way we were
Amidst all the ear candy radio stations and stiff commercial competition, is ZabFM, SZABIST's on-campus radio station, aimed at enriching the lives of students throughout Karachi.
By Amina Baig
FM radio has become a quintessential part of every Pakistani's life. One of the common media denominators for all of Pakistan is indeed the radio. Be it the far-flung rural area with newly installed electricity or the large metropolis with massive power breakdowns, FM radio provides non-stop entertainment to it's listeners.
For Karachi- the city that actually never sleeps, the radio is a constant companion to many. With 10 radio stations on air now, Karachiites are spoilt for choice. From the station aiming at a largely English-speaking audience to one that calls itself Karachi's very own, there is nothing that Karachi's radio stations don't offer.
The newest kid on the frequency is ZabFM 106.6. Launched by the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), ZabFM proudly tags itself as providing "Education On The Air."
After just listening to the station for a few minutes here and there, one thing becomes quite clear. ZabFM, as Station Manager Saqib Abro points out, is a station that is "for the students and by the students." Students are involved in everything from coming up with concepts for shows, production, presenting and other station operations.
The process for launching an on-campus radio station wasn't as arduous as one might imagine it to be. Project Director Dr Laghari proposed the idea in 2006 and within a few months, SZABIST had obtained a license from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
PEMRA requires stations to establish and fulfill certain criterion before it issues a license. Setting up transmitter and tower stations as well as at least a two room studio; one for administrative and the other for transmission purposes is key. Apart from that, the license that was issued to ZabFM was an educational one, which requires the content of programming to largely serve just that purpose.
The programs at ZabFM cater mainly to students at SZABIST, but students working towards degrees in similar faculties all over the city can benefit from these shows as well.
"Dr Laghari felt there was something missing; a platform for students where they could freely air their views," says Dr Fauzia Naeem Khan, Chairperson and FM Committeer, "and ZabFM is the platform being provided to them."
In the studio
Tucked away in the Media Sciences Department at SZABIST, ZabFM has a tightly put together studio which the students involved with it are proud of. "My favourite radio station is ZabFM 106.6," says RJ and Production Internee Jahanzeb Mirza cheekily. He is not joking. Jahanzeb feels that with it's programming and playlists, ZabFM can give any radio station a run for its money. Not that ZabFM is about making money at all.
"The one edge we have over other stations is that we are completely non-commercial," says Saqib Abro. SZABIST has self-funded every single operation for it's radio station.
Another edge that the station has in Jahanzeb's opinion is the enthusiasm and passion with which students, himself included, have got involved with the station.
"Most radio stations are a one man show," says Abro, "but being an on-campus station, an educational one, ZabFM is all about teamwork."
The station interviews presenters and internees regularly. "Most of them run off almost immediately," chuckles Jahanzeb, "but the ones who stick around, doing whatever, editing, presenting, lining up RJs, conceptualizing, are very passionate about it and throw themselves in to their work."
One of the shows aired on ZabFM is Study Room, where students review a book that is part of or related to their courses. One has to wonder how many people, SZABIST students included would tune into a show reviewing curriculum-related books. This is where the music steps in to save the station from monotony.
"RJs decide their own playlists," says Jahanzeb. "Mostly it is myself and Saqib who make the playlist but should a RJ want his own music, he is free to play it."
"The ZabFM playlist is very eclectic," says Abro, "we have the morning drive time music which is fast-paced, then there is Bollywood music, Pakistani pop, mellow music for the afternoon and harder, faster beats for the evening drive time."
But eventually, the station rounds itself back to it's original purpose: educating students all over.
"Our programs aim at helping students," says Dr Fauzia, "not just in an academic way but also to help them clear their minds on various issues, for instance, the show Career Path provides students with vocational counseling, I myself will be hosting a show mid-March dealing with social issues."
As students become involved with working at the station, mixing academics with fun, they not only work out various issues related to their chosen fields and learning technical skills, they come away with something extra from each show they put on.
"I came up with the idea for Scream Green, an environmental show, because I wanted to do something different from what the other shows offered," says Saba Ahmed, RJ at ZabFM. Saba explains that she isn't involved with the technical side of the station, but just research for her own show and presenting.
A Computing Sciences major herself, Saba feels she has learnt more about current global environmental issues . "I believed that there are issues that affect all of us such as global warming, that people my age have little or no knowledge about," says Saba, "information is the first step to understanding a problem."
As Saba researches more and more issues, she herself notices things that she might have overlooked before. Was she a litterbug herself before her research aided her knowledge of environmental issues? "Not at all," laughs Saba, "but now when I see a garbage truck, I am far more horrified- the first thought that comes to mind is; 'god! The toxic waste!'"
Alishah Asani, President Karachi chapter of Mind Petals, a society for young entrepreneurs based in New York, was asked to use his area of interest to generate a show: Café Entrepreneur. Alishah invites different people from the business community to educate the audience on the intricacies of starting up their own venture. Alishah finds the RJing business "difficult" though.
"Radio is all about the voice; it's quality," he says. But what Alishah seems to enjoy most about the show he puts on is what he actually doesn't air. "I learn a lot from my guests," he says, "but it is the conversation off-air that I learn most from." There are some things that cannot be said on air, Alishah says, "but they are personal accounts and guidelines of great value."
Alishah doesn't plan on continuing his radio career though, "I'm better off with software," he says dryly.
The station does face it's share of problems though, for instance, reception is not so great in some areas of Karachi, "we have been allowed a 15 Km range of frequency by PEMRA," explains Abro. Secondly, the quality of sound is not always top-notch.
Abro explains this as limitations of equipment. "Right now we are using the most basic player: the Windows Media Player," he says, "but our Computing Sciences students are devising the 'ultimate radio software' for us." Another reminder that everything about ZabFM is for and by students.
Let us entertain you!
Jahanzeb Mirza proudly hosts a Q&A gameshow titled, you guessed it, Q&A. "The idea is to do something entertaining that will engage students," he says. The students play on the show and win a little something too. "As the university is the sponsor, contestants win SZABIST t-shirts and caps," Jahanzeb says. The range of questions encompasses everything from academics to entertainment, a little something for everyone.
Jahanzeb also does the outdoor Campus Roundup, which involves him going around with a Maranatz Kit and microphone, interviewing students about what has been happening on campus and their general views.
So far, so good, but does being so involved with the station affect interns' and RJs' studies? "Not at all," says Jahanzeb, "this is my last semester and im making good grades though I literally work here non-stop between and after classes."
Saba Ahmed points out that the software being designed for ZabFM was actually a project assigned to them which will count towards their final grade.
Funnily enough, what was missing from the ZabFM mix were the Media Sciences students. One would expect students majoring in a related subject to be far more involved with an on-campus radio station they can play and experiment with freely. But Abro and Jahanzeb are quick to explain that the students are probably more bogged down with their own work, or more fascinated with the visual side of electronic media. But learning production and technical aspects of radio can probably help add an edge to their vocational skills.
An on-campus radio station that caters exclusively to students all over the city, providing academic and professional input is perhaps one of the most effective learning tools wielded by an institution so far. Karachi University does have a license to operate a radio station, which went off air after a few weeks of test transmission. Being a state-funded institute, KU surely must have the space and resources to accommodate a well-equipped radio station, with the benefit of a large Mass Communication Department full of eager, talented students. Perhaps they could take a page out of SZABIST's book and re-launch their station.
Though ZabFM does have it's glitches, some of them technical, some of them related to shows keeping the audience's attention, it still is making full use of all the resources available to it. Its also a reason to smile: students in Karachi are actually focused on not just getting their degrees and joining the rat race, but are well-rounded individuals who will channel and gain knowledge through healthy mediums. In times where Karachi sometimes loses sight of everything it has going for it, including interesting, intelligent youth, ZabFM is a reminder that the future of the city lies in capable hands.
Disconnecting: PTCL's Voluntary Separation Scheme
PTCL recently provided employees it considers redundant with viable options which has left most employees feeling more insecure than before.
By Adeel Pathan
Downsizing of the labour force is not a new concept in Pakistan and is mostly the result of privatisation. It is said to be in the larger interest of people but creates enormous difficulties for those who contribute their entire life's work to the development of an industry. Often, the act of downsizing is gilded over in fancy terms such as golden handshake, voluntary separation scheme or early retirement.
Over the years, Pakistan has attained tremendous growth in the telecommunication sector and brought innovation to the life of common men. However, before all these developments, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) was the only player in the telecom industry.
The question that arises is why over 30,000 employees of PTCL are opting for early retirement when apparently competition is stiff and PTCL is faced with exciting new challenges. The answer is simple; PTCL workers have been informed that their services are no longer required, leaving them unemployed and completely bewildered.The privatisation of PTCL was opposed not only by the employees and their unions but also by political parties. But through upheaval in the country's judicial system, the path to privatisation got paved somehow.
After declaration of emergency, the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) was announced. It was announced that the VSS is just that; voluntary. Employees were notified that they are redundant and not required and may be hired on contractual basis at private companies.
Mohammed Inamul Haq, office bearer of PTCL Employees Union tells Kolachi that he feels that he is not needed in the company anymore therefore decided to take early retirement.
Father of six children, he says that work dealing with traffic as well as the administrative sections of PTCL has become redundant as services such as 109, 18, 17 and others have been centralised and telegrams have been closed for over two years.
Inam feels that given these circumstances, he doesn't have much of a future working at PTCL. What worries him further as far as his own employment concerns go is the consistently chaotic political situation in the country. A letter sent to all PTCL employees reads: "numerous efforts are underway to transform the company into a leading regional telecommunications operator for fixed lines and data services and one of the key focus areas is 'people management'."
It further says that under the VSS program, all regular employees under the age of 58 as of November 15, 2007(the day the policy was announced) are eligible to participate in PTCL VSS. Employees have been given 60 days to complete and submit forms to headquarters in Islamabad.
The letter further states; "I repeat that this program is voluntary and your decision to enter is on your own will." It is also mentioned in the letter that should employees choose to participate in VSS, they will be aided in managing their savings by PTCL as well as given vocational training options.
Though the letter ends on this note, the announcement of VSS doesn't end here. It is further said that the VSS will not be offered again. One has to wonder about the reasons behind limiting a voluntary scheme to a period of two months. One of the terms and conditions states that once submitted, the option/waiver form will not be withdrawn.
Classifications of jobs at PTCL have been made in the waiver form. Positions have been categorized into: needed, which are job designations that are necessary for PTCL's business operation, surplus, which refer to job designations that are necessary to PTCL, but are currently overstaffed and redundant; job designations that are no longer required due to outdated technologies and processes, or the possibility of outsourcing these functions.
Riazuddin Khan, a resident of Latifabad who has served in PTCL for 26 years tells Kolachi that a lot of employees are leaving the company under the VSS because the management has marked the status of employees and a majority of employees have been rated as redundant and surplus.
"Employees opted for the VSS, as they could see no logical future for themselves at PTCL," he says adding that though he has not yet reached retirement age, he can't really see a better future for himself at the company.
Another employee, Allah Bux, who is availing the VSS feels insecure not just about future prospects, but also apprehensive about where he might be placed within the company, as he has been marked redundant.
But not everybody thinks like these employees and there are some who prefer to remain associated with the company without paying heed to what the future might bring them at PTCL.
"What if the situation becomes a bit difficult while working at PTCL?" questions Saifur Rehman while speaking to Kolachi. Saif is the father of five children and lives in Pathan Colony. He says; "I will still have to work after retiring early, then why not in the same department that I have served in for 26 years?" Saif also feels that the people opting for VSS are actually doing so to facilitate the option of earning money without doing a thing. He has a few words for them: "The money will finish, but work lives on."
A majority of those who have opted for early retirement are actually afraid of the coming under the new management at PTCL, as it has still not indicated its policy towards employees. The right to form unions will not be allowed though and this does pose worries for those who choose to remain at the company.
PTCL employees are assets to the company and a lot of them have spent a large part of their lives serving and taking it to the heights it has achieved. The new management must review its policy towards employees and reconsider the VSS. Most employees would love nothing more than to continue working for Pakistan's pioneer telecom organization and should be give the option to do so.
The way we were
How Mount Everest got its name
By Kaleem Omar
In a typical bit of Irish whimsy, the Six Mile Bridge in Ireland is called the Six Mile Bridge because it is 10 miles from Dublin or from some other town that sozzled tourists think is Dublin as they stumble from one pub to another in an alcoholic haze. That, at any rate, is said to be the official reason given by happily inebriated members of the Irish Tourist Board. But why is Mount Everest called Mount Everest?
This arcane bit of history came back to me when we heard the sad news last month of the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who, in 1953, conquered Everest along with "Tiger" Tensing Norgay, the legendary Sherpa who accompanied Hillary on the ascent.
The explanation usually given is that the mountain is named after Colonel George Everest, a nineteenth century British surveyor. But Colonel Everest neither set foot nor eyes on the world's highest peak. How, then, did it come to be named after him?
The mystery was solved, said an Indian news service press report, by the Scottish author and filmmaker John Keay, at the celebration of the "Great Arc" the weeklong commemoration in Chennai, India, in November 2003, of the 200th anniversary of the great survey and mapping of the Indian subcontinent by British surveyors begun in 1803. Even Keay, however, might have a tough time explaining why Madras is now known as Chennai.
According to Keay, a surveyor called William Lambton began the mapping of India from its southern end. He died after reaching up to the Deccan region in central India. The work was almost completed by his second-in-command, Colonel Everest. But his name was not Everest "as we say it now and as the tallest peak in the world is called," Keay said. Everest, he said, was actually pronounced "Eve-rest."
Keay explained that George Everest reached up to Hapthipaon House, on a hillock near Mussoorie, on the edges of the Himalayas, where the last lap of the Great Arc was completed. But he never set eyes on Mount Everest.
By 1843, when he was near the end of his work in India, he was joined by Andrew Scott Waugh, who was in charge of surveying almost all the major peaks of the Himalayas.
Nanga Parbat, now in Pakistan, and the world's most massive mountain, though only the ninth highest, is the westernmost peak of the Himalayas. K-2, the world's second tallest peak, is part of the Karakorams, also now in Pakistan.
According to Keay, Nanga Parbat and K-2 were the northern peaks that the British surveyors had their eyes on. To the southeast of Dehradun and the survey's headquarters was the peak of Nanda Devi.
Surveyed north of Calcutta (now Kolkata) were the Chorno Lari and Kanchenjunga peaks, which already had names. But one rarely visible peak was called XV it had no name.
That's still the case with some peaks over 20,000 feet high in the Karakorams. There are so many of them that the Survey of Pakistan still hasn't got around to giving them all names. These nameless peaks are known only by their numbers.
By 1847, there was debate raging on which was the highest peak in the world, said Keay, who was in Chennai to give a series of lectures on survey history.
As the Indian press report noted, Keay told reporters in Chennai that he came to Kashmir in the 1970s, basically to fish. "That the controversial Colonel Everest had never even seen the mountain that had his name first dawned on me then," Keay said.
In the 1980s, said Keay, he was collaborating with Indian historian S Muthiah on a series of films made by Britain's Grenada television on geographical surveys, and it was during his research on the roots of the great survey of India that he really stumbled upon how Everest was named.
"Waugh, then superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey, as it was called, and surveyor-general of India, decided to get peak XV calculated and measured accurately" several years after Colonel Everest returned to England.," said Keay.
According to him, "It was Waugh's team of Bengali mathematicians, led by none other than Radhanath Sikhdar, based in Kolkata, which worked out the final height of the elusive XV," which is visible only when the clouds stay away.
In March 1856, said Keays, Waugh wrote a letter from Dehradun to his Kolkata office, in which, discussing peak XV, he wrote: "In testimony of my respect for a revered chief, I have decided to name this noble peak of the Himalayas Mont (sic) Everest (pronounced Eve-rest)."
There were objections in London but Waugh overruled all opposition, saying Mont Everest (soon called Mount Everest) had become "a household name" even as India began fighting its first battle of independence with the British, said Keay.
"Waugh was indeed magnanimous," said Keay. "He could have taken his own name for the tallest peak in the world. He did not. No one remembers Waugh in India today."
No one remembers him in Pakistan either, where the debate about which is the world's tallest peak Mount Everest or K-2 is still going on, with some experts plumping for K-2.
In the mid 1990s, a team of Japanese scientists set up an experiment to measure K-2's height by bouncing a laser beam off the moon. Reports appearing in the Pakistani press at the time said that the team had found that K-2 was higher than Mount Everest by 30 feet. But there was no official confirmation of this from the team itself.
It could be, however, that a day may come when K-2 which is still growing by a few inches a year will indeed become taller than Mount Everest. Of course, that won't be for a few million years yet. But then, what are a few million years in geological time? No more than the blink of an eye.
Waugh's name hasn't gone entirely unrecorded, though. According to the Indian press report, there is, in his name, a small field, somewhere in the far-eastern corner of Kohima, marked as the site where an invading Japanese army first set foot on Indian soil during World War II.
The famous Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner stunned the climbing world in 1978 when he and Peter Habeler became the first to scale Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. "I am nothing more than a single, narrow, gasping lung floating over the mists and the summits," Messner wrote of that experience.
Today, more than 90 climbers have repeated the feat extraordinary, given that an unacclimatised person taken from sea level directly to the summit, five-and-a-half vertical miles, would pass out in about three minutes and die in roughly ten more from lack of oxygen.
"Everest is climbable over time," says Rob Roach, an altitude physiologist. "You can, however, torture yourself on many levels by trying to climb it."
As Michael Klesius noted in a recent article in National Geographic, "Frostbite is always a hazard on a mountain where the temperatures often plunge to single digits and winds can exceed 90 miles an hour. Dehydration can beset a climber, who exhakles more than a gallon of moisture a day in the parched air. Pulmonary or cerebral edema can strike quickly, often fatally. And temporary blindness results when the brain's visual cortex doesn't get enough oxygen." As if all this weren't bad enough, ultraviolet radiation, which strengthens by 4 per cent per thousand feet, can also damage corneas. Any of these ills can lead to falls, cause of the greatest number of deaths on Everest.
For all Everest's perils, however, Nanga Parbat remains the world's most dangerous mountain, having claimed the lives of more climbers than any other. Not for nothing is it known as the killer mountain. The great Austrian climber Herman Buhl was the first to scale Nanga Parbat, back in 1953. His feat was all the more remarkable because the last stage of his assault on the summit was a solo climb, the other two members of the summit team having turned back when a blizzard struck.
I had the great good fortune to meet Herman Buhl at the house of my uncle General Shahid Hamid in Rawalpindi in 1953, a few weeks after the Austrian's conquest of Nanga Parbat. I was only a schoolboy then, and you could have bowled me over with a feather when my uncle told me that the man sitting across from him in his study chatting away like anybody else was none other than the legendary mountaineer. Of such moments is life made.
Lending a helping hand
By Sabeen Jamil
Dr Sofia Rahman runs a daycare centre and playschool in North Nazimabad. Having graduated from Dow Medical College in 1989, Sofia practiced medicine for 17 years at Baqai Institute. Working and raising two children at the same time made Sofia realize problems faced by working mothers and she planned a daycare centre in her area. Sofia now works as Directress at Maryam Daycare Centre which is an offshoot of Maryam's System of Schools. Besides taking care of the operations of the school, Sofia also serves as doctor for children at the daycare.
Kolachi: What is the difference between a playschool and daycare?
Sofia: In a playschool, children are made to learn while playing. Children at playschool learn to differentiate between colours, shapes, animals, flowers, parts of the human body, counting and alphabets while playing and not even realizing that they were doing so. This kind of learning usually starts at the age of one and a half years. Daycare on the other hand is about looking after infants while their mothers are at work. Children are fed, cleaned and entertained at daycare centres. The concept of daycare and playschool actually comes from England and America where such centres common. In Karachi however, it was not until few decades ago that the need for such was realized and accepted.
Kolachi: How many centres are there in Karachi and why do we need them?
Sofia: Till a few years back such centres were present only in posh localities like Defence and Clifton and could be counted on finger tips. Despite their equal need in other areas, there were no proper daycare centres and play schools in these areas. With their growing need and passing time, however, the situation has improved a bit but the city still has miles to go. As this is a competitive era and everyone wants to provide the best lifestyle and education to children which is not possible if only the male members of families earn, more and more women are becoming employed to contribute to the family's income Also now women prefer to pursue their careers instead of just being homemakers. Go to a bank for instance, from desk staff to operations, one will find a majority of women. Working women therefore need someone reliable to take care of their children while they are out working. These women are educated enough to realize that a maid is not reliable enough to leave their children with. Therefore considering the hygiene, health and security of their children, they prefer schools like ours over housemaids. Given the small number of such schools in the city, especially in areas catering to the middle-class where more and more women are opting to work, there is a dire need of such schools.
Kolachi: How many children can your centre accommodate?
Sofia: So far 22 children have registered with our school where six among them are at the daycare centre. The rest are in the playschool.
Kolachi: What are the professions of women leaving their children at your school?
Sofia: A majority among the mothers of daycare children is of teachers and dental surgeons. They leave their children at the centre around 7.30 in the morning, before leaving for work. They are done with their jobs by afternoon and pick the children up by three o' clock. However given the demands put forward by women working at banks and travel agencies that operate till late in the night, we are planning to increase our timings. We will soon be functional till eight in the evening. Among the playschool children however, the majority of mothers are housewives and have no time issues as such.
Kolachi: Why do housewives need to send children to playschool?
Sofia: This is the age of competition, which begins from Montessori level when even a three-year-old child is thoroughly interviewed for admission to prestigious schools. Since mothers do not have much time at home to prepare the child for Montessori tests and interviews, they send children to playschools instead. Within a year, the child is prepared enough to face admission interviews. At home children are pampered by their grandparents and elders which is opposite to a playschool where they are taught to be disciplined. We teach children basic values such as respecting elders, dining manners, sharing, being truthful and activities like planting etc. at our playschool.
Sofia thinks that a daycare lightens the burden of working mothers who toil in the present to secure their children's' future. Therefore, there should be more and more of these centres in Karachi to cater to almost every area to help mothers achieve their goals. Helping you to help itself, such is Karachi's character.
--Photos by: Iftikhar Ahmed