Festivity amid turmoil
Politicisation of festivals like Jashan-e-Baharan and Basant amid political turmoil gives a bad taste in the mouth
By Waqar Gillani
The governor Punjab who had announced to celebrate Basant which was banned after much hue and cry of the public, has postponed the celebration. Earlier, he had announced to celebrate Basant across the Punjab, on March 14 and 15, the day when Pakistanís lawyers and Opposition political parties were set to march on the streets for the restoration of judiciary from the high court building of the city to Islamabad.

The only science museum
Meant to create scientifically educated citizenry in the country, the museum has a lot to offer to people of all ages
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Right next to the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) on the famous Grand Trunk Road is located the National Museum of Science and Technology. Falling under the administrative control of the federal ministry of education, this museum is visited by only a small fraction of the people who whiz past it every day, sometimes without even noticing it.

MOOD STREET
End of the world we knew
By Ali Sultan
Two thoughts cross my mind simultaneously this night. Itís been a long time and I have gotten old. (Or so it seems)
As the blaring sound of some band playing comes out into the open, we, a group of six, wait calmly as someone tries to get us in for free.

Town Talk
ē Exhibition: Salman Ikramís new Crystalline work (ceramics) at Ejaz Art Gallery. Today is the last day of exhibition. Stoneware and porcelain work currently available from Ijaz Gallery, Hamail Art Gallery and Art Scene.

 

consumer day
Towards a better society
Many people go to consumer courts for redressal of their complaints. Some of them share their experiences with the paper
By Saleha Rauf
In Punjab, Consumer Protection Act was promulgated in 2005 and amended in 2006. According to this act, 11 courts were established in different Districts of the Punjab. They are in Rawalpindi, Gujarat, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Lahore. These consumer courts hear cases from other adjacent districts as well.

Present without a past
A traditional pool built in 16th century in Kacha village by one of Akbarís ministers, has been erased to make way for a modern fish pond
By Haroon Khalid
Whenever there is talk about raising a new building, there is talk about razing the extant building. This has been commonly seen in interior Lahore. One such construction, which is unnecessarily being erased in the name of development, is the Ďancientí pool at the village of Kacha, built by Todamal.

 

Festivity amid turmoil

Politicisation of festivals like Jashan-e-Baharan and Basant amid political turmoil gives a bad taste in the mouth

By Waqar Gillani

The governor Punjab who had announced to celebrate Basant which was banned after much hue and cry of the public, has postponed the celebration. Earlier, he had announced to celebrate Basant across the Punjab, on March 14 and 15, the day when Pakistanís lawyers and Opposition political parties were set to march on the streets for the restoration of judiciary from the high court building of the city to Islamabad.

The politicisation of the festival at a time when the majority of Lahoris seem supportive of the recently ousted political party Ė Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group (PML-N), has raised eyebrows of many, terming the decision in bad taste. Moreover, the City District Government has not formally notified the festivity celebration yet. This adds to the confusion.

Lahore High Court has sought a report from the Punjab administration on the announcement of Basant. The Punjab government gave quarter page ads announcing Basant in all major sections of the press. The ad titled "Celebration of flowers and colours" reads: "There will be Jashan-e-Baharan (in the Punjab) on March 14 and 15 which heralds the arrival of spring with all its beauty and festivities." The government has also conveyed the people to abide by the rules like abstain from aerial firing and firecrackers; banning the use of chemical or metallic strings for kite flying; not letting children climb onto high rooftops or parapets; staying away from power supply line. The government has warned people of strict action on violation of rules allowing kite flying "only for Mar 14 and 15."

The out-of-the-blue decision without any preparation, not allowing the Kite Flying Association, kite manufacturers and people to get ready, doubted the sincerity of the activity. It was an attempt of the government to divert the attention of masses from the streets towards rooftops. Even there are no preparations of the government to celebrate the festival.

The plan of Basant was actually made 15 days back by the governor, putting the notification of the approval on hold till the day of the scheduled long march of lawyers and PMLN. Even, the festivity celebration, which provides people to enjoy and party, getting together, is another contradiction of the governmentís decision to impose Section 144 of Criminal Procedural Code (CrPC) across the Punjab suspending the freedom of assembly till March 30.

Syed Zulfiqar Hussain, one of the major organisers of Basant festival in Lahore, believes that business would be extremely low on Basant because of the current political turmoil, especially after disqualification of Shahbaz Sharif who was chief minister of the province a couple of weeks back. Fearing a 60 per cent decrease in the business, he also said that Basant was one of the major festivals of Lahore which fell prey to politics. "How can people come to enjoy the festival at a time when the political temperature is rising day by day," he said, adding, "This is a festival which attracts people across the world."

"Itís not a good measure. If such events are politicised who will be responsible if something bad happened," says Ahmed Rafay Alam, advocate and columnist. "This is not the way at all. It is too risky." He believes the announcement had purely political motive.

Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab Taimur Azmat Usman, talking to TNS, had nothing to say in detail. He said, "We have allowed Basant only in houses and on rooftops."

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan banned kite flying in 2006. The Supreme Court prohibited kite flying and ordered the closure of related businesses in view of deaths due to the use of sharp kite string and metallic wire. In February 2006 the city district government directed to close the kite and string manufacturing related businesses under the provincial law titled Punjab Dangerous Kite Flying Prohibition Ordinance. According to some reports which appeared in press as many as 500 people lost their lives in 2005 in kite and string related accidents. The ban stays as such. However, despite killings, majority of Lahoris always want Basant in a peaceful environment while respecting rules. [email protected]

 

The only science museum

Meant to create scientifically educated citizenry in the country, the museum has a lot to offer to people of all ages

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Right next to the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) on the famous Grand Trunk Road is located the National Museum of Science and Technology. Falling under the administrative control of the federal ministry of education, this museum is visited by only a small fraction of the people who whiz past it every day, sometimes without even noticing it.

Established as an autonomous body in 1965 and opened for public in 1976, the museum was meant to create scientifically educated citizenry in the country, arouse in the students interest for the study of science and technology, supplement the teaching of science in schools and colleges and so on.

A TNS (The News on Sunday) visit to the museum reveals that though it is striving hard to achieve these ends the number of people who have benefitted from this facility is very small. As per figures provided by the museum administration, the number of people visiting it in a year passed 100,000 for the first time in 2007. This figure is no doubt insignificant keeping in view the fact that it is the only science museum in Pakistan.

"It is one of the two scientific museums established in 1965. The other one was established in Dhaka," informs Sajid Anwar Malik, director of the museum while talking to TNS. He says Lahore was selected for the reason that this city was the capital of West Pakistan under the One Unit.

Sajid says many people think that the museum is linked with the UET but this is not the case. The university is only the landlord whereas the federal ministry of education is the body that manages its affairs and provides recurring funds to it.

Over the years the museum has gone through expansion. In 1976 it had only one gallery displaying 50 exhibits; today the number of galleries has increased to three and exhibits to 400. The fourth gallery is under construction and will be opened this week.

Shahid Ali, a visitor to the museum tells TNS that he regularly visits the museum which has a lot to offer to people of all ages. He says he comes with children in his extended family and explains them concepts of science with the help of exhibits on display here. Shahid says the museum has also displayed the very first mainframe computer used in Pakistan in its exhibition hall. This computer came here in 1960 and is hundreds of times bigger than a personal computer of today, he adds. Similarly, the models of Shaheen missile and rockets are also the main attractions for visitors.

The other scientific concepts explained with the help of exhibits include biology, electromagnetism, engines and machines, satellites and rockets, fluid mechanics, sound, environment, molecular biology, different echo systems, space sciences and communications, missile technology, conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy and so on.

The admission charges for the visitors are as low as Rs 3 per head for adults, Rs 2 per head for children and Rs 2 per member of a student group visiting this place, says Sajid Anwar, the director. He tells TNS that visitors come here to avail reading room facility, benefit from computer room, see weekly film shows in its auditorium and enjoy star and moon gazing programmes. The museum remains closed on Sunday but the administration thinks if at some time they have more funds and human resources they can open it even on Sundays.

When asked as to why the number of visitors has not increased fast, the director says unfortunately the people of this country do not relate to science. Secondly, he says, the museum administration has found many educational institutions resource constrained or unwilling to send their children here for security reasons. "To promote this facility among students the museum sends written material/brochures to schools and colleges and also runs subsidised transport service for them," he adds.

He says other methods adopted by the museum to involve people is to make them participate in science quiz competitions, science innovation (models) competitions, essay writing compositions and so on.

Sajid suggests that people must bring the children here to show them practical demonstration of what they read in books. Similarly, he says, the wrong impressions imprinted on the vulnerable minds can be erased by explaining scientific laws to them. Explaining his point, he says children often see cartoon characters fly through the air, then stop at one point and finally dive straight towards the ground. "We tell them that any thing thrown in any direction moves in the form of trajectory and thereís a period after that," he adds.

Sajid thinks there should be similar museums in other parts of the country, especially Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Islamabad. He thinks just like the people of Lahore those living in other parts of the country must have such facility near them. "I have seen female students coming all the way from Khuzdar just to visit this museum," he adds.

 

MOOD STREET

End of the world we knew

 

By Ali Sultan

Two thoughts cross my mind simultaneously this night. Itís been a long time and I have gotten old. (Or so it seems)

As the blaring sound of some band playing comes out into the open, we, a group of six, wait calmly as someone tries to get us in for free.

This reminds me of how a rock concert used to be in Lahore. Seconds later, I find how much has changed.

The relentless effort of getting us in free dramatically ends, on the final hiss of guitars dying inside as the band ends its set.

We all cough up money for the tickets and are stamped on our wrists showing us as law-abiding citizens. This is crazy. I donít remember the last time I paid for getting into a rock gig, a long time ago getting in free was part of the rock Ďní roll aesthetic. Hell! It was part of the Lahori aesthetic. Knowing the musicians was always helpful, the occasional gate crash was indication that it was going to be a great night. Nothing is great tonight.

And why all these girls? Listen, many moons ago when every weird looking male, with either freaky haircuts or black nail polish would be standing outside Gaddafi Stadium Hall No 1, headbanging to a death metal sound check, there were no girls. The few that were there, they were the hardcore fans, the one who knew all their rock and looked even more freakish. The ones you wanted to be in complex relationships with but never marry. Tonight everything has changed. There are as many normal-looking teenage girls here as boys. The testerone-driven rock concert has sadly turned into marital bliss, which is depressing.

As we venture inside a teenager with spectacles stops us and smiles. "Please throw your cigarettes into that box, you canít smoke inside." (We did manage to smuggle in some, back at you rock Ďní roll haters!) Ok I know there is a whole movement of not smoking in public places going on but no smoking in a rock concert! Itís like saying here is a great painting but you have to see it with your eyes closed! Once upon a time smoking and all other illegal substances were the fuel that ran the rock concert. The two most familiar things when you entered a rock venue were the sound of guitars and the pungent smell of THC. They remained with you, whether you enjoyed both or not and when you came out, the ringing of guitars in your ears and your head a little slow, you knew you had been at a rock concert. It doesnít seem like one tonight.

Rock concerts also survived on sweat. People would headbang and dance in all sorts of crazy ways. People would be rowdy and say the most obscene things in Punjabi, people would have fun, in a way the crowd itself was the adrenaline rush. Tonight itís different. The crowd is like a zombie, making bad sounding videos on expensive mobile phones, clapping and singing along. They seem happy.

There was a time, when a rock concert was all about angst and nobody looked happy. Times have changed tonight and I feel old.

 

Town Talk

ē Exhibition: Salman Ikramís new Crystalline work (ceramics) at Ejaz Art Gallery. Today is the last day of exhibition. Stoneware and porcelain work currently available from Ijaz Gallery, Hamail Art Gallery and Art Scene.

 

ē Exhibition (Preview) of Raja Changez Sultanís works at Native Art Gallery today at 5pm. He has also been painting since the 60s and has held over 21 solo shows in England, Austria, USA & Pakistan and has participated in several group shows.

 

ē Exhibition: Saba Khan, a graduate of National College of Arts, 2005, has her first solo show of her paintings at Drawing Room Art Gallery. The paintings will remain on display till Friday, Mar 20.

 

ē Panjabi Sangat on every Friday at 49 Jail Road Lahore at 7pm. at Najam Hussain Sayedís house. Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities.

 

ē Exhibition: Sight Insight Ė Drawings by Nadia Khawaja

at Grey Noise till March 22.

 

ē Solo Show by Salman Ikram ó New Crystalline work (ceramics) at Ejaz Art Gallery from Mon, 09 Mar to 15 Mar. Stoneware and porcelai work currently available from Ijaz Gallery, Hamial Art Gallery and Art Scene.

 

consumer day

Towards a better society

Many people go to consumer courts for redressal of their complaints. Some of them share their experiences with the paper

By Saleha Rauf

In Punjab, Consumer Protection Act was promulgated in 2005 and amended in 2006. According to this act, 11 courts were established in different Districts of the Punjab. They are in Rawalpindi, Gujarat, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Lahore. These consumer courts hear cases from other adjacent districts as well.

Lahore Consumer Protection Court also covers Kasur, Shekhupura and Nankana Sahib. Head Quarter office of Punjab Consumer Protection Council is in Lahore. District Coordination Officer (DCO) is the authority here.

These courts were regulated in 2007. However, a trend to appeal in these courts could not be developed among consumers. There are many reasons behind this. First of all, most of them are unaware of their rights and those who are, donít know where to go to get them. People generally avoid courts.

To tackle this problem Registrar District Consumer Court Lahore suggested, "A media plan should be formulated to make the consumers aware of their rights to persuade people not to accept faulty products and services."

Shahid Mehmood Butt, Assisant Director (Legal-I), Punjab Consumer Protection Council, Lahore said, "We arranged seminars in educational institutions to apprise people about Consumer Rights. Consumers are provided with complete guidance and counseling regarding their complaints. Most of the cases are resolved on notices."

These courts started working after regulation of District Consumer Courts (DCCs) in Punjab in March 2007. According to the collected data from DCCs since Feb 28, 2008, 3426 cases were registered in these consumer courts. Out of them 2175 have been disposed off and 37% cases are pending.

Only in Lahore District 544 cases were filed. It means 15.8% of the total cases of Punjab are filed in Lahore. Out of these, 287 cases have been solved and 257 cases are pending. After Bahawalpur where 26% of the total cases in Punjab were filed, Lahore Consumer Courts had better response. Disposed off cases in Bahawalpur District are 83% which shows the efficiency of the court.

Assistant Director Legal Consumer Protection Council Bahawalpur Zeenat Mazhar told TNS, "We involved NGOs and Educational institutions to create awareness. People at least know where and how to file their complaints. I visit universities, colleges, hospitals, bar associations and villages myself. Government did not give funds for media plan. We publicise things on our own. Siraiki and Urdu news in Radio Pakistan Bahawalpur are informing people where to go for their rights. A press release is faxed to media whenever a case is solved."

Cases from cities such as Kasur, Nankana Sahib and Sheikhupura come to Lahore District Consumer Court. However, consumers living in cities other than Lahore find it difficult to travel to Lahore for their complaints against products and services. In Lahore DCC, most of the complaints are from Lahore based consumers.

This act bounds manufacturers to exhibit prices at the business place and to issue proper receipt to the purchaser, date of the day it is purchased, quantity and price of the good, description of the good sold, name and address of the seller, disclose return and refund policy, prohibition on deceptive and bait advertisement. In case of violation, DCO can charge up to Rs. 50,000.

This is basically Welfare oriented legislation to protect consumer rights. However, it is equally beneficial for manufacturers and service providers as they can get rid of piracy and fake products. This will ultimately give the benefit to the honest manufacturers in the society.

Complaints pertaining to deceptive services and goods are filed in DCC where a 15 day notice is sent to the other party. If no resolution or response is received, consumer gives written application to court with ID card number and receipt (if issued). Court starts its trial and solves the case within six months. To make it more efficient Registrar DCC Lahore suggested, "In Section 30, clause (A) needs some amendment. Consumer should simply be facilitated on a copy of the complaint from consumer court to avoid delay. Staff members should be increased so that everybody could perform well, focusing on a particular job"

Consumer can also claim damages along with prices of faulty product or service. There is no limit for claiming damages to compensate mental and monitorial loss. Consumers can get help on every step from Consumer Protection Councils.

Moreover, the consumers who do not want to claim damages in court should write an application to DCO or Consumer Protection Councils about substandard goods and services. This can help eradicate disturbing factors in the society.

Here are some of the cases solved or being heard in consumer court in the city:

A lawyer, Shahzad Bashir says, "I filed a complaint against a bus service. Within two months my case was solved and the company paid damages. Another case was against the credit card services of a bank. The bank was charging unfair bill. The case was solved within 5 months. My third case under consideration is against the services of a tracker car company which fails to fulfil the promises made at the time of purchase. I am hopeful that the case will be solved in time." On a question about the behaviour of consumer court staff, he says, "The staff members of consumer court and consumer council are very cooperative and dedicated. Iím provided with complete guidance about my problems."

Saima Shafique who has filed a case against the faulty services of an airline, says, "I go to court regularly and mark my attendance but the respondent does not come to court. I have heard consumer courts solve cases quickly but certain factors from contestantís side are prolonging the case. I hope the case will be solved within six months," she hoped. Saima is a media person so she is aware where to go for her rights. "I know about consumer protection law and consumer protection council helped me a lot."

A woman who had purchased a car for Rs. 2 lakh from a company, turned out to be faulty. No warranty card was issued by the company. She approached the consumer court. The DCC solved the case and made the company pay the price of the car to the consumer plus damages as the car had a week engine of 200cc of a CNG rickshaw and was not road worthy.

A well-known Pakistani cellular company blocked the sim of a person for eleven months after five months of transferring it in his name. When the petitioner proved his claim in court, he was paid damages with restoration of the sim card.

In countries like Pakistan, Consumer Protection Act is a blessing. However, this act has some shortcomings and needs amendments. For instance, in Section 2, clause (K) needs to be reviewed. Services should be redefined.

No case against the products cheaper than 5000 should be entertained. However, a complaint can be made to DCO or Consumer Council to take notice of substandard products. For perishable commodities, cases need to solved quickly.

United Nations General Assembly formulated guidelines for consumer protection in 1985. In Pakistan a Consumer Protection Act was promulgated in 1995 in Islamabad. This practice was followed by all provinces afterwards.

Present without a past

A traditional pool built in 16th century in Kacha village by one of Akbarís ministers, has been erased to make way for a modern fish pond

 

By Haroon Khalid

Whenever there is talk about raising a new building, there is talk about razing the extant building. This has been commonly seen in interior Lahore. One such construction, which is unnecessarily being erased in the name of development, is the Ďancientí pool at the village of Kacha, built by Todamal.

Todamal was a minister of Akbar, born in Chunian, then in Lahore district, now part of Kasur district. He was Akbarís minister of revenue. One of his greatest contributions is the summoning of translation of the revenue record into Persian, the official language of the Mughal court. It is recorded in the Akbar-Nama of Abul Fazl that, when Akbar left for Kabul, Todamal fell ill, upon which he sent a letter to the king asking for permission to visit the holy Hindu places like Ganga Jumna, before dying.

His wish was granted by Akbar. When he sent this letter to Akbar, he was staying in the area where today stands the village Kacha. There he ordered construction of a pool. When he was about to leave for pilgrimage, a messenger arrived with a second message from Akbar, saying that Todamalís just, kind, generous and friendly disposition would be the reason for his salvation. He, therefore, should not try to impress the gods by visiting the holy shrines but by helping people. As a result Todamal stayed and finished the construction of the pool at hand.

It hadnít rained for a long time in this region. The condition was such that people who were not living near big rivers did not even have water to drink. This led to migration from such regions to spots near the rivers, where at least they could secure some water to drink. Maybe, Todamal understood the economic rationale of not encouraging any one city to develop beyond optimal point, or he wanted to protect these far away cities. He nonetheless understood the importance of retaining these smaller towns and villages.

After assaying the landscape of the region, he started the construction of a huge pond at the present situation, which is roughly one mile from railway station of Kacha. The pool was constructed out of small Mughal styled bricks. Instead of cement, white limestone was used. Next to the pool is a conduit, which was called Hadiala nala, now known as the infamous Rohi nala. From this conduit contaminated water from the factories enter the pond. The construction of the Rohi nala was also summoned by Todamal. The idea was to collect rain water in these conduits and then lead it into the pool. In this way, rain water could be saved from being wasted. Perhaps saving and utilization of rain water is still applicable in the context of Pakistan.

After the creation of Pakistan, the pool came under the protection of the Fisheries department of the Government. During my first visit to the pool, the traditional stairs that led all the way to the base found in all Indian pools were still there. Now, however, in the name of development, the original structure of the pool has been erased to make way for a modern day pool for fish farming, by the Fisheries Department. If the old stairs and bricks in the pool had been left intact and the base done anew, it would have required less money than what is being spent on it now.

We need to understand that old does not necessarily mean outdated, in fact true progress and development only takes place when we preserve the past for the benefit of the future. By erasing everything Ďancientí and replacing it with modern structures we are not traveling towards a prosperous future. So let us amalgamate our past with our present to make a much more beautiful tomorrow. A today without yesterday means no today for tomorrow.

[email protected]

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