Monday, July 8, 2013

Looking Back

I have been getting to a four years’ mark in Pakistan. So I just thought to share with my readers what I have been doing and how things have been going back here. I can’t say that the last four years have been anything but bland and dull. At times things were calm and sometimes like a King’s Dominion’s roller coaster. Fakiha is four now and progressed to nursery and her drawing skills are amazing. I think we are looking at a budding artist in the making. Not to mention how much she likes ‘Dora’ too.

Moving on, my experience here has given me the insight of the government machinery, working environment, general issues and overcoming them, our state of load demand and meeting it, and also our vision for the future. Even though I am based in Lahore, I have traveled up to Swat in the north, to the coasts of Arabian Sea in the south, and from the international border between India-Pakistan in the east to the boundaries of Peshawer in the west for the job. 

I have also had the opportunity of immersing myself in renewables like wind, solar and bagasse. I am part of the generation which, I believe, is truly placing the foundations of this country for the future. Renewables were unknown and their efficacies were unrecognized in this part of the world. But, now people here do believe that natural energies must be harnessed to put them into good use. Pakistan has been blessed with very strong wind gales, 16 out of 24 hours in over 300 out of 365 days get direct and uninterrupted sunlight, and huge amounts of agriculture wastes, which are enormous, their potential have just been realized. 

I must say that I can’t believe what I have seen in Pakistan these days: the transformation of the culture and the society and the independence of the society from the previous taboos and acceptance of the society to the new norms. The kids are equipped with laptops and smart mobiles, girls are no more hesitant to go own on their own and are performing brilliantly in national politics, finance, media etc. Education and healthcare are on the rise and more than anything people have understood the value of their time, money and self. 

It would go without saying that living here has also given me time to spend my little time with my family and has given meaning to having such wonderful and loving parents. As a parent myself, I now know the meaning of the phrase, “you would know about my love once you have had the kids of your own”, which my mother used to say in a reply to my stupid question that how much she loves me. 

I don’t think I can encompass all of the things I may have encountered in one blog. So maybe it would only provide a glimpse, but, all in all, things are looking up, not just for me, but for the country too. Finally, I would like to add a quote from Kung Fu Panda, that “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Politics of Kot Addu: 1988 - 1990

I still vividly remember entering into a polling station in my maternal hometown in 1988, where Malik Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, from Sindh, was competing against a home boy, Mian Tariq Ahmed Gurmani. This National Assembly seat was left vacant by Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar, who had won two seats NA-137 & NA-138 and had chosen to retain NA-137 for himself. He was generous enough to request his dear old friend from Sindh, who had lost his seat from his home town, to get him elected for the National Assembly and ultimately, for the premiership of Pakistan. My grandfather, Mian Ghulam Abbas Qureshi, was contesting initially, but he was asked to step aside and facilitate in the election of Mr. Jatoi, since he was to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Mr. Gurmani was not impressed enough and decided to make a run for this seat on PP ticket. 

By the way, I was only eight years old at the time of these by-elections. I did not quite know behind-the-scene politics of this particular seat, but I just wanted to be the part of this exciting event. I had gathered these informations over the following years through various sources like books and newspapers, etc. However, I did participate in these elections by helping old family members and friends in casting their votes. Today, when I recall these things, it gives me shivers in the spinal cord to think of an eight year old in the polling station. I can’t imagine any parent would let their child drift on a distant street to play with their buddies, let alone spending a day in a polling station for the whole day. Anyways, Mr. Jatoi won that by-election with a clear majority and left us for good. I do remember that someone from this constituency once had located him in Islamabad and asked for his help, as he was our representative. And he had responded that he didn’t owe anything to the constituents. He had returned the favor many times over to the individual who had vacated that particular seat. So that was that. 

Back in the days, our assemblies were pretty fragile and our political environment unstable. So the country was holding elections every couple of years. It was Peoples’ Party government in 1990 which had been ousted and the elections had been announced in 1990. This time around for NA-138, Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar was again running and my grandfather was also in the race. The elections were very intense. The elections for the National and Provincial Assemblies were held on separate days. So the results of the National Assembly were undeniably influential for the provincial assembly candidates. So the political parties made a hard run to ensure grabbing the maximum National Assembly seats to win Provincial Assembly contests. The final mandate was clearly given to Mr. Khar, as he had bagged some 53000 votes and my grandfather some 38000. It was a tough election for the family. This time around Mr. Khar had retained NA-138 and vacated NA-137 for his younger brother, Malik Noor Rabbani Khar, to contest and later win that seat.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Get Out of the Debt (iii)

I came across a gentleman, who was offering credit cards. He visited a few of my co-workers and finally he stopped by my work place. He started out with all the great things about the credit card and how it could change my life for the better. I listened to his speech and waited for him to finish with his rhetoric. When he stopped, he asked for a glass of water. I could feel his desperation. I thought to have a conversation with him about this credit card business. 

Knowing what I know about the credit cards, I asked him that does he really believe in what he was selling. His answer was a big ‘No’. Then I asked about why he was preaching what he didn’t really believe in, and that is when he opened himself up to me. I came to know how huge a credit card debt he had compared to his meager salary and how hard he was trying hard to get himself out of. Due to this incredible debt, he was always on the run to make extra buck which was ultimately resulting in discontent family life. He mentioned that he has two lovely sons but somehow, both of them were unhappy with their dad. His mom is alive and she also seemed upset with him. He mentioned that he had observed people with lesser money had happier lives that what he had. So, all in all, he was losing it. 

After going through the story of his life, he asked my opinion on what could he do to make it better. I know it is strange that a credit card salesman, who had ‘almost’ excelled in the selling his side of the story, seemed helpless. My advice to him was, ‘Get out of the debt as fast as he could’. The spiral of credit card would lead him to nowhere, except causing him more headaches that he was already going through. I even advised him to leave his job if he was not satisfied and making enough to pay off his debts and to open a small business. He had mentioned to me earlier that he was lending a tight rope at his job and always hearing about layoffs leading to extra pressures in his domestic life. So the business would at least provide him some relief and he could stabilize his life and work harder in running his business. He had asked me where to find money to start his own work. My advice to him was to find an interest free loan from a family or a friend and try to return the loan as fast as he could. He agreed to these thoughts and thanked my time. 

After he left, I thought how difficult we have made our lives to achieve worthless materials in life. And on the way, we destroy our family lives and close relationships. Such a pity!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Shining Example

A couple of days back, history was made again in Pakistan. No. Not the sort of history that we get media coverage most of the time in the international press. As a matter of fact, I did not see any media coverage on this topic in the international press. Also, not the kind of history, that makes our people ashamed of.  And not the kind of history that leaves us with in disbelief and disgust. 

But the kind of history, that has set a superior example to all the kids and adults of Pakistan, to follow the footsteps of this young and example-setting individual. The one, who has awed the whole nation with his utter hard work.  The one, who has shown, to the rich and the poor, that the only way to success is sheer dedication and motivation to education and there are no short cuts. 

It is a humbling story of Mohsin Ali. This young man belongs to a small village in Hafizabad. He is an eldest among his 11 siblings. He belongs to a poor family, the kind of family who earn to pay for their meals. He has been working throughout on a tandoor, an oven where bread is baked, owned by his brother. Mohsin, worked late making bread til’ midnight and he would get up early in the morning for his studies. 

He appeared for BA/BSC exam under Punjab University as a private candidate. A total of 143,750 students appeared for this exam. (Private students outsmart regulars in BA/BSc exams, 2012). Mohsin scored 688 marks out of 800 in these exams. His story is remarkable because normally regular students top these exams, not the private students. The private students are those who could not study full-time in the university or college and have to study on odd times. The regular students enjoy the luxury of college environment, teaching and normally do not have to work besides their studies. 

So, Mohsin is also a torch-bearer for all the private students, who aspire to excel in these exams without conventionally attending the college. He has also shown to all the poor people in this country that they all can, with their hard work, get top positions without anybody’s help. So poverty alone is not a hindrance to bigger dreams. 
So the dream for a better country lives on. We can still hope that as long as dreamers like Mohsin Ali are here, we can achieve bigger goals in this country. And the only way to the top is hard work. 

We should all stand up for the champion. We must applaud his efforts and encourage others to follow his lead. This is his moment and he deserves all the accolades. Great job, Mohsin. Keep up the good work and make this country proud.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Change We Believe In

Having lived overseas for almost one third of my life and then ‘migrating’ back to my country, people get curious as to what led to my ‘return’? To me that is strange, because I think sooner or later everybody will return to their place of birth. But my reply does not satisfy the lay men because, knowing what they know about this country, I should not have returned to my country. 

Now that I have been here for a couple of years, I can understand their growing frustration. I am also aware of the fact that if the motherland would have provided the general public with the respect and the basic necessities of life, hardly anybody would want to leave their home in the first place. 

The most frustrated are the young and educated professionals like doctors and engineers, who had to compete against thousands to find a seat in the top medical and engineering universities. They spend four years studying hard, looking forward to their bright future, bringing emotional and financial stability in their lives and homes. Once they graduate the reality strikes. They are the bottom of the barrel in terms of working and living conditions, after they find a ‘respectable’ government jobs. Their jobs require long hours with lots of public trashing, with the ‘pay’ they are too embarrassed to mention to their loved ones. 

No wonder I met so many of the doctors and engineers in the U.S. working and living the life they truly deserve. Many people questioned my decision. But I must say, some people do swim against the tides. They have to, or the world would not get the kinds of people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mendala etc. Everybody wants to have a decent life for them and their loved ones. I don’t blame them. They have worked hard for it, so they should. 

The recent saga which played out between the Punjab government and the young medical doctors in Punjab was an example of how stupefy our leaders are. They have such a parochial vision that they can’t think beyond the ordinary. As long as they will remain in power, our young and brightest will keep leaving their homeland. It is such a pity for the whole nation. It is worth mentioning that the foreign lands are not hospitable, but compared to the current situation, the foreign countries present a better option. 

The people of Pakistan need to think about it and they have to weigh their options very carefully the next time they get the opportunity to vote. Do they want their children to look for another country to live or they want to make this country a reasonable place to grow? And having seen all these things going around, the people should strive to change this place. Otherwise, the future of this country will become the future of some foreign country. I rest my case.