Thursday, December 30, 2021

16th KIBF gets underway with a bang

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The long-awaited 16th edition of the Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) finally got underway on December 30 and it was off to a sensational start. Hours before the five-day annual was formally inaugurated in afternoon, there were long queues of school students, mostly dressed in tidy uniforms, who swarmed to access the three halls of the Karachi Expo Centre since 10 am when the gates were opened. 

The KIBF 2021 was already in motion, and in full swing, when the Sindh Education Minister, Syed Sardar Ali Shah, declared it open after presiding over a largely attended inauguration ceremony in which Anwar Maqsood, the famous playwright, was the keynote speaker. 

The National Library Association (NLA) was represented in the KIBF opening ceremony by its President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, and Secretary General, Anwar Hussain, besides a few other senior members. 

Aziz Khalid, President, Pakistan Publishers and Booksellers Association (PPBA), Southern Zone, in his welcome address, recalled the history of the KIBF as to how it was conceived after watching a book fair take place at New Delhi, India, in 2004. He touched upon the modest beginning of the KIBF and its evolution in the following years, incorporating the templates of success stories from book fairs at Frankfurt and London. 

Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, a former provincial senior minister, in his speech on the occasion, described the KIBF as one of the most significant events of the national calendar and he complimented the local publishers and booksellers for ensuring the availability of books at reasonable prices despite the inflation and other uncontrollable factors. 

Anwar Maqsood lived upto his huge reputation of entertaining and simultaneously enlightening the audience with his witty remarks which were generously applauded. As always, he enlivened the proceedings and charmed everyone on the occasion, including the dignitaries occupying the stage. 

Fatema Hassan, a prominent poet, didn’t mince words in stating that the book culture was here to stay despite the arrival of digital gadgets and other sources of recreation. She was of the opinion that the success of the KIBF was a testimonial of the people’s belief in books which were still doing good business. 

Lastly the chief guest, Syed Sardar Ali Shah, committed to take up the matter of slashing taxes on import of paper for the purpose of educational books to the federal government while he also agreed to take action for activating libraries in the schools and colleges, as requested by the PPBA Southern Zone Chairman. 

The vote of thanks was proposed by the KIBF Convener, Waqar Mateen Khan, in which he acknowledged the support of his team members in making the event successful. In the end awards were presented to some of the publishers and booksellers in recognition of their services to the trade.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

NLA’s participation adds value to KIBF

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The active participation of the National Library Association (NLA) will add value to the 15th edition of the Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) which is set to be inaugurated at the Karachi Expo Centre on December 30. 

The five-day annual event will conclude on January 3. The office-bearers of the NLA, the leading representative body of working librarians of the country, have been proactively promoting the KIBF, reaching out the masses through their members at various institutions and persuading them to visit the event in order to get hold of the latest books at heavily discounted prices. 

The NLA President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, remained upbeat about the success of the KIBF, which is being organized after a gap of two years because of the pandemic of COVID-19 which rocked the entire world from the early months of last year. 

“The people of Karachi, particularly bookworms, eagerly await the KIBF every year. More visitors than ever before in the 15-year-old history of the KIBF could be expected this time round because this event could not take place last year to COVID-19,” the NLA President remarked in a brief chat with PNFS on December 28. 

He thanked the functionaries of the Pakistan Publishers & Booksellers Association (PPBA) for having renewed their understanding with the NLA for the promotion of the KIBF. The NLA delegation had also included its Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, and Secretary General, Anwar Hussain, which recently met the PPBA Chairman, Southern Zone, Aziz Khalid and the KIBF Convenor, Waqar Mateen Khan.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari is back!

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari, the founder of the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB) and an ex-chairperson, Department of Library Information Science, University of Karachi, is back to his home city of Karachi after having spent the last one year in North America. And he’s back to business once more, without wasting a single moment which has been his hallmark for decades. 

Although his travel plans have had to be altered more than once due to COVID-19 related issues during the past year and a half, the octogenarian scholar has lost none of his mighty enthusiasm and his spirits have not been dampened even a bit. 

He was his usual self at the Record Office of the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB) in Karachi on December 23 where he informally spent time with members and visitors. He was full of energy as he geared up to attend the many ceremonies in his honour which have been lined up for the next couple of months. 

The bureau has had the reputation of coming alive particularly during the period he stayed in Karachi as the library professionals from all over the country converged to seek audience with him and to invite him to their institutions. 

In the past, he had made it a point to spend three months every year in Pakistan while staying abroad for the remaining nine months. This time, however, he has arrived after a gap of more than a year as he had overstayed in Karachi due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. Quite remarkably, the LPB, despite the innumerable challenges of the pandemic, continued bringing out its books as well as their quarterly journal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

NLA, PPBA join hands in KIBF promotion

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The functionaries of the National Library Association (NLA) and the Pakistan Publishers & Booksellers Association (PPBA) met on December 21 to renew their understanding to promote the upcoming Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF), now confirmed to be held at the Karachi Expo Centre from December 30 to January 3. 

The NLA delegation comprised of their President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, and Secretary General, Anwar Hussain, while the PPBA was represented by their Chairman, Southern Zone, Aziz Khalid and the KIBF Convenor, Waqar Mateen Khan. 

The NLA, which has been supporting the KIBF all along since its coming to being in 2017, volunteered its unconditional support to the PPBA in achieving the cherished goal of promoting book and library culture in the country. 

The NLA President, Muzaffar Ali Shah, wholeheartedly appreciated the efforts of the PPBA to have successfully organized the KIBF annually with great success for the past 16 years despite numerous obstacles and challenges. 

The PPBA Chairman, Southern Zone, Aziz Khalid, acknowledged the critical role of working librarians in the promotion of books which was so vital for the publishing trade. He commended the NLA leaders for pursuing the cause of education by trying to introduce book culture in the society. 

He didn’t mince words in stating that the country desperately needed to have more and more libraries in every nook and corner of the country to let the masses acquire knowledge and education for changing their own destiny. 

The NLA Secretary, Anwar Hussain, added that the Association, as in the past, will be distributing the posters and other promotional material of the KIBF among its members for their onward placements at the notice boards of various educational institutions. He was promptly handed over the publicity material by the KIBF Secretariat. 

Meanwhile the NLA Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, presented a copy of the historic book ‘Quaid-e-Azam and Education’ to Aziz Khalid on the occasion.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Rotary Darakhshan honours hat-trick hero Jalaluddin, statistician Shahzad Ali Khan in cricket celebration

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

With cricket fever gripping the entire world on the eve of Boxing Day and New Year, it was in the fitness of things that Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan joined the celebration by honouring two renowned cricket personalities, hat-trick hero Jalaluddin and statistician Shahzad Ali Khan, in a graceful ceremony at the Karachi Club Annexe on December 17. 

 Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and the highest qualified coach of Pakistan, recalled the moments when he had rewritten the history in September 1982 by registering the first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals. 

He informed the select gathering how he was drafted in the playing eleven at the eleventh hour in place of skipper Imran Khan, who had pulled out due to the extreme heat of Hyderabad after arriving from England. 

He also shared, with mixed emotions, the immediate ‘cold-shouldering’ by the officials soon after his world record feat which prompted him to disembark from the team coach abruptly and he hired a rickshaw to quietly rush to his home in North Nazimabad. 

Jalaluddin’s untold stories were as interesting as his talk on importance of statistics and records in cricket which he highlighted the fact that television and digital coverage of the game has made fact and figures even more important than before. 
He lavishly praised Shahzad Ali Khan for having compiled the book ‘Cricket Milestones’ in which his own feat of first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals has also been prominently documented. 

He didn’t mince words in stating that compiling or authoring a cricket book demanded special qualities and skills as it was a very challenging pursuit which himself has also gone through lately. 

Cricket statistician Shahzad Ali Khan, in his speech, talked about his passion for the game having started in his childhood and has continued unabated for nearly half a century. He revealed how much pleasure he derives by compiling statistics and records about cricket. 

Past District Governor and Charter President of Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, Jahangir Moghul, in his welcome address, praised both Jalaluddin and Shahzad, for their contributions to the game of cricket and hoped that they will continuing doing so for many more years to come. 

The Club President, Syed Khalid Mahmood, thanked both the cricket experts for squeezing time for Rotary and sharing their experiences with Rotarians, the majority of whom remain cricket followers. He wished them the best of luck in their future endeavours. 

Besides Rotarians, quite a few cricket collectors, writers, statisticians and anchors attended the ceremony thoroughly enjoying every minute of the proceedings. In the end, Jalaluddin and Shahzad Ali Khan were presented shields by the officials of Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan while the Club Secretary, Awais Moghul, proposed vote of thanks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Mismanagement galore at KW&SB as Karachi bleeds

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The mismanagement at the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) seems to have reached its peak as its managing director as well as his favoured officers were looking like engaged in maneuverings for meeting their vested interests rather than performing duties in usual manner. 

Recently the MD and the Officers Association duped the Board’s officers in the name of a so-called DPC with regard to their promotions and as a result all the officers were left with no other option but to be running after their own promotions instead of serving the people of Karachi who are clamoring about non-availability of water while the sewerage system has plunged into a total disarray with sewerage water flowing on many roads and streets. 

It is learnt from knowledgeable sources that many officials were visiting the residences of their retired superiors to have their ACRs written from them in their favour to help get a promotion. 

A false impression was communicated by the MD through a couple directives that DPC is going to be held and hence all the officials should get their ACRs and files completed. 

In order to get their favored officials promoted, by the look of things, the members of HR committee were given a wrong impression about court orders and government directives. The HR committee members, however, have strictly directed them to carry out the formal procedures and rules before holding the DPC as the only criteria for promotion was going to be ACR and seniority. 

The letter containing the directives showed that the procedure to examine the merit for seniority was still to be done and the question of issuing seniority list did not arise unless the reservations of affectees of previous promotions were removed, orders of Supreme Court with regard to PS, OTP and OCP are fully complied with and reversal of those getting illegal promotions to their original grades. 

In order to avoid the procedures, the MD has bargained with the so-called Officers Association and deceived the officers in the name of holding DPC and subsequently granting them promotions. 

Quite a few officers, who are junior in grades but functioning on the posts of Grade-20 as DMDs including two OPS DMDs Aijaz Kazmi and Saqib who are fully with MD alongwith Association’s President Nadeem Kirmani and Secretary Shoaib Tughlaq besides having support of two other DMDs Imran Zaidi and Nasim Khan. All of them enjoying were enjoying the perks and powers of Grade-20 while being in junior grades.

NLA official chairs Koha session

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

An Executive Committee member of the National Library Association (NLA), Liaquat Ali Rahoo, presented a paper besides chairing the session as koha experts of Pakistan brainstormed on the subject of ‘Challenges, prospects and way forward of Open Source Software Implementation in Pakistani Libraries’ recently. 

Koha is an active Open Source library management software project facilitating voluntary effort of programmers and library professionals. Library professionals are the end users of Koha and their involvement is vital at various stages of development of the software development. The Koha user community has been growing  and the project offered variety of non-developer roles for library professionals. 

The NLA President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, praised the efforts of Liaquat and congratulated him on conducting the session superbly besides presenting his own paper on one of the relevant of all subjects to the librarians’ community. 

Having joined the NLA in 2018, the Hyderabad-based Liaquat is working at the Mehran University of Engineering & Technology, Jamshoro. Having done MLIS in 2006 he is currently a PhD scholar. More than 40 papers of his have already been published in various journals.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

KW&SB Act likely to amended to fulfill World Bank conditions

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh cabinet is likely to amend Section 4 (1) of the KWSB Act, 1996 for reconstitution of the board to pave way for making the Mayor of Karachi as its Co-Chairman. 

The reconstitution of the board along with the proposed amendment, according to the sources, is being done on the pressure of the World Bank to make it free from political effects. 

It may be mentioned here that presently Najmi Alam, an activist of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), is acting as Co-Chairman of the board. 

The Sindh Government plans to further amend the KWSB Act as per satisfaction of the World Bank in the name of institutional reforms solely to get second tranche of US$ 700 million fund for the KWSB”s Services Improvement Project (KWSSIP). 

As per commitment of cooperation between the World Bank and Government of Sindh, the final draft for amendment in the KWSB Act was ready to be presented, it was disclosed. 

It may be recalled that present Administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Barrister Murtaza Wahab, has on numerous occasions, advocated for the inclusion of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) under the command of Mayor Karachi. 

Meanwhile the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC-1) could not meet owing to non-availability of MD, KW&SB, Asadullah Khan. However, it was learnt, that some other members of the committee did meet to consider the few performas related to promotion of officers and meeting of DPC-1 was postponed for indefinite period. 

The political activist Najmi Alam is said to have maneuvered to remain as co-chairman of KW&SB but failed and instead went forward to create a post of Vice Chairman on which the World Bank expressed its displeasure and called for abolition of this position. 

Since this move was rejected by the World Bank, his efforts through the cabinet could not bear fruit which has now moved for appointing Mayor as Co-Chairman. All backdoor efforts to grab power in the KW&SB affairs proved futile as Sindh Cabinet was not convinced with the proposal. 

It is also learnt that the KW&SB members snubbed the Managing Director for giving the impression that the DPC meeting was called on the directive of HRC whereas in its meeting on December 2, 2021, it has clearly delineated itself from such matters involving litigation and court orders. 

It has been gathered that the HRC meeting notice was cunningly manipulated by the Managing Director KW&SB thorough one Shoaib Tughlaq, attached with HRC, and displeasure was also expressed on this by Kabir Kazi, a senior bureaucrat. The HRC in its meeting, on December 2, is also believed to have emphasized upon the Managing Director to comply with the Supreme Court order for removal of OPC, OOC, OOT postings and promotions as well as ORC action before holding DPC or issuing any seniority list.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Junagadh Library & Resource Centre inaugurated

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

An impressive ceremony was organized at the Junagadh Lawn in Karachi, attended by large number of social workers, educationists, library professionals and students prior to the formal inauguration of the Junagadh Library & Resource Centre (JLRC) on December 4. 

All the speakers unanimously agreed that the creation of such facilities was need of the hour and every resourceful individuals and organizations should play their role proactively to bring about positive change in the country. 

Syed Khalid Mahmood, a renowned media personality and the Advisor of the National Library Association (NLA), was invited as one of the speakers and he warmly welcomed the addition of a public library in the densely populated metropolis of Karachi. 

“It’s a giant step in the right direction. With the kind of challenges being faced by the people in general in Pakistan, it’s a huge blessing to have a library and resource centre because this will serve lots of people particularly students and researchers,” he highlighted. 

“In an era when there’s a growing trend of shutting or curtailing libraries, it’s fantastic to open a new facility for the people of Karachi. We need libraries and more libraries in all cities, towns and villages. It’s the right of people to have access to high-quality books which are becoming out of reach of the masses because of the non-stop inflation,” the NLA Advisor pointed out. 

He praised the spirit of service of the NLA office-bearers who were working beyond the call of duty to achieved their cherished goals of spreading library culture in the society. 

The office-bearers of the NLA present on the occasion included Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah (President), Anwar Hussain (Secretary General), Hira Yaseen (Joint Secretary) and Younis Hashmi (Information Secretary). 

The Junagadh Library & Resource Centre (JLRC) is located on Sir Suleman Shah Road, in the vicinity of National Stadium, Karachi, with Indus University, Karachi School of Arts and Faran Club also in close proximity.

It's accessible location from nearly every part of Karachi will enable the centre to receive good number of visitors on daily basis and the available facilities would attract the students in particular.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Aziz Memon, others condole death of oldest ESUP member

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Aziz Memon, President, English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP), and fellow office-bearers have offered heartfelt condolences at the death of Siraj Ahmed, the oldest member of the Union who expired recently. 

In a media statement, issued in Karachi, they eulogized the services of Siraj Ahmed in his capacity as Secretary of the ESUP. He was praised for having attended all the events despite being in nineties. They recalled that the chief guests and distinguished speakers used to be impressed by his vast knowledge and pragmatic observations on their speeches. 

The ESUP officials declared having lost one of their most dedicated and committed members who earned respect from all quarters. 

The English Speaking Union, an educational charity, was founded in 1918 on the initiative of an English writer and journalist, Sir Evelyn Wrench, while its Pakistan chapter, ESUP, came into existence in 1961 with the objective to develop friendship and goodwill between the English-speaking people of Pakistan and other countries, by actively encouraging communication, discussion and debate through the medium of the English language.

Rampant corruption mars KW&SB

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Corruption and mismanagement at the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) seem to have become so rampant and the menace was only to grow further to the extent of being irreversible if most drastic action was not initiated to overcome it. 

The situation in this public utility organization is reported to have reached its present stage due to malpractices carried out at the behest of the various political parties who desired to have their maximum possible control at this organization as they considered it a goose delivering golden eggs. 

A number of official documents containing disgusting material verified the growing concerns about the ruining of this particular organization which enjoyed good reputation in the past in the absence of political interventions. 

One of documents showed the name of one Aijaz Kazmi, a Superintending Engineer (BS-19), in his last quarter of service, getting himself posted in BS-20 as Deputy MD Planning on OPS basis in gross violation of order of Supreme Court and is maneuvering to get himself promoted to BS 20. 

According to the documents, next to him ready to join the cruise and ride on the BS-20 slots, were Mohammed Saqib and Shoaib Tughlaq, both enjoying BS-20 OPS as DMD and Secretary KWSB, against the orders of the Supreme Court. They were believed to have made their way from low clerical ranks and through out of turn promotions. 

They were shown in lower cadre rank until 2006-07 when more than 100 tax officers (BS-17) in the 1987 to 1094 had 15 to 20 years of service. Shoaib and Tughlaq, with some other clerks, jumped to grade BS-18 in Accounted and Administration, allegedly by tempering the records. 

Shakil Qureshi, Tariq Latif, Ayub Shaikh, Hashim Abbas, Khurram Shahzad, thought to be enjoying blessings of a political party, have reportedly extended total support for Aijaz Kazmi. They were also believed to be supported MD Asadullah and Prof Sarosh Lodhi, Vice Chancellor of NED University, who is also a member of KWSB. The Board’s HR Committee headed by Abdul Kabir Kazi and the Managing Director was also toeing similar line in promotion proposal. 

The documents revealed that Aijaz Kazmi and some others were facing enquiry on the order of Chief Minister, having been charge sheeted by the Chief Secretary for causing loss of billions of rupees to exchequer. The projects of K4, S3, Dhabeji Pumping, 35 MW Power Generation, Rehabilitation of Filter Plants and 100 MGD and 65 MGD projects have either failed or left incomplete, causing grave losses of government funds, due to the rampant corruption culture at the KW&SB. 

Meanwhile The Chief Secretary Sindh has submitted lists under enquiry officers in the High Court on court direction, advising that these officers could not be be considered for promotion. A notification issued by the Local Government has also reasserted that officers will not be considered for potion until cleared/exonerated from enquiries.

Educators advocate for teaching license in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The participants at a policy dialogue organized by the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development advocated for a teaching license can help certify that a teacher has the skills and knowledge needed for effective classroom practice.

The dialogue aimed to raise awareness, gather evidence and make technical recommendations on the possibility of introducing a teaching license in Pakistan. Such a certification can serve to enhance teaching quality and, subsequently, students’ learning. 

A teaching license can also raise the professional status of teachers and open new employment opportunities for them locally as well as abroad. 

One of the keynote speakers, Dr Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, drew upon the history of the medical profession to highlight the long struggle that it underwent before it arrived at its current state. Likewise, she felt that teacher education would undergo the same struggle. 

“Licensure will benefit teachers as well as teacher education institutions to improve quality. Teacher licensing is desirable in Pakistan to improve teaching standards. However, we need to be mindful of the political economy of teaching licenses. The schools of education at universities need to make concerted effort in this regard,” Dr Irfan Muzaffar, technical director at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Support Programme, the other keynote speaker at the dialogue, reckoned. 

The dismal learning outcomes of Pakistani students are visible in the assessments conducted by many local and global agencies. The government’s NEAS, National Education Assessment System, the citizen-led ASER Annual Status of Education Report and the international TIMSS, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study show how weak students’ learning outcomes really are in Pakistan. 

The experts felt that students will benefit more from better teachers who have undergone relevant and credible professional development. “A good teacher is like a good doctor. A bad doctor despite having access to a well-equipped clinic and medicines cannot treat a patient adequately. Similarly, a bad teacher despite having an excellent curriculum or assessment system cannot transform students into successful learners,” Dr Sajid Ali, an associate professor and director of research and publications at IED, pointed out. 

The deliberations at the event led to participants recommending the introduction of teaching licenses, which can enhance the government’s efforts to improve the standards of teaching and overall teacher management system. They also touched upon various technical, political and economic questions that need to be resolved as efforts progress towards a licensing policy. 

The dialogue team aims to produce a White Paper on teacher licensing, from the proceedings, that will contain the literature review, the outcomes of dialogue, findings of survey and policy recommendations for introducing teaching license in Pakistan. It will also contain the key pressure points and their possible resolution. The White Paper will be useful for legislators to move forward towards teaching license policy. It will also serve as a resource for a continuing dialogue amongst educationists, policy makers, educational managers, legislators, parents, schools, teachers and other stakeholders from across Pakistan to assess its feasibility in Pakistan. 

In the past, various efforts have been made to introduce teacher licensing under the banner of various education development projects. This White Paper effort is spearheaded by AKU-IED without any project support and is based on a systematic process that includes a thorough situation analysis, global comparisons and national consultations. The dialogue was preceded by a series of seminars with international speakers and will continue post-event to determine the feasibility and next steps for teacher licensing in Pakistan.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Lions Club launch Azra Qureshi’s travelogue

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Azra Qureshi’s travelogue titled ‘Barah-e-Safar’ was launched in a simple but graceful ceremony, under the auspices of Karachi New Sunrise Lions Club, at the Usmania Restaurant, housed in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, on November 27. 

Wazir Hussain Sahito, District Governor (South), Lions Club International, presided over the ceremony which was also attended by one of its Past District Governors, Zafar Iqbal. A large contingent of the Karachi New Sunrise Lions Club members was present on the occasion. 

Both DG Wazir Sahito and PDG Zafar Iqbal, in their speeches on the occasion, showered Azra Qureshi with praise for having penned the stories of her various trips, many of whom were related to the events of the Lions Club. 

The ceremony was moderated in typically lively manner by Syed Ahmed Naqvi, a veteran library professional, who had worked with the author at the Aga Khan University for a number of years. 

Syed Khalid Mahmood, a known library activist besides being a leading media personality, in his brief speech, praised Azra Qureshi for having authored the travelogue and suggested to her to produce its second part too. He complimented the Lions Club leaders for supporting the book culture and urged them to keep doing it for the sake of the society. 

Azra Qureshi, acclaimed as one of the seasoned medical librarians of the country, graciously acknowledged the pivotal role of Prof Dr Nasim Fatima for having motivated and encouraged her to write the travelogue which was published by the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB) under her own guidance.

Indus River threatened by climate change

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan is fifth on a list of all countries most vulnerable to climate change and rising temperatures are already affecting the Indus River, a lifeline for people across the country, mapped in a moving film Vanishing Wetlands. 

The Indus River is one of the world’s longest rivers. It flows through parts of China and India, and runs through Pakistan sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people. 

The combined effects of growing pollution, the building of dams, and the permanent melting of glaciers, which provide up to 80 percent of the river’s water during the dry season, are all having an unprecedented impact on the region’s environment, health and quality of life. 

In Vanishing Wetlands, Pakistani filmmaker Abdullah Khan tells the story of farmers dependent on the river and the age-old fishing community, the Mohanas, whose very existence on Lake Manchar is threatened. Along the way, the film profiles the stunning central Indus wetland complex which supports seasonal bird flyways and rare crocodiles and deer species.

“The drastic decrease in visiting migratory birds, the loss of 90 per cent of the hog deer population, almost complete wipe out of mugger crocodiles and threats to the Indus River wetlands is an eye-opener. Equally depressing is to witness the loss of age-old cultures and communities struggling for livelihood,” Abdullah remarked. 

Wetlands is part of Voices from the Roof of the World, a series of 10 environmental documentaries, produced by filmmakers from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India under a joint initiative by Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia. 

The series focuses on the climate crisis in the earth’s highest mountain region from the Pamirs to the Himalayan mountains. Home to 240 million people and countless rare and endangered species, these mountains are also the largest depository of ice outside the polar ice caps, providing water to a quarter of the world's population. 

“With VRW support and tutelage, these filmmakers have captured poignant personal stories of people and cultures threatened by both deluges and desiccation of their environment. They have ventured downstream to document how the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will affect 1.5 billion people living in the threatened fishing and farming communities of South and Central Asia. Others will show how deforestation, air pollution and killer heat waves will make the world’s most densely packed cities unlivable,” Andrew Tkach, Executive Producer of the series, stated. 

“There are many culprits to share the blame for the predicament humanity finds itself in, but with every target we miss to control CO2 emissions, we are squarely painting a target on our own back. It is time to show that even in a world beset by intractable conflicts and it is possible to work across borders and social strata to save our common home. People living in some of the world’s most extreme conditions are fighting this battle every day, it is time we listen and learn from them,” he stressed. 

The VRW series, which will run for at least two seasons, seeks to amplify the voices of those who have borne the greatest burden of climate change.

Friday, November 26, 2021

SIUT adopts robotic surgical facilities

By Iqbal Jamil 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Acquisition of two robotic surgical units at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) has been described as a major breakthrough on the country's scene of surgical sciences.

The introduction of units is a part of the institute’s efforts to provide state of the art facilities to its patients. The introduction the programme of a robotic surgery in a public sector hospital and that too free of cost is also termed as a major milestone as the treatment is free of cost with follow up facilities. 

The SIUT offers all its medical services to its patients free of cost without any discrimination of cast, color, creed and religious beliefs as a part of its laid down policy. 

The medical sources regard robotic surgery as the one of next generation in the field of surgical sciences. The surgical procedure performed under this technology is less painful and it causes lower loss of blood besides faster recovery for patients. The patients in most of such cases could be discharged in a very short time. 

The robotic platforms allow surgeons to perform complicated procedures with greater precision. During first few robotic surgeries, which were performed in recent days, it brought stellar results and now procedure is taking place on daily basis. 

The journey of using robotic surgery had initially started in 2017 when the SIUT did it with the collaboration of Civil Hospital, Karachi. However, with the arrival of two units it is expected that this facility would enable the surgeons of the institute to perform surgical procedure on a larger scale covering a wide range of ailments. 

The Versius Robotic System developed by the Cambridge Medical Robotics has been introduced and commonly used in medical centres across Europe, South America, India and the Middle East. Plans are also underway to set up a regional surgical training programme in order to train the upcoming generation of surgeons to acquire the state of the art surgical skills.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

NLA offered to hold events at National College

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Government National College, which happens to be one of biggest colleges of Karachi being run under one roof, with all the three faculties of science, arts and commerce up to degree level being affiliated with the University of Karachi, has offered the National Library Association (NLA) to hold some of their events in future. 

The offer was made when a two-member delegation of the NLA, comprising of its President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, and Secretary, Anwar Hussain, called on the Principal of the Government National College (Evening), Prof Syed Uzair Ahmed Madni, on November 25. 

The college, having fully equipped laboratories, well-furnished classrooms and an independent library containing several hundred books of various disciplines, has been promoting extracurricular activities as well besides providing quality education to its students. 

The NLA top officials were highly impressed by the proactive approach of the college Principal, Prof Uzair Madni, who has plans to add more departments at their institution including the one for Library and Information Science. 

“Prof Uzair Madni, who is also a noted poet, writer and broadcaster, is quite eager to have more academic and extracurricular activities for the students and scholars at their college which is very gladdening and another testimonial of his positive outlook,” Anwar Hussain, Secretary, NLA, complimented.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

NLA delegation praises Bahria University’s Central Library

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The delegation of the National Library Association (NLA), which visited the Karachi campus of Bahria University, located on Stadium Road, commended the facilities being provided to their students at the Central Library.

“The presence of hundreds of students inside the library premises, actively engaged in scholastic activities, is a sight to behold. These young scholars are availing the opportunity of enhancing their skills and preparing for a better tomorrow for themselves and the nation as a whole,” the NLA President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, who was leading the delegation on November 24, observed on the occasion. 

The NLA Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, a renowned media personality besides being a library activist, also lavishly praised the set-up of Central Library and he complimented the management and administration of the Bahria University for facilitating their students in such elegant environment. 

The NLA Secretary, Anwar Hussain, expressed similar sentiments and he urged academic and other institutions to take the cue from Bahria University and mobilize their resources in creating the same sort of atmosphere at their libraries. 

The NLA office-bearers also held a meeting with the university’s librarian, Farhat Jabeen, in which matters relating to the future programmes of the Association and the engagement of youth in book fairs and other events were discussed at length. 

The NLA volunteered to support the upcoming annual book fair at the Bahria University, planned to be held next month, by promoting the event among the librarians community to make it more successful than ever before.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Greenwich University announces 100% scholarships to transgender persons

By Iqbal Jamil
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Commemorating the Trans Day of Remembrance, Greenwich University, on November 20, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Gender Interactive Alliance, for the promotion of transgender persons’ education through the provision of fully-funded scholarships by the University. 

This measure made Greenwich University the pioneer among other Pakistani universities, to offer free of charge undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate education to transgender persons. 

To mark this feat and celebrate trans rights, an event was held at the university on the day. The event was organized to put forth a request to all government and bureaucratic stakeholders as well as civil society and the business community to cultivate dignified employment opportunities for transgender persons. Efforts made thus far by various stakeholders to secure trans rights in Pakistan were also showcased on the occasion. 

The ceremony kicked off with a welcome address, which was followed by the profile of renowned trans rights activist, fore-bearer of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights Act 2018), Ms Bindiya Rana. 

Ms Bindiya, who is also the Chairperson of the GIA, lauded Greenwich University's step to support transgender persons' right to education and dignified livelihood. She underscored that transgender persons are considered taboo in Pakistani society to this day. 

“This exclusion of trans people from the social, political and economic fabric of the country exposes them to physical and psychological abuse besides depriving them of economic means for survival. The dearth of educational opportunities further exacerbates the situation against trans persons,” Ms Bindiya added. 

Greenwich University's measure to promote transgender persons’ education was commended a huge step in the right direction. 

Ms Sara Gill, Pakistan’s first transgender doctor also attended the ceremony and spoke of struggles she faced in her academic and professional career. 

"The identity-based discrimination of transgender persons is keeping Pakistan from progressing both as a society and as an economy. We need to rid ourselves of gender-based biases and cultivate opportunities for talent acquisition," she noted. 
Addressing the ceremony, Ali Jillani, Head Diplomatic Affairs, Greenwich University, said that the inclusion of transgender persons in educational institutions and will undoubtedly transform and counter societal misconceptions of the community. 

“Across the globe, the struggle for trans rights has remained magnificent in gaining liberty from the predominant social constructs. Trans persons are welcome aboard at workplaces and educational opportunities are offered to them. It is an honor for us to have a vibrant trans rights community in Pakistan. We feel proud of utilizing our platform for the promotion of trans rights,” he declared. 

During the ceremony members of the GIA also performed an interactive theatre on trans rights. Moreover, the outstanding documentary film, ‘Main Insan Hoon’ (I am a human!/ too), advocating trans rights to education and employment, produced by Greenwich University's media students was shown. 

The brilliantly made documentary highlights the exclusion of transgender persons and shows that such exclusion renders trans people inhuman and unworthy of a dignified life. 

Appreciating the efforts of Greenwich University and GIA, Chief Guest of the event, Ms Reema Ismail, wife of Governor Sindh, said that "the government was seriously pondering over changing the social fabric of society which included the inclusion of transgender persons and acknowledgment of trans rights. 

“Change is around the corner. However, the gradual change, the more sustainable it will be. I am delighted to come across the enthusiasm with which we, as a society, are moving forward,” she observed. 

Speaking at the ceremony, the Vice Chancellor of Greenwich University, Ms Seema Mughal, remarked that Greenwich’s vision of social transformation through education was materializing today as they opened our doors to the trans community. She vowed to continue support from the transgender community at the University. 

"I assure everyone that Greenwich will contribute its due share to Pakistan as a society and economy. The Greenwich family will always ensure its efforts towards the progression of society, our foundation, being education," the Vice Chancellor announced. 

The event concluded with the distribution of certificates and awards and was followed by the MoU signing ceremony.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

NLA officials visit Junadagh Library & Resource Centre

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A delegation of the National Library Association (NLA) visited the Junadagh Library & Resource Centre, located near National Stadium in Karachi, which is set to be formally inaugurated with fanfare early next month. It’s a project of the Junagadh State Muslim Federation (JSMF). 

The NLA contingent comprising of its President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, Joint Secretary, Hira Yaseen, Information Secretary, Younis Hashmi and its members Abu Bakr Ghori and Syeda Najma Sultana held a meeting with the JSMF Secretary, Abdul Aziz Arab, on November 20 in which matters of mutual interest came up for discussion. 

The NLA officials assured the support of the Association to the JSMF in their endevours of setting up the Junadagh Library & Resource Centre at their premises which was ready for inauguration on December 4 in an impressive ceremony in which the Sindh Education Minister is expected to be the chief guest. 

The NLA office-bearers agreed to join hands with the JSMF in arranging for the donation of books for the Junadagh Library & Resource Centre which is planned to be open for public from 10 am to 8 pm on daily basis, in order to facilitate the area people in particular. 
The JSMF Secretary, who briefed the delegation about the various projects being undertaken by the Federation in the larger interest of people, also desired technical support from the NLA in the management of the Junadagh Library & Resource Centre. 

Meanwhile over 2,000 books, shelved in three big cupboards, besides more than a dozen desktop computers with LCDs have already been procured for the project.

Former APP bureau chief passes away in road accident

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Masood Sattar Khan, a former bureau chief of the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) in Karachi, who died in a road accident a day earlier, was laid to rest at the Askari-IV Graveyard on November 20. 

His Namaz-e-Janaza was offered at Jamia Masjid Ahsan-ul-Uloom, housed in Block 2 of Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The funeral prayers as well as the burial were largely attended by the APP staffers, his former colleagues, friends and relatives. 

During his long journalistic career, Masood Sattar was also posted in Beijing, China, as the APP correspondent. Post-retirement, he continued writing and reporting and he was one of the regular contributors to the Pakistan News & Features Services (PNFS). 

According to the family sources, he met with a fatal road accident near Awami Markaz on Shahrah-e-Faisal on the morning of November 19 and he could not recover from the serious head injuries.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Breast cancer issues discussed in seminar

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Eminent medical practitioners shared their views with a large number of athletes in the seminar on breast cancer awareness which was organized by the Pakistan Olympic Association Women & Sports Commission (POAWSC) at the Karachi Gymkhana recently. 

Nearly one hundred athletes, coaches and representatives from the swimming, tennis, boxing, handball, karate, archery, softball, badminton, fencing, football, Special Olympics and the Sindh Olympic Association participated in the event. 

Dr Bushra Sherazi, a general surgeon and working as professor of surgery at SIUT, Dr Nida Wahid Bashir, Consultant Breast and General Surgeon at Dr Ziauddin Hospital, and Dr Zubedia Kazi, President, Pink Pakistan Trust, were the speakers on the occasion alongwith Fatima Lakhani, President, POAWSC, and Veena Masud, Secretary, POAWSC. Syed Wasim Hashmi and Nargis Rahimtoola, both members of the POAWSC, were also present in the ceremony. 

The audience was informed by the organizers that the POAWSC was formed under the directives of the IOC with the sole purpose to advise the POA on its development and implementation of the policy to promote and develop equal opportunities for women in sport, in a healthy and safe environment and to be able to help them participate and benefit from sport and physical activities. 

“We are concerned about the wellbeing of all our female sports personnel and the purpose of the seminar is to educate and enlighten on breast cancer awareness. This is a major issue and we feel it is so very important that we share this information with you all so that you are aware and can now pass on this knowledge to close friends and family. I am sure we all know of people who are suffering or have suffered from this terrible challenge,” the POAWSC Secretary observed.
“Knowledge and understanding are our first priority against this disease. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. Awareness and early detection with timely treatment can help us to beat this disease. We are able to bring this needed awareness to our female athletes and their coaches by our team of expert doctors who have committed wholeheartedly to this cause and who have helped and supported women with breast cancer,” she added. 

It was followed by speeches from Dr Bushra Sherazi and Dr Nida Wahid Bahir, both of them vastly experienced doctors, working with breast cancer patients. They gave detailed presentation on the awareness of breast cancer, how to identify and how to cope with the strain and stress of the disease.

Dr Zubaida Kazi, President, Pink Pakistan Trust, followed it up with another informative presentation to enlighten and educate the audience, who was shocked to learn about Pakistan having the highest rate of breast cancer in South Asia.

Hajra Arbab sheds light on Hollywood trends

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

“Licensing content has been an important revenue source. The shift to digital content has created both new opportunities and new challenges in the industry sector,” Hajra Arbab, who is working at one of the major studios, remarked while talking to PNFS about content licensing and digital media. 

When inquired about the key opportunities and challenges in the licensing world at the moment, she stated that maximum experimentation was being undertaken in the digital space, which was not surprising due to the consumer shift to online content consumption. 

“Hollywood has started to experiment with same day release in the theaters and streaming platforms,” she shared, having moved to Los Angeles after completing her masters from the famous San Francisco State University. 

When questioned about geographical markets she’s particularly excited about, Hajra felt that everyone was excited about Asian content while entertainment, health/fitness, and cooking /recipes contents were the subject niches currently attracting the most attention. 

“There is an increase in demand for digital-first brand and content licenses. Whereas the industry trend has shifted more and more towards digital platforms in recent years, the pandemic has accelerated this move. Most licensing conversations are digital-focused at the moment,” she replied when asked to point out the positives for the industry as a result of the pandemic. 

Having worked at some of the iconic media production and distribution companies like IMAX Corporation, Lionsgate Entertainment, STX Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company, besides having brief stints with Paramount Pictures and NBC Universal, the young Hajra has already announced her presence in the highly competitive arena revolving around Hollywood.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

NLA to join hands with KIBF

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The National Library Association (NLA) has decided to join hands with the management of the Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) in holding the event now rescheduled to be held at the Karachi Expo Centre from December 30 to January 3. 

A delegation of the NLA, headed by its President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, will soon be meeting the top functionaries of the KIBF to formally volunteer its services for the biggest book event of the country which is being organized after a gap of two years. The NLA desires to play its role in engaging the librarians more actively at the KIBF. 

The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Association held in Karachi on November 13. It was presided over by the NLA Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, who is also a Goodwill Ambassador of the KIBF, which is organized annually by the Pakistan Publishers & Booksellers Association (PPBA), since 2005.

“As the truly representative body of the working librarians, the NLA finds itself in a good position to promote the KIBF in its fraternity to achieve our mutual goal of spreading book culture in our country,” the NLA Secretary, Anwar Hussain, remarked. 

Meanwhile the NLA, which had come into existence four years ago, has decided to commence the publication its monthly newsletter from the next month and its inaugural issue is set to be launched during the upcoming KIBF. 

Nasir Mustafa, associated with Dawn Media Group for a number of years, has been appointed the editor of the NLA Newsletter while the editorial team would be finalized soon. 

The Information Secretary of the NLA, Younis Hashmi, briefed the meeting about his last visit to Canada a few months ago during which he contacted quite a few library professionals of the Pakistan origin to solicit support for the Association. 

Hira Yaseen, Nasir Nayab, Farheen Mahmood, Huma Mannan Butt, Syeda Najma Sultana, Muhammad Sultan Ali and Abu Bakar Ghori were the other NLA members present in the meeting which lasted around a couple of hours.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Theatres, streaming may co-exist in future: Hajra Arbab

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Movies remain a massive value creator. Global box office revenues were reported to have totaled $42 billion in 2019, an all-time high, contributing almost one-third of the estimated $136 billion in the value of worldwide movie production and distribution. Hollywood supports more than two million jobs and 400,000 American businesses; British film and TV are worth around £60 million each day to the UK economy. 

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the content pipeline, halting film production and closing cinemas. Film production has restarted in some countries and the industry has adopted remote-work protocols where possible. But the virus creates uncertainty, and the biggest short-term risk seems to be consumers’ dwindling confidence in physical venues. 

Bibi Hajra Arbab, currently working at one of the largest media companies of the world, has completed her masters from San Francisco State University and then moved to Los Angeles. She has worked at various media production and distribution companies over there and the list includes IMAX Corporation, Lionsgate Entertainment, STX Entertainment, and The Walt Disney Company. For a short time, she was also associated Paramount Pictures and NBC Universal. In a recent interview with PNFS, she shared her views and thoughts about current issues of the industry. Excerpts: 

Q: How much did the COVID-19 impact the movie industry? 
A: The industry is on the cusp of the biggest shift in the history of Hollywood. The movie production was indeed hit hard by COVID-19. Theaters and movie sets were shut down for months, causing the US box office to lose $5 billion in 2020. Only 338 movies were released in theaters in 2020, a 66% decline from 2019. 

The number of movies that began production in 2020 declined significantly, taking a 45% drop to 447. The delay in the current slate of movies also puts future movies up in the air. Many studios are focused on managing the logistics of their movies that are currently in production or pre-production instead of actively hunting for new films. That could lead to a sparse pipeline in coming years.  

Q: Is Hollywood completely looking into the streaming model? 
A: With theatres closed all over the world, many movies moved to streaming. Universal Pictures made a deal with one of the theater chains to shrink the time its movies play exclusively in theaters from 90 days to 17. Warner Brothers started releasing its new movies on HBO Max the same day they go into theaters, a move that will extend through at least the end of 2021. 

Disney followed a similar model by releasing some new movies on streaming for an additional cost, and others included in the basic subscription price. 

Q: Will theatres survive in future? 
A: The customers indeed love having access to new releases from the comfort of their homes. One studio released its latest movie in theaters and for premier customers and made more than $20 million on each channel in the first weekend alone which means that this model is working for them. 

Theatres and streaming are battling for customers but many experts believe the two can co-exist. Although movies will likely be released simultaneously or much closer together on streaming and in theaters than they have in the past, watching a movie at home versus watching it in a theater offer wildly different experiences. There are pros and cons to both, but customers will likely continue to want to watch new releases both in the luxury of a theater and in the comfort of their own home. 

Q: How people make their movies and how they expect the movies to be seen? 
A: The flip side is the majority of movies, whether we like it or not, are being consumed at home and it’s not realistic to assume that we’re not going to change, that this part of the business isn’t going to change, like all parts of the business are going to change. 

Q: How do you see future of the film business? 
A: Going forward, what movies look like and how they are consumed could be very different. Larger studios tend to have the resources to fund and market their movies and can take bigger financial risks but independent studios and filmmakers now have the added struggle of finding more funding. At least for the next few years, there will likely be fewer independent films. In the future, more movie studios will expand their animated offerings. 

Q: What kinds of movies seem more likely to succeed in future? 
A: Animated movies for families and adults tend to be easier to produce virtually with animators working from different locations, reducing the need for safety measures. First, the business model is moving from third-party distribution and single-ticket sales towards owned distribution and recurring revenue. This is seen by investments in SVOD services, where a single movie or TV series is rarely a profit driver; rather, recurring subscriptions (and, in some cases, advertising revenue) produce value. 

As a result, media companies no longer optimize releases for fixed schedules, primetime TV slots or popular holiday weekends. Instead, the goal is increased engagement, thereby improving user retention and data on content popularity. The corollary is an expansion of demand for proprietary content. We still have to see how things unfold but one thing I can say for sure that the demand in content is higher than usual, which is a good sign for the Pakistani content creators as well.