Of Journalism

December 21, 2008

Of Parks in the city

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 4:52 pm


Forgotten land!: Lyari Model Park: Unclaimed property?

By Fawad Ali Shah

The neglected fountain

The neglected fountain


KARACHI: Broken benches, repulsive odours and remnants of a once lush green park. That’s what remains of the Maulvi Sadiq, Lyari Model Park.

Located in between the IC road and the Khadda Market it was built in order to provide the lower middle class residents of Lyari Town an open space for recreation. 

The foundation stone of this park was laid down by then City Nazim Naimutullah Khan on May 10, 2005. 

The sprawling park spread over two acres according to official records is home to a jogging track, canopy platform, swings for children, fountains and flower beds. According to area residents the park when inaugurated was in immaculate condition, however only a few months after, it fell victim to neglect. The park has been divided into two parts one for male individuals and the other for families and women. The section meant for families and women had lush green lawns, flowers and was equipped with swings and seesaws for children. The section reserved for males had benches, fountains and sunroofs. Employees belonging to the city district government regularly watered the gardens and took good care to maintain the park. But since then, things at the Lyari Park have changed. 

The once lush green gardens of the Lyari Park have now become barren lands filled with dirt. Flower beds are home to stray dogs and the fountains stink of polluted water. Unknown offenders have defaced benches while drug addicts and thieves have taken out anything they could get their hands on. One can smell the stench from sewers that run alongside the park. As for the playground, its remnants still exist.

Hanzla, 21, is a regular at the park. Soon after the park opened doors to the public, the residents of the area were really happy, as they finally had a place they could use to entertain themselves without having to spend money he says. Hanzla narrates the sorrow tale of the deteriorating park saying that as time passed by authorities forgot about the park. “Only drug addicts and dogs come here at night” he claims. Sabir, another resident feels the same way. “No body owns the park” he says. 

Union Council Nazim Karim Nizamani when contacted by the Daily Times said that the park had not yet been handed over to them by the city district government (CDG). “We have sent written requests regarding the park to the department of the CDG, but have yet to receive a reply,” he said denying further comment.

The District Officer Parks Karachi Liaquat Ali Khan however said that since the park was complete it was now the responsibility of the town government to look after it. “The city government has other big projects to work on,” he explained adding, that the city government will nevertheless repair the walls which were damaged by CDG vehicles while cleaning up the nearby sewers. 

Town Nazim Mehmood Hashim is not ready to take responsibility either. “In my knowledge the model park is incomplete,” he said claiming that he had written so many complaints to the CDG about the miserable conditions of the Maulvi Sadiq model park. 

Muhammad Farman, 30, who lives near Khadda market, is both angry and confused. He “If no one wants to take ownership of the park then why was created in the first place? Why did they have to waste national income?” he asks?


December 18, 2008

Oil line burst at Korangi, karachi

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 2:32 pm


Bring out the buckets

By Fawad Ali Shah


On one hand, people had to evacuate their homes that were flooded with oil. While on the other hand potholes, ditches and empty plots in Korangi Sector 48-D that were filled with oil became fruitful wells of black gold for nearby area residents whose houses were not damaged by oil and who did not have to evacuate the site. People who did not evacuate the area began to collect the oil in buckets, bottles and even vehicles. Men, young and old were grabbing anything that could carry and store liquid and were hastily trying to collect as much oil as they possible could from the ten inch deep black wells.


Oiled barbeque?

Aftermath of the oily raining

Aftermath of the oily raining

The Bar-B-Cue effected by oil

The Bar-B-Cue effected by oil

A bbq restaurant located 10 meters away from the oil pipeline that burst, was badly affected by the incident. The restaurant was brimming with customers when the pipe burst. The restaurant mangers were busy preparing bbq when oil suddenly started to rain on them. Due to the pipeline bursting with such force, oil sprayed nearly 2 km away. If the raining oil had met the restaurant’s hot grills, stoves and burning coal, a large and untamable fire would have erupted, multiplying the problems and claiming dozens of lives.

December 17, 2008

Pollywood and Vulgarity

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:23 pm

Pashto filmmakers thriving on vulgarity rather than depicting culture

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: Despite the fact that Pashto films no more depict the Pakhtoon culture and many of the admirers have bid adieu to the cinema, yet cinema owners of Karachi claim that the films are the sole reason for the survival of the industry in the city. 

These films attract youngsters, who serve as a replacement of the old fans, but many critics opine that the Pashto filmmakers are now attracting the audience at the cost of Pakhtoon cultural norms and traditions.

Youngsters of the city are seen flocking to the cinemas whenever Pashto films are released. Moreover, cinema owners claim that the number of ‘Pollywood’ film viewers are second only to Indian film viewers in the city. However, critics attribute the increase in the number of viewers of pollywood films to the sensually attractive scenes and dances. They argue that cinema-lovers are not coming to watch films and Pakhtoon families that once loved to watch Pashto movies like Adam Khan and Dur Khanai on the big screen, are no more ready to come to cinemas.

Ismail Shah, 63, who runs a travel agency, claims that he had enjoyed watching all of the classical Pashto films on the big screen but now he does not want to go watch Pashto films. “The new generation has killed our culture and tradition,” Shah opined, with his face mirroring his utter displeasure. Shah, seated in his office in a wooden chair, gazes towards a picture of Badar Munir and the colour of his face changes. “There were times when Badar Munir ruled the industry and only traditional films were produced. However, nowadays Pashto films are only known for their vulgarity,” he claims. 

“Most of the people watch Pashto films on the big screen in order to get sexual satisfaction out of them,” he said. It is not possible for a family to come and watch such a film, he states. Riaz, whose mother tongue is not Pashto, is also a viewer of Pashto films.

“I like Pashto films because of the dances in them,” he says, with a sly smile forming on his lips.

Another landmark of Pashto films are the camera angles used to emphasize specific body parts. Pashto film producers and cameramen have learned the art of making a scene out of nothing, he said.

The fact that none of the obese woman, seen jumping around the fields on screen, can speak Pashto means nothing to the people, nor does the fact that the writers and financers of the Pashto movies are mostly from Lollywood. Javed Babar, an artist and producer of Pashto films and dramas, told this scribe that those financing Pashto films were from Lollywood and that they only serve financial purposes. “They only include vulgar scenes to attract viewers and increase revenue,” said Babar, expressing anger at the lack of investment in the industry by Pakhtoons. 

“Non-professionals in the industry have destroyed Pashto cinema for mere pennies. 

What they are depicting is simply not Pakhtoon culture. Pakhtoon women do not dance without covering their entire bodies and neither do they come out to the Hujras,” he states, clenching his fists in anger.

Gulzaar Alam, a senior singer, is also against the interference of Lollywood in the Pakhtoon films. He, too, touched upon the fact that the industry is being used to make a quick buck and also objected to the way the dances are choreographed. 

“The way different body parts are presented in these movies is horrific,” he said, adding that at some point in the movie, the camera is focused specifically on body parts in a way that will make anyone blush.

Ajab Gul, a senior producer and actor in today’s Pashto cinema when contacted offered no comments

Lyari Expressway

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:14 pm


Broken links along LEW endangering lives

* Fencing along southbound portion of Lyari Expressway torn down 
* Pedestrians cross busy road risking their lives

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: The southbound portion of the Lyari Expressway, only ten months after its inauguration, has fallen victim to theft and vandalism.

The Expressway had been fenced in order to prevent pedestrians and animals from crossing the road directly. However, unknown perpetrators have torn down the fence at various points, thereby allowing people and animals to cross the road. This poses a great risk as residents in the vicinity often trespass the broken fence to cross the busy road. 

In the absence of proper security measures children can be seen climbing up on the road to fly kites. The open spaces in the fence also invite stray dogs onto the road endangering the lives of oncoming traffic. A few months earlier, a child named Saad lost his life when he was crossing this road. 

There is heavy traffic on this road and according to National Highway Authority (NHA), more than 6,000 vehicles pass through this road on a daily basis. The authorities charge a toll tax ranging between Rs 15 to 25 per vehicle and collect Rs 4 million a month from these payments. The 16.5 kilometers long southbound portion of the expressway was entrusted to the NHA and was inaugurated by then President General Pervez Musharraf. The project after its inauguration in February 2007 also won much appreciation from the public.

The Lyari Expressway extends from Sohrab Goth to Mauripur and facilitates hundreds of port-bound vehicles to travel to upcountry areas through the Super Highway whilst avoiding passing through the city’s congested thoroughfares. However less than a year has passed by and the fencing along the road has been torn down at several points by offenders, presumably drug addicts. Also reflectors that were put up at certain places along the road to facilitate traffic have been stolen.

Muhammad Fareed, a resident of the Gulistan Colony, which lies parallel to the road, is unhappy with the conditions of the road. “We complained several times to the authorities to block the road so that children could not climb on to it,” he complained. Fareed says that the lack of proper security measures also attracts muggers, and authorities have yet to take notice. Fareed is concerned that the lack of security endangers the lives of his children as well as the oncoming traffic. 

Arman Khan, a resident of the Gulistan colony, that neighbours the road, points out towards the underpass beneath the road, saying that Union Council (UC) vehicles regularly deposits garbage there. “UC vehicles throw garbage in front of the underpass on a regular basis; we have no other option but to cross the road”. 

It may be pointed out here that lights on the Expressway are yet to be installed, adding to the problems being faced by travelers that pass through during the night. Motorway Police DSP Shahjehan Baloch says that the road passes through some dangerous parts of the city. “Our main concern is the enforcement of traffic laws” he said.

National Highway Authority Maintenance Project Director Noor Mustafa Sheikh on being asked about the torn fence said that the NHA is committed to filling all gaps. “We are trying to protect the road and repair the fences and we ask the people to cooperate with the NHA in order to make the road safer,” he said.

Lyari expressway ignored all the way

Lyari expressway ignored all the way

December 14, 2008

Ziarat Ka Ka Sahib

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:41 pm


 By Fawad Ali Shah

NOWSHERA: Some come here in quest of satisfaction, while others to contact God, indirectly, through meditation. Barren women from far-flung areas of the country come here with ‘murads’ (wishes), and beg for children.

When guests enter the premises of Kaka Sahib village, on first sight they see the tomb, raise their hands for prayers and bow their heads in respect. Those possessed by spirits are also brought here for cure.

Located in the suburbs of Nowshera Cantonment, the shrine of ‘Kaka Sahib’ attracts hundreds of visitors everyday.

Contemporary of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Pashtun warrior and poet Khushal Khan Khattak, Syed Kasteer Gul (Kaka Sahib)’s forefathers migrated from the Middle East and settled down in this area.

He was amongst those saints of that era who preached and taught Islamic principles, both to Muslims and non-Muslims through peaceful means. His descendants are called Kaka Khels.

Since his demise, his followers have been visiting his tomb in the village named after him.

“I do not have any child, someone told me that I will have one after praying at the shrine,” Jamila, 27, belonging to Jacobabad district of Sindh province, told Daily Times. The woman said that one of her friends, who was barren, had conceived a child after praying at the shrine.

An aged man, who was forcing his young daughter to enter the shrine, said that he belonged to Mansehra and had heard from somebody that those possessed by spirits get well after visiting the tomb of Kasteer Gul. He said that his daughter had been under the effect of black magic and evil spirits.

Mudassar Shah, a resident of the area, believes that Kaka Sahib was a saint and visiting his shrine motivates people for doing good deeds.

Dr Nazeer Kaka Khel, former chairman of Political Science Department of Peshawar University, who hails from the area said that Kaka Sahib had a charismatic personality and the efforts of the saint for bringing peace and harmony cannot be ignored.

He advised that in this age of extremism when people are standing on two extreme poles, visiting such places could motivate them to live with peace and harmony.

Dr Rahat Sajjad, chairperson of Psychology department of University of Peshawar, describes people’s visits to shrines with wishes and for cure of their ailments as a part of ‘spiritual or faith healing’.

Even a chilly January Eidul Azha in the hills of southern Nowshera district failed to deter crowds from visiting the shrine of Kaka Sahib some 45 kilometres from the city.

Thousands of people from around the country were found hiking across the mountains in the Kaka Sahib region about 10 kilometres south of the Nowshera Railway Station at an altitude of 400 feet.

“There is a bustle during Eid and Urs days,” said Niaz Muhammad, a tea stall owner, on shrine hill. Asked if business was doing well, he said, “We are making a bundle of money these days.” Syed Bahadur Shah Zaffar Kakakhel, in his book titled ‘Sheikh Rehmkaar’, says that Kaka Sahib’s nom de plume was Rehmkaar due to his kindness and public welfare activities, while his real name was Kastheer – a type of flower found in the area.

He was born in 983 Hijri, in the month of Ramazan. It was the era of Mughal Emperor Akbar, and the tribal areas and NWFP were under his stepbrother Mirza Hakeem Wali-e-Kabul’s rule. Pushtoons usually call their elders “Kaka” which is why Kastheer became popular as Kaka Sahib and his family is called the Kakakhel tribe. As his family had settled in the areas of the Khattak tribe about 200 years before Kaka Sahib’s birth, the move led them to take on the Khattak traditions, norms and values.

According to locals, Kaka Sahib was also known “Ziarhey (yellow) Kaka” due to his pale complexion. He was a pious man and due to the hardships he immersed himself in prayers, became weak and his complexion turned pale. Kaka Sahib died in 1063 Hijri (June 21, 1653) at the age of 80. For the last 350 years, his shrine houses a mosque and a langar khana (mess) where people are provided with free food, tea and qahwa.

Jamil Anwar, Bahadur Shah Zaffar Kakakhel’s grandson who wrote ‘Sheikh Rehmkaar’ said that the Kaka Sahib village had a population of around 15,000 people. “There are over 7,500 registered voters in our area,” said Anwar, who is working as an assistant at the Nowshera Election Commission Office.

Anwar said that his grandfather, Bahadur Shah Zaffar Kakakhel, had written around 101 books, including the first-ever Pashto dictionary called ‘Zaffarul Lughat’. “But nobody has recognised the services of our grandfather and even the government has not set up a memorial at Bahadur Shah Zaffar Kakakhel’s tomb.”

Ziarat ka Ka sahid, a legend

Ziarat Kaka Sahib, Nowshera

Love Letters

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:30 pm

Chithi zara sayya’an jee kay naam likh de

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: Chithi Zara Sayya’an Jee Kay naam likh de, haal mery dil ka tamam likh de (write a letter to my beloved, tell him about the emotions of my heart), the lilting song sums up the yearning passions of love struck individuals and is a cult classic with those who have ever written love letters.

Thanks to the communication boosts, the unending SMS packages and low call rates, the art of letter writing is dying. While the younger generation claims that love letters were a bad way of communication, there are still many who hold the romantic notions of love letters dearly and believe that nothing can replace the charm of a heartfelt love letter.

“Love is an intellectual process and love letters consist of intellectual input,” opines Abdul Hai Kakar, a journalist and a believer that love letters are a part of literature. Kakar once had a crush on a classmate in his university days almost a decade ago. He has compiled and printed a book “Magar Yeh Ho Na Saka”, which chronicles the journey of his love, the letters he wrote and received during the said love affair.

The one time lovebird strongly insists that love letters had more than just romantic offerings. “They are like an on going conversation on different topics between soul mates,” says Kakar as he elaborates on how socio-economic issues, problems and other tidbits from everyday life were discussed in the letters. He argues that SMS and emails lack the emotions the thoughtfully crafted letters carried. “One would get satisfaction by writing or reading these letters and, as these were hard copies, one could save them and read them whenever they felt lonely.”

Apart from being written with thoughtfulness, another characteristic of love letters was that they were written after one had built some rapport with the person to whom they were addressed. There have always been two categories of love letters, with one being where there was an actual affair and both parties were exchanging letters and the second being those where the affair was one sided.

The individuals in the later category used different tactics to convey their messages. Often, they would throw the unsolicited love letters at their “beloveds” while following them to schools, colleges, shopping centers and even bus stops.

Unlike the stalker love letters, letters exchanged between couples in a relationship were much civilized. The involved parties would exchange letters, using different channels, from fixing time and leaving the posts at a particular spot to using a mediator, usually a child bribed with candy. In order to show affection, apart from the use of poetic language, blood was also used in place of ink to signify the extremity of passion and desire.

Just like the urban centers, this mode of communication was equally popular in the rural areas, where literacy levels are comparatively low. Those who were not well versed in the art of writing would seek the help of their learned friends to assist them in expressing their feelings.

Zubair Mir, 43, was in class ten when he fell in love with a neighborhood girl. “Her house was in front of ours and I would often follow her on her way to the school,” Mir smiles sheepishly as he narrates his case of puppy love. He says he loved her to bits but had no idea how to express his love. “I thought each and every step of hers was related to me. If she smiled looking at me I took at as an approval for my affection and if she had a flicker of anger in her eyes, I took it for anger directed at me.”

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, he finally mustered the strength to write her a letter. “I could not sleep that night as I tried my best to write a letter. Sadly, I could just jot down a few lines,” Mir says and claims that after fifty attempts he managed to write a letter. Once the writing bit was done, delivering it to his beloved was another problem but he cleared that hurdle too. “She accepted the letter and the response was positive, hence, began my love story,” states a beaming Mir. He, too, says that he wrote his letters in blood and is proud of the fact that his love story was a success. With regards to affairs carried out via SMS and email, he considers them to be childish.

While Kakar and Mir still hold on to their romantic notions, the youngsters of today are more in favour of communication through SMS and emails. Sohail Raza, a student of Bahria University, believes that writing and delivering a love letter was a slow and tiresome process. “Without taking any risks, you can easily communicate your message and get instant feedback as well,” he opines. Endorsing Raza’s point of view is Azhar Khan, who says that the latest technology has made communication faster and easier. “Writing love letters was always a tiresome and risky job,” he adds.

Though he regards letter writing as an old fashioned approach, he does insist that one should be sincere, whether, communicating through emails, SMS or love letters. Faizullah Jan, a communication expert, told this scribe that the importance of both SMS and letters could not be denied. He opines that while the SMS culture has made the communication fast, yet, it has some negative aspects too, particularly the use of language.

“Although, people are making friends without even knowing each other, the SMS culture has adversely affected the language, as usually, people use short terms and lines,” laments Jan. As far as literature and poetry goes, he agrees that they played an important role in writing a letter but it’s the delivery and preservation of the love letters that was an uphill task. “When somebody was in love, he was willing to take the risk of delivering the letter.”


Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:27 pm

Talibanisation not just Karachi’s problem: Shazia

* Information minister says president has assured new NFC award will be issued soon

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: The president believes that extremism is a national phenomenon and Talibanisation cannot be specified only to Karachi, said Sindh Minister of Information Shazia Marri while addressing a press conference at the Sindh Secretariat on Friday.

Provincial Minister for Welfare and Population Nargis ND Khan accompanied her.

She was briefing the reporters on the daylong activities of the president. She said the president presided over a meeting of the Sindh cabinet after which he addressed the members of the provincial assembly.

She said that the federal government believed that terrorism should be eradicated from all parts of the country.

She said that extremists are present in the entire country and Karachi is no different, however it is a general phenomenon, she said.

About the target killings in the city she said that anti-democratic elements were involved in it. President Asif Ali Zardari while presiding over the meeting of the Sindh provincial cabinet has vowed that the federal government will soon issue a new National Finance Commission (NFC) award, as per requirements of the constitution of Pakistan, she said.

She said that the president had assured the Sindh provincial cabinet members that the new committee formed for the purpose will soon complete its work.

The minister said that president was also briefed about the poor water situation in the province. She said all the ministers discussed their projects with the president.

The president also held a meeting with the members of the business community, she added. She said that while addressing the members of the provincial assembly the president stressed on the need for reconciliation and unity.

In a meeting with the members of the business community he assured them of his full support, she said. She said that different development projects like building of roads, dams and women empowerment were also discussed with the president in the cabinet meeting.

She said that the president wants to solve all the disputes through a process of national reconciliation. She informed the reporters that there were many options on the table regarding the restoration of commissioner system. The decision will be taken after taking all the stakeholders in to confidence. However, she said that the issue was not discussed with the president. She said that the president lauded the role of the media and hoped media will continue to play a positive role.


Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:26 pm

The luck seekers

The luck seekers

Preying on superstitions and fears

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: With dreams shining in their eyes, they visit these places. While some come to make their imaginations come true, others want to learn how to contact god through meditation.

There are some who go to these places to learn about their future and try to change the bad luck they might foresee, as they feel that their lives and careers hang by a thread. These places are the deras of palmists, where a solution to any conceivable problem is offered. Javeria Jalil, 34, is one of those who believe in the charisma of astrologers and palmists and that by acting on the advice of these people, one can turn his or her future around.

“I was facing some problems at home and baba gave me an amulet, after which all my problems were solved,” Javeria told Daily Times, sitting in room that was different from the normal rooms. The room was pitch dark, save for a few stray rays of light creeping through the crevices of the door and windows and she was surrounded by other believers of the baba, who, like her, accepted his orders with good grace.

Javeria, a teacher by profession, was down on her luck for the past few days and out of sheer desperation decided to visit a local astrologer, whose advertisement she had come across. When she visited the baba’s dera, she was told that all her problems will be solved and all she had to do was donate Rs 10,000, which she happily did. “After I visited baba, my problems were actually solved so I am here again,” she said, adding that the purpose of this visit was to get rid of her mother-in-law.

The palmistry business is gaining popularity in Karachi by the day, with the fortunetellers relying now relying on electronic and print advertisement and not just wall chalking and word of mouth. Moreover, there is no mistaking that they take their work seriously, with their deras having a certain mysterious aura, complete with enigmatic voices and sounds of people crying, as though they are being punished by the baba for not obeying his orders.

The usual visitors are mostly females belonging to the upper or middle class. These palmists and astrologers have established their deras in posh areas of the city, such as Clifton and Saddar, even hiring people to work as public relations officers.

They give out amulets and make prophecies and have managed to rope in many females in the city like, Javeria, who believe in the expertise of such people. However, there are dozens of women in the city who have been cheated by palmists and they have lodged FIRs of fraud against them. The women say that after these so called babas get money out of their ignorant customers the palmists disappear and the dherra is never found again.

Jamila Shaheen would go to Baba Shaaki Bengali regularly and said that he was a fraud. She wanted a baby boy and the baba told her to give him all her jewelry if she earnestly wanted him. He gave her some verses to read but they had no affect. When Shaheen went back to the baba’s dera there was no sign of him. She now goes from police station to police station in hopes of finding the man and her jewelry.

Ghulam Zoki, an astrologer, who resides in the Sohrab Goth area, defends his profession and says that they use their knowledge to solve people’s problems and do not even ask for money in return and accept whatever donation, that their customers give to them. He went on to say that “Astrology is not a profession but in fact is a form of social work.”

He said that astrologers do not advertise for fame but do so to extend their help to as many people as possible.

Police officials say that they receive hundreds of palmist fraud cases every year. CID’s ASI Junaid said that the police cannot stop people from consulting palmists. The police have arrested some of the fraud babas however in most of the cases they escape safely, he said.

“Most women blindly trust fake babas and when they are cheated out of money they turn to the police for help,” he said. The police official said that even though most of these astrologers, palmists and babas are frauds the business is gaining popularity.

Psychologist Dr Mukhtaar Awan is baffled by the people who go to these deras and says that all people in the astrology business are frauds. “All people who think that their problems can be solved by palmists have psychological problems,” he said.


Of Poor Peasants……

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:22 pm

Civil Hospital: final hope for hundreds of peasants from interior Sindh


By Fawad Ali Shah


KARACHI: Sixty two-year-old Muhammad Kabeer is on his knees outside the emergency operation theatre of the Civil Hospital. His eyes remain fixed at the operation theatre’s exit door as his wife struggles for life inside.

“While giving birth to her fourth child, she suffered an injury,” Kabeer narrates his sorrow tale to Daily Times. He gently strokes his three year old son Abdul Jabbar as he speaks, his eyes filled with pain.

Abdul Jabbar, is one of Kabeer’s four children. He is too young to stay home so Kabeer brought him along to Karachi with his pregnant wife, Farzana from Shahdadkot. The story of Kabeer is however not unique. Hundreds of patients arrive at the Civil Hospital in Karachi from different areas of Sindh in search of healthcare. They come here because their towns and villages lack basic health facilities.

Kabeer works as a peasant in Shahdadkot. He and Farzana got married a few years ago, and he is 36 years older than his wife. Looking back, Kabeer recalls his marriage as the best thing to have happened in his life. Kabeer believes it was the black stone that he had been carrying with him for so many years that changed his luck forever, bringing Farzana and him together. Life before marriage revolved mainly around work in fields, where Kabeer spent tireless hours digging dirt with spades, and sickles. His only friends were the bulls that helped him plow.
“I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth,” he says, whilst stopping his bare-footed son from picking up an empty packet of cigarettes from the floor.
But as luck would have it, things changed. His life took a U-turn when his pregnant wife encountered urethral complications before giving birth to their fourth child. The doctors at a nearby hospital refused to admit her and advised Kabeer to take her to Civil Hospital in Karachi.
“After an operation at the hospital she gave birth to a child, but during birth she suffered injuries to her genital system”. Dressed in worn out clothes, with a traditional Sindhi cap resting on his head, Kabeer unravels his distressing tale. Following birth, Farzana and Kabeer went back home, with a prescription in hand. Three months later, Kabeer again finds himself at the Civil Hospital, this time he is told that his wife is in serious condition and doctors will have to operate.
“She is undergoing an operation in the theatre,” he says sullenly. Kabeer is lost between two worlds; his village and the Civil Hospital in Karachi. For a moment he thinks about his children back home but then his eyes scan the operation theatre for his wife’s return.
At times Kabeer thinks of how angry his landlord must be for remaining absent from the fields for the last three days. It seemed Kabeer had a lot to think about and he could not decide on which problem to address first.
“There is no health facility in the hospital at Shahdadkot,” he says, adding that people, in order to get proper medical treatment, have to come to Karachi. The heat under which he works has darkened his skin and his wrinkled hands stand witness to his hard work.
“There, the doctors do not come to the hospital regularly,” he complains about the government hospitals in his area.
Oblivious to his father’s pain, three-year-old Abdul Jabbar slides on the floor, chewing on an empty packet of crisps, which he picked up near the dustbin. The smile on the child’s face says he likes the taste.
“Most people in our village die because of lack of health facilities,” Kabeer claims.
He has enrolled his two older children in a local school as well as a Madressah.
“When they grow up, I will teach them how to bow and harvest,” he reveals his plans for his children.

Kabeer remembers that once he also went to school, “Mai bhi aik daraja para hua hunn (I have completed one year of school),” he proudly says. However he maintains he will send his children to school till grade 5. Shahdatkot is a district of Sindh, that lies some 51 kilometres outside Larkana. The peasant after working day and night hardly earns enough money to bring food to the table. His wife’s condition has forced him to borrow money in order to bring her to Karachi. “Tell the government to build a civil hospital for us,” he demands, and waits for his wife to emerge out of the operation theatre.

Of a Bear….

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:14 pm

Emma the lonely bear

* By Sayyed Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: Emma, 26, was abducted soon after she was born and by the force of circumstance, never got even the ghost of a chance to be with her siblings again.

She is deaf and mute and cannot express her emotions. However, her blood-red eyes reveal everything. She does only two things, sleep and hit her head against the walls of the prison in which she has been locked for the last 25 years. Whether she is cursing her luck or cursing the brutality of humanity, nobody knows. Emma’s universe is limited to walls, a tree and men.

For 25 years, Emma, the Balochi black bear, has been the fancy of visitors at the Karachi Zoo. People visiting the zoo, especially children, gather around her prison since she is the only bear in the zoo. Wearing a muzzle, she looks at them with a mixture of amazement and hate.

Emma is one of the sub-species of the Asiatic or Himalayan black bears. She is medium-sized, and has ears that are proportionately larger than the rest of her head. Her kind have a distinct white patch on their chest, sometimes shaped like a V, and have white fur on their chins.

The Himalayan black bears can be divided into two categories, the south black and the north black. Those bears found in the south are smaller and have short coarse brown fur while those from the north are comparatively darker.

On average, these bears live up to 30 years and prefer to eat Olea ferruginea, Ber (Zizyphus nummularia), starchy rhizomes, dwarf palm fruits, insects and lizards. Unlike other bears however, Emma has no choice in what she gets to eat, and doesn’t seem to complain. “Whatever is provided to her, she eats,” says her keeper, Zaiwar. Her spirit has been crushed to an extent that she is even ready to eat whatever her visitors throw at her.

Emma was born in Balochistan in 1982 and not long after she came into this world, she was caught and handed over to the Wildlife Department. She was then transferred to Karachi with the sole aim of protecting and conserving her species. She has been reduced to a mere caged source of amusement for children and ‘animal lovers’.

“She gets up early in the morning and goes for a walk,” revealed Zaiwar. “She is very polite and doesn’t like to cause harm.” Zaiwar tried to console the frightened children who got scared just by looking at her. The children could not understand that being caged for so long, Emma has forgotten how to be wild.

Zoo and Aquarium District Officer Mansoor Qazi said that the prime purpose of keeping Emma in the zoo was to protect her from being killed. “We want to protect her species and hope she will produce children,” he explained. The director claimed that the prime purpose of establishing the zoo was not to exhibit the animals and use them as entertainment but to save them from being killed.

Emma’s eyes look as if they are questioning the zoo authorities how she can have children in the absence of a mate. Female bears reach sexual maturity when they are three or four years old. In Pakistan, mating has been reported to occur in October and the young are born in February. Emma is 26 years old and is expected to die after four years, without sharing her life with a mate, without bearing children.

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