RESPONSES TO LAST
Stepping into quagmire
Illegal moneylenders thrive in the absence of any specific government scheme for the jobless
Ibrar Ahmed failed to repay the loans he took from private lenders even after long hectic efforts. As a result he has exhausted all his savings and has put his two-marla house on sale to repay his debts.
The moneylenders are now threatening to sell Ibrar's all property (a small house and a motorcycle) to recover their loans. The loan sharks have exorbitant interest rates. Ibrar had no idea what the borrowing would lead to. He wanted to expand his business but now seems to be losing all that he has.
Loan sharks or illegal moneylenders are working in different parts of the city without any regulatory authority in place to check the functioning of such organisations. They place banners in low income areas to lure people and ads in daily newspapers which sell for Rs 3 and are read most by people. So these organisations advertise in publications read primarily by people of scant resources.
How the money lending business is flourishing, can be gauged by the space that their advertisements cover in daily newspapers. At times five columns of a classified page are filled with their ads. All of them say: "Get loans from us."
People employed by loan organisations that charge such exorbitant rates have traditionally been known as 'loan sharks' and should be avoided at all costs.
Illegal moneylenders are thriving and targeting young people who have some skills but lack capital to set up their business. These lenders capitalise on non-availability of loans in government sector. There are some illegal lenders who are extorting money from people in the name of 'process fee' to release loan. "They charge Rs 2,000 as loan process fee. A jobless person pays this in the hope that he will get good loan to start his business," says Naeem who wanted a loan to set up lamination machine (an allied industry of printing press) at a cost of Rs 70,000 in North Lahore.
He says, "after three weeks the loan lenders asked me to deposit any personal property as security in lieu of the loan. I said I did not have any property to put in pledge and they turned down the loan request and refused to refund process fee."
Loan terms are written on stamp papers of twenty rupees which is of no use. There are no such instructions from the State Bank of Pakistan. Loans are offered against personal property like motorbike, car and gold ornaments.
Although some banks have launched loan schemes they cater to the needs of salaried class or business community. There is no specific scheme for the jobless.
The 'Presidential Rozgar Scheme' and 'CNG Rickshaw Scheme' were launched with great expectations that they would provide job opportunities to people but have failed to get positive results due to bureaucratic hurdles.
With the connivance of some unionists, the Afghan loan lenders have started targeting government employees of lower ranks who could not get loans from banks.
"PTCL employees are being targeted for loans and trade unionists are providing guarantees and pushing employees to get loans from the Afghan lenders," says an employee of the PTCL. He says Afghan and Pathan lenders are issuing loans. "You just have to visit their houses."
Interest rates vary, depending upon the amount and length of the loan. When I contacted an organisation by phone and asked about the interest rate and how much I would have to pay back at the end of my agreed repayment schedule if I take Rs 50,000 loan, I learnt that if the loan amount is Rs 10,000, they charge Rs 100 per thousand per month as interest. This means paying Rs 1,000 per month as interest on Rs 10,000 loan. The rate of interest decreases as the loan amount increases.
State Bank of Pakistan clearly states that no organisation can operate independently without proper rules and regulations. A SBP official requesting anonymity says, "the State Bank has launched a campaign to check this business. Advertisements were issued in national print media warning people about operations of private loan lenders as illegal. Hence public should avoid dealing with the lenders."
"I contacted National Bank of Pakistan Egerton Road branch for CNG rickshaw and an official demanded Rs 4000 for swift completion of procedure but I refused to give any money and my loan request was delayed. In the meantime, I came to know that CNG rickshaws are not of good quality so I changed my mind," said Nauman a resident of Gowalmandi.
On the other hand, fake application forms of 'Presidential Rozgar Scheme' are being sold outside the SBP building without any check from concerned authorities. The real forms are for free but they are not available. Hence fake forms take their place.
"This form is issued by the government and a jobless person can get Rs 100,000 to Rs 500,000 after paying Rs 50 as form fee," insists a form dealer who refuses to give his name.
In this inflation-ridden society all people try to get second or part-time jobs to meet ever-increasing demands of life. "Poverty has been increasing at an alarming proportion in the country and everybody is looking for ways to supplement their earning. Moneylenders are exploiting this need of the people," says Sadiq Gill, a professor of the Punjab University.
Recent free vocational training programmes by the government and new professions like mobile repairing, PCOs and stalls of Chinese items are also encouraging young generation to try their luck in business.
Providing solution to the problem, some religious circles say provision of interest-free loans (Qarz-e-Hasna) would solve the issue.
They say if the influential and rich people were ready to provide interest-free loans to the needy, the illegal moneylenders wouldn't have been thriving. Bani Hashim had the greatest number of rich people in its tribe but what they are remembered for, is their generosity. And that is the true Muslim tradition.
"Lending interest-free loans to the needy is a highly appreciable step in Islam as this gesture leads to solution of financial problems of the needy and fortifies the fabric of a society," says Muhammad Ilyas, a teacher at Shadman religious seminary.
By Ali Sultan
Before anything else, water splashing all over my face or the toothbrush hitting my front teeth, the first thing when I open my eyes is to find the next cigarette. If that by any chance or ill fate is not available, the stub of last night's last cigarette will do.
My mother, having read psychology in her college days and also having found my father in the same class, pinpoints that this vile fascination with smoking started early in my life. She says that my eyes lit up whenever I saw someone smoke. And that her fear was that I would become a smoker when I grew up.
I, on the other hand, blame genetic science for my habit. You see my grandfather smoked, and my father. Therefore it's in my genes.
In the last ten years I have never tried to quit.
Smoking habits usually start in the teens. I started when I was sixteen and in my O levels. It was the time when all of us discovered Pink Floyd and the Doors; it was the time when a group of us watched the Godfather and fell in love with how Al Pacino sucked on his cigarette and blew smoke threw his nose. We all thought smoking made us look older, serious and hip.
Smoking in those early days made me feel dangerous. I remember hiding cigarette packs under the mattress or inside the cupboard thinking my mother would never find any traces of tobacco. Finding out later that one thing nobody should underestimate is their own mother!
The best part was when one of my friends and I would sneak into the girls' bathroom in the lunch break and share a cigarette. My friend would sit in the bathtub and I would sit on the commode and under a haze of blue smoke everything from philosophy to girls would be discussed. Those were the days.
I remember spraying deodorants in my room thinking that the smell would go away and eating a concoction of mint gums and supari to keep my mouth fresh. The irony is that the first thing smoking does to you is diminishing your sense of smell. In reality a person who doesn't smoke will notice the smell in a second!
Cigarettes also became something to bond over. All the writers I really enjoy were or are smokers. All the actors I admire smoke. (It's a known fact that smoking affects the vocal cords. Making one's voice heavier)
The close friends I made are smokers. It's something you can share.
Being a smoker means that the scariest thing you and your smoker friends can think of is getting your lungs x-rayed.
The best part is when some friend comes from out of the country and brings you a box of cigarettes or a nice looking ashtray.
Being a smoker also means that you have more chances of getting attracted to someone who also smokes.
In college, I really liked this girl. She had gone off for a week to another city. To impress her I got a pack of cigarettes and painstakingly wrote a poem on the white part of the cigarettes and gave it to her. She loved it and decided to keep it. Later I got a call from her. She had run out of cigarettes in the middle of the night. "Can I smoke the ones you gave me?" she asked.
I couldn't stop laughing. A smoker is a smoker
PJ O' Rourke said: "Smoking is very bad for you and should only be done because it looks so good. People who don't smoke have a terrible time finding something polite to do with their lips."
•2nd AutoTech Exhibition for car crazy Lahore today at Expo Centre Fortress Stadium.
• Urs of Madhu Lal Hussain today and tomorrow at his shrine located in Baghbanpura.
• Exhibition: Works by F E Chaudhry on exhibit at NCA. Today is the last day.
• Exhibition of paintings by Hajra Mansur at Ejaz Art Gallery from Monday, March 26 to Sunday April 1.
• National Folk Puppet Festival at Museum of Puppetry on Raiwind Road. Today is the last day. Rafi Peer is organising the festival.
• Puppet Show for children today at Alhamra, The Mall at 11am. Ticket: Rs 5/10. It is held every Sunday morning.
• Exhibition: 17th Pakistan International Education Exhibition 2007 on Wednesday, March 28 to Thursday, March 29 at Pearl Continental Hotel from 12am to 8pm.
• LEAF Discourses in Literature on Thursday, March 29 at Model Town Library at 6pm. Dr. Shabih-ul-Hassan will talk about new dimensions in Urdu marsia.
• Wrestling Competition every Sunday at 4pm at Gulshan-e-Ravi Park, Main Road, Near Itwar Bazar.
The event has been instrumental in increasing the exports from the city six-fold in six years
By Abid Sialwi
Gujranwala-known as city of pehalwans or wrestlers in the past -- has now become a hub of industries and is known popularly for the small and medium scale industry established here. The city which produced goods for local market for many years is now catering to the import needs of many countries.
This new image was not created overnight but took many years to develop. The most important role in this process was played by the private sector that came forward and showed it to the world that Pakistanis have the potential to excel in any field which they enter.
Hardly seven years back in 2000, the exports from Gujranwala region were mere US $80 million. This figure did not include the value of rice exported from here. Now the latest official figures show that the exports from Gujranwala have reached the figure of US $620 million in such a short time.
The secret of this success is the 'Made in Gujranwala Exhibition' being held here every year since 2001 under the auspices of Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), says Rubab Saleem, the official spokeswoman for the chamber. She tells TNS that this year Gujranwala has hosted sixth such conference, from March 7 to March 27.
It's mainly items like sanitary ware, sanitary fittings, cooking ware, home appliances and plastic furniture produced in Gujranwala that have found ready market abroad. Other products on display include pottery, agricultural implements, MS & GI Pipes, grinding and cutting disks, electric panels and switch gears, non-stick pans, prayer mats, knives, melamine utensils, rubber products etc. About the efforts made to promote local products among exporters, Rubab says ambassadors and commercial attaches of different countries in Pakistan are invited to the event. Mostly they are impressed by the quality of the products and do not leave without booking big orders. Secondly, Pakistani businessmen who frequently go abroad take samples with them and win orders from those countries.
People of Gujranwala are also making full use of the opportunity and visiting the place in hordes. It is a fact that around 40 to 50 thousand people are visiting Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, the site of the exhibition, Rubab says. The chamber plans to hold future 'Made in Gujranwala Exhibitions' in Expo Center that is being constructed quite near GCCI building. People are coming with families and attending different programmes like mushairas, qawalis, puppet shows, children mela and fireworks that are part of the show.
Rana Shehzad Hafeez, President GCCI tells TNS that exports from Gujranwala region have swelled manifold due to these exhibitions. "We are working hard to showcase Gujranwala as an export city to the world. Setting up of a business center, a dye center and a ceramic center in the city is part of the process," he adds. Shehzad says the chamber is bearing the cost of exhibition from its own resources and the amount coming from the sale of stalls. Last year there were 108 stalls, this year the number has gone up to 175, he says. The approximate rent charged for standard stall measuring 18 X 18ft is around Rs 39,000 for the whole duration of the event. Shehzad says the government has often promised to provide financial assistance to the chamber but this help has not yet arrived.
Aslam Javed, an attendant at a cutlery stall says this exhibition gives them an opportunity to interact with local and foreign buyers. We are often able to modernise and customise our products according to individual demands made by them. "When a prospective buyer asked for a little alteration in one of our designs we asked him to come to the exhibition after a couple of days. By the time he returned we had developed the sample according to his requirements and were able to secure orders," he said.
Azhar Hameed, a student of B Com said that it's great to have so many stalls set up at one place. They are offering products at reduced rates to visitors which is definitely an attraction. He thinks it a good idea and healthy activity for the benefit of general public. People can come here with families and buy different things and at the same time get quality entertainment.
A fair job
The recently held job fair in the city brought job seekers and job providers face to face, under one roof
The concept of holding job fairs is quite new to our country. It was introduced hardly three years back in Lahore by rozee.pk, an online jobs portal. Lahorites have been lucky enough to have several of these job fairs. The resident of other cities are yet to see job fairs held close to their homes.
The fair saw a sea of people last Sunday at the Expo Center at Fortress Stadium. The fair gave exposure to the fresh graduates about what's going in the job market and what are the sectors that have the potential to absorb most of them.
TNS talked to a number of representatives of companies that had set up their stalls there. They said they had received applications in thousands that day. Thousands of applicants were interviewed on the spot and hundreds of them were short-listed there and then. On average, a single person submitted applications with at least five companies present there. For the companies this event was very good for image building. They found it amazing, incredible and beyond their expectations. According to a factsheet received from rozee.pk, the organisers of the event, not less than 35,000 job seekers attended the one-day event in Lahore. Over 100 companies were present at the event to hire new employees. 3,300 job offers were made as a result of the job fair. A great number of MBAs applied at the job fair, the factsheet says.
Job seekers who attended the event included professionals who were between 22 and 45 years old. They belonged to all fields including banking/finance, telecom, IT, textiles, pharmaceutical, media and education.
About 38 per cent of the job seekers were females who are pursuing professional careers. The job fair was held in partnership with Jang Group.
The Chairman and CEO of rozee.pk, Monis Rehman is an enterprising entrepreneur who has nine patents to his credit. He returned to Pakistan from Silicon Valley in 2003 to start Naseeb Networks, Inc. which owns rozee.pk. The Job Fair 2007 was held in partnership with Jang Group. Monis says, "Young people say there are no jobs and we have brought hundreds of employers to them who would otherwise not speak to them at all."
The counter that saw the greatest rush was of Geo TV. It received thousands of applications for anchorpersons and several other slots. The person at Geo's stall said, "We have received a sea of people today." The Jang counter received more applications for the human resource department, finance, marketing and sales. Least number of applications were received for editorial work.
Another counter which was spilling with people was of Habib Bank Ltd. HBL had put a stall at a job fair for the first time. They said they received thousands of applications at all levels and across cities. The United Bank Limited stall seemed well-organised. The bank received as many as 25,000 applications for the different sections.
Standard Chartered received more than one thousand applications. The IT based companies were also the ones among the most visited stalls. Auto Soft Dynamics, an IT based company, received 3000 resumes, interviewed 150 candidates on the spot and short-listed 30. All the companies TNS talked to said their database is ready. Pakistan Software Houses Association (Pasha) was guiding IT professionals on how to go about getting jobs.
Another company, Ooober, a mobile software company offered jobs to three people of which one was accepted. The stalls that saw a multitude of people were the companies in the telecom sector. "This is because the telecom sector is really paying and they are taking people at double the pay that they are getting currently," says an IT professional at the job fair.
Then there were companies which help place people find suitable jobs. CORE and Netsol OMNI, a sister concern of Netsol were just two of them. CORE received 1500 CVs; 20 per cent of which were of middle management level professionals, 70 per cent of junior level while 10 per cent were of senior professionals.
NetSol OMNI which caters to all kinds of inquiries, started interviewing people at the job fair and forwarded their cases to relevant companies. SKP, business consultants, were approached by four companies. From business point of view they find interaction of the companies as something very good. Descon got 2000 applications and are analysing them. The data bank will be maintained till next year.
There were stalls from the education sector and they all said this fair was better than any education fair because people who came here were more educated and serious. Modcow Consultants who facilitate people willing to study in Australia said, "We have attended the Dawn fair, Asian students fair, Pakistan International Education Exhibition and many others. This is the best of all and the most suitable event for the exhibitors," says Future Concern Associates representative.
TNS also talked to some of the young people who were looking for jobs at the fair. Adeel Asghar, an MBA student, says, "The companies seemed to have come to market themselves. They were giving away promotional items like caps, key chains, notepads and ball pens." Adeel approached telecom companies and was told at Telenor and Ufone stalls to go back home and log on to their websites. The good thing he says, was that many companies were present there, under one roof. Some companies had only one or two jobs to offer. He gave CVs to five companies. Another MBA student, Adeel Burki says the fair was quite informative but it didn't seem the companies were offering jobs.
Another MBA student said 30 percent of the visitors were looking for job, the other 70 pc of the people simply came for entertainment it seemed. "Job offers were not good. I got job calls but was disappointed. People are not being offered jobs according to their qualifications. I wish they take some tests. I felt that hiring was being done at low level."
Different activities went on all along the day at the fair, like asking people to come and say if they think they are doing the most boring job. There were other activities like that. There were prizes as well in this fun-filled and informative activity at the same time.
Organising such fairs is no mean feat. It brought a large number of employers and job seekers together under one roof and the credit goes to the organisers for holding the show.
Sponsors for the event included Mobilink, United Bank Limited, Motorola, Microsoft, Habib Bank Limited, GEO TV, Punjab Information Technology Board, Standard Chartered Bank, Pakistan Software Houses Association, TRG, Ovex, Crescent Bahuman, Pakistan Cement and Teradata.
-- Saadia Salahuddin
RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
10 Top Ten Dahi Bhallas
1. Regal chowk
2. Benazir Dahibhalla Main Market, Samanabad
3. Ghalib Market
4. Chatkhara , Mini Market
5. Barkat Market
6. Sheikh Jee, Shadbagh
7. Punjab University, New Campu
8. Mota Dahibhalla wala, Krishan Nagar
9. Khan Dahibhalla, Abdali Road
10. Amrtsari, Beadon Road
To enlist by popular vote the 'top ten' for next week, send in your emails on top ten
'Top ten dating spots in the city'.