Month: November 2015

And the elected acting like dummies


The Constitution of Pakistan establishes the state as a federal parliamentary republic, comprising four provinces: Punjab (95 million), Sindh (41.3 million), Balochistan (8.8 million) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (23.3 million). Administratively, the country is divided into Districts, Tehsils (sub-districts) and Union Councils, with each Union Council comprising a number of villages, a UNDP report states.

The immense population that exists in this country cannot be truly governed by just the federal governments; hence we have the provincial government. Even then the distribution of power couldn’t be balanced therefore the need arose for the Local Governments (LGs)

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan has made it mandatory. Article 140(A) of the Constitution explicitly states, “Each Province shall, by law, establish a Local Government system and devolve political, administrative, and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the Local Governments.” Moreover, sub-clause 2 of the same article stipulates that “Election to the Local Governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

The growth of media has brought about much awareness in civil society as to the importance of the local government for keeping a check and balance on the competence and liability of the provincial government.

Before we talk about the reluctance of the provincial governments on the LGs, let’s have a look at the ghosts of the past.

In 1959, Ayub Khan became the first dictator after a military coup and chose to install the LGs through the Basic Democracies Order 1959. The Basic Demands system was created as an alternative for voting rights and served as an electoral institution to elect the president and the legislative assemblies.

It created Municipal Committees (MCs) and Union Committees (UCs) in urban areas, which had to deal with various functions, such as social welfare, health, infrastructure. The MCs had limited taxation powers whereas the UCs had no fiscal powers.

The growth of media has brought about much awareness in civil society as to the importance of the local government for keeping a check and balance on the competence and liability of the provincial government.

In rural areas, the Union Council was the first tier, which elected their chairman who also served as a member of the Tehsil (sub-district) Council (TC). The job of the TC was to coordinate with the UCs. Below TCs would be District Councils (DC).

“The army needs a force within the people; hence they went directly to local bodies, bypassing the political governments.” Sajjad Mir, a senior analyst, said while talking to DNA.

Successive military regimes followed the same model. They promoted LGs but maintained control at the federal level, hence the LG was identified as an instrument for delegitimising the party system and provincial independence.

The Local Government Order 1979 expanded the LGs and empowered the deputy commissioners. In urban areas, it created four municipal governments, Town Committees, Municipal Committees, Municipal Corporations and Metropolitan Corporations. In the rural areas, a three-tier system of local government came into existence, Union Councils, Tehsil or Taluka Councils and District Councils.

The urban-rural divide was removed in 2001 as the Local Government Ordinance (LGO) 2001 established the LG at three levels: Union Council, Tehsil/Taluka Council and District Council levels. Union Nazims (mayor) and Naib (deputy) Nazims were directly elected by voters and became members of the District and Tehsil Councils.

The LGO transformed the political and social landscape as it bought more than 150,000 people into politics and created more than 6,000 councils.

It was a transfer of administrative, financial and development powers to the elected officials, making the government departments accountable to the District Council. District police chiefs became directly accountable to the District Nazims.

LGO 2001 also had reserved seats for women (33 percent), minorities, professionals and peasants, although women’s participation was constrained in some parts of the country by the local jirgas, tribal leaders, and boundaries.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, most political parties believe in two-tier governance — federal and provincial. The third preferably could be the bureaucracy (which is taken care of by the national and provincial assembly members).

The problem is centralization of power. LGs are therefore far more important as they allow the direct participation of the general public. It’s directly responsible for maintenance of the cities and towns, conversely, our decision makers; security intelligence establishment, bureaucracy and political parties prefer to run the districts, tehsils and union councils by unelected administrators and commissioners.

During the previous democratic transitional phase 2008-2013, no provincial government conducted local bodies elections, but after much pressure from the Supreme Court, the elections are being held in phase all over Pakistan.

Senior analyst Ayaz Mir said while talking to DNA that the reason for the hiatus in the local body elections is simply the reluctance of our political leaders.

“Our political governments do not really like these LG polls. They cannot see their benefits being distributed to the locals like this” he said.

If not for the Supreme Court there would still have been many unreasonable claims by political parties for further delay in the elections, added Sajjad Mir.

“Political governments are stingy with their powers. But our constitution says that the provinces should hold LBs, and the SC force finally made them happen.”

The new LG ACT differs for all four provinces; the provincial assembly of Balochistan passed the LG Act in 2010, whereas the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed their LG Acts in 2013, in accordance with the 18th Amendment. In the face of a lack of enthusiasm and long discussions during the formulation stage, the passage of the LG Acts could be deemed as a noteworthy high point.

On the other hand, certain parts of the LG Acts of Punjab, Sindh and KPK have been challenged by the opposition parties in various courts.

Mehmood-ur-Rasheed of PTI highlighted this while talking to DNA.

“The government of 2008 saw that previously elected UCs weren’t working as per their requirements, therefore, they prematurely dissolved them. The delay was on the basis of the new legislation stating that the old one was corrupted.”

These Acts devolve sufficient functions and powers to the locally elected, but all four provincial governments have retained the authority to suspend or remove the heads of an elected LG. To top it all the functioning of the LG Fund is managed by the finance department and finance minister of the province.

Qamar Zaman Kaira of PPP emphasised this point while talking to DNA.

“The Act proves governments still do not want to give the devolution to the elected. I do not see much change in the future; the LBs representatives had more power in Musharraf’s era. The law has already been made upon which they are to be governed and that does not show much support for democracy.”

Term limits of the LGs are set by the LG Acts of 2013; Punjab provides a five years term, Sindh and Balochistan four years, and KPK three years.

The establishment of Provincial Finance Commissions (PFC) is provided by all four, headed by the provincial finance ministers. The local councils would receive allocations through the respective provincial finance commission awards and would have limited powers to impose taxes or exercise regulatory functions.

It is appropriate to highlight the importance of the grass-root democracy and seek commitment of the political parties at this time

This tends to subordinate the LGs to the provincial governments, allowing the chief ministers to remove an LG or head of council and appoint officeholders after the dismissal of council heads.

Limited autonomy to the local councils in terms of fiscal management and control over service delivery, revenue, tax and police departments is provided by the current Act.

If the local elections are to have any real meaning, provincial governments will need to ensure that newly elected local councils have sufficient resources and authority to address service delivery and development challenges in local communities. This will require provincial governments to recalibrate their approach towards the third tier of government. At present, their instincts seem to be to ‘centralise’ for the purposes of political expediency, rather than acting in the true spirit of the 18th amendment and empowering local government structures.

The failure of provincial governments to perform at the local level affects the poor especially. Only local authorities will be able to understand and make the right choices for their respective areas. It cannot be expected from the government to be “all seeing, all hearing”. People are able to trust their opinion leaders/heads of society, giving them an upper hand in resolving matters.

It is appropriate to highlight the importance of the grass-root democracy and seek the commitment of the political parties at this time. There is a need to create laws that better clarify the division of power and functions between the provincial governments and LGs.

Sajjad Mir hopes that the LG Acts will evolve as the elected and the provincial relations attain a new balance of power.

“The grass will definitely be greener one day, even though the government is reluctant at the moment, but in some years the local bodies will definitely be the voice of the people of this nation. Given the elected do not act like dummies”, he concluded.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today

“However educated the people may be they still feel timid telling their loved ones about their problems,” says Nadia, a breast cancer survivor who lived with the disease for six years before finally overcoming it.

“After my son’s birth, I knew something was wrong. When I went to the doctor, the mammogram procedure scared me. I didn’t get it done until much later.” Nadia’s cancer was diagnosed at the second stage. She had to go through, chemotherapy, radiations and a mastectomy before she was cancer free.

Many due to lack of awareness and societal taboos surrounding the disease in Pakistan have to face severe consequences. Women fear coming out about the disease as talking openly about one’s breast is still considered disrespectful, as the fear of losing breast in the process is overwhelming, dreadful thoughts of an unhappy marriage due to it or no marriage at all; ignoring the big picture, i.e. their life, in the course.

Another breast cancer survivor, Dr Fatimah says, “I tell every woman I meet that we should stop being scared and take charge because it’s either us or cancer.”

Every year in October, International Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns (BCAC) are run with the month dubbed Pinktober.

BCAC which started in 1985 has saved many lives with the aim of the campaign to promote the most effective ways in the fight against the disease.

Breast cancer has become relatively curable in the past years. Early detection could increase survival rate, mean lesser chemotherapy and no mastectomies at best.


“Breast Cancer is not a death sentence anymore. It is 100 per cent curable if women get tested on time,” Dr Maryam Hassan a researcher at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) told Pakistan Today.

Almost one in every nine women in Pakistan is vulnerable to breast cancer in her life while over a million women worldwide are diagnosed with the disease every year, according to SKMCH&RC.

According to The Pink Ribbon campaign, “Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer for any Asian population in the world. It is the most frequent malignancy in women and accounts for 38.5 percent of all female cancers which is 90,000 new cases every year. About half (43.7%) of all breast cancers are locally advanced and result in 40,000 deaths every year.”

The lack of awareness related to the disease in immense in Pakistan. Belonging to the advantaged class people think that they have enough knowledge to detect breast cancer, but sadly that isn’t the case.

“At the moment we need to focus on educating the educated in the country because we need to break the taboo first of not talking about this disease and of course we hope for a domino effect,” Hadiqa Kiani said while talking to Pakistan Today, the famous singer is also an ambassador of Breast Cancer from SKMCH&RC.

“This, though, is important for every class of the society. We being the more privileged one have a greater responsibility to understand and spread the word about the disease. Besides if we do not do it who will?” says prominent actress Mahira Khan, who is also an ambassador for breast cancer awareness with SKMCH&RC.

Breast cancer can be a result of many environmental and inherited risk factors. With the development of technology which can study DNA of cancer cells more closely, understanding of the biology and genetics of breast cancer has vastly improved.

Through this advancement, new therapies for breast cancer are being introduced, giving hope to breast cancer patients. Since the early 1990’s death rates from breast cancer have decreased by approximately 25% in the USA and Europe. Screening mammography and continuously improving treatment strategies which utilise chemotherapy, hormone therapy and, more recently, targeted therapy have made this possible.

SKMCH&RC gives some of the factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer:

•             The risk for breast cancer increases for women 40-59;

•             Menstruation before age 12 and menopause after age 55;

•             Prolonged hormone replacement therapy treatment;

•             Poor diet, high alcohol consumption, smoking and chewing tobacco combined with a sedentary lifestyle;

•             Existing health conditions like diabetes and/or obesity;

•             Family history;

•             Benign breast disease


Dr Maryam Hassan says symptoms of breast cancer vary from person to person. She said that it is important for every female to self-examine once a month and search for the minor changes occurring in the body and share any change with the doctor. She emphasised that early diagnosis and treatment is the key.

Four simple steps of self-examination:

1)            With your arms at your sides.

2)            With your arms overhead.

3)            With your hands on hips – Press firmly to flex your chest muscles.

4)            Bent forward – Inspect your breasts.

Important findings in a self examination that need further evaluation which includes:

•             A new area of thickening in the breast or a new breast lump

•             A lump in the axilla/armpit area

•             Nipple distortion

•             Bloody nipple discharge

•             Skin retraction or dimpling

•             Fixation of skin to an underlying lump

•             Skin redness

•             Skin thickening especially around the nipple area

•             Feeling of warmth over an area of skin which is already thickened and red

•             Skin ulcer or blister that does not heal

•             Skin rash over the breast especially around the nipple with lesions that do not heal

•             Pain in the breast that travels to the armpit and along the arm and neck

A woman has many roles to play in the society, namely of a mother, daughter, sister, etc. In the cycle of life women usually forget that they are the core of a family, which brings onto them another responsibility, i.e. to take of themselves even more.

“As women, we are so sensitive to everything, everyone’s issues but ourselves. We forget to take care of ourselves. We actually are the nucleus of our family,” Hadiqa Kiani said during one of her workshops. “If we take care of ourselves, we could do a better job. So get checked. Be aware and do it as soon as possible,” she continued.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today

Set aside your differences and have a happy meal

The rivalry we have had with our far-fetched cousins (read India) is a family history of about seven decades now.

There have been many instances in this history when we have tried to resolve our matters, but have always met with uninvited calamities; the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and the murderous rampage in Mumbai in 2008, for example.

We are constantly stuck in this tornado of misunderstandings, unresolved issues and political tension. At the cost of the other, both countries try endlessly to be on the better side of the great power, America. Yet both complain that the other is favoured more. The visit of the PM Nawaz Sharif to Washington could be to reach grounds that India has already reached, yet again proving the constant tussle.

Shiv Sena’s recent anti-Pakistan outburst has also raised many important questions.

Will the political tension never end? Is this just more propaganda or is this the current ruling party’s view? And do most Indians think the same way about Pakistan?

We are constantly stuck in this tornado of misunderstandings, unresolved issues and political tension

Because of the many unresolved matters, there are lots of travel constraints that both sides face, making it nearly impossible to have personal contact with our friends on the other side.

I got my hands on a handful of people who have travelled across this border from both sides, to see if these love-hate relationships and the recent political tension altered their views.

Bina Saeed, a Karachi housewife recalled her visit to Agra: “They could hardly figure out that I wasn’t Indian, it was only during shopping when I bargained I used my ‘I am your guest card’ and that would increase their hospitality.”

Farhat Asrar, a retired banker from Karachi visited India for his wife’s operation’

“There were a lot of pre-conceived notions when I was travelling; that my wife wouldn’t be given the best care, etc. My eyes popped out when I saw that the doctors and the nurses didn’t care where I was from. What mattered was her life, being a Pakistani was a plus point as they were extra courteous towards us,” he said.

The political views of a country do not necessarily depict its people’s views or the other way round.

Madhavi Bansal, a Public Policy student from Dehli, feels “hatred shouldn’t be there, the public display of such things is for image formation. The hatred is the root cause of that. I for one have always met good Pakistanis who are great friends. These things have not and will not alter my opinion about them.”

Programs like Aman-ki-Asha have given a boost to many non-governmental organisations in both countries, which are working hard to increase the person-to-person contacts.

One such programme is Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a collaboration of Mission Bhartiyam and The Catalyst. They work to create unwavering bonds between people, conducting workshops, peace conferences and interactive session with students.

Laraib Abid, an MPhil student, was part of their recent Global Youth Peace Festival, and has bought back many good memories from her four day trip to Chandigar.

“Those who have negative views are the ones who haven’t met people from across the border,” she said. “Having friends in India, interaction and dialogues have made it clear to me that political concerns are just controversy.”

The media role is powerful in catalysing these views and ideas. Had it played positively matters could have been different.

Indian and Pakistani expatriates around the world share lives; some are married, others are batch mates or work in the same office

Tridivesh Singh, a researcher in Jindal, explained his viewpoint.

“It is easier for the media to exploit tensions since the level of people-to-people contact is low, therefore people on both sides have wrong notions,” he said.

“The personal contact may not help in peace or resolving political issues but is helpful in removing misconceptions. Media propaganda can only be blunted if people know each other better.”

The bright side to the Shiv Sena scenario is that the portion of the society that can make a difference are free thinkers, whose mind set isn’t altered easily.

“India is a big country, a large percentage is uneducated here, and these political games are the only way to stay in power. Qualified people know they are being polarised by the political parties to gain sympathy of the innocent public,” said Hassen Chisti, from Imphal.

The task sounds pretty easy but may be a laborious one, but building personal relationships is the ultimate key to peace in the subcontinent.

Indian and Pakistani expatriates around the world share lives; some are married, others are batch mates or work in the same office. The friendship exists as personal levels. This should be expanded and many NGOs are taking such initiatives.

The childish rivalries both have in the name of patriotism or religion do not justify the cause. It is high time the cousins set aside their difference and have a happy meal.


Originally Publish in Pakistan Today

This column has been appreciated across the border too in Imphal Free Press Articles

Read the appreciation column here 

Armaan continues to thrill audiences almost 50 years after its release at the Ali Auditorium on Saturday where over 200 senior citizens sang along to the tunes of its soundtrack.

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) held a screening of the Lollywood classic under its “CAP Lollywood Night: Old is Gold” project.

Armaan, which was released in 1966, ran for 75 weeks straight earning it a platinum jubilee. The current screening was attended by many who wanted to reminisce about Pakistan’s golden era in cinema.

“This was the first movie I went to see after my wedding. It brings back all those memories,” Mrs Omar, who was with her daughter, told Pakistan Today.

“It was one of the films that my friends and I snuck out for in the middle of the night during the weekdays,” laughed Mr Jawed, a grandfather.

Raju Jamil, veteran actor and chief guest at the screening, said that he was present at nine locations during the making of the movie in Karachi and Murree. He recalled Waheed Murad’s status as a style icon and Zeba’s ability to charm everyone.

He was of the opinion that while the revival of Lollywood is welcome, it cannot compare to the standards of the ‘60s.

“Can you recall a single movie from the last three to five years where people cried and wrote letters for it to be brought back to the cinemas? Neither can I! For Armaan such a response existed because of movies like it, along with the music, left a lasting mark,” he said.

The audience sang along to all the songs in the movie. Everyone clapped along to Koko Korina – when Waheed clapped onscreen, the audience mimicked him. Everyone laughed during the lighter scenes, cried when Zeba cried, and whistled as the movie ended.

While talking to Pakistan Today after the movie, Oral History Project Director Muhammad Owais Rana, emphasised the importance of Lollywood “CAP works towards preserving the chronicles of Pakistan’s rich history and heritage, and Lollywood is a big part of it. We hope to show the new generation what a treasure we had and make them appreciate it,” he said.

Although many flocked to see the movie, the younger generation was notably lacking in attendance. The ones that did show up were pleasantly surprised by the movie. “This is the first time I have watched a full-fledged black and white Lollywood movie, and I must say I am pleased,” Mehwish, an MBA student, said after the movie.

CAP will be holding the next screening in Islamabad and ultimately hopes to open a museum and heritage centre, which will focus on Pakistani history, photography, culture, literature, and historical documentation. The aim is to demonstrate the strength and spirit of Pakistan from the perspective of a citizen.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today 

On the eve of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to America, let’s discuss the dynamics of Pakistan with another growing power structure, possibly the Asian Pivot, as said by Hilary Clinton herself, India, and the USA.

Pakistan’s geopolitical significance is undisputedly important to USA, India and China.

Though Pak-US governments try to maintain a strategic partnership, there definitely is a trust deficit.

The recent spanner in the works in, so to say, in the relations between India and Pakistan was thrown in with the Mumbai attacks on 26 November, 2008.

It was on this day that a group of militants simultaneously attacked multiple targets in Mumbai, killing around 183 people, including 22 foreign nationals, while some 327 people were injured.

During December 2008 the Pakistani government admitted that 26/11 might have been partly planned on Pakistani soil, while strongly denying accusations that the perpetrators were aided by Pakistan’s intelligence.

Keeping in mind the coming visit of the Pakistan PM to the US, it would be of great use to go through some of the most prominent incidents between Pakistan and India, Pakistan and US and the US and India, and how these incidents have shaped the relations between these countries over the past few years.

On 16 June 2009, on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Yekaterinburg (Russia), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on meeting President Zardari flouted traditional norms of diplomacy, saying that, “my mandate is to tell you that Pakistani territory should not be used for terrorism against India” in the presence of the international media.

On 16 July 2009, PM Gillani met with Singh in the Egyptian city of Sharm-el-Sheikh during the NAM summit. They issued a joint statement which stated “both prime ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue Process and these should not be bracketed.”

During this time Pakistan and the US had good relations.

Oct 2009 – Kerry-Lugar Bill passed, which granted $7.5nbillion of non-military aid under certain circumstances showing USA’s distrust in Pakistan’s military.

On 1 December 2009, President Barak Obama decided to broaden the relationship with Pakistan on foundations of mutual trusts and respect.

In February 2010, the Obama administration requested an additional $3 billion in aid, for a total of $20.7 billion. It should be noted here that from 2002 to 2010, Pakistan had received approximately $18 billion in military and economic aid from the US.

On 4 February 2010, India officially offered to restart foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan. Without clarifying the scope of the proposed discussions, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao invited her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir for talks to New Delhi.

Delegates went to India, where they were handed over three dossiers. They demanded that thirty-three individuals, including two serving Pakistan army officers as well as Indian fugitives allegedly involved in terror acts, be handed over to India.

Pakistani foreign secretary reminded India on this occasion that his country had witnessed “hundreds of Mumbai’s” and lost 5,366 civilians in 3,043 terror attacks since 2008 and, therefore, was not ignorant of the dangers of terrorism after their incessant allegations. Evidently both countries failed to bury the hatch at this meeting.

By mid-February Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban’s second-in-command, was captured in Pakistan by Pakistani forces.

During March 2010, India again requested to conduct a second round of meetings to which Pakistan refused mentioning that it wanted result oriented talks.

The SAARC summit was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April, 2010, and it led to a meeting between the two PMs. This was after the 47-nation summit on nuclear security that took place in Washington in early April

US and SAARC members’ pressure played a vital role in the agreement the two countries came to in Bhutan. They held three meetings, including a one-on-one discussion that lasted over an hour. An agreement was that there was a lack of trust that necessitated dialogue. Terrorism and prosecution of terrorists allegedly involved in the Mumbai attacks were issues highlighted by Manmohan Singh, to which the Pakistani premier reassured that terrorism was a threat that the country was working against.

24 June 2010, Nirupama Rao visited Islamabad to meet Salman Bashir where the agenda for a meeting between the foreign ministers in July was set. The talks, as Rao put it, “provided an opportunity to talk to each other and not at each other”.

India’s proposal dealt with trade and humanitarian issues and to ensure that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed is prevented from issuing anti-India statements or making contentious speeches.

In May 2010, Ajmal Kasab, the protagonist of 26/11 was sentenced to death by Indian courts. In which the Law Minister Moily termed a message to Pakistan to abandon its “state policy of terrorism”. A similar statement by Home Minister Chidambaram also makes for ominous reading, warning Pakistan to refrain from “exporting” terror to India.

During January 2011, Raymond Davis shot dead two Pakistani robbers, this threatened the Pak-US relation, as US said that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity and Pakistan wanted to prosecute him. He was freed after US gave blood money to the Families of the dead.

In February 2011, ‘foreign secretaries of Indo-Pak countries met in Thimpu (Nepal) agreeing to resume peace talks “on all issues”.

In May 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist, was killed. The US Admiral Mullen alleged that the killing was “sanctioned by the government” which ISI denied liberally.

On 2 May 2011, the event of the century took place in Abbottabad: Osama Bin Laden, Taliban’s head, was killed by the US Navy SEALs on Pakistani soil, in the operation Neptune Spear. Pakistan wasn’t informed until it was over. The US thought that any effort to tell Pakistan authorities about the mission could expose it.

US-Pakistan relations tumbled again when 24 Pakistani soldiers died in an air strike by the US Army.

As a result of the attack, Pakistani government ordered US army to evacuate Salala air base which was used against Taliban and militants. Moreover, the government also halted NATO supplies for United Sates.

In November 2012, India executed Ajmal Kasab, hanging him just days before the fourth anniversary of the attack.

Shakil Afridi, a doctor cooperating with the US in Neptune Spear, was sensed to 33 years of prison for treason.US Congress cut 33 million dollars from Pakistan’s aid.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Pakistan to restore NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. Pakistan had not been invited to the crucial 25th NATO summit to be held in May in Chicago.

However on 19 May, Zardari did attend the NATO summit. But Pak-US couldn’t reach a conclusive deal

8 June 2012, US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy arrived in Islamabad, in a fresh attempt to bring an end to a six-month blockade on NATO supplies.

11 June 2012, USA withdrew from talks as they failed.

3 July 2012, key supply routes were reopened in Afghanistan, after Hillary Clinton apologised on the loss of lives in the air strike.

Some hope rose in September 2013 when PMs of India and Pakistan met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Both the leaders agreed to end tension between armies of both sides in the disputed Kashmir.

In 2014, Pakistan initiated Operations Zarb-e-Azb against all militants, good or bad.

Early in January 2014, India and Pakistan resumed secretary-level trade talks in New Delhi. The meetings were held for the first time in 16 months, with hopes for increased market access, non-tariff barriers and free flow of goods and investment.

On 12 February, 2014, India and Pakistan agreed to release trucks which were detained in their respective territories, putting an end to a three week standoff triggered by seizure of a truck in India-administered Kashmir coming from across the de facto LoC for allegedly carrying brown sugar.

On 1 May, 2014, Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif calls Kashmir the “jugular vein” of Pakistan and stressed that the dispute should be resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiris, keeping in mind UNSC resolutions for lasting peace in the region.

Modi, allegedly the architect of the 2002 Gujarat riots and as a result of his personal beliefs, views, ideological and party affiliations, is not viewed as someone who can deliver peace.

This viewpoint gained further credibility as his election manifesto which was heavily anti-Pakistan, spoke of the revision of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Kashmir’s special status; reviewing of India’s nuclear doctrine with the possibility of the adoption of no NFU clause.

On 27 May, 2014, Narendra Modi held talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi. Both sides expressed willingness to begin new era of bilateral relations.

In 2015, Strategic Dialogue session began in Islamabad. John Kerry met with Sartaj Aziz to review progress in the existing five Working Group areas, namely economic and finance; defence; law enforcement and counterterrorism; security, strategic stability, and non-proliferation; and energy, and the sixth group—on education, science, and technology.

A notable outcome of the engagement was Pakistan’s agreement to formally ban the Haqqani Network of Afghan insurgents that operates from its territory.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today 

NA-122 has suddenly come to symbolise electoral confrontations and animosities of the day – far beyond its political jurisdiction – but it was not always so. If history is anything to go by, it has been a pretty straight forward story for a while now.

But surely some things have changed. PTI is now the greatest and gravest threat to the N-league. And the way the campaign for this bye-election has built up, it has indeed become far bigger than the constituency itself.

Here’s a brief look at the goings on in this constituency for the last few elections.


Pakistan allegedly returned to democracy with the 2002 general election, which was held under the government of then President General Pervez Musharraf.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N won NA-122 by 37,531, defeating Imran Khan, who got 18,638 votes


The 2007 general election was delayed because President Musharraf enacted a state of emergency. This was followed by Benazir Bhutto’s death which pushed the elections which to February 18, 2008.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N yet again won in NA-122 with 67,000 votes, followed by PPP’s Mian Muhammad Misbah-ur-Rehman, who bagged 24,000 votes.

PPP won the general elections on the whole.


Held on May 11, these elections marked a turning point in Pakistan’s history. It was the first civilised transfer of power followed by a successful five-year term of the PPP government.

The elections were conducted in 272 constituencies, further 70 seats were awarded to parties having been reserved for women and minority groups; none of the competing parties achieved the 172 seats needed for an overall majority, but PML-N won the assembly.

It was during these elections that PTI stood out and became an important contender in the race.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N yet again won in NA-122 with 93,389 votes, followed Imran Khan of PTI with 84,417 votes.

Many irregularities were found in the results which came to notice after Imran Khan demanded recounts and verification.

NA-122 was among the four controversial constituencies — the other three being NA-110 (Sialkot), NA-125 (Lahore) and NA-154 (Lodhran) — where PTI demanded verification of voters’ thumbprints.

The election tribunal on 8 December 2014 ordered recounting of votes in NA-122 on a plea filed by Imran Khan.

Ayaz Sadiq challenged the election tribunal’s verdict of the NA-122 case in Lahore High Court on 15 December 2014 and filed a contempt of court petition against tribunal’s judge Kazim Malik.

3 January 2015 – recounting of votes completed.

5 January 2015 — 735 votes were rejected for Ayaz whereas 114 were added after the verification and Imran Khan’s 849 votes got rejected, decreasing his vote count.

12 January 2015 – Election commission Pakistan (ECP) submitted an inquiry report were Ayaz Sadiq secured 93,393 votes in the general elections in 2013 whereas Imran Khan bagged 83,542 votes.

The report also included that 15 vote bags were not closed as stated by the rules and ten vote bags were not sealed.

28 January 2015— Khan files petition against the inquiry commission probing the rigging evidence

14 Feb 2015 –ECP accepts Imran’s request to send reports to NADRA for forensic testing

During May 2015 – the forensic report was sent to the tribunal by NADRA which consisted of 781 pages. NADRA declared a high level of irregularities were found.

184,151 votes were verified out of which 73,478 thumbprints were verified. 93,582 votes couldn’t we verified.

570 voters were not registered in the constituency, while there were no thumb impressions on 1715 counterfoils of the ballot papers.

6,123 votes were cast on bogus national identity cards and 255 votes were on duplicate cards.

16 June 2015 – both the parties presented their ending arguments before the Election Tribunal Judge.

22 Aug 2015  – Ayaz Sadiq challenges the verdict of the election tribunal which declared his victory in NA-122 as null and void, in the Supreme Court.

24 Aug 2015 – Imran demands the resignation of NADRA chairman and ECP members for hiding rigging results.

25 Aug 2015 – ECP decided not to respond to Imrans demands as it’s a constitutional institution and is not answerable to any party.

27 Aug 2015 – PML-N to challenge PTI in NA-122 and NA-154 by-elections instead of going to the apex court.

31 Aug 2015 – ECP announces schedule of by-elections in NA-122 Lahore and NA-154 Lodhran constituencies to be on October 11

20 Sep 2015 – Imran announces to run full-fledged election campaigns for the by-elections and to hold rally on October 4 in Lahore

1 Oct 2015 – ECP announces to install military assisted by Punjab Rangers and police outside the by-election polling stations.

ECP also served notices to Ayaz Sadiq and Aleem Khan for violating the code of conduct for by-polls.

After two years, one month, 17 days and 58 sessions, with the election tribunal the verdict still hangs in the bye-elections to be conducted on October 11.


These by-elections can be deemed as the deciding vote for the two parties. Where PML-N stands with Ayaz Sadiq again and has pitched in a lot of resources for the win.

Where PTI stand with Aleem Khan and the need to prove its rigging allegation as true while PML-N wants to prove otherwise; both the parties have made these bye-elections a matter of their pride and ego.

NA-122 has also overshadowed the Okara by-elections.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today

The wait has ended.

After a hiatus of 10 years, Noori fans were on Friday treated to the band’s latest album ‘Begum Gul Bakauli Sarfarosh’ which was launched at a star-studded event at the Fortress Square Mall in Lahore.

Believed to be one of the Pakistani rock bands who produce intelligent music and focus on the lyrical content, Noori’s fans can be deemed as those who understand the current scenario of the country, therefore, understand their music. Their last album Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jani Ki Kol Dunya was released in 2005.

BGBS is about the evolution of a youth into an adult ready to take over the world.

“It’s all about finding oneself, starting in 1947 to date; a person needs to explore himself first. If you do not change-the-world won’t change, that is the basic message in the whole album,” Ali Noor, the lead vocalist, told Pakistan Today.

“We are just plain lazy,” Ali Noor said when asked why the brothers had taken such a long time to come up with their new album.

12086902_10156066808940580_1829172815_n-640x360Asked what should their fans expect from them in the future, Ali Hamza said, “More original, non-commercialized songs definitely.”

The event was moderated by Sarah Gondapur and RJ Sophie. Their albums were signed and sold for Rs 500 during the event.

Noori performed the songs from their latest album for the event and also reminisced some like Manvarae, Suno kay Main Hu Jawan among many.

“I just love how friendly and humble these brothers are; just as truthful as their songs,” Amna, an LSE student, told Pakistan Today.

Hamza, a banker, said, “Noori’s music always has some underlying message, their musical perspective is what actually makes their compositions eternal.”

Mohd Ali, a fan in his late twenties said, “I have grown up listening to their songs. I want to show my support for the band and buying this album is the best way.”

“My sister was their fan, and it’s like a tradition that has passed on, meeting them is like an American dream come true,” said an 11th grader, Amber.

This event was the first in their launch tour, Noori will be launching their album in Karachi and Islamabad on October 10 and October 11 respectively.

Noori can be followed on SnapChat ‘Nooriworld’ where they are giving live updates of the events.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today 

Junoon guitarist and renowned composer Salman Ahmad is all set to perform at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California on October 10, for his upcoming film “Open Your Eyes. – a journey from darkness to sight”.

The HBO movie recently qualified for an Oscar and Emmy Nomination for 2016. Salman has composed the film’s soundtrack, and sang, “Open your eyes” and “Mun kunto maula” with Peter Gabriel. Salman is also all set to share the stage with Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir when he performs these songs, at the festival.

“I will be performing the songs from the movie along with some Sufi songs – and if I do get a chance maybe Jazba Junoon,” he said while smiling ear to ear. His performance will also mark the World Sight Day, which falls on October 8.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Salman expressed his excitement about the show.

“It is always an honour to represent Pakistan. I have always aimed to show Pakistan is a positive light internationally; being part of a Hollywood venture is a step forward for me and Pakistan as well.”

Talking about his experience of working with Peter Gabriel – who is a multi-talented Grammy Award winner and Oscar-winning composer – he said, “Peter is a huge Qawwali fan, so we merged eastern and western styles for the film. Munn Kunto Maula sat perfectly with the idea of the film. The best part is that after Ustad Nusrat Sahab I am the second Pakistani to have the honour of working with him. What could be better?”

The recording process was a hectic one as the duo was separated by the seven seas.

“I recorded the soundtrack at John Alec’s studios in New York, while Peter’s vocals were recorded in the UK at the Real World studios. It was quite an exciting process,” Salman said.

The film, which is based in Nepal, is about an elderly couple who lose their eyesight due to cataracts and then with some help regain it – the story is about their journey. Filmed in around three days, the couple’s urge to see the world once more, and their speculative emotions, are captured with perfection; and Salman’s songs help bring their emotions out flawlessly.

“My aim as an artist and UN Goodwill Ambassador has always been to get Pakistan recognised internationally and to highlight the talent and calibre of Pakistan. Our image needs to be changed and I hope this Hollywood collaboration will open more doors for Pakistan,” Salman added emotionally.

The screening will be held in Mill Valley on October 10 and at Larkspur on October 17.  The movie is being directed by Oscar-nominated Irene Taylor Brodsky and produced by Oscar-nominated Dr Larry Brilliant.

Salman will also talk about his book “Rock and Roll Jihad” which was published in 2014 at the Moth stage in Boston, later this month.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today

The Punjab government on Monday announced a reduction in bus fares for Lahore Transport Company (LTC) travellers by 50 per cent.

The reduced fares will be weeklong for urban public transport starting from September 21 and ending on September 27 midnight, according to an LTC official.

The reduction in fares has been announced in the spirit of Eidul Azha which will be celebrated across the country from September 25 to September 27.

The official said the discount was on all CNG LTC buses operating in the urban areas, except on buses that would cross Lahore’s borders to Sheikhupura, Kamoke, Kasur and diesel buses namely B-23 and B-26.

The bus passengers were pleasantly surprised on Monday morning as the conductors told them that they had to pay only half of the usual fare.

Nasir, a mechanic said, “It already feels like Eid today, even the environment within the bus seems jolly now.”

For Rizwan, the bus conductor for route B-1, the slogan for the day was “Bari Eid Bari Bachat” (Big Eid, Big Saving).

“It’s good to see commuters getting some relief in the form of discounted fares,” he said.

Ambreen, a student travelling to Old Campus, almost squealed when the conductor asked for Rs 5 as the fare “I had to ask him a couple of times before I could believe him,” she told Pakistan Today.

Ruksana, a frequent commuter, said, “I commute in the bus all day, as I work in different shifts at different houses. I will be saving half the amount I have to pay every day and this is quite a blessing for someone like me.”

The tickets are being checked at regular intervals at every stop by LTC inspectors to prevent fraud.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today