development
Save canal, save the city
The Lahore Canal should be given back to the people as a clean waterway and public park
By Imrana Tiwana
Tense, dense, bursting at the seams, polluted, hazy, uncontrolled, noisy, incredibly nerve wracking, haphazard and delirious... Lahore today is one of the most polluted cities in the country.

Gojra tragedy
In memory of Master Riaz Masih
It is really hard to forget Master Riaz Masih, a retired primary school teacher in late 50s, whose two and half marla house was among the first targets of the August 1 mob violence in the Christian colony of Gojra.

MOOD STREET 
Ray of hope
By Tabina Sirhindi
Pak sar zameen shad baad
Kishware haseen shad baad
Tu nishane aszme aali shaan arze Pakistan
Markaz-e-yaqeen shad bad
(Blessed be sacred land,
Happy be bounteous realm,
Symbol of high resolve,
Land of Pakistan
Blessed be thou citadel of faith)
It's August 14, 2009 -- the independence day of my country. I am standing in a vast ground, where a ceremony to mark this auspicious day is being held. The air around me resonates with the melodic voice of the singer. It's the most beautiful song that I have heard in years. It's the national anthem of my country.

TOWN TALK
Exhibition: Creative arts n crafts exhibition of children's art at 142 F, Model Town, till Aug 16.
Exhibition: Display of paintings by various artists at Revivers Galleria till Tuesday, Aug 15 from 11am to 9:30pm daily. The artists are Saeed Akhtar, Ahmad Khan, Raja Changez Sultan, Moazzam Ali, Tariq Javaid, Hajra Mansoor, Mansoor Rahi, Rind, Akram Dost, Jameel Baloch, Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi, Shafiq Farooqui, Mohammad Azam
Bukhari, Ambat Samdhani and Mughees.

debate
Two exams for one admission

The A-Level students will take entry test to medical colleges from a different syllabus than the rest. The majority questions fairness of the decision and demands more seats because it would mean losing seats to the privileged' as they say
By Fakhar-ul-Islam
The Punjab government's decision to have separate entry test for A-level students for admission to medical colleges, has raised many questions regarding the sincerity of the authorities to improve the standard of professional education in the province. On the other hand, the A-level students preparing to get admission in the engineering university, will take their entry test from the F.Sc syllabus.

A foreign exchange
An exhibition offers affordable study opportunities in Malaysia, to Pakistani students. Attendants find drawbacks
By Sameera Ahmed
and Aisha Abdul Rahman
Students who cannot afford to pay hefty fees explore different avenues to study abroad. Among other countries, Malaysia is emerging as a safe haven. 'Live and Study Malaysia' 2009 -- third exhibition of its kind -- organised by North Pole International on August 3 and 4 at a local hotel, was one such enlightening exhibition for aspiring students.

 

 

development

Save canal, save the city

The Lahore Canal should be given back to the people as a clean waterway and public park

By Imrana Tiwana

Tense, dense, bursting at the seams, polluted, hazy, uncontrolled, noisy, incredibly nerve wracking, haphazard and delirious... Lahore today is one of the most polluted cities in the country.

The canal is Lahore's unique and most important evironmental asset. The canal road widening project proposed by the government must be stopped immediately. It aims to add two 18 foot lanes on either side each with six foot shoulders. This spells nothing but disaster as the central city area, heavily overburdened, needs to be 'de-congested'. Traffic has to be dispersed and moved out towards the 'emerging Lahore'. But the Canal Road is not the main artery of Lahore, it is just a cross connector.

Alternate routes already exist. As Multan Road is widened and freed of encroachments, there will be a major traffic dispersement. With the Ring Road coming in and seeing the direction of emerging Lahore, the Canal Road will be by-passed altogether. Access to the motorway will be further distributed through widening and clearing of Chowk Yateem Khana exit and Saggian Bridge. G.T Road connects to the Ravi Bridge, and they all join the Ring Road, to take traffic outwards, or inwards. This will take all the current pressure off the Canal Road.

By clearing encroachments from several major roads, which are already underway, critically required dispersion of traffic will take place and the link roads of the city will begin to be used effectively as a network. Crucial to the working of the above is an 'integrated strategy' for road and public transport management.

From Thokar Niaz Beg, to beyond Jallo Park, there are over 300 acres of green belt in the form of public parkland. There are thousands of old trees and shrubs along this length, making a green canopy of shade for all, mostly pedestrians and those on cycle and motorcycle. This area has a unique and special habitat of birds, animals, flora and fauna. The tragedy is that untreated sewage and industrial waste is being dumped into the Canal from over 90 points, reducing it to a glorified dump.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports that the main cause of increasing air pollution in Lahore is an increase in vehicular traffic, fast deforestation and rapid urbanisation. How then has the EPA given an NoC for the Canal road widening project? The citizens rejected the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) done by Nespak at the 'Public Hearing' held two years ago (the first 'real' public hearing). The EIA was also in violation of the PEPA Act 1977. The EIA itself states that the impacts of road widening will cause irreversible damage to the environment; the only advantage it states is reduction in commuting time. Three years ago, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of this issue and questioned the Punjab Government.

The WWF-Pakistan had conducted its own EIA of the Canal Road widening project, and found that the EIA approved by the Environment Protection Agency, Punjab was fatally flawed. The policy to widen the Canal road was actually against the Environment Policy 2005. "The Policy favours public transport, but in the past decade, no money has been invested in public transport." This project threatens to irreversibly damage the urban fabric and identity of the 'City of Gardens'.

Good governance is 'citizen participatory governance', the citizens of Lahore and the government should partner on creating a world class model of sustainable urbanization with an ecological footprint.

It is imperative that a 'Canal Restoration Project' be started forthwith. That the city of gardens be revitalised through a programme of 'Green Corridor Linkages', creating an accessible green pedestrian network. A 'Green Belt Master plan' must be developed to create a network of green zones and open spaces throughout the city, foreseeing the conservation of whole tracts of land and space as 'Ecologically Valuable Zones' kept free of buildings. Special zoning ordinances, public land purchases, designation of protected zones under 'Nature Conservation' and 'Special Green Zone' legislation should be put into place to ensure the continued existence of these zones.

The Lahore Canal should be given back to the people as a clean waterway and public park; this will act as the 'glue' that brings together people of all classes and ages. Stopping the Canal road widening project is the greatest gift the Punjab Government can give to the teeming millions of Lahore.

The writer, an architect and convener of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Gojra tragedy

In memory of Master Riaz Masih

It is really hard to forget Master Riaz Masih, a retired primary school teacher in late 50s, whose two and half marla house was among the first targets of the August 1 mob violence in the Christian colony of Gojra.

During my first visit to the area on August 2, Master Riaz was having Dal Chana and roti while sitting on a broken chair in front of his house burnt to ashes. His house was located along the railway tracks of the Gojra city. Everything he owned was destroyed by the violence that wreaked hovoc on Aug 1. Today, he owned nothing. The food was provided by his Muslim neighbours.

His house was not only burnt but also ruthlessly looted. The attackers first took away all valuables then they damaged the house and finally set it on fire. They also took away more than 200,000 rupees, which Master Riaz had collected for his heart surgery after years'-long hard work. His surgery was scheduled next month (September). Along with other valuables, the looters also took away jewellery bought for his daughter's dowry. The wedding was expected to take place in December this year.

Master Riaz, a cardiac patient for the last couple of years, said he was having breakfast with his small family in the house when the Muslims started pelting stones on his house on August 1. "We were already afraid of the situation, especially, after the announcements made in the local mosques inviting the Muslims to gather to 'teach a lesson' to the Christians," Master Riaz said, adding, "The railway track was full of people. They were moving towards our houses when I and my family managed to escape."

The Muslim neighborhood sheltered the family of the old man from 9am to 6pm. The Muslim family, having long terms with Master Riaz, also told the attackers that no Christian was hiding in their house, Master Riaz appreciated.

He remained quiet for some time but his eyes continued to speak…"I went to Multan cardiac hospital last week and doctors checked me up and asked to get ready for surgery next month," he painfully said. "But how can I have my surgery now. I am left with nothing. Everything has been looted," he said, rather helplessly.

Two days after the incident, I visited Master's colony again. The scene was more or less the same. Signs of violence were still very apparent. After spending some time in the area I wanted to meet Master Riaz.

I reached his house witnessed the unexpected: There was rush in front of his house. Some women were mourning… a dead body was lying in a cot. I was told Master Riaz has been freed from all pains. He was no more.

What he has left behind is a destroyed house to tell his sorrowful story in a Muslim majority state.

 

-- By Waqar Gillani

[email protected]

 

MOOD STREET

Ray of hope

By Tabina Sirhindi

Pak sar zameen shad baad

Kishware haseen shad baad

Tu nishane aszme aali shaan arze Pakistan

Markaz-e-yaqeen shad bad

(Blessed be sacred land,

Happy be bounteous realm,

Symbol of high resolve,

Land of Pakistan

Blessed be thou citadel of faith)

 

It's August 14, 2009 -- the independence day of my country. I am standing in a vast ground, where a ceremony to mark this auspicious day is being held. The air around me resonates with the melodic voice of the singer. It's the most beautiful song that I have heard in years. It's the national anthem of my country.

My heart is engulfed with emotions. I look up at the sky and see small planes above emitting coloured smoke. White and green, it's the colour of the country's flag. I look down again. Tears come slowly but steadily. I close my eyes. Reminiscences of my early childhood flash by. I see a number of little children in a state of felicity. They are trying to put long strings of small green flags with a white crescent and star on the fence of a roof. I see pride in those shining eyes.

Pak sar zameen ka Nizam

Kuwate akhuwate awam

Kaum mulk saltanat paainda tabinda baad

Shad baad manzil-e-murad

(The Order of this Scared Land

Is the might of the brotherhood of the people.

May the nation, the country, and the State

Shine in glory everlasting

Blessed be the goal of our ambition)

The sound of the anthem distracts me. I open my eyes. The aeroplanes above no longer invite my attention. I think of the innumerable issues strangling my homeland; militants, growing terrorism, financial crunch, power outages, political instability, mounting vulnerability and what not.

Sixty two years, I think. Six decades to the country's existence and its fate still hovering between survival and disintegration. I look at the colossal portrait of Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan, displayed with grandeur at the ceremony. Suddenly, I feel a swarm of emptiness wrapping my whole body, my soul. I am beleaguered by a plethora of questions. What has happened to Pakistan? What has it become? Who is to blame? What have I given to my beloved country? I see myself in the queue of culprits. I am the youth of this country. Youth. The very knights of the state, the ambassadors. I look at myself. I see a knight eluding her very duty. My thoughts take a moment of tranquillity. I look around. My eyes wander eagerly for a ray of hope. Deep down my heart I pray, pray avidly to discover it.

Suddenly, I smile. Profound contentment swathes me gently. I look at the planes above. I feel an impetuous rush of blood in my veins. I thank Allah with gratitude and kneel down in a bow. The sound of the final stanza of the national anthem strikes my ears.

Parchame sitar-o-hilal

Rahbare teraqe-o-kamaal

Tarjumane mazi shane haal jane istaqbal

Saya-e-Khudaye zuljalal

(This flag of the Crescent and the Star

Leads the way to progress and perfection,

Interpreter of our past,

Glory of our present,

Inspiration of our future,

Symbol of Almighty's protection)

I just saw a group of little children putting strings with a combination of green and white flags on a wall. I saw pride in their eyes. I saw a ray of hope.

TOWN TALK

Exhibition: Creative arts n crafts exhibition of children's art at 142 F, Model Town, till Aug 16.

Exhibition: Display of paintings by various artists at Revivers Galleria till Tuesday, Aug 15 from 11am to 9:30pm daily. The artists are Saeed Akhtar, Ahmad Khan, Raja Changez Sultan, Moazzam Ali, Tariq Javaid, Hajra Mansoor, Mansoor Rahi, Rind, Akram Dost, Jameel Baloch, Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi, Shafiq Farooqui, Mohammad Azam

Bukhari, Ambat Samdhani and Mughees.

Fahd Burki's new works on display at Grey Noise from Aug 9 to Sep 20. The gallery remains open from 5pm to 7pm daily.

Musical Programme by PPC today at Alhamra, The Mall, Hall 2 from 3pm to 6pm.

Music Show by Bright Youth Council tomorrow at Alhamra, The Mall, Hall 3 from 7-9pm.

Sudh Sangeet: LEAF in collaboration with Lahore Arts Council will hold Sudh Sangeet featuring Ustaad Fateh Ali Khan from Gwalior gharanna from Hyderabad on 11 August at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium, Off Ferozpur Road, Hall 2. Time: 5:40pm.

Music Show: Lahore Arts Council in collaboration with Daily Samahas, has organised a music show at Alhamra Hall 3 on Aug 12 from 7 to 9:30pm.

Lahore Arts Council has organised a Ghazal Programme at Alhamra Hall 2, The Mall on Aug 13 from 8pm-10:30pm.

Ghazal Night at Peerus Cafe every Friday at 9pm.

Jazz Night at Peerus Cafe every Saturday at 9pm featuring live

performance by Jazz Moods.

Puppet Show at Alhamra, The Mall every Sunday at 11pm.

 

debate

Two exams for one admission

The A-Level students will take entry test to medical colleges from a different syllabus than the rest. The majority questions fairness of the decision and demands more seats because it would mean losing seats to the privileged' as they say

By Fakhar-ul-Islam

The Punjab government's decision to have separate entry test for A-level students for admission to medical colleges, has raised many questions regarding the sincerity of the authorities to improve the standard of professional education in the province. On the other hand, the A-level students preparing to get admission in the engineering university, will take their entry test from the F.Sc syllabus.

Former Chairman of Inter Board Committee and ex-chairman Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) Lahore Dr Muhammad Zakria Butt strongly opposed the decision and said that it is only an effort to facilitate a specific class while majority of the students will suffer. He said it is synonymous to closing the doors of medical colleges to poor students.

He said that across the world medical institutions conduct a uniform entrance test while Pakistan is the only country which wants to introduce this unique entry test. He said agents of the west are present in the country and they are protecting the interest of their masters. He said that Inter Board Committee of Chairmen conducted a study in 2005 to evaluate the performance of F.Sc and A-level students and results suggest poor performance of A-level students in professional institutions of Pakistan.

Another professor of the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) on condition of anonymity said it is a mockery of the indigenous system of education to accommodate a specific class whose curriculum and examination system does not match our own. He said that France, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia and even India do not consider A-level students in their admission policy. It is not understandable why the Punjab government is favouring a privileged minority class at the cost of the majority.

Waleed Khalid, an A-level student appearing this time in entry test for engineering university, commenting on the decision, said, "I am surprised why only MCAT. What is wrong with engineering A-level students?"

University of Health Sciences (UHS) and University of Engineering and Technology (UET) are conducting separate entry tests for admissions to government medical/dental colleges and engineering universities of the province. Interestingly, the A-level students appearing in Medical Colleges Admission Test (MCAT) would take their test from their respective A-Level syllabus whereas those appearing in Engineering Colleges Admission Test (ECAT) would be evaluated from the F Sc syllabus. To probe why UET is not conducting entry test of A-level students from their own syllabus

To ensure 100 per cent transparency, UHS and UET are introducing Self Scoring System (SSS) in entrance test for admission to medical/dental institutions and engineering universities of the province this year. Two answer sheets will be provided to the candidates. At the end of the test, the candidate is required to hand over the original answer sheet back to the invigilating staff. The duplicate will be retained by the candidate. The answers will be uploaded on UHS and UET websites on the same day and the candidate will be able to calculate his/her score with the help of that result. The key will also be published in major national dailies of the country the next day.

Most of the A-level students belong to the privileged class of the society who can afford medical education privately as well as abroad whereas most of the F Sc students belong to middle and some time from poor class. Access to education has been every government's slogan in the Punjab while this decision does not favour the slogan. The inquiry committee was constituted on the strong agitation of the parents and students studying in various English medium schools while the demand was simply admission at any cost in the medical colleges. A doctor who is the father of an A-level student and who launched protest last year, when contacted, said that he has no concern with the policy of separate test for A-level students as his son got admission.

Last year, only 488 A-level students out of a total 18,263 appeared across the province in the entry test conducted by UHS and only 33 could get admission in medical colleges of the province. On the other hand, 17,775 students of the F Sc appeared in the entrance test and 1829 got admission in the medical colleges of the Punjab. It is obvious now that more A-level students will apply for entry test and will grab more seats in medical colleges. This is a matter of great concern for F Sc students contesting for admission.

Campus manager of an entry test preparation institution said that if government is sincere enough to take this decision in favour of A level students it should also increase the number of seats in the medical colleges of Punjab so that F Sc students do not live under the fear of losing their seats to A level students.

It is important to mention here that last year some family members, parents and students of A-levels protested against the equivalence policy of IBCC as they were claiming that the IBCC equivalence policy has deprived the A-level students of the numbers while giving equivalence. They demanded to revise the equivalence formula of their marks with those of F Sc students. According to existing formula, the highest marks given to an A-level student are 935/1100 by Inter Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC). On the other hand, highest marks of an F Sc student can be as high as 1000 and above. It is being heard that IBCC has revised its formula by introducing A+ grade in the equivalence policy and now an A-level highest grader can have maximum 985 marks.

The supporters of this decision have their own arguments. University of Health Sciences Public Relations Officer Muhammad Atif said that it is quite fair that A-level students should take their entry test from their concerned syllabus. "If you talk about the merit then there should be an equal opportunity for all but if you ask an A-level student to take exam from F Sc syllabus it is quite unfair," he said. He admitted that there should be one syllabus of medical college admission test (MCAT) common both for A-level and F Sc students but due to some reason it is not possible at this time.

It is a very positive decision of the Punjab government to improve the quality of education in medical institutions, said Zafar Sulehri, a teacher of A-Level in Lahore Grammar School. For many years, even our shining students of A-level and high achievers could only grab very low proportion of seats in public medical colleges of Punjab due to discriminatory attitude of IBCC and entrance test conducting authorities, he said. Now the A-level students will get equal opportunity to get admissions to medical institutions along with F Sc students, he added.

He further said if A-level students do not get admission to medical college of their own country they will go abroad for medical degree, thus we will be losing our talent and foreign exchange at the same time.

Shehryar Qureshi, another A-level teacher of Physics, termed this decision good. A level is a superior and world class system based on conceptual study and practical knowledge and local authorities are constantly down grading this system by preferring their own F Sc students which are used to cramming and rote learning, he commented. There should be a fair competition and the eligible will show his / her worth, he said.

Entry test to medical colleges is scheduled for Sept 27 and to engineering university on Aug 23.

 

A foreign exchange

An exhibition offers affordable study opportunities in Malaysia, to Pakistani students. Attendants find drawbacks

By Sameera Ahmed and Aisha Abdul Rahman

Students who cannot afford to pay hefty fees explore different avenues to study abroad. Among other countries, Malaysia is emerging as a safe haven. 'Live and Study Malaysia' 2009 -- third exhibition of its kind -- organised by North Pole International on August 3 and 4 at a local hotel, was one such enlightening exhibition for aspiring students.

A total of six Malaysian private educational institutions put up their stalls with complete information on the courses they were offering, with answers to the various queries of the prospective students.

Around three hundred students from different educational backgrounds attended the exhibit. The Malaysian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Mohammad Abu Nawas was also there on the occasion and expressed his desire to further improve friendly ties with Pakistan by educating its youth by "offering them UK/US degrees at 60% less cost."

Talking exclusively to TNS, he said that seeing the warm response of the Pakistani students he was already looking forward to the organisation's 4th exhibition, this time in Karachi.

When asked about the processing fee charged by the agency the organiser replied, "We are not allowed by the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia, to charge any fee from the students and we are the only authorised representatives of Malaysian Education for years."

The prize attraction for the aspiring students was that Malaysia is offering degrees of University of London, Staffordshire University, Southern New Hampshire University (US), Edith Cowan University (Australia) etc at an affordable price along with accommodation.

"Quality Education is for every one. Throughout Malaysia the merit criteria for students is 60%. We polish these students. And that's the mission of our award-winning university," a representative of a Malaysian university said.

There is no entry test or interview nor are the students required to show a bank statement. Furthermore, the university itself arranges for the visas. The whole procedure just takes about two months, he added.

Another representative said he had some 200 Pakistani students in his institution. The brilliant students get a 60% fee discount per semester. They also find lucrative jobs in Pakistan, he said.

"A graduate from our university is heading a leading telecom company," he quoted an example.

The enthusiastic and interactive style of these representatives somehow did not seem to appeal the parents of the students who were present on the occasion. A parent said that the Malaysian education was indeed expensive: "A university charges as much as US $20,000 for a four-year study programme which is out of budget bounds for a middle-class person."

"One main drawback in Malaysian education is that it doesn't offer any scholarships at the Masters level nor does it provide job opportunities to students while they are in college," a student said.

Many students present at the exhibit spoke to TNS and expressed their reservations regarding the attractive study offers. Their main concern was that a lot of agencies working in Pakistan lure innocent students and charge them but never arrange for the visas. Most of the students now hesitate to apply for foreign education through agencies.

One element missing in this so-called perfect package to study in Malaysia is that none of the institutions offers PhD. They offer MBA with a limited array of specialisations. "There is not a single university that offers MBA in advertising or branding," complained a student.

Another student said that Malaysia had little to offer in Medicine and only catered to Engineering and Business.

Despite all concerns on the part of the students as well as the parents which do hold weight, Malaysia has certainly taken a step in the right direction by offering to educate the Pakistani youth at reasonable merit criteria and a much affordable price as compared to the UK, US and Canada. The low literacy rate in our country is appalling and high merit and sky-rocketing fees of local private educational institutions only add fuel to fire. A considerable amount of credit goes to such exhibitions that guide and inform students on the diverse opportunities they have at their disposal for a promising future. These universities mainly focus on research and development, two aspects that are neglected in our country.

 

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