of their loved ones. Be good for their world. It is time each one of them becomes an individual who is valued on his own and who is an asset to a group. It is time each one of them ceased to be just a faceless statistic and become a real person. And that is exactly, what this quiet, graceful, unassuming, solid institution on a hilly patch...called Namal...promises to do.

The writer can be reached at mehrt2000@gmail.com


Monday, April 16, 2012

Imran Khan Aur Cheetay Ki Sawari - Talat Hussain

Cyberspace – new battleground for political parties (PTI Leading)

LAHORE: Political parties are all set to contest the next parliamentary election on the airwaves and in cyberspace.
Parties such as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are using social media and web portals to attract urban and young voters between the ages of 18 and 25 who form more than 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population and are likely to influence the outcome of the future election.

Though the date for next election has not been announced yet, cyber warfare among major contenders has already begun.

More than 30 volunteers work round-the-clock to keep the PTI afloat on the waves. The official website gets more than 100,000 hits daily from across the country and abroad. Its ongoing membership campaign conducted through SMS, web and manual forms boasts of more than a million members to date. PTI’s official Facebook page ‘Imran the next prime minister’ has 500,000 members while PTI’s official party page has 400,000 members so far.

“The traffic on our portals is so huge that sometimes even we can’t keep pace with it,” said Imran Ghazali, head of PTI’s social media.

PTI’s archrival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also launched an attractive website with a lot of ‘razzmatazz’ to woo young voters. The Sharif brothers are shown in glittering backgrounds addressing public meetings.

“Currently, the website gets around 1,200 hits per day,” said Asim Khan, Media Coordinator for the PML-N. “To tell you the truth, we were not as receptive to the idea of cyber warfare but the PTI has compelled other parties to go online,” Khan said. “To get into the world of blogs, we are working on a new website pmln.tv,” he added.

Even Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is maintaining an impressive web portal that is visited by 3,000 people from across the country and abroad.

The JI is also running a Facebook page that has 40,000 users while a separate Facebook page for Amir Munawar Hasan has 23,000 users.

“We launched this website in 1996 but we revamped it three years ago,” said Shamsuddin, the party’s IT head. “I strongly believe that cyber space and social media will have a huge impact on the next general elections,” Shamsuddin said.

For the PPP, it seems web and social media are far less important. The PPP runs an official website which is not interactive and the party has no official presence on Facebook either.
Its official website “used to get 10,000 hits when the party was in opposition,” according to website manager Amjad Akhlaq. ­

Prominent blogger and columnist Raza Rumi feels that though social media and the web have taken the lead in communication, in a society like Pakistan, it will not be able to ‘make or break’ anything. “The use of the web and social media has increased tremendously but it is unlikely to affect voting patterns in the next elections,” Rumi said.

Blogger, columnist and anchor Javed Chaudhry disagrees. “The line dividing rural and urban people is fading fast as villages too now have access to the internet and TV. I think the impact of social media and the web will play a pivotal role in the next elections,” he said.

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