the leader of the House?
''I''ll oppose projects that displace people''
Samina Khalid Ghurki is the only woman to win National Assembly seat from Lahore. Its her second term. Hers is the most backward and the largest constituency area-wise in the city, hence the challenge
By Aoun Sahi
Samina Khalid Ghurki is one of the only two PPP candidates who have won the national assembly seats from Lahore in the present general elections.
She is mother of two sons and two daughters. Born on August 13, 1956 in Lahore, she got her B.A. degree from Lahore College for Women in 1976. Her husband Khalid Javed Ghurki, son of Asghar Ghurki is the Nazim of Wahga Town. He has a strong political background. His father Asghar Ghurki was elected to the National Assembly in 1985 and also in 1988. His brother Arshad Ghurki was elected an MNA from the same constituency after the death of his father in 1989.
Samina came into politics by chance in 2002 general elections when her husband or his brothers could not contest election because of a bar on undergraduates. That was the reason the family decided for Samina to contest election which she won -- becoming the first ever woman to win a general seat of National Assembly from Lahore. Excerpts of her interview with The News on Sunday follow:
The News on Sunday: Why do you think majority of PPP candidates have failed to win voters'' confidence in Lahore?
Sameena Khalid Ghurki: I am a really surprised at election results of Lahore. We really have some very strong candidates here and PPP was also very strong in Lahore. We also have good number of voters in Lahore and after Benazir Bhutto''s assassination our voters were very determine to cast their votes. That was why we were expecting at least five National Assembly seats. I am literally unable to find any reason for that but one thing is very clear that people want their representative to be within their reach round the clock.
TNS: Why do you think that people elected you despite the fact that you are a woman and the area is the most backward in the city?
SKG: I remained in regular contact with the people of my area after winning elections in 2002. It is right that being a member of opposition I did not get enough funds for development work in my constituency during the last tenure. In fact in the last two years government completely denied funds to opposition MNAs, still I completed some projects of public welfare in my area from my own pocket, that is the reason I maintained my vote bank in the constituency. In 2002 elections PML-N had also supported me and I bagged around 46,000 votes but this time PML-N fielded its candidate against me, even then I have got the same number of votes (around 46,000). I think the major reasons for this are my constant contact with the people and my party''s clear stance against dictatorship.
TNS: What was your main agenda during the campaign?
SKG: To provide basic civic amenities to the people in the first place because majority of the people here do not have access to clean drinking water and sewerage system. Streets and roads are in real bad shape, unemployment is at its peak and no real education and health facilities are available to people. My constituency constitutes of the most backward areas of Lahore.
I tell you that the condition of government education institutions is really very bad in my area though the previous government used to make tall claims of Parha Likha Punjab. I am very thankful to people that they have shown confidence in me, now it''s my turn and I promise that I will do my best to solve their problems.
TNS: Issues of displacement of people because of Ring Road, Sports City and Lake City is very much there in your constituency. How will you tackle this issue?
SKG: We are very much against all the development projects that displace people. People are living here since centuries. You know all these projects will cause displacement of at least 0.4 million people. During October 2005 earthquake around 0.2 million people were displaced and despite getting so much foreign aid the government has not succeeded in settling these people down properly so far. How could they settle 0.4 million people. Then this is our prime agricultural land and produces grain, vegetable, meat and milk for the residents of Lahore. Such projects will waste this land and prices of these commodities will also rise many times with displacement. I used to raise voice against all these projects in the parliament and will keep on raising my voice; nobody can displace people from their land without their wishes. We are not against development but it will not be at the cost of the people.
TNS: Don''t you think that you have won just because you belong to Ghurki family?
SKG: No, no. Benazir Bhutto and PPP are the prime reasons for my win. Its true that our family holds respect among the people of the area because we have been serving the people here since decades. We have completed many projects of public service in our area but our family never uses these as a tool to get votes of people. Our family decided that we will never even mention these projects in the public to get political benefits. I am really thankful to people of the area that they have shown confidence in our family once again.
TNS: What kind of problems did you face being a woman while campaigning for elections?
SKG: My constituency consists of the border areas and is the most difficult area of Lahore to approach. There are some areas where one cannot dare to go after evening. My constituency is also the largest constituency of Lahore area wise. I was the first woman in my area who dared to contest election and it was a completely new thing for the people here. Most of these areas are backward with very low literacy rate, still they voted for me (a woman) for the second time. That clearly depicts how open minded people they are. In 2002 elections, my opponents tried their level best to exploit the situation by asking people how could a woman represent them but this time nobody mentioned that. People have given me so much respect that PML-N was forced to field a woman candidate from this constituency. Mine was the only constituency in Lahore where candidates of two big parties, PPP and PML-N, were women. If you look at the results in this constituency I have won but Sadia Shabbir, the PML-N candidate -- is the runner up, which shows that people in the area have accepted women as their leader and I proudly say that I am responsible for this change.
TNS: What is the reaction of women of the area? Do you think a majority of them have voted for you?
SKG: In the first half of the polling day there was low turnout of women voters as compared to men. Later, many of them came out, still they were in lower numbers than men. Still I have won which shows that both men and women have voted for me. I have even acceptability among men and women of the area but being a woman I am also available to women of the area. Generally, women do not like to go to their representatives, mostly because they are men. I am accessible to women and hundreds of them contact me on daily basis. This phenomenon though has increased my responsibilities but I am happy with the situation.
TNS: How has politics affected your family, especially children because your husband is also a politician?
SKG: It is really tough to give proper time to family when you are in politics, especially during election campaign. Just imagine that during election campaign I would leave home at nine in the morning and return home around midnight most of the time. Before leaving home I would give complete schedule of the day to my children -- what they were supposed to do during the whole day. I would also give instructions to the cook about food for the day. I remained in constant contact with my children all the day but I tell you its really tough to take care of your near and dear ones if you are in politics. Some time I could not even attend their phone calls because other people want me to listen to their problems. One should keep in mind all these possibilities before jumping into politics and I have no complaints. All the children in my constituency are like my own children to me.
TNS: How do you see role of women parliamentarian in the previous parliament?
SKG: It is right that women parliamentarians could not perform well in the last parliament because for majority of them it was their first tenure and they were also not encouraged by their parties to play their due role. But you will see a real difference in coming parliament because it will have maximum number of women elected on general seats so far.
By Aziz Omar
A global rat race has spawned out of social evolution that feeds off people''s desires and essential requirements. The need to associate oneself with a certain aspect of the order of things drives one to seek out identification through social circles, fashion trends, corporate entities or a particular school of thought. This innate craving to be accepted starts out right from childhood. I remember when we were tiny tots, we''d bunch up together to share our views on our favourite cartoon character, action figure or teacher.
As we put on a few more inches, typical identity traits began to emerge such as who was on talking terms with the coolest girl in class. Of course the geeky nerds'' gang would be harping about how many overall marks they had scored in the latest round of exams. The one who had amassed the most nerdiness went on to win the coveted gold medal and would later keep it hung around his or her neck while parading it in front of the entire batch.
And quite intriguingly as everyone has witnessed in the course of their lives, these identity defining traits don''t go away but rather morph into more obsessive qualities. Throughout academic life, you have your thetas (GPA high-enders) and the cheetahs (the popular, doing everything with a certain style ones). The rest try to seek out their status by hanging out with this or that crowd or by acquiring membership in such and such society or club. They try to enhance their assumed life experience by extending it into the virtual world through portals such as Facebook and various instant messaging services. Feeling connected is what the majority keeps on consoling themselves with having grasped life''s objective.
Being alive for me is in itself so elusive and hard to fathom that just the experience of developing an inkling of it seems a fantasy. When asked about what they value most in their lives, people''s responses range from their successes and achievements, family, friends and loved ones. People in general place so much faith in these external factors to act as steering forces in the sea of life''s instances. And to reinforce their constant pursuit of life''s fulfillment, they develop mottos such as dossti hai zindagi or pyaar bina hai jeena kya
However, if it''s one''s life that one is trying to lead and define, then why does it seemingly become so meaningless once these things become non-existent? Many of us feel that they have been crippled, reduced to a lifeless and empty shell. Is it love, which by not being there dries up the will to go on? But it also happens that the lack there-off thrusts one in the face of adversity and unleashes the force that keeps one going.
There comes a stage when people start to feel that they have done as much of living as they could and they start wishing for something greater out there. Some cite instances of having a near death experience. They relate that how having gone through such a trial changed the perspective that they had about life and how they have turned into a different person. But before you can even take anything away from a visit to death''s door, I say that you have to have a near-life experience first.
• 22nd Annual Exhibition at Alhamra, The Mall till Feb 29 from 8am to 1pm daily by Artists Association of Punjab.
• Talk on Baaba Fareed Ganjshakar by Nadir Ali, organised by Leaf at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, Feb 26. Kalaam Concert: Samina Hasan Syed, Yasoob Tahir, Baaba Ghulam Muhammad, Shafquat Hussain, Imdad Hussain, Riaz Ahmad
• 18th National Conference on ''Chemistry for the Development of Health, Industry and Environment'' from Feb 25 - 27 at the Punjab University Institute of Chemistry.
• Leaf Discourses in Sociology. Dr Muhammad Hafeez will talk on Patriotism at 5:30pm at Model Town Library.
• Polo: The Pakistan Cup from Mon, Feb 25 to Sun, March 02 at Lahore Polo Club from 10am to 5p. Handicap limit: 8-14 goals.
• Fourth Annual Exhibition for Young Artists-2008
is scheduled for April 2008.
Last date for submission of art work is Feb 29.
Age limit: 35 on Dec 31, 2007.
Submit copy of identity card with the art work at
Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall from 9am to 6pm.
• Polo National Open at Lahore Polo Club
till Feb 24 from 10am to 4pm.
Handicap limit: 10-14 goals.
• Puppet Show for Children every Sunday at Alhamra, The Mall at 11am.
The school administration ought to be trained to handle crisis situation
By Sarah Sikandar
"It''s like sending your children to battlefields," says Samira, a thirty five years old mother in the context of the repeated bomb scares in Lahore''s private schools. If you have anything to do with schools in the city, and even if you don''t, you can''t miss the recent episodes of bomb-scares in the city schools and colleges. The first few were reported by T.V channels as breaking news but then it became a regular thing. There is hardly any doubt that we are living in unusual times. Schools have become the most dangerous place.
Asma teaches at The Learning Alliance at the Canal. According to her teachers were kept in the dark as far as the discovery of a bomb is concerned. It was not like Choueifat and Grammar. The school was not closed. "The school administration confided in the parents and sent them notices regarding the security of their children." Modus-operandi here was no different from other school. It all began with a discreet phone call.
Another such call created a panic at Beaconhouse Grammar School where Sryina''s two daughters go. She was called by the school telling the parents to come and pick their children. "According to underhand news it was a drill and when one of the neighbours saw children in the ground they called the police."
The school administration denied the incident claiming it was a drill. When the bomb squad came they said we have to go through a certain procedure. They kept all the bags until they were satisfied. That is why the students were not returned their bags for a long time.
Amara is a teacher and a mother of two. Her children couldn''t sleep the whole night following the day it happened. "But they are children; I can''t forget what I saw. Small children crying without their parents." Faiza''s son''s story is probably one of the most toucheing. "Since the teachers themselves were panicking the kids were on their own. My eight year old son walked all the way home crying. What surprises me is that no one on the way even stopped him." She believes the school administration is to blame. They ought to be trained to handle crisis situation.
Other private schools have taken the example and have started a drill in the respective school. The whole situation has hardly assumed greater importance than drawing room gossip probably because no serious damage has been done. No tragic incident has yet been reported in any of the schools or colleges but for the parents it is not something to be ignored. It is not easy to prepare your children for school in the morning wondering they''d come back or not.
By Saadia Salahuddin
The polling staff deputed at the different polling stations could not cast their votes because their duties were far away from the constituencies where their votes were. There were 65,000 polling stations in the country and ten persons were on duty at one polling station on average.
This means 650,000 citizens of this country could not cast their votes because of the carelessness of the Election Commission (EC). The polling staff received the duty orders at a time when the time to apply for postal ballot had elapsed. All the polling staff should have got forms to apply for postal ballot at the time they were assigned duties.
Returning officers were asked to pick the ballot boxes and papers themselves from the Election Commission office, then in rural areas the polling staff was provided lunch by the villagers. The EC did not even bother to provide food to most of the polling staff, what to say of pick and drop facility.
At many places the polling staff faced great hardship in commuting. In the absence of any public transport in the day preceding elections, on the day the nation went to polls and a day after that, the city population seemed to be all at home with very little traffic on roads. The polling staff posted in rural areas were the ones to suffer most. At a polling station near Suay Aasal, some 30 kilometre away from city centre, the polling staff faced great hardship in reaching their homes. They had finished counting by six in the evening and had to walk on foot long distances as there was no public transport. Before the announcement of results the villagers promised to arrange for their transportation but everyone disappeared as soon as the results were announced, leaving the polling staff in the lurch.
Some of the polling staff reached home after 10 at night, that means they had to walk or wait a lift for five long hours in order to reach home.
Interesting things were witnessed at polling stations like an old woman who was brought to the polling booth by PML-Q workers on their van went to the PPP election office for her voting slip. When the PML-Q workers remined her that she was brought by them, she said, "come what may, she was going to vote for ''namani'' only. Namani means ''unfortunate'' and here it meant Benazir.
Another interesting account is of Malik Nadeem, 37, and his two brothers from Shah Alam Market who had come to Mission High School, Rang Mahal, to cast vote. They said they gave vote to PML-Q candidate Azeem Hanif but hoped that PPP won. Asked why they did so, they said, "Azeem Hanif lives in our neighbourhood and we had promised him that our votes were his knowing he was not going to win but we are diehard People''s Party supporters and pray for its success."
Here is an account of a voter as to how he determined who he wants to vote to power. "Its the national policies of a party which wins it votes or demolishes it. People want a party that gives employment in the first place. Though no party guarantees that, we have known those whose wrong policies destroyed industries and resulted in unemployment of lakhs of people.
"I have lived most part of my life in Misri Shah. There was a time when Lahore was divided into four constituencies only and this was the constituency from where PPP won with a record number of votes. After it came to power it nationalised all the industries at a time when its negative results had started showing elsewhere in the world where it was tried. This eventually brought destruction of the industries and unemployment. A number of workers at BECO (Batala Engineering Company) were from our area. This turned a large population from the area against the ruling party. So its policies of a party that matter. If they benefit people they vote for it again, if they bring misery upon people they go against it." This was an account of a PML-N supporter.
Journalists have complaints against the Press Information Department Lahore office which particularly made it difficult for local media persons to cover elections. They stopped giving accredition cards to local journalists a week before the elections while foreign journalists were facilitated when they asked for the card even a day before the elections. The Lahore office staff of PID was rude to local mediamen, say our reporters.
At places the police stopped journalists from entering the polling station despite the fact that they had accredition cards issued by the Election Commission.
Will the Election Commission be held accountable for the sufferings of the polling staff or the PID for creating inconvenience to the local mediapersons?
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The election results have been accepted wholeheartedly by the PML-Q despite the fact that it experienced a crushing defeat at the hands of PML-N and PPP. But what it is not accepting at all is the assertion by Mian Nawaz Sharif that PML-N is the parent party and all the returned candidates belonging to PML-Q are welcome to join it. The PML-Q leaders have termed this invitation an attempt by Mian Nawaz Sharif to create rift among the office-bearers of the party and weaken it.
The Chaudhrys of Gujrat seem to have been disturbed the most by the success of PML-N and PPP. Having lost out so much to their competitors they are making all out efforts to cling on to whatever is left with them. The Pakistan Muslim League House situated on Davis Road, Lahore, is one such asset that the Chaudhrys do not want to surrender to the PML-N.
Sources in the PML-N, who do not want to be named, have disclosed that their party will take control of this building soon. They say the PML-Q has no right over this property as it forcefully occupied it seven years back. As the story goes, it was on February 11, 2001 that a large number of armed people took control of the Pakistan Muslim League House. They threw away the nameplates of the then deposed prime minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and other office-bearers. This operation was led by Chaudhry Tufail, secretary general of Pakistan Muslim League, Gujrat.
However, the house was officially taken over by PML-Q with the help of police in 2002 when Khawaja Saad Rafiq of PML-N was asked to hand over its keys to the people who had gone there for this purpose. As all the government departments including police and state resources were at the disposal of the PML-Q it faced no difficulty in achieving the desired result.
Fearing a similar action, this time from PML-N, the law enforcing authorities have increased the number of policemen deployed at Pakistan Muslim League House. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi has also issued a warning to PML-N that his party will resist all attempts made at taking control of this house. His point is that Pakistan Muslim League House belongs to PML-Q as Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, father of PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, was part of its administration even before 1970. At that time Mian Nawaz Sharif had not even entered practical politics, he says.
In this context what needs to be seen is, "will Chaudhry Pervez Elahi be able to confront PML-N if it succeeds in forming government in Punjab?" History shows the chances are grim, the PML House has always been controlled by those having decisive lead in the House.
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