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.

Monday, November 1, 2021

VRW film series launched

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As part of preparations for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, a film series Voices from the Roof of the World (VRW) has been launched on TV and online. 

A joint initiative by the Aga Khan Development Network agencies, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia, the 10-episode first season has been produced by filmmakers from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India. 

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, observed. 

The UN scientists have announced that current greenhouse gas emissions will lead to an increase of 2.7 degree centigrade in this century, not the target of 1.5 degrees that delegates gathering in Glasgow will be trying so hard to achieve. 

“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 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,” Tkach stressed. 

The first episode, Bears on the Brink, produced by Pakistani filmmaker Abdullah Khan, features the impact of climate change and drought on the endangered Himalayan brown bears and golden marmots found in the Deosai National Park in Gilgit Baltistan, the impact on local communities in the buffer zone, human-wildlife conflict and eco-tourism. 

“I chose to take part in the series because I had been covering a lot of stories related to climate change and its impacts in Pakistan, but I observed that there weren't any films being made on climate change and its impact on people's mental health,” Haya Fatima Iqbal, a filmmaker, added. 

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.