profiling the only option?
underbelly of the city of lights
A pilgrimage gone wrong
Five people arrested in Jeddah a month ago for drug trafficking had no idea what was in store for them when they embarked on a trip to perform the pilgrimage of Umrah with the help of 'caring' agents in Karachi
By Rabia Ali
As Raees Ahmed sat down on a beaded mat along with his kin to talk to Kolachi, his weary eyes clearly showed signs of the stress he was dealing with for the past few days. His daughter Shumaila Arif's wish to perform Umrah with her husband Muhammad Arif Chohan remained unfulfilled after the couple was arrested upon their arrival at the Jeddah Airport on charges of drug trafficking. Much to their astonishment, the footwear, provided to them by their travel agent, Sarwat Hussain, was stashed with heroin.
"In March, my friend Manzoor had traveled with his family, along with Sarwat Hussain and his wife Shafia to perform Umrah. Hussain provided my friend and his family the same kind of slippers he gave to my daughter and son in-law. He told them that his associates at the airport would recognise them through these slippers and will then take them to their hotel," said Ahmed. Later, he continued, when Manzoor and his family reached the hotel, Hussain took the slippers away. Being completely oblivious to what the slippers contained, Manzoor and his family performed Umrah, and came back home safely. Shumaila and her husband Arif, on the other hand, were not that lucky.
"After coming back from Saudi Arabia, Manzoor told me to consult Hussain when I talked to him about Shumaila and Arif's Umrah plan. So I met Hussain and he seemed a reasonable man. During the meeting, he told me that he and his wife worked as agents for Al Huda Travels and Tours and claimed that, apart from the travel agency, he worked for Al-Zohra Foundation."
According to Hussain, said Ahmed, the company sent eight people from lower-middle class families to perform Umrah every month at reasonable rates. "Hence, I gave him my daughter and son-in law's passport and paid him Rs115,000 to avail the 15-day Umrah package," Ahmed explained. After all documentation was in order, Shumaila and Arif were set to travel on June 1. According to Ahmed, Hussain was to take the couple to the airport. He called them to his house before leaving for the airport, and told them to wear the brown and maroon-coloured slippers, which he had brought for them. This was because his associate at the airport would be able to identify them easily. Hussain also gave Arif an Ahram, but the latter refused because he had his own. However, Hussain made Arif accept it as a token of goodwill.
When Shumaila and Arif reached the airport, Hussain handed them their travel documents. "It was at the airport that I met Sarwat Hussain and his wife for the very first time. Somehow, I felt that something was amiss when I met them," Mrs Raees told Kolachi.
Shumaila and Arif were going to board the PK-731 flight at 7.30 pm, but it got delayed and left at 10.30 pm instead. "The last time I heard Shumaila's voice was before she boarded the plane. Over a month has passed now but I have not heard from her," said Mrs Raees as her eyes welled up with tears.
While the couple was immediately arrested at the Jeddah airport on their arrival, back in Karachi, Shumaila's parents had no idea what had happened. They had no reason to worry as on the night of June 2, Arif called to tell them that they had performed Umrah and would contact them in a few days.
All this while, the couple was detained in Jeddah, both of them kept separately. It was on June 7 that Ahmed and his family learnt what had happened. He received a call from an unidentified person from an unknown number, saying that his daughter and son in-law had been arrested in Jeddah on the charges of drug smuggling. Ahmed immediately called the concerned travel agency to confirm the news. Although the agency had received the information three days ago, they were unable to share it with him as they did not have his contact details. Ahmed then went to Hussain's house in Korangi but found it locked and abandoned.
"I contacted the media and informed them how innocent people were being kept in detention in Jeddah. Mufti Mohammad Naeem, the administrator of Jamia Binoria came to our help, and, from then onwards, he has extended full support to us," said Ahmed. After getting the support of various religious leaders and the masses, Ahmed and his family went to Islamabad to meet the Saudi Ambassador. «In Islamabad, Farooq Sattar and Babar Ghori took us to the Saudi Ambassador, who heard us out and assured that Shumaila and Arif will be released once the real culprits are sent to Saudi Arabia. He reassured us that they would be provided protection and would not be mistreated," said Ahmed.
The one piece of 'good' news that Ahmed received during his visit was that, out of the eight people apprehended in Jeddah, three of them belonged to Shafia's family. Shamim Bano (Shafia's mother), Zubair Waris (brother) and Perwaiz Ahmed (cousin) were also traveling with Ahmed's daughter and son-in-law, and had been arrested as well. "All three of them confessed that they knew the slippers were filled with heroin but the rest of the people with them were innocent," Ahmed told Kolachi.
Meanwhile, in Karachi, Hussain and Shafia surrendered themselves to the police, admitting that they were involved, and that Shumaila and Arif had nothing to do with all this. Ahmed then registered an FIR against them at the Awami Colony police station. During the raid, the police reportedly found 120 grams of heroin in the house, and registered another FIR against him. When Ahmed asked the customs officials why the couple was not thoroughly checked at the Karachi airport, he was told that since they were going on pilgrimage, they were dealt leniently.
Although Ahmed has spoken to his son in-law, he hasn't been able to talk to Shumaila. "Arif has called us thrice but our daughter hasn't. They are being kept separately. However, Arif told us that he is being taken good care of, and so we are hoping that our daughter is being treated in the same manner," said an anxious Ahmed. At the airport, Shumaila told me that the slippers she was wearing were soft and heavy, but I did not pay much attention to that," said a distressed Mrs Raees.
Besides Shumaila and Arif, the other people detained in Jeddah in the same case are Rabia Anees, her husband Muhammad Anees and Anees's mother Zehra Mausani. Mrs Abdul Waheed, Rabia's mother, is now looking after her daughter's two children five-year-old Tooba and two-year-old Abdul Sami who had been left behind. "I never knew that instead of a 15-day journey, Rabia would go on an indefinite journey. The children miss their parents a lot. They keep on crying all day long and I feel so helpless at times because I don't know what to do. All I can do is pray to Allah and ask Him to give me strength to deal with this," she said.
Mrs Abdul Waheed had a similar story to tell Rabia, her husband and her mother-in-law were called to Hussain's house and given the slippers. She received a call from Anees on June 2 and said the same thing: that they had performed Umrah and would contact them in a few days. "After the phone call, we thought that the children were okay. We didn't know what had happened till a week after their departure when Raees Ahmed told us. Since that day, we have been working alongside Raees Ahmed and his family to get our children released," she said.
Like Ahmed, Mrs Abdul Waheed has also appealed to the government to play its part in getting their children released. «We haven't got any support from the government officials. I appeal to them to do something. It is not just about five innocent people, but also about the 170 million citizens of the country. Our children should be released immediately since the real culprits have been caught in Karachi and their associates have also been apprehended in Jeddah," she concluded.
Drug trafficking continues to thrive despite strict checks at the airports. The need of the hour is to monitor drug peddlers on the streets
By Saad Hasan
Abject poverty and rising unemployment have turned Pakistan into a smooth conduit for drug trafficking. There are many a frustrated people in the country, who will play the role of deliverymen for drug dealers in exchange for money. Misled by prospects of a better life, individuals carry heroine-filled capsules in their stomach to places like Saudi Arabia where only death awaits them.
Recreational drugs, pouring into the country via Afghanistan where most of the world's narcotics are produced, are being exported to other countries with the authorities conveniently looking the other way.
In spite of heightened security, airports remain preferable exit points for a quick transnational delivery of small quantities of narcotics, which, if cleared by the customs officials, can fetch hefty returns.
"There is no scanner available anywhere in the world that can detect narcotics," Qamar Thallo, a customs official responsible for checking passengers at Karachi airport, told Kolachi. "We have to rely on our skill and passenger profiling."
The process of profiling consists of a series of cross-questions along with a close observation of the passengers' behaviour. "Facial expressions say a lot and if someone becomes uneasy during the interview, we grill him/her even further," Thallo said, explaining that the interviewers easily sense uneasiness. "They will look you straight in the eye when asking: What is your source of income? Why are you traveling? Who came to see you off at the airport?"
People traveling to watch-list countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia and Nigeria are carefully screened, he said, adding that passengers are also scrutinised by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).
Despite all that, however, narcotics continue to be 'exported' to other countries as evident from recent cases where Pakistanis carrying drugs have been caught with them at foreign airports.
Thallo defended this allegation by saying it is not possible to check each and every part of the luggage of all passengers. "It takes a minimum of 30 minutes for a full check and there are thousands of passengers. The only way to stop this is to cut the source," he explained.
Outside airports, however, drug dealing goes unchecked. The green-coloured charas is easily available and cocaine is all the rage among the youth. Meanwhile, heroine addicts clenched together underneath quilts can be spotted along busy roads even in daylight.
According to estimates, there are five million addicts in Pakistan, a market big enough for drug peddlers in its self. The ANF, which is responsible for controlling the spread of recreational drugs, has intercepted large quantities of narcotics in the past few months. However, a lot more needs to be done in this regard.
The ANF Commander, Sindh, Brigadier Basheer said the fact that too much money is involved in the business which has made it difficult to exercise control. "Just imagine, one kg of hash which costs just Rs3,000 in Afghanistan, can be sold for more than Rs15,000 in Karachi," he told Kolachi.
Loopholes in the legal system and lax laws against smuggling have made it all the more harder for the ANF to curb the trade and catch the real culprits behind all this, emphasised Basheer. "It is unfortunate that bigwigs normally get away scot-free. People who are caught with less than a kilo of a drug are put behind bars and those involved in smuggling large quantities are bailed out."
The government, he insisted, must introduce tough laws to curb the drug trade. "Introduce a stringent legislation and behead the culprits just the way it is done in Saudi Arabia. Then we'll see drastic change in the situation," added Basheer.
Official apathy towards the issue is also apparent. The salaries of custom officials deputed at airports are meager. Though there plans are underway to give them a raise, the fact remains that there are just 2,400 men in the ANF for the entire country, which is too little considering Pakistan's size and its proximity with Afghanistan.
A recent case where some Pakistanis were fooled into carrying slippers filled with heroine on their way to Umrah poses a greater challenge for authorities since it exposed the several ways in which drugs can be transported to other countries.
Smugglers claiming to be travel agents are on look-out for vulnerable people in this regard. With concessions on air tickets, gifts and false promises, they are easily able to woo people.
"These criminals are quite intelligent," explained Sarim Burney, a social activist who has worked with victims of such cases. "They search for the right person -- someone who can trust them -- and then they use him/her."
As the sun beat down on a warm July 30 afternoon, armed undercover officers spread along the dilapidated Mauripur Road. Some posed as beggars and others hung around small shops smoking, patiently awaiting a container-truck. In next few hours, a two-month long clandestine operation will end successfully.
Just as the container was about to reach Karachi port, it was intercepted. Concealed in the walls was 5000kgs of hash, worth Rs5 billion. The shipment bound for Belgium was supposed to sail the very next day.
Anti-narcotics force (ANF), which conducted the operation, had been tracing the drug consignment since its journey started from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, moved into Peshawar and dodged authorities on its way to a workshop in Karachi. Four men were arrested and hunt is on for the smuggling-chain.
There is every possibility that this drug money goes onto fund the militants fighting Pakistan's Army.
It is becoming increasingly imperative to develop a more comprehensive and systemic understanding of this illegal business and its operations. The starting point is none other than Pakistan's financial capital
By Rafay Mahmood
From 2006 to 2009, Sindh Police has seized a number of trucks and other forms of illegal narcotic carriages from the interior Sindh, Karachi and its adjoining areas. With regard to drug trafficking --- a heinous social crime that has been on the rise in Pakistan for quite some time now, former Inspector General of Sindh Police, Niaz Ahmed Siddiqui had conducted a detailed research. Siddiqui shared some hard-hitting facts from his research with Kolachi, which revealed that Karachi has been the hub of drug trafficking in Pakistan due to the presence of sea port, constant influx of drugs from Iran and Afghanistan via Balochistan and the NWFP. The final destination of all these packages is Karachi from where they are actually sent across the world via sea route.
Now the question arises that after knowing all the trade routes of narcotics how can they be smuggled so easily and what the anti narcotic agencies have been doing to counter this crime? "It is quiet difficult to catch them because the methods they use for trafficking are very different, but our anti narcotics agencies especially the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) and the Customs have been quiet successful," claimed Siddiqui. He told Kolachi that in the early days drug trafficking was usually done by the Africans because there was not much restrictions on the borders. They used to swallow the drug filled capsule, ate nothing later, and upon reaching to their destination they vomit it out. This method is still adopted but not at a large scale.
In the latest methods of trafficking sports goods such as football is used. At times heroin is also stuffed in fabrics, canisters, car radiators and especially the tyres of reconditioned vehicles remain a convenient and popular way of trafficking. On the other hand, Siddiqui claims that the anti narcotics agencies of Pakistan are consider one of the best in the world. "In Pakistan 25 to 50 per cent of the whole narcotic carriage is retrieved and the frequency and the size of drug seizures is one of the best in the world, which is the result of a collective effort put by the sea ANF and the sea customs."
Talking about drug addicts in Pakistan, Siddiqui told Kolachi, "The total number of drug addicts in Pakistan is five million and one fifth of this number i.e. one million is only from Karachi. This figure alone speaks a lot about the consumption of drug and narcotics in Karachi." Surprisingly, the above mentioned figures do not include tobacco and liquor addicts. Siddiqui's research further revealed that an average heroin addict spend Rs175 on his addiction per day, which makes a daily expenditure of Rs175 lac in Karachi only. Such huge figures lead to the conclusion that drugs are available easily in Karachi to meet the demand and supply ratio.
"Although drug addicts in Karachi are present all over the city, from Lyari to Defence but as far as drug dealing centres are concerned they have some specific places in different towns." According to Siddiqui the prime centres of drug dealings are the city graveyards apart from Banaras Chowrangi, Korangi, Landhi , Lyari-Malir Naddi , Qayyumabad , Kemari and specifically Shereen Jinnah colony.
Art on wheels
By Gibran Ashraf
As I try to cross the street, a honking, smoke-spewing behemoth, better known as a truck, crosses my path. The blue and green flash is what lingers as the 12-wheeler rushes off with a portrait of a half-woman and half-gryphon painted on its back.
Such art is a common feature on trucks, buses and auto rickshaws in Pakistan. Drivers/owners of these vehicles spend enormous sums on 'truck art', as it is commonly known, that has acquired a cult status over the years. Truck art is believed to have started back in the 1920s when bus drivers initiated the practice of painting and decorating their vehicles to attract customers. The Kohistan Bus Company was the first to start truck art, employing the services of master painter Ustad Elahi Buksh.
Since then, truck art has progressed and has taken a definitive form. With materials such as wood, metal, tinsel and plastic reflective tape used for this art form, one can spot the trucks from a mile away, given the extensive use of colours. Most of these 'body makers' and artists are found in Garden East, Karachi, one of the oldest markets for auto parts set up in 1938. This is also where Haider Ali, the most celebrated truck painter of Pakistan, lives. Ali was employed by a multi-national company a few years ago to prepare a truck that would do the rounds around the world as a symbol of Pakistani truck art. Ali's skill took him to the United States (US) where the Bedford truck that he had painted was exhibited. This is not the only instance of Pakistani truck art being exhibited in western countries. In 2006, a bus was exhibited in Scotland as well as Australia.
Haji Ahmed, a body maker at the workshops in Garden describes the process of 'creating' such a truck. A new vehicle that is to be built comes stripped to the chassis. From there, the floor is built up, then the backdoor, walls, cabin and the 'Taj' or crown a structure built over the drivers cabin to stow small things.
Meanwhile, the Baloch, inspired by the Iranians, prefer to put up eagles on their trucks. Those from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) put up pictures of the Khyber Pass while those from further up north or east, have snowy peaks of the Himalayas on their vehicles. Finally, those from the Punjab paint pictures of famous Punjabi film actors and actresses.
Why it is done?
Shamim and his supplier Azizullah, who resells these ornaments, told Kolachi that while they look like mere decorative items, they are not entirely useless. "The items, used as reflector tapes and glass, are useful for many things. The extensive use of reflective material serves to alert those driving around the truck at night on the highways. If a truck breaks down at night and it cannot leave the hazard lights switched on the whole night, these reflective surfaces come in very handy," he explained.
Drivers and truck owners say that decorating these vehicles is not only a choice but also a 'passion'. In fact, they spend more time with their vehicles than they do at home, which is why the interior of the decorated vehicle gives a more homely feel.
There are several popular styles of decoration with regard to truck art. These are: Karachi style, Peshawar style, Rawalpindi style, Haveli style, Samundary style, Mansehra style and Dera style.
The Karachi style features lots of work on embossed steel plates as well as mirror work. This is one of the most decorative and expensive styles. The sides and the back of the trucks are painted with a host of things: mountains, rivers, lions, horses, and even half women half gryphons.
The Peshawar style is the exact opposite, being one of the simplest styles. After a base colour is chosen, minimalist art work is painted on the side and one big one on the back. Even the Taj is painted sans the ornamentation. Ali, who gets clients from all over the country, says that the most popular art works among drivers and truck owners from Peshawar are the Khyber Pass, the Nishaan-e-Haider recipient Captain Sher Khan and Ayub Khan.
The Rawalpindi style involves heavy painting with one large flower, crescent or a peacock made out of sheet metal and coloured using reflector tape (also called 'Chamak Patti'). Popular art work for this style includes the Nishan-e-Haider recipient, Sarwar Shaheed, Faisal Mosque (Islamabad) and flowers.
Then there is the Mansehra style which focuses on the painting and calligraphy. Imran Shandar who makes decorative steel panels in the Garden workshops, says that those who are from the upcountry don't like the steel to be visible on their vehicles. So they ask him to fill the exposed steel with paint or Chamak Patti to make the main design more elaborate. The Dera people, however, prefer steel the panels are hand made by impressing various designs on it.
The Dera style originating from Dera Ghazi Khan -- is heavier on machine-crafted, plastic decorations and computer-printed flower stickers. They usually have the Minar-e-Pakistan and two flags of Pakistan painted side by side on the back. This style is preferred by the Balochis as well.
Meanwhile, the Samundary style is one of the lesser used styles. Usually painted by the sea, it is simple and minimalistic. It is sometimes preferred by Sindhi or Balochi drivers living closer to the seas. Sindhis, however, prefer landscapes, boats, members of the Bhutto family, and even the sea painted on their trucks.
National symbols such as the Ghauri and Shaheen missiles, F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft and Geo TV's insignia are all universal favourites as per the popularity of each when the vehicle is being painted. "These days, Benazir Bhutto's portrait is extremely popular," says Ali.
Aslam, who makes decorative number plates for these trucks and buses, says that yellow, red, blue and green are commonly used colours while orange, brown, and white are not preferred that much. However, some groups put more emphasis on yellow and orange than on green and blue but that, says Ali, varies from person to person.
On average, the total cost incurred on a truck is between one to one-and-a-half million rupees. A mini bus or Mazda coach would be anywhere between Rs1.8 to two million rupees.
Aziz revealed that each new truck costs him around five million. Around Rs3.5 million is for the truck while Rs1.5 million for its body and decoration. Nearly 400 to 500 tins of paint are used for one truck, says Ali, as do the charges.
Since the entry of heavy vehicles in the city is banned during day-time, the truck art business has been adversely affected.
Eventually, the vehicles come in to the city at night and by that time the Garden shops are already closed. It is for this reason that the trader unions of the area have asked the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) to give these artisans a permanent place outside Karachi where the truckers would be able to come during the day.
On an average, one truck takes nearly eight weeks to be completed -- three to four weeks for the body and another four weeks for the paint job. One more week is required to put up the nickel and steel ornaments and Chamak Patti before the truck is ready.
Previously, however, it did not take so long to finish the trucks, claims Ali. "They used to be completed in a week," he says. Now, however, it is impossible to complete trucks in such a short period of time. "Sometimes, trucks or buses that have been damaged in an accident come in for quick repair works. Also, we work on more than one truck at a time so it takes longer," he adds.
The body makers are Punjabis, Pathans, Urdu-speaking or Balochis. Meanwhile, the painters are usually Punjabis and Urdu-speaking people and sometimes, even Pathans.
In Pakistan, people remember these vehicles usually by the innovative and closer-to-real-life poetry painted on the sides or on the back.
Be it original or plagiarised, funny or caustic, the poetry featured on trucks, rickshaws and buses is a genre in its own right. Most verses are put together from either the deepest or the shallowest thoughts of the driver/painter/ calligrapher. Sometimes, they are parts of a movie song. Or they can be the simple but hugely popular 'Dekh, magar pyaar se' type verses. Whatever the verse, the poetry on these vehicles do make for an entertaining read, thus adding yet another dimension to the thriving truck art of Pakistan.
'Passion is my driving force'
By Zobia Zaman
Passion, commitment and the desire to learn is what makes Ibrar Hussain a successful dairy expert. Hussain has been associated with food technology, particularly dairy, for the last 24 years. He has worked on various dairy and livestock products (UHT milk, UHT yogurt, UHT cream, fermented milk products, butter, flavoured butter, frozen dairy products, processed meat, fish and chicken), functional foods, nutraceuticals and probiotics, oil and fat products and dairy spreads.
Besides the food industry, Hussain has also been involved with teaching and research.
Right from the beginning of his career in 1985, Hussain has been all about exploring new avenues and innovation. His forte is thinking out of the box which is what gives him an edge. For him, passion is his driving force. "I may not have the means but if I feel passionately about something, I will find a way and achieve my goal," he told Kolachi. After completing his Master's, Hussain conducted research on raw milk at the Pakistan Council for Scientific Industrial Research (PCSIR) laboratories for two years. He has been associated with well-known dairy brands and has worked as a quality assurance manager for over five years. In fact, he pioneered the UHT yogurt in 1987.
Hussain was sent to Malaysia to do a PhD under a Nestle scholarship. "Later I was called back and transferred as a Nestle expert but I decided to stay in Pakistan and settled in Sindh because the real scope for dairy is here," He told Kolachi.
"Dairy is my passion. For others it might be just 10 components, but for me milk is not just a liquid made of 10 components it is 400 molecules."
According to Hussain, his understanding of milk, specifically buffalo milk, gives him an edge and helped him introduce different dairy products.
"In countries such as India and Pakistan where buffalo milk was not used as dairy whiteners, there was no formula to do the same. I developed the method for processing and stabilising buffalo milk into powdered form," he said. The stabilisation of buffalo milk is quite difficult as compared to cow milk. In fact, he said that India had been unable to use buffalo milk for the last 50 years. Owing to Hussain's accomplishment in this regard, dairy whiteners are now available in India as well.
Hussain firmly believes in female empowerment and emphasises on training them properly. "I believe training a woman means training a whole generation whereas training a man is just an individual," he explained. Apart from this, Hussain has also worked with the Sri Lankan and Nepalese governments on mega educational projects on computer literacy for school-going children, science and technology. He believes that since life has given him a lot, it is his duty to give something back to the society. "I think my major contribution is training people, something I personally like to do. I have trained quite a large number of professionals in the industry," he added.
Besides innovative food products, Hussain excels at research. Hussain conducted research on raw milk for which he also received an award. He has been affiliated with numerous local and foreign universities as a research fellow and supervisor of post-graduate studies.
Besides commercial ventures, Hussain is also working on a personal project. "I am working on a study 'program cell death' inspired by religion rather than science. It is a scientific study based on existentialism," he explained.
Talking about his inspiration, Hussain said that he was always in awe of his father, who was an Aligarh graduate. His father taught him logic when he was just six.
For him, in-depth knowledge and understanding the truth is important. "I do not believe in getting degrees but also knowing things. I like exploring new avenues," he said. As a student, said Hussain, he would spend all his pocket money on laboratory equipment. "I had my own microscope in class nine and made a pain-killer at home in class 11. In school labs, I would perform my own experiments."
Interestingly, Hussain does not claim to be an outstanding student. It was only during his post-graduate studies that Hussain scored first position in Food Technology (MSc) and was awarded a scholarship by University Grants Commission (known as HEC today).
Currently, Hussain has a consultancy company and will also be launching a range of food items soon. "The products we offer will be a benchmark for the industry as far as hygiene and nutritional value is concerned," he said. "Our aim is to create awareness as they are consumer products.
The idea is going into the kitchen with advisory services to educate the consumer or masses about what they should eat," explained Hussain.
The focus is not only getting business but also community welfare and awareness.