Constitutional Conundrum…

Constitution is the fundamental, organic law or principles of government of men, embodied in written documents, or implied in the institutions and usages of the country or society; also, a written instrument embodying such organic law, and laying down fundamental rules and principles for the conduct of affairs.

From the definition above, the “Constitution” clearly defines roles, responsibilities, of every single member of the society including those who are elected to represent the society itself.

Since this is a document which governs our lives, it is of utmost importance that this document be read and understood by all, in order for democracy to flourish and a true system of checks and balances, as defined, may be implemented.  Perhaps in Pakistan this may be a tall order, considering the literacy rate, arguably, lingering around 50%, while a person is considered literate if he/she is able to sign his/he name.

As Philip Johnson said, “A constitutional democracy is in serious trouble if its citizenry does not have a certain degree of education and civic virtue.” Perhaps this statement alone can explain the dire straits.  The situation described herein puts a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of the “literate” to not only assume the driving seat, but also to ensure that information about rights and responsibilities is dispensed as far as their individual or collective capacity may allow.

The above is indeed the call of the hour and has never been more important than now.  This statement is made after observing the very limited capability of comprehension of those who are elected to serve us and protect our rights.  Most of the readers will agree that sadly, they all seem to be very well-versed and experts on articles like 248 and may create a lot of agitation if 63-1 is referred to.  It appears almost comical when those at the helm of affairs are protesting and willing to go for long march, strikes, agitation, threaten with a movement of civil disobedience and what not. To all those calling for such measures and defending their rights against these articles, certain excerpts from the Constitution of Pakistan are presented below as they conveniently escape, both their attention and priority:

  1. Preamble: “Wherein principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice, as enunciated in Islam, shall be observed.”
  2. Preamble: “Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures”
  3. Preamble: “Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic, and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and morality.”
  4. Preamble: “Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes.”

The above are just a few examples (out of innumerable instances which reflect on the rights of a common man), only from the “Preamble” of the “Constitution of Pakistan”.  Only these few lines reflect on the gross deprivation of fundamental rights to the masses, yet no one screams, proposes long marches, raises the voice of civil disobedience, and what not. Does it not add up to constitutional breach? Who will take action against these crimes of highest order, where a citizen cannot even register a case without paying the police, where the police themselves recommend employing personal security as the one we pay for are too busy protecting the interests of the ruling elite, where provisions of good medical facilities, security, education, etc., are the right of a select few only.

To all those who claim to have a mandate of 18 crore “Awam”, while it is good to know your rights and defend them, it is better to know your responsibilities and dispense them so that there is no need to defend your rights.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us (the common man) is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.” Any other excuse is simple lack of morality.

An article I wrote earlier, something which needs a constant reminder.

pakpotpourri

Editor’s Note;Social Media has come up as a strong medium of communication. Yes,it has it’s good & bad points. Explored by Ali Shah,a banker based in Karachi.

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By:Ali Rehman

The growth in popularity of social media is indeed very welcome.  We have all witnessed various examples of nations chiseling their fate, individual voices becoming screams of the masses, a small town story becoming a national issue, all because of the social media (twitter/facebook).  Many a success can be attributed today to these channels of communication, starting from drives for funds, to blood donation, to updating of real time news, to more serious stands, where pressure have been built on issues like the internet censorship or the Domestic Violence Bill.  All in all, it provides a platform for anyone to voice their opinions, comment or give analysis on anything and everything.

While the positives of social…

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Where is my Karachi

Burns, sheds, mourns, crumbles
The city of light pronto in bloody plight

Karachi, where life lived with color
Gone are the days and now a sheer slur

Of what we presently look with sore
You kill me; I kill you, and let’s even the score

I wail for the minors losing their guardian
I screech for the guardian tracking their children

The mother waiting for the lone son at evening meal
The wife who wears slight make-up over the facial peel

The newsflash leaves the supper untouched
Saline tears washes away the face of the self-bust

No communal riots, no Politics and no fuss
Don’t pull the wool over our eyes to disharmonize us

Tell me about your lords who have the strings
Who pay you to kill when co-existence shrinks?

Try your best to fool us in the name of riot
You fail, you lose, and you die I cite

You stab us, you slice us
But you can’t black or white us….

– by Talha Masood

Say No Evil…

We, approximately 3 million twitter users in Pakistan, faced a not so surprising block around mid-day on May 20, 2012. As various ISPs started blocking Twitter, all sorts of stories, conspiracy theories, analyses started surfacing which included but were definitely not limited to:

1. Ban imposed owing to the ongoing Cartoon Contest which may be hurting Muslim sentiments (this was claimed by the government and generally quoted as a reason for the block by the masses)
2. Ali Dayan Hasan, Director at Human Rights Watch, Pakistan, was quoted by New York Times saying: “The Government of Pakistan’s ban on Twitter is ill-advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be.”
3. Raza Rumi, a renowned columnist was quoted by New York Times saying: “Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan’s security agencies is expressed. There is a clear trend that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.”
4. Dr. Awab Alvi, a staunch and a very active Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporter opined that this temporary block may just be testing grounds of the overall planned block of various “objectionable” sites.

While the authoritarians, once again, were enjoying the authority, almost within an hour of the block, twitter traffic started gaining slowly while the ban continued as people started figuring out and employing various proxies. Ironically, all throughout the ban and till much later, #TwitterBan was trending at the top in Pakistan.

On a separate note, I am just content that we are surrounded by the most senior authorities who we can blindly trust. Had it not been for Mr. Malik’s warning, it is simply beyond imagination what this ban might have done to the nation. About 16 hours prior to block, Mr. Malik, equipped with his exemplary farsightedness and resolve, had tweeted “Dear all, I assure (you) that Twitter and (Facebook) will continue in our country and it will not be blocked. (Please) do not believe in rumors.” As if this was not enough, a tweet following the lifting of ban mentioned that he had done his best to lift the ban as committed. If nothing, I thank Mr. Malik for sprinkling any event with the much needed comedy, which has averted many a storms during the past 4 odd years.

I am not one to analyze or offer any conspiracy theory regarding the causes, rights, wrongs, etc., about the ban. I am an optimist and look at the brighter side of things. Indeed there has been great learning for the authorities as the ban backfired completely! Therefore, a solution is offered here in which will perhaps assist any such future activity. This is shared with the authorities on behalf of the nation who is very responsible, understands the objects and is always with the “authoritarians”.

A muzzle is a device that is placed over the snout of an animal to keep it from biting or otherwise opening its mouth. There are various types of muzzles (Elizabethan Collars). Some are conical while some are flat or cylindrical. Which type of muzzle to use depends on 1. The shape of the snout, and 2. The level of control which is required. This entails the decision of the owner of the animal and what objective is to be achieved. By employing a muzzle, one can, a. limit the loudness of the sound being made by the animal, b. ensure that the animal is completely mute, c. limit the animal to just using the tongue for lapping liquids or licking the toes of the owner, d. ensuring a complete restraint whereby the animal is not able to open the mouth at all, hence no sound and no biting.

Considering the advantages above, it will be quite fruitful to employ these muzzles next time around as they may offer a permanent solution. Initially thinking of approximately 6 million twitter users only, and average cost of a decent muzzle being US$ 4 to 5, we are looking at a total expense of US$ 30 million. Not only will this address the problem but will also give a strong message to those who are not currently vocal or bite. This act will ensure that those who do not have a sound or do not bite, never dare to do so in future. Furthermore, this may give an opportunity for some friends to make some money as a contract of US$ 30 million may well prove to be quite lucrative.

The recommendation above is made wholeheartedly, with complete alignment to the desires of the authorities and a commitment to abide by and assist them whenever, wherever possible.

Who Says Golden Words Are Not Repeated!

My son, Shaamir, 5 year old, has just finished his Kindergarten and will now be attending 1st grade from the session starting August 2012.  At this occasions, Mrs. Haque’s Montesorri had planned a “Graduation Ceremony”, today, May 19, 2012, at the Haque’s Academey Campus , DHA VIII, Karachi. Image

I must admit, when I learnt about the event, a small thought crossed my mind and I thought to myself, “Graduation Ceremony, 5 year old, going on to 1st Grade from Kindergarten?”.  All the thought needed to be shrugged off was an innocent look on the face of my younger son, Shaamir, which communicated nothing but excitement.  Of course, another look by the wife was also quite enough for me to plan attending the ceremony, a look which I would rather not describe here :-).

Having attended the ceremony, I must say it was well worth it.  The hall was full of excitement of the parents of tender little children who will hopefully grow up to be the front-runners and at the helm of affairs of our country, irrespective of which field they may choose to be associated with.  It was indeed heartwarming that after much hue and cry over the National Anthem issue and some certain private schools, the ceremony started with the National Anthem.  A few welled-up eyes here and there told me there is still hope.  Right after the Anthem, which was loudly sung along by parents as well, Mrs. Marcia Haque stepped up to deliver her welcome speech.  It is that speech which got my utmost attention and hence I decided to share this with all of you.  During her speech, she referred to some certain lessons learnt during Kindergarten which have been long forgotten.  Small little values which make us what we are, or should I say, lack of which makes us what we are.  In those few lines, I found the key to all our problems.  I am reproducing here below parts of her speech with a silent prayer that these lessons which we all learnt before all else become an integral part of our lives, as they were meant to become.

 Image“Today is about the boys and girls graduating on to Grade 1. These are the men and women of tomorrow….At this juncture, we must say to them as the Quaid-e-Azam said to us: You must devote yourself wholeheartedly to your studies, for that is your obligation to yourselves, your parents and to the State.  You must learn to obey, for only then you can command” Mrs. Haque went on as she mentioned Robert Fulghum who said, “All I really needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten.” and then he went on to mention all those lessons which he learnt at that tender age qualifying them as the only thing he ever needed to learn.  These lessons were:

 

  1. Share everything
  2. Play fair
  3. Don’t hit people
  4. Put things back where you found them
  5. Clean up your own mess
  6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours
  7. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody
  8. When you go out, watch out for traffic
  9. Hold hands and stick together

I thought to myself, what golden words, what marvelous message.  I felt sad how far we have grown from these basic values which were instilled in us. Or at least efforts were put to do so. The lessons stated above… aren’t they a solution for almost everything.   From personal lives to neighborhoods, countries, and the world at large.  What problem cannot be resolved by adopting these simple rules?Image

I believe the sooner these lessons become us, the better.  These words have definitely fallen on our ears at some point in time in our lives, but let us now take that step and make them our lives.

At the end, my gratitude to Mrs. Marcia Haque for reminding us of these golden lessons which have far been lost somewhere.

KESC…. Winning Hearts?

For long, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation has had a tough time gaining popularity amongst the masses. Being a utility company, providing one of the most basic and important service of electricity, it is indeed an uphill task to ensure a certain level of “satisfied customer base”. The overall circular debt scenario, supply of fuel, law and order situation, etc., makes it even more difficult to ensure delivery of services and satisfaction at large.

This article is written from a perspective of a customer of KESC and a common man who has witnessed an amazing phenomenon and creation of “Wow Experiences”. As a common resident of Karachi, I have had my fair share of bad mouthing, to downright abusing KESC for the long hours of load-shedding, to fluctuation, to breakdowns to delay/no response to complaints. However, the perception has changed over the past few months. What is the reason behind this change?

KESC Ltd came live on twitter a few months back. Probably one of the best decisions the management of KESC ever took. How did this help KESC to create the perception it carries today and what is it that resulted in #KESC (being a Karachi-based utility company) trending in Pakistan, mostly with favorable tweets/comments?

Was this positive perception a result of reduced load shedding after KESC appeared on twitter? Was it because the supply of fuel ameliorated after KESC appeared on twitter? Was it because theft was controlled after KESC appeared on twitter? “NO”. None of this happened. However, something brilliant happened and this needs to have an in-depth study and be made a case for other organizations.

From the perspective of a common man and an observer, the difference was created because of the contact that was established between the customer and the service provider. Although the KESC Call Center has been up and running, a stark difference has been witnessed on the response time and the kind of response which has actually resulted in quite a fan-following. Learning here is that all a customer wishes, to begin with, is:

1. To be heard (by someone who is willing to listen and help)
2. To be promptly responded to: Analyzing from the responses and reaction, this does not entail immediate resolution at all. It can be safely said that if the customer is communicated promptly and honestly, there is an immediate appreciation of taking the end-user of any service on board and taking them into confidence.

While immediate solution to the problems will indeed be an ultimate experience, just bringing the end-user up to date with ground realities may assist customers to deal with the problem at hand in a more efficient manner and thereby, minimizing the trouble caused due to non-provision of something as basic as electricity. Having said that, indeed there have been many example of KESC not only listening, responding, but actually providing prompt resolutions as well.

While the issue of provision of electricity to the largest metropolis of Pakistan continues to be challenging, from the perspective of a consumer, it can be safely assumed that situation will improve in due course of time. At the same time, it is prayed that the consumer also become more responsible with regards to conservation, theft, etc., and realize what we need to do to put in our bit as may be needed greatly.

Honestly stating, the tweets/comments have been a mix in terms of negative and positive. However, since the idea of writing this article is to appreciate the services/response, some positive tweets/comments are mentioned below, in hopes to provide greater motivation to the management of KESC to improve even further.

@SarahDawood: @KESCwala – Bravo to the #KESC complaint resolution team – fixed my bijli at 4am… everyone said they will not come till the next day.

‏@jehan_ara: Third phase is back. Thanks for the prompt service RT @jehan_ara: Hey @KESC_Ltd why only two phases today? Can’t run the air conditioners.

‏@UroojZia@: KESC_Ltd Adjective aatey haiN ji when the complaint centre does not respond all day, & my deadlines are missed courtesy your organisation.

@babushka99: @jehan_ara @KESC_Ltd @zohaibkhanpk despite its misgivings of the past, #kesc is actually improving! Never thought I’d say that.

@taimoormq: Wow! It’s great to have @KESC_Ltd tweeting electricity/breakdown updates rather than having to call the clueless folks on 118.#karachi #KESC

@zakrana: #KESC: My area enjoys a better service because power theft is zero! Thank you KESC.

Happy Mothers’ Day… A reminder of “Motherhood” to Mothers

“Mothers’ Day”, a day dedicated to one of the greatest beings ever. “A Mother”. From the very virtue of “motherhood”, indeed a one day celebration dedicated to this magnanimous institution cannot do justice to how it contributes to a child, a family, a neighborhood, a city, a country and the world at large.

Over time, somewhere, somehow, we have forgotten the essence of this day. Are we to celebrate “A Mother” or “Motherhood”? What defines a mother? For some reason, being a mother has become synonymous to giving birth to a child. Is that the only criteria? Is that the only reason why we should celebrate mothers? Quite often, all so familiar sermons by other family members, friends, elderly, clerics and other religious scholars (and anyone in the remotest of capacity of being able to tell a child how the mother should be treated), include placement of a mother at a certain level of reverence. Undoubtedly, that is where a mother belongs as her being tantamount to being the key to heaven.

What is it actually that has given a woman that status. Is it giving birth to a child? In my humble opinion, the answer is “NO”. Being a mother, to me, is a life-long process. A mother, indeed, plays a critical role in the making of a race. Why is it that we do not ever think about the reasons behind a “mother” being put on such a high pedestal? Just a few of these reasons include undying love, untiring sacrifice, untold influence and unfailing faith.

Hopefully the readers are able to differentiate between a mother who lays a foundation of a strong community with her love, affection, care, and a mother like Jezebel who creates hatred and uses the motherly influence to bring about the worst in children.

A small message to all the children who have a mother who is love and sacrifice personified: Even if you dedicate your entire life to your mother, you cannot possibly compensate one moment of a sleepless night. Hence, don’t try to repay, just be thankful and celebrate and let her see in front of her what fine children she has raised. Indeed there is no better satisfaction of hard labor than to witness the end-result. There may be someone who has not given birth to you, but has reflected upon “motherhood”. Extend your wishes and prayers to all those individuals too.

And a message to all those mothers who think giving birth to a child puts them on the same pedestal as a mother who is to be celebrated: There is a lot more to being a mother than just giving birth. It entails many a sacrifices, unconditional love, dispensing of knowledge and ensuring of raising fine children who would grow up to be tolerant, loving individuals, are just a few.

From what my vision and understanding allows me to believe, this day is not dedicated to “Mothers” but to “Motherhood”, to “Love”, to “Sacrifice”… indeed a few traits of which only a “Mother” can be a master, should one choose to be.

On a personal note, I would like all of you to please offer a prayer for “Arifa”, not a mother who gave birth to me, not someone I ever met, but someone who has defined my being, simply because of the way she raised her children and how she sacrificed, how she battled with cancer and ensured till her last breath that she does not become a liability. I am sure there are plenty of such beings who leave a mark and slowly carve life with utmost precision.  I am sure there are many such beautiful mothers out there. Offer a prayer for all motherly figures around the world and more important than that, pray for all children to have mothers with the characteristics of “motherhood” or have someone in their lives who is what a mother should be. Amen

At the end, please offer a prayer for my wife Sharmin who hasn’t slept one full night since January 20th 2003. That is when we had our first son and since then, she has to get up at least 3 times during the night just to see if all is well with the kids.

Happy “Motherhood” day to all. May all such individuals with the traits of “Motherhood” be blessed from the greatest of bounties and may all others realize what being a “Mother” means and that it is far beyond just giving birth.