Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Karachi celebrates first-ever restaurant awards

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

History of sorts was made on December 9 when the All Pakistan Restaurant Association (APRA), the only authorized body of restaurants and caterers in the country, hosted the first-ever restaurant awards ceremony at Hotel Marriott, Karachi. 

After innumerable showbiz and business awards, there finally took place a restaurant awards highlighting Karachi’s finest eateries in a befitting manner. 

The objective behind holding the award was to recognize and acknowledge special features of restaurants, including food and service excellence, outstanding dining and delivery experiences. 

There were a total of 17 customer choice awards and the voting continued for a month from August 10 to September 10 and the APRA duly fulfilled its commitment by organizing a grand ceremony on December 9 which had all the colorful ingredients of a memorable event. 

The jury for the APRA awards consisted of Chef Saadat, Chef Abdul Hadi, Sumera Hussain and Dr Sadia Safdar. 

“After receiving numerous applications for nominees, our experienced jury members had a thorough selection process in which five to seven restaurants for each award were carefully selected," the APRA Chairperson, Waqas Azeem, was quoted as saying. 

“Since we are a nation of food lovers, it is indeed the perfect time to bring in an all-inclusive body that supports and represents the many restaurants and caterers we have in Pakistan. The food industry is flourishing at an all-time high hence we believe this initiative will greatly encourage the restaurants, existing and new entrants to offer the best of the best food quality and service to their consumers,” he added. 

The APRA, registered with the Directorate General Trade Organisation (DGTO), Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan, is incorporated as company with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) besides being a member of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI). 

Following were the winners of the various awards: 

Cuisine 
Best Burger House of the Year: Burger O Clock 
Best Pakistani Restaurant of the Year: Lal Qila 
Best Pan Asian Restaurant of the Year: Chop Chop Wok 
Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year: Ginsoy 
Best Coffee Place of the Year: Coffe Wagera 
Best Chai Place of the Year: Chotu Chaiwala 
Best Pizza House of the Year: Broadway 
Best Biryani Restaurant of the Year: Student Biryani 

Serving 
Best Buffet Restaurant of the Year: Lal Qila 
Best Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year: Del Frio 

Special 
Food Legend of the Year: Ginsoy 
Best Pocket Friendly Restaurant of the Year: Kaybees 
New Entrant of the Year: Yoshi’s 
Best Innovation Dish award of the Year: Meat the Cheese 
Best Restaurant for Ambiance of the Year: Thyme 
Delivery on Time award of the Year: McDonalds 
Restaurant of the Year-Karachi: McDonalds 
Best Fine Dining of the Year: Okra 
Food Veteran Award: Bar B Q Tonight 
Best Customer Experience of the Year: Kolachi 
Best Brand Turnaround of the Year: KFC 
Best Industry Facilitator of the Year: Pepsi
Lifetime Achievement Award: Zubaida Apa

Saturday, December 7, 2019

NED University holds Convocation 2019

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

Over two thousand recently passed out graduates of the 2015-16 batch of the NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, were conferred degrees in the Convocation 2019 ceremony held at the campus on December 7. Postgraduate degrees and PhD degrees were also awarded on the occasion.

Imran Ismail, the Governor of Sindh and the Chancellor of the University, presided over the ceremony which was also attended by the guests of honour, Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Education & Professional Training, and Engr Jawed Salim Qureshi, Chairman, Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also happens to be an alumni of the NED University, however, didn’t attend the function despite being one of three designated guests of honour in its 28th Convocation. 

In his presidential address, the Governor of Sindh urged the fresh graduates not to be oblivious of the role of the state in them acquiring the highest class of education literally at no cost.

“While you are free to choose your future career path but please don’t lose sight of the fact that the state of Pakistan has invested a lot in bringing you to your present position. Therefore try to play your due role in paying back by whatever means you deem proper. You have a moral obligation to strengthen the country and serve its cause in every possible manner,” he advised. 

Governor Imran Ismail was of the opinion that the initiatives of the government will bring in desired results in not too distant future and the economy of Pakistan will flourish in the next few years.

Prof Dr Sarosh Hashmat Lodi, Vice Chancellor, NED University, in his welcome address, deliberated about the achievements of the institution in the recent past.

Recalling that while the history of NED was 99 years old, it has continued to have kept pace with the times by adding new features and it remained one of the top ranked engineering institutions of the world.  
“From a modest opening in August 1921, it has transformed into a university where more than 12,000 students are enrolled currently in various undergraduate degree programmes. Quality has been the hallmark of NED University and it remains so today,” he added. 

One of the features of the 28th Convocation at the NED University was the adherence to the originally chalked out programme and the discipline displayed by the participating students.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Murad Ali Shah opens Urdu Conference 2019

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, opened the 12th International Urdu Conference at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, on December 5. 

Declaring the multilingual city of Karachi as the hub of the cultural activities, he reckoned that the culture harmony in Pakistan was stronger than any other country in the world. 

“Pakistan is a country of different cultures and there is a need to promote cultural activities in every province,” he emphasized. 

The Sindh Cultural Minister, Sardar Shah, observed that just as the Indus River was joining the whole of Pakistan from Kashmir to Karachi, Urdu language was uniting the whole Pakistan as a nation. 

“Despite the heaviest of odds, Urdu has survived as the language of communication and cultural harmony in Pakistan,” he added. 

The President of the Arts council of Pakistan, Muhammad Ahmed Shah, stated that there were hardly a dozen people present in the auditorium when he and his team had launched the Urdu Conference 12 years ago with a budget of only Rupees one million. 

“As you all know, now the International Urdu conference has become a global brand of Pakistan. This year’s Urdu conference won’t be having sessions of Urdu only but we will have sessions in all the other regional languages. The Urdu Conference had now changed to a national cultural conference and for the first time sessions of other languages were also to be held in the conference. On the other hand we have delegates from India, Germany, Japan, USA, Canada, and China,” he said.

In the opening session, Shamim Hanfi and Haris Khalique presented they papers on the current political, social and literary situation in Pakistan and the world. The session was chaired by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali shah and hosted by Muhammad Ayub Shaikh. 

The conference, to continue until December 8, will feature over 150 delegates from 20 countries, along with 32 sessions on diverse forms of art such as film and TV. 

Music and dance performances, book fairs, dasatangoi and mushairas as well as a photography exhibition, capturing the 11-year old history of the conference have also been planned on the sidelines.

Murad Ali Shah inaugurates KIBF 2019

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The 15th Karachi International Book Fair 2019 got underway at the Karachi Expo Centre on a hazy morning of December 5 but there was plenty of action inside the three gigantic halls, attracting a large number of people. The event will continue until December 9.

It’s the 15th edition of the international book fair in Karachi, being organized by the local chapter of the Publishers & Booksellers Association (PPBSA) with the collaboration of the National Book Foundation (NBF). 

Having been launched in 2005, it has gone on to become an important cultural event of the city. The 15th KIBF 2019 was inaugurated by the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, whose speech on the occasion was telecast live by the various television channels. 

His assurance that the provincial government would take every possible step to enhance reading habits across the province was viewed with skepticism because of the dubious record of the various governmental organizations working under his command. 

The Chief Minister, however, was spot on while having observed the gradual decline in reading the habit among younger generations which indeed was reflected, as pointed out by him, that there was hardly any youngster attending the ceremony itself which he was addressing. 

He reckoned that efforts be made to revive our old culture of finding best books in the shelves of libraries, in the corners of bookstores, on the push-carts and footpaths. 

Murad Ali Shah recalled his student days at the iconic NED University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi, where he and his classmates used to visit the library on a regular basis. 

He even correctly recalled the name of the then librarian (Habib Saheb) of the 1980s at the NED University who worked very efficiently with his team to facilitate the students. 

The Chief Minister didn't mince words in declaring that he still derived more pleasure and satisfaction by reading a hard copy rather than its soft copy despite the availability of all kinds of modern gadgets like Ipads, laptops and tablets.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pakistan advised to revise approach to gender equality

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan’s economic and social development indicators will continue to lag behind other counties until it rethinks its approach to gender equity and commits to gender mainstreaming, according to the experts speaking at a conference at Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi.

The speakers at ‘The Time is Now: Gender Equity and Women in Leadership’ noted that there was widespread misinformation about the scale of gender inequality in the workplace and society as a whole. 

They explained that while most people are willing to assert that men and women should be treated as equals, they rarely question why there continues to be a lack of women in upper management and leadership positions across the public and private sector. 

Pakistan has the second lowest rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, behind all other countries in South Asia. Estimates suggest that it will take over 70 years for the country’s men and women to have equal levels of economic participation and opportunity, parity in educational and health indicators, and similar levels of political empowerment. 

“There are strong cultural norms and structural inequities that continue to hold women back,” Dr Ayesha Mian, conference chair, who holds the positions of dean of students and chair of the department of psychiatry at AKU, remarked.

She stated that these norms mean that men are rarely expected to make compensations in their career for their family, or to play an equal role in parenting and caregiving. 

Similarly, women, to a much greater degree than men, face double standards in the workplace and are held to a higher benchmark than men. 

For example, women are often labelled as ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive’ for actions deemed acceptable for men, and women’s requests for flexible work timings to deal with family commitments are more likely to be seen as showing a lack of commitment to the workplace. One of the most noticeable inequalities is in pay parity which worsens as women ascend the corporate ladder. 

Dr Ayesha shared how data from the United States shows that on average women earn 21 per cent less than men, while women who reach the top positions are paid a salary that is 61 per cent lower than their male counterparts.

“Gender equality involves society equally valuing the different needs, behaviours and aspirations of women and men, boys and girls. By being knowledgeable and responsive to gender considerations societies can ensure that everyone has the same rights, responsibilities and access to opportunity, regardless of whether they were born male or female,” Lindsay Mossman, senior gender equality adviser at the Aga Khan Foundation, Canada, observed. 

The worthy speakers at the conference called on organizations to make their planning and decision making processes more sensitive and responsive to the importance of gender. This approach, often referred to as gender mainstreaming, would enable the country to achieve gender equality. 

This would require workplaces to place a greater emphasis on collecting and reporting on the performance of programmes by gender. This includes details on how many men and women are promoted, those dropping out of the workforce or, how a company’s operations affect each gender. 

In the absence of gender-disaggregated information, management cannot monitor whether initiatives to narrow gaps are working nor can they be held accountable. 

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation, shared examples of how her organisation maintained gender-specific data on employee participation and attainment levels that enabled action to be taken if inequalities were noticed. 

She disclosed that when data showed that women were dropping out of the workforce after marriage, she was able to launch awareness programmes for their families to address the issue. 

She added that her organization would not open a branch in an area until they achieve parity between female and male staff. 

Gender-disaggregated information drives change in organisations and the current reliance on anecdotal data to assess progress tends to disguise inequalities and to promote tokenism. 

For example, many workplaces cite the presence of a few token women in senior positions, or the absence of complaints, as proof that their internal systems and practices are fair. This perpetuates a mistaken belief that low levels of female representation are a result of women’s capabilities and their own personal choices, which further impedes efforts to ensure equality. 

Gender mainstreaming also requires a commitment to parity in interview panels and committees. Organizations should always be asking themselves if there is a diverse group of decision-makers on the table that represent different strengths and perspectives, the speakers noted. 

Moreover, parity needs to be present at all levels in the organization: boardroom, executive level, senior management and general workforce. 

In the long-term, the presence of a critical mass of women in leadership positions has been found to have an aspirational effect on other females, the speakers added. 

The Unilever Pakistan Chairperson and CEO, Shazia Syed, spoke about the importance of being sensitive to the needs of different employees. 

She explained how her company had opened a women’s hostel in Karachi so that the parents of female employees feel comfortable with their daughter living on her own in a large city. 

“Daycare facilities are available for both men and women with children as this helps ensure that the wives of male employees are able to continue working,” she revealed. 

During a panel session, the Standard Chartered Pakistan CEO, Shazad Dada, noted that organizations that were diverse and sensitive to gender considerations were more productive and would benefit from staff more committed to the company. 

He added that gender equality initiatives made solid business sense and stated that the country as a whole would suffer if 50 per cent of its population continued to be left behind. 

The speakers concluded that the gender gap is concerning for Pakistan as the sustainable development goals contain a set of targets related to gender equality which Pakistan has committed to achieving by 2030. 

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute has found that the global economy would grow by US $28 trillion, or 25 per cent, if women participated in the economy to the same extent as men. Pakistan’s low ranking in gender equality means that it has the potential to benefit to a much greater extent from initiatives to promote gender equality, they added. 

Dr Ayesha Mian, who is spearheading the Gender Equity and Women in Leadership initiative at AKU, informed that universities have an integral role in hosting discourses with multiple community stakeholders on issues that are pressing and critical to society. 

Over 400 academics, activists and representatives from the banking, healthcare, media, law, and fast-moving consumer goods industries took part in the one-day event which is the first of a series of conferences aimed at spurring efforts to address the problem of gender inequality.

Monday, December 2, 2019

LPB, Bazm-e-Akram to be consolidated

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It has been decided in principle to consolidate the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB) as well as the Bazm-e-Akram rather than expanding the activities in the prevailing circumstances.

The activity report of both the organizations was presented by Prof Dr Nasim Fatima in a joint meeting held at the record office of the LPB, housed in the Liaquat Library Complex, Karachi, on December 2. 

The meeting, lasting a couple of hours, was presided over by Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari, who had returned from abroad only the other week. It was attended by majority of the office-bearers of the twin bodies.  

Ways and means were discussed to overcome the challenges and it was unanimously agreed to adopt a cautious approach, with emphasis on cutting operational costs, due to the existing financial constraints. 

Consequently it was decided to revert to the practice of bringing out just a single issue of Adab-o-Kutub Khana during the course of a year instead of attempting to publish two editions as was done the previous year. 

Similarly all the office-bearers of the LPB volunteered to donate their share of royalty income of the published books to the bureau in order let it become a self-sustaining entity. 

It was resolved to concentrate on digitalization of its publications and promote them more through social media for which separate blogs for the LPB and the Bazm-e-Akram will soon be uploaded.

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari turns 84

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari, acclaimed as the father of Library & Information Science in Pakistan, has turned 84 on December 2. 

The occasion didn’t go unnoticed as his birthday was celebrated in the traditionally simple and graceful manner. 

Himself a firm believer and practitioner of simplicity and modesty, the unassuming Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari appeared a little embarrassed when he first the tastefully decorated birthday cake, bearing his name, but he obliged by formally cutting it much to the delight of his admirers present on the occasion. 

It was in the fitness of things that his birthday was celebrated inside the offices of the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB), an organization he had founded more than half a century ago in Karachi. 

A man of few words, the LPB and an ex-chairperson, Department of Library Information Science, University of Karachi, didn’t say much except that age was just a number for him and he felt as strong as ever to carry on his mission with the same intensity as before. 

His worthy student and a luminary in her own right, Prof Dr Nasim Fatima, who had made the arrangements for marking the occasion, wished him the best of luck for future and looked forward to continue working under his guidance.

The management of Jumbo Publishing, Jumbo Infomedia and Pakistan News & Features Services has congratulated Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari on his birthday, wishing him long life with immaculate health.